Ohio: Ballot question aims to reform Ohio’s redistricting process | The Toledo Blade

A single statewide question greets voters on the May 8 ballot, asking them to amend the Ohio Constitution to create what backers claim will be a less partisan way to redraw congressional districts each decade. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed it. It has a broad swath of bipartisan support from government watchdog, business, labor, and agricultural organizations. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues the plan would still allow partisan gerrymandering, isn’t asking voters to reject it. Keary McCarthy, one of the leaders of the “yes” campaign on Issue 1, said a modest budget of less than $500,000 will focus on promoting the broad, bipartisan support. But he also knows that the multistep process involved could be relatively confusing to explain.

Pennsylvania: GOP guts another independent redistricting commission bill | WITF

For the second time this month, a state House panel has stripped a bill that would have established an independent redistricting commission made up of citizens, and replaced it with language that gives the legislature even more power over the process. GOP House State Government Committee Chair Daryl Metcalfe called the surprise meeting Monday, because the bill’s supporters were trying to circumvent his panel to get the measure to the House floor. A number of lawmakers complained they were only given about ten minutes’ notice of the amendment. Metcalfe’s version of the bill would put six lawmakers in charge of the redistricting process. That’s one more than current law allows. It would also get rid of the governor’s ability to sign or veto the maps, and it would allow the Commonwealth Court to be a final arbiter of disputes, not the state Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania: Gerrymandering’s surprise co-conspirators: Democrats | Philadelphia Inquirer

Democrats have trumpeted that they are the brave defenders of democratic norms in the Trump era, fighting for political maps that give voters a true voice. They celebrated in January when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map as gerrymandered, casting themselves as political victims finally receiving justice from the courts. For six years, they had struggled under districts carefully constructed to ensure Republicans a majority of the state’s congressional delegation in a competitive state. With the brand-new lines raising fresh hopes for November, they now have a chance to flip numerous seats in Pennsylvania, and maybe even take back control of the U.S. House. “Loving this map. Exactly what I was fighting [for]. Fair. And. Reflective,” tweeted Margo Davidson, a Delaware County state lawmaker running for Congress. “Major win for democracy,” retweeted Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, a former member of the General Assembly.

Washington: National Guard to tighten election security in Washington | KING5

Cybersecurity experts with the Washington National Guard are teaming up with state election officials to tighten election security in Washington for the 2018 midterms. Other states across the country are forming similar partnerships with National Guard units. However, Washington’s National Guard has long been recognized as a leader in cybersecurity. “You have a number of guard members who are Microsoft employees and Google employees, so they have been on the forefront of cybersecurity planning,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Wyman says she will meet with Washington National Guard leaders in coming weeks to discuss their exact role in the state’s larger effort to secure elections systems. The nation’s Intelligence Chiefs warned earlier this year that Russia is expected to try and meddle in the 2018 midterms after vulnerabilities were exposed in 2016.

Australia: Electoral Commission strengthens defences against foreign hacking | AFR

The Australian Electoral Commission wants a stress test of ageing IT infrastructure completed ahead of the next election, part of international efforts to protect against foreign hacking such as Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential vote. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has conceded authorities in Australia and New Zealand remain “nervous” about the risk of domestic or overseas hacking and disruption to “front-facing services” including the online enrolment system, postal vote application system and virtual tally room. The Council of Australian Governments has ordered health checks of electoral systems, with intelligence organisations including the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre co-operating with the AEC ahead of a possible federal election in late 2018 or early 2019.

Botswana: Electronic voting: Botswana’s elephant in the room ahead of polls | NewsDay Zimbabwe

Botswana, the vast but sparsely populated diamond rich country, has been consistently hailed as a bastion of democracy, holding free elections since independence in 1966. Only recently, the country witnessed a bloodless, smooth transfer of power for the fifth time, with former army general, Ian Khama handing over power to his deputy, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who becomes Botswana’s fifth President. But as Botswana prepares for its 12th election in 2019, the media landscape has been dominated by a new elephant in the room, the electronic voting machines (EVM). This will be the first time since the first election in 1965, Botswana introduces an electronic voting system, to replace the manual process. However, the move has been met with overwhelming resistance from the opposition who argue, this is meant to influence the outcome of the poll, which has been dominated by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since independence from Britain.

