An unusual question is capturing the attention of cyberspecialists, Russia experts and Democratic Party leaders in Philadelphia: Is Vladimir V. Putin trying to meddle in the American presidential election? Until Friday, that charge, with its eerie suggestion of a Kremlin conspiracy to aid Donald J. Trump, has been only whispered. But the release on Friday of some 20,000 stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign. The emails, released first by a supposed hacker and later by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and triggered the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention’s first day. Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.
National: Clinton campaign — and some cyber experts — say Russia is behind email release | The Washington Post
A top official with Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Sunday accused the Russian government of orchestrating the release of damaging Democratic Party records in order to help the campaign of Republican Donald Trump — and some cyber security experts in the U.S. and overseas agree. The extraordinary charge came as some national security officials have been growing increasingly concerned about possible efforts by Russia to meddle in the election, according to several individuals familiar with the situation. Late last week, hours before the records were released by the website Wikileaks, the White House convened a high-level security meeting to discuss reports that Russia had hacked into systems at the Democratic National Committee.
National: Under pressure from Bernie Sanders, Democrats poised to change how they pick nominees | Los Angeles Times
Democrats reached an agreement on Saturday that could sharply reduce the influence of superdelegates in the next presidential election, resolving an emotionally charged issue that threatened to boil over this week. The deal represents another way Bernie Sanders has left his mark on the Democratic Party despite being defeated by Hillary Clinton in the primary. The party’s policy platform has already been modified to reflect some of the Vermont senator’s goals, including a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage and free tuition for many college students. Superdelegates, who are elected officials and party leaders who can throw their support to a presidential candidate independent of state primary results, have been a fault line this year. They overwhelmingly backed Clinton, sometimes even pledging their support before the first primary vote was cast. Although superdelegates didn’t deliver Clinton her victory — she also won the popular vote and a greater number of pledged delegates — Sanders has argued that they play an undemocratic role in the nominating process. The final deal approved by the rules committee on Saturday will create a commission that will draft changes to the superdelegate system. Only elected officials would be allowed to be superdelegates, reducing their numbers by two-thirds.
California: Some say it’s time California had statewide rules for provisional ballots | Los Angeles Times
Once reserved for emergency situations, provisional ballots were freely handed out across California on June 7 as a Times analysis finds they were used by more than one of every five primary voters who showed up at a polling place. But the wide use of provisional ballots has not been matched by any broad statewide oversight, with rules changing from one county to the next dictating when they are used and how elections officials decide whether to count them as valid votes. “You think it would be clean and simple,” said Donna Tarr, a resident of Rolling Hills Estates who volunteered to observe provisional ballot counting in Los Angeles County last month. … Tarr, 64, was one of several supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who descended on county elections offices after the June election to observe how provisional ballots were processed and how many were actually counted. When she and others complained that some provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated “no party preference” voters were not being correctly counted in the Democratic presidential race, Los Angeles County elections officials quickly stepped in to fix the problem.
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed Friday to quickly take up a case challenging the constitutionality of a ballot measure that could alter the way Illinois draws its political maps. Just 2 days after a Cook County judge ruled the redistricting question was unconstitutional for November’s ballot, the state’s high court granted an emergency motion for direct appeal and set a briefing schedule, bypassing the appellate court. A group called the Independent Map Amendment cited an Aug. 26 State Board of Elections deadline to get on the ballot in their request to the court. They’ve proposed an 11-member commission be in charge of drawing the state’s legislative boundaries, instead of party leaders. It’s the second time since 2014 supporters of redistricting reform have tried to get the high stakes issue before voters.
Boyd County will spend $80,000 for a one-question “wet” election on packaged alcohol sales — three months before it spends another $90,000 on the presidential election. Kentucky law bars counties across the state from holding local-option elections on the same day as primary and general elections, if the special election is county wide. “That’s so archaic,” said Boyd County Judge-Executive Steve Towler. “It’s utterly ridiculous to have a special election for one question.” County clerks across the state have lobbied Kentucky legislature to amend KRS 242.030 to help alleviate the cost of county-wide, local-option elections. A previous bill, for instance, would’ve helped by requiring the petitioners calling for a vote on county-wide alcohol sales to cover part of the cost. House Bill 621, the most recent attempt to alter the statute, was halted last March.
Tennessee: NAACP says Tennessee’s voter ID law makes it harder for poor, minorities to vote | Times Free Press
Local NAACP officials say it’s getting harder for poor people and people of color to vote, and they point to Tennessee’s 2011 voter ID law as part of the problem. “This year, we determine if America is a place for everyone or a place for a few,” said City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who spoke at the NAACP’s State of the Vote 2016 meeting this month. “Some of the obvious things that should tell us how important voting is, is the effort to keep people from voting, like the new voting ID Laws,” Hakeem said. “We don’t want to give people looking to the past a free ride by not even going to the polls.” The website WalletHub says Tennessee’s black voters are among the least politically engaged in the nation. The website said its research showed Tennessee ranked 43rd among 48 states for black turnout.
