There is a scene in the most recent series of Veep – an American spin off from The Thick of It – where the Republicans and Democrats are haggling in court over whether to carry on counting presidential election votes in Nevada. Of course this is pretty much what happened in 2000 when the world waited for the United States to decide who actually won the election after the hanging chads fiasco. Even ahead of a vote being cast in November, there are signs that the election will not just be fought in the court of pubic opinion, but ordinary law courts as well. If 2000 was messy, it was but an amuse bouche for what is happening at the moment. The seeds were sown by the Supreme Court in 2013 when it effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, regarded by many as the crowning achievement of LBJ. Prior to the ruling, states deemed to have a history of voter discrimination – a polite way of saying stopping blacks from voting in the deep South up to the 1960s – had to get federal clearance before changing electoral laws. This was swept away by the Supreme Court and a number of states are tightening up their legislation.
County clerks around Arkansas are working to determine exactly how many registered voters may have been incorrectly flagged as felons after the state Secretary of State’s office updated a computerized record-keeping system. Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane says about half of nearly 2,000 registered voters in the county who were recently flagged under the new system either should be allowed to vote or have an indeterminate status. The number will vary by county, he says, and each county may have to take a different approach to correct the problem. “Some [county clerks] will be more effective than others. Some will have better records than others on what has been done with the people in their county before. Some will choose simply to send a letter to everyone on their list and say you’ve been identified as a felon and if you’re not, you’ve got to find the information to prove that you’re not,” he says.
California: San Francisco counters Trump rhetoric with move for non-citizen local voting | The Guardian
Politicians in San Francisco are hoping that a backlash to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric will motivate local voters to move in the opposite direction and grant non-citizens the right to vote. An amendment to the city charter will be placed on the ballot in November to allow the parents and guardians of schoolchildren – citizen or non, documented or undocumented – to vote in school board elections, following a 10-1 vote by the board of supervisors on Tuesday. “San Francisco always goes against the grain when there are assaults on people’s liberties,” said supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the proposal. “This is about fairness and equity, providing an opportunity for all parents to have a voice.” This will be San Francisco voters’ third chance to approve such a measure, after unsuccessful efforts in 2004 and 2010.
District of Columbia: D.C. mayor pushes statehood issue at Democratic National Convention | The Washington Post
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, speaking Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, confidently predicted victory — and soon — in the District’s four-decade fight for statehood. Bowser used the few moments she was allotted to address the convention to publicly demand greater support for the cause from fellow Democrats. The mayor also made clear that she expects Hillary Clinton to fulfill her pledge to be a vocal advocate for D.C. statehood if she wins the presidency in November. Taking the microphone to announce D.C. Democrats’ overwhelming vote for Clinton to be the party’s nominee, Bowser introduced herself as mayor of “the best city in the world, and soon to be the 51st state of our great union.”
A candidate for the Kansas House wants to convene a grand jury to investigate Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Steven X. Davis, a Democratic candidate for the Kansas House from Lawrence, filed a petition with the Douglas Country District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate whether the secretary of state’s office committed election fraud in 2014. Davis, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, in House District 44, said the secretary of state’s office may have intentionally failed to register voters who had tried to register through the state’s online system during the last election, even if they provided proof of citizenship documents as required by Kansas law.
The groups trying to undo the state’s purge of tens of thousands of Ohioans from voter rolls because of failing to vote or confirm home addresses have a powerful new ally in their court fight — the U.S. Justice Department. The legal battle erupted in April when the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless filed suit in federal court in Columbus. It challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s move to revoke the registrations of an unspecified number of residents because they didn’t respond to address verification requests or hadn’t voted in four years. U.S. District Judge George Smith upheld Husted’s actions on June 29. The plaintiffs, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the public policy group Demos, appealed to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Though the special committee on electoral reform will make recommendations on a number of subjects — online and mandatory voting among them — it’s the decision on whether to switch to a proportional voting system that’s paramount, Université de Montréal political science professor André Blais told the committee Wednesday. “I will argue that the most important decision you have to make is whether to adopt some form of PR or not,” Blais told members. Reluctant to state his personal preference, Blais instead used his committee appearance to present the results of his extensive empirical research comparing outcomes under proportional and majoritarian systems, such as single member plurality or first-past-the-post system currently used in Canada. More specifically, he described the results of four studies he did with other researchers and gave the committee five conclusions they could apply in their deliberations. The studies controlled for a number of factors, but Blais stressed there’s no causal certainty and that that they didn’t look at specific systems.
