Since Direct Recording Electronic voting machines first came into vogue in the U.S. in 2002, a team of cyber-academics (known as the Princeton Group) has been busy demonstrating how easy it is to hack these machines, to remind American citizens just how cyber-vulnerable the voting process is. From their first successful hack into a DRE 15 years ago, they surmised that it was just a matter of time until a cyber-attack occurred in a national election. This summer’s cyberattack of the Democratic National Committee has shed light on how such events can potentially affect this, and future, elections. Given the apparent ease with which the attack occurred on the DNC, is there any real reason to believe the same cannot, or will not, occur in November?
National: Russian hacks against the Democrats and the NSA expose the weaknesses of our democracy | The Telegraph
A capital city is paralysed by the failure of its electricity supply. A nuclear power station suffers meltdown. Banks go haywire and cash machines run dry. No one can have missed the nightmare scenarios associated with cyber-attacks and their potential to wreak havoc on a networked society. But all the focus on these obvious calamities risks distracting us from what is actually happening. Instead of trying to inflict physical destruction or general mayhem, the signs are that the West’s most sophisticated adversaries are using their high-tech tools in more subtle and insidious ways. Take Russia’s attempt to influence the US election campaign. The lengths to which the Kremlin is going to help Donald Trump and discredit Hillary Clinton are remarkable. The repeated hacks of the Democratic National Committee – which bear all the hallmarks of Russian intelligence – are designed to inflict maximum damage on Mrs Clinton, notably by driving as many wedges as possible between her and much of the Democratic party.
The internet is the worst ballot box of all, according to three research and public-interest groups who are slamming states’ use of online voting and urging people to protect their privacy by physically mailing in their ballots instead. “Internet voting creates a second-class system for some voters—one in which their votes may not be private and their ballots may be altered without their knowledge,” write the authors of The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy. Caitriona Fitzgerald of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, and Susannah Goodman of the Voting Integrity Campaign of Common Cause, who were the authors of the report, point out that states either have constitutional provisions or state statues guaranteeing the right to secret ballots, but that “because of current technological limitations…it is impossible to maintain separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used.”
With the presidential election less than three months away, millions of Americans will be navigating new requirements for voting – if they can vote at all – as their state leaders implement dozens of new restrictions that could make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Since the last presidential election in 2012, politicians in 20 states including Texas passed 37 different new voting requirements that they said were needed to prevent voter fraud, a News21 analysis found. More than a third of those changes require voters to show specified government-issued photo IDs at the polls or reduce the number of acceptable IDs required by pre-existing laws. In Texas, one such voter ID law has been ruled discriminatory by a federal appeals court; as a result, the state’s voters won’t have to show ID in the November general election. “We have two world views: the people that think voter fraud is rampant and the people who want to push the narrative that it’s hard to vote. The bottom line is neither is true,” said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has been sued several times over his state’s removal of some voters from the registration rolls, elimination of same-day registration and curbs to early voting. “I believe that both political parties are trying to push a narrative that suits their agenda.” Adding to the uncertainty for millions of voters nationally, not all the states’ changes may be in place for the November election. Some, like Texas’, were limited or overturned by court decisions still subject to appeal.
Politicians and voting rights advocates continue to clash over whether photo ID and other voting requirements are needed to prevent voter fraud, but a News21 analysis and recent court rulings show little evidence that such fraud is widespread. A News21 analysis four years ago of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases in 50 states found that while some fraud had occurred since 2000, the rate was infinitesimal compared with the 146 million registered voters in that 12-year span. The analysis found only 10 cases of voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID at the polls. This year, News21 reviewed cases in Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Kansas, where politicians have expressed concern about voter fraud, and found hundreds of allegations but few prosecutions between 2012 and 2016. Attorneys general in those states successfully prosecuted 38 cases, though other cases may have been litigated at the county level. At least one-third of those cases involved nonvoters, such as elections officials or volunteers. None of the cases prosecuted was for voter impersonation. “Voter fraud is not a significant problem in the country,” Jennifer Clark of the Brennan Center, a public policy and law institute, told News21. “As the evidence that has come out in some recent court cases and reports and basically every analysis that has ever been done has concluded: It is not a significant concern.”
Sorry, Deez Nuts, Left Shark and Toy Testicles. The folks over at the Federal Election Commission are not amused by your claims to be running for the presidency, and this week they announced plans to crack down on the wave of fake candidates filing paperwork with the agency. “The Commission has authorized staff to send verification letters to filers listing fictional characters, obscene language, sexual references, celebrities (where there is no indication that the named celebrity submitted the filing), animals or similarly implausible entries as the name or contact information of the candidate or committee,” according to the FEC’s news release outlining its formal procedure. The letters will warn pranksters that there are potential penalties for making false filings with a federal agency. If they don’t respond to the FEC’s letter in 30 days, their names will be yanked from the public database on the FEC’s website, stripping them of one path to notoriety.
