Renee Brown-Goodell is not shy about introducing herself as a felon, a label she has carried without shame after spending more than four years in federal prison for a 2012 fraud conviction. But it still stings that she was forced to sit out the past two elections: Her right to vote remains out of reach until she completes her post-prison supervised release. “I’m out here and I’m expected to work, I’m expected to pay taxes and take care of my family and behave like a regular American citizen should behave,” Brown-Goodell said. “And yet I’m not a regular American citizen because you have stripped away my rights to be a regular American citizen.”
As Democrats in the state Legislature continue a rapid pace of passing legislation to start the new session, the state Senate seems poised to advance another round of election and voting reforms, including approving the use of electronic poll books to administer elections. Electronic poll books, used in at least 34 states and the District of Columbia, are a fairly simple but significant instrument in making elections more efficient, experts and advocates argue. They make voting faster, preventing long lines at polling sites, save costs in the long run, and are easier to update and maintain compared to the paper lists currently used in New York. Some advocates also say e-poll books, as they’re often called, are essential in implementing improvements to voter registration processes, which the state Legislature put into motion last month, and helpful in the implementation of the significant shift of early voting, also part of the recently-passed package.
North Carolina: Decision on new election expected this month in 9th district fraud investigatio | Raleigh News & Observer
The newly appointed state board of elections plans to vote on whether to certify the election — or call for a new one — in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District after a hearing on Feb. 18 and 19 in Raleigh, the board’s chairman said Monday. The five-member board, appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper on Jan. 31, will begin its evidentiary hearing at 10 a.m. at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. The hearing is expected to last for two days, but the site has been reserved for three. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial results from the 9th district. But the previous nine-member state board twice declined to certify the results, citing irregularities among mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties.
North Carolina: Voter-fraud investigation in North Carolina focuses on immigrants | The Washington Post
At about 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, federal agents rousted Jose Solano-Rodriguez from his bed in the suburbs of Raleigh. A couple of hours later, three agents knocked on Hyo Suk George’s door as she fed her rabbits and chickens in rural Columbus County. Jose Ramiro-Torres was at his job at a fencing company near the Outer Banks when his girlfriend called to tell him to come home, where federal agents were waiting. In all, 20 immigrants – two still in pajamas – were rounded up over several days, many of them handcuffed and shackled, and charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The sweep across eastern North Carolina was one of the most aggressive voting-fraud crackdowns by a Trump-appointed prosecutor – and also a deliberate choice that demonstrates where the administration’s priorities stand. At the time of the arrests, an organized ballot-tampering effort that state officials had repeatedly warned about was allegedly gearing up in the same part of North Carolina. The operation burst into public view after Election Day in November, when the state elections board, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote, refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District race. That seat remains unfilled while state officials investigate.
Editorials: Pennsylvania needs paper ballots to secure our elections | Charlie Dent/Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania’s elections — like many other states’ — are vulnerable to cyber attack, leaving our democracy in a precarious state. As a former Pennsylvania legislator and member of Congress representing the Keystone State, I know how important free, fair, and secure elections are to governing. A lack of public trust in the vote imperils our great American experiment in popular sovereignty. Despite these serious threats to our election architecture, there are known solutions that we can, and must, implement. The report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security provides this blueprint to secure our elections.
Editorials: Texas Republicans are lying about fraud to justify a racist voter purge | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
On Jan. 25, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted a “VOTER FRAUD ALERT” that quickly rocketed around the internet. Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, Paxton asserted, had discovered that approximately “95,000 individuals identified” as non-citizens are registered to vote in the state, “58,000 of whom have voted” in Texas elections. Whitley promptly urged counties to begin purging these 95,000 people from their voter rolls, demanding proof of citizenship within 30 days or canceling their registrations. Donald Trump joined the action, tweeting on Jan. 27 that Whitley’s numbers “are just the tip of iceberg.” Voter fraud, Trump wrote, “is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID!”
Canada: Chief electoral officer worries parties are weak link in cybersecurity chain | Calgary Herald
Canada’s chief electoral officer is “pretty confident” that Elections Canada has good safeguards to prevent cyberattacks from robbing Canadians of their right to vote in this year’s federal election. But Stephane Perrault is worried that political parties aren’t so well equipped. “They don’t have access to the resources we have access to,” Perrault said in an interview Monday, noting that “securing (computer) systems is quite expensive… Even the larger parties have nowhere near our resources and you’ve got much smaller parties with very little resources.” Moreover, with thousands of volunteers involved in campaigns, he said it’s difficult to ensure no one falls prey to “fairly basic cyber tricks,” like phishing, that could inadvertently give hackers access to a party’s databases. “You can spend a lot of money on those (security) systems and if the human (fails), that’s the weak link.”
