National: Bucking a Trend, Blue States Pass Laws to Make Voting Easier | Bloomberg

Since 2010, 25 states passed laws making it harder to vote. Some required voters to present photo ID at the polls; others restricted early voting or the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons. In 17 of the states, Republicans control the legislature and the governorship. Liberals have scrambled to get the laws repealed or overturned in court. But with exceptions such as the July decision by a federal appeals court to block several new voting restrictions in North Carolina, most of the new laws remain on the books and will be in effect in November. Now some of the bluest states are passing laws to make voting easier. Since the start of 2015, five states have approved automatic voter registration measures, in which government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles add qualified citizens to the voter rolls unless they opt out. “The question should be, Why would we ever have a barrier?” says Democrat Jennifer Williamson, state house majority leader in Oregon, where the nation’s first AVR measure was signed into law in March 2015. “We should be constructing a system where the default is voting.”

National: Election legitimacy at risk, even without a November cyberattack | The Conversation

We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about the potential for Russian meddling in the presidential election. A lot of circumstantial evidence – and the fact that Russia has the means, motive and opportunity to conduct these attacks – suggests an important Russian role in the leaks of confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee, the release of opposition research on Donald Trump compiled by the DNC and personal contact details of many prominent Democrats. And just this week, news broke that the FBI has found evidence of foreign penetrations of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois and warned officials in every state to improve the cybersecurity of election-related systems. We also know that most citizens will cast their ballots on electronic voting machines; in 43 states those machines are more than a decade old. These are the computers that were introduced immediately after the Bush-Gore election in 2000, to correct the problems with balloting that had cast doubt on the actual choices of many Florida voters. Over the last decade or so, it has been conclusively demonstrated that at least some models of electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hacking by people with the skills of graduate students in computer science. No one knows how secure the other machines are, because many vendors have asserted their intellectual property rights to prevent the security of their machines from being examined by independent parties.

National: Cybersecurity firm finds evidence of Russian tie to hacks of vote systems in Arizona and Illinois | McClatchy DC

The Russian internet nodes used to hack into voting systems in Illinois and Arizona were also used in recent penetrations of Turkey’s ruling party, the Ukrainian Parliament and a political party in Germany, a U.S. cybersecurity firm said Friday. Individuals using Russian infrastructure “are looking to manipulate multiple countries’ democratic processes,” said an alert from ThreatConnect, an Arlington, Virginia, firm that tracks digital intrusions. The company said, however, that it still did not have enough information to attribute the attacks to any individual or country. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, told the Bloomberg news agency that a public leak of more than 19,000 emails siphoned from computers at the Democratic National Committee earlier in the summer was for the public good. He denied, however, that Russia had perpetrated the hack. “Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?’’ Putin told Bloomberg in Vladivostok, the Pacific port. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.”

National: Disabled And Fighting For The Right To Vote | NPR

Tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities have lost their voting rights. It usually happens when a court assigns a legal guardian to handle their affairs. Now, some of those affected are fighting to get back those rights.

David Rector recently went to Superior Court in San Diego, Calif., to file a request to have his voting rights restored. Rector lost those rights in 2011 when his fiance, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, was appointed his conservator after a brain injury left him unable to walk or speak.

Alexander-Kasparik says he was still able to communicate his wishes to a court clerk.

Tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities have lost their voting rights. It usually happens when a court assigns a legal guardian to handle their affairs. Now, some of those affected are fighting to get back those rights. David Rector recently went to Superior Court in San Diego, Calif., to file a request to have his voting rights restored. Rector lost those rights in 2011 when his fiance, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, was appointed his conservator after a brain injury left him unable to walk or speak. Alexander-Kasparik says he was still able to communicate his wishes to a court clerk. “He did manage to say through his electronic voice on his eye-tracking device, ‘I, David Rector, want my voting rights restored, immediately,'” she told supporters outside the courthouse. That’s crucial, because under a new California law, individuals with guardians have to express a desire to vote to be able to do so. Rector, who used to work as a producer for NPR, is believed to be one of more than 30,000 Californians — and an unknown number of others in the U.S. — who’ve lost their voting rights under state guardianship laws. “The problem with those laws is that a determination of guardianship or competence really has nothing to do with someone’s ability to vote,” says Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington DC . “They have to do with someone’s ability to ensure their basic health and safety needs.” She says just because someone can’t do one thing, doesn’t mean they can’t do another.

National: 5 Steps To Make U.S. Elections Less Hackable | Defense One

Voting machine vulnerabilities go well beyond what most voters know, warns Dan Zimmerman, a computer scientist who specializes in election information technology. There probably is not time to fix all of those vulnerabilities by November. But there are still things election officials could do to reduce the hack-ability of the U.S. presidential election. Here are his five steps for making the U.S. election less hackable.

1. More federal oversight (and not just on Election Day)

This week’s report sophisticated actors in Russia trying to penetrate voter databases sounded alarm bells about the U.S. election being hacked. Zimmerman, who works with Free & Fair, a company that provides election-related IT services, says that because most electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet, the threat of remote hacking from Russia is small. The machines are far from secure, however.