In this tumultuous election year, little attention has focused on the groundswell of support for political reform across grass-roots America. Beyond Bernie Sanders’s call for a political revolution, a broad array of state-level citizen movements are pressing for reforms against Citizens United, gerrymandering and campaign mega-donors to give average voters more voice, make elections more competitive, and ease gridlock in Congress. This populist backlash is in reaction to two monumental developments in 2010: the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling authorizing unlimited corporate campaign donations, and a Republican strategy to rig congressional districts. Together, they have changed the dynamics of American politics. That January, Justice John Paul Stevens warned in his dissent that Citizens United would “unleash the floodgates” of corporate money into political campaigns, and so it has. The overall funding flood this year is expected to surpass the record of $7 billion spent in 2012. Later in 2010, the Republican Party’s “Redmap” strategy won the party control of enough state governments to gerrymander congressional districts across the nation the following year. One result: In the 2014 elections, Republicans won 50.7 percent of the popular vote and reaped a 59-seat majority. Now, with Congress often gridlocked by Republicans from those safe districts, the initiative on reform has shifted to the states. Insurgency has spread beyond California and New York to unlikely Republican bastions like Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Editorials: Donald Trump, a ‘Rigged’ Election and the Politics of Race | Maggie Haberman/The New York Times
As he seeks to revive his embattled candidacy, Donald J. Trump has seized on a new argument to rally his supporters and to explain away a possible defeat in November: that Democrats are preparing to exploit weak voter identification laws to win a “stolen election” through fraudulent voting. The claim has spurred outrage among Democrats and has alarmed some Republicans who worry his tactics will backfire, angering minority voters and threatening the party’s chances in close races down the ballot. Since 2010, Republican governors and Republican-held state legislatures have fought for stricter voter identification laws, which Democrats argue are intended to hinder turnout by the poorest voters, many of them black and Hispanic, who tend to vote Democratic. But Mr. Trump’s language has moved beyond his party’s call for rigid identification requirements and the unfounded claims that polls are “skewed” to predictions of outright theft of the November election. And his warnings have been cast in increasingly urgent and racially suggestive language, hinting that the only legitimate outcome in certain states would be his victory.
When Americans vote for president in November, many of the 1.4 million active-duty U.S. military personnel stationed or deployed overseas will not know whether their absentee ballots have reached their home states to be counted. The federal Election Assistance Commission, charged with monitoring their votes, may not know either. Under the Help America Vote Act, the ballots of military and overseas voters are supposed to be tallied by their home states and sent to the EAC, which reports them to Congress. But a News21 analysis of the EAC’s data found at least one in eight jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received or rejecting more ballots than they received.
Alaska: Reeling From Effects of Climate Change, Alaskan Village Votes to Relocate | The New York Times
Residents of a small Alaskan village voted this week to relocate their entire community from a barrier island that has been steadily disappearing because of erosion and flooding attributed to climate change. In the unofficial results of an election on Tuesday in the village, Shishmaref, residents voted 89 to 78 to leave. The plan would move the village, which is 120 miles north of Nome, to one of two sites on the mainland about five miles away, officials said. But the village needs an estimated $180 million from a patchwork of sources to complete the move, according to a 2004 estimate. Shishmaref is an Inupiat community of about 600 people on Sarichef, an island north of the Bering Strait that is about one-quarter mile wide and two and a half miles long. It has been grappling for decades with the loss of buildings and infrastructure caused by storm surges, and it has shrunk over the past 40 years — more than 200 feet of the shore has been eaten away since 1969, according to a relocation study published in February.
An attorney hired by the state Democratic Party told Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office that the latter’s explanations for withholding records about the statewide voter database were “farcical,” “disingenuous” and ultimately “unlawful” in a letter delivered Friday. The letter was written by David Mitchell of the Rose Law Firm. He was hired by the party to represent Chris Burks, general counsel for the party, who had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the secretary of state’s office on Aug. 3. Although Martin’s office responded with some documents, Burks said Friday’s letter was intended to point out there were still matters outstanding in the original Freedom of Information Act request. The Democrats sought information about flawed data that Martin’s office had entered into the statewide voter database used by county clerks. County clerks use the data to determine which voters are felons whose names should be struck from voter rolls, but the data included felons who had regained the right to vote and others who had never been convicted of a felony.
