National: Trump’s voter commission is dead, but critics worry its mission may live on | The Washington Post

President Trump may have killed his panel probing allegations of widespread voter fraud, but the controversy surrounding its mission appears destined to continue. Upon issuing an executive order last week terminating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which met only twice and faced a flood of lawsuits — Trump said he had asked the Department of Homeland Security to take a look at the panel’s work and “determine next courses of action.” Boosters of the commission, including its vice chairman and driving force, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), are pushing for the DHS to focus on using data that the department collects on citizenship to ferret out illegal voters on state voting rolls.

National: CIA’s Pompeo says Russia and others trying to undermine U.S. elections | Reuters

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency said on Sunday that Russia and others are trying to undermine elections in the United States, the next major one being in November when Republicans will try to keep control of Congress. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to try to help President Donald Trump win, in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and spreading social media propaganda.

National: With renewed vigor, U.S. top court scrutinizes curbs on voting | Reuters

Government officials across the United States try to maintain accurate voter rolls by removing people who have died or moved away. But a case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday explores whether some states are aggressively purging voter rolls in a way that disenfranchises thousands of voters. The justices will hear arguments in Republican-governed Ohio’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked its policy of erasing from voter registration lists people who do not regularly cast a ballot. Under the policy, such registration is deleted if the person goes six years without either voting or contacting state voting officials.

National: How cities are bypassing states to explore registering hundreds of thousands to vote | Mic

States govern American elections. Officials there certify election results. They decide when and how people can vote. They influence who can cast a ballot. Since Republicans in 2010 began their march toward control of the legislature and governor’s office in 26 states, voting rights advocates and Democrats say the state-by-state election system has led voter suppression efforts to run rampant. Since 2010, 23 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Editorials: I was on Trump’s fraud commission. Its demise was inevitable. | Matt Dunlap/The Washington Post

It didn’t surprise me when I got an email from the White House on Wednesday night that President Trump had moved to dissolve the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The move came without warning, but given how incredibly dysfunctional the process had been from the start, dissolution was inevitable. Twelve days earlier, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that as a member of the commission, I am entitled to share in the work of the commission and to know when and where we were meeting, what communications we were having and what the commission was working on. That shockingly obvious conclusion came only after I filed a lawsuit to get answers to those very basic questions. The demise of the commission was inevitable simply because the voter-fraud vampire hunters on the panel and in the White House prioritized a desired result of the commission’s work above any sense of process. It didn’t matter that evidence of actual voter misconduct is incredibly rare anywhere in the United States; we’ve all heard the ghost stories, and the Trump administration’s solution was to find those ghosts and exorcise them.

Illinois: Judge will rule next week on whether motion to eliminate Aurora Election Commission can go on ballot | Aurora Beacon-News

A 16th Circuit Court judge said Friday he will hear the final arguments Jan. 9 about whether or not a referendum question asking to abolish the Aurora Election Commission can be on the March primary ballot. Judge David Akemann said the court will hear arguments, and likely make a decision, beginning at 10 a.m. Jan. 9 in room 320 of the old Kane County Courthouse, 100 S. Third St., Geneva. Akemann said state law gives him seven days from the first hearing, which was Thursday, by which to make a decision. That would put the final day Jan. 11, and Akemann said “the court’s going to keep to that schedule.” “We only have a very short window of time,” he said.

Editorials: Demise of Trump election commission teaches Kansas lessons about Kobach | The Kansas City Star

The demise of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is great news for every American who values a free and fair ballot. President Donald Trump formed the commission last May. He falsely claimed millions of illegal votes cost him a popular vote victory in 2016, and he wanted an investigation to prove it. The commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, met just twice. It eventually crumpled under an avalanche of lawsuits, secrecy, poor management and discord. Few will regret the commission’s collapse. This saves the nation from a final report Kobach and others undoubtedly would have used to restrict voter rights in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

Maine: Trump refuses to release documents to Maine secretary of state despite judge’s order | Portland Press Herald

President Trump’s decision last week to pull the plug on his troubled voter fraud commission was partly the result of Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s effort to force the body to behave in a transparent and bipartisan manner, a struggle that gained intensity Saturday, when Dunlap learned the administration would not be turning over working documents to him as a federal judge had ordered. Trump killed the commission – which was mired in lawsuits, infighting among commissioners, and an organizational culture so secretive it had refused to tell its own membership if and when it would meet again – “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” according to a White House statement.

