The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 15-21 2017

Following a week of turmoil over the firing of FBI director James Comey, the Department of Justice named former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein had been under escalating pressure from Democrats, and even some Republicans, to appoint a special counsel after he wrote a memo that the White House initially cited as the rationale for Mr. Comey’s dismissal.

The Supreme Court declined to consider reinstating provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 omnibus elections law bill that included restrictive voter ID requirements, leaving in place an appeals court ruling that had struck down parts of the law as unconstitutional. Though the decision was a victory for voting rights advocates, many worry that it is only a temporary reprieve, postponing a showdown over what kind of voting rules are acceptable and how much influence partisanship should have over access to the ballot box.

A Washington Post editorial warned that  the recently announced Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity will likely endeavor to create further pretexts for GOP-dominated state legislatures determined to throw up barriers to minority turnout. The leading voice on the panel in Kansas Sewcretary of State Kris Kobach, described by the Post as a longtime champion of voter suppression laws who seconded as “absolutely correct” the president’s fabricated assertion that Hillary Clinton’s victory in the popular vote, which she won by nearly 3 million ballots, was a result of millions of illegal votes.

The closely-watched special election run-off election in Georgia’s 6th district will use 15 year old Diebold touchscreen voting machines that run on Microsoft Server 2000. “That’s a crap system,” said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa in a phone interview; adding that the database in use, Microsoft Access is a “toy database” that should never be used for industrial applications.

Members of the Utah House GOP caucus threatened to sue Republican Governor Gary Herbert over whether he will call them into a special session to decide how a replacement for resigning U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz will be picked. At issue is the Governor’s “secret plan” for establishing the terms on which the special election will run rather than involving the legislature.

Dismissing Gov. Scott Walker’s recommendation, the Wisconsin legislature’s budget committee approved state funding for five of six Elections Commission staff positions that have been supported by federal grant that’s set to run out. Lawmakers from both parties agreed that the staffing was necessary to ensure the proper administration of elections in the state.

Turnout was high in Nepal’s first elections in nearly two decades, though some voters are frustrated by the slow vote counting and there are concerns about preparations for anticipated run-off elections next month.. The Diplomat posted an article describing enthusiasm about the local elections in regions hit by earthquakes last yearTime ran an extensive piece examining Russia’s efforts to undermine Western democracy.

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.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 1-7 2017

The news is dominated by the“massive, co-ordinated hacking” of the campaign of French Presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron. Minutes before the official end of campaigning, the Macron campaign said in a statement that it had been the victim of a major hacking operation that saw thousands of emails and other internal communications dumped into the public domain. The Atlantic noted that the attack drew immediate parallels to the  cyberattacks that hit Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year, as well as to alleged electoral interference in other parts of Europe. It is likely that the leak, actively publicized by Wikileaks, far right activists and on the social media site 4chan, includes fake or modified documents along with genuine emails and documents. Further reporting here, here, here, and here.

During a public hearing Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director James Comey predicted that if left undeterred, Russian hackers will one day attempt to change the vote tally in an American election. While there is no evidence to suggest that Russian hackers were able to alter vote counts in the 2016 election, some election officials fear that enemies of the US will attempt to disrupt future elections in more a direct manner. The vulnerability of electronic voting equipment used is the US is well documented.

Speaking on a panel at Harvard University, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers agreed at a panel at Harvard University that Russia likely believed it had achieved its goals and could attempt to repeat its performance in elections in other countries. “Their purpose was to sew discontent and mistrust in our elections they wanted us to be at each others’ throat when it was over,” Rogers said at the panel at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “It’s influencing, I would say, legislative process today. That’s wildly successful.” As the Washington Post observed, “By now it should be clear that the new normal of Russian conduct on the international stage includes tampering with elections in Western democracies to boost candidates the Kremlin believes likely to do its bidding and to harass those who won’t.”

