The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 8-14 2017

Voting rights advocates and civil rights groups expressed outrage over the choice of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as co-chair of a new Commission on Election Integrity. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that the choice of Kobach, who has repeatedly made unsubstantiated voter-fraud allegations, “is akin to putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.” Also this week, a federal judge ordered Kobach to give the American Civil Liberties Union two documents outlining proposed changes to a federal voting law.

President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of Trump may have coordinated with Russia to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last year. Calls to appoint an independent prosecutor have simmered for months, but until now, they had been voiced almost entirely by Democrats. But now even Republicans are joining the call for a special prosecutor. Senator John McCain, said that he was “disappointed in the president’s decision” and that it bolstered the case “for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

Lost in the uproar over the firing of Comey, John Thompson, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, announced that he is resigning, leaving the agency leaderless at a time when it faces a crisis over funding for the 2020 decennial count of the U.S. population and beyond. Voting rights advocates are concerned with the resignation and the apparently effort to underfund the 2020 census as the data derived from the census is used to determine political representation, critical to a functioning democracy.

The Atlantic published two important pieces. One, by Bruce Schneier, argues that while the internet can be useful in allowing citizens to register online, the its fundamental vulnerability and the unique nature of voting mean that “we simply can’t build an Internet voting system that is secure against hacking because of the requirement for a secret ballot.” In the other piece, Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice makes the case for voter marked paper ballot voting systems. He observes that “the most important technology for enhancing security has been around for millennia: paper. Specifically, every new voting machine in the United States should have a paper record that the voter reviews, and that can be used later to check the electronic totals that are  reported.”

Eleven voters have asked Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to review the state’s voting system ahead of next month’s hotly contested 6th Congressional District runoff. The request is allowed under state law. It comes after one of the three counties in the district — Fulton — experienced a technical snafu on April 18 that delayed reported election results in the race. It also follows a letter to Kemp in March from a group of voting advocates who recommended that the state overhaul its elections system and begin using a system with a paper audit trail.

Elections clerks across Montana could find themselves increasingly challenged to serve voters with severe physical disabilities because of a dwindling supply of polling equipment designed especially for people who cannot use traditional voting machines. Existing inventories of ES&S AutoMARK ballot marking devices are antiquated and in disrepair and elections officials have been unable to replace the aging machines with newer, modern equipment because of state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday that challenges the process of validating signatures on absentee ballots in New Hampshire. The suit says current law allows election officials to reject an absentee ballot without giving notice to the voter, if they think there’s a signature mismatch in the voter’s paperwork. It also says it puts moderators in the difficult position of acting as handwriting experts.

Texas is on the verge of eliminating straight-ticket voting, which supporters say would force voters to pay attention to every race on a ballot but critics say could decrease turnout and put the state at risk of yet another civil rights lawsuit. Statewide, 63 percent of Texas voters cast straight-ticket ballots during the November general elections, according to Texas Election Source, a non-partisan data-driven public policy group.

The US watched Russians hack France’s computer networks during the presidential election – and tipped off French officials before it became public, a US cyber official has told the Senate. France’s election campaign commission said on Saturday that “a significant amount of data” — and some fake information — was leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on Emmanuel Macron’s successful presidential campaign.

The Indian Election Commission ruled out any possibility of the EVMs being tampered with in elections even as it announced that all future elections will be held with VVPAT slips to prevent any doubts while the AAP demanded ‘hackathon’, a view others were not apparently enthusiastic about at an all-party meeting convened to discuss worries over the machines.Download PDF Download this page in PDF format

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