Election winners are always happy to take the win, but the losers — and often the voters — require evidence, and that evidence needs strong backing. Modern voting systems must engender confidence that the final tally represents the true preferences of voters, without manipulation or tampering. After apparent Russian interference in the 2016 national elections, politicians nationwide are investigating our security posture. It seems that no Russian probes into Texas election systems went anywhere, but we might not be so lucky next time. Texas’s current voting systems were not designed to defend against the cyberattack skills that the Russians and other sophisticated adversaries can bring to bear. It’s time for our state to plan an orderly retirement of its old and insecure voting equipment and adopt better practices. Texas has a unique chance to be a national leader here, and there are three Texans poised to lead the charge. Director of Elections Keith Ingram heads the Secretary of State’s investigation into election security. Under the Texas Cybersecurity Act, he must issue a report — due December 1, 2018 — that contains legislative recommendations aimed at bolstering our election systems.
Editorials: The government is finally investing in election security | Wilfred Codrington III & Lawrence Norden/Slate
The 2,232-page budget bill President Trump signed Friday included a provision that election security and technology experts have been pushing for years: money to update the nation’s outdated voting infrastructure. It came on the heels of similar calls from the current and former chiefs of homeland security and a bipartisan group of lawmakers. According to a recent analysis, the $380 million from lawmakers is not enough to fully replace the most vulnerable parts of our electoral machinery (we probably need at least another $380 million directed to jurisdictions with the most vulnerable equipment to do that), but it will allow states to make real progress toward long-overdue upgrades and cybersecurity improvements.
Many Democratic voters and activists are giddy about their party’s chances of retaking the House in 2018. Savoring surprise victories in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Virginia, they have visions of a blue wave election. If political history were the only guide, they would be right. Polls in recent days have shown Democrats with around a 9-point average lead on the generic congressional ballot, which asks Americans which party they’ll vote for in the coming election. Under ordinary conditions, a lead that size would be more than enough to net the 24 seats Democrats need to regain a majority. But a big reality check is in order. Even the strongest blue wave may crash up against a powerful structural force in American politics: extreme gerrymandering. Pending court cases, including one scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday (in which our organization filed an amicus brief), may change the terrain going forward. But no matter how the high court rules, its decision will almost certainly come too late to affect the 2018 vote.
Editorials: The Senate has released election-security recommendations. Now it’s time to act. | The Washington Post
The House Intelligence Committee voted on party linesThursday to release a one-sided report on the panel’s hastily closed Russia investigation, deepening the partisan morass and enabling President Trump to undermine law enforcement and the intelligence community. The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has taken Russia’s continuing attacks on the nation’s democracy more seriously than its House counterpart. The Senate probe continues in a bipartisan — and, as of now, constructive — manner. The panel on Tuesday released preliminary recommendations on election security, the first of several documents the committee will release on Russia’s meddling in the country’s elections. It will take some time to get the committee’s full analysis, which must undergo declassification review. But with primary elections already starting, acting on the recommendations is urgent.
Editorials: Uncertainty, intensity in Pennsylvania’s gerrymander case isn’t likely ending soon | John Baer/Phildelphia Inquirer
Many are asking what’s taking the U.S. Supreme Court so long to act on Pennsylvania’s gerrymander case. But another key question is, what happens once the Supreme Court acts? Tuesday is the deadline to file petitions to run for Congress.So, expectations are that court action is imminent. But even after the Supreme Court acts in what is a tale of high-stakes politics and political revenge, ramifications are expected for some time. “All we know is this isn’t over. What we don’t know is how long it lasts.” So says Michael Gerhardt, constitutional scholar at the National Constitution Center. He adds, “Everybody’s waiting for movement. And nobody’s moving.” You know the basics, right?
Editorials: Why Putin’s sham election shows what he’s afraid of | Vladimir Kara-Murza/The Washington Post
Autocrats have a talent for producing impressive election results. In the last elections they ever ran in, Indonesian dictator Suharto achieved 75 percent of the vote; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had 89 percent; Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu mastered an impressive 98 percent. My friend Boris Vishnevsky, a leading opposition legislator in St. Petersburg, likes to point out that Ceausescu still had a 99 percent approval rating in December 1989, just one week before his trial. As all these victors found out in the end, the results of manipulated “elections” in authoritarian systems are a poor indicator of the actual state of public opinion.
Editorials: We can stop Russian election hackers in 2018 | Duncan Buell, Richard DeMillo and Candice Hoke/USA Today
The first ballots of the 2018 mid-term elections will soon be cast, but many Americans will exercise this constitutional right without much confidence that their votes will be fairly and securely counted. Partisanship in Congress and bureaucratic delays have left voting even more vulnerable to the attacks that top intelligence officials say will accelerate in 2018. Meanwhile, irrefutable evidence has revealed that Russia engaged in a multifaceted attack on the 2016 election through information warfare, and that hackers also scanned or penetrated state election infrastructure in ways that could lead to manipulation of voter registration data — and possibly change vote totals in 2018. We propose two stopgap measures that can be immediately implemented without waiting for funding or new legislation. Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.
Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.
Editorials: Tennessee needs to update its election system and both parties agree | Shanna Singh Hughey/The Tennesseean
Should Tennessee be doing more to safeguard our elections? According to a ThinkTennessee poll, 68 percent of Tennessee voters think so. And with good reason. The Department of Homeland Security this fall informed 21 states that their 2016 elections were targeted by Russian hackers. Thankfully, Tennessee was not one of those states. But as the CIA director recently said, he has “every expectation” that Russia will continue to try to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections.
FBI Director Christopher Wray is right: The cyber threat has evolved into a full blown information security crisis with the ongoing midterm elections becoming the primary concern. Meanwhile, the Senate’s email system is being probed by an adversary and the FBI is looking into the hacking of former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Senate campaign communications. Despite all this, Wray has renewed the call for weakening of encryption, the one measure proven to safeguard our critical information. While unobstructed access to everyone’s information through a ‘magical digital backdoor’ would make investigations easier, it would also make law enforcement’s task of protecting our economy, national security, and personal information practically impossible.
Doug Ford went into the final days of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race saying the party’s voting system was “corrupted” in favour of “hand-picked elites.” Then he won the leadership, and it has been his chief opponent, Christine Elliott, who has had to reconcile with a bizarre online selection system that made Mr. Ford the winner – even though she won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote and more ridings than he did. No doubt Mr. Ford is happy with the outcome. But the truth is that the one-member, one-vote online voting system for electing party leaders, which is used by Canadian political parties at all levels, is proving to have many drawbacks.
Editorials: As Colombia votes, the former guerrillas are rendered irrelevant | Rodrigo Palau Zea/The Washington Post
When Colombians went to vote in congressional elections on Sunday, international media had little doubt what the story was: the participation of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — the guerrilla movement that had conducted a 52-year war against the country’s central government until concluding a peace treaty in November 2016. “Former FARC rebels face first ballot,” blared the BBC. “Critics of peace deal dominate Colombia election,” declared the Associated Press. The Voice of America went with “Former Colombian guerrillas run for office.” You could be forgiven for thinking the campaign was all about FARC, but, as it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. To an amazing extent, Colombia’s congressional vote was FARC-free territory.
Editorials: Count all the people, just as the Constitution says | David Gans/San Antonio Express-News
Under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department has repeatedly turned its back on our Constitution’s promise of an inclusive democracy, seeking to make it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote. Now, the department has another trick up its sleeve. If successful, its ploy would undermine the fabric of our representative democracy for the next 10 years, and possibly beyond. The Justice Department has requested that a mandatory citizenship question be added to the 2020 census. This would chill participation by immigrants across the country and result in bad data, biasing congressional apportionment, redistricting and funding decisions for an entire decade. The Constitution imposes a clear duty on the Census Bureau: It requires a count of all people living in the United States, whether they are citizens or noncitizens, whether they were born in the United States or in a distant part of the world.
Even as the Supreme Court takes more time than expected to decide its part in the constitutional controversy over how voting is to be done this year for the 18 House of Representatives members from Pennsylvania, a federal trial court in Harrisburg, PA, is pondering a complex question of states’ rights that could end the case there without a decision on who wins. The difficulty for the three judges sitting in the state’s capital city arises from the reality that, whenever a lawsuit is started in a federal court, that court has to have the authority to decide it, and there is significant controversy over whether the Harrisburg court has that authority. The controversy is keyed to the most basic understandings about the nature of the Constitution’s division of powers between state and federal courts. For decades, the general understanding has been that only the Supreme Court has the authority to review a state court ruling, and then only when the state court has issued a ruling that involves the federal Constitution. That is a strong gesture toward federalism – respect for states’ rights in limiting national government power.
This is a fragile moment for the nation. The integrity of democratic institutions is under assault from without and within, and basic standards of honesty and decency in public life are corroding. If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states, you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed — all worthwhile activities. But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote. It’s a perennial conundrum for the world’s oldest democracy: Why do so many Americans fail to go to the polls? Some abstainers think that they’re registering a protest against the awful choices. They’re fooling themselves. Nonvoters aren’t protesting anything; they’re just putting their lives and futures in the hands of the people who probably don’t want them to vote. We’ve seen recently what can happen when people choose instead to take their protest to the ballot box. We saw it in Virginia in November. We saw it, to our astonishment, in Alabama in December. We may see it this week in western Pennsylvania. Voting matters.
