America’s next president could be eased into office not just by TV ads or speeches, but by Google’s secret decisions, and no one—except for me and perhaps a few other obscure researchers—would know how this was accomplished. Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had. Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments I conducted recently with Ronald E. Robertson. Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Google’s control. There are at least three very real scenarios whereby Google—perhaps even without its leaders’ knowledge—could shape or even decide the election next year. Whether or not Google executives see it this way, the employees who constantly adjust the search giant’s algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day. The adjustments they make increasingly influence our thinking—including, it turns out, our voting preferences.
Florida’s prison population is fast becoming a point of contention in the Legislature’s attempt to redraw the state’s congressional districts. The last Census counted more than 160,000 people in Florida correctional facilities, and they cannot vote. But they can skew how districts are drawn, and ultimately who represents the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is exactly what U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, is convinced is happening in North Florida. Brown said the proposed new Congressional District 5 stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee will see a reduction in the percentage of black residents who are of voting age — a key measure used to ensure black voters can elect who they want to represent them in Congress — from 50 percent to 45 percent under the map that passed the House on Tuesday and is expected to be before the Senate on Wednesday. But Brown, who is suing the Legislature to block the redrawing of her district, said the reduction of the black voting age population in her district could be even greater because her new district would have 17,000 prisoners in it — giving it one of the highest prison populations in the state. Her current district has just 10,000.
With just four days left until the end of a special session called to redraw the state’s congressional map, the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Monday approved a plan that changes lines for districts in Southwest and Central Florida, setting up a potential collision with the House. Even as members of the House rejected an amendment to a “base map” developed by legislative staff members ahead of the session, the Senate panel approved on a voice vote new boundaries proposed by Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate president. Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee last week following a July ruling by the Florida Supreme Court striking down eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts for violating the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010. It is the first of two redistricting sessions scheduled to be held this year. Another is needed to redraw Senate lines after a lawsuit dealing with those districts was settled after the Supreme Court decision on the congressional plan.
North Carolina: Court documents: Legal challenge to N.C. voter ID could be settled | Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina’s voter ID law may not go to trial after all, according to court documents filed Monday. The recent federal trial on North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act that ended about two weeks ago did not deal with the state’s photo ID requirement that goes into effect in 2016. It only dealt with other provisions of the law, which reduced the early voting period, eliminated same-day voter registration, prohibited county election officials from counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct but correct county, and abolished preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder decided that the legal challenge to the photo ID requirement would be dealt with later. Schroeder’s decision came after state Republican legislators approved an amendment easing the photo ID requirement.
North Carolina’s voter ID law will be the topic of discussion this week among attorneys on each side of the lawsuits challenging the 2013 state election law overhaul. Lawyers for the NAACP and others offered that detail in an update to the federal judge presiding over the cases that will determine which rules govern elections in North Carolina next year. They plan to provide a report of their efforts to find common ground in a report to the judge on Sept. 17 as part of a trial could test the breadth of protections for African-Americans with claims of voter disenfranchisement two years after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder presided over arguments during three weeks in July on parts of the challenge that did not include the requirement that N.C. voters show one of six photo identification cards to cast a ballot. The legislature amended that portion of the law on the eve of the trial, setting up a request from the challengers for deeper review of the broader implications of the changes.
Consternation inside the Ohio Democratic Party over whether to endorse a November ballot issue on legislative redistricting should be nearing a conclusion. The legislature passed Issue 1 in December, and there was only one Democratic “no” vote. The proposal has been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party, the League of Women Voters and a variety of groups that generally align with Democrats, including ProgressOhio, Common Cause Ohio and the Coalition of Democratic & Progressive Organizations of Central Ohio.
In a scolding tone, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., ordered the state of Texas on Tuesday to pay more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees in a case challenging district boundaries drawn by the Republican-led Legislature. First under the direction of then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and now under Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state has been fighting a court order for more than a year to pay the lawyers who battled the state over the issuance of redistricting maps for the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
When the Utah County commissioners voted Tuesday to place a local sales tax increase on the general election ballot, they included a modification to the motion that would not allow cities to hold a vote-by-mail option in the general election. According to the modification, made after the recommendation of Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson in order to have “equal access to all citizens that will be voting on this countywide issue,” cities will not have a vote-by-mail option when it comes to the sales tax measure. County residents will have the option of voting at a polling place on paper or electronically, or they can request an absentee ballot, according to Thompson. Thompson said that by allowing the five cities that held a vote-by-mail election for the primary election to provide that same option to their respective cities, “You’re giving the citizens in those five cities a greater say potentially.”