New York: Counties worry about cost that could come with early voting proposal | The Daily Gazette

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week proposed reforms to make voting easier in New York state, he left something out: The cost, and how the additional expenses of maintaining early-voting sites would be covered. Cuomo’s proposal includes allowing people to vote before Election Day, no-excuse absentee voting, same-day registration and automatic voter registration — all ideas that would require approval from the Legislature, and in some instances would require amending the state constitution. They are all, however, items that progressives believe would get more people to vote. “We should make voting easier, not harder,” Cuomo said in his annual State of the State address in Albany on Wednesday.

Virginia: Judge Rejects Request for New Vote in Virginia House Race | Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday rejected a request for a new election that might have forced a 50-50 split in Virginia’s House of Delegates, calling ballot mistakes cited by Democrats a “garden-variety” problem that doesn’t merit federal intervention. Democrats had hoped a new election in the 28th District would provide an opportunity for an even split in the chamber, which is now on track to be controlled by a 51-49 GOP majority. Democrats cited state election officials who said 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes. It is the second defeat in as many days for Democrats. On Thursday, election officials broke a tie vote in another House district by drawing names from a bowl, and picking the Republican.

Cyprus: Turkey casts shadow over Turkish Cypriots’ vote | Al Jazeera

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) will head to the polls on Sunday, in a parliamentary election that has failed to stir enthusiasm among a largely disillusioned electorate. Elections in the internationally unrecognised entity are typically dominated by the long-running dispute of Cyprus, a Mediterranean island split between Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. With a solution to the problem, however, not in sight, campaign discussions this time have largely centred around TNRC’s enduring issues: corruption, nepotism, citizenships distributed to Turkish nationals and Ankara’s grip on the pseudo-state.  

Czech Republic: Czechs fear Russian fake news in presidential election | Financial Times

From the US to Germany, security officials have warned about the growing threat to elections from Russian disinformation campaigns — and in the Czech Republic there are fears that this week’s presidential election could become the next target. Miloš Zeman, seen as one of Russia’s most outspoken backers within the EU, is running for re-election. Following revelations about the scale of Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election in 2016, Czech politicians and officials are worried Russia could try similar moves.

Honduras: Opposition bid to annul president’s re-election rejected | AFP

Election officials in Honduras on Friday rejected the opposition’s appeal demanding the annulment of President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s re-election, which was lodged over voter fraud allegations in the bitterly disputed poll. The country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), in a statement, cited a lack of evidence and dubbed the opposition’s actions “groundless.” Election officials declared Hernandez the victor after he narrowly defeated leftist opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla in the November 26 vote.

Mexico: Russia meddling in Mexican election: White House aide McMaster | Reuters

The Russian government has launched a sophisticated campaign to influence Mexico’s 2018 presidential election and stir up division, a senior White House official said in a video clip published by Mexican newspaper Reforma. U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in a speech last month to the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation that there was already evidence of Russian meddling in Mexican elections set for July. “We’ve seen that this is really a sophisticated effort to polarize democratic societies and pit communities within those societies against each other,” said McMaster in a previously unreported video clip from Dec. 15 that was posted on Twitter by a reporter with Mexican daily newspaper Reforma on Saturday.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 1-7 2018

Six U.S. senators have filed a bipartisan bill that would provide grants to states to help them move from paperless voting machines to paper ballots in an effort to make voting systems less vulnerable to hackers. The Secure Elections Act would authorize block grants for states to upgrade their voting machines, direct the Department of Homeland Security to “promptly” share election cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments and empower state and local election officials with the necessary security clearances to review classified threat information. The bill would also encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Joining with many voting rights advocates Verified Voting urges swift passage of The Secure Elections Act.