The failed July 15 military coup in Turkey was a long time in the making. Its aftermath is the final act in what may be viewed as the devolution of Turkish democracy into an authoritarian state. Turkey is a country where citizens’ demand for democracy has steadily grown over the last 15 years. A long period…
The Electoral Commission of Zambia says printed ballots to be used in the August 11 elections will arrive in Lusaka on Thursday. ECZ officials said political party representatives would be at the airport in the capital to receive and inspect the ballots before they are transported to polling stations across the country. The ECZ awarded a contract to the Dubai-based al-Ghurair Printing Company to prepare all ballots to be used for the presidential, legislative and local elections and a referendum. Opposition parties, including the United Party for National Development, said the printing of ballots by a company outside the continent was too expensive and could be used by the government to rig the elections. Until this year, ballots for Zambian elections were printed in South Africa.
American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee, according to federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence. But intelligence officials have cautioned that they are uncertain whether the electronic break-in at the committee’s computer systems was intended as fairly routine cyberespionage — of the kind the United States also conducts around the world — or as part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election. The emails were released by WikiLeaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, has made it clear that he hoped to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency. It is unclear how the documents made their way to the group. But a large sampling was published before the WikiLeaks release by several news organizations and someone who called himself “Guccifer 2.0,” who investigators now believe was an agent of the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence service.
National: The Ghosts of Shelby County: Despite some recent wins, voting rights are still under siege | Slate
During his “I’m With Her (More or Less)” speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders made a vitally important argument about the 2016 campaign: That it’s about more than who the president for the next four years will be; it’s about who will be on the Supreme Court for years to come. “This election is about overturning Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country,” he said. He added that Hillary Clinton’s future justices “will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants, and the government’s ability to protect the environment.” Every last one of those promises is very serious business. But Sanders neglected to mention one of the other worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of the country—one with tangible implications for the November elections and one that has gotten far less attention than his much-loathed Citizens United. It has had as much to do with disenfranchising America’s have-nots as the campaign finance case. It’s the case that made voting an uphill battle again.
Claims that Democratic Party leaders conspired to squash the presidential primary campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders have not only led to a party shake-up but have sparked class-action litigation. A trove of hacked party emails posted by WikiLeaks show that Democratic National Committee officials had worked to undermine the underdog campaign of Mr. Sanders. Weeks before the firestorm erupted, culminating in the resignation of party chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a group of plaintiffs brought a lawsuit in federal court alleging that DNC “actively concealed its bias” from its donors and Democrats backing Mr. Sanders. The plaintiffs, about 150 of whom are identified in the lawsuit, are mostly Sanders supporters and include a number of DNC donors.
An error sent out to county clerks across Arkansas could keep some who are eligible to vote from casting a ballot this November because they’re believed to be felons. The Secretary of State’s office got a list of felons from the Arkansas Crime Information Center. In the past, the office has received that information from the Department of Corrections, but according to law, the SOS must go through ACIC. That’s what happened this year, but on this first go-around, there’s a major issue. Larry Crane, the Pulaski County Clerk, says with months to go before the general election it’s busy. “My office and all of the clerks are going to work our way through this the best we can,” said Crane.
Ever since the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act went into effect in 2013, there has been a seemingly endless string of legal battles over its legitimacy. The controversial law requires people to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. It was authored by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who believes the law protects Kansas from fraudulent voting. Here, a look into the wonderful world of state and federal lawsuits to find out how the SAFE Act may affect upcoming elections in Kansas. Back in 2014, Kris Kobach stood on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Wichita after a long day of court proceedings. “This case is about Kansas’ right as a sovereign state to enforce our voter qualifications—specifically that voters must be U.S. citizens,” he said.
