Rhode Island: Russia Wants to Undermine Trust in Elections. Here’s How Rhode Island Is Fighting Back | Time

When a group of Rhode Island’s top officials gathered in a chilly warehouse in Providence in mid-January to fight foreign interference in U.S. elections, the mood was festive. After Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s name was pulled out of a knit Patriots hat, the crowd applauded and cheered uproariously. And when she leaned over a plastic table to roll a 10-sided die typically used for Dungeons and Dragons, people watched intensely. Then the work began. The number generated from 20 rolls of the dice was used to pick the ballots that would be pulled and tested to see if November’s vote counting had been done correctly, a final fail-safe against a hacked election, all done in plain view of the public. “Democracy and elections are only as good as whether people trust them or not,” Gorbea said. “Confidence in our democracy is critical to every other public policy issue.” Voting experts say this kind of election audit is critical to thwarting attempts to meddle with American democracy. It not only detects problems with ballot counting, but the open nature of the audit itself also helps restore voters’ confidence in the system.

National: Election Security Advocates Battle the National Association of Secretaries of State over Opposition to Strengthening Voting Systems | Politico

Indiana’s top election official is refusing to release her communications with the National Association of Secretaries of State, limiting the public’s understanding of both her role and the role of NASS in squashing federal legislation to upgrade voting systems, Eric reports. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is fighting a public records request that could shed light on both the NASS stance in election security debates and the influence that the small community of voting technology vendors has over the organization.

National: Roger Stone was in close contact with Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, indictment shows | The Washington Post

Roger Stone, a GOP political operative and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about WikiLeaks’ efforts to release materials damaging to Democrats before the 2016 election, according to an indictment filed against him Friday. Stone was arrested Friday morning on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the election. A major focus of the probe has been whether Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, as the group published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives.

National: After a Messy Election, a Push to Make Voting Easier | Stateline

In the nearly three months since elections dogged by accusations of voter suppression, state lawmakers across the country have either filed or pre-filed at least 230 bills that would expand access to the ballot for millions of Americans. Bipartisan efforts aim to bring automatic voter registration, vote-by-mail, or the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to more than 30 states. Bills to increase voter access have outpaced election integrity bills, such as those that would require voter ID or proof of citizenship and would limit early voting, across the country this year, according to a count by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. State lawmakers had introduced just 24 such bills.

Florida: Unanswered Amendment 4 questions frustrate felon voting rights advocates | Tampa Bay Times

More than two weeks after Amendment 4 expanded voting rights to more than a million ex-felons in Florida, nagging questions over details persist. And as state officials wait on lawmakers for answers, advocates are getting frustrated. Some 45 people turned out for a panel discussion Saturday where activists celebrated the landmark law. But irritation simmered under the surface, rising when they couldn’t provide concrete answers to questions about eligibility and penalties. The amendment, passed in November’s general election, allows citizens who aren’t convicted murderers or sex offenders to register to vote as soon as they complete their sentences. Previously, a felony conviction meant lifetime disenfranchisement unless a person overcame long odds with the state’s clemency board. Now the problem is this question: what constitutes a murder conviction? Differences between charges have led lawmakers to begin debating which crimes outlined in the state’s homicide statute should exclude ex-felons from voting — to the chagrin of the law’s advocates.

Iowa: Voter ID: Judge strikes rule on absentee ballots as ‘irrational, illogical and wholly unjustifiable’ | Des Moines Register

An Iowa judge struck down part of a 2017 voter ID law dealing with absentee ballots — a decision opponents of the law say will make it easier for voters to get ballots and Secretary of State Paul Pate said will make it “easier to cheat.” Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano called the rule unlawful and blocked it from taking effect in a Wednesday ruling. The rule had prevented county auditors from using an existing statewide voter database to look up missing voter information when processing absentee ballot requests. Romano wrote that limiting auditors’ use of the database was “irrational, illogical, and wholly unjustifiable.” The decision was part of the larger legal fight over Iowa’s 2017 voter ID law, which went into full effect this year. A separate lawsuit seeks to overturn the entire law.

