There’s a hundred-million-dollar battle brewing for control of Congress, but it’s not going to be resolved for seven more years, and the battles will take place in lands far away from Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans think controlling state legislatures in 2020 is one of the most important political battles to fight, mostly for one reason: The power of the pen — the kind that draws district lines, that is. Five years out, both sides are in a fundraising battle to build war chests of $70 million to $125 million to swing state legislatures their way by 2020, when new electoral maps will get drawn across the country. The Republican State Leadership Committee announced Thursday it’s launching RedMap 2020 and aiming to invest $125 million to expand their majority in the statehouses and redraw the nation’s electoral lines.
Those who believe that “voting online is the future” or that it is “possible given current technology” to create a secure online voting system are dangerously mistaken. According to computer experts, Internet voting is vulnerable to cyber-attack and fraud—vulnerabilities inherent in current hardware and software, as well as the basic manner in which the Internet is organized. It is unlikely that these vulnerabilities will be eliminated at any time in the near future. State legislators and secretaries of state who are considering implementing Internet voting, or even the delivery by e-mail of voted ballots from registered voters, should reconsider such measures. These programs would be vulnerable to a variety of well-known cyber-attacks, any of which could be catastrophic. Such attacks could be “launched by anyone from a disaffected lone individual to a well-financed enemy agency outside the reach of U.S. law.” They also “could result in large-scale, selective voter disenfranchisement,” privacy violations, vote buying and selling, and vote switching “even to the extent of reversing the outcome of many elections at once….” The biggest danger, however, is that such attacks “could succeed and yet go completely undetected.”
Last year, a bipartisan commission established by President Obama declared that the U.S. faces an “impending crisis in voting technology.” After the 2000 Florida recount showed the world that the American presidency could be determined by hanging chads, Congress set aside $3.3 billion, most of it to help local election officials upgrade their voting machinery. Bureaucrats with relatively little experience buying advanced technology rushed to purchase machines developed to satisfy the sudden demand. Those devices, designed in the years when Palm and Nokia owned the smartphone market, are mostly outdated. There’s no new money on the horizon, and even if local governments had the budgets for upgrades, they wouldn’t want the standard products currently available. Now, Los Angeles County, the largest voting jurisdiction in the U.S., has hired IDEO, a design company with roots in Silicon Valley, to overhaul how it serves up democracy. IDEO has developed a touchscreen system that incorporates features familiar to voters used to scrolling and tapping. Election administrators across the country are closely watching the experiment. They want to know if L.A. can solve the problem of American voting. “For a long time people muttered that somebody should do something about this,” says Doug Chapin, who runs the University of Minnesota’s Program for Excellence in Election Administration. “What Los Angeles County is doing is just that.”
Florida: Trial court breaks silence on redistricting schedule — orders Sept. 25 deadline | Miami Herald
A Tallahassee judge broke the latest logjam over the future of the state’s congressional maps Wednesday and ordered the Florida Legislature to finish its maps — and subsequent trial to defend it — by Sept. 25. “The Court will do its best to accommodate everyone’s schedule but clearly there is not much time to do all that is required,” wrote Second Judicial Circuit Judge George Reynolds in a scheduling order released late Wednesday. The order is the first sign of movement on the congressional redistricting maps since the Florida Supreme Court ruled on July 9 that the Legislature had violated the Fair District provisions of the constitution and drew maps with “unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers.”
“The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” Butch Bowers, a lawyer for Governor Pat McCrory, told a court in Winston-Salem on Monday. Pace Bowers, that’s precisely what’s on trial over the next two weeks. A group of plaintiffs—including the Justice Department, NAACP, and League of Women Voters—are suing the state over new voting laws implemented in 2013, saying that they represent an attempt to suppress the minority vote. The new laws were passed shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that required some jurisdictions to seek approval from the federal government before altering voting laws. All of those jurisdictions had been found to have voting practices that disenfranchised minorities; most of them were in the South. The new rules required a photo ID to vote; reduced early voting; ended same-day voter registration; banned the practice of casting ballots out of precinct; and ended pre-registration for teens. (The General Assembly later amended the photo-ID law, which had been the strictest in the nation, and it’s not being considered in the trial.)
