The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 26 – March 4 2018

An NBC report asserting that the U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election was disputed by the Department of Homeland Security, saying NBC’s story was “factually inaccurate and misleading” and stood by its previous assessment, that just one state, Illinois, had its system breached. NBC stood by their reporting. Among the question that reman unanswered is whether in fact anyone can actually know with certainty if the systems were compromised.

Adm Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and chief of US Cyber Command told lawmakers that he had not been directed by Donald Trump to disrupt Russian efforts to meddle in US elections, and that Vladimir Putin had come to the conclusion there was “little price to pay” for such actions. “I haven’t been granted any additional authorities, capacity, capability” Rogers said, “I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that,” Rogers said.

In a lawsuit scheduled to begin on Tuesday, ACLU and the League of Women Voters will argue that between 2013 to 2016, more than 35,000 Kansans were blocked from registering because of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s documentary proof-of-citizenship law. Courts have temporarily blocked Kobach from fully enforcing the Kansas law, with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver calling it “a mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Ohio counties would get nearly $115 million in state money to replace aging voting machines in time for the 2019 election under a bill expected to pass the legislature this spring. Counties will be given a fixed amount of funding based on the number of registered voters to help with the startup costs associated with buying new machines.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has given participants until Monday to file responses to a request by Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers to stay a state court ruling overturning the current congressional map and imposing a new one. Aside from the merits of the legal arguments, a key factor the U.S. Supreme Court and a panel of three district judges will have to take into account is if the attempt to block the new map comes too close to the May 15 primary election, or if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court produced the map too late to be used this year.

TheVirginia Supreme Court heard arguments in a case alleging that state lawmakers placed partisan politics over constitutional requirements in drawing 11 of the 100 districts for the House of Delegates. According to lawyers for the voters, the state legislature failed to keep compactness in mind when they drew the maps seven years ago as required by the state’s constitution.

The National Redistricting Foundation, which is led by former attorney general Eric Holder, sued Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to require to hold special elections in two vacant legislative districts. Last December, two Republican lawmakers stepped down from the legislature to join Walker’s administration and in a remarkable break from precedent, Walker announced at the time that he would not hold special elections in those districts, leaving 229,904 Wisconsinites without representation for almost a year.

Security concerns have once again forced the Finnish government to suspend plans to launch an internet voting system. A Ministry of Justice report identified certain problem areas, including difficulties in the reconciliation of verifiability and election secrecy. As regards verifiability, the eVWG said full confidence in a future system must be based on voters being able to ensure that ballots are counted as cast. Also, the voter should receive “proof” of the ballot cast.

New anti-electoral fraud procedures caused delays at some polling stations, as Italians headed to the polls today to vote in one of the most uncertain elections in years. At least one polling station in Rome voting had to be suspended due to the discovery of voting cards with the wrong candidates’ names printed on them and some polling stations remained closed in Palermo two hours into election day because the wrong ballots were delivered and 200,000 new ones had to be reprinted overnight.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 19-25 2018

ProPublica reported on the high costs and cash-strapped budgets facing state and local election officials struggling to replace flawed and aging voting equipment. “Today’s voting systems are not going to last 70 years, they’re going to last 10,” says U.S. Elections Assistance Commission Commissioner Matt Masterson. “Election officials are low on the totem pole, budget-wise,” says Masterson. “A lot of times it’s you or a new gazebo or improvements to the local golf course.”

Masterson was in the news this when it was announced that at the behest of Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House, he would be replaced at the end of his current term. The move was faced disappointment and criticism by many election officials and advocates. This is insanity,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election security expert who is the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Matt is extremely capable and has been a champion of more secure and better elections the entire time he’s been on the EAC.”

Kim Zetter wrote an extensive article for the New York Times, which explores the routine claims that any voting software or equipment is invulnerable to hacking. As her article details, many critical election systems in the United States are poorly secured and protected against malicious attacks. The specific issue of voting machine modems is discussed in a post on the Freedom to Tinker blog by Andrew Appel.