Incoming Maricopa County Arizona Recorder Adrian Fontes claims that as many as 58,000 voters may have been left off the rolls last November because they failed to provide proof of citizenship with their registration forms. Fontes said that he had discovered up to 100,000 state-issued voter-registration forms that employees had filed for more than a decade without saving the information in the voter database. Staffers explained that the applicants had failed to provide proof of citizenship. Proposition 200 passed by Arizona voters in 2004 requires aspiring voters to submit a passport, birth certificate, naturalization number, tribal membership or driver’s license obtained after 1996 to participate in elections.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia to temporarily reopen voter registration ahead of a hotly contested congressional runoff in the 6th District. A suit filed by The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of five civil rights and voting rights organizations, claimed that Georgia law cuts off voter registration for federal runoff elections two months earlier than allowed according to federal law.

The Illinois Board of Elections says that last August hackers gained access to the information of 80,000 Illinois voters — including their social security numbers and driver’s licenses. Speaking at a hearing of a state Senate subcommittee on cybersecurity, IT staff said hackers had access to Illinois’ system for nearly three weeks before they were detected. The hackers amassed records by searching by local voter identification numbers, systematically searching nine-digit codes starting from “000000001” and incrementally adding one.

A report released by legislative auditors Friday says the Maryland State Board of Elections needlessly exposed the full Social Security numbers of almost 600,000 voters to potential hacking, risking theft of those voters’ identities. The Baltimore Sun quoted Johns Hopkins computer scientist Avi Rubin, “This report tells me that the [elections board] is way behind the high-tech industry in maintaining the availability and security of their information.” Rubin said the board “needs to get its act together and catch up with best practices in the industry.”

Nevada, the first state to implement direct recording electronic voting machines equipped with voter verified paper trail printers, is planning to replace those machines for the 2018 elections. Two vendors – Dominion Voting Systems and Election Systems and Software – were invited to demonstrate their current equipment at in a daylong open house at the State Capitol.

A conflict between Utah lawmakers and Governor Gary Herbert over how to handle a potential special election to fill a congressional vacancy has sparked a proposal to limit the governor’s power to call special sessions of the Legislature. House Majority Leader Brad Wilson said he plans to propose an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would take away at least some of the governor’s control over special sessions. If passed by at least two-thirds of the Legislature, it would go before voters in November 2018.

The Indian Election Commission will convene a meeting next week with all seven national parties and 48 recognized state parties to discuss issues related to electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verfied paper audit trail and to seek suggestions regarding its upcoming electronic voting machine “hackathon” challenge. The challenge is intended “to give the political parties a fair chance to put the EVMs to test and prove their tamperability,” according to a senior commission officer.

In a move similar to one his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez used almost 20 years ago, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for a constitutional assembly. Maduro has faced with daily protests for weeks and critics say he is calling the assembly precisely to avoid or delay free elections.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 24-30 2017

The Guardian reported that in December former MI6 officer Christopher Steele provided the UK Government alleging extensive contacts and collusion between the the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Court papers say Steele decided to pass on the information he had collected because it was “of considerable importance in relation to alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election”, that it “had implications for the national security of the US and the UK” and “needed to [be] analysed and further investigated/verified”.

The House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has agreed on a witness list of between 36 and 48 people, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; and Carter Page, an early Trump campaign adviser. Already last week, the committee had announced thatit had invited three former officials with knowledge of Russia’s interference — former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The Maine House rejected a bill that would have required voters to present photo identification at their polling places in order to cast a ballot. The bill will likely still receive a vote in the state Senate, but it appears all but dead for 2017 with the House’s rejection. Meanwhile, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed legislation amending the state’s voter identification laws Monday, April 24, despite warnings it doesn’t comply with a federal judge’s ruling. Last year, a federal judge ruled previous changes to the state’s voter ID laws have placed an “undue burden” on Native Americans and others.

In North Carolina, judges voted 2-1 to stop a new law from taking effect that would curtail the new Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s control over state and local elections. Earlier in the week, Republicans lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of the bill but the judge’s majority decision ruling said Cooper was likely to succeed in challenging the law, which dilutes the ability governors have had for more than a century to pick election board majorities.

