Stealing and leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee could be just the start. Hacking the presidential election itself could be next, a bipartisan group of former intelligence and security officials recently warned. Whomever was behind the DNC hack also could target voting machines and the systems for tabulating votes, which are dangerously insecure. “Election officials at every level of government should take this lesson to heart: our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments and terrorist groups,” wrote 31 members of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, which includes a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a former secretary of Homeland Security. That echoes warnings computer security experts have been sounding for more than a decade: that the system for casting and counting votes in this country is also ripe for mischief. … Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow military personnel and overseas voters to return their ballots electronically, according to Verified Voting, a non-profit group that advocates transparency and security in U.S. elections. “The election official on the receiving end has no way to know if the voted ballot she received matches the one the voter originally sent,” the group warns. Some ballots are sent through online portals, which exposes the voting system to the internet. And that’s one of the most dangerous things elections officials can do, because it provides a remote point of access for hackers into the election system.
“As close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times,” was how Fourth Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz described North Carolina’s disputed new voter law, which the court struck down last week on the grounds of discriminatory intent. A ruling in the Fifth Circuit just days before reached a similar conclusion for an analogous law in Texas, acknowledging that the architects of its new voting law were “aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities” and still did nothing about them. Just hours after the North Carolina decision, Wisconsin District Court Judge James Peterson joined in with a comparable dismantling of his state’s new voter laws, writing, “Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.” These three decisions, written in strong and unambiguous language about discrimination and race, reflect a stunning turn in the battle for the ballot after 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder hamstrung the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While the Supreme Court argued in that case that America had moved beyond its past of open racism and discrimination, the laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas, and the judicial decisions about them, are reminders that voting in the United States has always been and still is about the omnipresent issue that has always shaped policy: race. In his decision, Peterson introduced the story of an elderly black woman, Mrs. Smith, who “was born in the South, barely 50 years after slavery” and simply could not navigate the intricate process of procuring a voter ID. Wisconsin’s ID Petition Process could not link the records of her life to a birth record, so she remained ineligible to vote under its new law that required strict voter ID. That story could be emblematic of any number of older voters of color in states with new restrictive voting laws. Indeed, it is a story akin to that of Rosanell Eaton, a black woman born in 1921 who would have had to “incur significant time and expense” in order to obtain the proper ID to be able to vote in North Carolina—even though she’d been registered to vote since the Jim Crow era. And it is a story similar to that of Alberta Currie, who first voted in 1956. Both of these women became plaintiffs in the legal challenge to North Carolina’s new voter law. All of their experiences are representative examples of a continuous onslaught of electoral racism that has existed since the 14th and 15th Amendments gave newly free black people the nominal right to vote.
A spate of federal court rulings against voting restrictions in five U.S. states will make it easier for residents to cast ballots in the November elections but may lead to chaos at polling locations, according to legal scholars. “There may well be confusion on Election Day, even if things are implemented the way the courts have decided,” said University of California, Irvine law professor Richard Hasen. In recent weeks, courts struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law, Wisconsin’s restrictions on early and absentee voting, and Kansas’ proof of citizenship requirement. A judge blocked North Dakota’s voter ID law, and an appellate court sent Texas’ voter ID law back to a lower court with instructions to devise a way to allow those lacking state-approved identification to be able to cast a ballot. “Judges are beginning to wake up and see what some of these enacted laws are doing,” said law professor Theodore Shaw, who heads the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. “The lower courts and courts of appeals are finding that these voter ID provisions are discriminatory in either intent or effect, or both.”
Donald Trump, trailing narrowly in presidential polls, has issued a warning to worried Republican voters: The election will be “rigged” against him — and he could lose as a result. Trump pointed to several court cases nationwide in which restrictive laws requiring voters to show identification have been thrown out. He said those decisions open the door to fraud in November. “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” he told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.” Those comments followed a claim Trump made Monday, to an audience in Ohio, that “the election is going to be rigged.” That same day, in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, he beseeched Republicans to start “watching closely” or the election will be “taken away from us” through fraud.
