New Hampshire: Amid Election Scrutiny, Dixville Notch’s Midnight Voting Tradition Could Be At Risk | NHPR

Once every four years, for a brief moment, it seems the whole world turns its eyes to Dixville Notch. Since 1960, voters in this tiny Coos County community have been casting their ballots just after the stroke of midnight to mark the official start of the New Hampshire presidential primary. Of course, Dixville Notch isn’t the only place in New Hampshire that opens its polls at midnight. But it’s kept its tradition running the longest, so it gets most of the press coverage. But Dixville Notch has lately found itself under a different kind of spotlight: from the New Hampshire attorney general’s office.

Ohio: Federal judges reject state of Ohio’s request to delay gerrymandering trial | Cleveland Plain Dealer

A three-judge federal panel on Friday rejected a request from the state of Ohio to delay a gerrymandering lawsuit that aims to put a new Ohio congressional district map in place in time for the 2020 election. The state wanted to delay the trial, scheduled to start March 4, until after rulings are released this summer in two gerrymandering cases before the U.S. Supreme Court – one brought by Republicans in Maryland and one brought by Democrats in North Carolina. But the judges in their Friday ruling cited time considerations. The state has said any changes to a map must be in place by Sept. 20, 2019, to get ready for the 2020 election.

Rhode Island: Brown University study on Rhode Island voter ID law raises questions | Providence Journal

Opponents of Rhode Island’s eight-year-old voter ID law cheered this week when research showing the law stifled voting by low-income residents appeared to confirm their long-held fears. The study from Brown University academics published by the National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] found that the photo ID law passed in 2011 and used for the first time in 2014 resulted in a “significant decline in turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration (for more vulnerable groups of voters) in presidential elections after the law was implemented.” After making the rounds among national election law watchers Monday, the study was cited in a General Assembly press release Wednesday promoting Sen. Gayle Goldin’s package of voting reform bills, including one to repeal the voter ID law.

South Carolina: State needs new voting machines before 2020, election officials say | Post and Courier

The debate over what type of new voting machines South Carolina should purchase may be vexing lawmakers in the Statehouse, but many county election officials have reached one consensus: the state needs new polling equipment and soon. The 15-year-old computers that roughly 3.1 million registered voters currently use are costing tens of thousands of dollars to maintain, a burden that falls onto the state’s 46 counties. And at least a few local election directors worry the aging equipment could result in longer lines at polling places if the Legislature doesn’t find the money for a new statewide system this year. Parts for the current computerized voting system somtimes have to be recycled from other machines, they pointed out. And even if a few machines go down, it could take longer for South Carolinians to cast their votes at precincts, especially in a presidential election year like 2020.   

South Carolina: Judge dismisses lawsuit claiming South Carolina’s voting machines endanger voter rights | The Hill

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit claiming that South Carolina’s antiquated voting machines infringed upon residents’ right to vote. U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs said the machines could impose “some conceivable risk” to the state’s ability to accurately count votes, but the suit did not prove there was a “substantial” threat to the right to vote, The State reported. “A plaintiff…must do more than merely assert that there is some conceivable risk that she will be harmed on account of defendant’s actions,” wrote Childs, who is an appointee of former President Obama.

Europe: Europe hopes to fend off election hackers with ‘cyber sanctions’ | Politico

A regime for “cyber sanctions” is taking shape — and it could already hit mischievous election hackers in May. The European Union is closing in on a procedure that would allow it to sanction foreign hacker groups when they target the upcoming EU election. A plan drafted by the EU’s diplomatic service has been presented to national cyber experts and will be forwarded to foreign affairs attachés later this month, three officials briefed on the plan told POLITICO, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the ongoing talks. The measures would not only allow EU countries to slap sanctions on hacker groups that succeed in intruding into IT systems, but also those attempting to get in, like the suspected Russian intelligence officers who allegedly plotted but failed to hack into the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last year, the officials said.