Donald Trump has  disbanded his advisory commission on “election integrity”, ending an initiative that was widely denounced by civil rights groups as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of poor people and minorities. A White House statement released on Wednesday evening said that Trump had signed an executive order dissolving the commission. Voting rights advocates responded with delight to news of the demise of the commission. Vanita Gupta, former head of the civil rights division of the justice department under Barack Obama, heralded the announcement as a “big victory”.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial questioning whether the states will be able to guard their voting infrastructure from computer hackers, foreign espionage and other security breaches. In addition to the need for funding to replace aging and insecure voting equipment, many states ave reported estimated wait times of up to nine months for the Department of Homeland Security’s most thorough security screening.

A county circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new voter ID law that claimed the law was intended to make it harder for poor and minority residents to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters asserting that the state hasn’t adequately provided education, poll worker training or funding. The ACLU has announced their intention to appeal the ruling.

The ACLU is also involved in a Supreme Court case challenging Ohio’s practice of purging inactive voters from voter rolls. At stake is a regulation in Ohio’s law: If a person skips voting in a federal election over a two-year period, that sets in motion a legal process that could eventually lead them to being removed from the voter rolls.

In North Carolina, a panel of three federal judges heard closing arguments over which version of those maps to use during this year’s statehouse elections. Last summer the panel appointed Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily to redraw legislative boundaries because of concern over new state House and Senate maps approved by the GOP-controlled legislature that failed to remove unlawful racial bias from four districts.

The New York Times ran an extensive article about the struggle for Native American voting rights in San Juan County Utah. After a federal judge ruled that San Juan’s longtime practice of packing Navajo voters into one voting district violated the United States Constitution, the county was ordered to draw new district lines for local elections.

On Thursday, a Virginia elections official reached into a ceramic bowl and pulled out the name of one of the candidates in a tied state house election and triumphant Republicans declared that they would be in charge when the legislature reconvenes Wednesday. But the Democratic candidate did not concede, and she could request a second recount. On Friday Democrats lost another decision, when a federal judge rejected a request for a new election in a race in which 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes.

The Czech cyber and information security office will operate in an emergency mode during the upcoming presidential election, with up to 25 experts ready to ward off any cyber attack. A hacker attack in the wake of the October general election caused drop-outs of the election websites of the Czech Statistical Office.

Russia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Saturday from opposition leader Alexei Navalny to run for president. One week after a lower court upheld a ruling by the Central Election Commission, which rejected his application to stand, the country’s high court backed the decision, citing a criminal conviction against the opposition leader.

National: New bill could finally get rid of paperless voting machines | Ars Technica

A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments. The legislation comes on the heels of the contentious 2016 election. Post-election investigation hasn’t turned up any evidence that foreign governments actually altered any votes. However, we do know that Russians were probing American voting systems ahead of the 2016 election, laying groundwork for what could have become a direct attack on American democracy. “With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again,” said co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). So a group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to shore up the security of American voting systems ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts.

National: Trump Disbands Commission on Voter Fraud | The New York Times

President Trump on Wednesday abruptly shut down a White House commission he had charged with investigating voter fraud, ending a brief quest for evidence of election theft that generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are corrupt. On Thursday, Mr. Trump called for requiring voter identification in a pair of Twitter posts because the voting system “is rigged.” “Push hard for Voter Identification!” Mr. Trump wrote. Mr. Trump did not acknowledge the commission’s inability to find evidence of fraud, but cast the closing as a result of continuing legal challenges. … In fact, no state has uncovered significant evidence to support the president’s claim, and election officials, including many Republicans, have strongly rejected it.

Editorials: Long wait for federal help to secure the 2018 election | San Francisco Chronicle

One of the most pressing questions ahead of the 2018 elections is whether the states will be able to guard their voting infrastructure from computer hackers, foreign espionage and other security breaches. Unfortunately, many states may not have enough time to get the assistance they need. State officials and some congressional lawmakers are deeply concerned about long wait times for the Department of Homeland Security’s most thorough security screening. Some states are reporting estimated wait times of up to nine months. The service is an intensive, multiweek probe of the entire system required to run an election. If some of the states that have requested it won’t be able to get it until just weeks before this November’s elections, they won’t be able to fix flaws that could allow cybervandals to hijack everything from election offices’ computer systems to voter registration databases.

