National: House Democrats unveil election security, voting measures in sweeping anti-corruption bill | The Hill

House Democrats on Friday unveiled several election security measures as part of their first sweeping legislation of the session. The bill, H.R. 1, or the For the People Act, mandates that states use paper ballots in elections, which must also be hand-counted, or by “optical character recognition device,” the bill states. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced the legislation, which he and other Democrats have described as a comprehensive anti-corruption package that will set the tone for their time in control of the House. The bill will also allow the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) — the small federal agency tasked with helping officials carry out elections — to hand out funding to states for the improvement of their elections systems. The Department of Homeland Security would also be required to conduct a threat assessment ahead of elections and that voting systems be tested nine months before any national election.

National: Supreme Court to take on partisan gerrymandering this year | Politico

The Supreme Court will grapple with the legality of partisan gerrymandering in March when it hears arguments challenging congressional-district maps in two states. The court announced Friday it would consider cases from Maryland and North Carolina after lower federal courts threw out the congressional maps in both states, ruling that they were so gerrymandered to favor one party that they violated the constitutional rights of voters. The high court will consider whether to uphold those rulings and order new maps drawn for the 2020 elections in those states. Federal judges in Maryland tossed the state’s congressional map in November after Republicans sued, claiming Democrats went too far when they altered the lines of a district in Western Maryland to defeat the then-Republican incumbent. Since redrawing the map before the 2012 election, Democrats have held a 7-to-1 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation, after entering the redistricting process with six members, to Republicans’ two.

National: Grand jury extended in U.S. special counsel’s Trump-Russia probe | Reuters

The term of the grand jury being used by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign has been extended, an aide to the judge overseeing it said on Friday. The extension is a sign that Mueller is not done presenting evidence before the grand jury in his investigation of U.S. allegations of Russian interference in the election and any possible coordination between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. The grand jury was impaneled by the U.S. District Court in Washington in July 2017 for an 18-month term, the limit under federal rules. The term can be extended if the court determines it to be in the public interest to do so.

National: House Democrats’ First Bill Would Dramatically Boost Election Security | Gizmodo

The first bill introduced by House Democrats is a whopping 570-page voting reform package that offers, in part, significant financial support to state election agencies seeking to shore up their security through use of risk-limiting audits and the timely exchange of threat information. It would also require an intelligence community assessment ahead of federal elections, accompanied by recommendations to address potential threats from multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. Perhaps most important, the bill requires states to use paper ballots, long considered the only true bulwark against election interference. The bill, known as H.B. 1 or the “For The People Act,” would further help participant states fund the replacement of outdated voting systems that experts assess may be vulnerable to remote intrusion and on-site tampering; security clearances could be expedited to help state election officials gain access more quickly to classified details about election threats; and would require the testing of voting machines nine months prior to any ballot being cast.

Editorials: Why voters shouldn’t have to, but must be vigilant about their right to vote | Caleb Gayle /The Hill

In the deluge of news during the 2018 election cycle, many might have missed the case of Larry Harmon, a Navy veteran, who had entered his local polling place in 2015 because he wanted to vote on a marijuana legalization ballot initiative to find that he was not on the voter rolls. He had been unimpressed by the candidates during the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections and had sat out those elections, not realizing that doing so would cost him ability to cast a ballot in 2015. Mr. Harmon’s case made it to the Supreme Court last year, which should put all voters on notice — that their right to vote requires an extra measure of protection. As we recover briefly from the hangover of the 2018 election cycle only to quickly enter the soon-to-be crowded field of the 2020 cycle, our attention will naturally turn to swing states. Mr. Harmon was from one of the most critical swing states — Ohio — and as a result of his case, voters all over the country need to become more vigilant. For people of color, the ability to vote may be under special threat.

Arizona: 9th Circuit Court to reconsider ruling on Arizona’s ‘ballot harvesting’ ban | Arizona Daily Star

A federal appeals court will give Democrats a new chance to argue that an Arizona law banning “ballot harvesting” is illegal. In a brief order, the majority of the judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said they want to review and reconsider a 2-1 ruling by one of their panels last year that upheld the 2016 law, which bars Arizonans from collecting and delivering the ballots of others. In that ruling, the majority brushed aside complaints from the state and federal Democratic parties that the Republican-controlled Legislature had no evidence of fraud from the practice. Nor were they persuaded by arguments that the restriction has a harsher effect on the voting rights of minorities than on Arizona residents in general.

Florida: ‘A joyous day’ ahead as 1.4 million Florida ex-felons have voting rights restored | The Washington Post

One of the largest enfranchisements of U.S. citizens in the past century begins Tuesday in Florida, and many of the more than 1.4 million ex-felons set to regain their voting rights here are treating the moment as a celebration. In Tampa, one group is renting buses to register en masse at the county elections office. Others will be live-streaming on Facebook as they march in. Demetrius Jifunza, convicted as a teen of armed robbery, is now a father and pastor who wants to make his daughters proud. “It’ll be a joyous day,” Jifunza said of the trip to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office, a journey made possible when voters in November overturned Florida’s 1868 ban blocking residents with felony convictions from automatically having their voting rights restored once they served their sentences. In the run-up to Tuesday, the organizations and volunteers who worked for the past decade to pass the amendment to the state constitution have been ramping up their efforts to encourage ex-felons to quickly follow through. There’s a toll-free number, 877-MY-VOTE-0, and a website with tips.

