Pennsylvania: County election officials say Governor’s budget falls short for new voting machines | Philadelphia Inquirer

County election officials have one word for Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed Pennsylvania state budget and its $15 million for new, more secure voting machines. “It’s very disappointing,” said Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, a Democrat who chairs the election agency. “I am deeply disappointed in the numbers being proposed,” said Forrest K. Lehman, elections director in Lycoming County. “That was a bit disappointing today,” said Jeff Greenburg, elections director for Mercer County. The problem, they and others said, is that the proposed $15 million makes but a small dent in the estimated $125 million to $150 million cost for counties to comply with a state order to replace their voting machines by 2020 with modern, more secure models. Wolf is requesting that the $15 million continue for five years, for a total of $75 million, and a spokesperson said the governor is committed to seeing that staggered funding become reality while also working on other funding options. “We can’t bank on that. Let me put it that way,” Greenburg said.

National: Lawmakers Push for the State Department to Help Secure Foreign Elections | Nextgov

As misinformation campaigns and cyberattacks threaten to undermine democracy around the world, lawmakers want the State Department to play a bigger role in helping other countries secure their elections. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that would create a program at State to share information about election threats with other countries. Through the Global Electoral Exchange Program, the department would assist allies in adopting best practices around election cybersecurity, transparency and auditing. It would support work to combat misinformation campaigns and end discriminatory voter registration practices. An earlier version of the bill passed the House in September but was never put to a vote in the Senate. “Our election systems—and those of our allies—have become a target for foreign adversaries,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “Safeguarding our democracies must be a priority for us all.”

National: Debate Over Election Reform Bill Gets Heated in House | Courthouse News

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised their voices Wednesday over whether a sweeping election reform bill proposed by Democrats would drain or fill the Washington swamp. The wide-ranging anti-corruption bill, House Resolution 1, includes a provision that would increase transparency in campaign finance by requiring candidates to report where their campaign money comes from. That measure was the focus of committee members from both parties during the nearly four-hour hearing in the House Oversight Committee. Bradley Smith, an expert witness and chairman of the Institute for Free Speech, repeatedly told committee members that the bill would have a “chilling effect” on citizens’ desire to engage in elections through avenues like campaign donations. “You run the risk of regulations swallowing up the entire discourse in which the public engages,” Smith said.

National: Midterm election infrastructure deemed meddle-free, but states seek equipment funding | GCN

The federal government has determined there is no evidence that foreign interference in the 2018 midterm election “had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political [and] campaign infrastructure,” the Justice Department announced. DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security said 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. The conclusions represent the second half of an interagency process created late last year to assess whether foreign governments made any efforts to hack into voting machines and election systems or alter voter behavior through covert influence campaigns on social platforms and other media.

National: DHS prioritizes restart of election security programs post-shutdown | CNN

Since the shutdown ended, the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the resumption of its election security programs, some of which were forced to go on hiatus during the lapse in government funding, according to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs. “Coming out of the shutdown, anything that had paused on election security-related activities was put on the top of the priority list for restart,” he said. Krebs told CNN that if there was an active threat during the shutdown, the department was able to respond by conducting assessments and hunting down the threat. “What paused was the more routine vulnerability assessments,” he said. Those included a “couple of the election security-related” assessments run by the department, specifically focused on state networks.

National: Inaccurate claims of noncitizen voting in Texas reflect a growing trend in Republican states | The Washington Post

When Texas officials announced in late January that as many as 58,000 noncitizens may have voted illegally in state elections over nearly two decades, top Republicans — including President Trump — quickly warned about the prevalence of voter fraud and the need to crack down on it. But just as quickly, the numbers stopped adding up. First, on Jan. 25, the secretary of state instructed counties to give voters 30 days to prove their citizenship before canceling their registration. Then, four days later, the office began calling local election officials to say that thousands of people on the list were in fact U.S. citizens, eligible to vote.

Arizona: Bill banning early ballot drop-offs appears doomed | Arizona Mirror

Senate Republicans advanced a controversial bill that would bar Arizonans from dropping off their early ballots in person at polling places, but GOP holdouts appear likely to stop it from going any further. Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Heather Carter were silent during the contentious, hour-long debate over Senate Bill 1046 on Wednesday. However, both said afterward that they will vote against the proposal, which will be enough to defeat it, presuming no Democrats break with their caucus to support it. Brophy McGee said she believes there are other Republicans who are also opposed to the bill. Republicans have a 17-13 advantage in the Senate, and can only afford a single defection on a party-line vote.

California: L.A. County and state to purge 1.5 million inactive voters from rolls | Los Angeles Daily News

California and Los Angeles County have agreed to purge as many as 1.5 million inactive voter registrations across the state as part of a court settlement finalized Wednesday with Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group. Judicial Watch sued the county and state voter-registration agencies in Los Angeles federal court, arguing that the state was not complying with a federal law requiring the removal of inactive registrations that remain after two general elections, or two to four years. Inactive voter registrations usually occur when voters move to another country or state or pass away but remain on the rolls. The lawsuit alleged that Los Angeles County, with more than 10 million residents, has more voter registrations than it has citizens old enough to register with a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population. The lawsuit also uncovered that neither California nor Los Angeles County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls for the past 20 years, according to Judicial Watch.

