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Georgia: ES&S’s close ties to election officials stir concerns about voting system purchase | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When Gov. Brian Kemp hired an election company’s lobbyist this month, the move raised alarm bells about one company’s influence on Georgia’s upcoming purchase of a new statewide voting system. Concerns from government accountability advocates only grew days later, when a commission created by Kemp recommended that the state buy the type of voting machines sold by the lobbyist’s company, Election Systems & Software. Several other vendors also offer similar voting machines. Then Kemp proposed spending $150 million on a new statewide voting system, an amount that matches estimates for the cost of the system promoted by ES&S, called ballot-marking devices, which use a combination of touchscreens and ballot printers. The latest moves fueled suspicions that cozy connections between lobbyists, Kemp and other elected officials will lead to ES&S winning a rich contract to sell its computerized voting products to the state government, even though 55 percent of Georgia voters said in a poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month that they prefer a cheaper system where paper ballots are filled in by voters.

Full Article: Advocates question election company's links to Georgia officials.

Iowa: A constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights may hinge on requirement to fully pay restitution | Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to amend the Iowa Constitution to automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons will face opposition from lawmakers who insist criminals must first repay all court-ordered restitution, legal and civil rights advocacy groups said. The proposal as currently written would restore voter rights to felons after they complete their sentence. More than 50,000 people would be affected. But some lawmakers have said felons should additionally be required to complete repayment of their court-ordered restitution before being allowed to cast ballots. No groups have registered in opposition to her plan. A legislative subcommittee will meet to discuss the issue for the first time Thursday at noon.

Full Article: Felon voting rights: Iowa proposal faces opposition from hardliners.

National: Purported hackers stole U.S. evidence to discredit Mueller probe: filing | Reuters

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said on Wednesday that self-proclaimed hackers in Russia stole evidence in an attempt to tarnish its investigation of a firm charged with funding a Russian propaganda campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Prosecutors said in a court filing in Washington that a Twitter handle called @HackingRedstone came online last Oct. 22 to brag it had hacked some of the evidence in the case. “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case,” the court document quoted the Twitter post as saying. In February 2018, Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies with allegations of tampering in 2016 to support then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. In all, 34 people have pleaded guilty, been indicted or otherwise swept up in the broader inquiry.

Full Article: Purported hackers stole U.S. evidence to discredit Mueller probe: filing | Reuters.

National: What was the cybersecurity impact of the shutdown? | FCW

For 35 days, former high-ranking feds and Congress publicly warned about the potential negative ramifications of the partial shutdown on federal cybersecurity initiatives. Now with a short-term spending deal in place, many on Capitol Hill are shifting focus towards sifting through the wreckage to determine just how much damage was actually done. House Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said earlier this month that DHS and Congress “will be dealing with the consequences of [the shutdown] for months — or even years — to come.” At the Jan. 29 State of the Net conference in Washington D.C., Moira Bergin, subcommittee director for the House Homeland subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection listed a number of cybersecurity initiatives at DHS — from pipeline security to botnets to election security and activities at the new National Risk Management Center — that simply stopped during the shutdown.

Full Article: What was the cybersecurity impact of the shutdown? -- FCW.

National: McConnell says bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘power grab’ by Democrats | The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a Democratic bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “power grab,” sparking a fierce backlash online. McConnell was speaking about H.R. 1, legislation that Democrats have made a centerpiece of their agenda since retaking the House earlier this month. In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats “want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees,” including making Election Day a “new paid holiday for government workers.” “So this is the Democrats’ plan to ‘restore democracy,’” McConnell said, describing the legislation as “a political power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”

Full Article: McConnell says bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘power grab’ by Democrats - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Voter suppression carries slavery’s three-fifths clause into the present | Imani Perry/The Guardian

Two decades ago, while a law student, I took a class titled The Federalist Papers. Our small group sat in a small seminar room off of the library, a collection of nerds – most, I gathered, aspiring to be judges or academics rather than following the tide of corporate practice. I was one of two women, and the only Black student in the room: an experience of oddity I had grown used to. As I recall, we spent the most time poring over Federalist 51, the paper that outlines the fundamentals of what we now term Madisonian democracy. But the part I personally sat with, long after the class was over, was Federalist 54, mostly likely also authored by Madison. Like many African Americans, I had come of age hearing about how the three-fifths clause – which proposed that three out of every five slaves be counted to determine a state’s population – was a mark of how we Black people were not deemed fully human when the constitution was first ratified. Here, fully elaborated, was an earnest, though tortured, justification for the enshrinement of indecency. That classic essay remains key to understanding race in the United States.