Kansas: Senate bill allows same-day registration, voting in Kansas elections | McPherson Sentinel

A bipartisan group Kansas senators endorsed a bill abandoning a state law requiring people to register at least three weeks in advance of an election to be eligible to vote. Contents of Senate Bill 43 would allow Kansans residents to register to vote and cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. Under current law, voters must be registered by the 21st day before the election. For example, the 2018 deadline for voter registration was July 17 for the primary conducted Aug. 7. In the Nov. 6 general election, the registration deadline was Oct. 16.

Michigan: Redistricting deal may lead to new state House map | Associated Press

At least 11 of Michigan’s 110 House districts would be redrawn for the 2020 election under a proposed legal settlement announced Friday by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who said the deal would fix “egregious” examples of partisan gerrymandering. As part of her agreement with Democrats who sued, congressional and state Senate seats would stay intact. The Republican-led Legislature, which in 2011 drew the maps that are in question, would put in place new lines for 11 state House districts — subject to court approval. The number of newly cast seats would be higher, though, because of the impact on adjacent districts.

North Carolina: Do state investigators really have evidence to call 9th District margin into question? | WRAL

The new State Board of Elections, which won’t be named for another week, is probably the most awaited appointed board in North Carolina in recent memory – all because a congressional seat hangs in the balance. The 9th Congressional District seat is the only vacant seat in Congress because of allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties that has prompted a state investigation. Republican Mark Harris held a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready after the November election, but the former state board, which was dissolved in December after a court ruled its makeup unconstitutional following a separate legal battle, has refused to certify the results and declare a winner.

North Carolina: New elections board won’t start for a week. But it’s already deep in controversy. | Charlotte Observer

North Carolina’s new bipartisan elections board won’t be named for a week, but it’s already sparked more partisan sniping in the midst of what could be the state’s biggest election scandal in years. The attacks began after former board Chairman Josh Malcolm, a Democrat who sparked the investigation into election fraud in the 9th Congressional District, told the Observer that he will not serve on a new board. Republican Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte and GOP Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, who chair election committees, called Malcolm’s decision, coupled with the December resignation of then-Chairman Andy Penry, “the inevitable result of (Gov. Roy) Cooper’s crusade to make the Board an arm of his political machine.”

Texas: Officials Flag Tens Of Thousands Of Voters For Citizenship Checks | Texas Public Radio

The Texas secretary of state’s office announced Friday it would send local election officials a list of 95,000 registered voters who the state says counties should consider checking to see whether they are U.S. citizens and, therefore, legally eligible to vote. In an advisory released Friday afternoon, the office said it was flagging individuals who had provided the Texas Department of Public Safety with some form of documentation — including a work visa or a green card — that showed they were not a citizen when they were obtaining a driver’s license or an ID card. Among the individuals flagged, about 58,000 individuals cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996 to 2018, the secretary of state’s office said.  It’s unclear exactly how many of those individuals are not actually U.S. citizens and whether that number will be available in the future. In its notice to counties, the secretary of state’s office said the names should be considered “WEAK” matches, using all capital letters for emphasis.

Wisconsin: State midterm report: Issues reported at Racine, other polls | Journal Times

With record turnout for the 2018 midterm election in Wisconsin, voting across the state went smoothly, according to a report released Thursday. But some issues were reported, including issues in Racine County. The report, compiled by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Election Protection group, found problems in voting to be site-specific and limited, while issues around accessible voting equipment, staffing levels and questions about separate addresses for IDs and voter registration were observed at similar levels to the 2016 presidential election. The League of Women Voters had 217 volunteer observers submit observations from 388 polling sites across the state, consisting of 331 urban polling locations, 57 rural locations, 31 locations with a student population and eight locations that served tribal communities.