Missouri: ACLU to appeal judge’s dismissal of Missouri voter ID lawsuit | Missourinet

Cole County Judge Jon Beetum has granted a motion by Republican Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to dismiss a lawsuit about requiring Missourians to show their ID to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters claiming the state hasn’t adequately provided education, poll worker training or funding for ID’s the law calls for. ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert tells Missourinet the fight isn’t over. “Try as it may, the state cannot undermine voting rights by forcing onerous changes to election law and then compounding those burdens by failing to provide funding for proper implementation. We will appeal,” says Rothert.

North Carolina: Redistricting hearing signals coming end to map-making saga | WRAL

A long legal saga over North Carolina’s state legislative maps drew near an end Friday as a panel of federal judges heard closing arguments over which version of those maps to use during this year’s statehouse elections. The panel’s decision should come soon. Filing in state legislative races begins Feb. 12, and without finished maps, a number of incumbents and potential challengers, including some in Wake County, won’t know in which districts they’re running. There’s also the prospect of another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could come quickly following the lower court’s decision.

Ohio: Voter Challenges Election Roll Purge in Supreme Court Clash | Bloomberg

Larry Harmon got a surprise when he went to his Kent, Ohio, polling place for a 2015 local election: He was no longer registered and couldn’t vote. Election officials removed him from the rolls because he hadn’t voted since 2008 and didn’t respond to the notice they say they sent in 2011. The lawsuit he and two interest groups filed against Ohio is now part of a U.S. Supreme Court case that will shape the rights of thousands of people as the 2018 elections approach. The justices will decide how far states can go in purging their election databases of people who might have moved away. The case, set for argument Jan. 10, has become a proxy for the highly partisan fight over the country’s election rules. Republicans are calling for stepped-up efforts to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats say those moves are a thinly veiled campaign to stop liberals and minorities from casting ballots.

Utah: For Native Americans, a ‘Historic Moment’ on the Path to Power at the Ballot Box | The New York Times

In this county of desert and sagebrush, Wilfred Jones has spent a lifetime angered by what his people are missing. Running water, for one. Electricity, for another. But worst of all, in his view, is that the Navajo people here lack adequate political representation. So Mr. Jones sued, and in late December, after a federal judge ruled that San Juan County’s longtime practice of packing Navajo voters into one voting district violated the United States Constitution, the county was ordered to draw new district lines for local elections. The move could allow Navajo people to win two of three county commission seats for the first time, overturning more than a century of political domination by white residents. And the shift here is part of an escalating battle over Native American enfranchisement, one that comes amid a larger wave of voting rights movements spreading across the country.

Virginia: Republican Wins Election After His Name Is Drawn From a Bowl | Bloomberg

By luck of the draw, incumbent Republican David Yancey won a Virginia state House of Delegates race so close that its outcome was determined Thursday when an elections official pulled his name out of a ceramic bowl. The drawing of lots happened after the race between Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelley Simonds ended in tie. The win allows Republicans to maintain a slim majority in the House, though a final tally is still uncertain because Simonds could ask for another recount. Adding another wrinkle: Another close legislative race is in doubt because it’s locked in a court battle. The drawing drew a large, if lopsided, crowd to the Virginia elections board meeting. Many of the people packed into the room were either reporters or Simonds’ supporters. Yancey did not attend but did have a few GOP staffers there to watch.

Czech Republic: Cyber security office to assist in presidential election | Prague Monitor

The Czech cyber and information security office (NUKIB) seated in Brno will operate in an emergency mode during the January 12-13 presidential election, with up to 25 experts ready to ward off any cyber attack, which may happen, NUKIB spokesman Radek Holy told CTK on Thursday. A hacker attack in the wake of the October general election caused drop-outs of the election websites of the Czech Statistical Office (CSU). It is being investigated by the police. NUKIB has been operating since the summer of 2017 with the aim of providing support in case of cyber attacks.

