North Dakota: GOP to support independent secretary of state candidate after learning about nominee’s peeping case | West Fargo Pioneer

The North Dakota Republican Party confirmed it will support an independent candidate for secretary of state Tuesday, May 22, one day after that office’s longtime occupant said he would mount such a campaign. Republican Al Jaeger said Monday he’ll work to gather the 1,000 signatures necessary to appear on the November ballot as an independent. That announcement came a day after the Republican-endorsed candidate, Will Gardner, dropped out of the race once his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced. The North Dakota Republican Party said in a news release Tuesday that independent candidates who intend to petition for a letter of support should appear before a Republican State Committee meeting June 16 in Fargo, a few days after the primary election. The party will begin drafting procedural rules for the meeting.

Wisconsin: Department of Justice challenges Wisconsin’s overseas voter restrictions | Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue Wisconsin over its restrictions on overseas voters. The Wisconsin Elections Commission released a letter Tuesday that it received from the DOJ on May 9. The letter warned the agency is preparing to sue because Wisconsin law doesn’t allow temporary overseas voters to obtain ballots electronically or to file unofficial ballots.

Colombia: Days before vote, Santos calls emergency meeting over election fraud claims | Colombia Reports

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday agreed to investigate piling election fraud accusations a day after rejecting the fraud claims as “extreme left” inventions. Santos said he would organize a top-level meeting with ministers, judicial authorities and the military on Wednesday to discuss the piling fraud allegations. The meeting will take place just four days ahead of presidential elections after leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, a staunch anti-corruption crusader, called on his supporters to take to the streets when polls close on Sunday.

Iraq: Angry Kurds file election complaints with Baghdad | The National

The main Kurdish political parties in Iraq are exchanging accusations of widespread voter intimidation and vote rigging, even after Baghdad announced final results from the May 12 elections. Six Kurdish opposition parties are demanding a rerun of the election in the autonomous region and adjacent disputed territories. Several parties have filed formal complaints with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Baghdad. While the allegations are yet to be matched by hard evidence, the fracas is undermining faith in the political process in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which remains in political turmoil following a failed independence referendum last year.

Editorials: Will Foreign Activists Sway Ireland’s Abortion Vote? | Jochen Bittner/The New York Times

This Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to change their constitution to legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The debate itself contains few new arguments; instead it circles around a question most other European countries have asked themselves over the past 40 years: What is the proper balance between the mother’s right to self-determination and the unborn child’s right to life? But there’s another question, less about the substance of the issue and more about the campaign around it: In an era of global social media and well-funded foreign activists, what does it mean for a country to hold a vote at all? And if a democracy is no longer insulated from foreign influence, what integrity can any referendum claim? Forget hacking and illegal vote-buying. What’s happening in Ireland is more transparent, but also, for that reason, more troubling.

Jersey: Electoral system described as ‘over complicated’ | ITV News

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has written a report on the ‘over complicated’ nature of Jersey’s electoral system. The Election Observation Mission also said that the number of uncontested ballots undermines the principle that elections are fully genuine. They also said the same for the disparity in equality of voting across districts and low voter turnout across the Island.

Venezuela: Lima Group condemns Maduro’s reelection; recalls ambassadors from Venezuela | The Santiago Times

The fourteen members of the Lima Group have declared they do not recognize the re-election of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in a Sunday vote marred by international accusations that it was rigged. All 14 members of the group issued a statement on Monday condemning the election and saying they will call back their ambassadors in Caracas for consultations on what to do next, as well as summon the Venezuelan ambassadors in each country to express their concerns. The statement also said the countries will reduce their diplomatic presences in Venezuela as a result. There is no indication in the statement that the Lima Group countries will permanently pull their ambassadors from Caracas.

United Kingdom: US elections are under threat from cyberattacks — and so are yours | Matt Rhoades/

When we talk about the integrity of elections, we tend to think about voter registration, transparency of donations, or the secrecy of our ballots. But on both sides of the Atlantic, the most disturbing new threat is the specter of cyberattacks against our campaign infrastructure. Whether in the wake of the U.K.’s EU referendum in June 2016, the U.S. presidential election that November, or the 2017 British general election, newspapers have been filled with endless speculation about foreign governments attempting to influence the outcome of elections. Unfortunately, much of the debate on the topic has become a partisan political tool used by both sides to make accusations against each other — creating chaos, just as cyberattacks are intended to do. What is deadly serious is the prospect of a malicious actor — who could be a foreign government, domestic extremist group or a single individual — acting to degrade the integrity of elections in the U.K.