With concern about election cybersecurity growing with every new turn in the investigation of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, there were several stories this week that highlighted the security vulnerabilities of internet voting. In an effort to improve the security of the state’s elections, the Alaska Division of Elections announced it will no longer a absentee voting through a web portal. Maryland faced criticism for their use of an online ballot marking system. In a Baltimore Sun article,George Washington University computer science professor Poorvi Vora warned that hackers could use the system to request multiple absentee ballots using multiple identities. And Switzerland’s plans to introduce e-voting nationwide were questioned by leading data protection experts who warned that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections.

Voting system security has become a campaign issue in the Georgia gubernatorial race involving the current chief state election administrator. Ina disappointing development, a Tennessee Senate committee voted down a bill that would’ve required a paper receipt for all ballots cast in the state.

The Washington Post suggests that Sweden’s preemptive efforts to counter expected Russian election interference and cyber attacks could serve as a model for the US. “Russian espionage is still the biggest threat to Sweden,” the country’s head of counter-intelligence told an annual press briefing. “We see that Russia has an intention to influence individual issues that are of strategic importance. If these issues become central in the election campaign, we can expect attempts at Russian influence.”

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 12-18 2018

Thirteen Russians have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced on Friday. … The charges state that from as far back as 2014, the defendants conspired together to defraud the US by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of government” through interference with the American political and electoral processes.”

“Even as it is consumed by political fallout from Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Washington is still struggling to respond to what many officials see as an imminent national security threat: a network of voting systems alarmingly vulnerable to foreign attack. … Congress has so far balked at providing resources to upgrade voting systems, despite the urging of some of the nation’s most influential national security voices. Many states are too broke to take up the slack.”

In a Washington Post oped, Michael Chertoff and Grover Norquist warn that “[t]ime is running out. Lawmakers need to act immediately if we are to protect the 2018 and 2020 elections.” They call attention to legislation introduced by Mark Meadow (R-) that would authorize cost-sharing with states for the replacement of insecure electronic systems and lay the groundwork for states to regularly implement risk-limiting audits.

Without Federal assistance, many cash-strapped state and local budgets are being stretched to upgrade equipment. California Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing millions of dollars for an upgrade of old voting machines, long sought by counties. Capita Pubic Radio notes that the state’s “last major replacement of voting machines in the state occurred after the 2000 election, so many counties run servers on outdated operating systems no longer supported by Microsoft and use zip drives to transfer files.”

Ohio lawmakers are debating how much money to give counties to replace aging voting machines, but those funds aren’t expected to be part of the state capital budget. The Columbus Dispatch reports “that Secretary of State Husted’s $118 million figure is based on every county purchasing a paper-based system.” County elections boards estimated the cost of $210 million, that would allow counties the option of purchasing more expensive direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems.

William & Mary Law School’s State of Elections, wrote about the ongoing uncertainty about straight-ticket voting in Michigan. In January 2016, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that eliminated Michigan’s straight-ticket voting option.The Eastern District of Michigan granted and the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the law, on the basis of evidence that the elimination of straight-ticket voting disproportionately affected minority voters. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson petitioned for but was not granted a stay, which would have allowed the law to be in effect for the 2016 election.

A month after North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper’s victory in a Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to nullify a GOP-backed restructuring of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, legislative and legal battles continue and candidate filing began last week still without any seated elections and ethics board members.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf rejected a new district map drawn by GOP lawmakers, bringing the state closer to handing its redistricting process over to a court. The map was drawn after the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s current congressional map and gave Republican legislators until February 9th to send Mr Wolf a fairer map. However, the Economist observed that “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.” The state Supreme Court will likely handle redrawing new congressional lines and it would have until Feb. 19 to draw the new map.

An AFP article reported that US Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told a Security Council informal meeting that the Democratic Republic of Congo Election Commission’s plan to use electronic voting for the first time this year posed “an enormous risk. These elections must be held by paper ballot so there is no question by the Congolese people about the result,” said Haley. “The US has no appetite to support an electronic voting system.

“Fourteen international and Egyptian rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, condemned Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections, accusing the Sisi government of having “trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections” in his bid for a second term.”

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 5-11 2018

Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the DHS, told NBC News that Russia “successfully penetrated” the voter rolls in a small number of states in 2016. It’s unclear what Russians might have done with the access to Americans’ voter information, but election officials nevertheless continue to maintain that no evidence suggests that any of the registration rolls were changed. Access to registration databases could allow hackers to change or delete names or use voter information to target ads to individuals in contentious states.