Since March 10, federal judges issued three consecutive rulings against Texas’ legislative redistricting, each finding that the state had drawn the maps with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.“It’s the third strike against Texas in a matter of weeks,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a lead counsel for the Latino organizations in the redistricting case. “[The laws have] been found not just to have discriminated as a side effect, but these are three decisions finding that Texas intentionally racially discriminated against minority voters.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that he had broken the record for restoring voting rights to convicted felons, calling it his “proudest achievement” as governor. McAuliffe said he had individually restored rights to 156,221 Virginians, surpassing the previous record-holder by a nose. As governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, Charlie Crist restored voting rights to 155,315 felons, according to figures that McAuliffe’s office obtained from Florida.

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign.

In response to the Indian Election Commission’s electronic voting machine challenge, a group of engineers and computer scientists have urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the machines. Poorvi L. Vora, professor of computer science at the George Washington University and a member of the group, wrote in an article that “the Election Commission should allow experts a reasonable amount of time to examine machines whose entire design has been secret for so many years. The experts should be able to work in a laboratory space of their choosing, with the freedom to fully explore the system and its vulnerabilities, including physical tampering, as any attacker with some access to a single storage locker might have.”

Turkey’s main opposition party announced it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 17-23 2017

According to reporting by Reuters, a Moscow-based think tank linked run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Vladimir Putin developed plans for a propaganda and misinformation campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 US Presidential election. Sources interviewed by Reuters described two documents produced by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies that outlined strategies for influencing the election. The first was aimed at encouraging U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia, while the second, based on the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be elected recommended focusing on voter fraud to undercut the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation.

An article in Wired examining the fight against partisan gerrymandering and suggests that current efforts may the most auspicious in decades due to new quantitative approaches—measures of how biased a map is, and algorithms that can create millions of alternative maps—that could help set a concrete standard for how much gerrymandering is too much. Last November, some of these new approaches helped convince a United States district court to invalidate the Wisconsin state assembly district map—the first time in more than 30 years that any federal court has struck down a map for being unconstitutionally partisan. That case is now bound for the Supreme Court.

Within days of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s resignation, new Governor Kay Ivey has changed the date for the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions to this calendar year. Bentley had been criticized for putting the special election off until next year and Ivey moved quickly to set the primary for August 15, with a runoff, if necessary, for September 26. The general election will be held on December 12.

With the closely-watched special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district going to a run-off in June, civil rights and voting organizations have filed a suit challenging a Georgia law that prohibits voters from voting in the runoff election who weren’t registered in time for the first round. The plaintiff’s allege that the restriction violates Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to allow voters to participate in any election for federal office as long as they register at least 30 days prior.

Last week, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske claimed that the state’s DMV of encouraged the registration of non-citizen voters, by allowing ID-seekers to also fill out voter registration forms at driver’s licenses offices even if they had presented a green card. Voting right advocates and DMV officials were quick to point out that federal law requires the DMV to submit voter registration applications to the state’s election officials regardless of the applicant’s apparent citizenship status. Cegavske on Wednesday released a statement saying that research by her department had found three non-citizens that are alleged to have voted in the November 2016 election in November, though she declined to say if her office would attempt to prosecute the three voters.

A voting rights group in North Carolina called for state and local officials to investigate whether allies of North Carolina’s former governor and the state Republican Party broke laws when hundreds of people were accused of voter fraud or absentee ballot irregularities last November. Democracy North Carolina said most of the accusations were irresponsible because the claims weren’t backed by evidence or could be eliminated based on cursory reviews of voter roll information. The protests were designed to intimidate voters for political gain or put in doubt the election result, the group’s report describing its own review alleges.

For the third time this Spring, courts have found Texas voting districts unconstitutional. This week it was the state legislative districts that were determined by a three-judge federal panel were also intentionally drawn to dilute votes based on race, and also violated the “one person one vote” principle of equal-sized voting districts that is the core consideration of the Voting Rights Act.

