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Editorials: Making Georgia, U.S. election systems more secure | Wenke Lee/Atlanta Journal Consitution

For the better part of the past year, I served as the cybersecurity expert to Georgia’s “Secure, Accessible, and Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission” – a group tasked with recommending new, more secure voting equipment and procedures in our state. The result of much discussion is that I (along with 24 other computer scientists at universities, labs, industry and the nonpartisan organization Verified Voting) advocated for a return to paper ballots. Now, as Congress examines the same, more states could move in this direction. I’d like to explain the irony behind why cybersecurity experts recommend voting on paper and new approaches we all must reconsider going forward. Read More

Virginia: Virginia senators introduce bipartisan amendment to change redistricting | WHSV

As Virginia lawmakers get started on the 2019 session of the General Assembly, an unlikely bipartisan duo has a proposal to fix gerrymandering in the commonwealth. Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican representing Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley, and Senator Mamie Locke, a Democrat representing Hampton in the Eastern Shore, have joined forces to propose a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and create an independent commission of citizens tasked with drawing election boundaries. “You can’t take politics out of the redistricting process, it’s political in nature, but you can set up a process if our constitution allows it,” Senator Hanger told us. Read More

Editorials: On Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday, a reminder of how far we have come and how far we still have to go | Peniel E. Joseph/The Washington Post

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the architects of America’s struggle for racial justice, would have been 90 years old on Tuesday. This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans on the shores of Jamestown, Va., the dawn of the black experience in what would become the United States. These two historic milestones offer us an opportunity to examine King’s political legacy, influence and resonance in our own time. The modern civil rights struggle represented a Second American Reconstruction, the sequel to the nation’s original post-Civil War attempt to fundamentally remake the nation as a true democracy. These efforts ended in the heartbreak of massive anti-black violence, lynching, imprisonment and land dispossession. By the end of the 19th century, America had indeed been remade, not as a racially integrated democracy but as an apartheid state euphemistically referred to as Jim Crow. Read More

National: Is This the Year for a Redistricting Revolution? | The Atlantic

Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger agree: Neither thinks Donald Trump has any business being anywhere near the White House, but the main political issue they’re going to focus on for the next two years is redistricting reform. The clock is ticking. The 2020 census, and the nationwide 2021 redistricting right after, are around the corner. Deadlines for ballot initiatives and legislation are already on the horizon for some states to change their procedures before then. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court could soon take up a case that would gut most of the efforts at redistricting reform that have, over the past 10 years, changed how states draw the maps that determine who runs where for Congress and their own legislatures. Read More

Media Release: To Enhance Election Security, Rhode Island Tests A New Way to Verify Election Results

Aurora Matthews, New Heights Communications, aurora@newheightscommunications.com, (301)221-7984

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island is making good on its promise to road-test risk-limiting election audits, following 2017 passage of legislation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, requiring them. Beginning with the presidential primary in April 2020, Rhode Island will become the second state to require these audits to verify election results. A “risk limiting” audit checks if the election result is correct. Specifically it checks the counting of the votes. A “risk-limiting” audit limits the risk that the wrong election result will be certified. It can catch errors which change the result and correct a wrong result.

For more background on the legislation, visit here: https://www.commoncause.org/democracy-wire/rhode-island-adopts-risk-limiting-election-audits/ and here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/HouseText17/H5704.pdf

To prepare for next year’s full implementation, the Rhode Island Board of Elections will conduct three pilot audits on January 16 and 17 at 50 Branch Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island beginning at 9:30 a.m. These pilot audits will be conducted with local election officials from Bristol, Cranston and Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The purpose is to test three different methods for conducting risk-limiting audits. A variety of tasks will be conducted over two days, including hand tabulation of a sample of ballots. For purposes of planning future audits a time and measurement study will be conducted over the two days.

Rhode Island will demonstrate three types of audits:

  • Ballot-level comparison audit for Bristol precincts: This method A ballot-level comparison audit is an audit that is similar to checking an expense report. First the audit checks that the subtotals add up to the reported totals. And then individual ballots are checked against how they are recorded by the machine – similar to checking receipts against numbers in a spreadsheet.
  • Batch-level comparison audit for Cranston precincts: This method will check a random sample of ballot “batches” and compare the total vote count of those batches against the voting machine’s count. A batch will consist of between 250-300 ballots.
  • Ballot-level polling audit for Portsmouth precincts: This method will check a random sample of ballots with the reported outcome, not against the voting machine’s record of those votes. This is comparable to an exit poll. But instead of using the voters’ responses to questions, it checks marking of the actual ballots. Enough ballots are sampled to give election officials confidence that the outcome is correct.

