National: ‘Protecting our democracy’: DNC chair defends suit against Trump and Russia | The Guardian

Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday defended the Democratic National Committee’s decision to sue Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over Russian election interference, saying the DNC was “protecting our democracy” and could “walk and chew gum” when it came to keeping its focus on the midterm elections. The multimillion-dollar civil suit was filed on Friday in federal court in the southern district of New York, claiming senior Trump officials conspired with the Russian government in an attempt to damage Hillary Clinton. The suit seeks damages for the hacking of DNC email servers.Donald Trump tweeted about the suit over the weekend, seemingly promising a legal counter move. “So funny, the Democrats have sued the Republicans for Winning,” he wrote on Saturday. “Now he [sic] R’s counter and force them to turn over a treasure trove of material, including Servers and Emails!” It was unclear why Republicans would sue to obtain Democratic party emails, many of which are already public owing to Russia-directed hacking that began in April 2016.

Arizona: Lawmakers at odds over a bill that could keep a McCain successor off the ballot this year | The Washington Post

State lawmakers in Arizona are sparring over legislation that would give a Republican successor to Sen. John McCain a pass on having to stand for election in November even if the ailing six-term senator resigns or dies before the end of next month. Leaders of the Republican-controlled state Senate say they plan a vote next week on the measure, which could have implications on control of the U.S. Senate and has intensified the spotlight on the health of McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer. Democrats have cried foul and are vowing to block the bill, which they say reflects how worried Republicans are about defending GOP-held seats, even in a red state like Arizona. The state’s other U.S. Senate seat is also on the ballot in November, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is not seeking reelection.

Arkansas: Attorney general again rejects bid to create panel to draw state’s districts | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday rejected, for the second time, the ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw Arkansas’ legislative and congressional district boundaries. Rutledge first shot down the proposed amendment’s title last month, citing ambiguities in the text. She noted additional unclear terms Friday. Little Rock attorney David Couch, who wrote the proposal, said the objections raised in Friday’s opinion are different from those raised in the first rejection.

Missouri: Legislators approve numerous changes to elections | Associated Press

Missouri legislators approved numerous changes Thursday to local elections, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots by email. The omnibus measure won final approval in the Senate, 24-7, more than a week after the House passed it 139-6. The measure would also potentially reduce the amount of time candidates would have to get their names on ballots during special elections.

North Dakota: Court ruling hangs over June election | Minot Daily News

North Dakota voters should be prepared to show identification when they go to the polls in June, although just what that means might depend on a federal judge. Secretary of State Al Jaeger spoke to the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee Friday about the state’s election system. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland expanded the valid forms of identification that can be used by tribal members and struck down a state mandate that voter identification include a current residential street address. Several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa first challenged the state’s voter ID law more than two years ago. They are asking the court to award them $1.1 million in attorney fees and other costs.

Pennsylvania: Robert Torres: Its time to bring Pennsylvania’s voting machines up to modern, secure standards | The Morning Call

Imagine depending on a 12-year-old cellphone or a 15-year-old computer. No one would fault you for seeking to replace that outdated equipment with newer, technologically superior models. Many counties in the commonwealth own voting systems that old or even older. Fortunately, voting machines remain reliable longer than cellphones and laptops. Also, Pennsylvania employs a host of measures — such as comprehensive monitoring and network isolation — to maintain their security. With the cooperation of law enforcement and cybersecurity partners, we know our elections will be run in a safe, secure way this year. But as our voting machines approach the end of their usable life, we must think and plan ahead now. We are constantly reminded that worldwide cybersecurity threats are growing and hackers have become increasingly sophisticated. Modernizing Pennsylvania’s election infrastructure is the responsible thing to do so our citizens can feel confident that their votes are accurately and securely recorded.

Texas: Why everyone is mad in the Texas redistricting fight that’s taken seven years | The Texas Tribune

Everyone in the Texas redistricting fight is pissed off. In their latest brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, the voting and minority rights groups challenging Texas’ political maps painted Republican state lawmakers as “opportunistically inconsistent in their treatment of appearance versus reality.” Pointing to the lawmakers’ 2013 adoption of a court-drawn map that was meant to be temporary, the groups chronicled the actions as “a ruse,” a “shellgame strategy” and a devious “smokescreen” meant to obscure discriminatory motives behind a previous redistricting plan. Channeling their anger toward the lower court that found lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color, state attorneys used a February brief to denounce the court’s ruling as one that “defies law and logic,” suffers multiple “legal defects” and “flunks the commonsense test to boot.”