With crucial midterm elections coming up later this year, Republicans continue to use a landmark Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to clamp down on voting rights and access. John M. Gore, appointed by President Donald Trump as acting head of the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, has a history of defending Republican redistricting plans in Virginia, South Carolina, New York and Florida. One of Gore’s first moves in his new role was to drop part of a lawsuit challenging the Texas voter ID requirements that help keep minorities from voting. Such restrictions have become more common since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Thirty-four states now have voter ID laws.
For a public employee with a full-time job, Kris Kobach has an enviable amount of free time. Elected Kansas secretary of state in 2010, he traveled the country advising right-wing politicians on the best ways to chase undocumented immigrants from their states. After the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, Kobach kept his day job in Kansas while leading Trump’s voter-fraud commission, a political Hindenburg that self-combusted in January after having conspicuously compiled no evidence whatsoever to justify its existence. This week, Kobach, who is frequently away from his office running for governor, is in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, where he has opted to represent his office in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the League of Women Voters and individuals.
Russian hackers poked and prodded voting systems throughout the country during the election of 2016, failing to change votes or alter registration rolls but succeeding in pointing out where the United States is vulnerable. In just a few months, they’ll almost certainly be back again, and if not the Russians, then any one of a…
Editorials: Trump finally says he’ll protect elections. We’ll believe it when we see it. | The Washington Post
For a man who has regularly cast doubt on the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump made comments at a Tuesday news conference that were surprisingly on point. “We won’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trump said about the prospect of further foreign interference, promising to “counteract whatever they do.” He said the government was conducting “a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.” This is closer to what the commander in chief should be saying in the wake of a hostile foreign influence campaign. Yet it falls short of wholehearted acceptance of the intelligence community’s continuing alarm about Russian capabilities and intentions. And the president’s words are meaningless unless backed by actions, which, by many accounts, are still lacking.
Voter registration data in most states are public by law. What happens when voter registration data are compiled and parsed with data from internet browsing, shopping and social media? It’s a well-known fact that our foreign adversaries have attempted to influence and breach our election systems. We believe that they are trying to do so again and we need to stay two steps ahead of them in order to solve problems that may arise in securing voter data and the integrity of our election system. While we can all agree that elections systems are vulnerable, there is much more to the story. Ideas such as the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, proposed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), would allow election officials access to classified information and would designate election systems as critical infrastructure. Designating these systems as critical infrastructure will trigger additional cybersecurity controls and require oversight at many levels, state and federal.
Editorials: Why the Dutch plan to scrap advisory referendums is a step back for democracy | Matt Qvortrup/The Conversation
Dutch voters will go to the polls on March 21 for a referendum on the Security Act 2017, a law which grants the authorities extended surveillance rights. As in many other states, such legislation has raised concern in the Netherlands that the government is snooping on emails and other personal communication. Unlike most countries, however, Dutch voters can currently do something about it thanks to a 2015 law that means the government must hold an advisory referendum if 300,000 voters call for one. But the Dutch government now plans to overturn this right in the future. On February 22, a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, voted to scrap the referendum law. It’s unlikely that the vote will be undone by the Senate when it comes to vote on the issue.
Last week, the Pentagon’s cyberdefense commander was asked whether the government has done enough to protect the 2018 congressional election against Russian hacking. “We’re not where we need to be,” Adm. Mike Rogers told a Senate committee. Rogers echoed warnings from other intelligence officials that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to keep meddling in U.S. and foreign elections until someone makes him stop. “President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay here,” Rogers said. “If we don’t change the dynamic, this is going to continue.” Time is short: This year’s primary elections begin March 6, in Texas.
Editorials: Kansans’ voting rights at risk as Kris Kobach gets his day in court | The Kansas City Star
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s relentless campaign to make it harder to register to vote goes on trial Tuesday in federal court. The nation will be watching the case play out in Kansas City, Kan. If Kobach prevails, many states across the country are likely to erect new barriers to registration, making it harder for the voters’ will to be known in races from the city council to the White House. If Kobach loses — which seems more likely than not — the right to register and vote without major obstruction will have at least some protection, as it should have. At issue is a state law requiring Kansans to provide “documentary proof of citizenship,” such as a birth certificate or adoption decree, when registering to vote at the driver’s license office. Kobach and other allies said producing birth certificates and passports for registration would be easy for eligible citizens but would be hard for non-citizens, keeping them from the ballot box.
Editorials: Replace Pennsylvania voting machines right now | Marian Schneider and Wilfred Codrington/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres last month directed that, going forward, all voting machines purchased in the state must employ “a voter-verifiable paper ballot or paper record of votes cast.” This was great news. It will help ensure the accuracy of vote-counting in Pennsylvania and give voters more confidence in election results. It was long overdue. The two key words in the directive are “verifiable” and “paper,” neither of which apply to how the vast majority of Pennsylvanians have been voting since 2006. Currently, 83 percent of Pennsylvania voters use direct-recording electronic systems, or DREs — voting machines that produce no paper ballot for voters to verify before leaving their polling places and that therefore leave no paper trail to follow if election results are contested. DREs are computer systems. Have you ever had your computer crash? Have you ever heard of computer systems being hacked?
