Two swing states, Pennsylvania and Georgia, are declining an offer from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to scan their voting systems ahead of the 2016 elections. In August, DHS offered to help states thwart potential hacking amid cybersecurity concerns about just how easily a U.S. election could be manipulated. Georgia and Pennsylvania, however, have opted out. Instead, the two states will rely on their own systems to monitor potential election hacking, reports NextGov. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp cited state sovereignty concerns. “The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security,” he told Nextgov in an email. “Designating voting systems or any other election system as critical infrastructure would be a vast federal overreach, the cost of which would not equally improve the security of elections in the United States.”
The federal government wants to help states keep hackers from manipulating the November election, amid growing fears that the U.S. political system is vulnerable. But Georgia’s top election official is balking at the offers of assistance — and accusing the Obama administration of using exaggerated warnings of cyberthreats to intrude on states’ authority. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s objections add to a bumpy start for the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to shore up safeguards for the election, during a summer when cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee have called attention to weaknesses across the electoral system. Cybersecurity experts call tougher protections long overdue for parties, political advocacy groups and voting machinery, but DHS’ efforts risk becoming caught in the same partisan arguments about state sovereignty that have hung up programs such as President Barack Obama’s Medicaid expansion. “It seems like now it’s just the D.C. media and the bureaucrats, because of the DNC getting hacked — they now think our whole system is on the verge of disaster because some Russian’s going to tap into the voting system,” Kemp, a Republican, told POLITICO in an interview. “And that’s just not — I mean, anything is possible, but it is not probable at all, the way our systems are set up.”
Students at Rollins College in Florida are designing custom “I voted” stickers for absentee voters. Across the country, the University of Southern California has partnered with county officials to host voter registration events with prizes, games and free food. And at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the student government plans campuswide voter registration drives as well. Across the country, groups and organizations promoting civic engagement among college students have spent hundreds — if not thousands — of hours trying to galvanize this large, yet often elusive group of potential voters. The Campus Vote Project, one of the most prominent college voter outreach groups, has launched an initiative to establish “voter-friendly” campuses. So far, more than 90 institutions, including Rollins College, have agreed to commit to things such as hosting voter registration drives, inviting candidates to speak or offering rides to the polls to increase voter education, registration and mobilization. Why go to the trouble of recruiting college voters? College students have the potential to influence elections. There were 17.3 million undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Experts predict that population will increase to 19.8 million by 2025.
“Dude, check out who I voted for!” We soon could be seeing a lot more selfies with that caption. That’s because legislation legalizing ballot selfies in voting booths landed on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk on Friday. Assembly Bill 1494 amends California law that, for now, says “a voter shall not show” a ballot “to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.” The new law awaiting the governor’s signature says “a voter may voluntarily disclose how he or she voted if that voluntary act does not violate any other law.” The measure passed the state Senate earlier this year and the state Assembly last week on a 63-15 vote. “I see this as a First Amendment issue,” Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican representing Yuba City and one of the bill’s sponsors, told colleagues during a floor vote. “All this does is to say that those who want to share how they voted have the right to do so.” Across the US, the law in the 50 states on voting booth selfies is mixed. No federal law addresses the issue, and there’s a smattering of court challenges across the country. Consult these guides from the Huffington Post and the Digital Media Law Project on whether it’s OK to snap a picture of yourself showing your votes on the November 8 presidential ballot.
As we near another historic presidential election, the fog of anxiety about the election is returning on a scale we haven’t seen in decades. Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that the general election may be “rigged” nationwide. He has called on his supporters to monitor the polls on Election Day, and said that voting locations should “have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.” Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, doubled down on Trump’s suggestions, telling a New Hampshire audience that “the integrity of ‘one person, one vote’ is at the core of democracy, and that happens one precinct at a time.” Trump and Pence are partly correct: There is great value in having elections monitored. Poll watching helps to preserve an open, transparent democratic process by ensuring that elections are administered in a manner that protects access while inviting scrutiny. Poll observers can ensure the law is followed, provide support for voters and poll workers in navigating often confusing and ever-evolving election regulations. But in nearly a decade of organizing vote-monitoring efforts around the country, I have seen firsthand how volunteer monitors—often positioned as “challengers” at the polls—can intimidate and harass even the most seasoned poll workers and voters, interfere with the process, delay voting, and potentially alter the election’s outcome.