Cambodia: Parties register as Hun Sen vows vote will go ahead | Associated Press

Registration began Monday for political parties contesting Cambodia’s upcoming general election, with Prime Minister Hun Sen dismissing calls for a boycott by opposition supporters whose party was dissolved by pro-government courts last year. Hun Sen said in a speech to school graduates on Monday that the July 29 election will proceed as planned and will not be obstructed by any individuals or groups. Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled leader of what was the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, reiterated his group’s position that voters should not cast their ballots if his party is not allowed to contest the election.

Canada: Trudeau government proposes major changes to elections law | CBC

The Trudeau government is proposing to limit the length of federal election campaigns, restrict the amount of spending allowed in the period immediately before a campaign and introduce new rules to regulate third-party political activity — all part of a new set of reforms to Canada’s elections laws. Political parties also would be required to disclose how and what information they collect from voters. “The changes we are proposing in this legislation will update the Canada Elections Act to better address the realities facing our democratic institutions in the 21st century,” Scott Brison, acting democratic institutions minister, said Monday afternoon after tabling legislation in the House of Commons. “It will make real, tangible improvements to make elections more efficient, inclusive and effective for all Canadians.”

French Polynesia: Run-off Tahiti elections clouded by claims of foul play | Radio New Zealand

There are claims of foul play in French Polynesia’s territorial election which have prompted calls to cancel last month’s first round on one island. With the ruling party standing nine candidates with criminal convictions for corruption, a movement is taking hold to urge voters to cast blank ballots. Campaigning is continuing for this weekend’s second round and there is tough talk. The Tahoeraa Huiraatira party is warning of riots in Tahiti of the kind seen in 1995 if the rival Tapura Huiraatira party stays in power for another term.

Iraq: New electronic system to be used in May elections | Associated Press

Iraq plans to use a new electronic system in next month’s national elections that will limit fraud and allow for the announcement of results within hours of polls closing, the election commission said Monday. The Independent High Electoral Commission said that 60,000 devices will be distributed nationwide to send voting data via satellite. Employees have tested the system and found it to be as reliable as hand-counting, the commission said. In previous elections, voters filled out ballots and then dipped their fingers in purple ink, a measure that was designed to prevent repeat voting. Images of jubilant voters raising purple fingers came to symbolize hope for a democratic future after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

National: James Comey dismisses House Russia report as ‘political document’ | The Guardian

Former FBI director James Comey on Sunday dismissed a House intelligence committee report that found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign as a “political document”. Interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press, Comey said the most important investigation into Russian election interference and alleged links between Trump aides and Moscow was being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Senate judiciary and intelligence committees are also investigating. Democrats on the House committee protested the conclusions of the report, claiming the Republican majority had acted primarily to defend Trump. 

National: The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual | Buzzfeed

Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors. In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down. The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media. Not all changes are substantive: Long paragraphs have been split up, outdated contacts lists have been updated, and citations to repealed laws have been removed.

Editorials: The House’s Russia report has some good ideas — but bias drowns them out | The Washington Post

Of the three major investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the House Intelligence Committee’s has been the briefest, sloppiest and most partisan. The result is a report released Friday that contains some useful information and recommendations — which will be drowned out by its slanted attacks on the intelligence community and its other attempts to give President Trump cover. “In 2015, Russia began engaging in a covert influence campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report begins. “The Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, sought to sow discord in American society and undermine our faith in the democratic process.” Although these sentences suggest that the committee does not live in the president’s world of total denial, the committee neverthe less refused to accept that the Kremlin tried to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump.