Comoros: Leader’s main rivals barred from March vote | AFP

Thirteen candidates have been cleared for the March presidential vote in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros, the Supreme Court announced Saturday, barring the main challengers of President Azali Assoumani. Nineteen candidates had registered for the March 24 election and of those given the go ahead, only Azali is backed by a party. The others are contesting as independents. Azali, who was voted into office in 2016, is tipped to win the election. His chief rivals were former vice-president Mohamed Ali Soilih and Ibrahim Mohamed Soule, whose bids for the top job were quashed by the Supreme Court, which is composed exclusively of Azali’s allies.

Estonia: A Russian Neighbor Has Cybersecurity Lessons for the Rest of Us | Bloomberg

Estonia is the first member state in the European Union that might be called Extremely Online. Over the past decade, the Baltic republic of 1.3 million people fully digitized its government services and medical data. More than 30 percent of Estonians voted online in the last elections, and most critical databases don’t have paper backups. To sleep a little better at night, the country has recruited volunteer hackers to respond to the kinds of electronic attacks that have flummoxed the U.S. and other countries in recent years. While many are civilians, these men and women, numbering in the low hundreds, have security clearances and the training to handle such attacks. Their sturdy, bearded commander, Andrus Padar, previously a military reservist and policeman, says the threat is taken as a given: “We have a neighbor that guarantees we will not have a boring life.”

Indonesia: Cyber Challenge in Focus with Looming 2019 Elections | The Diplomat

Late last week, Indonesia’s military chief issued a call to the country’s security forces to upgrade their digital skills to confront a range of challenges. His comments were just the latest in a long string of similar statements issued by Indonesian officials highlighting the country’s cyber challenges as it prepares to head into presidential elections in April. As I have noted before in these pages, along with other Asian states, Indonesia has been taking steps to confront some of the cyber challenges it has long faced. Indonesia is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to cyber attacks, and the challenge has grown at an alarming rate over the past few years including under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, with the full spectrum of challenges including not just national security or e-commerce, but also in the distribution of so-called fake news and even issues related to e-voting.

Philippines: Ballots to have additional security features | The Philippine Star

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is adopting additional security features in the ballots to be used in the coming May 2019 midterm elections to ensure their integrity and credibility. “The ballots will have the normal security features like marks, barcodes and a few others,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez disclosed in an interview over the weekend. One of the additional features is machine-readable ultraviolet (UV) markings on the ballots, he said. “UV marks can be read by machine and if not readable it will then be rejected,” Jimenez said. He declined to discuss the other features for security reasons.

Switzerland: Government invites hackers to penetration-test its e-voting system | ZDNet

The Swiss government will make its future e-voting system available for a public intrusion test and is now inviting companies and security researchers to have a go at it. “Interested hackers from all over the world are welcome to attack the system,” the government said in a press release. “In doing so, they will contribute to improving the system’s security.” … A mock e-voting session is planned on the last day of the testing period, on March 24, but participants can attack the e-voting system before that, as well. To participate, companies and security researchers will have to sign up in advance of the PIT session’s official start. Signing up will give participants the legal permission to attack the system, will ensure the cash rewards will reach those who first report an issue, and it enforces a set of rules and restrictions on participants.

Thailand: Princess disqualified from prime minister bid | CNN

Officials have disqualified a Thai princess from running for prime minister in next month’s general election after her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, said her nomination would be “inappropriate.” Thailand’s Electoral Commission announced on Monday that the “monarchy must remain above politics.” In a shock announcement on Friday, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, 67, said she would stand as the prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party (Thai Save The Nation, or TSN) aligned with populist former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup.

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…

Media Release: Verified Voting Calls on Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to Appropriate Funding to Replace Vulnerable Electronic Voting Machines

Marian K. Schneider: “Verified Voting calls on the Pennsylvania legislature to appropriate additional funding to subsidize the cost of replacement.” The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, formerly Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration in the Pennsylvania Department of State, following Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address to the joint legislative session on Tuesday morning.  “The…

Media Release: To Enhance Election Security, Rhode Island Tests A New Way to Verify Election Results

Rhode Island is making good on its promise to road-test risk-limiting election audits, following 2017 passage of legislation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, requiring them. Beginning with the presidential primary in April 2020, Rhode Island will become the second state to require these audits to verify election results. A “risk limiting” audit checks if…

Editorials: Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 election reform bill could save American democracy. | Richard Hasen/Slate