Full Article: Voter suppression carries slavery's three-fifths clause into the present | Opinion | The Guardian.

California: Election officials said DMV wasn’t ready to launch Motor Voter. California went ahead anyway | The Sacramento Bee

As California prepared to launch its new Motor Voter program last year, top elections officials say they asked Secretary of State Alex Padilla to hold off on the roll-out. The plan called for the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register people who came into its offices, one of several efforts by Democrats controlling California politics to make it easier for more people to vote. With the June 2018 primary approaching, election officials said they warned that the department that manages car registration and boat licenses was not yet prepared to register voters. “There wasn’t the appropriate readiness to go forward in April, and that was brought to the Secretary of State,” said Dean Logan, registrar for Los Angeles County, adding that he “definitely expressed concern” to the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as Padilla himself.

Full Article: CA elections officials warned against Motor Voter launch | The Sacramento Bee.

Georgia: State Election Officials Defends Use of Hack-Prone Voting Machines at 11th Circuit | Courthouse News

The battle over how Georgia voters cast their ballots continued Wednesday in the 11th Circuit as attorneys for state election officials asked a three-judge panel to reject a lawsuit claiming the integrity of state elections is compromised by electronic voting machines. Last September, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg denied the Coalition for Good Governance’s request for an emergency preliminary injunction which would have forced Georgia voters to switch to paper ballots, ruling that the state could use its direct-recording electronic voting machines in the November midterm election. Totenberg acknowledged that the state’s 27,000 DRE voting machines are susceptible to “malicious intrusion,” but found that there were significant “fiscal, organizational and practical impediments” associated with orchestrating a large-scale change to the state’s voting systems just weeks before early voting was scheduled to begin. In the ruling, Totenberg advised state election officials to be prepared to switch to a more secure system by 2020, acknowledging warnings from cyber security experts who say that Georgia’s DRE machines are particularly vulnerable to hacking because they lack a physical paper-trail backup.

Full Article: Georgia Defends Use of Hack-Prone Voting Machines at 11th Circuit.

Illinois: Audit: Chicago Elections Board Not Ready for a Cyberattack | Governing

The Chicago elections board can’t guarantee the integrity of voting results in the event of a natural disaster or cyberattack, the city’s watchdog warned Tuesday in a highly critical report of the agency’s operations. The wide-ranging audit by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson also concluded that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners does not post many job openings and has not conducted employee performance reviews in a at least 10 years. Ferguson said the board was warned a decade ago about many of the financial problems he’s uncovered and failed to correct them. It’s the technological vulnerabilities, however, that the inspector general’s office found that could attract the most public attention. Governments have become increasingly concerned about computer hacks and the possibility of meddling in elections.

Full Article: Audit: Chicago Elections Board Not Ready for a Cyberattack.

Kansas: State drops Kris Kobach’s appeal of contempt ruling, ACLU accepts $20,000 for legal fees | The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas attorney general said Tuesday the state agreed to drop former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s appeal of a federal court judge’s contempt order in exchange for the American Civil Liberties Union accepting only $20,000 for attorney fees and expenses. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the negotiated deal reduced from $26,200 the state’s obligation to the ACLU. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson had found Kobach in contempt of court while he was serving as secretary of state in Kansas. Robinson sanctioned Kobach for failure to comply with her instructions. Mediation involving ACLU lawyers and the attorney general’s office Jan. 25 also led to dismissal of Kobach’s appeal of the contempt ruling. It didn’t alter status of the state’s appeal of Robinson’s underlying election law decision, which found Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship statute unconstitutional.

