National: Proposed cybersecurity bills would forbid internet-connected voting machines | FedScoop

A pair of comprehensive, complimentary election infrastructure reform bills, which will be first introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives, seeks to take all voting machines offline, offers funding for election cybersecurity research and mandates the use of paper ballots across the U.S. by 2018, FedScoop has learned. These two pieces of legislation — named the “Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2016” and the “Election Integrity Act,” respectively — are being sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a lawmaker whose constituents will rely on paperless ballots to cast their votes in November’s presidential election. “In the wake of the DNC server hack and well-documented efforts by states to suppress the vote, citizens are rightly concerned,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must work to reduce the vulnerability of our crucial voting systems, protect the security and integrity of our electoral process, and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to vote.”

National: New legislation seeks to prevent U.S. voting systems from being hacked | Computerworld

A U.S. lawmaker has introduced two bills to protect voting systems from hacking, amid fears that Russian cyber spies may be interfering with this year’s presidential election. Representative Hank Johnson, a Democrat serving Georgia, is proposing a moratorium on state purchases of electronic voting machines that don’t produce a paper trail. His Election Integrity Act, introduced Wednesday, would also prohibit voting systems from being connected to the internet as a way to prevent online tampering. The high-profile hack of the Democratic National Committee publicized in June has citizens worried that U.S. election systems may be vulnerable, Johnson said.

National: Congressional Democrats Introduce Transformative Automatic Voter Registration Bill | Brennan Center for Justice

Today, senior congressional lawmakers introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016, a transformative bill that would add up to 50 million new voters by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote. The initiative, led by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would also cut costs and improve the accuracy and security of America’s voter rolls. Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, apply for a license for a firearm, register for classes at a public university, or when becoming a naturalized citizen — she is automatically signed up to vote, unless she declines. In the past 16 months, five states, several with bipartisan support, have adopted automatic registration, through the department of motor vehicles. Oregon, the first state to fully implement the plan, is now a national leader in voter registration rates, and has quadrupled its rate of new registrations at the DMV compared to previous years. The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 builds off this tremendous momentum by expanding automatic registration nationwide, and to more government agencies.

National: States push for voting rights for felons | Washington Examiner

Maryland state lawmakers have taken up legislation to allow felons to vote once they were released from prison. Currently, felons must wait for their parole or probation to run out. Jane Henderson, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform and executive director of Communities United, was surprised to learn that the legislation was getting action. She had assumed it would have been difficult to get the legislature to address the matter, let alone pass legislation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it in May, but she is optimistic that the legislature will override him, and soon. “By state constitution, they have to take it up soon when the next session starts in January,” Henderson told the Washington Examiner. “In the Senate, we’re fine. The House voted 82 for it and we need 85 … We’re very close.” If Maryland does approve the bill, the state would be the latest in an accelerating trend. Since 2009, six states have rolled back laws limiting felon voting rights.

Editorials: Campaign Finance Bill – More in the dark than ever | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws were overdue for change after a series of court decisions over the past year. In recent months, the courts have allowed coordination between campaigns and issue groups and allowed individuals to give unlimited amounts of money to political parties. We still question whether those decisions are in the best interest of the public. But state and federal judges have, effectively, rewritten Wisconsin law, and so the law itself should be brought up to date. But legislators and citizens who hold them accountable should take a close look at what Assembly Bill 387 would do. The tinkering will mean even more money in state politics, and the vast majority of it will be given in secret with no public disclosure. In the long run, that erodes trust in government. The campaign finance bill would double the amount that donors can give to candidates. For statewide office, contributors now would be able to give $20,000, and that amount would be adjusted for inflation every five years.

California: New recount rules intended to safeguard close elections | Los Angeles Times

California will overhaul how it handles vote recounts during statewide elections, replacing a system that critics say is unfair and fails to safeguard the outcome of tight races. The new rules, approved by Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday when he signed legislation from Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), would require the state to pick up the tab for recounts. Right now, any candidate or voter can request a review, but they have to pay for it themselves. In addition, they choose the specific counties whose ballots would be double-checked. It’s a system that was showcased last year, when Betty Yee was leading John Pérez by fewer than 500 votes in the primary contest for state controller. Pérez started paying for a recount, but eventually gave up after spending tens of thousands of dollars to gain only a handful of votes. Yee went on to win the general election. “I don’t think anybody realized the crazy process that existed until we had the controller race,” Mullin said.