Pam Fessler at NPR reported on a meeting of election officials organized by the Election Assistance Commission to develop strategies to protect the nation’s voting systems against cyber threats. “The reality is all of us are going to be impacted at some point in time by a cyber incident. All of us,” Matt Masterson, chairman of the EAC, told the group. Masterson displayed a news article about hackers targeting nuclear facilities to drive home the significance of the threat. “I share this because you’re now in good company,” he said. “As part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, you’re now in a group with nuclear facilities.”

In a Washington Post oped, Brian Klaas explored the vulnerabilities of American elections and concludes that “Congress and state legislatures must not make the same mistake. Twenty-first-century elections require a return to a 1st century B.C. technology: paper.”

Gizmodo reported the Sacramento Bee newspaper left more than 19 million voter records exposed online, which were compromised during an apparent ransomware attack. The Bee said in a statement that a firewall protecting its database was not restored during routine maintenance last month, leaving the 19,501,258 voter files publicly accessible.

Florida voting activists and lawmakers have objected to language inserted in an election bill that could allow the wider use of direct recording electronic voting equipment. French Brown, who represents Verified Voting, a nonprofit elections watchdog. “The language in section one of the bill broadly redefines the term ballot to include any voter interface used indirectly to designate the elector’s ballot selection onto a sheet of paper,” Brown said. “Verified Voting has concerns that allowing the full electorate to use these machines could negatively impact voter confidence and voting accuracy.”

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a Stanford University law professor’s election districts for state General Assembly seats in Wake and Mecklenburg counties while leaving his maps in place in six other counties while lawmakers appeal a three-judge panel’s ruling. Coming a week before the filing period opens forGeneral Assembly candidates, the court’s ruling clarifies to some extent the district lines that will be used for state Senate and House seats this year.

Republicans, Democrats and a coalition of redistricting-reform advocates reached a deal to put a proposal on the May ballot aimed at curtailing partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional map. After weekend negotiations that capped off about two weeks of heavy talks, the Senate on Monday night voted 31-0 for the compromise plan. The House is likely to approve it Tuesday, one day ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline to qualify the issue for the May statewide ballot.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf as ordered counties buying new equipment to replace their electronic voting systems that leave a paper trail that can be used in a post-election audit. Verified Voting’s President Marian K. Schneider applauded the Governor’s decision, “the administration’s move to safeguard Pennsylvania elections by requiring counties to purchase these new voting systems will allow jurisdictions to detect any problems with the election outcome and recover from them. This is exactly why security experts recommend that voting machines are resilient. Pennsylvania’s actions reflect the understanding that our election infrastructure must be secure.”

Joshua Wong and two other leading Hong Kong democracy activists won an appeal against their jail terms at the city’s highest court Tuesday in a case seen as a test for the independence of the city’s judiciary, which some fear is under pressure from Beijing.

Egypt’s prosecutor-general has ordered an official investigation into a number of opposition politicians who are boycotting next month’s presidential election, as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi looks set to extend his term. Several potential candidates have either been arrested or faced threats, intimidation and physical violence, forcing them to drop out.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 29 – February 4 2018

In an NPR report on America’s aging voting machines, University of Michigan computer science professor and Verified Voting Board of Advisors member J. Alex Halderman was quoted “[i]f we do nothing, if we let the mechanics of voting continue to deteriorate, then I am 100 percent sure that we are going to be attacked again in the fullness of time, and it’s going to make 2016 look quaint by comparison.” e continued “I have in my office, sitting on my desk, a touchscreen computer voting machine of a type that’s still used in several states that my research group hacked ten years ago in order to make a silent vote-stealing attack.”

In an FCW article on the response from DHS to the cyberthreat to elections, another Verified Voting Advisory Board member Candice Hoke, who co-directs the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection, said that election systems themselves are at risk of digital interference. “We have large segments of the population voting on equipment that’s not secure,” Hoke said. “It’s poorly designed equipment for the modern age… Yet election systems are some of the most poorly funded governmental operations.”

Verified Voting President Marian K. Schneider wrote an oped for the York Dispatch highlighting problems that occurred in York County Pennsylvania last November that could have been avoided with the use of paper ballot voting systems.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the biggest threat to the state’s election system is old voting equipment. “Not only is it based on outdated technology, the bottom line is the machines are old,” Padilla said. “When they have to find replacement parts that are no longer made and they have to hunt for them on Ebay, that’s not a good thing… We’re kind of living on borrowed time.”