District of Columbia: D.C. is slated to vote last in 2020 Democratic primaries. That might change. | The Washington Post

At it stands, Democratic voters in Washington, D.C., will be last in the nation to weigh in on who should challenge Donald Trump in 2020’s presidential contest. But some local politicos want to change that. At a meeting Thursday, the D.C. Democratic State Committee will consider whether to recommend moving up the District’s primary from June 16 to April 28, or some other early spring date. “If you want to be competitive in the democratic process, you need to be early up,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represents the District on the Democratic National Committee. Evans and others have long argued that an earlier primary would draw national attention to the city’s lack of representation in Congress and spark more enthusiasm from local voters.

Editorials: Georgia: To Prevent Election Meddling, Use Paper Ballots | The Emory Wheel

Georgia Republicans are taking actions that will undermine the state’s voting system — and in a gerrymandered state government, they might just get away with it. When U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg upheld Georgia’s current voting system in October, she criticized the state’s machines for their vulnerability to “malicious intrusion.” Her decision was limited by the fact that the midterm elections were too close for the government to completely overhaul its existing system. After, lawmakers of both parties expressed interest in a new method of voting. This presented Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger an opportunity to restore voters’ confidence in their voting systems by investing in paper ballots, but his response has been lackluster.

Idaho: Legislation would alter Idaho’s redistricting commission | Idaho Statesman

Lawmakers voted Wednesday to consider a change to the Idaho Constitution to add a seventh member to the independent commission that redraws congressional and legislative maps. The House State Affairs Committee voted to conduct a hearing on the proposal. If it passes by a two-thirds majority in the GOP-dominated Senate and House, the plan would then go to the voters for approval. Redistricting is important because it can decide which party gets the majority of congressional and state legislative seats. It is a contentious issue nationwide. Currently, the commission in Idaho is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats.

Illinois: Senate Republicans express support for redistricting amendment | The State Journal-Register

Illinois Senate Republicans expressed support for an amendment to the state constitution that would create a non-partisan system for drawing legislative maps. Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 4 would replace the current legislative redistricting method with a 16-member commission appointed by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and the most senior Supreme Court justice of a different political party. The public would be able to submit maps for the commission to consider. Public hearings are also provided for in the amendment. The measure has sponsors from both parties.

Maryland: Hogan, Franchot grill elections director Lamone over delayed release of voting results | Baltimore Sun

Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot on Wednesday grilled the administrator of Maryland’s elections — after problems on Election Day in November caused polls to stay open late and postponed the release of results for hours. The Maryland State Board of Elections did not post election results online on Election Day until after 10 p.m. — two hours after polls were scheduled to close in the state. Hogan said he and many others were frustrated they had had to wait for hours for the results to be announced. “This was a black eye for Maryland around the country,” Franchot told Maryland elections administrator Linda H. Lamone, who appeared before the spending panel. “They were making fun of us on the national television about how bad the Maryland election was being administered,” Hogan said. “You are the Maryland state election administrator.” “Indeed, I am,” replied Lamone, who has served in the role since 1997.

Michigan: Political maps go on trial in redistricting lawsuit | Michigan Radio

Was the last re-drawing of Michigan’s political district maps so biased in Republicans’ favor, they were illegal? That question literally went on trial Tuesday, with a three-judge panel in Detroit’s federal court hearing arguments for and against Michigan’s 2011 redistricting maps. Democrats and the League of Women Voters took those maps to court. They claim that both quantitative research and insider emails show the state’s last redistricting was a conscious Republican gerrymander. The plaintiffs call it a “secretive, intense effort” to dilute the power of Democratic votes, and cement Republican advantages after the GOP’s 2010 electoral wins.

Mississippi: Federal judge hears arguments in redistricting case | Associated Press

A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday about whether African-American voters in part of Mississippi have a chance to elect a candidate of their choice in a state Senate district with a slim black majority. Three black plaintiffs sued the state in July, asking U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to order that Senate District 22 be redrawn to increase its black majority. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Rob McDuff, said the district has a history of racially polarized voting that creates hurdles for any black candidate to win in the district. “They are always losing, no matter how good the quality of the candidate,” McDuff said Wednesday. Mike Wallace is an attorney representing Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who are two of the three state election commissioners named as defendants. Wallace said that although Mississippi had barriers in the past to black voter registration and participation, plaintiffs failed to show that African-Americans face hurdles now in District 22. “There isn’t anything impeding them from exercising the right to vote,” Wallace said.