National: Restoring the Voting Rights Act Now Has Bipartisan Support | The Nation

On June 2015—the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision gutting the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—congressional Democrats introduced ambitious new legislation to restore the VRA. Last night, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican to cosponsor the bill, known as the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. The bill compels states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, requires federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaws new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote. Murkowski explained her support for the legislation in a statement to The Nation:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought an end to the ugly Jim Crow period in American history. It is fundamentally important in our system of government that every American be given the opportunity to vote, regardless of who they are, where they live, and what their race or national origin may be.

Montana: Voting rights case inspires national legislation | Great Falls Tribune

A 120-mile round trip separates voters in Lame Deer from voting early and registering late, and Lame Deer is among the closest places on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to Forsyth, the seat of Rosebud County. But the asphalt on Montana Highway 39 is just one way to measure the distance. “This journey has geographical and historical distances,” said Tom Rodgers, a tribal issues activist, member of the Blackfeet Nation and Jack Abramoff whistleblower. As South Carolina debates Confederate symbols, Rodgers thinks of symbols in Montana that also tell a story. “Names matter. History matters,” he said. “We have a county seat named after a man who was horribly anti-Native American, a man who killed 300 men, women and children at Wounded Knee. The fact that it hasn’t been remedied is wrong, wrong, wrong.”

National: Congressional Democrats to introduce new Voting Rights Act fix | The Washington Post

Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil new legislation this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, that if passed would restore the requirement for federal approval for voting procedure changes in some states, a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The legislation, titled “The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015,” would force any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years to be subject to federal preclearance for any change in voting procedure or law. That criterion would initially subject 13 states to preclearance: New York, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post. Those states would be able to free themselves of the preclearence provision by going 10 consecutive years without a voting rights violation.

National: Cicilline unveils automatic voter registration bill | The Hill

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has proposed a bill to automatically register Americans to vote, fresh off of similar calls by Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. “Today, too many politicians are trying to make it harder than ever for citizens to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Cicilline said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Automatic Voter Registration Act will protect the right to vote and expand access for eligible voters across the United States. I thank my colleagues who have co-sponsored this important legislation that helps to expand one of our most essential rights as Americans.”

Minnesota: How a bill does not become law: behind the mysterious death of a bipartisan measure to restore felon voting rights | MinnPost

If political insiders ever want to know why so much of the public cares so little for the machinations of our current system, you could do worse than point to the tortured path of the “restore the vote” bill currently before the Minnesota Legislature. On one side of the issue, you have Rep. Tony Cornish, a lawman and gun rights advocate who represents Vernon Center in the Minnesota House and co-author of the bill, which would restore voting rights to felons who have completed their time behind bars but are still on probationary status. On the other side of the issue? Also Rep. Tony Cornish — the one who’s the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee and who refuses to let his committee hear the bill he helped write. Ah, politics.

Mississippi: Senate Elections Committee: where bills go to die | Jackson Clarion-Ledger

In the Mississippi Senate, elections bills aren’t sent to the Senate Elections Committee for debate and passage. They’re sent there to die. Senate Elections didn’t even hold a meeting this legislative session. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Senate Elections Chairman Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, have been at political odds for years, and McDaniel has been back-benched. When Reeves routes a bill to Elections, it’s “double-referred” to other committees first. The bills don’t clear those committees, so McDaniel’s doesn’t even get a crack at voting on them. If there is by chance an elections measure that Reeves might consider, he routes it to another committee.

Arizona: Lawmaker seeks to create office of lieutenant governor | Tucson Sentinel

Given Arizona’s history of turnover in the governor’s office, the state would benefit from having a lieutenant governor who runs on the same ticket, a state lawmaker says. Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, has introduced two pieces of legislation to create the office, to require a party’s candidates for lieutenant governor and governor to run as a team and to put the lieutenant governor first in the line of succession. Some of the proposed changes would require approval by Arizona voters. Mesnard said having the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket would be helpful for voters because it would mirror the way the president and vice president are elected. He said many voters don’t realize that the secretary of state is the next in line for the governor’s office.

National: One last try: Senate Dems push campaign finance reform | Politico

Senate Democrats are making one last try to bring their chamber’s campaign finance records into the 21st century, but their effort to attach to it a critical government funding bill will likely require them to make concessions to Republicans to succeed. Unlike House candidates, presidential hopefuls and political action committees, Senate candidates are not required to electronically file their campaign finance reports. The result: Reporters, campaign finance experts and everyone else must manually scroll through Sen. Mary Landrieu’s latest pre-runoff fundraising report, which clocks in at nearly 1,300 pages and is not searchable. So some Senate Democrats are pushing for a bill requiring e-filing to be attached to an expected omnibus government spending bill that would fund the government until next September, according to sources in both parties familiar with the discussions. With Republicans taking the Senate in January, Democrats are hoping for one last opportunity to modernize the campaign finance record-keeping by marrying it with the must-pass omnibus.

