Kansas: Kobach to appeal contempt ruling; secretary of state hit with fresh ethics complaint | The Topeka Capital-Journal

Secretary of State Kris Kobach affirmed plans Thursday to appeal a federal judge’s order finding him in contempt and another skeptic of Kobach’s role in voting rights litigation responded by submitting an ethics complaint against Kansas’ chief election officer. A U.S. District judge declared Kobach in contempt for refusing to comply with her directives in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging state law requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Judge Julie Robinson also instructed Kobach to pay unspecified attorney fees for declining to abide by her 2016 order blocking enforcement of the citizenship law in Kansas. “The secretary of state’s office will be appealing this decision,” said Kobach spokeswoman Moriah Day. “Secretary Kobach has no additional comment at this time.”

Kentucky: Grimes Says Election Threats Warrant New Security | WUKY

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says state election systems remain secure, but the top election official warns it’s a never-ending battle against new and emerging threats. “No evidence exists to suggest that these bad actors altered any votes in any way,” Grimes reassured Kentucky voters Thursday, before holding up a copy of indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The secretary spoke with reporters following a meeting with Kentucky’s Election Integrity Task Force – made up of representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the state attorney general’s office, and other law enforcement officials – a month ahead of the May primary.

Maryland: Bill seeks transparency in online political ads | Associated Press

In the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, Maryland is close to enacting a law that some experts say would set a new standard for how states deal with foreign interference in local elections and increase overall transparency in online political ads. If signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, the law would require online platforms to create a database identifying the purchasers of online ads in state and local elections and how much they spend. The measure would effectively extend disclosure rules that apply to paid political ads for radio, television and print to social media.

Michigan: Legislature: No more election recounts like 2016’s | Associated Press

Political candidates who lose big wouldn’t be able to seek a recount under legislation nearing the Michigan governor’s desk. The Republican-led Senate voted 27-8 Wednesday for legislation upping the standards for election recounts to require that aggrieved candidates prove they have a reasonable chance of victory. The House also voted 93-16 to pass legislation to double losing candidates’ fees to recount votes if they lost by more than 5 percentage points. Both bills will soon go to Gov. Rick Snyder. Currently, candidates must allege that they believe they are aggrieved due to fraud or mistake to petition for a recount and are required to pay the state $125 per precinct.

New Jersey: State Working To Bolster Cybersecurity Of New Jersey Election Systems | Jersey Shore Online

The New Jersey Department of State Division of Elections, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, through its New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, are working to reaffirm the state’s commitment to election security. New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way said that they are participating in training sessions, constructing interagency communication channels, and integrating practices to strengthen the security of elections in NJ. “The Division of Elections has been and continues to work with federal partners at the Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and other third-party security experts to continuously improve our security posture as the threat landscape evolves. The Department of State is working to ensure that every individual able to cast a ballot in November can do so knowing the state affords a safe and secure system,” said Way.

North Dakota: State fights part of voter ID ruling amid appeal | West Fargo Pioneer

North Dakota is fighting part of a federal judge’s ruling that loosened the state’s voter identification law. Early this month, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland issued an order preventing the state from requiring that IDs include a “current residential street address, which Native American communities often lack. The state asked Tuesday, April 10, to delay that order while an appeal is pending. The state also asked for a stay on Hovland’s order requiring a voter education campaign, arguing that “informing the public now about information that may later change may cause more confusion.”

Texas: Redistricting battles return to the Supreme Court | SCOTUSblog

ince October, the Supreme Court has heard oral argument in two major redistricting battles, involving allegations of partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland. When the justices take the bench next Tuesday, they will hear oral argument in a third redistricting dispute, this time involving allegations that Texas lawmakers drew federal congressional and state legislative districts that harmed some of the state’s black and Hispanic residents. The tale of the two cases known as Abbott v. Perez is a long and complicated one. It began in 2011, when Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature began redistricting in the wake of the 2010 census, which indicated that Texas had gained over four million new residents, who were predominantly minorities; that population growth meant that the state would get four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Canada: Vancouver council pushes province to allow permanent residents right to vote | Vancouver Courier

Vancouver city council unanimously agreed Wednesday to request the provincial government allow permanent residents—estimated at 60,000 in Vancouver­­–the right to vote in the Oct. 20 municipal election. The vote, however, didn’t come without some reservations from NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball who argued it was “a gift” to vote and a privilege that comes with being and becoming a Canadian citizen. “Coming to Canada and becoming a citizen is highly coveted all around the world,” she told council. “There are reasons why it’s coveted because we are a civilized society with rules, and those rules allow us all to live together in a relatively happy way.”