El Salvador: Nayib Bukele, an Outsider Candidate, Claims Victory in El Salvador Election | The New York Times
Salvadorans elected Nayib Bukele, the media-savvy former mayor of the capital, as their next president on Sunday, delivering a sharp rebuke to the two parties that emerged from the country’s brutal civil war in the 1980s and have held power ever since. The dramatic win for Mr. Bukele, 37, who was running as an outsider, underscores the deep discredit into which the country’s traditional parties have fallen. Voters appeared to be willing to gamble on a relative newcomer to confront the country’s poverty and violence, shutting out the right- and left-wing parties that have dominated Salvadoran politics for three decades. Mr. Bukele won almost 54 percent of the vote in preliminary results, the electoral board said, beating out Carlos Calleja, a supermarket executive who was the conservative Arena Party candidate. Hugo Martínez, a former foreign minister who ran for the governing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or F.M.L.N., saw many of his party’s voters defect to Mr. Bukele and came in a distant third.
Thailand: 15 election candidates change their names to those of former Prime Ministers | The Guardian
More than a dozen candidates in the forthcoming Thai elections have changed their names to those of former prime ministers. Less than two months before the long-awaited elections, excitement is running high. Almost 6,000 candidates turned up on the first day of registration on Monday, no one wants to miss a chance to win a seat. Party spokeswoman Ketpreeya Kaewsanmuang said 10 men had legally changed their names to Thaksin, after the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and five women had changed their name to Yingluck, after his sister who also led the nation.
Sajid Javid has said “the last thing we want is a general election”, emphasising that the government is still hoping to secure a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism for the Irish border backstop. The home secretary dismissed newspaper reports that Downing Street strategists were considering holding a snap general election on 6 June, if Theresa May cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament before the 29 March deadline. “The last thing we want is a general election, the people will never forgive us for it,” Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “They want politicians to get on with the job. They have been given a very clear mandate, now it’s our job to get on with it.”
Federal courts struck down Texas’s original voter-ID law, which would have required certain forms of government-issued identification in order to vote, deeming it intentional discrimination against minorities. But GOP officials who lead the state argued that the passage and implementation of the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, and last year Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accepted the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold a slightly revised version of the law that would allow other forms of identity verification for people who can’t get the proper government-issued documentation. Yet Republicans still don’t think the regulation has done the job. Last week, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s office sent an advisory to counties involving a list of people who’d been identified as potential noncitizens with a matching voter-registration record. Activists and media criticized the list as inaccurate and misleading. But that didn’t stop GOP officials from using the list as definitive proof of rampant voter fraud, despite having no evidence that anyone had voted illegally. Their fervor seemed to add to the suspicion that the party has an endgame well beyond “ballot security,” and to the fear that new forms of voter suppression are just on the horizon.
The Democratically controlled U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched an inquiry on Friday into the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course on several key voting rights lawsuits and its efforts to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. In a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker seen by Reuters, the chairman of the committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, demanded that the Justice Department turn over any internal records on a number of voting rights issues and said he was concerned by a lack of enforcement of voter rights laws in general. The letter seeks records related to the Justice Department’s decision to drop its opposition to a contentious Ohio policy allowing the state to purge infrequent voters from registration rolls and a Texas voter identification law.
National: Russians reportedly “altered” Mueller documents and leaked them online to discredit probe | Salon
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused Russian operatives of stealing materials obtained from his prosecutors, altering the documents, and posting them online in a disinformation effort to discredit the Russia investigation, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Mueller’s team made the filing in its case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a sanctioned Russian company indicted in the probe for allegedly funding a Russian troll farm that waged a disinformation campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to prosecutors, a Twitter account with the handle @HackingRedstone was created last October. The user bragged that he had hacked evidence in the Mueller probe. “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” the account tweeted, according to the court filing. “Enjoy the reading!”
A new court filing submitted on Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Russian troll farm currently locked in a legal battle over its alleged interference in the 2016 election appeared to wage yet another disinformation campaign late last year—this time targeting Mueller himself. According to the filing, the special counsel’s office turned over 1 million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated the documents and leaked them to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller’s evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn’t seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad.