Texas: Greg Abbott seeks to call a special election for Farenthold seat | Austin American-Statesman

Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on whether Abbott can suspend state election law to call a special election “as soon as is legally possible” to fill the congressional seat left vacant when embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned two weeks ago. In a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday, Abbott said he is concerned that state and federal law may not allow an election earlier than September. Abbott said he is concerned that coastal Texans continuing to seek federal relief from Hurricane Harvey damage lack representation in Congress. Abbott writes in the letter that “it is imperative to restore representation” to the voters of the 27th Congressional District, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop and Caldwell counties. Abbott noted that all of the district’s 13 counties are covered by his most recent disaster declaration for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Lebanon: Will the Lebanese vote in parliamentary elections? | Al Jazeera

The last parliamentary elections in Lebanon were held nine years ago. Since then, the country has seen its executive body sit vacant for two years, watched parliament extend its tenure twice, and witnessed a prime minister abruptly resign and just as suddenly retract his resignation. A new electoral law, passed last summer, staved off a major political deadlock that threatened to leave the country without a parliament – and the bill set a vote deadline of May 2018. But as the country prepares to put the new electoral law to the test, many Lebanese expressed scepticism and a lack of enthusiasm for the May 6 parliamentary elections.

Mexico: Congress votes to remove politicians’ legal immunity | The Guardian

Mexico’s lower house of Congress has voted to remove politicians’ immunity from prosecution, a move meant to curb corruption and impunity and lessen perceptions the country’s political class can act above the law. Under the constitutional changes approved late on Thursday, the country’s president – who can currently only be impeached for treason and “serious crimes of the common order” – could be put on criminal trial while in office, but only after a vote in congress. “This bill will put an end to the impunity that prevails in Mexico’s political circles,” congressman Jesús Álvarez López of the leftist Morena party told AP. Politicians from all sides were quick to claim credit for the changes – which have long been pushed by parties while in opposition but blocked by the party in power.

Paraguay: Business-friendly Colorado Party keeps presidency | Reuters

The candidate from Paraguay’s ruling Colorado Party won Sunday’s presidential election, according to official results with 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing to another five years of pro-business policies in the major soy producer. The country’s elections authority said Mario Abdo, a 46-year-old former senator who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, had an “irreversible” advantage over his main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition. “My administration will be committed to gaining the confidence of those who did not accompany us,” Abdo said in his acceptance speech.

Turkey: Fledging party to run in June polls after membership boost | Reuters

A fledgling Turkish political party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks. Turkey’s top electoral board ruled the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party would be allowed to participate in the polls, a board official said. President Tayyip Erdogan this week called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, more than a year earlier than scheduled. The announcement wrongfooted the troubled opposition and brings Erdogan closer to his long-sought goal of a presidency with sweeping executive powers.

United Kingdom: Tories in new race row over identity checks for elections | The Guardian

Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities, according to a leaked letter to ministers from the equality and human rights watchdog. In a move that will fuel controversy over the treatment of migrants in the UK following the Windrush scandal, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the plan for compulsory checks was more evidence of the kind of “hostile environment” that Theresa May’s government wanted to create for people who had come to settle in Britain. In a speech on Sunday, Corbyn will claim that Theresa May’s determination to cut immigration at all costs was responsible for the Windrush scandal. He will say: “British citizens who came to our country to rebuild it after the war have faced deportation because they couldn’t clear the deliberately unreachable bar set by Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.”

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 16-22

Sue Halpern contributed a wide ranging essay to The New Yorker examining the vulnerability of America’s voting systems. Happern noted that “the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency that certifies the integrity of voting machines, and that will now be tasked with administering Congress’s three hundred and eighty million dollars, was itself hacked.” While acknowledging the recent appropriation of $380 million by Congress to assist states in stregthening voting system security she concludes that “[w]ithout a commitment from the federal government, the states, and counties to do whatever is necessary to establish and maintain secure elections, our greatest strength as a nation, the regular accounting of the vox populi, will remain susceptible to abuse, subversion, and other dark arts.”