Germany: Facebook to roll out political ad feature in time for German state vote | Reuters

Facebook said on Friday it would roll out a new feature designed to make political advertising more transparent in time for a key German regional election, as it seeks to restore trust after a massive data breach. The social network has been at the centre of controversy over suspected Russian manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election via its platform, and the leak of personal data of 87 million users to a political consultancy that advised Donald Trump’s team. On Friday, a German data privacy regulator said it was opening non-compliance procedures against Facebook in relation to the data leak to the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, that was exposed a month ago.

South Korea: Foreign voters seek more information on elections in other languages | The Korea Herald

With less than two months until the June 13 local elections, foreign residents with voting rights say they lack information on candidates. In 2005, the South Korean government revised the Immigration Control Act to allow non-Korean citizens who have held resident visas (F-5) for at least three years to vote in gubernatorial elections, so that they can claim their rights in their registered local constituencies. The number of eligible foreign voters has tripled since the law came into effect for the local and gubernatorial election in 2006, but manifestos of and information about the candidates are not provided in any other language, only in Korean.

Texas: Testimony ends in trial to determine if Dallas County discriminates against white voters | Dallas Morning News

Testimony ended Thursday in the landmark redistricting case over whether Dallas County discriminates against white voters. The four-day trial — Ann Harding vs. Dallas County — featured analysis by local and national redistricting experts and video of two raucous county Commissioners Court meetings. U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater will wade through the evidence and issue a ruling. That could take months because the judge will receive 50-page closing arguments from lawyers on both sides and hear final oral arguments in late May or early June.

Kentucky: Election Officials Given Cybersecurity Training | Associated Press

Kentucky’s front-line elections officials received cybersecurity training Thursday in another preventive step against hacking, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said. County clerks statewide attended training by the federal Department of Homeland Security on preventing and detecting cyberattacks, Grimes said. The session comes a few weeks before the state’s May 22 primary election. Kentuckians will have a long ballot this year with races for county positions, the legislature and Congress.

National: Election security bill still needs work in some areas, state officials tell Senate sponsors | CyberScoop

Several secretaries of state are telling the main backers of a Senate election security bill that the legislation might need tweaks to how it addresses information sharing, state-federal communication channels, funding mechanisms and post-election audits, among other things. The secretaries, who are the top election officials in their states, met with bill sponsors James Lankford, R-Okla., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in person and via phone Monday to discuss the Secure Elections Act. The legislation is intended to bolster election security by smoothing out coordination between the state and federal levels and providing states financial support for operations and equipment upgrades. State secretaries from Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico participated in the meeting.

National: Timing remains unclear for election-security legislative effort in Senate | InsideCyberSecurity.com

The Senate Rules Committee has yet to set timing for a hearing on election security legislation based on recommendations emanating from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, but plans to do so, according to new Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO). Blunt, who was elected as chairman last week, told Inside Cybersecurity Tuesday that “there will be a hearing at some point” on election security, although Blunt said “it is not scheduled yet.” Rule Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who is a co-sponsor on the Secure Elections Act, told Inside Cybersecurity that she “hopes” the election security hearing will take place “soon.” Klobuchar also said that she’s “really glad” that $380 million for the Election Assistance Commission to help states improve election systems was included in the recently passed $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill. “It does take that immediate pressure off, but now we want to kind of use this momentum to get this done,” Klobuchar said.

Arizona: GOP Appears To Back Off Attempt To Rig Rules For McCain’s Senate Seat | TPM

Arizona Republicans appeared to back off their efforts Wednesday to rig the rules to keep Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) seat in their column, pulling from the state Senate floor a proposed change in state law that would have guaranteed a lengthy appointment from the GOP governor should the ailing senator leave office in the coming weeks. Statehouse Republicans seemingly tried to pull a fast one on their Democratic counterparts, quietly adding an emergency clause to a bipartisan bill to clean up special election laws in the state that would have handed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) assurance that he’d get to appoint a replacement for McCain through 2020.

Kansas: Judge: Kansas secretary of state in contempt in voting case | The Washington Post

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, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach, a conservative Republican running for Kansas governor, in contempt of court. She did not fine Kobach but ordered him to pay court costs, including attorney fees for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the contempt ruling. Moriah Day, a spokeswoman for Kobach’s campaign for governor, said the secretary of state’s office would appeal the decision and would have no other comment.

