A majority of U.S. states are planning to conduct their November elections using electronic machines with technology invented when cybersecurity threats did not loom as quite as large as they do now. It seems like an election crisis waiting to happen. But, despite recent hacks of Democratic Party data– and suspicions of Russian government involvement—a widespread attack on electronic voting machines is unlikely, according to people familiar with existing systems. Still, states and Congress should move to upgrade and protect a legion of outdated machines from isolated attacks, they say. … There’s no evidence that a voting machine has been hacked during an election, said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, who specializes in voting technology. Although that doesn’t mean a hack couldn’t happen, the wide variety of machines and methods used to vote from precinct to precinct would require an army of people within U.S. borders trying to tamper with machines on a local level, Hall said. “A widespread effect is highly unlikely because the resources required would be very large,” Hall said. “There are attacks you can accomplish from afar for an internet voting system that aren’t possible with the system we have now.” Hall said that doesn’t mean that small-scale electronic voting hacks aren’t a concern. Outdated voting machines are “horrifically insecure,” he said.
Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down core elements of the Voting Rights Act, critics of Republican-led efforts to change voting laws in key states are scoring a new round of victories in courts across the country. The wave of favorable decisions, both proponents and opponents say, illustrates a new approach voting rights advocates are taking in court. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that a part of the Voting Rights Act laying out criteria under which states could be required to seek approval prior to changing voting laws was outdated. The decision effectively rendered moot Section 5, which required states fitting that criteria to seek approval from the Justice Department or the D.C. District Court prior to changing election laws. In effect, voting rights advocates worried, the Supreme Court had shifted the burden of proof from the states, which previously had to show their proposed changes would not discriminate against minority voters, to the voters themselves, who would now have to show their rights were infringed upon.
Rushing to establish the rules of the road for the upcoming national elections, federal courts in recent weeks have issued a cascade of decisions rolling back restrictive voting laws enacted in the aftermath of a major Supreme Court decision. In 2013, the high court struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. No longer would areas of the country with a history of discrimination in voting be required to pre-clear all changes in voting laws and procedures. “Our country has changed,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the conservative five-justice majority. Nearly 50 years after the Voting Rights Act became law, he said, instances of blatant race-based discrimination were rare. But as soon as the covered state and local governments were freed from the pre-clearance mandate, Republican legislatures in some 17 states adopted new laws that civil rights groups said were targeted at suppressing the minority vote. Among the controversial measures: strict voter ID requirements, elimination of early voting days, and a variety of other provisions.
Editorials: Republicans Are Not Attacking Democracy; Not every battle over voting is an assault on democratic values | Rick Hasen/The Atlantic
Has the Republican Party engaged in “a coordinated attack on democracy,” by restricting voting rules, opening the campaign-money spigot, blocking progressive local laws and consumer protections, engaging in partisan gerrymandering, and stacking the courts with judges to give their repressive program a green light? That’s the provocative thesis of Zachary Roth’s engaging and very readable book, The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy. But Roth’s argument is overwrought, painting the picture of a vast right-wing conspiracy with too broad of a brush, and failing to distinguish between normal political competition and political chicanery. Don’t get me wrong. There’s been plenty of chicanery around the issue of voter fraud by the charlatan members of the fraudulent-fraud squad, who have ginned up false reports of voter fraud to claim Democrats are stealing elections. As Roth demonstrates, Donald Trump’s ranting about people voting 10 times echoes earlier Republican statements, such as then-Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain’s statement during the 2008 campaign that the voter registration group ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
Georgia: Lawsuit: Gwinnett County political districts thwart minority voting rights | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit against Gwinnett County Monday, seeking to overturn county commission and school board districts they say have been drawn to thwart minority voters. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, says minorities in Georgia’s second-largest county have been prevented from electing candidates of their choice, depriving them of a full say on issues ranging from immigration enforcement to school discipline. Though blacks, Latinos and Asians account for more than half of Gwinnett’s population, no minority has ever been elected to the county commission or the school board, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit against the county and the school board seeks new districts favorable to minorities, as well as the possible elimination of the at-large county commission chairman’s job. An attorney for the plaintiffs said they had not ruled out seeking the changes in advance of this November’s county commission and school board elections, though in the past judges have been reluctant to order such changes so close to an election.
A new law sponsored by state Sen. Dan McConchie will allow young people to become involved in the election process sooner than they had been allowed to participate in the past. Under the law, signed last week by Gov. Bruce Rauner, individuals who will be 18 years old at the next election are now able to fully participate in the election process. “There’s no reason to say that 17-year-olds have the right to vote and prevent them from otherwise participating in the election process,” McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said in a news release.
Last month’s federal court ruling against North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law was hailed as a major victory for voting rights. But now the battle over voting in the Tarheel State is shifting to the local level — amid concerns that the court’s decision could let county election officials impose new schemes to limit access to the polls. Indeed, Francis De Luca, the head of a leading conservative think tank in the state, is publicly urging counties to do just that, saying making voting harder is just “partisan politics” — and that’s fair game. Jen Jones of Democracy North Carolina warned that could have serious consequences. “The prospect of having voters disenfranchised is still a clear and present danger here in this very new front in the war on voting rights,” she said. The focus on local-level rules comes as North Carolina prepares to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the July 29 appeals court ruling against the law, allowing the measure to stay in place for the election. The ruling by a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed several provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 voting law, including the law’s cutting of early voting days from 17 to 10, the elimination of same-day voter registration, and a voter ID requirement. The court found that Republican lawmakers had targeted black voters “with surgical precision.”