Harvard Fellow and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Bruce Schneier raised similar concerns in an oped posted in The Guardian. Schneier observed that “[i]t shouldn’t be any surprise that voting equipment, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and vote tabulation systems, are that hackable. They’re computers – often ancient computers running operating systems no longer supported by the manufacturers – and they don’t have any magical security technology that the rest of the industry isn’t privy to. If anything, they’re less secure than the computers we generally use, because their manufacturers hide any flaws behind the proprietary nature of their equipment.”

State election officials c\gathered at an EAC public forum echoed the assessment that the Congressional funding, while welcome, was not sufficient to allow states to adequately address security vulnerabilities. Cook County Illinois election director Noah Praetz commented “[e]lections officials deploy a variety of network-connected digital services such as informational websites, poll books, voter registration systems and unofficial elections results displays that are all ripe targets for adversaries, if we fail to get experts into local offices to shore up our defenses, then we will regret it.”

The Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, alleging a widespread conspiracy to help swing the 2016 US presidential election. Saying the DNC was “protecting our democracy” DNC Chairman Tom Perez defended the decision to sue. “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

At a Georgia Tech demonstration this week, University of Michigan computer scientist and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Alex Halderman demonstrated how to rig an election by infecting voting machines with malware that guaranteed a chosen candidate would always win. “Voting is not as safe as it needs to be,” said Halderman. “The safest technology is to have voters vote on a piece of paper … [a]ny technology can be hacked, but hand-marked paper ballots provide a way to recount and audit elections to ensure they delivered fair results.”

A federal judge ruled that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated a court order that required his office to inform certain people that they were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship worked its way through the courts. Kobach announced plans to appeal the ruling and the American Civil Liberties Union responded by submitting an ethics complaint against Kansas’ chief election officer.

Maine’s highest court ruled that a law that moves Maine’s primary elections to a ranked-choice voting system should stand for the pending primary elections in June. the court had taken up the case based on a complaint from the Maine Senate, which argued that the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, did not have the constitutional authority to spend money on a ranked-choice election without specific direction to do so from the Legislature.

The League of Women Voters led a group of voting advocacy organizations in filing a federal lawsuit against the state of Missouri for not following federal voter laws. The lawsuit accuses the state of not automatically updating voter registration after address changes and not providing required registration information to some voters. \

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to restore voting rights to about 35,000 New York felons on parole who previously were barred from casting a ballot until they completed their parole. Cuomo will issue an executive order to restore voting rights to those felons already on parole as well as those who enter the parole system each month, a spokesman said.

After IT experts objected to e-voting software prepared by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections, a committee was formed to conduct a technical audit of the proposed system. Taha Ali from the National University of Sciences and Technology expressing his concerns over the voting software, observed that “[i]t’s not difficult to hack an e-voting system. Even if it is not hacked, stealing data is not a big deal. Different countries, including the United States, Australia and Norway, tried such software only to withdrew them later.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called snap elections, bringing forward parliamentary and presidential elections to June 24, almost 17 months earlier than scheduled. Scrambling to prepare foir the surprise decision, the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks.

National: America Continues to Ignore the Risks of Election Hacking | The New Yorker

Last month, when Congress authorized three hundred and eighty million dollars to help states protect their voting systems from hacking, it was a public acknowledgement that, seven months out from the midterm elections, those systems remain vulnerable to attack. America’s voting systems are hackable in all kinds of ways. As a case in point, in 2016, the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency that certifies the integrity of voting machines, and that will now be tasked with administering Congress’s three hundred and eighty million dollars, was itself hacked. The stolen data—log-in credentials of E.A.C. staff members—were discovered, by chance, by employees of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, whose computers one night happened upon an informal auction of the stolen passwords. “This guy—we randomly called him Rasputin—was in a high-profile forum in the darkest of the darkest of the darkest corner of the dark Web, where hackers and reverse engineers, ninety-nine per cent of them Russian, hang out,” Christopher Ahlberg, the C.E.O. of Recorded Future, told me. “There was someone from another country in the forum who implied he had a government background, and he wanted to get his hands on this stuff. That’s when we decided we would just buy it. So we did, and took it to the government”—the U.S. government—“and the sale ended up being thwarted.” (Ahlberg wouldn’t identify which government agency his company had turned the data over to. The E.A.C., in a statement, referred questions about “the investigation or information shared with the government by Recorded Future” to the F.B.I. The F.B.I., through a Justice Department spokesperson, declined to comment.)