North Carolina: Millions of Voting Records Sought, Hundreds Given | Associated Press

North Carolina officials said Wednesday they will turn over nearly 800 voter files sought last year by a federal investigation believed to involve voter fraud that sought millions of records. The state elections board said it is responding to grand jury subpoenas by providing records for 289 people who previously registered to vote in eastern North Carolina and another 500 people outside the region. The state board had called the subpoenas served on it and 44 county elections boards in August by Raleigh-based federal prosecutors overly broad and unreasonable. Those requests for ballots, poll books, registration applications and other documents totaled more than 20 million records, the state elections board estimated last year.
The state elections board said it is responding to grand jury subpoenas by providing records for 289 people who previously registered to vote in eastern North Carolina and another 500 people outside the region. The state board had called the subpoenas served on it and 44 county elections boards in August by Raleigh-based federal prosecutors overly broad and unreasonable. Those requests for ballots, poll books, registration applications and other documents totaled more than 20 million records, the state elections board estimated last year.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania dedicates cash to election security, but does it need more fast? | Politico

Pennsylvania’s governor on Tuesday announced that he would dedicate $75 million to voting technology upgrades over the next five years, but some election security activists aren’t pleased with the incremental approach in one of the highest-profile states still using paperless voting machines. Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019 budget gives counties $15 million to help them buy paper systems and promises $60 million more over the following four years. Last April, the state required counties to replace paperless machines by the end of 2019. The new funding pledge wasn’t enough for Verified Voting, a leading election security watchdog group. Marian Schneider, the group’s president, said in a statement that Wolf’s budget “falls short of providing the resources counties need to implement best election security practices.”

Texas: Activists: Texas voter purge is latest effort to target voting rights | USA Today

The recent eye-popping claim by the Texas secretary of state’s office – that 95,000 registered voters in Texas may be ineligible because they’re not U.S. citizens – grabbed quick headlines and sprang into President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, rekindling fears of rampant voter fraud by non-U.S. citizens. Within a week, however, three lawsuits challenging the move and state officials erasing tens of thousands of names from that list have since raised questions about the validity and methodology of the claim. The clash over Texas voters comes amid allegations by voting rights’ activists of nationwide efforts to purge voters of color from rolls and influence elections, including aggressively going after alleged non-citizens registered to vote. Since 2013, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Virginia have conducted illegal purges, according to a recent study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. The report also found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls – or 4 million more than what was removed between 2006 and 2008. Many of those were improperly removed, the report said.

Virginia: Advocates slam House GOP bill as redistricting plans advance | Associated Press

As the General Assembly’s session enters its second half, both the House and Senate have passed competing plans on how to redraw legislative districts. But groups that have been fighting gerrymandering prefer the Senate’s proposal, saying it would do more to take politics out of the process. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned that without the proper provisions, the General Assembly may be doomed to repeat mistakes made in 2011 when legislators gerrymandered several Virginia districts for their own benefit by diluting the voting power of African-Americans. Those districts were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and had to be redrawn. Some legislators say there’s an easy fix to make sure it doesn’t happen again: Create an independent commission to redraw the lines, and take the process out of the hands of politicians.

Egypt: Egyptians split as lawmakers pave way for Sisi to be ‘president for life’ | Al-Monitor

Egyptian lawmakers have proposed changes to Egypt’s constitution, including amendments to expand the military’s powers and to allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remain in office following the end of his second term, and potentially until 2034. The amendments have sparked controversy in the country, drawing mixed reactions from members of parliament, analysts and activists. The suggested alteration to Article 140 of the constitution would extend presidential terms from four to six years, and changes to Article 200 would allow the military to ensure “that the principles of the June 30 Revolution are observed,” which means preventing Islamists from ever rising to power. The amendments are being packaged with progressive changes, to make them more palatable to the public.

Ireland: Referendum on voting rights for Irish abroad due in autumn | The Irish Times

A referendum to extend voting rights in presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside the State will take place in the autumn. It was initially thought the referendum would take place in May but it will now take place on either October 25th or November 1st. A Government source said of the decision not to hold the referendum earlier: “We want to win this referendum but Brexit means our system is very focused on everything that a “no deal” or extension of article 50 could throw up. This referendum is going have high profile debate and will need a strong campaign so the decision has been taken for the autumn.” Later in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that Brexit contributed to the decision to delay the referendum. He said the poll would have been held along with the local and European elections.

Ukraine: Exiled ex-president claims possible vote rigging | Associated Press

Ukraine’s exiled former president, who was found guilty of fueling a deadly separatist conflict in the east, on Wednesday claimed there could be possible vote rigging in the country’s upcoming presidential election. Ukrainians will vote March 31 to elect a new president. Former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014 following months of anti-government protests. Weeks later, Russia used his appeal to send troops to Ukraine as a justification for annexing the Crimean peninsula. Yanukovych, 68, spoke to the press Wednesday in Moscow, breaking more than a year of silence. He would not endorse any of the over 30 Ukrainian presidential candidates but accused President Petro Poroshenko of plotting vote rigging. He offered no proof for his claims.

Venezuela: Dueling political movements each push elections | Associated Press

Venezuela’s opposition-dominated congress on Tuesday said it will hold new elections as soon as possible within a year — once embattled President Nicolas Maduro is ousted from power. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s socialist party boss, Diosdado Cabello, threatened to hold early legislative elections that could gut the congress, which is the only branch of government controlled by the opposition. He accused the opposition of taking orders from the United States. “We won’t skip a beat,” Cabello said. “We have no doubt that the imperialism governs the Venezuelan right wing.” The struggle for power in Venezuela resurged this year when congress leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, saying Maduro’s re-election in May was fraudulent.