A federal judge has declared Florida’s procedure for restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time unconstitutional. In a rebuke of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is the lead defendant in the case, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the disenfranchisement of felons who have served their time is “nonsensical” and a violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The North Carolina Supreme Court as struck down a law that created a new ethics and elections board with an even split between political parties, and a lower court is expected to issue a more detailed order later this month. In the wake of the ruling, the North Carolina Republican Party withdrew nominations it made last April to the combined State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

William & Mary Law School’s State of Elections blog posted an article on Rhode Island’s new post election audit law. Rhode Island, like sixteen other states, does not presently have a statutory requirement to conduct post-election audits. But in September, the state legislature unanimously passed a bill through both chambers that would begin post-election audits in 2018 and mandate them in every county by 2020.

Wisconsin State Elections commissioners Wednesday edged closer to a showdown with Republican state senators over whether Elections Administrator Michael Haas should continue to lead the agency. Elections commissioners voted 4-2 not to take immediate action on the issue and revisit it at a March 2 meeting. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said the commission’s move to retain Haas was unlawful and a Senate vote to reject his confirmation meant Haas is out of a job — creating a vacancy in the administrator position. 

A US congressional group has nominated Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow who led the 2014 Occupy protests for the Nobel Peace Prize. China’s foreign ministry criticized the nomination, which e characterized as “meddling in is county’s internal affairs”.
Marc Goodman, founder of the Future Crimes Institute and chairman of policy, law and ethics at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, said the Philippine electoral system is vulnerable to cyberattack and the government may not be prepared for it. He warned that governments around the world, particularly the Philippines, were woefully unprepared for threats brought by the automation.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 22 -28 2018

The ranking member of theHouse intelligence committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has warned that the threat of foreign interference is being dangerously downplayed by President Trump, and fears that many states are not ready to combat potential hacking during the 2018 elections. He specifically called on states to abandon voting equipment that does not provide a software-independent record of the vote arguing that “[a]fter what we saw in the last election, it’s malpractice for any Secretary of State to not have a paper trail.”

With the Supreme Court set to on at least three redistricting cases, the Atlantic posted an extensive piece considering the future of partisan gerrymandering. While courts have sometimes invalidated gerrymandered districts on the basis of racial bias, they have been reluctant to weigh on gerrymandering for partisan advantage. This may change with challenges in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina and Maryland.

Former felons could have their Florida voting rights restored under a proposed constitutional amendment headed to voters in November, a measure that could have a significant impact on a state known for historically close elections. Floridians for a Fair Democracy has more than 799,000 certified petition signatures, or about 33,000 more than the group needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Legislation was introduced in Georgia by Republican Rep.Scot Turner  to finally replace the Diebold touchscreen voting machines the state has used since 2002 with a paper ballot voting system. The Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, who is running against Secretary of State Brain Kemp for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, voiced his support of the paper ballot legislation leading to a perhaps predictable but nevertheless unfortunate response from his rival Kemp, who accused Cagle of “joining “liberal conspiracy theorists.”

The Dayton Daily News published an article examining the state of voting equipment in Ohio. State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson,has introduced Senate Bill 135, which has had one hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. LaRose has said he will amend his bill to include paying for new voting equipment for every county board of election, including training and maintenance contract costs. 

The Pennsylvania supreme court on Monday struck down the boundaries of the state’s 18 congressional districts, granting a major victory to plaintiffs who contended that they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. After the state court decision, those Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the order, arguing that “the question of what does and does not constitute a ‘legislative function’ under the Elections Clause is a question of federal, not state, law, and this Court is the arbiter of that distinction.”

Audrey Malagon wrote an excellent oped for the Virginian-Pilot advocating post-election audits for the state. “What if we could check only a very small number of ballots to make sure our elections were running as smoothly as the syringe factory? Risk-limiting audits let us do just that, and Virginia has started this process.”

