Fewer than 90 days before election day, the rules governing who can vote remain unsettled in at least 10 US states including pivotal battlegrounds that are home to millions of voters. Judges in recent weeks have struck down voting restrictions introduced by several states following a 2013 Supreme Court decision that allowed them for the first time in decades to make such changes without obtaining federal approval. Voting rights advocates welcomed those rulings, but courtroom fights over the rules for the November 8 election continue in the swing states of North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Virginia and Ohio. Those five alone account for nearly one-quarter of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. “It does raise questions about the rules that will be in place this November,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. “There’s a need to provide voters greater clarity. All of this is a cause for concern.”
A group of cyber security experts say they fear that voting machines in the U.S. could be a target for hackers. “Coming out of the [Democratic National Committee] hack … I think there’s a lot of us trying to call more attention to the election machines,” Jason Healey, a Columbia University senior research scholar and non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative said on Wednesday. Healey, who was in Washington, D.C., as part of the council’s “Cyber Risk Wednesday” series, pointed out the difference between how gambling machines in Las Vegas are secured compared to voting machines. “Someone tweeted out: ‘Here’s how Las Vegas handles gambling machines.’ It covered all these controls that Las Vegas includes for [them]… “Someone can inspect it. If you as a player think that the [gambling] machine is fraudulent, you can go talk to the inspector. There are rules. There [is] independent testing to see if it’s right,” Healey said.
National: Pants on Fire!: Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the election being ‘rigged’ | PolitiFact
Donald Trump preemptively challenged the results of the November presidential election, claiming in media appearances and rallies that the entire system is “rigged.” Trump’s charges of election fraud are not new to his campaign. He’s tweeted about dead voters delivering President Barack Obama’s victory in 2012, floated charges about multiple voting in the primaries, and suggested…
Editorials: Donald Trump Is Encouraging Intimidation and Racial Profiling at the Polls | Ari Berman/The Nation
In 1981, during a New Jersey gubernatorial election, the Republican National Committee launched a “Ballot Security Task Force” that sent sample ballots to voters in predominantly African-American and Hispanic precincts. When 45,000 letters were returned as undeliverable, the RNC tried to remove the voters from the rolls and hired off-duty cops to patrol polling sites in black and Hispanic neighborhoods of Newark and Trenton. Police carried firearms at polling places and wore armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force,” while the RNC posted large signs saying, “this area is being patrolled by the national ballot security task force. it is a crime to falsify a ballot or to violate election laws”. After the election, the Democratic National Committee won a court settlement ordering the RNC to “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities.” Now Donald Trump may be violating the consent decree against the GOP by asking his supporters to become a “Trump Election Observer” to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election.” Trump unveiled the page on his website the same day he campaigned in Pennsylvania, where he claimed, “The only way we can lose, in my opinion—and I really mean this, Pennsylvania—is if cheating goes on…. And we have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching…. The only way they can beat it in my opinion—and I mean this 100 percent—if in certain sections of the state they cheat, OK? So I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine, because without voter identification—which is shocking, shocking that you don’t have it.”
There might be no way to soften the polarizing nature of this year’s presidential candidates, but some Alabama election officials have high hopes that new technology will smooth the way for voters this November. The Alabama Secretary of State’s office is backing a trial program that will deploy an iPad-based system at some polling places throughout the state. The tablets won’t take the place of conventional voting machines, but they will be used to check voters in, replacing the conventional bulky printouts of voter lists – and, proponents say, taking some human error out of the equation. It’s a pilot program, so most voters won’t see it. According to the secretary of state’s office, indications are that more than half the state’s 67 counties will opt to take part, with each using it at a limited number of polling places. Early adopters include Barbour, Hale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Morgan and Shelby counties.