National: Giuliani ‘made up’ Robert Mueller deadline for Trump probe: Report | CNBC

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s claim that special counsel Robert Mueller is hoping to end his investigation into whether the president obstructed justice in the Russia probe by Sept. 1 is “entirely made up,” a new report says. A U.S. official familiar with the case said Giuliani’s assertion in a New York Times article on Sunday about Mueller’s supposed target date was “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work,” Reuters reported. “He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned every rock,” the unidentified source said, referring to Mueller’s inquiry into possible obstruction by President Donald Trump into the question of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

National: Congress to receive classified briefing on election security Tuesday | The Hill

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has rescheduled a briefing for Congress on election security, which will now be classified, for Tuesday morning. Top U.S. officials are expected to brief lawmakers behind closed doors on current threats and risks to the election process and efforts by the Trump administration to help state officials secure their digital voting assets from hackers. The briefing will take place at 8 a.m. and will be classified, according to an aide for Ryan. The briefing was originally expected to take place last Thursday and be unclassified but closed to the public.

Editorials: How to Steal an Election in Broad Daylight | Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas/Foreign Policy

In Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, droves of voters turned out in opposition strongholds, hoping to oust the incumbent, Viktor Yanukovych. Upon arrival at their assigned polling stations, they received their crisp ballot papers and pens to mark them with. They dutifully ticked the box for the opposition — and against the ruling regime. Then, they slipped their cleanly marked ballot papers into the ballot box to be counted. Having done their democratic duty, they left. Four minutes later, their ballots were blank. Although the opposition voters didn’t know it, they had been given pens that were filled with disappearing ink. The ballot boxes were filled with stacks of unmarked ballots. Despite such dirty tricks, Yanukovych eventually lost. Election observers noticed the disappearing ink trick — and many others — leading to the election being rerun. But Yanukovych’s defeat was unusual; incumbents win most elections these days for two reasons. First, they enjoy many legitimate advantages, such as the ability to set the political agenda. Second, a remarkably high proportion of elections are rigged. Most incumbents have learned to transform elections from a threat to their grip on power into something that can instead be used to tighten it. They’ve figured out how to rig an election, leading to the greatest political paradox of our time: There are more elections than ever before, and yet the world is becoming less democratic.

Arkansas: Lack of paper trail an election concern | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

All but two of the 75 counties in Arkansas use voting machines that create paper copies of each ballot cast. Clerks in Union and Ouachita counties said they’ve never had a problem with their voting equipment. Election security experts have raised concerns about voting devices that don’t produce receipts for individual voters because the lack of those receipts makes it hard to ensure no votes were manipulated. Ouachita County Clerk Britt Williford acknowledged those concerns are the biggest drawback to his county’s current voting machines, which the county plans to replace before the general election in November.

Connecticut: State Works To Fend Off Cybersecurity Attacks On Election | CT News Junkie

Two days after President Donald Trump eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill convened the second meeting of the Elections Cybersecurity Task Force. At the very beginning of the meeting, Merrill reminded the task force that the election system faces several threats, including natural ones, like the tornadoes that touched down in the state last week and caused more damage than some hurricanes in several towns. She said they have emergency protocols in place for what happens if a polling place loses power, but are still putting plans together for emergencies that might not be as easily detected. “This will be the first statewide election following Russia’s attempt to interfere with our election infrastructure right here in Connecticut,” Merrill said.

Florida: Supervisors Focus On Security Ahead Of Fall Elections | WLRN

Supervisors of elections throughout Florida are preparing for the upcoming election season, with the secruity of the voting process being a top priority. After the 2016 elections, such elements as voter registration rolls and machines were designated as “critical infrastructure.” That means more funding from the Department of Homeland Security has poured into local elections offices to help protect them. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said that money has allowed local elections officials like himself to check the security of registration information and the machines voters will use to cast their ballots.

Florida: Report: Not restoring felons’ rights costs Florida $385M a year | Miami Herald

Seven years after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet voted to end the state policy that automatically restored the civil rights of nonviolent offenders after they complete their sentences, a price tag has emerged. Florida lost an estimated $385 million a year in economic impact, spent millions on court and prison costs, had 3,500 more offenders return to prison, and lost the opportunity to create about 3,800 new jobs. Those are just some of the conclusions of a new economic research report prepared by the Republican-leaning Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables for proponents of Amendment 4, the proposal on the November ballot that asks voters to allow the automatic restoration of civil rights for eligible felons who have served their sentences.

Maine: Republicans’ court filing takes aim at ranked-choice voting | Portland Press Herald

Ranked-choice voting is a system “designed to change election outcomes and messages” and alter the Maine Republican Party itself, the party said in its latest court filing over the controversial election method. Monday’s filing supports a federal court lawsuit the party filed to stop the use of ranked-choice voting, which was adopted by Maine voters in a 2016 referendum. The party says that “ranked-choice voting is designed to change the character of the party” and shouldn’t be forced on Republicans in the June 12 primary.