“We strongly support the Rhode Island Board of Election’s piloting risk-limiting audits as they prepare for full implementation of our law in 2020. Given recent threats to US cybersecurity, risk-limiting audits help conduct accurate, fair elections, strengthening voter confidence in election results,” said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “We hope many other US states will follow Rhode Island’s example,” he added

“Rhode Island’s Board of Elections’ risk-limiting audit pilot is a critical step toward safeguarding our elections. Paper ballots, marked by hand or device, are the essential ingredient for ensuring that jurisdictions can recover from errors or tampering. Paper ballots coupled with routine risk-limiting audits are the best way to detect whether the software reported the election results accurately,” said Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting.

“Rhode Island is helping lead the nation toward the future of election administration and election security by piloting risk-limiting audits,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “They are the gold-standard in post-election checks, and implementing them across the country is essential to catching problems with vote tallies and ensuring voter confidence. The pilots offer a great learning opportunity for officials and advocates alike, and they will help improve RLA processes as these audits become more widespread.”

South Carolina: Replacing South Carolina’s aging voting system | WMBF

Dr. Duncan Buell believes the voting system in South Carolina needs to be changed. Dr. Buell recently looked into data from the primaries and general election in 2018 for a League of Women Voters of South Carolina report. “We have an extremely complicated system,” he said. Dr. Buell said there were instances where votes were miscounted or counted twice. He said most of the problems come from the election system itself. “The system doesn’t have enough built into it,” he said. Read More

National: ‘Abandoned’ .gov websites malfunction during US shutdown | E&T Magazine

Dozens of federal websites are malfunctioning due to their security certificates expiring during the weeks-long US government shutdown, Buzzfeed News has reported. In the US, a government shutdown occurs when Congress or the President does not approve appropriations or resolutions for funding federal operations and agencies. The current government shutdown has arisen out of the House of Representatives’ refusal to grant $5.7bn (£4.5bn) in federal funds to build a US-Mexico border wall and President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept any bill that does not provide the funds. Trump memorably claimed during his election campaign that “Mexico will pay” for the border wall; the Mexican government has declined to do so. The government shutdown is well into its third week, making it the longest-running government shutdown in the US history. During the shutdown, approximately 400,000 federal workers remain without pay until the government reopens, while many others are required to continue to perform essential work without pay. Read More

Editorials: Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 election reform bill could save American democracy. | Richard Hasen/Slate

The Democrats’ first order of business as they took control of the 116th Congress was introducing H.R. 1, the colossal “For the People Act.” This 571-page behemoth of a bill covering voting rights, campaign finance reform, ethics improvements, and more was a perfect reminder of just how much power the Constitution gives Congress to make elections better in this country and, sadly, of how partisan the question of election reform has become. By beginning with election reform as “H.R. 1,” Democrats signaled their priorities as they took over control of the House of Representatives. The bill now has 221 co-sponsors, all Democrats, including almost every Democrat in the House. It’s disheartening that bipartisan movement on election reform is no longer possible and that few of the significant improvements in the bill stand a chance of becoming law until Democrats have control of the Senate and the presidency. Even then some of its provisions could be blocked by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But if and when Democrats ever do return to full power in Washington, H.R. 1 should remain the top priority. Though there is room for some improvements, the “For the People Act” would go an enormous way toward repairing our badly broken democracy. Read More

Editorials: Cybersecurity must be top priority for 2020 presidential candidates | Jeff Kosseff/USA Today

As presidential hopefuls lay the groundwork for their 2020 campaigns, there’s plenty of speculation about their messages, their strategies and who they will snag to be their campaign managers, pollsters and state directors. One campaign position has received little attention, but it is the most important hire that a candidate can make: chief information security officer. This official is responsible for securing the campaign’s email accounts, confidential files and computer systems from hacking. Read More

Florida: Amendment 4 leads to massive daily registration numbers for a non-election year | Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Bay treated Tuesday like a voting rights holiday. Or, more accurately, Tampa Bay treated Tuesday like it was a business day in September or October just weeks before a presidential election. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties processed a combined 872 applications to register to vote on the day, the first day Amendment 4 expanded voting rights access to most felons who had completed their sentences. You can look at that number in two ways. In one way, it’s tiny: There are likely more than 130,000 people who just gained their right to vote in those counties, according to a Times analysis. In another way, it’s enormous. There is no general election in 2019, and off-years rarely see a day where more than a few hundred people register to vote in the region. Read More