We still don’t know who he is or whether he works for the Russian government, but one thing is for sure: Guccifer 2.0—the nom de guerre of the person claiming he hacked the Democratic National Committee and published hundreds of pages that appeared to prove it—left behind fingerprints implicating a Russian-speaking person with a nostalgia for the country’s lost Soviet era. Exhibit A in the case is this document created and later edited in the ubiquitous Microsoft Word format. Metadata left inside the file shows it was last edited by someone using the computer name “Феликс Эдмундович.” That means the computer was configured to use the Russian language and that it was connected to a Russian-language keyboard. More intriguing still, “Феликс Эдмундович” is the colloquial name that translates to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the 20th Century Russian statesman who is best known for founding the Soviet secret police. (The metadata also shows that the purported DNC strategy memo was originally created by someone named Warren Flood, which happens to be the name of a LinkedIn user claiming to provide strategy and data analytics services to Democratic candidates.) Exhibit B is this opposition research document on Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Exhibit B is also written in Word. Several of the Web links in it are broken and contain the error message “Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.” But in a PDF-formatted copy of the same document published by Gawker a few hours before Guccifer 2.0’s post went live, the error messages with roughly the same meaning appear in Russian. The most likely explanation is that the Russian error messages are an artifact left behind when the leaker converted the Word document into a PDF. That kind of conversion would be expected if the leaker’s PC was set up to use Russian.
They have nicknames like “the dead lizard,” ”the praying mantis” and “the upside-down elephant.” The odd-shaped legislative districts that dot many states are no coincidence. The jagged lines often have been carefully drawn by state lawmakers to benefit particular incumbents or political parties. The tactic, known as gerrymandering, is nearly as old as the country itself. It’s also a maneuver that can result in an underrepresentation of minorities in some legislatures. Across the U.S., minorities now comprise nearly two-fifths of the population, yet hold less than one-fifth of all legislative seats, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federal guidelines require that legislative districts are similar in population and not drawn to deny minorities a chance to elect the candidate of their choice. But racial gerrymandering can occur in a couple of ways: when minority communities are divided among multiple districts, thus diluting their voting strength; or when minorities are heavily packed into a single district, thus diminishing their likelihood of winning multiple seats.
Control of the Iowa Senate is up for grabs this fall. Democrats currently have a 26-24 majority, a meager margin Republicans are eager to erase. Given the circumstances, you’d expect both parties to press hard to win every available seat. But that’s not the case. Half the Senate seats are up in November, but in nine of the 25 contests, one of the major parties hasn’t bothered fielding a candidate. That’s more common than you might think. When filing deadlines had passed in the first 27 states this year, one party or the other had failed to run candidates in nearly half the legislative seats — 45 percent, according to Ballotpedia, an online politics site that tracks races and ballot initiatives. Nearly all incumbents can rest easy in Georgia, because 80 percent of the races there will be uncontested. In recent years, it’s been common for a third to 40 percent of state legislative seats to lack major party competition. It’s even worse during primary seasons, meaning legislators win re-election simply by showing up. In the four states that held legislative elections last year, 56 percent of the races went uncontested in the fall.
Legislators and the governor should stop taking legal advice from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and start taking some responsibility for the chaos created by the law requiring people prove U.S. citizenship to register to vote. As it is, the burden of guaranteeing at least partial voting rights in Kansas is falling on judges – most recently the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal last week to temporarily block a May order by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. In response, Kobach’s office told county election officials late Tuesday to start registering affected Kansans. They had tried to register to vote when they applied for or renewed a driver’s license, as intended by the federal 1993 “motor-voter law,” but had their applications put on hold or thrown out for lack of citizenship proof. Counting past and future motor-voter applicants, the state thinks as many as 50,000 voter registrations could be involved.
Far-reaching voting changes in North Carolina approved by Republicans three years ago and upheld by a federal judge now head to an appeals court that previously sided with those challenging the law on racial grounds. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Tuesday, just two months after a lower court ruled photo identification requirements to vote in person, early-voting restrictions and other changes violated neither the federal Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution. The appeals court’s decision to accelerate review of the case reinforces the stakes involved with the outcome in an election year, particularly in North Carolina. The presidential battleground state also has big races for governor and U.S. Senate on the fall ballot. “The legislative actions at issue must be analyzed in the context of the high levels of racially polarized voting in North Carolina, where many elections are sensitive to even slight shifts in voting,” lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department wrote in a brief heading into the arguments before three judges in Richmond, Virginia.
Editorials: Ohio Governor Kasich’s far-seeing veto of SB 296 and its virtual poll tax | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday rightly applauded fellow Republican Gov. John Kasich’s wise veto of Senate Bill 296 – which had the potential to become a punitive poll tax on those Ohioans who sought to preserve their constitutional voting rights by appealing to a judge to keep polls open late. Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a controversial elections bill that would have required voters seeking a county court order keeping the polls open to post bond. The bill would have required a potentially crushing bond to be posted by anyone asking a judge to keep polls open after hours for any reason. One example: problems with electronic poll books that plagued Hamilton County voters last November, prompting a (Republican) Common Pleas judge to order polls kept open until 9 p.m. Our editorial board condemned SB 296, sponsored by state Sen. William Seitz, a Republican from Hamilton County, and called for such a veto. And Kasich agreed, saying Friday in his veto statement that “prohibiting state court judges from exercising their discretion to waive [a bond] in only these types of cases is inequitable” and might deter citizens from seeking a court ruling to allow after-hours voting even “when there may be a valid reason for doing so.” Kasich’s right – so right, that it’s unlikely GOP lawmakers will vote to overturn his veto, even though they have the votes to do so.