As North Dakota’s Republican-controlled government has in effect admitted, North Dakota Democrats were right about the need for a special session. The governor rejected the Democrats’ call earlier this year, but the state’s deteriorating finances prompted him to change his mind. The special session begins next week. But North Dakota Democrats now have been proven right on a second key issue: the claim that North Dakota’s new Voter ID law is too restrictive. The verdict on that question is in, having been rendered by federal courts in both Texas and Wisconsin and forcing both states to put new procedures in place before November. News flash: North Dakota’s Voter ID law is more restrictive and allows for fewer options than either the Texas or Wisconsin laws. That means it almost certainly violates federal law, and will unconstitutionally block voting among key groups of North Dakotans in November—unless it is changed.
Last week, a federal appeals court ruled Texas’ voter ID law makes it harder for minorities to vote. The state was told it could no longer enforce the law as is. Early voting in the first election since that ruling is now underway, so that special election in Bexar County is following a new set of rules. Voters started heading to the polls yesterday in a special election for House District 120, the race to replace state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, who retired this year, and the timing of the voter ID ruling had lawyers scrambling. “We were informed of the election I think on Friday morning. And we finished our negotiations at two o’clock in the morning Saturday morning,” said Ezra Rosenberg with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a member of the legal team that represented a group of Texas voters fighting the state’s law.
Editorials: Election fraud: Voter ID can’t fix the real problem with Texas elections – gerrymandering | Houston Chronicle
The Texas state motto is friendship, and even across the political divide in our state Legislature, Texans should hope that everyone is acting in that sense of good faith. It’s hard to maintain that political optimism after reading last week’s opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit explaining how Texas’ voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. The Legislature passed SB 14, the law in question, in 2011 allegedly with the intent of combatting in-person voter fraud by creating strict limits on the types of identification that can be accepted at voting locations. Before this law, Texans had to present their voter registration card or sign an affidavit while showing one of multiple forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or bank statement. Was there rampant fraud under this system? No, and Texas legislators knew it. “Ballot integrity is undoubtedly a worthy goal,” Justice Catharina Haynes wrote for the court. “But the evidence before the Legislature was that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage.”
Virginia: McAuliffe Vows To Restore Voting Rights Of Some 200,000 Virginia Felons One At A Time | AlexandriaNews
Just after a divided Virginia Supreme Court declared Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring the rights of more than 200,000 Virginia felons unconstitutional, McAuliffe vowed to restore those voting rights one individual at a time. Chief Justice Donald Lemons wrote the majority opinion for the Court. Relying on his clemency power under Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia, Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order sought “to restore the political rights of any persons disqualified by Article II, Section 1.” J.A. at 1. The voter-disqualification provision in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia provides: “No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.” Felons may request that their civil rights be restored, and Article II, Section 1 grants the Governor the power to consider and act on those requests.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) overstepped his powers in restoring voting rights to 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences is a model of pretzel-twisted reasoning that glosses over the plain language of the state’s constitution and elides recent state history to arrive at a conclusion whose effects are as heedless of national trends as they are racially retrograde. Writing for the majority in a 4-to-3 decision, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons upended the governor’s executive order — challenged by political rivals whose legal standing to sue is shaky at best — mainly on the basis of history and tradition. Yet in doing so, he failed to cite any constitutional language that would contravene Mr. McAuliffe’s power to issue his directive. And while acknowledging that its analysis was rooted more in history than the constitution, which explicitly empowers Virginia governors to restore voting rights, the court seemed oblivious that the state’s history — tainted as it is by profound racial injustice — has evolved radically.
Fearful of Russian cyber attack or invasion, the Baltic state of Estonia is planning to make a virtual copy of itself — in Britain.
Negotiations are under way between Tallinn and London for Estonia to back up terabytes of data — everything from birth records and the electoral roll to property deeds, banking credentials and the entire government bureaucracy — to deposit in a secure location in the UK, according to Estonian officials. Estonia already uses its embassies abroad to house servers to safeguard copies of government files. But amid an escalation of tensions with Moscow and growing concerns about cyber attacks from its eastern neighbour, Tallinn is now planning a far more ambitious set of contingency measures. It is a project that speaks to anxieties in the region, as well as the nature of statehood itself — and war — in an increasingly digitised world. “We have a very aggressive neighbour and we need to be sure that whatever happens to our territory in the future, Estonia can survive,” said Taavi Kotka, the government’s cyber chief. “In Estonia we already vote over the internet, we pay taxes over the internet — there’s almost nothing now we don’t do digitally.”