Alaska: Election cost doubles as Anchorage turns to vote by mail | Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage paid slightly more than $1 million to hold the city’s first-ever vote-by-mail election this spring, roughly twice the cost of previous poll-based elections, according to data released by election officials Friday. Elections officials said they weren’t surprised by the higher price tag for the election, an experiment that recorded the highest number of voters in an April city election in city history. But the bigger bill likely won’t go away anytime soon, officials said.”It looks like going forward we will probably have higher election costs doing vote-by-mail than we did the poll-based election,” said Assemblyman Pete Petersen, who chairs the Assembly’s ethics and elections committee.

Arkansas: Order blocking voter ID law appealed | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

As expected, state lawyers on Friday appealed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray’s decision to block the voter identification law. The judge ruled Thursday that the General Assembly had created the requirement that voters show government-approved photo identification by inserting an unsupportable contradiction in the state Constitution, which controls the election process. With early voting starting May 7, less than two weeks away, Secretary of State Mark Martin and the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners went right to the Arkansas Supreme Court rather than petition Gray to stay her own order. Martin, represented by Deputy Secretary of State A.J. Kelly, the secretary’s general counsel, and the commissioners, through Dylan Jacobs, assistant solicitor general for the Arkansas attorney general, launched separate appeals almost simultaneously Friday.

Kansas: House votes against state money for Kobach for contempt case | The Kansas City Star

A move by a Kansas House Republican would keep GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach from using state money to pay for being found in contempt of court. Kobach, who is running for governor, was found in contempt of court by a federal judge earlier this month. The legislation was offered by Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin. He said the move would prohibit using any state money for defense or penalties involved in a finding of a contempt of court by statewide elected officials. That would include the governor and the secretary of state. “You pay your own bills if you get yourself in that kind of trouble,” Jennings said. The change passed, 103-16. The overall budget bill that includes the prohibition is still a ways from making it to Gov. Jeff Colyer’s desk.

Michigan: Group challenges anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative | Associated Press

A group with ties to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is challenging a 2018 ballot initiative that aims to end political gerrymandering by empowering an independent commission to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts. Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution filed a challenge Thursday with the state elections board, announcing that it had also sued in the state appeals court a day before. It contends ballot committee Voters Not Politicians is seeking to amend so many parts of the state constitution that a constitutional convention is required, and that the proposal does not list all of the sections of the constitution that would be abrogated.

Ohio: Ballot question aims to reform Ohio’s redistricting process | The Toledo Blade

A single statewide question greets voters on the May 8 ballot, asking them to amend the Ohio Constitution to create what backers claim will be a less partisan way to redraw congressional districts each decade. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed it. It has a broad swath of bipartisan support from government watchdog, business, labor, and agricultural organizations. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues the plan would still allow partisan gerrymandering, isn’t asking voters to reject it. Keary McCarthy, one of the leaders of the “yes” campaign on Issue 1, said a modest budget of less than $500,000 will focus on promoting the broad, bipartisan support. But he also knows that the multistep process involved could be relatively confusing to explain.

Editorials: Ohio redistricting proposal unites strange bedfellows | Dan Krassner/Cincinnati Inquirer

Political reformers across America are paying close attention to how Ohioans vote on May 8. But it’s not about candidates or political parties. It’s about how you vote on Issue 1, the ballot measure that would end gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is when politicians draw the boundaries of those districts in order to create an unfair advantage for one political party over another. Ohio voters get the first say on the topic of ending gerrymandering this year before voters consider similar ballot initiatives in November in Michigan, Missouri, Utah and Colorado. Seventy-one percent of Ohio voters approved another Issue 1 in 2015 to end gerrymandering of state legislative districts. This year’s Issue 1 ends gerrymandering of federal congressional districts. If passed, it would create a fair system to draw congressional district lines in an open, transparent manner, with citizen input. It’s a common-sense reform that would bring fairness and a level playing field to congressional elections.

