National: Critics See Efforts by Counties and Towns to Purge Minority Voters From Rolls | The New York Times

When the deputy sheriff’s patrol cruiser pulled up beside him as he walked down Broad Street at sunset last August, Martee Flournoy, a 32-year-old black man, was both confused and rattled. He had reason: In this corner of rural Georgia, African-Americans are arrested at a rate far higher than that of whites. But the deputy had not come to arrest Mr. Flournoy. Rather, he had come to challenge Mr. Flournoy’s right to vote. The majority-white Hancock County Board of Elections and Registration was systematically questioning the registrations of more than 180 black Sparta citizens — a fifth of the city’s registered voters — by dispatching deputies with summonses commanding them to appear in person to prove their residence or lose their voting rights. “When I read that letter, I was kind of nervous,” Mr. Flournoy said in an interview. “I didn’t know what to do.”

National: Hacker threat extends beyond parties | Politico

The furor over the cyberattacks injecting turmoil into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign obscures a more pervasive danger to the U.S. political process: Much of it has only lax security against hackers, with few if any federal cops on the beat. No one regulator is responsible for requiring campaigns, political operations and state and local agencies to protect the sanctity of the voter rolls, voters’ personal data, donors’ financial information or even the election outcomes themselves. And as the Democrats saw in Philadelphia this past week, the result can be chaos. The most extreme danger, of course, is that cyber intruders could hack the voting machinery to pick winners and losers. But even less-ambitious exploits could sway the results in a close election — anything from tampering with parties’ volunteer schedules and get-out-the-vote operations to deleting the registrations of frequent voters or knocking registration databases offline. Cyber scams aimed at campaign donors’ financial data, such as a just-disclosed hack aimed at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, could deter future contributors by making them fear identity theft. Or, as happened this past week to the Democratic National Committee, online thieves could get hold of a political operation’s embarrassing internal emails, creating headaches for a presidential candidate just before she accepts her party’s nomination.

National: U.S. Wrestles With How to Fight Back Against Cyberattacks | The New York Times

It has been an open secret throughout the Obama presidency that world powers have escalated their use of cyberpower. But the recent revelations of hacking into Democratic campaign computer systems in an apparent attempt to manipulate the 2016 election is forcing the White House to confront a new question: whether, and if so how, to retaliate. So far, the administration has stopped short of publicly accusing the Russian government of President Vladimir V. Putin of engineering the theft of research and emails from the Democratic National Committee and hacking into other campaign computer systems. However, private investigators have identified the suspects, and American intelligence agencies have told the White House that they have “high confidence” that the Russian government was responsible. Less certain is who is behind the selective leaks of the material, and whether they have a clear political objective. Suspecting such meddling is different from proving it with a certainty sufficient for any American president to order a response. Even if officials gather the proof, they may not be able to make their evidence public without tipping off Russia, or its proxies in cyberspace, about how deeply the National Security Agency has penetrated that country’s networks. And designing a response that will send a clear message, without prompting escalation or undermining efforts to work with Russia in places like Syria, where Russia is simultaneously an adversary and a partner, is even harder.

National: Courts Derail Voting Limits Pushed by GOP in 3 States | Fortune

Courts have dealt setbacks in three states to Republican efforts that critics contend restrict voting rights—blocking a North Carolina law requiring photo identification, loosening a similar measure in Wisconsin, and halting strict citizenship requirements in Kansas. The rulings Friday came as the 2016 election moves into its final phase, with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton locked in a high-stakes presidential race and control of the U.S. Senate possibly hanging in the balance. North Carolina is one of about a dozen swing states in the presidential race, while Wisconsin has voted Democratic in recent presidential elections and Kansas has been solidly Republican. The decisions followed a similar blow earlier this month to what critics said was one of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws in Texas. The New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said Texas’ voter ID law is discriminatory and must be weakened before the November election.

National: Voting rights rulings could deal blow to Republicans in 2016 elections | The Guardian

Shortly after Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election, the former chair of the North Carolina Republican party wrote an anxious postmortem saying something had to be done about the students and black voters whose unprecedented turnout had turned the state blue for the first time in 32 years. The alternative, the former state chair Jack Hawke wrote, was that the country would “continue to slide toward socialism”. That “something” turned out to be a notorious omnibus law – better known to its detractors as the “monster law” – passed by a Republican-majority state legislature in 2013. The legislation gutted many of the progressive voting rules that had contributed to Obama’s razor-thin margin in the state: same-day registration, a lengthy early voting period and out-of-precinct voting by provisional ballot – all favored disproportionately by African American voters and students. The law also introduced a strict voter ID requirement, with the anticipated effect of suppressing Democratic votes even further.