Maryland: Legislation would allow ‘ranked choice’ voting in Baltimore, a new way of counting ballots | Baltimore Sun

Baltimore could become part of a growing movement that would offer more voters a chance to participate in its Democratic primaries and a new way to determine the winners. The Maryland General Assembly will consider a bill to allow the Baltimore City Council to establish open primary elections, as well as “ranked choice” voting for primary or general elections. Del. Brooke Lierman, a Democrat who represents southeast Baltimore, prefiled the legislation ahead of Wednesday’s start of the 90-day General Assembly session. It would authorize the Baltimore City Council to adopt such voting systems, if a majority of council members want to. “If we had ranked choice voting everywhere, our democracy would look so much better,” Lierman says.

North Carolina: House Democrats prepare to probe disputed North Carolina election | Politico

House Democrats are preparing to launch their own investigations into the disputed congressional election in North Carolina, where Republican Mark Harris’ campaign is facing fraud allegations and the state elections board had refused to certify the results. Harris’ campaign has sued in state court to be seated in Congress, despite an ongoing investigation by the elections board that suffered a setback when the board was dissolved at the end of 2018. Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial vote count, but voters and election workers have filed numerous affidavits detailing irregularities during the election, including reports that McCrae Dowless, a subcontractor for Harris’ campaign consultants, ran an operation that collected and marked voters’ absentee ballots. The House Democratic investigations could pave the way for a new election in the district, even if the court orders the board of elections to certify Harris as the winner instead of the board ordering a re-vote itself. The House Administration Committee, now controlled by Democrats, has the authority to call for another election after investigating the 2018 results.

Tennessee: Path to new voting machines in Shelby County gets longer with special elections | The Daily Memphian

Don’t look for new voting machines for the October 2019 Memphis elections. Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips says the special election in state Senate District 32 has pushed back plans for the move to new machines with a paper audit trail. “I do not believe it would be possible to have them in place and do the training and all of the work necessary to have them used in the October elections,” Phillips said Thursday on The Daily Memphian Politics podcast. Early voting was to open Friday in the special primary election for the state Senate seat Republican Mark Norris gave up to become a federal judge. The winners of the primaries advance to a March 12 special general election. The Shelby County Election Commission still plans to issue a request for proposal, or RFP, soon that sets standards for what a new voting system must have for potential vendors to submit bids. The RFP must be cleared by county attorneys and purchasing officials.

Canada: Senator’s personal data leaked online in apparent Twitter hack | CTV

Conservative Senator Linda Frum’s Twitter account was hacked Sunday night, with those responsible sharing personal information including her drivers license and using racial slurs in their tweets. “hi linda, can u drive us to the mall please?” read one tweet. The tweet then shared an image of both the front and back of her drivers license, showing personal information including her address. No motive for the hack was made readily apparent, but the perpetrators tweeted that they “don’t appreciate corrupt politicians” and included an emoji of the Palestinian flag. The group of hackers linked accounts and referred to themselves as the “spank gang,” claiming to “run twitter.” The hacking comes just days after a high profile hacking incident in Germany, where multiple politicians and officials – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel – had personal details dumped online.

Congo: DR Congo on edge as presidential election results delayed | Al Jazeera

Preliminary results from Democratic Republic of Congo’s tumultuous presidential election will be delayed past Sunday’s deadline, the head of the election commission has said. The announcement on Saturday has prompted fears the vote result could be manipulated, with analysts saying prolonged uncertainty could trigger deadly clashes, similar to the violence that broke out in the central African country after the 2006 and 2011 elections. The commission, known as CENI, had received only 47 percent of vote tally sheets as of Saturday, its president, Corneille Nangaa, told the Reuters news agency. It not yet clear when the results would be ready, he said, adding: “It will not be possible to announce the results tomorrow.”

Germany: Hackers Leak Details of German Lawmakers, Except Those on Far Right | The New York Times

After hackers, later determined to be working for Russia, broke into Parliament’s main computer network three years ago, the government vowed to fortify its cybersecurity. The authorities schooled lawmakers about changing passwords, using two-step identification and other measures to protect online data. But on Friday, nearly 1,000 lawmakers and other prominent Germans, including rappers, journalists and internet personalities, awoke to find links to their street and email addresses, private chats from social media, bank account details and pictures of their children published on Twitter, in another major breach aimed at the country’s political establishment. All those attacked had a history of criticizing the far right, whose politicians appeared to be spared, raising suspicion that the hacker or hackers were sympathetic to their agenda, though the authorities said they had no indication yet who was behind the attack.

Nigeria: Row as president’s niece takes election post ahead of Nigeria vote | The Citizen

Nigeria’s opposition has objected to the appointment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s niece to the election commission ahead of presidential elections in February, when he will seek a second term. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) claimed the appointment Thursday of Amina Zakari to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was an attempt to rig the vote in Buhari’s favour. Zakari, who has worked at INEC in other roles, will head a branch of the commission involved in collating the election results. The PDP said in a statement: “for us to have a peaceful election, Mrs Amina Zakari should not be seen anywhere near any of the 2019 election processes, not to talk of being involved in the collation of presidential (vote) results.”

Thailand: Activists protest as election faces delay | Reuters

Dozens of Thai activists on Sunday protested against a possible delay of a national election set for next month, the first such gathering since the military government lifted a ban on political activity imposed after a 2014 coup. The junta has promised and postponed the election several times since it came to power, with the latest date set for Feb. 24. However, the vote faces yet another postponement after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggested on Friday that post-election events might clash with rituals related to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation from May 4-6.