The Democrats’ first order of business as they took control of the 116th Congress was introducing H.R. 1, the colossal “For the People Act.” This 571-page behemoth of a bill covering voting rights, campaign finance reform, ethics improvements, and more was a perfect reminder of just how much power the Constitution gives Congress to make elections better in this country and, sadly, of how partisan the question of election reform has become. By beginning with election reform as “H.R. 1,” Democrats signaled their priorities as they took over control of the House of Representatives. The bill now has 221 co-sponsors, all Democrats, including almost every Democrat in the House. It’s disheartening that bipartisan movement on election reform is no longer possible and that few of the significant improvements in the bill stand a chance of becoming law until Democrats have control of the Senate and the presidency. Even then some of its provisions could be blocked by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But if and when Democrats ever do return to full power in Washington, H.R. 1 should remain the top priority. Though there is room for some improvements, the “For the People Act” would go an enormous way toward repairing our badly broken democracy.

Kansas: Kobach grand jury process to begin next week in Douglas County | Lawrence Journal-World

Grand jury proceedings to investigate former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office will begin next week in Douglas County District Court, according to the judge presiding over them. Judge Kay Huff said that the proceedings would begin in her courtroom on Jan. 22, a Tuesday, following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Huff mentioned the grand jury during a hearing for a murder trial she had been scheduled to preside over this week, noting that the grand jury matter was a priority that could not be moved despite other proceedings in her courtroom.

Ohio: 275,000 residents get ‘last chance’ to stay registered | Dayton Daily News

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office is sending “last chance” notifications to some 275,000 inactive voters across the state, giving them a final shot at keeping voting registrations active on county rolls.
In Montgomery County, some 17,918 residents should receive the notices, according to the secretary’s office. They will also go to 6,912 Butler County residents and 5,273 residents in Warren County. The secretary’s office says voters get six years to respond to county boards of elections to confirm registrations. If residents don’t respond or don’t vote in at least 12 elections, don’t request absentee ballot applications in even-numbered year general elections or don’t have their information automatically updated in transactions with Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices — if voters “ignore” those attempts to keep them on the rolls, they are sent a “last chance” notice, said a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, Matthew McClellan.

Nigeria: Opposition Slams Trial of Nigerian Chief Justice Before Vote | Bloomberg

The trial of Nigeria’s top judge got underway in a case that’s prompted lawyers and opposition parties to accuse the government of trying to oust him and spark a constitutional crisis before next month’s presidential election. Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen didn’t attend the opening Monday in Abuja, the capital, where the Code of Conduct Tribunal is charging him for not properly declaring his assets. The trial was adjourned until Jan. 22, and the Federal High Court in Abuja later said it will hold a hearing on Jan. 17 into whether it can continue, Lagos-based Punch newspaper reported.

National: Incoming NASS leader rejects Democrats’ election security bill | Politico

The next president of the NASS has strong words for House Democrats considering a range of election security measures: Butt out. H.R. 1, a Democratic grab-bag bill with election security provisions, “seems to be a huge federal overreach,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told POLITICO. “No matter how well-intentioned, the provisions of the bill give the authority of overseeing and conducting elections and voter registration to the federal government.” (In fact, the bill would not do this.) Pate’s remarks, first reported by National Journal, mirror comments by former Georgia Secretary of State Paul Kemp in August 2016. Pate cited NASS’s long-standing opposition to federal mandates for election procedures — in October, the group warned against tying federal funds to regulations — and said state election offices like his are “better prepared than the federal government to determine what is right for their residents.” Despite Pate’s suggestion that “our country’s legal and historical distinctions in federal and state sovereignty” invest states with the exclusive authority to regulate elections, Article I Section 4 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “at any time by Law make or alter” election processes.

National: Trump has hidden details of his encounters with Putin from White House officials | The Independent

President Donald Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former US officials said. Mr Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. US officials learned of Mr Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Mr Tillerson. The constraints that Mr Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Mr Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

Editorials: Congress ignored its election duties for years. That ends now. | Matthew Weil/Roll Call

House Democrats have waited eight years to regain the speakership, and now that they hold the gavel, they will clearly seek to move on pent-up priorities. For their first act out of the gate, they rolled several into one. The “For the People Act” — or H.R. 1 — runs just over 500 pages and includes proposals the Democrats have pursued during their time in the minority, such as ethics reforms, campaign finance changes, and a well-publicized section requiring presidential candidates to hand over their tax returns. But the bill also lays out a vision for election administration in 2020 and beyond, putting the voter at the center of the process instead of focusing on what is easier for government. Congress taking the lead could cause some heartburn at the state level.