Voting Blogs: Voter ID Laws and the Future of Judicial “Softening” | More Soft Money Hard Law

As the courts work their way through claims against ID and other voting restrictions, they continue on a course of “softening” voting impediments but not eliminating them altogether. They remain reluctant to deny states the authority to enact rules, on virtually non-existent evidence, to protect against in-person voter fraud. Remedies are then fashioned that provide relief to voters facing a “reasonable impediment” to voting but the question has been legitimately raised: how much of an impact can these sorts of measures be expected to have? Like the right to a provisional ballot provided for under HAVA, these other remedies– like accommodating indigent voters with access to cost-free identification–help voters, but only a limited number. The reach and effectiveness of these measures depend upon the states’ performance of their obligations: the information they provide to voters, and the good faith and competence with which they administer the remedies. The same may be true of more robust remedies, like the option recently ordered for Wisconsin, affording access to an affidavit alternative to documentary identification.

California: San Jose recount drama tests faith in system | San Jose Mercury News

Nearly two months after the June election, the scene at the Santa Clara County registrar’s office calls to mind a high-stakes blackjack game without the bright felt table or the waitresses hawking drinks. The registrar’s official behind the table, Jason Mazzone, counts out the ballots from each precinct and then produces the questioned ballots, spreading them out like a dealer showing the house’s hand. A team of political operatives from the San Jose District 4 council race moves forward to photograph the results. This isn’t just an unprecedented second recount of votes in a stunningly close election. It’s also an extraordinary clash of generations and a test of faith in the political process in a district where both the incumbent and challenger are Vietnamese-American.

Florida: Phantom write-in candidates bar more than a million voters from Florida elections | Tampa Bay Times

In his secretive and impossible bid for public office, James Bailey will accomplish only this: He will deprive thousands of residents from voting for their state legislator. Bailey, 28, is a write-in candidate for a state House seat in Vero Beach, a three-hour drive from his home in Clearwater. He’s not campaigning or raising money. He faces possible fines for refusing to file routine campaign paperwork. He won’t answer phone calls and e-mails. Yet his sham candidacy is manipulating the outcome of a race involving four Republicans. Because only one party fielded candidates, the primary should serve as a general election where all voters, not just Republicans, cast ballots. Such a “universal” primary is the intent behind a 1998 constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters to open up one-party contests to the entire electorate.

Illinois: Voter registration system back online after cyberattack | The Southern

Illinois’ voter registration system is back online about two weeks after it was shut down in the wake of a cyberattack. Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said Friday that the board’s focus has been on securing the voter database before bringing it back online. The board will continue investigating the attack to determine how many voters’ information may have been accessed. The attack, which the board told local election authorities it believes was the work of foreign hackers, occurred July 12, and the online registration system was taken down the following day as a precaution. It was brought back online late Thursday afternoon.

Indiana: State prepares for change to straight-party votes in November | News and Tribune

Voters casting straight-party ballots in this November’s general election will have an added step not seen before, and some election officials are concerned the changes will present unnecessary challenges. In March, Indiana Public Law 21-2016 went into effect, after Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 61 passed this year’s legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Pence. The main crux of the bill states that straight-party tickets no longer count for partisan races in which more than one candidate can be chosen, specifically at-large races. Prior to the new law, voters could select their straight party choice in the beginning of the ballot, and this would in effect cast a vote for all candidates in that party without any extra steps, if no other candidates were chosen separately. In this election, they will have to manually select any at-large candidates for whom they wish to vote.

Kansas: Judge temporarily blocks Kris Kobach voting rule days before election | The Kansas City Star

Kris Kobach’s attempt to throw out thousands of votes in Tuesday’s primary election has fallen short in a Kansas court. A Shawnee County district judge ruled Friday that the votes of 17,500 people whose registrations had been questioned are to be tallied in Tuesday’s primary. Judge Larry Hendricks issued a temporary order, meaning the votes will be counted Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Kobach on behalf of Kansas voters who were told that they could vote in federal elections but that their votes in state and local elections would not be counted. Kobach argued that by ruling against him, the state would be letting people who weren’t U.S. citizens vote in the primary.

North Carolina: Appeals court strikes down North Carolina’s voter ID law | The Washington Post

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down North Carolina’s requirement that voters show identification before casting ballots and reinstated an additional week of early voting. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was an overwhelming victory for civil rights groups and the Justice Department that argued the voting law was designed to dampen the growing political clout of African American voters, who participated in record numbers in elections in 2008 and 2012. “We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority.

