“Securing Democracy” Webcast Explores Elections Cyber Security

A news publication focused on government and technology offers a free webcast on elections cybersecurity featuring state and county elections directors describing challenges and best practices.

From Route Fifty:

Don’t miss Route Fifty’s special digital webcast exploring the state of election cybersecurity ahead of the 2018 midterms. Jim Condos, Secretary of State, Vermont, Judd Choate, Director of Elections, State of Colorado, and Noah Praetz, Director of Elections, Cook County, Illinois will talk through election officials’ biggest challenges and offer best practices in how technology leaders can secure the integrity of locally governed election systems.

Tune in on September 20 to gain insights of the following aspects of election cybersecurity:

  1. Building a secure election infrastructure
  2. Training employees on cybersecurity hygiene
  3. Information sharing at multiple levels of government

More Information


Register for Securing Democracy: Challenges and Best Practices

Arizona Court Strikes “Invest in Ed” Initiative from November Ballot

The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a ballot initiative that would have raised income taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents to increase funding for schools across the state, a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona.

The court said that the wording of the “Invest in Ed” ballot initiative was confusing. According to the Court, initiative petition signers were not informed that the measure would do more than increase the tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year. It also would eliminate the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation.

The announcement is a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona, not only because of the removal of the initiative, but because of the possibility that voters inclined toward supporting public schools, in general, may stay home on Election Day.

According to The Arizona Daily Star:

“I hope that people don’t go, ‘Oh, this isn’t on the ballot, I’m not going to participate in November,’” said Joshua Buckley, chairman of the Invest in Ed initiative and a Mesa teacher. “I’m hoping that educators and public school advocates are still fired up.”

Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which led and financed the legal fight to block a public vote on the initiative.

Chamber president Glenn Hamer argued that increasing income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans “would just create a drag on the state’s overall economy.”

The proposal would have imposed an 8 percent state income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples, a significant increase of the current rate of 4.54 percent. The initiative would have also imposed a 9 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples filing jointly.

Education advocates estimated that the additional taxes would generate about $690 million a year for public education.

Maryland voters in November will decide whether to approve a mechanism to prohibit the state from spending casino revenues on anything other than K-12 education. The ballot question will ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Legislature Leadership Proposes Legislation to #FixtheFund

Read the full article from The Arizona Daily Star

Conduit Street Podcast: Digging Deeper on “Elevating Teaching,” Candidate Shuffle, & More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally discuss the latest news from the Kirwan Commission, including new recommendations on pre-K, teacher pay, and college and career readiness, and explain the process for replacing a candidate for public office in the event they decline their party’s nomination, which is exactly what happened this week in Prince George’s County

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Begins Finalizing Recommendations

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Considers Major Pay Increase for Teachers

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Mathis Drops Out of Prince George’s County Executive Race, Will Endorse Alsobrooks

Mathis Drops Out of Prince George’s County Executive Race, Will Endorse Alsobrooks

Jerry Mathis, the Republican candidate for Prince George’s County executive, has declined to accept his party’s nomination and will instead endorse his former opponent, Angela Alsobrooks.

The withdraw leaves Alsobrooks, a Democrat, as the only candidate for county executive.

According to Maryland Matters:

A lifelong Democrat, Mathis said he switched parties and became a candidate to give voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic county more choices. He told Maryland Matters that he decided to endorse Alsobrooks after a chance meeting with her father, Mac Alsobrooks, at a polling place.

“We knew the same people,” Mathis said. “There was a bonding there. And I began to see Angela through the eyes of her father. Then I saw the closeness between her and her father. And I said, ‘You know what, if this woman is anything like her father, that’s a person that I can depend on to help bring about the vision that I’ve always fought for in this county.’”

The Prince George’s County Republican central committee has until September 6th to nominate a replacement candidate.

Read the full article for more information.

How Much Does Public Campaign Financing Cost Montgomery County?

Montgomery County debuted its new system of public campaign financing in this year’s primary election. The cost to taxpayers? $4.1 million (so far).

Source: Montgomery County Finance Department

According to Bethesda Magazine:

That still leaves a bit more than $6.9 million of the $11 million originally appropriated for the 2018 election cycle. Based on projections of the total amount of additional public funding (about $2.625 million) that could be spent during the general election, it appears at least $4.3 million—about 40 percent of what was originally appropriated—will be left over.

The amount in the county treasury could end up being significantly more than that, depending on how competitive several of the fall races turn out to be.

Under Maryland Election Law, Section 13-505, counties may establish their own system of public campaign financing. In September 2014 the Montgomery Council unanimously enacted Bill 16-14, which established a Public Election Fund to provide public campaign financing for County Executive and County Council candidates.

Only contributions from County residents are eligible for matching funds, which are as follows:

  • County Executive candidates – $6 for each dollar of the first $50 of a qualifying contribution received from a County resident, $4 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution.
  • County Council candidates – $4 for each dollar of the first $50 received from a County resident, $3 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution.

The law prohibits political action committees (PACs), corporations, labor organizations and state and local political committees from contributing to candidates who participate in public campaign financing. It also caps individual contributions at $150.

The maximum limits on public funds per candidate for either the primary election or the general election are $750,000 for a County Executive candidate, $250,000 for a Council at-large candidate and $125,000 for a district Council candidate. Matching funds will only be disbursed to a certified candidate in a contested election and will not be distributed for self/spouse contributions to candidates running unopposed.

A candidate who wins the nomination after receiving County matching funds up to the maximum for the office during the primary, may continue to receive matching funds from the County up to the maximum amount for that office during a contested general election for additional qualifying contributions received.

Candidates must return any unspent public campaign funds after withdrawing as a candidate, losing in a primary election or at the conclusion of the general election.