New Hampshire: Judge orders Secretary of State Gardner to release voter data | Union Leader

A superior court judge has ordered Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office to turn over the state’s electronic voter database to parties who have charged a 2017 voter registration law restricts the right to vote and is unconstitutional. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple further ordered state prosecutors and Gardner’s office to turn over email and other communication state officials had with lawmakers during and after they crafted the so-called SB 3 that’s under review. Lawyers for the state maintained the voter database had an “absolute statutory privilege” and could not be disclosed to third parties. But Temple said that while the database is exempt from the Right-to-Know Law that “does not create a statutory privilege against nondisclosure in the course of civil litigation.”

New York: Voters File Lawsuit To Force Special Election | Spectrum News

Seven voters in New York’s 25th Congressional District have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, for failing, so far, to call a special election. The seat has been vacant since long-serving Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter died on March 16. The plaintiffs said because the governor has not issued a Proclamation of Election in a “reasonably timely manner,” they have been denied their constitutionally-protected rights to vote and to representation. The suit claimed Cuomo is required to call the election and should have been prepared to do so promptly after Slaughter died.

Wisconsin: Elections Commission mulls using $7 million to stop hackers | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The state Elections Commission outlined initial plans Wednesday to use $7 million in federal funds to thwart hackers and boost election security by hiring workers, training clerks and upgrading software. The commissioners unanimously signed off on the framework of the plan and asked Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to approve it. Department of Administration spokesman Steven Michels said the administration is inclined to grant permission to accept the federal cash. The move to tighten election security comes almost two years after Russian agents targeted election systems around the country, according to federal officials. In the summer of 2016, Russian government actors tried unsuccessfully to gain access to a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development system as they scanned for vulnerabilities they could exploit at the Elections Commission, according to those officials.

India: Experts in US expose electronic voting machine vote theft techniques | National Herald

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) can indeed be rigged. Contrary to the Election Commission of India’s stonewalling and denials, new research and experiments by American computer scientists have established that electronic voting systems can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Some of the new evidence has been published in a New York Times article ‘The Myth of the Hacker-Proof Voting Machine’, which provides startling details backed by technical findings and expert interviews. The intense research being conducted in America is due to domestic controversies about whether the 2016 presidential election was free and fair. However, the insights into EVM vulnerability are both relevant and timely for India.

Ireland: Canadian group seeks to monitor referendum campaign | The Irish Times

A Canadian organisation is seeking to fundraise 7,000 Canadian dollars (€4,500) to send up to 24 independent electoral observers to Ireland for the referendum campaign to assess whether both sides “play fair” in the process. Non-governmental organisation SDAI-ADID says it is interested in “supporting and strengthening democracy through election observation” and that it wants to observe whether the electoral process adheres to “international standards of free, fair and transparent elections”.

Italy: President likely to ask mediator to tackle post-vote stalemate | Reuters

Italy’s president is likely on Wednesday to appoint a mediator to try to break a deadlock that has prevented the formation of a government since inconclusive elections six weeks ago, a source said, although no quick breakthrough is expected. President Sergio Mattarella will probably ask Maria Casellati, the speaker of the Senate, to hold more flexible, less formal talks than those he has already led, a source close to the president told Reuters. The European Union’s third-largest economy has been under a caretaker government since the March 4 polls, when anti-establishment and far-right parties were the big winners at the expense of more mainstream groups.

Netherlands: Dutch municipalities call for a more efficient election process | NL Times

The Netherlands’ current election process – with manual voting, polling stations that stay open for long hours, and manual vote counting – is no longer feasible and can give rise to doubts about results’ reliability. The association of Dutch municipalities VNG and the Dutch association of civil affairs NVVB therefore composed an ‘Election Agenda 2021’ with several proposals for making this process more efficient, NOS reports. The Agenda is focused on 2021, because that’s when the next parliamentary election is scheduled. The agenda will be presented at a NVVB conference on Wednesday and Thursday.