A New York Times article examined the role of Russian-sponsored misinformation in today’s presidential election in France. Turkey’s high election board has rejected formal calls by the country’s main opposition parties to annul the result of a referendum that will grant RecepTayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers as president and the British parliament overwhelmingly agreed to a early general election on June 8, less than 12 months after deciding to quit the European Union.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 10-16 2017

A Guardian article reports that according to a source close to US Congressional investigations, the committees “now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion … between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.” The wide-ranging article describes how already in 2015 British and other foreign intelligence services had become aware of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents. The FBI and CIA appear to have been slow to pursue information provided by foreign intelligence sources, in part because of US laws prohibiting US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants.

In reference to hacks of the DNC and political figures last summer, University of Michigan computer scientist and Verified Voting Board of Advisors member Alex Halderman said he thinks “we’re going to see a lot more attacks like them in future campaigns.” Though most think US voting systems are secure because they are different from county to county and most are not connected to the internet, Halderman noted that an attacker can select the machines that are the most vulnerable or attack the third-party vendors that provide the memory cards for each machine. Few if any states carry out post-election audits and forensic examinations sufficient to determine whether their voting machines were hacked.

With all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no, the Iowa Senate gave final approval Thursday to contentious legislation that will require voters to show government-issued identification at the polls and reduce the time period for early voting. The bill now heads to Governor Terry Branstad, who is expected to sign it. In Montana, a federal judge on Tuesday denied a request to delay the printing and mailing of ballots for next month’s special congressional election for three minor party and independent candidates who are suing to be on the ballot. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the filing requirements were overly burdensome but was not prepared to delay the the election.

After being rebuffed once by judges who determined lawmakers went too far, Republican legislators on Tuesday tried a second time to dilute the power of North Carolina’s new Democratic governor to run elections. In separate votes, the state House and Senate voted along party lines to trim the power governors have had for more than a century to oversee elections by appointing the state and county elections boards that settle disputes and enforce ballot laws. Governor Roy Cooper has indicated he will veto the legislation, having challenged similar legislation in court earlier this year.

For a second time, a judge ruled that Texas lawmakers violated federal voting rights protections by intentionally discriminating against minority voters when they approved a strict law requiring an approved photo ID to cast a ballot. In a 10-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote that the state “has not met its burden” to prove that Texas legislators could have enforced the 2011 voter ID law “without its discriminatory purpose.”

Plaintiffs from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico filed their opening brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging discriminatory overseas voting laws and making the case that where you live shouldn’t impact your right to vote for president. Under current law, an American citizen who moves from any state to a foreign country retains their right to vote for federal office in their last state of residence. However, citizens moving to one the U.S. Territories lose the right to vote in Federal elections.

The Electoral Council of Ecuador has announced that it will recount 10%, or just over 1.3 million ballots from the April 2 presidential election, bowing to pressure from opposition leader Guillermo Lasso and his supporters. Lasso has alleged fraud and is unlikely to accept a partial recount as adequate to confirm the election of ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno. In India, faced with allegations from several political parties that electronic voting machines could be manipulated, the Election Commission has publicly challenged political parties, scientists and technical experts to demonstrate that EVMs could be hacked.

Turkey votes today in a referendum that could have significant ramifications for the future of the country. Voters are being asked to approve or reject sweeping changes to the Turkish constitution including the elimination of the position of Prime Minister and the transferal of executive power to the president. The newly empowered president would be able to dissolve parliament, govern by decree and appoint many of the judges and officials tasked with scrutinizing his decisions. Opposition leaders are concerned that the new system would threaten the separation of powers on which liberal democracies have traditionally depended.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 3-9 2017

At an Election Assistance Commission hearing, a DHS official made the case for his agency’s designation of voting systems as critical infrastructure, emphasizing the designation did not undermine the autonomy of state election administration. Robert Hanson, DHS’ director of the prioritization and modeling at Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis, noted that many state and local governments have turned to DHS for such support and warned that new security flaws could be introduced if the replacement systems aren’t properly vetted. State and local officials, however, reiterated their concerns on the critical infrastructure designation and the National Association of Secretaries of State will continue to ask the administration to rescind the critical infrastructure designation for election systems.

