Pennsylvania: Commission recommends Pennsylvania security measures for elections | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pennsylvania lawmakers and county leaders must move quickly to secure the state’s election infrastructure in advance of the 2020 presidential election, an independent bipartisan commission said Tuesday. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security recommended that the state and federal government provide money to help underwrite the costs for counties facing a major investment to replace electronic voting machines with machines that incorporate voter-verified paper ballots. Although they found no evidence that Pennsylvania elections had been hacked, commission co-chairmen David Hickton, a former U.S. attorney who founded the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, and Grove City College President Paul McNulty, a former deputy U.S. attorney general, said the threats to election security are great. “We have little doubt that foreign adversaries will increase their efforts in the lead-up to the presidential election in 2020. The persistence and sophistication of these actors are only increasing.

National: Judiciary Hearing on Democrats’ Election Bill Turns Into Partisan Brawl | The New York Times

House Democrats faced sustained partisan fire on Tuesday over their ambitious elections overhaul bill, a top priority for the new Democratic leaders who must answer charges that their efforts to counter partisan gerrymandering and ease access to the polls strain the constitutional reach of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee’s inaugural hearing of the 116th Congress was dedicated to the voting and ethics rules overhaul, known as the For the People Act, which Democratic representatives have trumpeted as their signature legislative priority. But its reception underscored the challenges the bill will face in a divided Capitol. The bill would turn the drawing of congressional boundaries over to nonpartisan commissions, promote more transparency in campaign contributions and expand the public financing system for House and presidential candidates. “The broader issue is what kind of country America is and should be,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the committee.

National: The government’s cyber workers are back in action. First task: Checking for hacks | The Washington Post

Thousands of federal cyber workers are returning to their posts after more than a month on furlough today. And they have a big to-do list. The first priority: Looking for evidence of any major hacks that wormed through government defenses the past 35 days while agencies were working with a skeleton crew of security pros. It will take them days or weeks to pore through security logs to assess how much damage the shutdown did to the security of government computer networks and the sensitive data they hold. The attacks did not abate because the government was closed: One cyber manager who worked without pay during the shutdown described an uptick in attacks on his agency — including phishing emails containing malware, attempts to reset employee passwords and attempts to trick users into downloading malicious software cloaked as a legitimate update. Also on the docket: Figuring out how to adjust the multimillion-dollar contracts to upgrade and secure federal IT systems that have spent more than a month on ice.

National: Intelligence heads warn of more aggressive election meddling in 2020 | Politico

Foreign adversaries are likely already planning to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election, the nation’s top intelligence official warned on Tuesday. In a worldwide threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote that competitors such as Russia, China and Iran “probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.” In his statement, he predicted that these countries “will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere.” Furthermore, he said, they’ll “refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”

California: Bill Would Give Voting Rights to Parolees | Courthouse News

Nearly 50,000 Californians currently on parole could regain the right to vote under a voting rights bill introduced on Monday. A group of Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a state constitutional amendment already coined the Free the Vote Act and are hoping to restore parolees’ voting rights in an effort to cut down statewide recidivism rates. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, wants California to build on momentum gained last November in Florida where voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that restored voting rights to most felons who have completed sentences.  He said that “roughly half of the states in the country are more progressive” than California in allowing felons and parolees the chance to vote, including Republican-led states like Maine, North Dakota and Utah. 

Georgia: Election officials asks judge to toss suit challenging election system | Associated Press

Georgia election officials on Monday asked a judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by an organization backed by unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams that challenges the way the state’s elections are run. Lawyers for recently sworn-in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is the state’s top elections official, and election board members said in a motion to dismiss that the lawsuit fails to bring valid claims. They also argue that state officials are not responsible for any of the harm alleged and are immune from such suits. The lawsuit was filed by Fair Fight Action, a group associated with Abrams and staffed by some of her former campaign workers. In a speech ending her bid for governor 10 days after the November midterm election, Abrams promised a lawsuit against the state “for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions.”

New Hampshire: Bills would make it easier for older residents to vote | Associated Press

While much of the focus has been on young voters, New Hampshire lawmakers also are considering changes to make it easier for older residents to cast their ballots. The House Election Law Committee will hold public hearings Tuesday on two bills related to older voters. One would allow unrelated caregivers to deliver absentee ballots on behalf of voters who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The other would allow anyone age 60 or older to vote up to five weeks before an election. Rep. Richard Komi, a Democrat from Manchester, is the sponsor of the second bill, which he said is partly inspired by his 75-year-old mother. He wants to help elderly residents who are in poor health or who worry about inclement weather to vote when it is most convenient for them.

