Editorials: Georgia Needs Paper Ballots, Not More Touch-Screen Voting Machines | Regina Smith/Flagpole Magazine

Not all Georgians know what has happened since 2018, when the entire nation learned about our old voting-system vulnerabilities. The news from Atlanta is that Gov. Brian Kemp and his replacement as secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, have requested $150 million from the legislature to purchase a new system for Georgia’s 7 million registered voters. Why are both pushing hard for an expensive touch-screen, ballot-marking device (BMD) system that cybersecurity experts say will not prevent hacking and malicious election mischief?  Both are aware that a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed a majority of Georgians prefer a hand-marked paper ballot system costing an estimated $50 million. All voters in the state should be aware of two pieces of this voting machine puzzle. An aware electorate can better inform Georgia legislators what is expected of them insofar as a new system is concerned.  

National: House will advance HR 1 government overhaul package this month, Pelosi says | Roll Call

The House will advance a package of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics overhauls this month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday night. House Democrats have introduced the government overhaul package as HR 1 to reflect its priority status. They believe fundamentally changing the way government operates will increase public buy-in as Democrats pursue an economic policy agenda focused on issues such as heath care, infrastructure and climate change. “During this Black History Month, I am pleased we will be advancing H.R. 1, which contains Congressman John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act ensuring equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, and lays the groundwork of the subsequent passage of Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act,” Pelosi wrote, citing two black lawmakers who have sponsored legislation that is part of the Democrats’ effort to overhaul voting rights laws.

National: Mitch McConnell balked at Election Day holiday. What if it were one? | USA Today

House Democrats introduced their first piece of legislation in the new Congress this week, an anti-corruption bill that proposes making Election Day a federal holiday  and encourages private employers to give their workers the day off, too. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the legislation on the Senate floor, calling it a “power grab” by Democrats. He was subsequently dragged by progressive lawmakers on Twitter, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who tweeted that “voting isn’t a ‘power grab.’ It’s democracy, and it’s literally the entire point of our representative government.” But according to the Pew Research Center, Americans on both sides of the aisle support making Election Day a national holiday: 71% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans favor the idea. 

National: DOJ, DHS say foreign influence campaigns didn’t alter 2018 elections | FCW

The federal government has determined that foreign interference campaigns had no material impact on the outcomes of the 2018 midterm elections. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced Feb. 5 that they have submitted a classified report to President Donald Trump in accordance with an executive order issued last year to root out and investigate foreign interference targeting American elections or campaigns. “Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political [and] campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress,” said DOJ in a statement.

Editorials: Time and time again, hyped claims of rampant illegal voting turn out to be untrue | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

It took just over a day for an announcement from the office of the Texas secretary of state hinting that thousands of noncitizens might have voted to make it into President Trump’s Twitter feed. “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote,” Trump wrote, apparently lifting the data from an episode of “Fox & Friends.” “These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID!” A bit later, he retweeted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who hyped the same numbers with an all-caps intro: “VOTER FRAUD ALERT.” Paxton’s presentation of the argument was at least nuanced in a way that Trump’s wasn’t. He pointed out that the 95,000 noncitizens had been identified as such by the Department of Public Safety. In fact, as the world quickly learned, it was even less firm than that. The name matches were weak (as the notice to counties indicated in an all-caps warning of its own), and in short order the state and individual counties started clearing names from the list as people’s statuses were confirmed. As our fact-checkers noted, it’s also more than possible that people on the list obtained citizenship since the time they first presented documentation to the state about their status. In 2016, more than 110,000 people in Texas were granted citizenship. Over the decade from 2007 to 2016, nearly a million people became citizens in the state.

California: State probing whether DMV’s delay of voter registration applications affected election | San Francisco Chronicle

Hundreds of voter registration applications were delayed last fall at California’s trouble-plagued Department of Motor Vehicles, and the state is trying to determine whether any election results were affected, officials said Tuesday. The DMV acknowledged that it had received 589 registration applications that it failed to forward to Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office before the deadline for the Nov. 6 election. Of that number, 329 were from people who had not previously registered to vote, and the other 260 had moved to a different county and were trying to re-register. It’s not known yet how many of those voters tried to cast ballots and were either turned away or failed to have their votes counted. But in papers filed in a San Francisco federal court, which is overseeing the settlement of a suit by voting-rights advocates against the DMV, Padilla agreed to make sure every vote was counted if the application was properly submitted by the Oct. 22 registration deadline, and to determine whether any election outcomes would be affected.

California: California Voting Rights Act survives legal challenge, but it’s not over | San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge has rejected a challenge to the California Voting Rights Act, which has required numerous local governments to switch from at-large to district elections to empower their minority populations. But the conservative who won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a key section of the federal voting-rights law says the California case is headed for higher courts. “We are disappointed with the ruling. We have every intention of seeking an appeal (in) the Ninth Circuit (Court of Appeals), and beyond if necessary,” Edward Blum, president of the nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, said Tuesday. The California law, passed in 2002, requires local governments and districts that hold at-large elections, drawing all candidates from the entire area, to change to district elections if a local minority group can show that voting in the community favors the majority because of racial polarization. That requires proof that a majority racial group has historically voted as a bloc to elect its own candidates or to pass race-related ballot measures opposed by minorities.