Under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, Devin Nunes has stepped down “temporarily” from his role in leading the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation relates to statements Nunes made last month regarding U.S. surveillance operations aimed at foreign targets had incidentally collected communications involving members of President-elect Trump’s transition team, of which he was a member. His recusal leaves the inquiry in the hands of other rightwing Republicans and it is unclear how much effect, if any, his absence would have on an investigation stalled by deep partisan infighting.

An FBI investigation has determined a “security researcher” was behind data breaches at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems and that researcher’s activities was not in violation of federal law. In what seems to be a “white hat” hack, a researcher at least twice breached the KSU system apparently in an attempt to demonstrate its vulnerability. A closely watched special election this month in Georgia will be conducted using unverifiable direct recording electronic equipment maintained and programmed at the KSU Election Center.

A federal magistrate judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to hand over for review the documents that he took to a meeting with President Trump outlining a strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., will determine whether the documents are relevant to two federal lawsuits seeking to overturn a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock reignited a debate over all mail ballot elections when he inserted language specifying that “the 2017 special election to fill the vacancy in the office of the United States representative for Montana may be conducted by mail,” into an unrelated election bill that had reached his desk. Republican legislators, fearing that an all mail ballot election would result in higher turnout therefore diminish their party’s chances, had defeated similar legislation in the state Senate last week. Montana State law allows the governor to issue such “amendatory vetoes” to bills he generally supports but will only sign with his suggested changes. The amendments must be approved by both legislative chambers for the bill, including the originally passed language, to become law.

On a party-line vote the North Carolina House has approved a bill that would merge the state’s ethics and election boards and significantly diminish the power of the political party of the governor. Roy Cooper, the Democratic Governor has threatened to veto the bill, which has been fast-tracked in Senate. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, so the Governor may pursue legal action to stop the bill as he did successfully with a similar proposal passed before his inauguration in January.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos will wait until after the Texas legislative session is over to order remedies to its voter identification law, but does not believe current legislative action will affect a pending lawsuit against the state. Gonzales Ramos had ordered temporary fixes to the law ahead last November’s presidential election and Republicans had introduced legislation this year that resembled the judge’s measures. They argue that the changes in the bill, which has passed in the Senate and is pending in the House, would have an impact on the judge’s ruling in the lawsuit but Gonzales Ramos disagreed. In the same ruling, the judge also allowed the Justice Department to withdraw from the case, a request made after President Donald Trump took office in January.

The ruling Liberal government in Canada has rejected calls for internet voting. A special parliamentary committee report issued last month expressed concern about the security of online voting and recommended against pursuing it until those concerns could be addressed. In a formal response to the committee’s report, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould said the government agrees with the committee. “While Canadians feel that online voting in federal elections would have a positive effect on voter turnout, their support is contingent on assurances that online voting would not result in increased security risks,” Gould wrote. “We agree.”

In a rare development, both the winning and losing parties in Ecuador’s presidential election are supporting a recount to verify the accuracy of he announced results. Country Alliance, the incumbent party, accepted the challenge of conservative challenger Guillermo Lasso, who has alleged fraud and vote rigging. Observers from the Organization of American States reported that they had “found no discrepancies between the observed records and the official data”. The recount is already underway.

As Indian politicians debate the accuracy and reliability of electronic voting machines, Russia has expressed interested in observing India’s technology with goal of using it in their presidential election in 2018. In return, Russia would assist India in developing a “state-of-the-art tabulation system” for counting of votes. Since by-elections earlier this year, allegations of voting machine tampering have been a significant issue in the Indian Parliament, with various opposition leaders disrupting proceedings to protest the issue.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 27 – April 2 2017

Neil Jenkins, from DHS’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, gave the first detailed account of the process leading up to the controversial decision to designate election systems as critical infrastructure shortly after the 2016 presidential election. In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza concluded that “the evidence is now clear that the White House and Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have worked together to halt what was previously billed as a sweeping investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election.”