Editorials: Why this GOP-controlled court couldn’t stomach Texas’ voter-ID law | Scott Lemieux/The Week
The Republican Party fares much better in state and midterm national elections than in presidential election years. There’s an obvious reason: Fewer people vote in state and off-year elections, and these electorates tend to be whiter and more affluent. So it’s really no surprise that at the state level, Republicans have been passing laws that attempt to suppress the vote in all elections, so that every electorate looks like the whiter, richer off-year electorate. On Wednesday, however, a major Fifth Circuit decision dealt a serious blow to these efforts. Much of Texas’ particularly draconian voter-ID law was struck down, and the decision will almost certainly remain in effect in November. Even more important, the court identified the core problem with these laws: Their vote suppression is racially discriminatory.
Virginia: Felons Lose Voting Rights as Virginia Supreme Court Rules Against Governor | The New York Times
A divided Virginia Supreme Court on Friday overturned a series of executive orders issued by Gov. Terry McAuliffe that had restored the voting rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons. The court, in a 4-to-3 decision, disputed the governor’s assertion that his clemency power was absolute under the state’s Constitution. “We respectfully disagree,” the majority justices wrote. “The clemency power may be broad, but it is not absolute.” The court ordered that the state’s Elections Department and its commissioner delete from voter rolls all felons who may have registered as a result of the executive orders, which were issued on April 22, May 31 and June 24. More than 11,000 felons registered to vote under the orders, The Associated Press reported. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, noted that none of the 71 preceding governors had issued a clemency order of any kind — including pardons, reprieves, commutations and restoration orders — to a group of unnamed felons without considering the nature of their crimes.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday voided Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s effort to restore voting rights to 206,000 people with felony records. Mr. McAuliffe issued an order in April to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences while also completing parole and probation, and followed with similar orders in May and June. He cast felon-disenfranchisement laws as a troubling tool that whites had wielded to suppress votes among blacks. The state’s high court in a 4-3 ruling struck down all the orders, ruling they violated Virginia’s constitution. The court’s majority said the “unprecedented scope, magnitude, and categorical nature” of the governor’s actions violated the legal limits on his clemency powers. Mr. McAuliffe can use those clemency powers on a case-by-case basis to restore a felon’s civil rights, but “that does not mean he can effectively rewrite the general rule of law” in Virginia that says convicted felons are disqualified from voting, the court said.
With the presidential election only four months away, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is seeking to fast-track his appeal of a federal-court decision that scaled back the state’s voter ID law. On Friday, Schimel, a Republican, asked a federal judge to stay his decision made earlier this week, saying the court had acted improperly and that its ruling threatened to confuse voters in the run-up to an election. The state says it will appeal the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
China: New Hong Kong election declaration could backfire, former think tank head warns | South China Morning Post
The tightened government measure apparently aimed at barring pro-independence candidates from running in the Legislative Council elections could backfire, a former head of the Hong Kong government think tank has warned. The warning by Professor Lau Siu-kai on Sunday came as police were sent to “observe” a press conference hosted by the Hong Kong National Party, which advocates Hong Kong breaking away from China. ‘Accept Hong Kong is part of China or you can’t run in Legco elections’ Party convenor Chan Ho-tin however claimed initial victory as the pro-independence group was able to force the government to resort to such unusual moves. The police said the officer was from the Police Public Engagement Office, part of whose role is to build up contacts with various civic groups. The force said his presence at the press conference had nothing to do with “surveillance” or “spying”.
Security forces in Gabon violently charged at demonstrators gathering in Libreville in the lead-up to presidential elections and beat an AFP cameraman covering the protest, a colleague said. Defying a heavy police presence, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in opposition to President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s candidacy for re-election on August 26, the AFP correspondent said. Some 15 opposition leaders also attended the protest, forming a human chain at the front of the crowd. Among them was presidential candidate Guy Nzouba Ndama, the former parliamentary speaker. The young protesters broke into song, chanting the national anthem as the security forces began firing tear gas at the crowd. Police then moved to break up the protest and several shots were heard, according to the AFP journalist who saw 70-year-old Nzouba Ndama running for cover with other demonstrators. Armed, masked members of the security forces grabbed the AFP journalist’s cameraman colleague and threw him onto a pick-up truck, even though his camera was clearly marked.
Russia: How Putin Weaponized Wikileaks to Influence the Election of an American President | Defense One
Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes because that’s what just happened. On Friday, Wikileaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. They reveal, among other things, thuggish infighting, a push by a top DNC official to use Bernie Sanders’ religious convictions against him in the South, and attempts to strong-arm media outlets. In other words, they reveal the Washington campaign monster for what it is. But leave aside the purported content of the Wikileaks data dump (to which numerous other outlets have devoted considerable attention) and consider the source. Considerable evidence shows that the Wikileaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. “This has all the hallmarks of tradecraft. The only rationale to release such data from the Russian bulletproof host was to empower one candidate against another. The Cold War is alive and well,” Tom Kellermann, the CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures told Defense One.
Thailand: Monkeys go ape over voter list, rip papers to shreds in polling station | Asian Correspondent
A troop of 100 monkeys kicked up a storm in Thailand on Sunday, ravaging a voter list for the upcoming constitution referendum at a temple in the northern province of Phichit. Local media reported that about 100 pig-tailed macaques stormed the open hall of Wat Hat Mun Krabue temple, a designated voting station for the upcoming referendum on Aug 7. According to the Bangkok Post, investigators were dispatched to the scene upon receiving a report on the incident. After reaching the temple, Pol Lt Col Banchob Uthayo, one of the investigators sent from the Tambon Yanyao police station, found five out of 15 voter list pages ripped apart. The macaques also tore up seven pages of guidelines on voting which were also pinned on a notice board.