The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 1-7 2018

Six U.S. senators have filed a bipartisan bill that would provide grants to states to help them move from paperless voting machines to paper ballots in an effort to make voting systems less vulnerable to hackers. The Secure Elections Act would authorize block grants for states to upgrade their voting machines, direct the Department of Homeland Security to “promptly” share election cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments and empower state and local election officials with the necessary security clearances to review classified threat information. The bill would also encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Joining with many voting rights advocates Verified Voting urges swift passage of The Secure Elections Act.

Donald Trump has  disbanded his advisory commission on “election integrity”, ending an initiative that was widely denounced by civil rights groups as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of poor people and minorities. A White House statement released on Wednesday evening said that Trump had signed an executive order dissolving the commission. Voting rights advocates responded with delight to news of the demise of the commission. Vanita Gupta, former head of the civil rights division of the justice department under Barack Obama, heralded the announcement as a “big victory”.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial questioning whether the states will be able to guard their voting infrastructure from computer hackers, foreign espionage and other security breaches. In addition to the need for funding to replace aging and insecure voting equipment, many states ave reported estimated wait times of up to nine months for the Department of Homeland Security’s most thorough security screening.

A county circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new voter ID law that claimed the law was intended to make it harder for poor and minority residents to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters asserting that the state hasn’t adequately provided education, poll worker training or funding. The ACLU has announced their intention to appeal the ruling.

The ACLU is also involved in a Supreme Court case challenging Ohio’s practice of purging inactive voters from voter rolls. At stake is a regulation in Ohio’s law: If a person skips voting in a federal election over a two-year period, that sets in motion a legal process that could eventually lead them to being removed from the voter rolls.

In North Carolina, a panel of three federal judges heard closing arguments over which version of those maps to use during this year’s statehouse elections. Last summer the panel appointed Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily to redraw legislative boundaries because of concern over new state House and Senate maps approved by the GOP-controlled legislature that failed to remove unlawful racial bias from four districts.

The New York Times ran an extensive article about the struggle for Native American voting rights in San Juan County Utah. After a federal judge ruled that San Juan’s longtime practice of packing Navajo voters into one voting district violated the United States Constitution, the county was ordered to draw new district lines for local elections.

On Thursday, a Virginia elections official reached into a ceramic bowl and pulled out the name of one of the candidates in a tied state house election and triumphant Republicans declared that they would be in charge when the legislature reconvenes Wednesday. But the Democratic candidate did not concede, and she could request a second recount. On Friday Democrats lost another decision, when a federal judge rejected a request for a new election in a race in which 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes.

The Czech cyber and information security office will operate in an emergency mode during the upcoming presidential election, with up to 25 experts ready to ward off any cyber attack. A hacker attack in the wake of the October general election caused drop-outs of the election websites of the Czech Statistical Office.

Russia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Saturday from opposition leader Alexei Navalny to run for president. One week after a lower court upheld a ruling by the Central Election Commission, which rejected his application to stand, the country’s high court backed the decision, citing a criminal conviction against the opposition leader.

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