Just days after the Arizona Governor signed a new law opponents said will make it harder for citizen initiatives to make the ballot, Republican Arizona lawmakers are reviving stripped parts of that legislation that will make it much easier for opponents to challenge initiatives in court. A measure that would cut off one of the main avenues for challenging legislative redistricting plans was approved by a Florida House committee, alarming groups that fought maps struck down by the courts in recent years for political gerrymandering.

A bill that would have allowed Montana counties to conduct this Spring’s special election to replace at-large Congressman Ryan Zinke entirely by mail ballot has been defeated. Since being introduced, the bill went for a roller-coaster ride. Shortly after it cleared the Senate by a comfortable margin, the chairman of the Montana State Republican Party, state Rep. Jeff Essmann, sent an email to party members warning that its passage would mean higher turnout and a lower chance of winning for Republicans.

A Texas Senate committee cleared legislation that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, an effort to comply with court rulings that the current law discriminates against black and Latino voters. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a ruling that overturned the state’s Republican-drawn legislative districts.

After a video demonstrating that paper trail printers on electronic voting machines could be compromised went viral, there have been further calls in India for a return to paper ballot voting systems. Protesters stormed and set fire to Paraguay’s Congress on Friday after the senate secretly voted for a constitutional amendment that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election and in a move rejected throughout the region and decried as a “coup” by the opposition, Venezuela’s Supreme Court effectively shut down congress, saying it would assume all legislative functions amid its contention that legislators are operating outside of the law.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 20-26 2017

The week began with the confirmation by FBI Director James Comey that that an investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign have been underway since last July. Then Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes mysteriously disappeared into the night leaving a committee staffer in an Uber taxi the night before hastily arranging a press conference to reveal that he has seen evidence of incidental surveillance of the Trump transition team. Then Nunes cancelled the committee’s next open hearing, a move Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called a “dodge” to avoid another bad press day for the President. Schiff has questioned the chairman’s ability to lead an unbiased investigation.

The New York Times notes that “nationwide, Republican state legislators are again sponsoring a sheaf of bills tightening requirements to register and to vote. And while they have traditionally argued that such laws are needed to police rampant voter fraud — a claim most experts call unfounded — some are now saying the perception of fraud, real or otherwise, is an equally serious problem, if not worse.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The legislation is strikingly familiar to a measure that the state Supreme Court struck down in 2014. The bill contained some new provisions, most notably one that allows people without photo identification to sign a sworn statement saying they are registered in Arkansas, but it is certain to face another court challenge. In Iowa a similarly contentious voter ID bill cleared the Senate by a straight party-line vote and will return to the House where it was initiated by Secretary of State Paul Pate.

It now seems that Kennesaw State University officials received a warning before the presidential election that a server system used by its election center may be vulnerable to a data breach but waited until another breach earlier this month, just before a closely-watched special election to notify state officials. A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is said to have been furious at university officials for not telling his office about the contacts before this month, said he has confidence in how the presidential election was run and that additional data checks by the office confirm the election’s results.

After defeating a proposal from the Governor earlier in the week, the Maryland Senate approved a bill that would require the state to create a nonpartisan commission for redistricting. However the new plan is contingent on five other states agreeing to do the same. Senators were divided between those who see the bill as a hollow gesture and others who say it’s a first step toward fixing Maryland’s confusing, gerrymandered political districts.

The fight over Montana’s only congressional seat was thrust into the legislative arena , as lawmakers continued debate over whether to conduct the May 25 special election by mail. Passions flared in the House Judiciary Committee as dozens of people — some driving more than 400 miles to attend a hearing — urged lawmakers to save counties from financial hardship and logistical nightmares by allowing the election to be held with only mail-in ballots.

A motion filed in U.S. District Court claims that Texas should be blocked from using a map of congressional districts that was found to have been drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a federal court was told Thursday. A ruling earlier this month invalidated three districts that the court said were drawn by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against Latino and black voters.