A judge on Friday ordered a rare second do-over election for a northeast Georgia House seat, finding that four voters didn’t live in the district, throwing its outcome into doubt. The new election means that voters will return to the polls for a third time to decide between Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin. Erwin appeared to win the first redo of the election in December by just two votes, but Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat decided Friday that four voters had moved out of House District 28 more than 30 days before the election. Because the contest was so close, the judge found that the four improper votes justified a new election. “If you’re in an election, you should want to win it legally. We all should,” Gasaway said. “I don’t know that I’ll win, but if I win I want it to be a legal election, and if I lose I want it to be a legal election.”
Kansas: Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots | Associated Press
A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary. Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit. District Judge David Hauber ruled in Hammet’s favor on Thursday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Metzger didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.
In the months after the 2016 elections, state election administrators spent millions of dollars investigating and addressing the cyber intrusions that had penetrated voting systems in dozens of states. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes emerged as one of the loudest voices calling for improvements. In February 2017, at an elections conference dominated by talk of cybersecurity, Grimes claimed to have found the perfect answer to the threat: A small company called CyberScout, which she said would comb through Kentucky’s voting systems, identify its vulnerabilities to hacking and propose solutions. Three days later, Assistant Secretary of State Lindsay Hughes Thurston submitted paperwork to give the company a no-bid two-year contract with the State Board of Elections, or SBE, for $150,000 a year. She did not inform the SBE — the agency that oversees the state’s voting systems — that she was doing so.
A lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is heading toward trial next week after a three-judge panel rejected a settlement proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and plaintiffs. Benson does not have the authority to enter into the proposed consent decree without the blessing of the Michigan Legislature, the federal judges said Friday in a ruling rejecting the deal, which would have required reconfiguration of at least 11 state House seats for 2020 elections. A trial in the high-stakes case is set to start Tuesday, but the U.S. Supreme Court could still intervene. GOP attorneys are attempting to delay the case, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday asked parties wishing to weigh in to do so by Monday at 11 a.m., a sign the High Court is considering the request.
A proposal would set a shorter deadline for Mississippi voters to show photo identification if they forget it on Election Day. Since 2014, the state has required people to show government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, before voting. Anyone who forgets an ID may cast an affidavit ballot at the precinct but must go to a courthouse within five days to show the identification. If they don’t show up, their ballot is rejected. Senate Bill 2242 would shorten the five days to three days.
New Jersey: State continues its decade-long stall of securing its voting machines | Press of Atlantic City
New Jersey is one of just five states in which almost none of its voting machines have a way to verify that their results are valid. All the state’s counties but one use machines that record votes directly and only into an electronic memory module. Only small Warren County uses machines that simultaneously record votes on paper, the gold standard nationwide for ensuring that what the computer says is what voters intended. Last year, New Jersey received a $10 million federal grant to help update its voting systems. The administration of Gov. Phil Murphy instead spent the biggest part of the grant on efforts to increase the number of people registered to vote, including signing up anyone at a motor vehicle agency claiming to be a New Jersey citizen, no license or other documentation required. Some of the money funded a tiny pilot program with paper-backup voting machines in small election districts, one each in three counties in the state.
wo Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making a disputed claim in a long-running, and possibly futile, effort by elections officials to determine how many non-U.S. citizens had registered to vote over the years. On Tuesday, the lawmakers, Republican state Reps. Daryl Metcalfe and Garth Everett, issued a statement saying there had been confirmation that 11,198 foreign nationals had illegally registered to vote in Pennsylvania. But that is not what state election officials said. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, first reported in July that it had identified 11,198 registered voters with some indicator they may not have been a citizen. The department did not give a specific period of time for when those people registered, but said it searched every record in its database. All the names turned up in a search of the state driver license database; Pennsylvania allows residents to register to vote while getting their license, and election officials reported a flaw in that system in 2016. That’s not where it ends.
Texas: “Someone did not do their due diligence.” How an attempt to review Texas’ voter rolls turned into a debacle | The Texas Tribune
State Rep. Rafael Anchia had been alarmed by the actions of the Texas secretary of state’s office for days by the time the agency’s chief, David Whitley, walked into the Dallas Democrat’s Capitol office on Monday. The Friday before, Whitley’s staff had issued a bombshell press release calling into question the citizenship of 95,000 registered voters in Texas. Soon after, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups were raising serious questions about how many people on that list were actually non-citizens who are ineligible to vote. But before those doubts emerged, Whitley, the top election officer in the state, had handed over information about those registered voters to the Texas attorney general, which has the jurisdiction to prosecute them for felony crimes. So as Anchia sat at the end of his green, glass-topped conference table, he wanted to know: Did Whitley know for sure that any of the names on his list had committed crimes by voting as noncitizens? “No,” Whitley answered, according to Anchia.
