National: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States | Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. The 2-1 ruling is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states. People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits.

National: Paperless voting could fuel ‘rigged’ election claims | Politico

Voters in four competitive states will cast ballots in November on electronic machines that leave no paper trail — a lapse that threatens to sow distrust about a presidential election in which supporters of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have raised fears about hackers tampering with the outcome. The most glaring potential trouble spots include Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of counties still use ATM-style touchscreen voting machines without the paper backups that critics around the country began demanding more than a decade ago. It’s also a state where Trump and his supporters have warned that Democrats might “rig” the election to put Clinton in the White House, a claim they could use to attack her legitimacy if she wins. Similar paperless machines are used heavily in Georgia, where the presidential race appears unusually close, and to a much smaller extent in Virginia and Florida, both of which are phasing them out. Florida has almost entirely abandoned the electronic machines following a number of elections that raised red flags, including a close 2006 congressional race in which Democrats charged that as many as 16,000 votes went missing.

Editorials: The ugliest, most appalling spectacle in American politics | Eugene Robinson/Washington Post

Every once in a while, the curtains part and we get a glimpse of the ugliest, most shameful spectacle in American politics: the Republican Party’s systematic attempt to disenfranchise African-Americans and other minorities with voter ID laws and other restrictions at the polls. If you thought this kind of discrimination died with Jim Crow, think again. Fortunately, federal courts have blocked implementation of some of the worst new laws, at least for now. But the most effective response would be for black and brown voters to send the GOP a message by turning out in record numbers, no matter what barriers Republicans try to put in our way. The ostensible reason for these laws is to solve a problem that doesn’t exist — voter fraud by impersonation. Four years ago, you may recall, a Republican Pennsylvania legislator let slip the realreason for his state’s new voter ID law: to “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state. In the end, he didn’t. But Republicans tried mightily to discourage minorities, most of whom vote Democratic, from going to the polls.

Michigan: Supreme Court rejects Michigan ban on straight-ticket voting | The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to allow Michigan to ban voters from casting straight-ticket ballots in the coming election after lower courts found the prohibition was likely to discriminate against African Americans and result in long lines at the polls. The justices declined to get involved in a political controversy that began when the state’s Republican leadership passed a bill to end 125 years of straight-ticket voting, which allows a voter to vote for all candidates of a desired party by taking a single action. The Supreme Court gave no reason for its decision for turning down Michigan’s request that it be allowed to enforce the ban. But it was another sign that it will be difficult for those bringing election controversies to the court in advance of November to prevail. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have granted the state’s request.

North Carolina: Elections Board Settles Fight Over Voting Guidelines | The New York Times

North Carolina’s state elections board settled a deeply partisan battle over this fall’s election rules on Thursday, largely rejecting a Republican-led effort to write local voting guidelines that would limit Democratic turnout in a political battleground state. The board’s decisions could influence the course of voting in a state where races for governor and United States senator are close, and where the two major presidential candidates are said to be dead even. After meeting for more than 11 hours, the Republican-controlled board imposed new election plans that expanded voting hours or added polling places — or sometimes both — in 33 of the state’s 100 counties. In the vast bulk of the counties, the sole Democratic member on the three-person election board was contesting voting rules that the Republican majority had approved.

Ohio: Ohio is home to 3 disputes over voting issues | Associated Press

One of the most critical battleground states in the presidential election is home to three disputes over voting issues that could affect when voters can start casting ballots and how ballots will get counted this fall. Groups have challenged Ohio’s cut to early voting, its ballot procedures, and its process for removing voters from its registration rolls. Here’s a look at the lawsuits in Ohio: A dispute over a law that trims a week of early voting is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state’s Democratic Party asked the court on Sept. 1. to suspend a ruling that would trim early voting opportunities. That lower court decision from last month upheld a law eliminating days in which people could register and vote at the same time, a period known as “golden week.”

Texas: State misleading voters on rules on IDs for voting, Department of Justice complains | Dallas Morning News

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Texas officials Tuesday of waging a misleading voter education campaign and squandering money the state was ordered to spend on clarifying the voting process for those without certain forms of government-issued ID. A federal judge will hear arguments on Monday In a letter filed in federal court, lawyers for the department said Texas was advertising a standard “incorrect and far harsher” than is accurate when describing the circumstances under which individuals without specific forms of ID are allowed to vote. The department said Texas officials are teaching citizens and poll officials that Texans without photo ID can still cast a ballot, but only if they truly “cannot” obtain certain forms of ID. In reality, Texans only need to sign a form claiming they have a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining those forms of ID in order to be allowed to vote. A reasonable impediment could include anything from a restrictive work schedule to a “family responsibilities.”

Washington: Challenger Podlodowski discovers open door into state’s voter database | Seattle Post Intelligencer

A yawning back-end pathway into the state’s voter registration database, through which private information could have been accessed, has been closed, thanks to the candidate challenging Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “Anyone with basic programming skills and knowledge about these weaknesses could conceivably (access) this data, look up and harvest private data from millions of Washingtonians,” Tina Podlodowski wrote Wednesday to the state’s chief information security officer (CISO). The information accessible via the back-end pathway included voters’ personal cell phone numbers, personal email addresses, ballot delivery types, and the coding used to message military and overseas voters.
Wyman’s office, without mentioning Podlodowski, put out a release Friday, saying: “The situation has been quickly rectified.” David Ammons, chief communications office for the secretary of state, later confirmed that the problem was first identified in a letter from Podlodowski.

