News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Minnesota National Guard

A Minnesota National Guard soldier at work on the new assignment.

Minnesota National Guard looks to an election security deployment

Minnesota's top election official has an outside-the-box plan for protecting the state's 2020 election against hackers, social media disinformation and other threats: Call in the National Guard.

The Democratic secretary of state, Steve Simon, is negotiating an agreement so election administrators statewide could collaborate with the new "cyber protection team" of the Minnesota National Guard. Revelations about Russian interference in 2016 promoted the team's creation, and it was deployed in time to work with the Minnesota Department of IT Services during last year's midterm campaign to probe for election security vulnerabilities.

But for next year, Simon's office is pitching a broader collaboration, with guard officers trained as coders and hackers doing scenario role playing for the county and local administrators who run the balloting, plus "threat hunting" for sources of misinformation – a far cry from the guard's usual work responding to natural disasters and boots-on-the-ground protests.

"This is a security issue," Simon told the state's largest paper, The Star Tribune. "It isn't just about bullets or boots on the ground, it's about this cyber realm and the fact that adversaries try to expose or exploit weaknesses in the cyber world just as they would in other areas as well."

Minnesota is among just four Army National Guard states with fully staffed cyber protection teams. "Nobody has gotten worse at this activity than they were four years ago — everybody's gotten better," said Lt. Col. Daniel Cunningham, the unit's commander.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Ballot measures are good democracy — but only if you can understand them

Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.

This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.

In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
teguhjatipras/Getty Images

Two states asking Supreme Court for permission to regulate Electoral College conduct

Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.

The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.

Keep reading... Show less