Alaska: Newly enacted Native language voting provisions rolled out at polls in August primary | Alaska Dispatch News
Before choosing a primary ballot at a polling place set up at the Manokotak City Office this week, Mike Toyukak glanced at two sample ballots offering Yup’ik translations of the English ballots available for voters to chose from. From signing for his ballot to depositing it into the ballot box, it only took Toyukak a few minutes to vote. But the scenario he encountered — the Yup’ik language sample ballots, an interpreter on hand had he needed one, and even a Yup’ik glossary of terms available for the poll workers to refer to — were years in the making. And Toyukak was at the heart of the change. His first language was Yup’ik. And for years, when he went to vote he was confronted with an English ballot, and difficulty understanding all the nuances it contained. Although he knows some English, he also knew that others were having an even more difficult time with the language.
With the California primaries long over, a federal judge tossed a suit brought by Bernie Sanders supporters accusing election officials of violating their voting rights in the run-up to the June election. U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the case as moot on Thursday, telling plaintiffs’ counsel William Simpich that “there is plenty of time to take an appeal.” The lawsuit was filed less than three weeks before the June 7 primary by a group of Oakland-based Bernie Sanders supporters calling themselves the Voting Rights Defense Project. The American Independence Party and two San Francisco voters joined in the lawsuit.
Florida: Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon is registered voter at vacant Florida home | The Guardian
Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign chief is registered to vote in a key swing state at an empty house where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws. Stephen Bannon, the chief executive of Trump’s election campaign, has an active voter registration at the house in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which is vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development. “I have emptied the property,” Luis Guevara, the owner of the house, which is in the Coconut Grove section of the city, said in an interview. “Nobody lives there … we are going to make a construction there.” Neighbors said the property had been abandoned for several months. Bannon, 62, formerly rented the house for use by his ex-wife, Diane Clohesy, but did not live there himself. Clohesy, a Tea Party activist, moved out of the house earlier this year and has her own irregular voting registration arrangement. According to public records, Bannon and Clohesy divorced seven years ago.
A legal battle once again highlighted the struggle of Guam residents to have equal voting rights. A federal court recently ruled that Congress can deny the right to vote for president for state residents who move to certain U.S. territories. The lead plaintiff is U.S. citizen Luis Segovia, a former Illinois resident who lives in Guam. As things stand now, the veteran can’t vote for president in November. Neil Weare, co-counsel of the plaintiffs, said in an email to the Pacific Daily News that despite this legal setback, the stories of Segovia and the other plaintiffs will continue to help push a national conversation about voting rights in territories.
A divided Illinois Supreme Court narrowly ruled Thursday that a voter referendum seeking to change how Illinois draws political boundaries is unconstitutional, making it ineligible to appear on the November ballot. The high court, in a 4-3 decision, affirmed the ruling by a Cook County judge who determined the ballot initiative seeking to give legislative mapmaking power to an independent commission instead of lawmakers didn’t meet constitutional muster. It’s the second failed attempt to overhaul redistricting by petition in two years. The ruling in the high-stakes case – falling the day before an election deadline to certify fall ballots – had the potential to alter Illinois’ political power dynamic, where elected officials in the Democratic-leaning state run the once-a-decade process. But in a 63-page ruling the majority justices said the measure didn’t meet narrow constitutional requirements.
Missouri: Voter ID law once again stirring controversy as veto override possibility looms | The Kansas City Star
A decade ago, Missouri Republicans began their quest to require voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. Every time they’ve gotten close to succeeding, something has come along to put the kibosh on the idea — either a court ruling, a Democratic filibuster or Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto pen. GOP leaders believe they’ll take the first step toward finally putting the issue to rest when they return to the Capitol next month to consider whether to override Nixon’s latest veto of a voter ID bill. Then in November, voters will weigh in on an amendment to the state constitution allowing a voter ID law, a necessary second step in the process because the Missouri Supreme Court previously declared voter ID laws unconstitutional. “I’m very confident,” said Rep. Justin Alferman, a Gasconade County Republican who sponsored the voter ID bill this year. “A lot of work and compromise went into this year’s bill, and I don’t think the Democrats are going to fight this very hard.”
Allegheny County has been held as a model for its handling of electronic voting testing and inspection. It’s the only county in Pennsylvania to conduct parallel testing, meaning an independent organization randomly selects machines on Election Day and simulates usage. Despite testing, some local groups aren’t convinced the machines are secure. Vote Allegheny Treasurer Secretary Audrey Glickman said the county needs to upgrade its system to one that prints a paper ballot. “Then we can have a statistically significant audit and have some means of recounting what the vote was,” Glickman said. “Right now we can’t recount the vote.”