National: Elections officials explore security options | GCN

Since elections were declared critical infrastructure nearly 17 months ago, state and local officials have been working to protect the integrity of the 2018 elections, but security holes in elections systems and voting equipment still exist. As part of the omnibus spending bill passed in March, Congress authorized $380 million in new Help America Vote Act funds to the states to help them secure elections systems in their counties and local jurisdictions. On April 17, the Elections Assistance Commission distributed the award packets to states along with instructions on how to apply for funding. States have 90 days to respond, and the funds must be used within five years. However, the new funding did not stop elections officials from asking for more support ahead of the 2018 elections at an April 18 EAC public forum.

National: Democratic Party Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New Lawsuit | The New York Times

The Democratic National Committee opened a surprise legal assault on President Trump on Friday, filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. The 66-page complaint, filed in federal court in New York, uses the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election. In the document, the committee accuses Republicans and the Russians of “an act of previously unimaginable treachery.”

Georgia: Demonstration shows Georgia voting machines could be hacked | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A rapt audience watched as professor Alex Halderman, an expert on electronic voting machines, changed votes in a hypothetical election before their eyes. At a Georgia Tech demonstration this week, Halderman showed how to rig an election by infecting voting machines with malware that guaranteed a chosen candidate would always win. Four people from the audience voted on the same kind of touch-screen machines used in real Georgia elections, casting ballots for either President George Washington or Benedict Arnold, the Revolutionary War general who defected to the British. Despite a 2-2 split in this election test run, the voting machine’s results showed Arnold won 3-1.

Kansas: Federal judge finds Kris Kobach in contempt of court | The Kansas City Star

A federal judge on Wednesday found Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court in a case involving state voting laws, her latest rebuke of the Republican candidate for governor. Kobach is considered a GOP frontrunner despite his constant court battles involving voter fraud and strict voting requirements that he has pushed while in office as the state’s top election official. In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kan., referred repeatedly to Kobach as acting “disingenuously.” She chastised him for failing to treat the voters affected by the ongoing court case the same as all other registered voters in accordance with a previous court order.

Missouri: State Accused of Violating Federal Voter-Registration Laws | Courthouse News

The League of Women Voters of Missouri sued the state Tuesday, claiming it did not follow federal voting-rights law requiring it to update the voter database with information from motor-vehicle records, which the group says impacts half a million residents every year. The National Voter Registration Act, or NVRA, requires states to offer residents the opportunity to register to vote whenever someone applies for a new or renewed driver’s license or state ID. It also requires the state to update the individual’s voter registration record whenever a voter updates their address information with the state motor vehicle agency. But the League of Women Voters of Missouri, joined by the St. Louis and Greater Kansas City branches of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, claims the state has failed to comply with the federal law.

Maine: Top court clears way for ranked-choice voting in June | Bangor Daily News

Ranked-choice voting will be used in Maine’s June primary elections, the state’s high court ruled on Tuesday in a massive win for supporters of the first-in-the-nation system that has faced constitutional scrutiny and run a political gauntlet in the Legislature. The decision from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court allows Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to continue implementing the system for gubernatorial and congressional primaries just before his office needs to finalize state ballots for printing to go to overseas voters later this month. Implementation of the law lurched into limbo after the court advised last year that the system was partially unconstitutional as it pertains to general elections in state races. Primaries and congressional elections weren’t addressed in that advisory opinion.

New York: Cuomo Plans to Restore Voting Rights to Paroled Felons | The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he intends to restore voting rights to felons on parole, a move that could open the ballot box to more than 35,000 people. The mechanism through which Mr. Cuomo plans to do so is unusual: He would consider pardons for all 35,000 people currently on parole in New York, as well as any new convicted felons who enter the parole system each month. The move amounts to a legal sidestep of the State Legislature, where the Republican-controlled Senate has opposed many of Mr. Cuomo’s proposed criminal justice reforms. It does not change state law, which currently bars convicted felons from voting unless they are on probation or have completed parole.