Pennsylvania: Lancaster County will try to avoid replacing voting machines that already have paper trails | Lancaster Online

Lancaster County officials are taking a “cautious” approach to what they believe could be a costly, and perhaps misplaced, directive that they replace their 12-year-old voting system by the end of 2019. Each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties must implement a new voting system that meets two qualifications, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The system must leave a “voter-verifiable paper record,” and it must be among the systems approved by the department in 2018 or later. Though Lancaster County is among the minority of counties that still have voting machines with paper trails, its system is from 2006. “We felt like our paper ballot system would qualify but as of right now it does not,” said Commissioner Dennis Stuckey. “What we’ll have to do is press the case and see if we can convince them that we will qualify. So far they’ve told us (our system) will not be certified.”

Texas: Federal appellate court upholds embattled voter ID law | The Texas Tribune

Amid efforts to prove Texas’ embattled voter ID law is discriminatory, a federal appeals panel on Friday OK’d state lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite the law last year to address faults previously identified by the courts. On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that tossed out the state’s revisions through Senate Bill 5. The lower court had said the changes did not absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against voters of color when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011. But the Legislature “succeeded in its goal” of addressing flaws in the voter ID law in 2017, Judge Edith Jones wrote in the majority opinion for the divided panel, and the lower court acted prematurely when it “abused its discretion” in ruling to invalidate SB 5.

Australia: New South Wales Electoral Commission appoints Scytl for iVote refresh project | Computerworld

Scytl has won a $1.9 million contract to upgrade the NSW Electoral Commission’s iVote application. The 2017-18 state budget included funding to enhance the iVote system, which provides browser-based Internet voting and telephone voting. iVote has been used in two NSW elections, as well as the 2017 WA election and nine NSW by-elections. There have been two versions of iVote; Scytl developed the core voting system used by the application from the 2015 NSW election onward. iVote has three key components: A registration and credential management system, which were both developed by the NSW EC; the Scytl core voting system; and a telephone system built by the electoral commission for vote verification.

Canada: Elections Canada braces for cyberrisks as new voter-registration technology is prepared for 2019 election | The Globe and Mail

Elections Canada is working closely with Canadian security officials to address the “real risks” of potential hacking as the agency prepares to roll out new electronic voter-registration technology for the 2019 federal election. Elections Canada has secured commitments from its outside contractor that the Apple iPads deployed at some advance polls will have never been used − and will never be used in the future − in countries outside of Canada’s “Five Eyes” security partners. Internal documents reveal the sensitive discussions taking place inside Elections Canada as it prepares for an election campaign in an era when countries around the world are grappling with allegations of foreign interference and hacking in the democratic process.

Malaysia: Election campaign kicks off amid claims of sabotage, bias | Reuters

Campaigning for Malaysia’s May 9 general election began on Saturday, pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak against his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad in a contest marred by claims of sabotage and a skewed electoral system. Najib leads his undefeated ruling coalition into arguably its toughest election since independence from Britain in 1957. He is grappling with a multi-billion-dollar scandal at a state fund, public anger over living costs and an unprecedented challenge by the 92-year-old Mahathir. Mahathir, returning to politics after retiring 15 years ago, will stand in the holiday island of Langkawi. Prime minister for 22 years before stepping down in 2003, Mahathir returned to challenge Najib after a billion-dollar scandal at state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Taiwan: Groups push migrant voting rights | Taipei Times

A coalition of labor groups and migrant workers’ unions yesterday urged the government to improve the working conditions of migrant workers and allow them to vote on referendums related to labor issues. About 70 migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday held banners and shouted “live together, decide together” in a demonstration in front of the Central Election Commission office on Xuzhou Road in Taipei. Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have greatly affected migrant workers, because they have the toughest work conditions, said Hsu Wei-dong (許惟棟), a member of the Hope Workers’ Center in Hsinchu.

Tunisia: In first for Tunisia, police and soldiers head to polls | AFP

Police and soldiers went to the ballot box for the first time in Tunisia on Sunday, casting votes in municipal elections after the lifting of a longtime ban. Most Tunisians will vote on May 6 in the municipal polls — the first since the North African country’s 2011 revolution — but members of the security forces cast their ballots a week earlier. “This is a historic day. For the first time we are exercising a right of citizenship,” a police officer told AFP at a polling station in central Tunis, asking to remain anonymous.