Full Article: Kansas drops Kris Kobach's appeal of contempt ruling, ACLU accepts $20,000 for legal fees - News - The Topeka Capital-Journal - Topeka, KS.

Minnesota: House panel advances automatic voter registration bill | MPR

Legislation creating what supporters call an automatic voter registration process in Minnesota passed its first test Wednesday in the House. The House subcommittee on elections advanced the measure on voice vote, sending it to the government operations committee. Under the bill, applicants for a state driver’s license, identification or learner’s permit would be put into the voter registration system unless they opted out. Current law allows people to opt in to voter registration during those transactions. Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, said her bill would make voting more efficient.

Full Article: House panel advances automatic voter registration bill | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio News.

New Mexico: Election Day voter registration clears first committee | The NM Political Report

A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”

Full Article: Election Day voter registration clears first committee | The NM Political Report.

North Carolina: With deadline looming, effort to name new state elections board hits a snag | Charlotte Observer

The effort to find members for a new North Carolina state elections board has hit a snag, just before a deadline for a new board to be named. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office on Tuesday found two of the four Democrats nominated to the board ineligible. A new board is scheduled to be appointed by Thursday. The new board will oversee the investigation into alleged election fraud in the 9th District, a probe that has put into question the results of last November’s election. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial results. But the old elections board twice declined to certify his victory because of alleged irregularities with absentee ballots in Bladen County. The old board was dissolved by court order Dec. 28 as part of a separate case.

Full Article: Nominees for NC board of elections found ineligible | Charlotte Observer.

Pennsylvania: State’s voting machines pose ‘clear and present danger,’ warns election security commission | StateScoop

A 21-member panel of elected officials, former U.S. Justice department officers and nonprofit leaders convened last year by a University of Pittsburgh research institute to review Pennsylvania’s election systems released its final report Tuesday, recommending the state move as quickly as possible to replace its touchscreen voting machines and implement stronger cybersecurity procedures to protect the statewide voter registration database. Pennsylvania and the federal government, the report reads, should help the state’s 67 counties purchase new voting systems before the 2020 presidential election, if not before elections for local offices later this year. “Given the clear and present danger that these paperless machines pose, replacing the systems with those that employ voter-marked paper ballots should be the most pressing priority for Pennsylvania officials to secure the Commonwealth’s elections,” the report reads.

Full Article: State's voting machines pose 'clear and present danger,' warns Pennsylvania election security commission.

Texas: Many Voters Whose Citizenship Was Questioned Are in Fact Citizens | The New York Times

A claim made last week by the Texas secretary of state — that 95,000 registered voters had a citizenship status that could not be determined — appeared to fall apart on Tuesday when local election officials said many of the people were known to be United States citizens.

Some registered to vote when they applied for a driver’s license at the Texas Department of Public Safety, which requires them to prove citizenship status to state officials. Others registered at naturalization ceremonies, a data point to which state officials said they did not have access.

Election officials in Harris County, home to Houston, said they received 30,000 names — the largest single batch of potential noncitizen voters — from the secretary of state’s office on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, they had determined that roughly 400 of those names were duplicates and 60 percent so far of the others were United States citizens.

“We are not willing to conclude at this point that we know of anybody on this list who is not a United States citizen,” Douglas Ray, special assistant attorney for Harris County, said. “We may determine that at a later time, and we are going to investigate that very carefully, but as you can tell by the numbers, so far things ain’t looking good for this list,” referring to the state’s claim.

Local officials reported similar findings on Tuesday in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston; Travis County, home to the state capital, Austin; and Williamson County, outside of Austin. All said they had been instructed by the secretary of state’s office on Tuesday to disregard the names of voters who registered at state public-safety offices.

Full Article: Many Texas Voters Whose Citizenship Was Questioned Are in Fact Citizens – The New York Times.

Full Article: Many Texas Voters Whose Citizenship Was Questioned Are in Fact Citizens - The New York Times.