Analysts largely agree that the hacking of various arms of the Democratic Party, and the release of hacked emails that deepened divisions within the party just ahead of its presidential convention, is a big deal. But there’s less agreement about whether what we’re witnessing is fundamentally old or new. The answer to that question could shape not just the Obama administration’s response to the hack, but international norms on the limits to foreign influence in democratic elections. Put simply: If, as some reckon, Russian intelligence agencies spied on the Democratic Party and then shared looted documents with WikiLeaks in order to intervene in the U.S. election, can that be tolerated? So far, only anonymous U.S. officials and private cybersecurity companies have designated Russia as the prime suspect in the hack. The U.S. government has yet to publicly accuse the Russian government of orchestrating the breach, let alone the leaks, and Russian officials have denied any involvement in the episode. Nevertheless, some argue that the Kremlin appears to have merely extended to America a reinvented Soviet tactic that it has deployed for years at home and across Europe: Using a variety of measures—including the collection and dissemination of compromising information and disinformation—to meddle in politics, discredit the political systems of rival countries, and sow doubt, discord, and disarray.
National: Republican vote suppression efforts, packaged as reforms, fall foul of US courts | Sydney Morning Herald
Maybe in the era of Donald Trump it’s too much to expect subtlety in American politics. But you’d have thought that when the Supreme Court freed a slew of southern states – states which share a grim history of suppressing and denying black and other minority voting – from federal supervision, that any return to the days of Jim Crow discrimination would have been gradual and not a headlong rush. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 – bringing electoral laws in 15 states under Washington’s scrutiny because they were incapable of doing the decent thing. In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the act, with Chief Justice John Roberts declaring that intentional racial discrimination in electoral law was a thing of the past. But now the courts have shown they are on to what these Republican states are up to in the lead-in to a bitterly contested 2016 presidential election, and the direct language in some of their decisions is astounding. In a ruling against North Carolina, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit accused the state legislature of targeting African-American voters with “almost surgical precision”.
National: Top Democratic National Committee officials resign in wake of email breach | The Washington Post
Three top officials at the Democratic National Committee will leave their posts this week amid the controversy over the release of a cache of hacked emails from the committee. Chief executive Amy Dacey, Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall and Communications Director Luis Miranda will leave the DNC just days after a new leader took the helm. A trove of nearly 20,000 emails were posted on WikiLeaks last month. They included some emails that raised questions about the faith of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and others that seemed to disparage donors.
Editorials: How vulnerable to hacking is the US election cyber infrastructure? | Richard Forno/The Conversation
Following the hack of Democratic National Committee emails and reports of a new cyberattack against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, worries abound that foreign nations may be clandestinely involved in the 2016 American presidential campaign. Allegations swirl that Russia, under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, is secretly working to undermine the U.S. Democratic Party. The apparent logic is that a Donald Trump presidency would result in more pro-Russian policies. At the moment, the FBI is investigating, but no U.S. government agency has yet made a formal accusation. The Republican nominee added unprecedented fuel to the fire by encouraging Russia to “find” and release Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from her time as secretary of state. Trump’s comments drew sharp rebuke from the media and politicians on all sides. Some suggested that by soliciting a foreign power to intervene in domestic politics, his musings bordered on criminality or treason. Trump backtracked, saying his comments were “sarcastic,” implying they’re not to be taken seriously.
Voting Blogs: Fate of Democracy in Hands Of the Electorate Following Recent Election Law Victories | Brad Blog
The good news is that over the past week two federal courts struck down multiple provisions of GOP-enacted voter suppression laws in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The cautionary news is that the rejection of 21st century Jim Crow-style disenfranchisement at the polls, and, indeed, the fate of democracy itself, may well now hinge on the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. … In the first voting rights case to see a ruling come down last Friday, North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, the good news is that a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeal struck down as unconstitutional a comprehensive GOP voter suppression scheme that the court determined had been deliberately designed to have a retrogressive impact on the right of African-Americans to participate in electoral democracy. The state Republican legislature’s scheme, the court held, was specifically designed to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
The top election officials in Pima and Maricopa counties say they will not enforce a new state law that makes “ballot harvesting” a crime. “We’re not police,” said Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson. “People bring early ballots to us, we’re going to process them like we always have,” said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. And that means whether someone brings in their own ballot — or a basket full of them. Potentially more significant, both Nelson and Purcell said they will not take down the names of those who show up with multiple ballots. The law that takes effect Saturday makes it a felony, punishable by a year in state prison, to knowingly collect blank or filled-out early ballots from another person. Rebecca Wilder, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said the only way for her office to bring charges against someone for violating the law is if there is first a report to prosecutors from a law enforcement agency. If election officials do not take names, there is nothing to provide to police and, therefore, nothing to report to prosecutors.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper will no longer defend the state’s voter ID law, now that a federal appeals court has ruled it was passed with “discriminatory intent.” A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel blocked its enforcement last Friday, ruling that the Republican-led General Assembly made changes that targeted black voters more likely to support Democrats. “Attorneys with our office put forward their best arguments but the court found that the law was intentional discrimination and we will not appeal,” Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said in an email. Barring some new court intervention, the appellate ruling means the law’s restrictions will not be in place for this year’s presidential election. The ID mandate is now gone and early voting restored to 17 days, up from 10. Same-day registration during early voting and the partial counting of out-of-precinct ballots resume permanently.