Legislation introduced this week could eliminate unnecessary elections, such as the Sept. 13 special primary where only one person is on the ballot to become the Democrat nominee in November’s 8th Congressional District contest. That special primary election will cost taxpayers $500,000 after the previous candidate, Corey Foister, dropped out. “Our county boards of elections work hard to stretch every taxpayer dollar as far as it will go to ensure efficient, fair elections,” said Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who introduced the legislation. “Forcing them to hold uncontested primary elections is a clear waste of time and taxpayer resources.” Because just one vote will win the special primary — which appears to have already been cast in Clark County via a military ballot — LaRose drafted Senate Bill 347, which would change the law that triggers a primary election based on the number of candidates who are certified. The proposed bill would remove the requirement to hold a primary when only one candidate is certified, and gives the Secretary of State the authority to declare that lone candidate the party’s nominee.
Election Systems & Software (ES&S) has released a report on its findings related to errors in the Hill County Republican Primary. The report comes amidst an ongoing investigation by Attorney General Ken Paxton into irregularities with the vote totals reported in the election. Last month, Direct Action Texas discovered that the number of reported votes in the Hill County Republican Primary exceeded by more than 1700 the number of voters the county reported had shown up at the polls. ES&S, which supplies electronic voting machines and other election services to Hill County, was asked by the county to investigate the error. ES&S found that early voting ballot cast totals were incorrect by the same amount as the number of absentee ballots cast, and Election Day ballot cast totals were incorrect by the same number of paper ballots that were voted during early voting.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe will announce Monday that he has restored voting rights to 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis after Republicans and state Supreme Court justices last month stopped his more sweeping clemency effort. McAuliffe’s planned action, confirmed by two people with knowledge of it, comes about a month after the Supreme Court of Virginia invalidated an executive order the Democratic governor issued in April. With that order, McAuliffe restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons who had completed their sentences. McAuliffe said his original order would move Virginia away from a harsh lifetime disenfranchisement policy that hits African Americans particularly hard. Republicans, incensed that it covered violent and nonviolent offenders alike, said the move was really a bid to add Democrat-friendly voters to the rolls ahead of November’s presidential elections, when the governor’s close friend and political ally, Hillary Clinton, will be on the ballot.
An apparent Republican activist tried to join Democrat Russ Feingold’s team this week in what Feingold’s campaign suspects was a plot to dig up dirt on him. In an interview with Feingold staff on Wednesday, she initially said she wanted to work on issues affecting women’s health care and unions, but clammed up when confronted about whether she had worked for conservatives and tried to infiltrate Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Iowa last year. “I’m not going to be answering any questions, so if you want me to leave, I’ll leave. If you want me to stay, I’ll stay,” she responded, according to an audio recording provided by the Feingold campaign. Told she needed to leave, she responded, “Cool! Well, it was great meeting you.” The woman signed up to be a volunteer as Allison Moss on Tuesday, but was let go Wednesday after the Feingold campaign asked her if she was actually Allison Maass.
Hundreds of protesters rallied on Sunday against Hong Kong’s disqualification of six candidates from legislative elections, the latest outpouring of anger at a perceived tightening grip on the city’s freedoms by China. The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under an agreement that gave ultimate control to Communist Party rulers in Beijing while promising Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. But Beijing’s refusal to grant full democracy, which prompted widespread street protests in 2014, has triggered tension with growing calls for Hong Kong to split from China. “Against the political filtering (of candidates), give us a fair election,” chanted the demonstrators in sweltering heat of 32 degree Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).
Voter registration for Congo’s November presidential election will not be completed until next year, the electoral commission president said Saturday, suggesting that the vote should be delayed. Independent National Electoral Commission President Corneille Nangaa said a voter register cannot be ready until at least July 2017 because of logistical problems in registering more than 30 million voters, and because of a lack of funds. The electoral commission started the registration process in Congo’s northwest on July 31. The opposition has expressed concern that President Joseph Kabila would delay the Nov. 27 elections in order to remain in power beyond his mandate, which ends in December.
Hot on the heels of the Zambian election, an anxiously awaited election is looming in Gabon where President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his motley opponents are rounding off campaigns. Ahead of next Saturday’s election, tension is high with increased police presence in capital Libreville. Fourteen candidates have been approved by the electoral commission. Bongo’s main challenger is former African Union Commission chief Jean Ping who was selected by opposition barons. Bongo is seeking a second seven-year term even as the Opposition challenges his eligibility.
Malawi: Zambia Offers Malawi a Lesson to Adopt 50-Plus-1 Electoral System – ‘To Avoid Govt Elected By Minority’ | allAfrica.com
Malawi goes to national polls in three years time but debate for change from the current first-past-the-post and adopts a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support is continuing to heighten as it gets closer with Zambia polls providing good lesson. Malawi’s interfaith organization, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have recognised that 50 per cent plus one rule guarantees the leader acceptable, popular, majoritarian mandate. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s May 20, 2014 presidential election after defeating Joyce Banda. Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, took 36.4 percent of the votes cast, Lazarus Chakwera of MCP garnered 27.8 percent of the vote and Banda’s 20.2 percent.