Voting Blogs: Breaking and Analysis: Partially Divided 4th Circuit Strikes NC Strict Voting Law, Finds Discriminatory Intent | Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog

You can find the 83 pages of decisions at this link. A partially divided panel of 4th Circuit judges reversed a massive trial court opinion which had rejected a number of constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to North Carolina’s strict voting law, a law I had said was the largest collection of voting rollbacks contained in a single law that I could find since the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act. The key part of the holding is that North Carolina acted with racially discriminatory intent. However, despite this finding of discriminatory intent, the 4th Circuit refused to use its discretion to put North Carolina back under federal supervision for up to 10 years for its voting. “Such remedies ‘[are] rarely used]’ and are not necessary here in light of our injunction.” Nonetheless, the finding of intentional discrimination could be the basis for a future argument for section 3 should North Carolina pass other discriminatory voting laws. What happens next? North Carolina could decide to go along (there’s nothing to do on remand in this opinion as the 4th Circuit wrote it). Or it could seek to take the case to the 4th Circuit en banc or to the Supreme Court. The state could well go to the 4th Circuit en banc; although that court is not nearly as conservative as it once was, not sure what North Carolina has to lose. And NC could go to the Supreme Court, as the case presents the very rich question of what it means to to engage in racially discriminatory intent when race and party so overlap. (I addressed this question in this Harvard Law Review forum piece: Race or Party?: How Courts Should Think About Republican Efforts to Make it Harder to Vote in North Carolina and Elsewhere). It is not clear that the evenly divided and shorthanded Supreme Court will bite, and I expect any attempt to get emergency relief from the Supreme Court will fail.

Editorials: Virginia’s Century-Old Mentality on Race | The New York Times

The Virginia Supreme Court erred earlier this month when it ruled that Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s blanket executive order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 people who had been barred from voting for felony convictions violated the state Constitution. The poorly reasoned ruling — which holds that the governor can legally restore voting rights only on a case-by-case basis — has no legitimate basis in the state Constitution. To his credit, Mr. McAuliffe has vowed to reinstate voting rights to those Virginians even if it means signing the restoration orders one at a time. When he issued the blanket order in April, Mr. McAuliffe acknowledged what politicians in Virginia and elsewhere have long lacked the courage to admit: The disenfranchisement law was expressly designed to permanently bar as many African-Americans as possible from the polls.

Gabon: President warns of unrest during August elections | AFP

Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba has warned of possible unrest during the August 27 election which he said was the “strategy” of the opposition challenging his eligibility to seek a second seven-year term. “It is to be feared, because it is the opposition’s strategy for many years,” Bongo said in an interview with the weekly “Jeune Afrique” published yesterday which asked him if he feared “abuses and even violence” after the vote. The opposition “has started to heat things up by announcing that the election will not be transparent, that we will steal victory,” the president said. Bongo described as “nonsense” the arguments of critics who have opposed his re-election on the grounds that he was a Nigerian who was adopted in the 1960s by his father, long-ruling former president Ali Bongo, and was therefore ineligible as a foreigner under the constitution.

Germany: Far-right AfD claws back some support after attacks | Reuters

The anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (Afd) gained support as Germany was hit by a spate of attacks this month, including by Islamist militants, but support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives held steady, a poll showed. Germany remains deeply unsettled after 15 people were killed and dozens wounded in five separate attacks between July 18-July 26. Two were claimed by Islamic State, and three of the attackers were asylum seekers. This has led to accusations that Merkel’s open-door refugee policy is to blame, under which over a million migrants, many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, entered Germany in the past year. An Emnid poll for weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag showed support for the AfD rising by 2 percentage points from the prior week to 12 percent. The poll was conducted between July 21 and July 27.

Tunisia: Government faces vote of confidence | AFP

Tunisia’s parliament gathered on Saturday for a vote of confidence that could see Prime Minister Habib Essid unseated after just a year and a half in office. Essid’s government has been widely criticised for failing to tackle the country’s economic crisis, high unemployment and a series of jihadist attacks. “I’m quite aware that the vote will be against me,” Essid, 67, told parliament ahead of the planned vote. “I didn’t come to obtain the 109 votes (needed to remain in office). I came to expose things to the people and to members of parliament,” he said. Voting is expected to take place at around 2300 GMT following several hours of speeches by MPs and a response by Essid, said the president of the assembly, Mohamed Ennaceur.

Zambia: Ballot verification complete | ZNBC

Verification of Presidential ballot papers for the August 11 general elections has been completed. The Electoral Commission of Zambia -ECZ- and political party representatives taking part in the exercise have since commenced verification of ballots for local government elections which include councillors, mayors, and council chairpersons. The stakeholders are also expected to start verifying the referendum ballots today. And UPND Director Research and Policy Joseph Lungu is happy with the manner process has been conducted.