In the final weeks of the legislative session, nestled in between hemp and chicken coops, was a bill that stripped the state Board of Elections of its power to buy voting equipment and placed that responsibility with the secretary of state. While plenty of other bills were left in limbo as a result of the General Assembly’s abrupt recess, House and Senate versions of the voting equipment bill went the distance and the measure was signed into law by Governor Raimondo last week, according to the governor’s office. But what does it all mean? Officials say the state’s nearly 20-year-old voting machines are sorely in need of an upgrade. The Board of Elections has been talking about replacing the outdated machines for roughly five years amid funding woes and logistical holdups.
A bid to stop a key provision of the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act from being implemented in this fall’s election has been denied by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice David Stinson ruled on Friday that a request by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students for an interim injunction against new rules for voter identification could not be granted. The activist groups that brought forward the challenge had been seeking to allow Canadians to use the voter-information cards they receive in the mail as proof of identity at polling stations – something that Elections Canada had been planning to allow before changes to the Canada Elections Act were passed by Parliament in 2014. They argued in court that the effect of those changes, which require government-issued photo identification with proof of address in order to vote, would effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of people – especially aboriginals, students, the homeless and elderly people living in care homes – who might not have driver’s licences, the easiest such form of ID.
Haiti’s prime minister and elections council president sought to reassure the international community Thursday that all was on track for the country’s most complex election process in history. “We’ve already started the process, and progress is visible,” Pierre-Louis Opont, president of the Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP, told Haiti’s international partners in New York during a United Nations donors conference. The country was seeking $31 million to cover election costs. At the meeting, Brazil, Canada, Norway and the United States promised to provide additional funding, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General said. It was unclear Thursday how much. An effusive Opont told donors that political parties, civil society and voters had confidence in the elections council, adding that “we have headed off skeptics.”
House Democrats are floating a legislative deal linking the thorny Confederate flag debate with expanded voting rights. Republican leaders last week were forced to scrap a vote on an Interior Department spending bill — and suspend their appropriations schedule indefinitely — over a partisan disagreement about displaying the Confederate flag in national cemeteries. Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday that Democratic leaders will drop their push to attach flag-related amendments to appropriations bills, freeing Republicans to pursue their spending agenda, if GOP leaders will agree to consider an update to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a central part of which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a Maryland bill that expanded voting rights, he angered a group of people who were never able to vote for him in the first place: felons still serving prison time, probation or parole. Maryland — like every state but Maine and Vermont — restricts the voting rights of felons. Some states bar felony inmates from voting, others extend the prohibition to offenders who are on parole or probation. Several states withhold voting rights from people who have been out of the criminal justice system for years. More states are considering restoring the right to vote to felons, with supporters saying that once their debt to society is paid they should be allowed to exercise a fundamental right. This year, 18 states considered legislation to ease voting restrictions on felons; Wyoming was the only state to pass such a bill. That’s up from 13 states that considered bills last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Voting Blogs: Voting Information Project makes official data available wherever voters look for it – online | electionlineWeekly
In 2008, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Google realized voters were having trouble finding accurate voting information. Millions of people were looking for answers to three main questions: “Where do I vote?”, “What’s on my ballot?”, and “How do I navigate the election process?” but no standardized, reliable, and official source for this information existed. Pew partnered with Google and the states to address the issue by creating the Voting Information Project (VIP). Pew works on VIP with state election officials to develop cutting-edge solutions to standardize and publish the data, and Google and other partners have ensured that voters find data where they’re looking for it most — online. The results of this partnership have been dramatic. During the 2014 general election, official information provided by VIP was accessed an estimated 31 million times from a variety of sources, including: Google products, such as Search; customized tools on the websites of national organizations such as the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters; or, on one of over 1,500 websites that housed VIP’s white-label voting information tool.
A federal appeals court said Delaware may enforce a state election law requiring advocacy groups that run political advertising to reveal their donors. Thursday’s 3-0 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed a lower court ruling that had favored Delaware Strong Families, a conservative-leaning group that publishes “voter guides” ahead of elections. The group objected to a 2013 state law requiring third-party advertisers to reveal their donors’ identities if they spend more than $500 in an election cycle on ads that refer to specific candidates, even if they do not recommend how to vote.