North Dakota on Monday became the latest state to have its voter identification law blocked by a federal court, adding to a string of recent rulings across the US on the grounds that such measures disenfranchise poor and minority voters. North Dakota joined North Carolina and Wisconsin, where voter-ID restrictions were struck down by federal courts on Friday, victories for advocates who claim the measures are an attempt to suppress voters who tend to cast ballots for Democrats. Seven Native American voters filed a federal law suit against North Dakota claiming measures passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2013 and 2015 are unconstitutional and violate the US Voting Rights Act. The laws added restrictions to the types of identification voters can use at polling places and banned “fail-safe” provisions allowing them to vote without the required identification in certain circumstances.
Seizing on recent federal court decisions that have struck down voter identification laws in several southern states, Tennessee Democrats on Tuesday called for their Republican counterparts to make changes to state and federal laws. Citing decisions by federal judges in North Dakota, North Carolina and Texas, which have similar voter identification laws as Tennessee, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, quoted Abraham Lincoln. “He said that government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The people cannot express their wishes unless they vote,” Cooper said, explaining that, in the aftermath of a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Indiana, several state legislatures, including ones in the South, successfully passed laws to “not only ID voters but to suppress the vote.”
Wisconsin: State and local elected officials brace for voter confusion this fall | Wisconsin State Journal
State and local election officials are bracing for another round of voter confusion after two federal judges struck down several voting-related laws recently. Neither ruling will affect next week’s fall primary election, but they have potentially wide-ranging implications on the November vote for president, U.S. Senate and state legislative races, said Michael Haas, the state’s top elections administrator. “Our main message at this point is that people understand that nothing changes these rules for the August election,” Haas said. “We, as well as the municipal clerks, will be doing our best to educate voters after the primary and as soon as we can.”
It took a month but we got there. Counting for the House of Reps has finished and the last seat, Herbert in north Queensland, has finally been decided. But keyboard critics are already pouncing. Not on Labor or the LNP but on the very system itself. Here we are in 2016, they say, 20 years after the internet entered our lives, and we’re still voting with pencil and paper. We wait for weeks for something a machine could do in seconds. Online voting could do away with postal and absentee votes and the lost ballots that forced a re-run of the 2013 West Australian Senate poll could be avoided. If we can enrol to vote, study and transfer money electronically, surely we can trust online ballots? No, we can’t.
Edward Leung, a member of pro-independence party Hong Kong Indigenous, was barred Tuesday from competing in the city’s legislative elections Sept. 4 on grounds that his political views run afoul of Hong Kong’s de facto constitution. The 25-year-old is a leading figure in the “localist” movement, which calls for the democratization of Hong Kong and distance from mainland China. Leung received 15% of the vote in a February by-election, thanks to his popularity among youths, and was widely expected to win a seat on the Legislative Council if he ran next month. Many think Beijing was unwilling to have a pro-independence lawmaker on the city’s assembly and had Leung disqualified by the Electoral Affairs Commission. Doubts over the sustainability of the “one country, two systems” policy, which grants Hong Kong autonomy on most issues except diplomacy and defense, are expected to grow further.
A group of Iraqi legislators plans to submit a petition to the speaker of parliament requesting the deposition of executive council members of the Independent High Electoral Commission with an eye toward the commission’s dissolution. The group objects to the commission having been formed based on the quota system, as a result of members being nominated by the parliament, and thus in a corruptive manner. More than 100 members of parliament from the Al-Ahrar bloc, affiliated with the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Reform Front, close to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, signed the petition July 19. The move, coming less than a year before local elections, seems to have become a ritual preceding every election. This time, the demand is being packaged as part of the ongoing push for political reforms. At a protest in Baghdad on July 15, Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement, had called for the commission to be dismissed because of its basis in the partisan, sectarian quota system. He is calling for a technocratic electoral commission with members appointed by the judiciary, a proposal that would require new legislation.