Bulgarians voted in a closely-fought election, with the centre-right GERB party challenged for power by Socialists who say they will improve ties with Russia and the overwhelming majority of the Hong Kong’s 7.3 million people have no say in deciding their next leader, with the winner chosen Sunday by a 1,200-person “election committee” stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 13-19 2017

An Associated Press article reported on the plight of many election officials across the country that must scout eBay to find the obsolete zip drives and other computer accessories required to run their aging voting equipment. Quite apart from the serious security vulnerabilities inherent in using computers with deprecated software and equipment that is no longer maintained by the manufacturer, simply keeping sufficient units in working order has become a challenge in many counties. Many jurisdictions are still using equipment that was produced by vendors that are no longer in business (see Delaware and several jurisdictions in Pennsylvania and Virginia.)

Former Senators Carl Levin and John Warner provided some insight into the appropriate approach to congressional investigations of allegations of election meddling and collusion between the Russia and the Trump campaign. “Whether it is done by the Intelligence Committees, a joint or select committee, or some other congressionally created framework, a vital goal of any such investigation must be bipartisanship.”

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman dismissed a challenge to Arizona’s congressional and legislative district maps drawn by an independent commission in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously upheld the legality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission itself and the legislative district maps

A group of technology experts, most of whom are members of Verified Voting’s Board of Advisors signed a letter urging Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp to abandon the use of electronic voting machines in upcoming special elections while the FBI reviews a suspected data breach. Last week we learned that the FBI was investigating an alleged data breach in Georgia at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, which is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the voting systems and developing and implementing security procedures for the election management software installed in all county election offices and voting systems. Not surprisingly election officials, who have an election to run, rejected the technology experts’ calls to use paper ballots but the Secretary of State’s office has stated that they will be running the special elections “in house”, albeit still with the involvement of personnel from KSU.

Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, both Las Vegas Democrats, have each introduced legislation that would ease the path for the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. The Assembly bill would immediately restore the rights of ex-felons convicted of non-violent crimes after they serve their sentence or are discharged from parole or probation, regardless of whether that was honorably or dishonorably, while the Senate bill would restore rights either after completion of probation or parole or one year after their term, whichever comes first. It also decreases the wait time before they can ask the court to seal their records.

After a decade of delays in enforcing legislation requiring voter verified paper records of all votes in New Jersey, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require new voting machines purchased or leased after its passage to produce a paper record. One of the Assembly bill’s co-sponsors is Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, who has been a vocal critic of the state’s Sequoia AVC Advantage direct recording electronic voting machines. In 2004 he filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the state to upgrade to more secure systems. With Advantages now entering their third decade of operation, the time may have finally arrived for accurate and reliable voting equipment in New Jersey.

A three-judge panel ruled that the North Carolina General Assembly’s attempt to revamp the state elections board and ethics commission weeks before Democrat Roy Cooper was sworn in as the new governor violated the state Constitution. Adopted in a special session shortly after Cooper defeated Republican McCrory in the elections, the law altered a longstanding process that gave the governor the power to appoint three members from his party to preside over elections as well as two members from the other party. Instead, the two boards would be merged into one evenly divided between the political parties and between gubernatorial and legislative appointments.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have required the state Department of Elections to provide local registrars with a list of voters who, according to data-matching systems, have been found to be registered in another state. McAuliffe said he believed the bill would have endangered the voting rights of some Virginians and increased the administrative burden on local governments.

French authorities are on high alert to head off a cyber-attack that could affect the result of the upcoming presidential election. Prime targets could be candidates’ websites and government networks. Earlier this month the government decided to abandon plans to allow internet voting for French citizens overseas in June’s legislative elections. Guillaume Poupard, Anssi’s chief, publicly said that the current voting platform is “more reliable” than the previous 2012 election, but “the level of threat is much higher today”.

The surprising victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in four out of five state polls earlier this month has renewed challenges to the accuracy of India’s electronic voting machines. And the Netherlands witnessed record turnout as voters dealt a blow to the populist party of Geert Wilders in elections in which all counting, tabulation and transmission of voters was done without the use of software.