National: Here’s how hackers could cause chaos in this year’s US midterm election | MIT Technology Review

On November 6, Americans will head to the polls to vote in the congressional midterm election. In the months before the contest, hordes of foreign hackers will head to their keyboards in a bid to influence its outcome. Their efforts will include trying to get inside the digital infrastructure that supports the electoral process. There’s a worrying precedent here. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that Russian actors had targeted their election systems in the months leading up to the 2016 US presidential election. DHS officials said the Russians were mainly scanning computers and networks for security holes rather than taking advantage of any flaws that were discovered. Still, that’s no cause for complacency. Intelligence officials are already warning that Russia is intent on meddling in this year’s election too, and hackers from other countries hostile to the US could join in. This week, both DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Russia is laying the groundwork for broad cyberattacks against critical US infrastructure. Last year, the DHS designated voting technology as part of that vital framework.

National: DHS chief issues stern warning to Russia, others on election meddling, cyberattacks | The Hill

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued a stern warning to Russia and other countries looking to meddle in future U.S. elections, saying that the U.S. government will consider all options “seen and unseen” for responding to malicious attacks in cyberspace. “The United States, as you know, possesses a spectrum of response options both seen and unseen, and we will use them to call out malign behavior, punish it and deter future cyber hostility,” Nielsen said in keynote remarks at the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. “Our cyber defenses help guard our very democracy and all we hold dear. To those who would try to attack our democracy to affect our elections, to affect the elections of our allies, to undermine our national sovereignty, I have a simple word of warning: Don’t,” Nielsen said.

National: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Talks Russia Hacks, Upcoming Elections | Fortune

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen promised that the federal government would do all it could to prevent Russians from hacking future elections, but stopped short of guaranteeing that those measures would be effective. “I feel secure that we are and will continue to do everything we can to help state and locals secure their election infrastructure,” Nielsen said on Tuesday, avoiding answering a question about whether the U.S. voting system is hacker proof. The DHS secretary’s comments at the annual RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco come after members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee urged Nielsen and the DHS to speed up efforts to secure the nation’s elections, according to the New York Times. In September, the DHS notified 21 U.S. states that Russia had attempted to hack their voting systems prior to the last presidential election.

National: Flurry of lawsuits filed over citizenship question on census | The Hill

Lawsuits are piling up against the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the citizenship question on behalf of the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The suit was filed against the Commerce Department in the Northern District of California. The lawsuit is the fourth legal challenge that’s been brought since Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed in March to grant a request from the Department of Justice to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

National: US and UK Warn of Cybersecurity Threat From Russia | The New York Times

The United States and Britain on Monday issued a first-of-its-kind joint warning about Russian cyberattacks against government and private organizations as well as individual homes and offices in both countries, a milestone in the escalating use of cyberweaponry between major powers. Although Washington and London have known for decades that the Kremlin was trying to penetrate their computer networks, the joint warning appeared to represent an effort to deter future attacks by calling attention to existing vulnerabilities, prodding individuals to mitigate them and threatening retaliation against Moscow if damage was done. “When we see malicious cyberattacks, whether from the Kremlin or other nation-state actors, we are going to push back,” Rob Joyce, a special assistant to the president and the cybersecurity coordinator for the National Security Council, said in joint conference call with journalists by senior officials in Washington and London. That would include “all elements of U.S. power available to push back against these kinds of intrusions,” he added, including “our capabilities in the physical world.”

Editorials: NRA Proves the Need for Campaign-Finance Reform | Bloomberg

The National Rifle Association is finished answering questions. That’s what the organization told Senator Ron Wyden last week in a letter complaining about Wyden’s “time-consuming and burdensome” inquiries into the NRA’s ties to Russians. That answer isn’t good enough. The NRA’s relationship with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who has been linked both to Vladimir Putin and to Russian organized crime, is too troubling to ignore. And the group’s dismissive response to Wyden has a larger significance: It underlines the need for full disclosure of sources of political funding. The Treasury Department recently put Torshin on a list of sanctioned Russians. He has been an NRA member since 2012 — tweeting (in Russian) repeatedly about his affiliation with the group and attending multiple NRA functions where he socialized with the group’s top leaders. At one such meeting in 2016, he’s reported to have spoken with Donald Trump, Jr.

Florida: NAACP wants ‘tone deaf’ Scott to end ‘posturing’ on voting rights | Tampa Bay Times

The Florida state conference of the NAACP wants Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet to drop their appeal of a court decision that struck down the 150-year old system for restoring voting rights to convicted felons. The four Republican state officials filed a motion Monday with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, asking for that court to put on hold the March 27 order by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker until the state’s appeal runs its course. “The appeal shows the Governor and Florida Cabinet are tone deaf,” NAACP President Adora Obi Mweze said in a statement. “The continued posturing by our state officials shows the importance of Floridians supporting Amendment 4 this fall.”