Texas: Civil rights group sues Texas over order to investigate potential noncitizen voters with flawed data | Dallas Morning News
A civil rights group has sued Texas for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data, claiming it violates the voting rights of U.S. citizens and legally registered Texas voters who are foreign-born. The lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleges the state has “singled out for investigation and removal” the names of U.S. citizens who are registered voters because they were born outside the United States. It asks for an injunction to prevent recently naturalized citizens from being investigated and a rescission of the state’s advisory to comb through a list of 58,000 people whom state officials said had potentially voted while not citizens.
Two voting machine manufacturers are appealing a Wisconsin judge’s ruling allowing former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s experts to comment on their review of the state’s election software. Stein’s request for a recount of Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential election results grants her the right to review voting machines. The review hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it could reveal whether the devices were hacked.
Ireland: Government fortifying IT systems for ‘fear of Russian interference’ in European elections | The Journal
The Irish government is in the process of upgrading its IT security across various departments ahead of the local and European elections for fear that they could be subject to outside interference. TheJournal.ie understands that sophisticated cyber security features were added to the internal infrastructure of many Government department’s systems in recent weeks. Late last year, the Government issued a report which identified the cyber related risks to the electoral process and made a number of recommendations to mitigate them. While the Government has not explicitly said that the upgrade is to protect elections, there is a serious fear that Russia may attempt to influence European elections, meaning Ireland could be compromised despite the small number of MEPs we have.
Amy Spiro is one of many Israeli journalists who recently received a direct message on her Twitter account linking to a sensational news story. The sender, using the Jewish-sounding name “Bina Melamed”, directed her to a fake story falsely alleging former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman was a Russian spy. “I just ignored it until I saw a lot of other people were talking about it,” said Spiro, who works for the Jerusalem Post. She avoided falling victim to the ruse, but four Israeli journalists — hoodwinked by the article appearing on a rogue but convincing duplicate of Harvard University’s website — spread the story, before it was exposed.
Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. However, DPP officials have denied being behind the attacks, blaming misguided youth who aim to tarnish the party’s image. In response, Malawi’s electoral commission has threatened to disqualify any candidate using violence. One opposition party member, Henderson Waya, a member of the United Transformation Movement, was attacked by a group of youths two weeks ago when he and others were driving to a party rally.
Several federal offices in Switzerland are investigating whether online manipulation could affect upcoming elections, says a newspaper report. The Federal Office of Communicationsexternal link (OFCOM) has set up a government working group to look into the effects of artificial intelligence on the media and public opinion, writes the NZZ am Sonntag paper. This group was set up last September and is headed by the education and research ministry, spokesman Francis Meier told the paper. Last October Swiss intelligence chief Jean-Philippe Gaudin also warned that foreign actors could try to influence the next federal elections through online artificial intelligence, saying he would propose appropriate measures to the government.
Jeremy Corbyn has called for a snap general election during a meeting of anti-poverty charities in Glasgow. He said people who have experienced “the brunt of nine years of austerity” must be allowed a new vote. The Labour leader met with voluntary organisations and charities working to tackle poverty in south-west Glasgow on Saturday, where he criticised “Tory cuts” while pointing to double-digit yearly increases in food bank use and falling life expectancy in Scotland’s most populated city. “People are suffering under austerity as a direct result of Tory cuts in Westminster passed down by the SNP in Holyrood,” he said. “The people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election. They need a general election now.”
National: Republicans Rewrote Voting Laws for 8 Years. Now Democrats Say It’s Their Turn. | The New York Times
In the years after Republicans swept state and congressional elections in 2010, legislatures in 25 states — all but a handful of them dominated by the party — enacted laws that made it harder to register and vote, from imposing ID requirements and curbing voter registration drives to rolling back early voting periods. In November, Democrats reclaimed some of the ground they lost eight years ago. And now the rules for casting a ballot are moving fast in the opposite direction. The signal example is in New York, where Democrats this month enacted a series of measures expanding access to the ballot box, just two months after taking full control of both the State House and Senate. But that state is far from the only one: Legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are set to consider even more expansive packages. Delaware, New Hampshire, Minnesota and New Mexico are also set to take up voting rights measures. All those proposals, in legislatures under Democratic control or on the cusp of it, have plausible prospects of becoming law. But Democrats are pushing legislation to expand access to the ballot even in some states like South Carolina and Texas where Republicans control makes approval unlikely.