California: Mullin introduces bill to reform California’s ‘flawed’ recount laws | San Jose Mercury News

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin introduced legislation Monday to overhaul California’s system for recounting votes in tightly contested statewide elections, claiming the June primary in the state controller’s race highlighted flaws in the current format. The bill would require the state to pay for a full recount in any election involving a statewide office or ballot measure when the margin of victory is one tenth of 1 percent or less. The law presently allows candidates to recount the tallies of individual counties as long as their campaigns foot the bill. Mullin, D-South San Francisco, introduced similar legislation this summer, but the bill stalled. The new bill, AB 44, would also call for automatic recounts in presidential elections.

California: Lawmaker proposes to revamp California recount rules | Sacramento Bee

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin said Friday he will introduce another bill requiring automatic recounts in extremely close statewide races, citing the confusion and discord during last summer’s brief recount in the June primary for state controller. Mullin, D-South San Francisco, carried legislation last August that would have required automatic recounts in any statewide race where the margin of victory is one-tenth of one percent or less. The bill, though, stalled in the state Senate after bogging down in partisan fighting. In a press release, Mullin said he will introduce another recount proposal Monday. It would require a state-funded hand recount for any statewide race where the margin of victory is one-tenth of one percent or less and would take effect for the 2016 elections.

California: Automatic recount bill stalls in Senate | The Sacramento Bee

Weeks after the tight finish in the June controller’s race highlighted major weaknesess in California’s recount law, legislation to create taxpayer-funded recounts in close contests has bogged down in partisan fighting and is dead for the year. Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, blamed the failure of Assembly Bill 2194 on Republican members of the state Senate who, he said, have blocked efforts to waive Senate rules that prohibit committee hearings after Aug. 18. “The recount initiated in the recent State Controller’s primary race exposed serious flaws in our existing recount system, whereby candidates can cherry-pick which counties they want to recount, assuming they have the funds to pay for it,” Mullin said in a statement Friday. “

California: Lawmakers Consider Automatic Recounts in California Elections | KQED

To hear Kevin Mullin tell it, this summer’s saga in the race for state controller was the first time even he — a sitting assemblymember — realized just how antiquated and unfair California election law is when it comes to recounting votes in razor-thin races. “That really opened my eyes to how undemocratic our process is and how potentially chaotic,” said Mullin (D-South San Francisco). On Thursday Mullin introduced legislation to create a process for an automatic statewide recount in California — something other states have, and something supporters say will make clear just how and when to tally votes a second time. “It strikes me as a fundamental fairness question,” Mullin said.

California: Legislation would require automatic recounts in very close statewide finishes | The Sacramento Bee

California taxpayers would pick up the tab for recounts in close statewide elections under soon-to-be-amended legislation that follows criticism of existing state rules during last month’s recount in the controller’s race. Assembly Bill 2194 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, would require the state to cover the cost of recounts in any statewide contest where the margin is one-tenth of 1 percent or less. Under current law, any voter can request a recount in particular areas as long as they pay for it. If the recount changes the outcome, another voter can request a recount in other places.

South Carolina: Legislators working on election law fix | Associated Press

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill designed to prevent a lawsuit from throwing South Carolina’s elections into chaos again. But their versions differ. A six-member panel appointed this week will try to reach a compromise on the legislation, which is aimed at creating a statewide model for county election boards. Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin has urged his colleagues to act quickly, noting a verdict on a lawsuit filed in March could jeopardize the June primaries. The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation has asked a judge to throw out a 2008 state law on how county election offices are constructed. Martin had warned such a lawsuit was likely, citing advice from the attorney general’s office that the law is unconstitutional. If a court affirms the top prosecutor’s opinion, there could be no one left locally to conduct elections, he said. Lawmakers also fear the potential of a verdict overturning upcoming elections. Legislators don’t want to take that chance two years after a lawsuit against a single candidate resulted in about 250 people being kicked off primary ballots statewide.