North Carolina: New election board could steer the 9th District to resolution – or stalemate | Charlotte Observer

A new state elections board expected to be named this week could finally resolve North Carolina’s disputed 9th District congressional election — or push it even deeper into uncharted territory. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to appoint the new, 5-member State Board of Elections by Thursday. It’s expected to schedule a hearing into allegations of election fraud in the 9th District. But from there the bipartisan board could deadlock, refusing to either certify the election of Republican Mark Harris or order a new election. That would further delay resolution of a situation that already has left 733,000 North Carolinians without representation in Congress. “This situation is unprecedented,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs of the House Administration Committee, told Politico this month. Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial returns. But in late November the previous state board twice declined to certify the election, citing reports of absentee ballot irregularities centered in Bladen County. The board launched an investigation, which has continued even after a court dissolved the board on Dec. 28 over a separate dispute.

Editorials: A call for action: Now is the time to secure Pennsylvania’s elections | David Hickton and Paul McNulty/Penn Live

Pennsylvania’s democracy is at a critical juncture. Weaknesses in the security of our elections present a threat both to our electoral outcomes and to public faith and trust in government of, by, and for the people. We have been fortunate thus far to avoid such an assault on our democracy. Recognizing the gravity of what is at stake, The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security (which we co-chair) endeavored to research and analyze the security of the Commonwealth’s election architecture. The commission’s just-released report, which documents those efforts and offers actionable and achievable solutions, provides a blueprint for how Pennsylvania’s leaders can do what is needed to protect our elections.

South Carolina: Election director’s ties to voting company creates ‘conflict’ concerns | Post and Courier

The relationship between South Carolina’s director of elections and the country’s largest voting equipment company has caught the attention of lawmakers as the state prepares to spend a proposed $60 million to replace  13,000 voting machines. For more than a decade, Marci Andino, executive director of the S.C. Election Commission, served on an advisory board formed by Elections Systems and Software, known commonly as ES&S. Andino received more than $19,000 worth of flights, hotels and meals from ES&S since 2009 to attend regular conferences at the company’s headquarters in Nebraska and other cities across the country, according to records with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. Andino was offered a spot on that private panel in 2005, according to other documents provided to The Post and Courier. It was a year after ES&S won a contract to supply new voting equipment to the Palmetto State and two years after Andino became executive director of the election commission.

Texas: Voter citizenship review list has problems, state tells counties | The Texas Tribune

After flagging tens of thousands of registered voters for citizenship reviews, the Texas secretary of state’s office is now telling counties that some of those voters don’t belong on the lists it sent out. Officials in five large counties — Harris, Travis, Fort Bend, Collin and Williamson — told The Texas Tribune they had received calls Tuesday from the secretary of state’s office indicating that some of the voters whose citizenship status the state said counties should consider checking should not actually be on those lists. The secretary of state’s office incorrectly included some voters who had submitted their voting registration applications at Texas Department of Public Safety offices, according to county officials. Now, the secretary of state is instructing counties to remove them from the list of flagged voters. “We’re going to proceed very carefully,” said Douglas Ray, a special assistant county attorney in Harris County, where 29,822 voters were initially flagged by the state. A “substantial number” of them are now being marked as citizens, Ray said.

Texas: Specter of illegal Texas voters draws skepticism | Austin American-Statesman

For some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, Friday’s announcement that state officials had identified 95,000 registered voters as possible non-U.S. citizens provided all the proof they needed to confirm suspicions that illegal voting is pervasive. Democrats and civil rights activists greeted the news skeptically, arguing that the scenario described by Texas Secretary of State David Whitley mirrored the GOP playbook under Trump by using inflated accusations to justify cracking down on voting rights, particularly for minority voters. “Make no mistake,” said Beth Stevens, the voting rights legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The state is going to use this highly suspect ‘investigation’ to try to pass laws that will make it harder for eligible Texas voters to cast a ballot that counts.”

Verified Voting in the News: Electronic return of ballots worries aired | Daily Press

One of the toughest things for the digital world to manage is keeping a transaction private while at the same time assuring everyone it has accurately recorded the deal. That’s what Virginia Wesleyan University mathematician Audrey Malagon, an adviser to the non-profit group Verified Voting, has been telling legislators. Her concern is with a particular transaction: voting when voters far from their polling place return their ballots electronically. Del. Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, wants to launch a pilot program to allow military personnel serving overseas to do just that. He’s hoping the same kind of blockchain technology used in cybercurrency dealings will make it easier for them to vote. But the problem, Malagon told legislators, is preserving the anonymity of the voting booth or absentee ballot while letting both voter and vote-counter know that a vote was accurately recorded.