Maryland: Political Insiders Plotted the Most Gerrymandered District in America—and Left a Paper Trail | The Washingtonian

If you drive west to Garrett County, Maryland, and ask people what Potomac is like, they usually say they don’t spend much time “downstate.” They watch the Pittsburgh nightly news and, on Sundays, root for the Steelers. When I asked people in the tony Washington suburb of Potomac about Oakland, the Garrett County seat, they unfailingly replied, “Where’s that?” Maryland is a ragtag jumble of mansions and mountain towns—it’s normal not to know much about what goes on 170 miles away. But the people who live along the Youghiogheny River and the ones who take the Red Line into DC each morning have something in common: They are all residents of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. Which means these strangers-turned-bedfellows share something else: They are the most gerrymandered people in America. At least they are for now. In March, the Supreme Court heard a groundbreaking challenge to the district’s wild contours, brought by seven Republican voters. These Marylanders argue that the Grand Canyon–size district—in a state whose seven others would barely cover the map of Massachusetts—was redrawn to punish the region’s GOP voters.

Editorials: Maryland election law needs a serious upgrade | Baltimore Sun

There are some big things that are wrong with the way Marylanders elect candidates to office. We hand the drawing of legislative and congressional district lines to self-interested politicians who abuse the process to bolster their political parties, reward friends and punish enemies. And we have a campaign finance system that magnifies the influence of wealthy special interests. Those are foundational problems in our political system, and the possible solutions to them — redistricting reform and publicly financed campaigns — have proven to be difficult to enact. But this year’s elections have uncovered some dumb problems that are eminently fixable.

North Dakota: Jaeger to run as independent after Gardner drops out of secretary of state’s race | West Fargo Pioneer

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger plans to seek re-election as an independent in November after the Republican-endorsed candidate dropped out once his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced. Jaeger, a Republican who has been in office since 1993, said Monday, May 21, he conferred with Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem about his legal options and determined an independent run was his only viable path to re-election. “I know the office well. I believe I have a good record,” Jaeger said. Jaeger will need 1,000 signatures by Sept. 4 to appear on the November ballot.

Pennsylvania: Top GOP state senator pushes for redistricting, election overhauls | WITF

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is throwing his weight behind a few measures that have, of late, been more commonly championed by Democrats. The top Republican official, of Cameron County, said in a wide-ranging speech Monday that he wants to see the redistricting process overhauled, and also switch the commonwealth to open primaries. Scarnati made it clear, his anger over the state Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate and redraw Pennsylvania’s congressional map hasn’t abated. But in the midst of reproaching the justices for having “trampled, shredded, and burned” the constitution, he said he knows the process has to change–though he added, it’ll be a challenge.

Texas: State appeals after a judge orders the state to implement online voter registration for drivers | The Texas Tribune

The legal fight over whether Texas is disenfranchising thousands of voters by violating a federal voter registration law is on its way to federal appeals court. Just after a federal judge gave Texas less than two months to implement a limited version of online voter registration, the state on Monday formally notified U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia that it was appealing his finding that Texas was violating the law — also known as the “Motor Voter Act” — by failing to allow drivers to register to vote when they renew their driver’s licenses online. Pointing to registration deadlines for the November election, Garcia created a 45-day deadline for the state to create the online system for drivers in order to comply with the federal law that requires states to allow people to register to vote while getting their drivers licenses.

Colombia: Candidate Petro says voting software tampered with, government denies | Reuters

Leftist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro said on Sunday that voting software for next week’s contest has been tampered with, in a bid to aid center-right candidate German Vargas, an allegation the government denied. Petro, an ex-mayor of Bogota and former M-19 rebel, has long held second place in surveys, behind right-wing candidate Ivan Duque. Vargas is in fourth place. “The software has algorithm alterations that don’t give a guarantee and could generate a massive fraud,” Petro told journalists, questioning what he said was the absence of a European Union electoral observation mission with the expertise to examine the system.

Iraq: Electoral Commission cancels results of 103 vote centres | Middle East Monitor

On Monday, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission announced the cancellation of the results of 103 vote centres of parliamentary elections, which were held on 12 May, after the verification of dozens of “red complaints.” The “red complaints” are those that Electoral Commission deems “extremely serious violations (such as forgery and manipulation) that affect the outcome of competing lists at the vote centres.” In a statement that Anadolu News Agency obtained a copy of, the Commission said that “the Board of Commissioners (the exclusive authority which deals with complaints in the Electoral Commission) has investigated 1,436 complaints that have been submitted about the voting day, and have then been classified by the specialized committees in the Council.”