Florida G.O.P. officials coordinated with Republican political consultants in an effort to quietly push for favorable state Senate maps, according to depositions and court documents. A lawsuit challenging the state Senate maps was filed in 2012, but it lay dormant as a separate suit over the state’s congressional maps winded its way through the courts. That lawsuit eventually reached the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled last week that eight congressional seats violated anti-gerrymandering provisions passed by voters in 2010.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled congressional maps drawn by the Legislature following the 2010 census resulted in political gerrymandering, and thereby were unconstitutional. The justices ordered new districts be created within 100 days. This follows a ruling a year ago by Judge Terry P. Lewis that two of Florida’s congressional districts were unconstitutional and “made a mockery” of the voter-approved Fair Districts amendment, and thus had to be redrawn. I guess they’ll get it right eventually. The court ruled that lawmakers specifically must redraw eight of the state’s congressional districts, which will end up affecting all 27 of them in some way. Locally, this includes the 13th and 14th Districts, now held by Reps. David Jolly and Kathy Castor. The reshaping will threaten incumbents and possibly entice some challengers who otherwise might not have run for office (see Crist, Charlie). In other words, we might end up with some competitive races, which is what the Fair Districts amendment was designed to produce.
Hours after Gov. Pat McCrory called on him to step down and after initially refusing to do so, Paul Foley resigned from the State Board of Elections following disclosures he pressed for details in an investigation that involved one of his law firm’s clients. Elections board Chairman Josh Howard announced Foley’s resignation early Thursday. In a statement, Foley said he hoped his resignation would help “avoid distractions from the important work of the board.” Howard said in an email to Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach that he “regretfully” accepted Foley’s resignation.
Six Greensboro residents joined the city itself in a lawsuit filed Monday that seeks to overturn a recent state law that would radically alter the method of city council elections. In the court filing submitted to the US District Court on Monday, attorneys from Brooks, Pierce and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice claimed the redistricting move “destroys self-government by the City of Greensboro and its citizens. If permitted to take effect, the Greensboro Act would destroy municipal government crafted and controlled by the citizens of Greensboro and replace it with a city council founded upon unconstitutional voting districts and expressly limited in its powers of self-government,” the suit states.
Presidential candidate Scott Walker won a major legal victory Thursday when Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ended a secret investigation into whether the Republican’s gubernatorial campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups during the 2012 recall election. No one has been charged in the so-called John Doe probe, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation in which information is tightly controlled, but questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months. Barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling makes Walker’s campaign that much smoother as he courts voters in early primary states.
The chief executive officer of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration has shown bad faith in the ongoing peace talks. Vital Nshimirimana made the comment Thursday after the government issued a statement saying the presidential election will proceed on the July 21 rescheduled date, despite the peace negotiations. Regional leaders recently chose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to help the Burundians resolve the crisis that has forced more than 140,000 to flee to neighboring countries.
Parties seeking independence for Catalonia have forged an alliance for September regional elections that they hope will boost their drive to break away from Spain, sources said Wednesday. Leaders of the centre-right CDC party and left-wing ERC sealed a pact at a meeting on Tuesday, agreeing to run on a joint ticket on September 27, sources in both parties told AFP. Spain’s conservative national government fiercely opposes independence for the rich northeastern region, which wants to follow Scotland’s example by voting on its political future.
Parliament on July 14 approved new local election rules via a bill that introduces elements of proportional representation in elections to municipal and regional councils, and two-round elections for mayors of large cities. Although not explicitly required by the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors, the legislation is nonetheless a key component of Kyiv’s plan to decentralize government by delegating more power and functions to regional and local governments. However, the bill also specifies that the elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 25, won’t take place in the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, or in the Russian-annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Labour has accused David Cameron of attempting to rig the electoral system, after the government ruled it would adopt a new electoral register this year even though up to 1.9 million voters on the old list are still missing from it. The government said it would adopt the individual register from December this year, overruling the advice of the Electoral Commission, which said it should not be implemented until December 2016. There are currently 1.9 million more voters on the old household register – under which one person was responsible for registering everyone in the home – than the new individual register. The discrepancy has raised concerns that many of these people will lose the right to vote unless they re-register before elections in May 2016.