Editorials: Voting Restrictions Won’t ‘Make America Great Again’ | Mary C. Curtis/NPR

Donald Trump plans to take his black voter “outreach” to a predominantly African-American audience with a visit to Detroit this weekend, perhaps to quell criticism that his recent speeches about African-Americans have been delivered primarily to whites. That was certainly true during his August stop in Charlotte, N.C., where he began tailoring his message to black voters, who have been roundly rejecting him at the polls. “If African-Americans give Donald Trump a chance by giving me their vote,” he said, “the result will be amazing.” The Republican presidential candidate cast Democrats and their nominee Hillary Clinton as the true bigots, who “have taken African-American votes totally for granted.” But Trump’s inclusive Charlotte takeaway — one that seemed geared to the diverse, more progressive “New South” city — has been undermined by a series of clumsy and insulting overtures, and by his and his party’s support for tactics that could remind many black voters of the old South.

Editorials: Yes, the U.S. presidential election could be manipulated | William R. Sweeney Jr., Chad Vickery and Katherine Ellena/The Washington Post

Is the U.S. presidential election vulnerable to manipulation by a losing candidate? Could the integrity of our electoral process be successfully challenged? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is yes. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has supported the integrity of political and electoral processes in more than 145 countries for nearly 30 years. We have developed a rigorous methodology to analyze vulnerabilities throughout the electoral process, drawing on international standards and commitments that stem from fundamental rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international accords. We have applied this in multiple countries to fortify elections against malpractice, fraud and systemic manipulation. From this global perspective and experience, we have increasingly seen the credibility of elections — and, in some cases, the stability of the election environment — hinge on the ability of electoral institutions, and in particular the election dispute resolution process, to withstand increasingly sophisticated political manipulation.

Arizona: Santa Cruz County Elections Office wants new machine after primary night glitch | Nogales International

The county’s elections chief said she’ll insist on a new ballot-tabulating machine for the November general election after recently purchased equipment malfunctioned and caused an hours-long delay in tabulating the results of Tuesday’s primary. With several candidates and their supporters looking on anxiously, a technician attempted to fix a high-speed scanner that was being used to count ballots Tuesday night after it jammed. “We thought it would be an easy fix, get it up and running and be able to continue,” said County Elections Director Melinda Meek. “Obviously it wasn’t a quick fix. (The technician) had to take the thing apart.” Meek said the machine jammed while elections workers were running early mail-in ballots through it. The snafu forced officials to resort to using two hand-fed backup machines that could only process one ballot at a time. As a result, the first preliminary election results that included just early ballots were announced at approximately 10:30 p.m., several hours after they were expected. Updated results that included ballots cast at the polls came an hour later.

Indiana: Law change impacts Hoosiers looking to vote ‘straight ticket’ in November | 21Alive

As we approach the November election, we know some people like to choose the straight party option to vote for all Republicans or all Democrats. This time around in Indiana, there’s a small change voters need to take note of. When you step up to your voting machine in just over a couple of months, right there on page one is the “Straight Party Ticket” function. Let’s say you push the button for the Democratic Party, the machine automatically puts an “X” next to the Democrat for President, U.S.Senate, Governor and on down the line for all the partisan races. Under a state law that took effect in July, there’s one exception, where you need to guard against being tripped up.

Louisiana: State’s voter record firewall is low tech | The Advocate

The “right to vote” in America has been taking something of a licking recently. Last week Yahoo reported that the FBI was trying to find out how Internet hackers accessed hundreds of thousands of voter registration records in Illinois and Arizona. As if a further reminder was needed in the age of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, the unauthorized access to voter records underscored the vulnerability of the nation’s computer system and the impact that exposure could have on constitutional institutions, said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler. He and other officers of the National Association of Secretaries of State on Aug. 15 discussed cyber security with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Johnson offered assistance, perhaps making voting records part of the nation’s secured infrastructure.

Michigan: Attorney General takes fight against straight-ticket voting to U.S. Supreme Court |

The latest in a line of emergency motions filed in an attempt to block straight-ticket voting, Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Schuette made an emergency filing Friday, Sept. 2, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a preliminary injunction a federal court issued against Michigan’s law that blocks the practice of straight-ticket voting. The filing asks the Supreme Court to stay the preliminary injunction pending a “merits decision” by the Court of Appeals.

Minnesota: Paper trail is a cornerstone of state’s election integrity | Star Tribune

As more and more of our world goes digital, what important system relies on paper records any more? Democracy, for one. The heart of Minnesota’s plan to safeguard the 2016 election from hackers and fraudsters is a sheet of paper that people mark with a pen. No matter what happens to voting tabulators or election databases, officials can count those piles of paper ballots. “It’s ironic, isn’t it?” said Secretary of State Steve Simon, who will be on the hot seat if anything goes haywire on Nov. 8. After serving a decade as a legislator, the DFLer was elected to the Secretary of State’s office in 2014. Simon took over from fellow DFLer Mark Ritchie, who presided over two statewide election recounts that featured long and contentious sessions of shuffling and perusing thousands of paper ballots. “We really do have a culture here when it comes to election law of really relying on paper, and thank God for it,” Simon said last week. “We did not in Minnesota get distracted by the shiny object 15 or so years ago and go to touch-screen only with no receipt printouts or paper trail.”

