On the day that a special election in Alabama captured national attention, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter urging National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to take additional steps to secure the nation’s election infrastructure and provide support to state and local governments ahead of next year’s mid-term elections. Specifically, Wyden asked McMaster to designate a senior White House election security czar to brief Congress of executive branch election security efforts, direct the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security to grade states on their election infrastructure and designate political campaigns as critical infrastructure. Wyden, who has been one of Congress’ most vocal advocates of increased election security, also is asking that the U.S. Secret Service expand its presidential candidate security detail to include cybersecurity. In the Dec. 12 letter, Wyden noted that 14 states still use direct-recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines that don’t allow for paper-based election audits and rely on outdated operating systems with known vulnerabilities.
The Voting News
Every two years after a November mid-term or presidential election, the Election Assistance Commission surveys states about their election practices, compiles that data and submits a report to Congress. The 226-page 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey includes data on voter registration, turnout, absentee and pre-election voting, precinct and polling places and military and overseas voting. While the report contains charts and downloadable datasets, the EAC recognized that election officials at the county and municipal level might need help manipulating the data for their own analysis. On Dec. 13, EAC released the EAVS Data Interactive, a new data visualization tool that lets election officials, academics, activists and others examine specific data at the state and local level, as well as compare jurisdictions side by side.
Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill is claiming Roy Moore can request a recount in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate race, which Moore lost by 21,000 votes. But state law appears to say otherwise. Merrill’s stance could help the GOP delay seating Democrat Doug Jones in the U.S. Senate. It’s just the latest example of the secretary of state, a Republican and Moore backer, creating serious doubts about his ability to administer the crucial race fairly. Alabama law is clear that an automatic recount must be held at the state’s expense if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent. Jones’s margin in his upset win was 1.5 percent. But as of Wednesday afternoon, Moore had not yet conceded the race. Despite Jones’s victory, voting advocates reported numerous problems at the polls Tuesday. They included long lines in black areas, and voters who had been placed on the “inactive” list improperly being forced to provide additional documentation.
A new bill in the Florida Legislature aims to make it easier to restore a felon’s rights to vote and own guns after they have served time for their crimes. Felons in the Sunshine State are currently prohibited from owning firearms or voting. In order for a felon to earn back his or her right to vote and own a firearm, the person must be pardoned or have the Office of Executive Clemency restore their rights, WJXT reports.
Paper ballots could be in the future for Greene County residents, should the county not have the money to afford new, electronic equipment. It was a matter members of the Greene County Election Commission had to consider when listening to a sales pitch made by HARP Enterprises/HART Intercivic election equipment during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday. HART manufactures election equipment while HARP is the service provider once a sale is completed. The election commission is exploring the possibility of replacing the county’s voting machines. New voting equipment was last purchased in 2006. Commissioners heard from the company MicroVote last month.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he will try again for the fourth consecutive year to make congressional redistricting a nonpartisan process. Hogan, a Republican, said he will submit legislation in the next session to create an independent commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Now, the governor and lawmakers craft them. Hogan has made the reform proposal in each of his three years as governor, but it has not advanced. The governor said reforming the process for drawing the districts for members of Congress and the state legislature is widely supported, by citizens as well as interest groups that care about free and fair elections on both sides of the political aisle.
Gov. Chris Sununu remained opposed to a new Republican voting reform bill Wednesday following a meeting with the leading proponent of the controversial measure, a spokesman told WMUR. Sununu met with state Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, who chairs the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee, to discuss Birdsell’s amendment to House Bill 372, which would essentially require someone to be a resident of the state, as opposed to someone who is merely domiciled in the state, in order to vote or run for office. The bill makes the change by changing definitions to make the terms “resident,” “inhabitant” and “domicile” consistent. The bill would change the eligibility requirements for voting and running for office in the state and would mean that students and others who claim New Hampshire as a domicile but are residents of other states could no longer vote in New Hampshire.
North Carolina: Republicans canceled an election. Now Democrats are going to court | News & Observer
North Carolina Democrats have asked the federal courts to block a law that does away with primaries next year in partisan judicial races. The state Democratic Party and several county parties, including those in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, sued on Tuesday claiming that the law adopted in October by the Republican-led General Assembly is unconstitutional because it prohibits the political party from the “special protection” afforded to it in the First and Fourteenth amendments to select candidates who best represent the party’s philosophies and policies. The Democrats involved with the lawsuit have asked the court to take action before February, when candidate filing for the 2018 elections opens in North Carolina.
Ohio: GOP leaders say bipartisan deal close for congressional redistricting reform | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Republican Ohio House and Senate leaders said Wednesday that bipartisan approval could come by the end of January for a plan to reform the way congressional districts are drawn in Ohio. The proposal would then go to the ballot for voter approval and could be in place by the next time congressional district lines are drawn, following the 2020 census. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger of Clarksville and Senate President Larry Obhof of Medina, however, did not provide details of what reform might involve. Advocates of a separate petition drive to change the Ohio Constitution in an effort to end political gerrymandering have said they would wait for details of any legislative plan before considering an end to their effort.
Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania State Senate Senate State Government Committee: Voting System Technology and Security in Pennsylvania
The security of election infrastructure has taken on increased significance in the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle. During the 2016 election cycle, a nation-state conducted systematic, coordinated attacks on America’s election infrastructure, with the apparent aim of disrupting the election and undermining faith in America’s democratic institutions. Intelligence reports that have been published in 2017 demonstrate that state databases and third-party vendors not only were targeted for attack, but were breached.1 Regardless of the success of hacking attempts in 2016, the consensus among the intelligence community is that future attacks on American elections are inevitable.2 The inevitability of attacks is a key concept in cyber security, that is, it’s not whether a system will be attacked, but when.
The existence and national significance of this threat have escalated the priority of securing Pennsylvania’s elections infrastructure. Two primary areas that require immediate and sustained attention are 1) securing both the state and county networks, databases and data transmission infrastructure that touch elections; and 2) instilling confidence in election outcomes by replacing legacy voting systems with new systems that permit reliable recounts and audits.
During the time that I served the Commonwealth as Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration and Special Advisor to the Governor on Election Policy, I worked with the Office of Administration-Office of Information Technology to protect the Commonwealth’s networks that touch elections and to implement procedures to recover from any potential attacks. These efforts complied with cyber security best practices to monitor, detect, respond and recover. OA-OIT’s experienced staff is continuing this effort, and along with the Department of State, they have engaged county CIOs and technology staff to coordinate similar efforts at the counties working through the Commonwealth’s relationship with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP). Assuming the administration receives support from the General Assembly, the Commonwealth is on the right track to taking the necessary steps to monitor, detect, respond and recover from cyber attacks.