Russia: High court reaffirms Navalny ban from presidential race | Deutsche Welle

Russia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Saturday from opposition leader Alexei Navalny to run for president. One week after a lower court upheld a ruling by the Central Election Commission, which rejected his application to stand, the country’s high court backed the decision, citing a criminal conviction against the opposition leader. Navalny insists the embezzlement conviction against him is nothing more than a politically-motivated frame-up to keep him from running. Russia’s constitution prohibits anyone with a criminal conviction from seeking high office. President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the March election but, without Navalny, he faces only token opposition. Putin has been in office — as either president or prime minister — for nearly 20 years. Should he win re-election, Putin will become Russia’s longest-serving leader since dictator Josef Stalin.

National: Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Help States Beef Up Election Cybersecurity | Stateline

Six U.S. senators have filed a bipartisan bill that would provide grants to states to help them move from paperless voting machines to paper ballots in an effort to make voting systems less vulnerable to hackers. In September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified election officials in nearly two dozen states that their voter registration systems had been targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential election. While the hackers failed to breach most of the systems, in Illinois, they succeeded in accessing the voter database, and nearly 90,000 records were compromised. And in Arizona, hackers stole an election employee’s username and password, but the system wasn’t compromised, according to the Arizona secretary of state.

National: Trump fraud investigation’s fate unclear after move to DHS | The Hill

The work of investigating President Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally in the last presidential election and cost him the popular vote — an idea he’s presented without providing any evidence — now lies in the hands of officials at the Department of Homeland Security, after Trump disbanded the commission originally charged with the investigation. Trump dissolved the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity late Wednesday and turned its work over to DHS “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump’s decision comes after the commission grappled with data security concerns and widespread opposition from state governments, including both Democrats and Republicans, who refused to fulfill the commission’s wide-ranging requests for voter data. 

National: Should voters who don’t vote stay on voter rolls? | The Economist

Political apathy worried Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In a healthy republic, he wrote in “The Social Contract” in 1762, citizens “fly to the assemblies” and take an active role in public affairs. He would frown on America’s voter turnout, which hovers at 40% for mid-term elections and seldom goes much higher than 55% for a presidential race. But he might have been even more alarmed by laws that sideline infrequent voters from politics. On January 10th a rule that has disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Ohioans comes under the Supreme Court’s microscope. Husted v Philip Randolph Institute concerns what the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Centre for Justice calls the most restrictive approach to winnowing voter rolls found anywhere in America. Since 1994, in addition to nixing people who have died or moved—which all states do—Ohio has sent a postcard to voters who have not voted for two years. If they fail to return the address confirmation and then miss two more federal elections, they are taken off the rolls.

National: A Dead Simple Algorithm Reveals the True Toll of Voter ID Laws | WIRED

After announcing the closure of his short-lived commission to end voter fraud, President Trump made it clear Thursday that he wants more states to require identification at the ballot box to prevent what he believes is rampant—but still unproven—election rigging. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, laws requiring voters to show identification when they vote have speckled the nation, popping up in states from Rhode Island to Arizona. Almost as quickly, voting rights advocates have taken states like Texas and Alabama to court, arguing that these laws intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Just last summer, a federal judge tossed out Texas’s voter ID law, in a case that’s now being revisited by an appeals court. But proving exactly how discriminatory these laws are requires far more complexity than it might seem.

Editorials: Trump will still yell about voter fraud, but at least his clownish election commission can’t do any lasting damage | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times

President Trump’s precipitous decision Wednesday to shutter his “election integrity” commission — buried amid a slew of revelations from Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book about the Trump campaign and presidency — is good news for Americans who care about fair elections in the United States. Though Trump’s tweets Thursday about voter fraud and his announcement that he will shift the commission’s investigation to the Department of Homeland Security means he won’t let go of the issue, the greatest immediate danger to voting rights seems to have passed. Trump has long made irresponsible and wildly unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud. Before the election, he suggested that there was a great deal of voter impersonation fraud occurring in areas full of poor and minority voters, despite incontrovertible evidence that voter impersonation fraud almost never happens.