Virginia: State officials pull 132 confined sex offenders from list of eligible voters | The Washington Post
State officials abruptly removed 132 sex offenders from Virginia’s list of eligible voters last week, reacting to the latest problem emerging from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s sweeping move to restore voting rights to felons who had served out their sentences. A spokesman for McAuliffe (D) said that the offenders, who are confined in a treatment facility under a form of civil commitment, had appeared on the list of eligible voters by mistake. “Those folks should not have been on the list, and they are not there now,” spokesman Brian Coy said. A local prosecutor contends there was no mistake. She says state officials changed the records to try to hide a politically awkward accident — that McAuliffe inadvertently restored voting rights to some of Virginia’s worst sexual predators.
Wisconsin: As the Government Accountability Board ends, what’s the future for campaign finance regulation? | The Capital Times
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the election and campaign agency that its supporters laud as a pioneering success and its critics call a failed experiment, ends this month after nearly a decade in existence. The board, born in bipartisanship from the state’s caucus scandal in 2001, when both parties ran political campaigns from the Capitol, was the only nonpartisan model of its kind in the country with six former judges appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to oversee elections. It was armed with a budget unfettered by Legislative oversight to investigate campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying complaints. Its dissolution on June 30, which came with a rewrite of the state’s campaign finance rules, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Scott Walker, is a necessary reform to some, but step backwards for others who question whether violations of campaign finance law will be aggressively policed and how citizens will know from where money flows to politicians.
Doubts about the accuracy of the Senate vote count remain until the Australian Electoral Commission agrees to publicly release the computer code it uses. That’s the view of the Australian Greens and academics who have studied vote-counting software errors. University of Melbourne researchers recomputed the NSW local government election results from 2012, finding two errors in counting – one of which showed a candidate’s chances of election significantly being reduced. The NSW Electoral Commission on Tuesday announced it had corrected the software – originally bought from the AEC – following the study by researchers Andrew Conway and Vanessa Teague. But it was only because the NSWEC published its full preference data and coding that the errors were identified.
A revised election law lowering the minimum age to vote in Japan to 18 from 20 took effect Sunday, in a change that will be applied to the upcoming House of Councillors election. The change means approximately 2.4 million new voters aged 18 and 19 joined the electorate in a reform to better reflect young people’s opinions in politics. There were about 104.2 million voters as of the last national poll—a House of Representatives election in December 2014. Amendments to the Public Offices Election Law changed the voting age for the first time in 70 years, or since 1946 when the minimum voting age was lowered to 20 from 25. People who will be 18 by July 11, the day after the July 10 upper house election, will be able to vote in that poll
The camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Sunday blamed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Bureau of Immigration for the “escape” of a Smartmatic emgineer facing criminal charges in connection with the May 9 elections. The Marcos camp had asked the Comelec to ask the Immigration bureau to issue a hold departure order (HDO) against all personnel of Smartmatic accused of violating the Cybercrime Law but the request was not granted. Smartmatic is the technology provider to last month’s local and national polls. The respondents were charged for their alleged involvement in unauthorized alteration of the script of the transparency server at the height of the transmission of votes just hours after voting closed.
United Kingdom: What is Brexit and why does it matter? The EU referendum guide for Americans | The Guardian
On Greek holiday beaches and in remote but pretty French villages this summer British visitors have faced similar questions from anxious fellow citizens of the European Union. A month ago it was: “Your referendum, it will be OK, yes?” But a run of opinion polls showing the campaign to leave ahead of opponents who want to stay in by up to 10%, has forced a change of tone as the 23 June ballot looms. The more reproachful version has become: “Why are you doing this to us?” Washington’s Capitol Hill legend, Tip O’Neill, once said “all politics is local”. True enough, but rarely the whole truth. The campaign for Brexit – British exit – feeds on decades-old, homegrown resentments. Real or imagined, they include nostalgia for imperial certainties and for pre-globalised jobs for life, plus resentment of immigrants and of rules imposed by “unelected” courts and commissions in Brussels. Such are the demons said to restrain national “sovereignty” or (for some) free market spirits. “ Take back control” is Brexit’s catch-all slogan, designed to appeal to both social isolationists and blue-water buccaneers. Does that sound familiar? It may well do to jobless Portuguese teenagers, unemployed blue-collar workers in the American Rust Belt and hedge fund managers chafing at “over-regulation”. The visitor to Greece or rural France tries to tell questioners: “It’s bit like Syriza or Golden Dawn,” rival populist insurgencies challenging the status quo in Athens. Or “it’s a bit like your Marine Le Pen or America’s Trump. A lot of people are angry. Some have much to be cross about.”
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has warned political parties and their supporters to stop engaging in violence as the parties intensify their campaigns for August 11 presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Chris Akufuna, spokesman for the electoral commission, says the constitution empowers the electoral body to suspend or prevent a political party, as well as candidates, from participating in elections if it concludes that party supporters have engaged in acts of violence in the runup to the polls. There have been accusations and counter-accusations between supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party and the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).