Ohio: Could absentee ballot controversy lead to Ohio voting probe? | The Columbus Dispatch

State Auditor Dave Yost’s comments about the possibility of getting into Cuyahoga County officials’ pocketbooks should increase the odds of a federal probe of voting in Ohio, the county’s law director says. “Going after the personal finances of public officials for trying to promote voter participation is unprecedented,” said Majeed G. Makhlouf. “I think we expect the Department of Justice to take the threat to voting rights pretty seriously.” At issue is a new law passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich saying that the secretary of state’s office is the only government agency that can send out absentee ballot applications.

Verified Voting Blog: Hot State Update! What’s happening in Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut and more… and what Verified Voting is doing to help.

At Verified Voting we work to establish relationships in the states with policy makers and elections officials, in order to ensure they are educated on how to keep our votes secure. We’ve started 2014 with lots of activity around the country, building on a very strong and determined energy around voting issues, much of it unfolding on the state level. We have a great network of people in place and continue to work to make our voices heard. The following is a quick look at some of the Hot States on which we are focusing.

Virginia: This session, House and Senate bills sought to initiate electronic return of voted ballots over the Internet by overseas military voters. Amendments made to the bills called for security protocols to be examined and review of the feasibility and costs involved prior to initiating actual ballot return, thanks to intense outreach with our allies Virginians for Verified Voting, a lot of letters from VA supporters (thank you!), and an op-ed penned by Justin Moore (who is on VV’s advisory board) in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  The amended version of HB 759/SB 11 was conferenced and passed, with these crucial stop-gaps and a clause requiring that the provision be re-approved in 2016 before any ballots are sent over the Internet. As the review process takes place over the coming 18 months, we will be participating actively.  Ensuring that technologists are at the table as the conversation moves forward is critical, as is feedback from Virginia voters.  See the Bill summary here.

Washington: Voting rights legislation is pushed to benefit minority groups | Seattle Times

Racial and ethnic minority groups are continually elbowed out of policy discussions at the local level due to an unfair elections system, at least according to supporters of a bill intended to change that. Introduced in 2012, the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA) aims to address the allegedly unfair system by providing legal remedy to citizens who feel that the community they live in is underrepresented in local government. Technically, the bill targets “polarized voting,” where there is a disparity between the losing candidate that minority groups voted for and the winning candidate voted for by the rest of the electorate. A citizen who feels that their community is underrepresented by their current representative submits a grievance to their local government and if polarized voting is found to be present, then the district must make changes to their district make-up for future elections. The remedy for at-large districts would be to switch to district-based voting, which would create smaller voting blocs gerrymandered around smaller communities. If that change is not made within 45 days of the complaint, then the plaintiff may sue.

Maryland: Democrats find new candidate for House race after voter-fraud claims knock out primary winner | Fox News

The Democratic Party has a new challenger to Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, after voter fraud allegations ended the previous candidate’s bid, but the odds of his beating the incumbent are slim.  The party had scrambled for a replacement since its primary winner Wendy Rosen had to drop out of the race on Sept. 10, after confirming reports that she had voted in two different states in more than one election. Now, after a week-long search, the party has thrown its support behind John LaFerla, the 63-year-old gynecologist from Chestertown, who had lost in the primary to Rosen by just 57 votes.

China: China’s very different election show |

On November 6 or 7, two American men in suits will appear on television. Even with the sound off you will be able to tell, by the expression on their faces, which of them has been elected president and which has not. And, on an unspecified date between now and the end of the year, an unspecified number of Chinese men in dark matching suits will applaud themselves on to the stage of the Great Hall of the People. From the order in which they appear, experienced onlookers will be able to tell who is president, who is premier and who has which of the other jobs on the Politburo’s standing committee, China’s pre-eminent ruling body. My colleague Richard McGregor, in his enthralling book The Party , says the spectacle provides “something rare in modern China, a live and public moment of genuine political drama”.

Verified Voting Blog: Rush Holt’s Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2011 (HR 5816)

On May 17, US Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) re-introduced The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2011 (HR 5816), together with 98 co-sponsors. The language in the bill matches that of HR 2894, introduced by Mr. Holt in the 111th Congress in 2009 and would require voter-marked paper ballots in all federal elections. The bill would authorize funding for states to purchase voting equipment, require hand-counted audits of electronic vote tallies, and reform the process of testing voting equipment. The language of HR 5816 is also included as Title VI of the omnibus election reform bill, The Voter Empowerment Act (HR 5799.) It was referred to the Subcommittee on Election of the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

As with earlier versions of Mr. Holt’s legislation, Verified Voting is proud to endorse HR 5816. Verified Voting President Pamela Smith notes “this bill provides a baseline standard for our voting systems that’s so essential the voter confidence — not just that the outcome is correct, but that it actually means something when they take the time to go and vote.”  Reflecting the added urgency of Mr. Holt’s legislation since it was first introduced, Smith adds “the funding called for in this bill to support the movement to more resilient and reliable voting systems is urgently needed in many states and counties where voting systems are aging rapidly and need to be replaced.”