Maine: Republicans may seek to overturn ranked-choice voting | Lewiston Sun Journal

After ranked-choice voting helped Democrats defeat two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in November, it’s perhaps no surprise that GOP leaders are eyeing the possibility of wiping away the new voting method. “We must go after this bad precedent,” former Gov. Paul LePage wrote recently to members of the Republican state committee. The two GOP leaders in the state Senate and the state House urged Republican officials to pick former state Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon as the next party chair in part because he can raise the money necessary to “directly assist with campaigns, such as the repeal of ranked choice voting.”

South Carolina: How often do South Carolina’s voting machines mess up? New election report details count problems | The State

In the last election, some votes in South Carolina got counted twice. Others were credited to the wrong candidate. Also, one observer thinks, the state’s 14-year-old voting machines are starting to show their age, producing other errors. Those are some of the conclusions in a report released last week by the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. On Jan. 22, the league will host a public forum at the Richland County Public Library on ways to improve the state’s election system. The group is backing efforts in the S.C. Legislature to require a paper ballot system. “Over the years, they’ve made upgrades, and it’s still flawed,” Lynn Teague, vice president of the league, said of the state’s existing voting system. “They’re still counting votes wrong … and all this without someone deliberately trying to mess with the system.”

South Dakota: Bill aims to fix June election problems | Rapid City Journal

Newly proposed state legislation would implement a safeguard against the voter check-in problems that afflicted Pennington and other counties during last June’s primary election. The legislation is House Bill 1027, which was filed Jan. 6 by the House Committee on Local Government at the request of the state Board of Elections. If passed into law, the bill would require county auditors to provide paper voter-registration lists and bound paper poll books as backups at polling places where electronic poll books are used. The legislation aims to avoid a repeat of the problems that the Secretary of State’s Office said were encountered during the June 5 primary election in Pennington and seven other counties: Brookings, Brown, Hughes, Hyde, Potter, Sully and Yankton.

Bangladesh: Opposition and Democracy Activists Criticize Election Coverage in Bangladesh | VoA News

In the wake of Bangladesh’s recent general election, opposition coalition and pro-democracy activists expressed disappointment with alleged episodes of vote manipulation going largely unreported in the local media. But several journalists argue that fear of government reprisals led many media outlets to avoid publishing stories about the alleged wrongdoing. “The level of vote robbery in the December 30 general election was unprecedented in world history. Ahead of conducting the massively rigged election, the government introduced some black laws, like the Digital Security Act, to shackle the media,” BNP senior joint secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed told VOA.

Thailand: Protesters in Thailand Rally Anew Against Risk of Election Delay | Bloomberg

Demonstrators took to the streets in Bangkok for the third time in a week to criticize the looming postponement of the general election due next month in military-run Thailand. About 200 people on Sunday held placards and chanted slogans calling for an end to delays in the schedule for voting. A group called “We Vote” said it organized the protest in the capital as well as in other cities across the country. “The objective for today is to secure a date for the election after five postponements,” Nuttaa Mahattana, one of the leaders of the group, said on her Facebook page.

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Recommends Hand-Marked Paper Ballots for Georgia to SAFE Commission

Verified Voting sent a letter to the Secure, Accessible, Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission on Friday, January 4 with their recommendations for a new voting system in Georgia. Read the letter below or download it here Verified Voting submits the following statement endorsing hand-marked paper ballots that are scanned as the primary voting method for voters.…

Media Release: Verified Voting Welcomes Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to its Board of Advisors

Wayne Williams: “I’m excited to share my expertise so that we can continue to strengthen our nation’s election systems and voters’ confidence in those systems.” Verified Voting, a leading national organization focused solely on making our voting technology secure, welcomes Wayne Williams to its Advisory Board. Williams, while serving as Colorado Secretary of State from…