Florida: State: 83,000 voters in Florida didn’t cast a valid ballot | Associated Press

Whether they meant to or not, more than 83,000 Florida voters didn’t cast a valid vote for governor, according to a new report prepared by state officials. The combined total of invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Ron DeSantis’s margin of victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum by more than 50,000 votes. The race between DeSantis and Gillum was so close that it triggered an automatic statewide recount. More than 8.2 million votes were cast in the high-profile race for governor that attracted national attention. The total number of “non-valid votes” was 1 percent, which was a lower rate than either the 2016 presidential election or the 2014 governor’s race. These “non-valid votes” include ballots with write-in names such as Mickey Mouse and ballots that were left blank. It also includes those with votes for more than one candidate. More than 50,000 of the invalid ballots were left blank, suggesting that some people opted to skip the governor’s race.

Mississippi: Voting rights for felons considered at legislature | WJTV

It’s deadline day at the state capitol – and there’s a last-minute push to restore voting rights for felons here in Mississippi. … This latest effort centers around Mississippi ‘s constitutional lifetime voting ban if someone is convicted of a felony.  Mississippi is one of only 3 states with a lifetime ban— crimes that can get you disenfranchised range from larceny to murder.  One Mississippian who was convicted of a felony as a juvenile is a part of a lawsuit going after the state for this law. He says he deserves to be able to vote because he did his time, then stayed away from trouble and now he is trying to set an example for his young children. 

New Hampshire: State Supreme Court denies access to voter database in suit over registration law | Legal Newsline

A request to produce a voters database that was ordered by a lower court as evidence in a lawsuit was denied by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Chief Justice Robert Lynn issued a 10-page ruling on Jan. 24, vacating the New Hampshire Superior Court’s order in the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and several individuals in a challenge to a voter registration law. The high court concluded that the Superior Court erred ordering the state’s secretary of state and attorney general to produce the New Hampshire Centralized Voter Registration Database, concluding that the list is “exempt from disclosure by statute.” The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire the New Hampshire Democratic Party sued over the validity of some state voting laws.

North Carolina: Opponent says Mark Harris knew about fraud in 9th District election and turned blind eye to it | WRAL

Republican Mark Harris needs to testify under oath as to what he knows about alleged absentee ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, his opponent said Tuesday. Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes in the race, but the State Board of Elections has refused to certify the results because of suspected voting irregularities in Bladen and Robeson counties. Harris has acknowledged hiring Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations in the county. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns. Dowless has, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but he hasn’t yet sat down with elections board investigators looking at the 9th District.

Ohio: Federal lawsuit seeks to stop elections boards from blocking ballot initiatives | The Columbus Dispatch

Groups in Columbus and half a dozen other Ohio communities have filed suit in federal court after their efforts to place initiatives on local ballots were blocked by elections boards. Individuals representing ballot efforts in Youngstown and Toledo and Athens, Medina, Meigs and Portage counties joined the filing Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio’s Eastern Division in Youngstown. They’re hoping the federal court will do what state courts have not to date — rule that Ohio’s process for reviewing and potentially barring citizen-led initiatives from ballots is unconstitutional. “Just because it’s controversial or the government itself doesn’t particularly like the idea, that doesn’t mean the people shouldn’t have a right to vote on it,” said Tish O’Dell, Ohio community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which is assisting the local groups with the legal challenge.

Texas: Civil rights groups sue to stop ‘unlawful purge’ of thousands of voters | The Guardian

Civil rights groups have launched lawsuits accusing Texas officials of compiling a flawed list of voters that could see thousands of naturalized citizens wrongly expunged from electoral rolls, sparking a fierce political fight over alleged voter suppression. Four Texas-based organisations are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on Monday that asks a federal court to stop the state from enacting an “unlawful purge” based on the flagging of about 95,000 people as potentially illegally registered to vote. It follows legal action initiated last week by Hispanic rights groups who contend the state is pursuing a voter suppression tactic that is likely to have a strong impact on minorities’ democratic rights. “This list is simply a way to target US citizens who are foreign-born as opposed to being any genuine effort to identify non-US citizens on the voter rolls,” said Nina Perales, vice-president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Editorials: Where the hunt for voter fraud is worse than the crime itself | Karen Tumulty/The Washington Post

A massive scheme to commit voter fraud is going on right now in Texas. What makes it all the more cynical and twisted is that it is being perpetrated in the name of preventing voter fraud. And top officials in the state are complicit. It started on Jan. 25, with an alarmist, misleading advisory sent to county registrars, the officials who oversee voter rolls in the Lone Star State. Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, who until December had been deputy chief of staff to Gov. Greg Abbott (R), claimed in a news release that Department of Public Safety records showed nearly 100,000 registered voters had not been citizens when they applied for their driver’s licenses. More than half of them — 58,000 — had voted in at least one election. The advisory acknowledged these were “WEAK matches” (the advisory’s capitalization, not mine). But the secretary of state said local officials should demand that all of those named produce evidence of citizenship. If they failed to respond or provide documents within 30 days, those voters could be purged from the rolls. Whitley also noted that knowingly voting in an election when a person is not eligible is a second-degree felony in Texas. From there, predictably, the echo chamber took over.