Virginia: McAuliffe taking a slower approach to rights restoration in Virginia | The Washington Post
Armed with an autopen, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said two weeks ago that he had all he needed to swiftly but individually restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons. But McAuliffe (D) has since decided that he needs something else: time. McAuliffe brought delegates to their feet at last month’s Democratic National Convention when he vowed to defy the state’s highest court, which had just struck down his April executive order to restore voting rights to felons who had completed their sentences. He said the 200,000 felons would have their rights back in the space of two weeks. That self-imposed deadline came and went Monday without a single felon’s rights having been restored. McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said the governor is taking the time necessary to make sure the rights-restoration orders are handled properly.
Virginia: NAACP president arrested after staging voting rights sit-in at lawmaker’s office | The Guardian
The president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was arrested after staging a sit-in at the Roanoke office of Virginia congressman Bob Goodlatte to demand a hearing on the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law 51 years ago on Saturday. Cornell Brooks, the NAACP president, and Stephen Green, national director of the group’s youth and college division, were arrested shortly after the congressman’s office closed at 5pm, Green said in an email. He said the men were charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor, and released. Officers with the Roanoke police department had allowed the protest to continue throughout the day. They returned when the office closed for the day and made two arrests after Brooks and Green refused to leave.
While most of the country is actively engaged in the election process, an entire class of individuals — inmates in Washington state jails — can’t participate because the officials charged with overseeing them have failed to provide the tools and information needed to make that happen, according to a new report. An investigation by Disability Rights Washington found only a handful of Washington state’s 38 county jails have a policy for facilitating the voting process for inmates and few of those facilities actually follow those procedures, the report said. The result: Thousands of citizens who have the constitutional right to vote are not able to register, receive ballots or cast a vote, the report said. Unlike prison inmates, who generally have felony convictions and have lost their voting rights, most jail inmates are awaiting trial or have been found guilty of a misdemeanor charge, so they maintain their voting rights.
Two judges have trimmed back the state’s voter ID law in recent weeks, but those going to the polls Tuesday will still need to show identification to cast ballots. That’s because the judges said their rulings wouldn’t take effect until after the primary. So, voters will have to show ID at the polls Tuesday but not necessarily in the Nov. 8 presidential election, when turnout will be much higher. … Ballots in most parts of the state are scanned electronically and will immediately be rejected for those who voted in both primaries. Voters would then have a chance to fix the mistake. To get a ballot, voters must provide one of the following types of IDs: Wisconsin driver’s license, state-issued ID, military ID, passport, tribal ID, Veterans Health Administration ID, naturalization certificate or certain types of student IDs from accredited colleges and universities in Wisconsin.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday appealed to Cambodia’s 9.6 million eligible voters to register to cast their ballots when enrollment opens next month, as the opposition CNRP expressed concerns that a million migrant workers could be disenfranchised. As part of the 2014 political deal between the CPP and CNRP, a new bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) was created with a mandate to build a new electronic voter list without the hundreds of thousands of double and missing names that plagued previous lists. Mr. Hun Sen, speaking at a ceremony for a new bridge in Kandal province on Monday, said that those who do not register when NEC officials travel the country from the start of September to the end of November would not be able to vote in next year’s commune elections.
Somalia will hold a delayed presidential vote on October 30 with parliamentary polls starting next month, an official statement sent to AFP Monday said, in what international backers hope will signal a long-awaited return to stability. The UN-sponsored Somalia Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) met with the leaders of the country’s regional governments along with the president to decide on the electoral calendar, it said in the statement. The FIEIT said parliamentary voting will be held from September 24 to October 10.
Thailand: Voters approve a military-backed constitution, paving the way for a general election | Reuters
A democratically elected government will take power in Thailand at the earliest by December 2017, a senior Thai official said on Monday, after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution paving the way for a general election. Thais handed the junta of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha a convincing win in the referendum on Sunday, with preliminary results showing over 61 percent voted in favor. Full results are due on Wednesday. A desire to see greater political stability drove the yes vote, analysts said. Thailand has been rocked by more than a decade of political turmoil that has stunted growth, two military takeovers and several rounds of often deadly street protests. “We think there will be an election at the earliest in September or October 2017, and a new government by December 2017,” Chatchai Na Chiang Mai, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, told Reuters. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Monday also said an election will take place in 2017, confirming the timeline Prayuth laid out ahead of the referendum.
Labour is challenging a High Court ruling giving recent members a vote in its leadership contest, with the appeal hearing expected on Thursday.
The party lost a legal challenge to its rules banning anyone who joined as a member after 12 January from taking part unless they paid an extra £25.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour’s appeal was “disappointing”. The party said it would defend the right of its governing NEC “to uphold the rule book”. The court’s decision, handed down on Monday, could add between 126,592 and 150,000 people to the list of those eligible to vote in the contest – according to different estimates. The ruling is thought likely to benefit leader Jeremy Corbyn over challenger Owen Smith, who earlier branded Mr Corbyn “useless” and said he had “fractured” the Labour Party.
Zambia is heading for the polls just 18 months after the last presidential election, which saw Edgar Lungu win by less than 28,000 votes. BBC Focus on Africa editor Rachael Akidi looks at the issues in this election. Zambia has been hailed as one of Africa’s most stable and mature democracies. It has held regular multi-party elections since 1991, including in 2011 when President Rupiah Banda lost, accepted defeat and stepped down.
Zambia has been hailed as one of Africa’s most stable and mature democracies. It has held regular multi-party elections since 1991, including in 2011 when President Rupiah Banda lost, accepted defeat and stepped down. But this poll is being contested under new rules. The constitution was amended in response to the deaths of two sitting presidents in less than five years, which meant early elections on both occasions. Under the new rules, a presidential candidate is required to have a running mate who will become vice-president and take over if the president dies in office. For the first time, the winner must also secure a minimum of one vote more than 50% of the ballots cast. Otherwise the poll will go into a second round, to be held within 37 days. This means the president should have gained the support of a wider cross-section of society.