Pennsylvania keeps one-step voting, but may be stuck with old machines
In one of the oddest recent pairings of election reform efforts, straight-ticket voting will still be permitted in Pennsylvania but as a consequence the state's voting machines may not be modernized before the next election.
The twinned developments, the result of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's veto last week of a single bill, could have important consequences for the 2020 presidential race, when Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes will be one of the biggest prizes on the roster of tossup states.
The measure, approved by the Republican-controlled legislature on party lines, would have ended the ability of voters to make a single selection endorsing all of one political party's candidates on the ballot. The same legislation would have provided $90 million in state funds to help counties buy new paper-based and easily auditable voting equipment that is becoming the national standard.
Democrats, especially, say the speed and ease of straight-party voting is a huge boon to turnout, especially in urban areas, because otherwise plenty of their allies walk away from the polls rather than stand in long lines. But only seven states beside Pennsylvania will offer the option next fall.
Another will be Michigan, which also sits at the top of presidential battleground roster, because the GOP legislature's move to end the practice was reversed by a ballot initiative. But a dozen states, most recently Texas and most of them reliably Republican, have abandoned the practice in the past 25 years.
"As we approach an election with anticipated large turnout and new voting technology, I'm concerned the isolated removal of a convenient voting option would increase waiting times and could discourage participation," the governor said.
Wolf expressed confidence he could find money to replace electronic voting machines with voter-marked paper balloting equipment before next November, when interest in preventing fraud or hacking will be particularly intense in a state that President Trump carried by just 44,000 votes in 2016 to break a six-election winning streak for the Democratic nominees.
The governor didn't offer a specific plan, but Congress has been advancing legislation that could provide the necessary money to Pennsylvania and other states seeking to replace voting machines.
An increasing number of the country's largest publicly traded companies are disclosing more than ever about political spending habits that the law permits them to keep secret.
That's the central finding of the fifth annual report from a group of academics and corporate ethicists, who say the average score among the biggest companies traded on American exchanges, the S&P 500, has gone up each year since 2014.
Though corporate political action committees must disclose their giving to candidates, those numbers are very often dwarfed by the donations businesses make to the trade associations and other outside groups that have driven so much of the steady rise in spending on elections. Conservatives say robust disclosure of these behaviors is the best form of regulating money in politics and is working fine, and this new report reflects that. Those who say campaign finance needs more assertive federal regulation will argue such corporate transparency is inconsistent and inadequate to the task, and the new report underscores that.
A year from the presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies have adopted a new framework for how they will inform candidates, groups and the public about attempts to disrupt our country's elections by foreign operatives.
But the one-page summary of the plan, released late last week, is so general that it remains unclear what the intelligence community plans to do if and when it discovers something suspicious.
The summary by the director of national intelligence states that the federal government will "follow a process and principles designed to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that notification decisions are consistent, well-informed and unbiased."
The new framework is designed to prevent a repeat of some of what happened after the 2016 election.