Wyoming: Senate OKs Bill Stopping Political Party Changes | Associated Press

Voters in Wyoming would not be able to switch their political party affiliation on primary election day under a measure passed Tuesday by the state Senate. The bill was approved on a 20-10 vote and sent to the House of Representatives, which is working on its own version of the measure. Wyoming currently allows voters to change party affiliation on primary or general election day. That has some members of the Republican Party, the dominant political party in the state, complaining that Democratic crossover voters can unfairly influence Wyoming’s GOP primaries.

France: Macron Said to Eye Election-Timed Referendum on Protests | Courthouse News

Vying to quell public unrest and a wave of protests, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to ask the French electorate to vote in a May referendum. Since mid-November, nationwide protests have knocked Macron off balance and upended his pro-business agenda. He’s been lambasted as the president for the rich, aloof from the everyday concerns of French people. France has a generous welfare system but still many French are frustrated with high unemployment, a stagnant economy and weak purchasing power. In response to the protests, Macron has scrapped fuel tax hikes, raised the minimum wage and opened a two-month-long nationwide debate where people can voice their concerns and solutions to France’s problems at meetings and through an online portal.

Ireland: Ministers oppose extending presidential vote to diaspora | Independent.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing an internal Fine Gael backlash over plans to extend voting rights in presidential elections to the diaspora. An increasing number of Fine Gael Cabinet ministers are understood to be opposed to extending voting rights to all Irish citizens over concerns about the impact it would have on elections. Agriculture Minister Michael Creed raised his objection to the referendum directly with the Taoiseach at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. Other ministers who did not want to be named said they privately agreed with Mr Creed but did not speak up at the meeting. “It is a nonsense idea based on something Enda Kenny announced when he was on a visit to America,” a Cabinet minister said.

Verified Voting Blog: No to Online Voting in Virginia | Electronic Frontier Foundation

This article originally appeared on Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website on February 4th, 2019 Experts agree: Internet voting would be an information security disaster. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia is considering a pair of bills to experiment with online voting. Pilot programs will do nothing to contradict the years of unanimous empirical research showing that online voting…

Israel: Facebook Introduces Election Protection Features to Israel’s Central Elections Committee | CTech

Two months ahead of Israel’s general election, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath met Sunday with Israel’s Central Elections Committee, the committee announced Monday. The meeting took place following correspondence between the committee and Facebook concerning the ways in which the social media company is planning to increase transparency ahead of the Israeli election process. In the meeting, Facebook representatives reiterated the company’s plans to launch special features in Israel in March, including the association of political ads with the advertising page, and the launch of a political ad archive. Facebook will also prevent users from posting political ads from outside the country.

Kazakhstan: President Dismisses Talk of Snap Election | Associated Press

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday dismissed reports that he was planning a snap election after he sought clarification on a clause in the constitution covering the length of his term. In a video address published online, Nazarbayev said his request to the Constitutional Court on Monday had been a routine one meant to clarify gaps in sections covering the replacement of a president, an incumbent’s resignation and other areas. “Of course, everyone is interested… in the elections, (political) transition,” he said.

Lithuania: Intelligence Agencies Fear Russia Will Attempt to Sway Its Elections | Reuters

Lithuania’s intelligence agencies fear Russia will interfere in its forthcoming elections, including one in May to find a successor to the staunchly anti-Kremlin president, Dalia Grybauskaite. The Baltic state, ruled from Moscow for much of the 20th century but now a member of both the European Union and NATO, was rattled by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and hosts a German-led multinational battalion to deter any Russian invasion. It holds presidential, municipal and European Parliament elections this year and a parliamentary election in 2020. “Russian intelligence will step up its activity during the 2019-2020 election cycle,” the agencies wrote in a joint annual assessment published Tuesday. “It is possible that Russia will seek to sway the course of the elections by information and cyber means.” Moscow could “disseminate propaganda and disinformation in Lithuanian social media,” it said.

Venezuela: European Countries Call for Presidential Election in Venezuela | VoA News

Britain, along with Spain, France and Sweden and Denmark on Monday recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s interim president. The European countries want Venezuela to hold a presidential election as soon as possible to end its political and humanitarian crises. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt posted on Twitter: “Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognizes @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let’s hope this take us closer to ending humanitarian crisis.”