Editorials: Virginia’s redistricting chaos in black and white | Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman/The Washington Post
The best way to view the chaotic end to Virginia’s special legislative session on congressional redistricting is through the words of French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s famous epigram “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” We have been here before, Virginia. In 2011, Republicans and Democrats in Virginia’s General Assembly had their decennial redistricting battle. Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) pushed a plan designed to elect two African Americans out of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Did McEachin gerrymander the districts to get this result? Of course. Republicans, not surprisingly, wanted a plan creating only one African American district. Did the GOP gerrymander its plan? Of course. In the end, Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed a redistricting plan written by Republicans to help Republicans. Democrats called the plan unfair to them. It was.
The state Department of Justice asked Tuesday that a lawsuit filed last month over the 2011 state legislative district map be dismissed because the lawsuit presents a political question that the court cannot answer. The lawsuit was filed by a group of 12 Democrats from across Wisconsin, led by retired UW-Madison Law School professor William Whitford, and asks that the map’s boundaries be thrown out as “one of the worst gerrymanders in modern American history.”
Canada: More than two dozen ‘third parties’ have registered in hopes of influencing federal election | National Post
Dozens of groups with their own political agendas could, combined, spend millions in this federal election campaign trying to influence voters. These so-called “third parties” (they aren’t actually political parties) are registered to advocate and run advertising during the federal election campaign. They include public and private-sector unions; an anything-but-Conservative veterans group; animal rights supporters; the small-government National Citizens Coalition; environmental groups; the Canadian Medical Association and even one called “Voters Against Harper.” To date, more than two dozen third parties have registered with Elections Canada. Many will run ads either nationally or in specific ridings to support their agendas. Others will rely on grassroots approaches to targeting voters. Their goals include boosting funding for the CBC, improving seniors’ care, restoring door-to-door mail delivery, securing better services for veterans, electoral reform, and strategic voting, to name a few.
Ghana’s main opposition party asked the electoral commission on Tuesday to create a new voters’ register before next year’s election, after allegations of fraudulent registration overshadowed the West African nation’s last vote. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) said it had overwhelming evidence that the electoral roll used for polls in 2012 was bloated with ineligible voters, including the names of Togolese nationals. Togo is home to the Ewe ethnic group that is also found in southeastern Ghana, where its members are regarded as strong supporters of President John Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Haitian election authorities on Wednesday disqualified two more candidates for disruptions during legislative elections earlier this month, bringing the total of barred candidates to 16 so far. Voters in the Aug. 9 elections were filling two-thirds of the 30-member Senate and the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies. Results have not been announced yet. Earlier this week, the Provisional Electoral Council said it disqualified 14 candidates for involvement in various violent disturbances at polling stations.
Sri Lanka: Parliamentary elections genuine, ‘well administered’ – European election monitors | Colombo Page
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) that was in the country to monitor the Sri Lanka parliamentary elections held on August 17 said the election was well-administered and genuine although the campaigning was restricted with excessive rules. “The 17 August Parliamentary Elections in Sri Lanka were well-administered and offered voters a genuine choice from among a broad range of political alternatives, although campaign rules were restrictive,” Chief Observer of the EUEOM) Cristian Preda said during the presentation of the preliminary report at a press conference in Colombo today.
The founder of a Twitter campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in order to damage the party’s future chances of gaining power claims to have received three ballot papers to vote in the election, despite being a member of the Conservative party. But a Labour party source said it had only sent one ballot paper to his address and that the Electoral Reform Service, which is managing the voting, would not allow one individual to vote three times. Andrew Wylie, who uses the pen name Charlie Mortimer, said he registered as a supporter of the Labour party using his first name, his middle name and his wife’s name, using the same email address and mobile phone number on all three applications. Wylie claims to have received three separate ballot papers and to have sent them all off, voting for Corbyn in first place, with no second preference. “I’m hoping Jeremy will just walk it in the first round,” he said.