Virginia: GOP votes to switch from convention to primary to nominate 2017 candidates | Richmond Times-Dispatch
By the slimmest of margins, leaders of the Republican Party of Virginia on Saturday voted to select their 2017 statewide candidates in a primary rather than at a convention — a nominating change that could have significant implications for a host of Republicans planning runs for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The 41-40 vote by the GOP’s State Central Committee effectively upended a compromise agreement reached last year by factions within the state party that called for a primary in the 2016 race for president to be followed by a nominating convention for statewide offices in 2017. It was a victory for the party’s more moderate, establishment wing, whose leadership was unseated by conservative grass-roots and tea party activists in 2013.
A federal appeals court on Friday seemed to reach a limited compromise in the controversy over Wisconsin’s voter identification law, which has been in the crosshairs of multiple lawsuits and appeals for years. With one judge recused, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit consolidated the disputes and issued an order that kept the law on the books, but appeared to give voting rights advocates a small consolation prize ahead of the November election. The court explicitly rejected a softening device ― like one ordered by a federal judge this month in Texas ― that would allow voters lacking the required voter ID card to simply sign an affidavit attesting to their identity before they cast a ballot. Instead, the court accepted assurances from the state of Wisconsin that its Division of Motor Vehicles would “mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process.”
China: The complex design of Hong Kong’s legislative elections ensure that nothing will change | Hong Kong Free Press
The bans against six candidates for advocating Hong Kong independence have added a new dimension to the coming September 4 Legislative Council election. Suddenly, everyone is talking about the prospect, whereas before it was just another of those far-out ideas that local conservatives think college students dream up to waste time and make trouble for the authorities. But for all the anxiety over a possible post-Occupy pro-independence radical surge on September 4, preliminary polling suggests there may be only minimal change in the Legislative Council’s balance of political forces once the dust settles. For one thing, the council’s design makes anything else almost impossible. The 70-seat body is so thoroughly spliced and diced that it would take a true tsunami-like wave election to make much difference in its political composition.
Supporters of Gabon’s president and his chief rival have both said they expect to win an election that has proved to be the most serious challenge yet to the Bongo family’s half-century rule. The rival, Jean Ping, 73, traded accusations of fraud that raised the prospect of increased tension in the wake of an uncharacteristically bitter campaign. Ping distributed figures showing him easily beating incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba in Saturday’s vote. “The general trends indicate we are the winner of this important presidential election,” Ping told reporters and a large crowd of cheering supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters in the capital, Libreville. “Despite numerous irregularities … you have managed to thwart this regime’s congenital traps of fraud.”
Measures to introduce e-voting for the 2019 presidential and legislative elections are being considered by some in the government, an official said on Monday (29/08). Soedarmo, director general of politics and general government at the Home Affairs Ministry, said the plan had been discussed between several ministries under the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security. Speaking in Jakarta on Monday morning, Soedarmo tipped implementation for the 2019 election, but noted the government is yet to make a decision.
The clock starts ticking on Wednesday towards what could be Spain’s third national election in a year when acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces a confidence vote in parliament for a second term in office. Spain has been without a functioning government since inconclusive elections in December and June failed to hand a convincing mandate to any political party. So far, party leaders have been unable to agree on forming a coalition. The eight-month political deadlock has delayed investments in infrastructure such as roads and rail and put high-ranking government appointments on hold, leaving some Spanish embassies without an ambassador. Rajoy’s center-right People’s Party (PP) won the most votes in June’s election but lacks the majority it needs to win the vote even with support from centrists Ciudadanos (Citizens), Spain’s fourth-biggest party.
… Women in Switzerland didn’t get the vote until 1971. The men of Switzerland, over and over, exercised their democratic right to deny voting rights to their mothers, daughters, and sisters. They had time to change their minds. Switzerland is one of the oldest democracies in the world. Swiss adult males began gathering in town squares for public balloting in 1291. To this day, to amend the national constitution, the entire nation must vote. Democracy in Switzerland is direct—and bottom up. Constitutional rights aren’t changed by legislators; change requires national referendums. Since the 1880s Swiss women, in growing numbers, had asked the voters—meaning men—to give them the vote. And the men kept saying no, which, in a direct democracy, is their right. Democracy and progress aren’t always friends.