Editorials: Putin and Sissi are putting on elections. Why bother? | Jackson Diehl/The Washington Post
With Western democracy on the defensive, China’s Xi Jinping is aggressively advancing a new model for human governance in the 21st century: personal dictatorship backed by nationalism, state-directed capitalism and a security apparatus empowered by cutting-edge technologies. There’s no pretense of evolution toward democracy or even the rule of law. On the contrary, Xi explicitly casts his regime as an alternative that “offers a new option for other countries.” Among the world leaders seemingly most likely to embrace this neo-totalitarianism are Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, both of whom have consolidated personal power on a platform of nationalism. So it’s interesting that both Putin and Sissi are putting on presidential elections this month. Sure, these are not real elections. They are Potemkin pageants that will award the two strongmen overwhelming victories, thanks in part to the exclusion of all serious opponents. The only suspense about the March 18 vote in Russia, or the ballot in Egypt concluding 10 days later, will be about the abstention rate, because opposition leaders in both countries are calling for boycotts.
The Midterm Elections are about more than just which party will control Congress and state governments around the country. In many states, voters will also get to participate in direct democracy by voting on ballot measures to change state policies. Florida voters will be asked to decide on one major policy change in 2018 through a ballot measure that would automatically restore the voting rights of most of the formerly incarcerated. In 48 states across the country, individuals convicted of a felony lose their right to vote when they are incarcerated. In the vast majority of these states, those citizens will regain the right to vote at the completion of either their prison term, parole or probation. But a select few permanently disenfranchise all people with felony convictions, even after they have paid their debt to society. The worst state in terms of the sheer number of people impacted is Florida.
Editorials: North Carolina needs fair elections and a balanced legislature | Colin Campbell/News & Observer
Gov. Roy Cooper wants to take politics out of the redistricting process, but he also thinks he should control elections administration in North Carolina. Legislative Republicans, meanwhile, want to take partisanship out of the elections board, but they’re determined to keep it in the process of drawing legislative and congressional districts. None of this is surprising: The old adage, “to the victor go the spoils,” has always applied to partisan politics. Efforts to end gerrymandering have been going on in this state for decades – Republicans filed bills to create an independent redistricting process when they were in the minority. But those bills die a quick death now that the GOP is in power. Democrats like Cooper have vowed to change that if they regain the majority, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
few weeks ago, an Italian magazine asked me to illustrate graphically how I see Italy from abroad. I am incompetent at drawing, but an image instantly popped in my mind: the Costa Concordia shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea in 2012. Italy, too, is a beautiful ship slowly sinking because of the ineptitude of its captain — or captains, as it were. Surprisingly, this is not the view most Italians have of their own country. Most recognize the Italian ship is taking water on board, and that in theory it could sink by defaulting on its public debt. But Italians have faith that the Stellone Italiano (the Italian lucky star) will save them at the last minute, just as it has historically bailed out the Italian soccer team in World Cup matches.
New media, including social media, are fueling political polarization as people communicate with general audiences and narrowly focused groups, without the deliberation typical of traditional forms of communication. Hacking, misinformation, “fake news” and cybersecurity threats are expanding the power of a few while undermining public confidence in the accuracy of mass media and information. Politicians are using detailed voter information to play to their bases, allowing them to ignore the rest of their constituents. Democratization, which had advanced steadily for decades, is now threatened by the rise of authoritarian governments and the closing of the political space to civil society, journalists and others. Advances in election technology are also bringing new opportunities and new fears — founded and unfounded — about the security of the election process. Technology is being introduced into electoral processes to promote efficiency, but it also moves voting and counting into the unobservable digital realm.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed down its new set of congressional district lines on Monday, replacing those drawn by Republicans after they captured the state legislature in 2010. The state’s highest court had earlier ruled those lines unconstitutional. The new map, The Times’s Nate Cohn said, “comes very close to achieving partisan balance.” Republicans, who held a big advantage under the old lines, plan to challenge the new ones in federal court. It’s a huge fight, with enormous ramifications. But as they argue over what lines should go where, I ask you to consider a more fundamental question: Why have lines at all?
Editorials: The Russians are coming. Republicans need to do something about it. | The Washington Post
President Trump has shown an alarming unwillingness to respond to Russia’s hostile influence campaign during the 2016 election and to counter its effort to interfere in this year’s vote. That means Congress and the states must step in, and soon, to secure the midterms against an emboldened adversary that has already penetrated state election systems once and that continues to wield online provocateurs to disseminate lies and inflame national divisions. Over the past week, the Democratic minority has offered some good suggestions. Will Republicans treat the issue with the same urgency?