A few Wilmington residents will head to the polls for the first time to vote thanks to a new state law restoring voting rights to ex-offenders. Though the new law made headlines in July when it was signed by Gov. Jack Markell, a local man is on a mission to make sure people are aware of it. His name is Vash Turner, and so far he has registered at least 400 ex-offenders since last month. “Sometimes they get out, they lose fight because they feel as though they’re not a part of society anymore,” Turner said. Throughout the years, state leaders have taken several steps to help ex-offenders feel like they are a part of society. Years ago, ex-offenders were allowed to vote after a five year waiting period and settling court fees.
Editorials: Florida is running out of time to give all voters equal early voting | iara Torres-Spelliscy/Tampa Bay Times
Florida’s supervisors of elections are running out of time to provide equal access to voting to all Florida voters by offering a full two weeks of early in-person voting. The supervisors of elections across the state work year-round to ensure that the right to vote is a meaningful one for Floridians. They don’t get enough credit for being the backbone of our democracy. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said in Reynolds vs. Sims, “The right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights.” Florida law grants supervisors of elections the discretion over how many days of early voting are offered in each county. This has resulted in a confusing patchwork of different early voting days, which can vary county to county, even among counties that are side by side.
A federal appeals court is upholding an earlier decision to support the way Hawaii holds its primary elections, rejecting the Democratic Party’s desire to exclude non-Democrats from advancing candidates to the general election. The Democratic Party of Hawaii had challenged the state’s open primary system where registered voters can choose any party’s ballot to cast their votes without formally joining the party. Party leaders wanted to limit primary elections to formal members or people willing to declare their allegiance, because they said the open primary system allows people from opposing parties to influence their party’s candidate selection. Judge Wallace Tashima of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was up to the Hawaii Democratic Party to prove that problem exists. But he said in an opinion Monday the party didn’t provide evidence that opponents are determining the Democratic Party’s election outcomes.
Illinois: Democrats, advocates blast Rauner veto of automatic voter registration bill | Chicago Tribune
Democrats and voting rights advocates cried foul Monday over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s last-minute veto of a bill that would make voter registration automatic in time for the 2018 election, vowing to push for an override when lawmakers return to the Capitol in late November. Rauner, who has long said he supports expanding access to the polls, cited concerns about potential voting fraud and conflicts with federal law. He vetoed the bill on the final day to act and made his announcement Friday afternoon, a time politicians typically dump controversial news as the public’s attention is focused on the weekend. On Monday morning, Democratic state lawmakers and Cook County Clerk David Orr attempted to keep the story alive, casting the veto as a step backward for voting rights in Illinois and suggesting that Rauner was acting to protect his own political agenda.
Maryland: Is it constitutional to draw a congressional district that only one party can win? | Baltimore Sun
A crop of legal challenges to contorted legislative districts in states like Maryland will soon give the Supreme Court its best opportunity in years to consider whether maps drawn for partisan advantage deprive voters of an equal voice in elections. Good-government groups believe the justices are poised to take up redistricting cases from North Carolina or Wisconsin — or both — in the next term. The plaintiffs are challenging the legality of one party drawing an electoral map that all but guarantees its candidates will win nearly all the seats. Either case could have implications for Maryland, where squirrelly congressional lines have helped Democrats control seven of the state’s eight House seats, but have drawn criticism from analysts, voters and the high court itself. The late Justice Antonin Scalia described Maryland’s congressional map as a “crazy quilt” in a redistricting case last year.
North Carolina: North Carolina asks Supreme Court to restore strict voting procedures | The Washington Post
North Carolina on Monday asked the Supreme Court to restore most of its strict voting procedures for the November elections, despite a lower court’s ruling that the law intentionally discriminates against African Americans. The state said the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was unprecedented and that “there is no reason to believe that [the law] will have any detrimental effect on voters, minority or otherwise.” [Court strikes down North Carolina voting law as discriminatory] North Carolina brought in former Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement to argue that it is too close to the election for courts to prohibit a system that was used in the state’s primary elections.