Missouri: Judge orders new election for state representative primary race in St. Louis | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis circuit judge on Friday tossed out the results of a fiercely contested Aug. 2 Democratic primary and ordered a new election based exclusively on what may seem like an insignificant detail: the St. Louis Election Board accepted 142 absentee ballots without envelopes. But Judge Rex Burlison’s 22-page decision details the reasons why those envelopes are required by law and says the board can’t ignore or circumvent “tedious and specific” provisions. The decision gives Bruce Franks Jr., a 31-year-old activist who lost by 90 votes, another chance to unseat incumbent state Rep. Penny Hubbard, 62. It also casts doubt on the methods election authorities across the state use to count absentee votes when they are cast in person. “It’s the happiest I have been in a long time,” Franks said on Friday afternoon. “I’m so happy for the people … This is huge.”

Ohio: Voters still waiting to learn voting rules this year | The Columbus Dispatch

Here’s the bottom line to the seeming never-ending fuss over Ohio’s voting laws: Democrats like looser voting restrictions because that generally means more Democratic votes. Republicans are just the opposite. That’s not to say each side doesn’t have honest concerns about issues ranging from voter fraud to access to the ballot box. But the shape of partisan battle lines over proposed changes to voting laws is one of the easiest to predict, both in Ohio and nationwide. What that means for voters is an ever-shifting set of rules as lawmakers enact changes followed by inevitable legal challenges, resulting in months of uncertainty that sometimes is not resolved until shortly before the election. For example: The GOP-run legislature and Republican Gov. John Kasich passed legislation to ban the so-called Golden Week, a period of five days before Election Day during which Ohioans could register to vote and cast an early ballot at the same time. A lower federal court threw out the change. An appeals court panel restored it. Now that decision has been appealed.

China: In Hong Kong, Young Protest Leaders Win Seats in Local Elections | The New York Times

A group of young people committed to rewriting the rules that govern Hong Kong’s relationship with China were swept into office on Sunday in elections for the city’s legislature, lifted by record voter turnout, according to a government vote tally. Some of the young protesters who took part in Hong Kong’s enormous 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations will now wield a small measure of real political power for the first time. The failure of that movement to secure major democratic reforms in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and fears that the city’s considerable autonomy was under assault led these candidates to campaign on everything from self-determination to the outright independence of Hong Kong from mainland China. Their success signals the emergence of a new political force. Until now, the pro-democracy forces in the city have been dominated by politicians who sought to expand the power of voters to select the city’s leaders and lawmakers under the guidance of the mini-constitution that codifies Hong Kong’s special relationship with mainland China, called “one country, two systems.”

Gabon: Tension eases in Gabon capital after riots over disputed election | Reuters

Tension eased in Gabon’s capital on Saturday after days of deadly rioting triggered by an announcement that President Ali Bongo narrowly won re-election in a vote the opposition said was stolen. More than 1,000 others were arrested in the protests that began on Wednesday and the opposition, led by Jean Ping who claims he is now president, said five people also died. Shops began to re-open on Saturday and some traffic returned to the streets as the government sought to restore stability with mass arrests and a heavy security presence. At the same time some impoverished residents of Libreville who need to buy food every day said they hoped for a return to normality given the hardship caused by closed shops and markets. “The last few days were really difficult for us. The fact that traffic has started to move is very important … because our families have really suffered,” said Alex Ndong, 42, a mechanic who lives in the Lalala suburb of south Libreville. “I hope everything goes back to normal as quickly as possible,” he said.

Germany: Far-Right Overtakes Angela Merkel’s Bloc in Elections in Her Home State | The New York Times

Voters in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political home state delivered her a stinging rebuke on Sunday, propelling a far-right party to second place in the state legislature, ahead of her center-right bloc. It is the first time in an election in modern Germany that a far-right party has overtaken Ms. Merkel’s bloc of Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. Official results released early Monday showed that Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats had received 19 percent of the vote, against 21 percent for the far-right Alternative for Germany. The center-left Social Democrats, with whom Ms. Merkel governs nationally, got 31 percent in the state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and are likely to continue their coalition there with Ms. Merkel’s bloc. The vote took place a year to the day after Ms. Merkel agreed with Austria that the two countries would admit thousands of mostly Syrian refugees then trapped in Hungary, with several hundred desperately marching on foot toward the West.

Seychelles: International, local observer missions gear up for parliamentary elections | Seychelles News Agency

Two international observer groups – the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) — have so far confirmed their presence in Seychelles for parliamentary elections set for September 8-10. Two local observer groups — Citizens Democracy Watch Seychelles (CDWS) and the Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (ARID) — are also gearing up for the polls. Headed by the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine P Mahinga, the SADC observer mission was launched on Friday at the Avani resort on the western side of the Seychelles main island, Mahé. Dr Mahinga said that the SADC mission is being guided by the revised SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, adopted in 2015.