United Kingdom: Polling station voter ID plans are deeply flawed, say critics | The Guardian

Plans requiring voters to prove their identity before casting their ballot are deeply flawed, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has said. The group said it appeared the plans were a “calculated effort by the government to make voting harder for some citizens”. Pilot schemes will be in place at Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking councils in the local elections in England on 3 May. The ERS said personification fraud, in which someone votes while pretending to be someone else, is “incredibly rare” and the introduction of mandatory voter ID poses more problems than solutions. The ERS chief executive, Darren Hughes, said: “It’s hard not to see this as a calculated effort by the government to make voting harder for some citizens. “As such it’s vital we think about the risks these changes pose to a free and fair franchise in the UK. We need policy based on hard facts, not rumour and innuendo.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 23-29

Department of Homeland Security official Jeanette Manfra defended the agency’s work to help secure voting systems before midterm elections. DHS has “adopted an aggressive posture” to help state officials secure their voting infrastructure and will do all it can ahead of Election Day, Questioning the DHS assessment that 21 states had been targeted by Russian hackers prior to the 2016 election, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pointed out that number reflects only the number of states that had sensors or tools in place to capture the scanning activity. Manfra largely agreed with that interpretation. DHS will use the $26 million in additional election-security funding provided by the March omnibus to increase vulnerability assessments and other services it offers states.

Despite these efforts and newly appropriated funds provided by Congress to states for election security, the US remains vulnerable to attack and election interference according to an editorial in The Washington Post. “[M]ost states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.”

Signatories of an open letter to election officials in all 50 states include subject matter experts from think tanks and universities, former state election officials and former federal government officials. State and local election officials have been deliberating over how to make the best use of a $380 million election improvement fund that Congress included in an omnibus spending bill last month.

An Arkansas judge blocked a voter ID law that’s nearly identical to a measure the state’s highest court found unconstitutional about four years ago. State lawyers immediately appealed the decision citing the fact that early for primary election begins in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, a Texas voter ID law considered one of the strictest in the country will stay in effect for the 2018 elections after an appeals court upheld the law.

An 188 member panel was appointed by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to review options for the state’s voting system, including hand-marked paper ballots and electronic machines with a voter-verified paper trail.

Following a mandate from Governor Tom Wolf that all Pennsylvania counties upgrade their election equipment by the end of next year, a voting equipment demonstration at the state Farm Show complex this week offered election officials and the public to view new equipment from ClearBallot, Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software, Hart Intercivic, and Unisyn Voting Solutions. How counties will pay for the new equipment has not been resolved.

A federal lawsuit challenging the inability of residents of Guam and other U.S. territories to vote for president has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2016 when a federal judge ruled that former Illinois residents who live in the territories do not have the right to cast absentee ballots in Illinois. There is no fundamental right to vote in the territories, the judge stated, citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions called the “Insular Cases.” The Insular Cases state constitutional rights do not necessarily apply to places under U.S. control.

Dog sleds carried some ballots to polling stations for Greenland’s election on Tuesday, in which economic issues and independence from Denmark were among the most pressing issues for Greenland’s 54,000 residents in the election.

Campaigning for Malaysia’s May 9 general election began on Saturday, pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak against his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad in a contest marred by claims of sabotage and a skewed electoral system.

National: DHS cyber official calls election security a priority; GAO report says agency’s risk mitigation efforts fall short | SC Magazine

The Department of Homeland Security’s chief cybersecurity official Jeanette Manfra testified in a Congressional committee hearing yesterday that her agency is “doing everything that we can” to protect the nation’s electoral infrastructure, including prioritizing any state’s request for a voting system risk assessment. But while DHS has made important strides in developing programs and measures for mitigating cybersecurity risks that threaten federal operations and critical infrastructure, the agency is still falling short of recommendations issued two years ago by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, according to a new report issued as written testimony from Gregory Wilshusen, GAO’s director of information security issues.

Editorials: America is still unprepared for a Russian attack on our elections | The Washington Post

As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race. In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.