Elections

The challengers to the redistricting of Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District just might win—if the Supreme Court actually decides their case.

In Benisek v. Lamone in 2011 the Maryland legislature needed to move about 10,000 voters out of the Sixth Congressional District to comply with “one-person one-vote.” It moved about 360,000 Marylanders out of the district and about 350,000 Marylanders in the district. As a result only 34 percent of voters were registered Republican versus 47 percent before redistricting.

A massive federal government spending bill was unveiled March 21st, that includes $380 million to help counter cyber-attacks on U.S. voting systems in all 50 U.S. states and territories. The bill's passing is Congress’ first real step to bolster election security since the allegations of Russian hacking in the 2016 elections. This bill would provide a $307 million increase in the Trump administration’s request for the FBI’s budget. The bureau’s increased funding would be used for counter-intelligence to protect against Russian cyber-attacks.

On Tuesday, March 20th, voters in the state of Illinois went to the polls to cast their ballots in the nation’s second primary election of the year. Illinois was the lone state in the 2016 election known to have its election systems breached in a hacking effort that penetrated the state’s voter registration data. While no actual voting machines or vote tallying were altered, hacking of voter rolls can cause just as much damage. “I think it’s only a matter of time before we suffer a devastating attack on our election systems unless our federal and state governments act quickly,” says J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan.

On June 12, Maine will become the first state to let residents rank their voting choices in their primary election choices for U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representatives.  The June 12th election will also allow a “people’s veto” of sorts that would overrule previous state legislation and permit ranked-choice voting again in the November 2018 general election. Ranked-choice voting is a process in which voters would rank candidates in order of preference, if no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their next-ranked candidates and the votes would be recounted. This process would continue until one candidate has a clear majority.

The threat of interference in United States elections remains a pressing topic of conversation over the coming months leading up to this year’s midterm elections. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence intend to face these issues head on. On February 16th and 18th, election officials from all fifty states engaged in a “national-level classified dialogue... to ensure the integrity and security of the nation’s election infrastructure,” according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). ODNI also noted that these briefings were to focus on “increasing awareness of foreign adversary intent and capabilities against the state’s election infrastructure, as well as a discussion of threat mitigation efforts.”

CSG Midwest
Ohio already has a plan in place that will change how the state’s legislative lines are drawn after the next U.S. census, and voters will have the chance in May to change the process for congressional districts. SJR 5 was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, culminating months of bipartisan legislative negotiations, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon announced recently that $7 million will be available to Minnesota counties on a matching basis in the form of technology grants to buy new election equipment.

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that states and local governments should be able to ban political apparel at polling places. County election officials and the Minnesota Secretary of State were sued for violating the First Amendment in this case.

At least eight states (Delaware, Kansas, Montana, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont) other than Minnesota have enacted similar bans.

Florida state and county election administrators recently met in Orlando, Florida to partake in a workshop on “cybertraining” to prepare for their 2018 elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s 2011 Congressional redistricting plan constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. This is the fourth court in a relatively short period of time to rule that partisan gerrymandering may be unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing two of those decisions, one from Wisconsin and the other from Maryland, this term.

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