The phalanx of intelligence chiefs who testified on Capitol Hill delivered a chilling message: Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions. No one knows more about the threats to the United States than these six officials, so when they all agree, it would be derelict to ignore their concerns. Yet President Trump continues to refuse to even acknowledge the malevolent Russian role. It’s particularly striking that four of the men who gave this warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday — the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo; the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley — were all appointed by Mr. Trump. They testified that the president has never asked them to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes.
The Voting News
Kansas: House panel prepares for votes on precinct results, candidate advertising | Topeka Capital Journal
The House Elections Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on legislation mandating precinct election results be posted online and clarifying sponsorship of candidate advertisements. The Kansas secretary of state’s office stopped publishing precinct level voting data on their website in 2014. The data remains accessible through the Kansas Open Records Act, but only by request. Bryan Caskey, director of elections for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, cited formatting and privacy concerns for the lack of online reporting of that precinct voting. Much of the data comes to the office in a non-user-friendly format. “Votes cast are a public record,” Caskey said. “However, if a person obtains the list of registered voters, which has the precinct that they’re in, and obtains precinct-level results, pretty quickly you can determine how people cast in small precincts.”
New Hampshire: Alternative voting, math oversight of redistricting shot down by House committee | Concord Monitor
Amid all the high-profile discussion of possible changes to New Hampshire election laws and processes, a trio of less-mainstream proposals were shot down Tuesday. One of them would have used mathematics to draw legislative districts, and the other two would allow people to vote for more than one candidate, showing their ballot preference by systems other than the traditional process. All three were marked as inexpedient to legislate by sweeping votes in the House Election Law Committee, which makes their demise in the full House likely. Under one bill, House Bill 1666, a calculation known as efficiency gap analysis would have been applied to statewide districts in New Hampshire after the next redistricting in 2021. If the analysis found problems, “the redistricting for that elected body shall be deemed to be gerrymandered and therefore not valid” and the districts redrawn before the next election. It was unanimously voted as ITL by the 20-person committee.
The best thing that can be said about a new Republican-drawn congressional map for Pennsylvania is that none of the districts resembles a cartoon character. But erasing the lines of a comically gerrymandered district dubbed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck” was not enough to satisfy an order from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, said Tom Wolf, the state’s Democratic governor, on February 13th. When the court ruled on January 22nd that the map in use since 2011 was an extreme partisan gerrymander that violates Pennsylvania’s constitution, it gave legislators until February 9th to send Mr Wolf a fairer map. The redrawn districts, the court advised, should be “composed of compact and contiguous territory” and should not gratuitously divide cities and counties. Curiously, the initial order said nothing about fixing the map’s skew toward Republican candidates, which has afforded their party a reliable 13-to-5 advantage in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Editorials: With Russia set to attack our elections again, Pennsylvania needs to replace aging voting machines so people can have faith in the vote | LNP
Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered counties planning to replace their electronic voting systems to purchase machines that provide a paper trail. Paper trails serve as a safeguard against hacking and make audits of the vote easier. But as The Associated Press noted, the governor’s “budget doesn’t include any money to fund the replacement of the state’s aging, increasingly vulnerable fleet” of voting machines. The AP reported that the Wolf administration “said in a statement later Friday that it’s working on a comprehensive overhaul of Pennsylvania’s election apparatus, including its voter registration database.” Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, and it will try to do so again in this year’s congressional elections. That was the unanimous assessment delivered by our nation’s intelligence chiefs to a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday. So Gov. Wolf is absolutely correct in seeking to protect our voting systems. Pennsylvania — the birthplace of American democracy — should lead the way in protecting the vote.
Several officials at the Virginia Department of Elections and in the City of Fredericksburg were confused about how Virginia’s district lines were defined in the years leading up to the 2017 election, according to documents obtained by WTOP through the Freedom of Information Act. That confusion likely contributed to 147 people voting in the wrong House of Delegates races Nov. 7. One of those races, along with control of the House, was decided by just 73 votes. The process is complicated, and the lines are not defined on a map but are based on the voting precincts that were in place during the most recent census. Those precinct lines immediately become out of date after any General Assembly redistricting process, since local governments are similarly required to redraw lines based on the new population information.
West Virginia: Redistricting bill sent to House floor without independent commission | Charleston Gazette-Mail
A House of Delegates committee sent a bill to the floor Wednesday that would change the factors legislators use when drawing political district lines after each decennial census. The bill does not, however, create an independent commission to handle the redistricting process, as had been the original reason for drafting the updated House Bill 2383. Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, introduced an amendment to the bill that would have formed an independent commission. His amendment was essentially a reincarnation of a draft that a subcommittee killed last week. His amendment failed on a party-line vote.
Australia: Parliamentary inquiry finds Western Australia’s electoral system ‘stuck in the past’ | Perth Now
Western Australia’s electoral system has become “stuck in the past” amid outdated legislation and a lack of funding, a parliamentary inquiry into the 2017 state election has found. The final report from the standing committee inquiry highlighted several problems with the security of internet voting, poor transparency for political donations and the state’s ageing Electoral Act. Inquiry chair Peter Katsambanis says the state’s 111-year old electoral legislation is a “hodgepodge of contradictory provisions that make no sense“, which prevented the use of electronic voting systems.
“This is a non-election,” a professor of philosophy tells me in a bar in Milan. “I will not vote.” “Meaning?” “Whoever wins, they will not govern. All will go on just the same. Most key policies will be decided outside Italy.” The Italians go to the polls on March 4, and from outside, it might look as though there are major, exciting, and, above all, dangerous developments in the offing: the return of the octogenarian Silvio Berlusconi, the rapid rise of anti-establishment Five Star Movement, the ever more aggressive rhetoric of the xenophobic Northern League. Yet the perception among most Italians is that the political system is simply too dysfunctional and blocked for much to happen at all.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council highlights 15 audits have been planned to guarantee the process’ transparency. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has confirmed the date for the next presidential elections will be April 22 and provided details on the dates for voter and candidate registration. The announcement was made by Sandra Oblitas, CNE’s Vice-president, who added that 531 locations would be open throughout the country for voters to register and to change where they vote. Venezuelans will have until Feb. 20 to register to vote in the presidential elections.