Texas: Officials Begin Walking Back Allegations About Noncitizen Voters | NPR

Texas officials are taking a step back on their claim they found 95,000 possible noncitizens in the state’s voter rolls. They say it is possible many of the people on their list should not be there. In a statement Tuesday, the Texas Secretary of State’s office said they “are continuing to provide information to the counties to assist them in verifying eligibility of Texas voters.” Last Friday, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley sent an advisory to local registrars asking them to look at their voter rolls. Whitley said his office flagged the names of 95,000 people who at one point in the past 22 years had identified as noncitizens with the Texas Department of Public Safety. In that timespan, officials said, they also registered to vote. Voting rights groups have said the state’s list is likely a list of naturalized citizens who recently got the right to vote. 

Full Article: Texas Officials Begin Walking Back Allegations About Noncitizen Voters : NPR.

Wisconsin: Review of Wisconsin voting machines could be made public | Associated Press

Election security experts are watching a Wisconsin court case stemming from the 2016 presidential recount that could result in the first public conclusions on whether closely guarded ballot-counting machines were hacked or failed to perform. The key question at the heart of the case is whether former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will be allowed to comment publicly on what her auditors find in a review of Wisconsin voting machines’ computer code. Stein’s request for a recount of the presidential election results in Wisconsin gives her the right to review the code under state law. All the parties involved must sign an agreement to keep propriety information confidential. The voting machines’ manufacturers argue that agreement should bar Stein’s group from making any conclusions or opinions about the machines’ performance public.

Full Article: Review of Wisconsin voting machines could be made public :: WRAL.com.

Canada: Canada unveils plan to warn of potential election meddling | The Guardian

Canada will set up a special panel to warn voters of any attempts by foreign actors to interfere with a federal election set for October, senior government officials have said. The Democratic institutions minister, Karina Gould, said Ottawa expects social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to help safeguard the vote by promoting transparency, authenticity and integrity on their platforms. The announcement comes amid an investigation by US officials into connections between Donald Trump’s 2016 election win and Russian efforts to influence the vote. Canada’s response was also influenced by the fact that Britain, France and Germany had also experienced foreign interference in recent elections, Gould said. An impartial group of senior bureaucrats would monitor possible interference during the Canadian campaign and sound the alarm if they felt the vote could be compromised, Gould said.

Full Article: Canada unveils plan to warn of potential election meddling | World news | The Guardian.

El Salvador: Fraud, the Justification of the Bad Loser Wanders Around El Salvador | Prensa Latina

The unfounded rumors of electoral fraud launched by the right-wing Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA) embody Tuesday what in El Salvador they call ‘killing the pooch in time.’ In El Salvador, this expression means ‘to prepare a good excuse to defend yourself from a problem,’ and describes precisely the tactic of the party that mutated from orange to blue while remaining a right-wing party. With more paranoia than certainties, the party separated from the far-right Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) speaks in networks of collusion between its rivals, without presenting evidence to support its fear. For the deputy Nidia Diaz, head of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), everything responds to a strategy of candidate Nayib Bukele to justify an eventual setback. ‘It is part of his victimization, he wants to be president at any cost and he will disqualify any result that does not favor him and call it a fraud,’ said the parliamentarian at the close of the Front’s campaign.

Full Article: Fraud, the Justification of the Bad Loser Wanders Around El Salvador.

Estonia: Russia unlikely to meddle with upcoming general election, expert thinks | ERR

Communications expert Ilmar Raag thinks that Russian meddling in the upcoming general election on 3 March is unlikely, not least because the situation in Estonia is stable, and even a large-scale disinformation effort wouldn’t change much. In a piece for weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian), Mr Raag writes that given the current political situation and support of political parties in Estonia, Russia is unlikely to make an attempt at influencing the outcome of the 3 March general election—simply because it doesn’t stand to gain much. For a serious attempt at influencing political opinion in Estonia, the main means at the disposal of the Russian state services is the repetition of whatever story they carry. In practice, this would mean at least five major stories about Estonia on Russian state TV, which at the moment isn’t happening.

Full Article: Russia unlikely to meddle with upcoming general election, expert thinks | News | ERR.