In 2010, over 60 percent of the nation’s voters cast their votes on paper ballots that were read by electronic scanning devices. In the last several years, voter-marked paper ballots have become the most popular means of providing a paper record of each vote. “Paper trail” printers attached to voting machines are an alternative method of providing a paper record, but have reliability problems, such as printer jams. They are cumbersome to recount, raise privacy concerns because they store all votes on a continuous roll, and go unchecked by significant numbers of voters. Three-fourths of the states have adopted voting systems that provide some form of voter-verifiable paper record, but a significant number still use electronic voting machines that offer no voter-verifiable backup. In at least ten states in the 2012 elections, most or all of the votes will be cast on paperless electronic voting systems. These include Indiana, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, as well as Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.

National: Conservative groups outspending liberal counterparts 4 to 1 on congressional races | The Washington Post

Conservative interest groups have dumped well over $20 million into congressional races so far this year, outspending their liberal opponents 4 to 1 and setting off a growing panic among Democrats struggling to regain the House and hold on to their slim majority in the Senate. The surge suggests that big-spending super PACs and nonprofit groups, which have become dominant players in the presidential race, will also play a pivotal role in House and Senate contests that will determine the balance of power in Washington in 2013. The money could be particularly crucial in races below the national radar that can be easily influenced by infusions of outside spending. One example came this week in Nebraska, where a dark-horse Republican Senate candidate upset two better-funded rivals in the GOP primary thanks in part to a last-minute, $250,000 ad buy by a billionaire-backed super PAC. And in Indiana this month, veteran Sen. Richard G. Lugar was ousted in the GOP primary by challenger Richard Mourdock with the help of millions of dollars in spending by conservative groups. The Club for Growth, which backed a losing candidate in Nebraska, spent more than $2 million to help Mourdock in Indiana.

Voting Blogs: Big Money in Politics Makes U.S. Economy “Fundamentally Unsound” | PolicyShop

The International Monetary Fund’s former chief economist recently described one of the world’s leading economies as fundamentally unsound because the political process is captured by financial firms. But he wasn’t talking about just any banana republic. He was talking about the U.S.A. In the article “Why Some Countries Go Bust”, Adam Davidson discusses a new book in which economist Daron Acemoglu argues that “the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person shares in the overall growth of its economy”. In other words, economic inequality is itself predictive of economic decline. The book includes historical studies showing how “fairly open and prosperous societies can revert to closed and impoverished autocracies.”

National: Post-Citizens United Money May Swamp Congressional Candidates | Huffington Post

Political spending by deep-pocketed donors and cash-rich corporations threatens to sow chaos in this year’s congressional races, political consultants warn. A billionaire or corporation writing a check for $1 million — or even $10 million — isn’t enough to swing a presidential election. But when it comes to congressional campaigns, it could be plenty. “You can work for months and years to develop a fundraising advantage over your opponent of $2 million, $5 million or $10 million. And all that can be wiped out in seconds by a few people giving to a super PAC,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.  While Republican and Democratic candidates are, in theory, equally susceptible to that kind of unlimited outside money, it’s the Democrats who sound much more alarmed.  “No one is safe, and everyone’s got to protect themselves,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “Super PACs can strike at any time they want.”

National: Post-Citizens United Money May Swamp Congressional Candidates | Huffington Post

Political spending by deep-pocketed donors and cash-rich corporations threatens to sow chaos in this year’s congressional races, political consultants warn. A billionaire or corporation writing a check for $1 million — or even $10 million — isn’t enough to swing a presidential election. But when it comes to congressional campaigns, it could be plenty. “You can work for months and years to develop a fundraising advantage over your opponent of $2 million, $5 million or $10 million. And all that can be wiped out in seconds by a few people giving to a super PAC,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.  While Republican and Democratic candidates are, in theory, equally susceptible to that kind of unlimited outside money, it’s the Democrats who sound much more alarmed.  “No one is safe, and everyone’s got to protect themselves,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “Super PACs can strike at any time they want.”