Virginia: House GOP leaders endorse plan for independent redistricting commission | The Washington Post

Republican leaders of the House of Delegates have put together a plan for establishing an independent redistricting commission, aiming to change the process of drawing legislative boundaries even as they challenge a current redistricting effort in court. The plan rolled out Monday by Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania) and endorsed by Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) would call for an amendment to the state constitution to set up a 12-member commission appointed mostly by the legislature. The speaker of the House would appoint four members, two from each major political party, while the Senate Rules Committee and the governor would each do the same.

Wisconsin: Democratic legislators withdraw from redistricting lawsuit | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Assembly Democrats are withdrawing from a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s election maps, leaving it to a group of liberal voters to continue the high-profile litigation. By pulling out of the case, the Assembly Democrats are avoiding turning over documents and answering detailed questions to back up their claims that election maps drawn to favor Republicans have hurt their ability to recruit candidates and raise money. Assembly Democrats are getting out of the lawsuit because they believe others are well-equipped to handle the case and they do not have the money to continue the costly litigation, their lead attorney, Lester Pines, said.

Wyoming: Bill would require voters to present photo I.D. at the polls | Casper Star-Tribune

The Wyoming House of Representatives will debate a bill that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls. Sponsored by Casper Republican Chuck Gray, House Bill 192 seeks to prevent voter fraud in Wyoming. The bill passed a legislative committee Tuesday, even after a representative from the Secretary of State’s office told lawmakers that she was unaware of any recent reported cases of voter fraud in Wyoming. In addition to requiring identification to verify one’s identity at the polls, the legislation also grants authority to the secretary of state to set parameters for acceptable forms of photo I.D., something not currently outlined in state statute. Currently, 35 states require some form of photo I.D. to vote. Wyoming is not among them.

Europe: To fight election meddling, Google’s cyber unit Jigsaw extends its anti-DDoS protections to European politicos | TechCrunch

Jigsaw, the cybersecurity-focused division owned by Google parent Alphabet, is now allowing political organizations in Europe to sign up for its anti-web-flooding technology for free. Until now, the free-to-use technology designed to protect political campaigns and websites against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks — dubbed Project Shield — was only available to news sites and journalists, human rights sites and elections monitoring sites in the U.S. Now, Jigsaw is extending those protections to European political operators ahead of contentious parliamentary elections later this year. The anti-DDoS technology aims to protect websites and services from being pummeled with tons of junk internet traffic from multiple sources at once. It protects against several types of DDoS attacks — and not just the traditional layer 3 or 4 protocol-based attacks but also the more powerful layer 7 attacks that involve large volume, often thanks to DNS amplification.

Italy: Salvini Is Said to Face Pressure to Force Early Vote | Bloomberg

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is facing pressure to force an early election this year from lieutenants frustrated by dealing with an unruly coalition partner. Several senior members of Salvini’s League are urging their chief to capitalize on a growing lead in opinion polls to ditch the anti-establishment Five Star Movement which is hampering their efforts to deliver on election promises, according to a League government member and a senior party official who asked not to be named discussing confidential deliberations. Cabinet Undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti, a party strategist who is close to Salvini, has repeatedly voiced his frustration, the party official said.

Nigeria: Nigeria denies judge’s suspension influenced by election | Associated Press

Amid growing criticism, Nigeria’s information minister denied on Monday that the president’s recent suspension of the country’s chief justice was related to the upcoming presidential elections. The suspension of Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen had “nothing to do with the forthcoming elections” and did not “signify the onset of dictatorship or tyranny as some have insinuated,” Minister Lai Mohammed said. The chief justice faces trial on charges of allegedly failing to declare his assets, which Onnoghen has argued is without merit. This is the first time a chief justice is standing trial in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 190 million people. Critics say the suspension of the chief justice just three weeks before the election is an effort by President Muhammadu Buhari to weaken Nigeria’s judiciary and pave the way for his election to a second term in the Feb. 16 vote. The chief justice plays a key role in any legal challenge to what could be a disputed vote.

Thailand: Enthusiasm crashes Thailand election website on first day of early-voting registration | The Straits Times

Thailand’s website for early-voting registration crashed on Monday (Jan 28) morning after a huge number of voters rushed to secure their balloting rights, leading to speculation that the upcoming election could see a high turnout. The March 24 poll will be the country’s first general election in seven years. Early voting this year will take place from March 4 to 17. The online registration opened after midnight on the website of the Department of Public Administration. But the website went down in the morning after too many voters tried to access the site at the same time. The Election Commission’s (EC) deputy secretary-general Nat Laosisavakul said the crash was due to a large number of people entering the website. The failure, in particular, affected those registering for overseas voting, he said.