Of the questions raised by charges that Russia was involved in the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails, at least one — why would Russia do such a thing? — can be answered with a little-noticed but influential 2013 Russian military journal article. “The very rules of war have changed,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, wrote in the Military-Industrial Courier. The Arab Spring, according to General Gerasimov, had shown that “nonmilitary means” had overtaken the “force of weapons in their effectiveness.” Deception and disinformation, not tanks and planes, were the new tools of power. And they would be used not in formally declared conflicts but within a vast gray between peace and war. Those ideas would appear, the next year, in Russia’s formal military doctrine. It was the culmination of a yearslong strategic reorientation that has remade Russian power, in response to threats both real and imagined, into the sort of enterprise that could be plausibly accused of using cyberattacks to meddle in an American presidential election. Like so many military rethinks, what became known as the Gerasimov Doctrine began as an effort to solve a seemingly urgent problem.
The small African state of Sao Tome and Principe remains in political limbo after a refusal by the head of state Manuel Pinto da Costa to run in a second presidential election run-off round. The president qualified for the final round between the top two candidates, winning 24.83 percent of votes in the first mid-July round. The other finalist is Evaristo Carvalho, an ally of Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada, who won 49.8 percent, according to definitive results published late Monday by the Constitutional Tribunal. But Pinto da Costa and the candidate in third place, Maria das Neves, have jointly alleged fraud in the July 17 vote in the twin Atlantic archipelagos off equatorial Africa’s coast.
If the Russian government is behind the theft and release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic Party, as U.S. officials have suggested, it may reflect less a love of Donald Trump or enmity for Hillary Clinton than a desire to discredit the U.S. political system. A U.S. official who is taking part in the investigation said that intelligence collected on the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails released by Wikileaks on Friday “indicates beyond a reasonable doubt that it originated in Russia.” The timing on the eve of Clinton’s formal nomination this week for the Nov. 8 presidential election has raised questions about whether Russia may have been trying to hurt her, to help Trump, her Republican rival, or to fan populist sentiment against establishment politicians as it has sought to do across Europe in recent years.
Just 15 weeks before Election Day, lawsuits in nine states are raising the possibility that voters in crucial battlegrounds will face confusion over how and when to cast their ballots. The lawsuits, mostly brought by civil rights groups, take aim at the flurry of election laws recently put in place by states, including requirements that voters provide photo identification or proof of citizenship. In recent weeks, several courts have issued rulings blocking or upholding the laws, but those rulings have at times been contradictory, sowing even more confusion. The suits, which have spent years in a maze of federal courts, focus mainly on laws passed by Republican-led legislatures after the 2010 midterm elections. Those laws, voting rights advocates say, are part of a determined strategy to restrict access to the ballot box. “There is no question that a series of legislative actions by Republican legislatures have made it harder for some people to register and vote in the upcoming elections,” said Richard Hasen, a voting rights expert at University of California-Irvine School of Law.
In recent times, all data breaches that are taking place are finding its way to the principal black market known as ‘Dark Web’. One can easily find any kind of data that they are looking for here. It is now learnt that a hacker is trying to sell a database that supposedly contains registration records for voters in all 50 US states, Tech Insider reported. A seller using the pseudonym of ‘DataDirect’ is offering US voters’ registration records on the dark net marketplace “The Real Deal.” The Real Deal, a popular site many cyber criminals use for buying and selling everything from illegal drugs to zero-day software exploits. The seller is offering US voters’ records for each state at 0.5 BTC (around USD 340). The seller is also ready to offer the records at a “bulk rate” of 12 Bitcoin, or about $7,800. “US voter registration records. Selling the DB on a State-by-State basis. 0.5 BTC per state (you must tell me which State you want. Some people think it’s unfair to make each State cost the same amount because some States are much bigger than others. I think it’s just easier this way.” states the item description.
