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III. Election News This Week
- This week, when testifying before Congress, FBI Director James Comey testified that hackers have attempted to breach more state voter registration databases. "There have been a variety of scanning activities, which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities, as well as some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases beyond those we knew about in July and August," he told the House Judiciary Committee. "There's no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around." During his testimony, Comey emphasized that voter registration databases — not the voting system itself — are being targeted by hackers.
- Also this week on the hacking front, the National Association of Secretaries of State has sent an open letter to Congress calling on the legislature to avoid using political rhetoric or propose legislation that may damage confidence in the election system.
- For the first time, Salt Lake County, Utah will not be using any schools as polling places. “We have eliminated the usage of schools,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen told the Deseret News. “I was concerned about the fact that on Election Day we were letting anyone into a school.” With the approval of vote-by-mail Swensen was able to consolidate precincts into more centralized locations such as libraries, senior centers and fire stations. “I really feel a lot better about not having polling places in schools,” she told the paper. “It gives me more peace of mind.”
- In the wake of last month’s historic flooding in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council has approved temporary voting location changes for the November election. More than 34,000 East Baton Rouge Parish voters will be affected by the change. The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters told WBRZ workers with the Clerk of Court’s office will be on hand to assist residents at the combined polling locations. Each location will have two lines to ensure that residents are voting in the correct precincts.
- Given recent news, it’s somewhat ironic that a U.S. elections official would travel to Russia to observe their elections, but that’s exactly what Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill did when he served as an international observer for Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Merrill observed the elections process in the Russian city of Volgograd. “We had unfiltered, unbridled access and could walk in unannounced. There were no incidents I saw where people were heavily influenced to support one party or candidate over another,” Merrill told Alabama Newscenter. Merrill said he observed various precincts, and watched later that night at a central location where votes were tallied. One polling location “was a two-room schoolhouse with no running water and no indoor toilets,” Merrill said.
- Personnel News: Dana Moeller has been appointed interim elections administrator for Bandera County, Texas. Patrick Gannon, former editor and columnist for The Insider State Government News Service has joined the North Carolina State Board of Elections as the board’s new spokesman.