Editorials: North Carolina Took 17 Days To Ask Supreme Court To Rescue Its Voter ID Law | Christian Ferias/Huffington Post
The state of North Carolina on Monday filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court so that it can enforce a broad set of voting restrictions that an appeals court in July called one of the worst “since the era of Jim Crow.” That ruling was significant because it found that North Carolina lawmakers purposefully targeted African-American voters, leading the court to invalidate the law in full ― including the voter ID provision and those restricting early voting, same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. North Carolina said that restoring some of these requirements will minimize confusion on Election Day. “Maintaining the status quo … and permitting this year’s general election to proceed under the same rules as this year’s primary election will avoid voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls,” the state’s lawyer, Paul Clement, a former solicitor general who specializes in Supreme Court practice, wrote in the petition.
Decade-old voting machines in much of the state are creating concern as they age, with lawmakers now urging a review of the systems. This comes as Pennsylvania’s widespread use of touch-screen voting is viewed with suspicion by supporters of Donald Trump. Many already feel the Republican presidential nominee is campaigning up-stream, and Trump has suggested that if he loses, it will be because voting systems in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are rigged. “I think paper ballots that the voter fills in circles with ink that are read by optical scanners would be a good way to go,” said Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, a member of the House State Government Committee. Roae attended Trump’s Erie rally on Friday and has said he supports the nominee.
A federal judge Friday blocked Texas from enforcing a state law that limits the availability of interpreters in polling places, ruling that it violates protections guaranteed by the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Mallika Das, who was born in India and who, in October 2014, brought her son into a Round Rock polling station to act as an interpreter because she had limited proficiency in English. Officials at the Williamson County polling station, however, barred Saurabh Das from helping his mother, relying on a state election law that requires interpreters to be registered to vote in the same county as the person they intend to help.
Editorials: Canada need not import Australia’s woes with ranked ballot voting system | Joan Bryden/The Canadian Press
Australia’s deadlocked election last winter has been held up as a grim example of the chaos that could be unleashed in Canada were this country to adopt a system of ranked ballots — as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at one time openly preferred. Instability. A plethora of tiny, extremist or vanity parties. Unholy alliances among the micro-parties that wind up holding the governing party to ransom. There’s just one problem with the warnings: neither Trudeau nor anyone else thus far has suggested that Canada adopt the Australian model. In fact, Australia has two different voting models — a simple ranked ballot system for its House of Representatives (equivalent to Canada’s House of Commons) and a single transferable vote system (STV) for its elected Senate (Canada’s Senate is appointed). STV is actually a complex form of proportional representation, which includes a ranked ballot. Yet some of the purported dire consequences of adopting a simple ranked balloting system here have been based on the worst features of Australia’s Senate elections.
Joshua Wong, the most public face of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement demonstrations, has avoided a jail term for his role in a protest that helped launch the unprecedented 79-day political convulsion. Wong, 19, and fellow activist Alex Chow, who is 25, had been convicted last month of unlawfully entering a fenced off area outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters on 26 September 2014. A third activist, 23-year-old Nathan Law, was convicted of inciting others to take part in the action which happened just before Hong Kong was gripped by almost three months of demonstrations against Beijing’s refusal to grant democratic concessions to the territory. At the time Amnesty International denounced the verdicts as “a chilling warning for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly” in Hong Kong. On Monday a court in the former British colony stopped short of handing down jail terms to the three men.
United Kingdom: Labour members will not take leadership vote challenge to supreme court | The Guardian
Five new Labour members who took the party to court over their right to vote in the leadership election will not take their fight to the supreme court after losing the case in the court of appeal. Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) ruled in July that only members with six months’ continuous membership could vote in…
Zambian President Edgar Lungu narrowly won re-election on Monday in a vote his main rival said was rigged. Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) said it would appeal the result at the Constitutional Court, accusing election officials of fraud during the count which began after voting ended on Thursday. Lungu faced a tough challenge from Hichilema in a campaign to rule over Africa’s second-largest copper producer which has suffered an economic slump due to depressed commodity prices. Lungu, who narrowly beat Hichilema in a vote last year to replace late president Michael Sata, won 50.35 percent of the vote against 47.63 for his opponent, the Election Commission of Zambia (ECZ) said on Monday.