Though the presidential race is tightening, few observers are forecasting a replay of the 2000 election—when the vote was so close that it took 35 days and a Supreme Court decision to name a winner. But if predictions about what will transpire on November 8th are as reliable as last year’s dismissals of Donald Trump’s prospects in the primaries, the Trump-Clinton outcome may end up resting on a few thousand votes in a handful of states. In that event, three recent court rulings against Republican efforts to stack the electoral deck in their favour may play a role in staving off a President Trump. In Michigan, where Mrs Clinton’s lead over Mr Trump is narrowing by the day, a federal judge on July 21st ruled against a Republican Party-sponsored law meddling with the contours of the election ballot. For 125 years, Michigan voters have had the option of straight-ticket voting, where filling in a single bubble registers one’s preference for every candidate from a given party. Banning this practice, said Judge Gershwin Drain, disproportionately impacts black voters who use the straight-party option in high numbers. Since “African-Americans in Michigan, as in the rest of the country, tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats”, and since filling in a bubble for each candidate takes much longer, the law will increase “voter wait times…greatly in African-American communities”, endangering their right to vote and dimming Democrats’ chances for electoral success. In a remarkable series of references, Judge Drain cited Mr Trump’s “ethnocentric” speeches, situating the Michigan law in the context of the “racially charged rhetoric” of the presidential campaign.
While there is nothing new in one nation using its intelligence services to try to influence an election in another, doing so by hacking into a political party’s computers and releasing their emails does seem somewhat new. The combination of pilfering sensitive information and then “weaponiz[ing] Wikileaks” or some similar organization will surely recur. The possibilities do not end there. Foreign governments could “hack a voting machine,” “shut down the voting system or election agencies,” “delete or change election records,” “hijack a candidate’s website,” “dox a candidate,” “and target campaign donors.” (See also here.)
Editorials: With crucial election looming, voting rights are even more important | Los Angeles Times
It’s been nearly three years since the U.S. Supreme Court stuck its gavel in where it didn’t belong and gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Predictably, states with histories of vote-suppression quickly adopted fresh laws that have made it harder for the poor and for minorities — groups that often overlap — to exercise their right to vote. Some states now require costly or hard-to-obtain voter IDs, while others have reduced the days and hours during which voters can register or cast their ballots. A welcome decision Wednesday by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals buttresses the argument that the Supreme Court underestimated the willingness of some states to abridge the right to vote. The 5th Circuit held that Texas’ law requiring IDs discriminated against African Americans and Latinos, who were less likely to have ready access to the narrow list of accepted forms of identification (including passports and driver’s licenses), and ordered a lower court to find a fix before the November election. It also asked the lower court judge to consider anew whether Texas legislators crafted the law intentionally to suppress minority voting; if the court finds it did so, Texas could be forced back into the ranks of jurisdictions that require the federal Justice Department’s permission before changing or adopting voting laws.
Arkansas: Error flags voters on registration list; thousands in jeopardy of having their registration canceled | Arkansas Online
Flawed data sent out by the Arkansas secretary of state’s office in conjunction with the Arkansas Crime Information Center incorrectly flagged thousands of people to be removed from voter registration lists, meaning several Arkansas voters will have to prove their status before this year’s presidential election if the issue isn’t fixed. In many cases, that will result in undue burden to voters, some county clerks have said, even hinting at possible future lawsuits over the mess-up. The problem arose when the secretary of state’s elections division sought to update voter lists with new felon data to ensure that felons still in prison or on parole or probation aren’t allowed to vote, per state law. In the process of getting the data from the Arkansas Crime Information Center, known as ACIC, about 4,000 people who have never been convicted of a felony were included on the list and flagged by error. Some of them may have been notified by their county clerks’ offices that their voter registration has been canceled, even though it shouldn’t have been.
California: Governor Brown vetoes measure that would have allowed cancellation of uncontested elections | Los Angeles Times
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed a bill by the late Sen. Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) that would have allowed him to cancel an election to fill a vacancy in the Legislature if only one candidate makes the ballot. That candidate would have been declared the elected legislator, under the bill. Runner, who died earlier this month after complications from lung disease, was seeking to streamline the process for filling a legislative vacancy to save taxpayers money. She noted it cost counties $1.6 million to hold one recent special election. Runner was elected to the Senate in 2015 in a special election in which she was the only candidate on the ballot.