Ireland: Online ads restricted ahead of Ireland’s abortion vote amid concerns over social media influence | Associated Press

In homes and pubs, on leaflets and lampposts, debate is raging in Ireland over whether to lift the country’s decades-old ban on abortion. Pro-repeal banners declare: “Her choice: vote yes.” Anti-abortion placards warn against a “license to kill.” Online, the argument is just as charged — and more shadowy, as unregulated ads of uncertain origin battle to sway voters before Friday’s referendum, which could give Irish women the right to end their pregnancies for the first time. The highly charged campaign took a twist this month when Facebook and Google moved to restrict or remove ads relating to the abortion vote. It is the latest response to global concern about social media’s role in influencing political campaigns, from the U.S. presidential race to Brexit.

Venezuela: Re-elected, Maduro faces global criticism, U.S. sanctions | Reuters

Critics at home and abroad on Monday denounced the re-election of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro as a farce cementing autocracy, while the U.S. government imposed new sanctions on the crisis-stricken oil-producing country. Maduro, the 55-year-old successor to late leftist leader Hugo Chavez, hailed his win in Sunday’s election as a victory against “imperialism.” But his main challengers alleged irregularities and refused to recognize the result. In response to the vote, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting Venezuela’s ability to liquidate state assets and debt in the United States, the latest in a series of sanctions that seeks to choke off financing for the already cash-strapped government.

National: We surveyed 100 security experts. Almost all said state election systems were vulnerable. | The Washington Post

We brought together a panel of more than 100 cybersecurity leaders from across government, the private sector, academia and the research community for a new feature called The Network — an ongoing, informal survey in which experts will weigh in on some of the most pressing issues of the field. (You can see the full list of experts here.) Our first survey revealed deep concerns that states aren’t prepared to defend themselves against the types of cyberattacks that disrupted the 2016 presidential election, when Russian hackers targeted election systems in 21 states.  “We are going to need more money and more guidance on how to effectively defend against the sophisticated adversaries we are facing to get our risk down to acceptable levels,” said one of the experts, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who co-chairs the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. Congress in March approved $380 million for all 50 states and five territories to secure their election systems, but Langevin says he wants more. He introduced legislation with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) that would provide election security funding to states if they adhere to new federal guidelines for identifying weaknesses in their systems and auditing election results. “I hope Congress continues to work to address this vital national security issue,” Langevin said. 

National: Congress is offering millions in election security. States may not use it by November. | The Washington Post

States are now free to claim their shares of the hundreds of millions of dollars Congress set aside to secure election systems across the country. But for many states, getting their hands on the money – and deciding how to spend it – is easier said than done. In Minnesota, Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) told me he wants to use part of the $6.6 million in federal funds his state was awarded to hire three coders to immediately upgrade the state’s aging voter registration system. The clock is ticking: Minnesota was one of the 21 states that had election systems targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential race. With U.S. intelligence agencies warning the midterm elections are likely to be hit by another wave of cyberattacks, states are scrambling to secure their voting infrastructure by November. But Simon says he might not get the funds he needs in time. Under Minnesota law, only the Republican-controlled legislature can release that money — and local politics have left lawmakers in a stalemate over how to proceed. Right now, language to approve the funds is tucked in a spending bill the Democratic governor has threatened to veto for an array of unrelated issues. 

National: Just 13 States Have Requested Funds Congress Set Aside to Secure Election Systems | Gizmodo

Thirteen states have withdrawn a total of nearly $88 million from an election security fund established by Congress in March, but more than 75 percent of the funding has yet to be dispersed. The $380 million fund, established as part of Congress’ omnibus appropriations bill, is meant to aid state officials in securing and improving election systems, whether through technical upgrades, cybersecurity audits, or by replacing vulnerable paperless electronic voting machines with paper-based systems. Although it makes up only fraction of what some experts say is needed—the Center for American Progress, for example, has suggested $1.25 billion over a 10-year period, which is close to what Democrats pushed for in February—the funding will ostensibly go a long way toward ensuring the continuation of free and fair elections in the United States, namely by hardening certain systems against hackers who might seek to tamper with the results.

National: Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election | The New York Times

Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor. The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters. Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

Editorials: California’s ‘jungle primary’ isn’t working. We need election reform 2.0 | Andrew Gumbel/Los Angeles Times

As California hurtles toward its state primary June 5, it is obvious there’s a problem. Its open primary system — which sends the top two vote-getters to the general election, regardless of party affiliation — is not working as intended and risks throwing the midterm election into acrimony and confusion. This system is called a “jungle primary” for a reason: It is brutal and unpredictable. In three high-profile House races, there are so many candidates from the two major parties eating into one another’s support that the election results may end up owing more to chance than any discernible will of the people. Polls show that Democrats have an excellent chance of capturing the Southern Californian seats being vacated by Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Darrell Issa (R-Isla Vista) and have a good shot at unseating Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach). These are all bona fide swing districts that surely deserve an up-and-down contest between a Republican and a Democrat in November.