Pakistan: Election Com­mission sets up team to scrutinise Internet voting system | Dawn

The Election Com­mission of Pakistan (ECP) has formed a committee to conduct a technical audit of the Internet voting solution process that was proposed by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). The task force formed on the directions of the Supreme Court is mandated to assess the technical soundness of the web-based automated system that has been designed to help overseas Pakistanis vote through the Internet. Only expatriates who have been issued national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis and valid machine-readable passports will be eligible to use the system to cast their votes.

Turkey: Erdogan declares early elections on June 24 | Reuters

President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called snap elections for June 24, saying economic challenges and the war in Syria meant Turkey must switch quickly to the powerful executive presidency that goes into effect after the vote. The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup in July 2016. It was extended by parliament on Wednesday for another three months. In 15 years of rule as prime minister and then president, Erdogan has transformed a poor, sprawling country at the eastern edge of Europe into a major emerging market. But Turkey’s rapid growth has come been accompanied by increased authoritarianism, with a security crackdown since the failed coup leading to the arrest of tens of thousands.

National: First-of-its-kind forum on election security gathers state and local officials with Election Assistance Commission | CyberScoop

A top U.S. election official says that the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election came with a silver lining: At least we’re now focusing on election security. Christy McCormick, a member of the Election Assistance Commission, told a crowd of state and local election officials from across the country on Wednesday that the events of 2016 jump-started a focus on election security that was not as prominent before. “I know that election officials have always focused on these problems to some degree. Not so laserly focused on election security but I think this has brought this to the forefront for us in the last couple of years. So if there’s a good consequence to what happened, that is one of them,” McCormick said Wednesday at a public forum the EAC hosted in Miami to allow the state and local officials to discuss their election security plans ahead of upcoming elections.

National: Reducing Voters’ Paperwork Might Expand The Voter Rolls | NPR

Political brawls over voting laws have consumed states across the country for the past decade. But below the surface, a movement to automatically register eligible voters to vote is rapidly gaining traction. By next year, more than a quarter of all Americans will live in states where they no longer have to fill out registration forms in order to cast a ballot. The latest state to implement automatic voter registration is California, which had been scheduled to start on Monday although it’s been delayed while officials conduct more testing. Everyone who meets the legal requirements to vote in California will be automatically registered when they update their driver’s license or state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a move that election officials expect will help move some of the more than 6 million eligible, but unregistered, residents onto the state’s voter rolls.

National: Prosecutors suspected Manafort was a ‘back channel’ between Trump campaign and Russia | Los Angeles Times

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, came under scrutiny by the special counsel because prosecutors suspected he might be a back channel between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, a Justice Department lawyer said Thursday. The disclosure came as lawyers for Manafort tried to convince a federal judge to throw out one of two federal cases against him, arguing that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had no authority to hit him with criminal charges unrelated to the Russian meddling. An attorney for Mueller’s office, Michael Dreeben, told the court that the prosecution of Manafort’s alleged financial crimes arose because Manafort had “long-standing ties” to Russians, and investigators wanted to know if those connections provided a “back channel to Russia.”

Connecticut: Long road ahead for Connecticut early voting, despite House approval | New Canaan News

Early voting will not occur in Connecticut before 2021, if ever, the House of Representatives determined Thursday. Only a simple majority of representatives approved of asking voters on the ballot whether Connecticut residents should be allowed to vote before election day. Many Republicans voiced concerns that creating more voting days would be expensive for town. Meanwhile, Democrats said the provision would allow more people to access the polls.  … The simple majority means major hurdles are ahead before the state constitution could be amended to permit early voting.

Illinois: Nine competing proposals aim to change political map-making process | Illinois News

Momentum is growing to change the way political boundaries are drawn in Illinois, but disagreements about how to accomplish that persist. The problem is Illinois’ gerrymandered maps have been blamed for more than 60 percent of statehouse races only having one candidate in the 2016 general election. The existing process leaves the decision to the legislature, which is a partisan body. A previous citizen-led petition drive that garnered more than half-a-million signatures was thwarted in the courts in 2016 by a group connected to House Speaker Michael Madigan.