First and last names. Recent addresses and phone numbers. Party affiliation. Voting history and demographics. A database containing this information from 191 million voter records was mysteriously published over the last week, the latest example of personal voter data becoming freely available, alarming privacy experts who say the information can be used for phishing attacks, identity theft and extortion. No one knows who built the database, or precisely where all the data came from, and whether its disclosure resulted from an inadvertent release or from hacks. The disclosure was discovered by an information technology specialist, Chris Vickery, who quickly alerted the authorities and published his findings on Databreaches.net. NationBuilder, a nonpartisan political data firm, has said it may have been the source of some of the data, although the actual database that was released was not the company’s.
The stunning success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race suggests that American voters are very restless, and very displeased with the political status quo. That’s certainly true. But it’s also nothing new. And perhaps no statistic shows this better than the continuing popularity of recall elections. For the fifth year in a row, more than 100 officials across the U.S. have either faced an actual recall vote or resigned in the face of such a threat. The use of the recall may in some ways be seen as a product of an empowered, technologically connected, and occasionally enraged electorate. After all, for the better part of the 20th century, the recall was an almost forgotten relic of the Progressive Era. But no more. As we saw in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012, and Colorado in 2013, recalls have become a major part of the political landscape. And when they get on the ballot, they work. This year, 108 recalls got on the ballot or led to a resignation. Of those 108, 65 officials were ousted, and 15 resigned. Only 28 survived the voters’ wrath.
Voting equipment across Colorado’s 64 counties will have to be replaced in the next two years in order to comply with requirements of a 2009 state law. And Secretary of State Wayne Williams just designated one company, Dominion Voting Systems, as the sole vendor for all the needed gear. The transition is going to be expensive, especially for rural counties that haven’t seen the economic boom experienced across the Front Range. County officials argue forcing them to use one vendor — and not the cheapest — may violate the law and sane fiscal management.
A state judge on Wednesday approved an entirely new map of Florida’s 40 Senate districts that was recommended by a coalition of voting rights groups. The decision is yet another political and legal setback for the Republican-controlled Legislature and adds much more political uncertainty with the next session less than two weeks away and at the dawn of a presidential election year. “This is another great result for our clients but also a great result for every voter in the state of Florida,” said David King, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. King said voters will elect senators and members of Congress from constitutional districts in the 2016 election, and added: “I’m confident that there are a substantial number of more competitive districts in this map.” The Senate had no immediate comment on Circuit Judge George Reynolds’ order, in which he accepted a map recommended by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other plaintiffs. Reynolds’ 73-page ruling orders the Senate to randomly assign district numbers to all 40 districts within three days of a final judgment being entered.
Caucus Night 2012 was not exactly a banner evening for the Republican Party of Iowa. Reporting problems plagued the vote-counting during the crucial first-in-the-nation presidential contest. The initial headlines credited frontrunner Mitt Romney with the narrowest of victories over Rick Santorum, by a mere eight votes out of more than 100,000 cast. When the state party certified the results of the election more than two weeks later, however, it declared Santorum the official winner by 34 votes. Yet Republican officials had already acknowledged the embarrassing truth: Because of inaccuracies in dozens of precincts and missing results from eight of them, the real victor of the Iowa caucus would never be known for certain. Needless to say, the Iowa GOP would like to have a smoother—and more accurate—election on February 1. So would Iowa Democrats, who are running their first competitive caucus in the state since 2008 and whose process for nominating a presidential candidate is even more complicated than the one Republicans use.
Virginia’s strict voter-identification law will go on trial in a federal court in Richmond in February, part of a national strategy by Democrats to remove what they say are barriers to voting by African American, Latino and poor voters. Although Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, is sympathetic to the core issue in the lawsuit brought by two activists and the state Democratic Party, the state must defend its voter-ID law. A statute requiring photo ID was passed in 2013 and signed into law by McAuliffe’s Republican predecessor, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. To defend against the lawsuit, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) appointed an independent counsel, Mark F. “Thor” Hearne II, who represented the 2004 reelection campaign of then-President George W. Bush.
Canada: Federal Liberals rule out referendum on electoral reform — despite recent precedent | National Post
Justin Trudeau and his party swept into power in October’s election on a series of big promises, including a pledge 2015 would mark the last election under first-past-the-post. Since the Liberals have formed government, enacting some of those plans — whether it’s a pledge to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees or withdraw fighter jets from the battle against Syria — is turning out to be harder than expected. Now, the sunny plan to create a more democratic democracy is casting a shadow over those lofty ambitions. Despite calls from both the left and right that any changes to how Canadians elect their government require the direct input of the people, Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc said Sunday that’s not in the cards. “Our plan is not to have a national referendum, our plan is to use parliament to consult Canadians,” Leblanc said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period. “That’s always been our plan and I don’t have any reason to think that’s been changed.”
Central African Republic: Long Delayed, Central African Republic Elections Are Peaceful | The New York Times
Citizens of the Central African Republic began casting ballots on Wednesday in long-delayed elections that represent the best hope of reuniting the country, one of the world’s poorest, after three years of sectarian violence that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Turnout was heavy among the 1.8 million registered voters, nearly 40 percent of the population. Stores were largely closed so that workers could cast their ballots, a process that took hours. Many lined up outside schools and other polling places well before they opened at 6 a.m., as United Nations peacekeepers from Burundi, Egypt, France, Mauritania, Pakistan and other countries, along with 40 election monitors from the African Union, kept watch. As polls prepared to close at 4 p.m., people were still waiting to vote, including older men with walking sticks and women carrying babies on their backs.
Editorials: Supreme Court Grapples, Once Again, With Redistricting | Michael Barone/Rasmussen Reports
Fifty-one years ago the Supreme Court handed down its one-person-one-vote decision, requiring that within each state congressional and legislative districts must have equal populations. That gave redistricters a relatively easy standard to meet. Census data provides block-by-block population counts every 10 years, and it’s possible now to draw lines for districts so that their populations are identical or vary by just one person. But redistricting cases keep making their way to the Court nonetheless. One reason is that the Voting Rights Act amendments of the 1980s have been interpreted as requiring the creation of a maximum number of districts with majorities or near-majorities of black or Hispanic residents. This has produced many grotesquely shaped constituencies and much litigation.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Tuesday that his office is working to verify claims that confidential voter information had been publicly posted online. Padilla said the records were not posted by the California Secretary of State, and that he is collaborating with Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office to provide any necessary assistance. Harris’ office would not comment on a potential or ongoing investigation, to protect the integrity of any probe, a spokeswoman said. CNET, citing DataBreaches.net researcher Chris Vickery, reported that a massive trove of voter data was found on a publicly available Web server. The database of 191 million registered voters, including many in California, is no longer publicly accessible, Vickery wrote in an update.