In a vote along party lines, Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted to oust Ethics Administrator Brian Bell and Elections Administrator Michael Haas from their respective roles by denying to confirm them on a permanent basis. Neither got a customary public hearing before the vote. “For a state that used to be held up as a paragon of good government, it’s a sad and significant step for legislators to remove staff in this way,” says Barry Burden, director of the elections research center at the University of Wisconsin. “It is micromanaging what should be independent agencies.”

The National Audit Office has revealed theAustralian Electoral Commission did not comply with the Federal Government’s basic cyber-security requirements due to time restraints, and accepted the extra security risk. The audit also revealed the Government’s cyber-spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), warned the AEC it was unlikely to resolve its security weaknesses before the July 2 poll.

Dutch domestic intelligence service AIVD had access to the infamous Russian hacking group Cozy Bear for at least a year starting in mid-2014. According to the reports, the Dutch government alerted the United States to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections after Netherlands-based officials watched the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other operations by the Russians, including a 2014 State Department hack.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 15-21 2018

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act,” which lays out specific foreign actions against U.S. elections that would warrant penalties from the federal government. The bilsets explicit punishments for the Russian government — and other countries — if they meddle in future federal elections and directs the Director of National Intelligence to issue a report on potential election interference within one month of any federal election. As Rubio and Van Hollen argued in a Washington Post oped “[t]here is no reason to think this meddling will be an isolated incident. In fact, we expect the threat will grow in future years.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved. Kobach said last week that he would “be working closely with DHS and the White House as the investigation moves forward.”

Te Buffalo News posted an editorial on Martin Luther King Day, hailing the civil rights leader’s efforts to secure voting rights for minorities while warning that that voter suppression remains under threat to American democracy. “[W]ere he alive, he might be at a loss as to why some key initiatives for which he and his contemporaries had marched and even died are still being debated.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp blamed  bad management at Kennesaw State University caused the erasure of an elections server last summer. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the secretary of state, Coalition for Good Governance Executive Director Marilyn Marks, said after the wipe was discovered that she was skeptical. “I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious,” she said.

Less than a month before the filing period opens for candidates seeking office in the state Senate and House of Representatives, a panel of federal judges has ordered North Carolina lawmakers to use maps created by a Stanford University law professor in those elections. It was the second ruling this week on a state redistricting case. On Thursday the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring North Carolina lawmakers to produce a revised congressional voting map.

After federal judges rejected their contention that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have filed a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the efforts of Texas Democrats and other plaintiffs to revive a related legal claim in the ongoing litigation over the state’s political boundaries. Last week the justices agreed to hear two other cases challenging congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, adding them to ones already pending from Wisconsin and Maryland.

American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but 5 million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. The Seventh Circuit this week ruled that “[a]bsent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections.

Clashes have broken out in Honduras as demonstrators protesting President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s re-election blocked roads in several locations and police moved into to break up the barricades. Police say four officers were injured Saturday, one seriously. At least seven demonstrators were detained. Former President Manuel Zelaya has supported protests on behalf of presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, who claims there was fraud in counts of the November vote.

Having been designated a “foreign agent” in 2016, Levada, the only independent polling agency in Russia, announced this week that it won’t publish political polls in the run-up to the presidential election on March 18 for fear that authorities might shut it down for falling foul of the law. That means that as the country enters an election cycle where president Vladimir Putin’s victory is certain, we won’t have any trustworthy data to give us a sense of how voters feel about the situation.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 8-14 2018

United States Senators have been targeted by Russian hackers, according to a report by the cybersecurity firm Trend Micro. The report claims that Fancy Bear—the same hacking group believed to be behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016—is now targeting Senators’ email accounts. Beginning last summer, the hackers have set up websites meant to look like an email system available only to people using the Senate’s internal computer network. The sites were designed to trick people into divulging their personal credentials, such as usernames and passwords.

At an Election Assistance Commission summit, computer security experts from DHS and the private sector detailed many of the cyberthreats facing America’s voting systems“Elections offices have become IT offices that happen to run elections,” Jeremy Epstein, deputy division director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Computer and Network Systems noted. “We need to be focused on detection and recovery.” DHS official Bob Kolasky said the federal government is substantially more prepared to deal with a nation-state attack on election systems today than it was in the lead-up to the 2016 election. “The Department of Homeland Security is in a much better position to work with our interagency partners and the election community to respond to any lingering threats that emerge going forward,” he said.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in aa case challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s practice of using voting inactivity to trigger purges of registered voters who are still eligible to vote. Federal laws prohibit states from removing people from voter rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” But they allow election officials who suspect that a voter has moved to send a confirmation notice. A central question in the case was whether a failure to vote could be the reason to send out the notice.