Bangladesh: Election under new scrutiny | The Hindu

The dust was about to settle with the election fever dissipating in Bangladesh. The political scene was slowly returning to an atmosphere of relative calm. Then came a damning report from the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) that uncovered “serious wrongdoings” during the December 30 election. The list of irregularities in 47 out of 50 constituencies surveyed by the TIB includes ballot stuffing in the hours to the election day, fake votes and obstruction of voters. The TIB also said security forces on the scene silently stood by when these irregularities took place. “Law-enforcement agencies, a section of administrative officials and election authorities were seen playing biased roles in the election,” Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, who uses one name, said in a statement on January 15.

Israel: Experts call for international cooperation against election cyber attacks | Jerusalem Post

Governments around the world must join forces to detect the sources of foreign cyberattacks aimed at impacting elections and prevent such intervention in the future, Israel Democracy Institute and Hebrew University researchers said Sunday. They spoke after Russian cyberattacks reportedly impacted elections in the US, France and Germany and in the British referendum on exiting the European Union. The researchers from IDI and the Law and Cyber Program at the Federman Center for Cyber Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem spoke at IDI on the subject of cyberattacks and foreign intervention in the April 9 election. They issued recommendations for implementing policies and regulating the chain of command between law enforcement agencies on this issue. The ability of hackers to attack has improved, and it is easier than ever for them to obtain their tools, which makes them even more dangerous,” said former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) technological division head Ron Shamir.

Nigeria: Government warns over ‘foreign interference’ ahead of election | Financial Times

The Nigerian government has said it will not accept “foreign interference” in February’s presidential elections after the EU, UK and US spoke out against the sudden suspension of the chief justice. The three western powers issued statements at the weekend voicing concern over how President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the judge might affect the conduct of elections in Africa’s most populous country. As Nigeria’s senior judge, Walter Onnoghen would have played a key role in deciding any legal challenges to the results of the presidential race between Mr Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. In a statement on Saturday night, Mr Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, warned that the government “will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process”.

Switzerland: Opposition against e-voting project gathers pace | SWI

A committee of politicians and computer experts is launching a people’s initiative aimed at banning online voting for at least five years, putting an end on ongoing trials with e-voting in Switzerland. Representatives from right and leftwing parties on Friday said they were hoping to win pledges from 10,000 people to collect the necessary signatures for a nationwide vote on the issue. In total, the committee needs to gather at least 100,000 signatures over 18 months. They argued that the current e-voting systems were not secure, too expensive and easy to manipulate. Hacked systems could undermine trust in Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, Green Party parliamentarian Balthasar Glättli warned. People’s Party parliamentarian and Franz Grüter added the e-voting system in use could not guarantee the secure online transmission of a ballot. The move comes after parliament last September rejected attempts to block plans for the permanent introduction of electronic voting.

Ukraine: Head of cyber police says it sees surge in cyber attacks targeting election | Reuters

Hackers likely controlled by Russia are stepping up efforts to disrupt Ukraine’s presidential election in March with cyber attacks on electoral servers and personal computers of election staff, the head of Ukraine’s cyber police said on Friday. Serhiy Demedyuk told Reuters the attackers were using virus-infected greeting cards, shopping invitations, offers for software updates and other malicious “phishing” material intended to steal passwords and personal information. Ten weeks before the elections, hackers were also buying personal details of election officials, Demedyuk said, paying in cryptocurrency on the dark web, part of the internet accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.

Venezuela: Pressure mounts on Maduro as European Union demands new elections | The Washington Post

President Nicolás Maduro faced increasing international pressure on Saturday, as European governments threatened to recognize his chief opponent as Venezuela’s leader unless a plan for new elections is announced within eight days. The statements from Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed the United Nations to throw its support behind Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, who declared himself president on Wednesday. The United States and most Latin American countries have recognized Guaidó as interim leader in recent days, after Maduro was sworn in for a second term following elections riddled with fraud. But Russia, China and others have defended Maduro. Guaidó’s actions have represented the most significant challenge yet to Maduro, whose socialist policies have contributed to an economic meltdown in this oil-rich country.