Fourteen states — including Maryland — and a handful of localities have some form of public financing for elections. Last year, Howard County approved its own system, which is similar to Montgomery’s and will take effect for the 2022 election cycle.

Baltimore City voters will decide this fall whether the city should allow public funding of local election campaigns and create an independent inspector general’s office.

Proponents of public financing for candidates say such programs boost citizen engagement in elections by amplifying the power of small donors and encourage more candidates to run in local races.

Opponents of public financing argue that the government has no business in funding individual campaigns. There are also concerns that a localized option would create a disadvantage for candidates in less wealthy counties, which may be reluctant to use tax revenue to fund political campaigns.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Montgomery County Sets Up $11M Public Campaign Fund for 2018

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Md. Atty. General’s Office: County-By-County Public Campaign Financing Is Legal

Read the full article from Bethesda Magazine


Nancy Floreen Qualifies to Run in Montgomery County Executive Race

Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen (courtesy of the Montgomery County Council)

Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen has earned a spot on the November ballot in her independent bid for county executive. In order to qualify as a candidate, Floreen had to collect at least 7,243 valid signatures from Montgomery County voters (1% of registered voters) supportive of her effort to challenge Democratic nominee Marc Elrich and Republican candidate Robin Ficker.

According to The Washington Post:

Floreen, who announced her bid for the seat last month, submitted 20,360 petition signatures, of which 13,356 were determined valid, Election Director Margaret Jurgensen wrote Wednesday in a letter to Floreen.

Floreen, a 16-year at-large council member and former mayor of Garrett Park, is challenging Democrat Marc Elrich, a 12-year County Council member, and Republican Robin Ficker, an attorney and former state delegate, for the liberal county’s top elected position.

Useful Links

Read the Full Article from The Washington Post

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Floreen May Make Independent Run for Montgomery County Executive

Conduit Street Podcast: Beating the Heat, Janus v. AFSCME, & Primary Races We’re Still Watching

Conduit Street Podcast: Live at #MACoCon with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally are joined by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger for a live recording at MACo’s Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Listen in to hear about how Congressman Ruppersberger’s experience in local government affect his decision-making on Capitol Hill, the importance of municipal bonds, an update on election security, and more!

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is serving his eighth term in the United States House of Representatives for the citizens of Maryland’s 2nd District. Maryland’s 2nd District includes parts of Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties.

Representative Ruppersberger, who served as MACo President in 1996 while in office as Baltimore County Executive, has served in public office for more than 30 years. He was elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1985 and again in 1989, chosen twice as council chairman. He was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1994 and 1998, and, under his leadership, the county was named one of the nation’s four best-managed counties by Governing Magazine.

Known as a consensus builder on Capitol Hill, Ruppersberger has led the fight to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds, the most important tool in the United States for financing state and local infrastructure including schools, hospitals, water, sewer facilities, public power utilities, roads, and mass transit.

State Board of Elections Aims to Boost Election Cyber Security

The Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) will spend about $7.4 million to improve election security. Although there won’t be any substantive changes before November’s gubernatorial election, SBE plans to upgrade its systems and software in time for elections in 2020.

Federal officials warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. Although United States Department of Homeland Security notified Maryland that is was one of 21 states with suspicious online activities before the election, there’s no evidence that Maryland’s election systems or voter data were breached or compromised.

According to the Frederick News-Post:

After questions arose in April about the 2016 election and whether Maryland’s election systems were hacked, the Board of Elections received approximately $7 million in federal funds to make election security improvements. The state was required to match 5 percent of those funds, bringing the total to slightly more than $7.4 million to be spread across categories including voting equipment, election auditing, voter registration and management systems, cyber vulnerabilities, training and communication.

In a report from the Board of Elections to state lawmakers, the board said it has earmarked about $3.5 million, nearly half of the federal funds, to identify and mitigate cyber vulnerabilities. The funds will be used to hire an information security expert, upgrade equipment and software, implement two-factor authentication on workstations and automate the state’s patch management process, according to the report.

SBE has also earmarked $1 million for upgrading voter registration equipment and software and $1.5 million for cybersecurity upgrades and training for election security personnel.

Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years.

MACo has partnered with the SBE and local boards of elections to maintain the integrity of state and local election systems and data. This collaborative effort will promote best practices and information sharing to protect the systems and data we use to conduct elections.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Partners with State & Local Boards of Elections to Improve Election Security

Read the Full Article from the Frederick News-Post

When Blue Go Red…

The Baltimore County Council voted on Monday night to table the idea of giving public safety officers a property tax break if they live and work within the county – making the county the first in Maryland to consider, and then reject, authorizing the credit.

According to The Baltimore Sun:

Council members voted 4-3 along party lines to table the measure, effectively defeating it. [Bill sponsor Council Member Wade] Kach and Republicans voted against tabling the tax credit, while Democrats voted for tabling it.

The County Council considered enacting the tax credit of up to $2,500 for eligible public safety officers, including firefighters, emergency medical technicians, correctional officers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies employed by the county, and certain volunteer firefighters. The County estimates that the credit, if passed, would have cost the County approximately $5.3 million annually, once fully phased in.

Before the vote took place yesterday evening, The Baltimore Sun published an article announcing that the county sheriff’s deputies had endorsed Al Redmer for Baltimore County Executive in the general election – the first time they have endorsed a Republican candidate for the office, according to the applicable unit of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Conduit Street Podcast: On the Road with MACo, “Staggering” Price of Pre-K, & Primary Election Roundup

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss MACo’s odyssey across Maryland, update the “too close to call” county primary races, and explore the potential implications of the Kirwan Commission’s staggering cost estimates for expanding high-quality, full-day pre-K in Maryland.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Expanding Pre-K Comes with “Staggering” Price Tag

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Some County Primary Races Still Too Close to Call (Updated)