In The New York Review of Books, Zachary Roth considered the many current court challenges to partisan gerrymandering. In North Carolina, a panel of federal judges threw out congressional maps that they determined had been drawn by Republicans to seek a political advantage. However in Pennsylvania a judicial panel rejected a similar argument from a group of Democratic voters who contended te state’s maps ad been gerrymandered it to help Republicans. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it will review lower-court rulings that ordered Texas to redraw 11 political districts found to be discriminatory adding to a docket that already includes a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin,

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s state law requiring people to show government issued photo ID at the polls. The judge determined that the state’s voter ID provision does not discriminate against minorities and is not an undue infringement on the right to vote since the state makes free IDs available for voting purposes. Alabama has required voters to show photo IDs at the polls since 2014.

Results of Saturday’s election in the Czech Republic mean that Russian-backed president Miloš Zeman will face pro-western runner-up, Jiří Drahoš, in a run-off election in two weeks. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a deal with her Social Democrat (SPD) rivals open government coalition talks. The deal to revive a “grand coalition” that has governed since 2013 must be approved by an SPD congress planned for January 21.

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.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for December 11-17 2017

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has sent a letter to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster requesting additional measures to secure state and local election infrastructure from potential cyberattacks. “While some states have taken the threats seriously, others are seriously lagging behind and remain woefully vulnerable to foreign government cyberattacks,” Wyden wrote. “As such, the federal government must take action: leaving federal election cybersecurity to the states is irresponsible and a total abdication of the federal government’s primary role in matters of national security.”

A Republican bill approved by the House Education Committee scraps requirements for colleges and universities to alert students to register to vote. The rewrite of the Higher Education Act omits provisions ensuring that schools make a good-faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to students enrolled at their institutions. Democrats say is intended to lower voter turnout by young people.

A last minute court ruling in Alabama permitted election officials to destroy digital copies of paper ballots cast in this week’s special election for US Senator. Elections experts criticized the decision, which eliminated an important tool for ensuring electoral integrity. “I don’t understand why the state does not want to preserve them. That doesn’t make sense,” said Verified Voting President Marian Schneider. “Jurisdictions should have processes in place for ordinary citizens… to review election documents and verify that results came out the way they should have.”

Hackers have deleted a database of potential California voters with more than 19 million entries, demanding around $3,500 to restore it. Researchers at the security firm MacKeeper’s Kromtech research group first noticed the issue, but have not been able to identify the database’s owner to notify them. “We decided to go public to let everyone who was affected know,” said Bob Diachenko, head of communications for Kromtech.

Despite the pending records requests and ongoing litigation related to the 2016 Democratic Primary in Florida, Broward County Supervisor Brenda Snipes has ordered the ballots and other election documents related to the primary destroyed. Congressional candidate Tim Canova said that Snipes wrongly destroyed ballots while his court case seeking to review them was pending.

Accepting a lawsuit brought by Maryland Republicans, the Supreme Court will hear a second case this term to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, The court has already heard a case from Wisconsin Democrats, who challenged a legislative redistricting drawn by the state’s Republican leaders.

Saying that Republican legislators were seeking to “impose their own expedited schedule on the court, the special master and other parties at virtually the last moment,” a U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has turned down a request to hold a hearing in North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case two weeks sooner than scheduled.

Advocating paper ballot voting systems and robust routine post election audits, Verified Voting submitted testimony to the Pennsylvania State Senate Senate State Government Committee. The committee is considering the next generation of voting equipment in the state. Verified Voting’s testimony can be read here.

Liberia’s ruling Unity Party has asked the Supreme Court to issue an immediate stay order on the December 28 presidential runoff based on a 25-count Bill of Information the party has filed with the highest court.

According to an expert in Russian cyber-operations, Pro-Russian propagandists used Twitter, fake videos on YouTube and Facebook accounts to make and then spread false allegations that votes the Scottish independence had been manipulated to discredit the pro-UK victory.