Gabon: Post-election turmoil escalates with court bid for recount | AFP

Gabon’s Jean Ping took his bid to have a wafer-thin presidential election loss overturned to the country’s top court Friday, as President Ali Bongo blamed the opposition leader for creating a climate of violence. Days of riots followed the August 31 announcement handing Bongo a narrow victory with a margin of some 6,000 votes, and Ping warned of more trouble to come if the court, which has 15 days to decide, rejects his recount appeal. “I greatly fear that another false step by the Constitutional Court will be the cause of deep and long-lasting instability in Gabon,” Ping told hundreds of supporters in Libreville. “If the Constitutional Court ignores the reality of the Gabonese vote, the people, who would have nothing left to lose… will take the future into their own hands,” said Ping, who continues to refer to himself as “president-elect”.

Russia: Putin Shuts Down Last Russian Independent Pollster In Anticipation of Russian and US Elections | Forbes

Vladimir Putin has based his claim to legitimacy on his high favorability ratings, the anchor of which has been the “independent” Levada Center, headed by the prominent Russian sociologist, Lev Gudkov. Among Levada’s claim to impartiality is its ties with foreign academic heavy weights from top universities and think tanks. The Kremlin has other polling organizations, such as VTSIOM, but they are viewed as doing the bidding of the Russian government. A Levada finding of high Putin ratings is worth its weight in gold to Putin and his regime. He has decided to throw this asset to the wolves. On September 6, Putin’s Ministry of Justice classified the Levada Center a “foreign agent,” citing its foreign ties with Columbia, George Washington, and Columbia Universities and with polling organizations such as Gallup, MORI, and Ipsos. Levada stands accused of working in the interests of these foreign entities. Although the “foreign agent” label does not automatically shut down Levada, the September 6 issue of Kommersant cites Gudkov as stating “the work of our organization has been in fact stopped.” The content of the article, however, has mysteriously disappeared, meaning that the Kremlin does not want this news circulating. Moscow speaks (Govorit Moskva) confirms that Levada is appealing the foreign-agent classification and has ceased its polling work. In shutting down Levada, Putin can no longer claim high ratings confirmed by respected independent pollsters. His favorability ratings form the core of his regime. Putin could pay a high price for this move, but he has decided the benefits outweigh the costs.

National: Appeals court sympathetic to challenge over voter rules | Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Thursday seemed likely to side with voting rights groups seeking to block Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. Judges hearing arguments in the case considered whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form’s proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice. The dispute is part of a slew of challenges this year that civil rights groups have brought against various state voting laws they claim are designed to dampen turnout among minority groups that tend to favor Democrats. Those challengers have already succeeded in stopping voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas and restrictions elsewhere. In the citizenship case, a coalition including the League of Women Voters and civil rights groups say the requirement to show proof undermines efforts to register new voters and deprives eligible voters of the right to vote in federal elections.

National: U.S. officials investigating hacking into more state election systems | CBS News

U.S. officials are expanding their investigation into the hacking of state election systems as officials believe more states beyond just Arizona and Illinois were affected, a government official has confirmed to CBS News. Law enforcement officials were summoned to Capitol Hill to brief House and Senate leaders on the investigation into the cyberattack on election systems, CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reports. Sources tell CBS News that the Department of Homeland Security will soon send out an alert to election officials across the country about the intrusions. The alert is expected to offer states specific assistance and detail preventative measures they can take to make their systems more secure. Officials declined to offer specifics, and called the investigation “highly confidential.” While U.S. officials are looking into whether Russia is tampering with the election process, FBI Director James Comey predicted Thursday that the cyberattacks won’t change the outcome of the election race.

National: Hack the vote: Experts say the risk is real | CSO Online

You should be worried about the November election. Not so much that the candidates you support won’t win, but about the risk that the “winners” may not really be the winners, due to hackers tampering with the results. Or, that even if the winners really are the winners, there will be enough doubt about it to create political chaos. This is not tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory. The warnings are coming from some of the most credible security experts in the industry. Richard Clarke, former senior cybersecurity policy adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote recently in a post for ABC News that not only are US election systems vulnerable to hacking, but that it would not be difficult to do so. “The ways to hack the election are straightforward and are only slight variants of computer system attacks that we see every day in the private sector and on government networks in the US and elsewhere around the world,” he wrote, adding that, “in America’s often close elections, a little manipulation could go a long way.”

National: DHS fights election hacking fears as experts warn of vulnerabilities | KUTV

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has offered assistance to state officials attempting to prevent hacking of voting systems, but experts say the equipment remains highly vulnerable to manipulation with two months until Election Day. Amid reports of hackers accessing voting data in Arizona and Illinois, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson held a conference call with secretaries of state from across the country last month. DHS is considering whether to declare election systems “critical infrastructure,” a move that would give the government the same level of oversight of elections that it has over the financial system and power grids. … “Hacking elections is easy,” a new report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) states bluntly. “Electronic voting machines are black-box, unsecured endpoints that feature vulnerabilities that would be scandalous in any other sectors,” said James Scott, senior fellow at ICIT and co-author of the report, “such as a lack of native security applications, open networked connections, a non-verifiable chain of custody, a reliance on personnel who are not trained to practice even basic cyber-hygiene, and other critical vulnerabilities.” The ICIT report lays out a number of potential threats, most related to voting machines being antiquated and poorly-secured devices that lack some of the basic safeguards home PCs now have.

National: U.S. Voting System So ‘Clunky’ It Is Insulated From Hacking, FBI Director Says | Wall Street Journal

The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation sought to calm fears that Russians or others could electronically sabotage the nation’s election in November, saying the 50-state voting system is so dispersed and “clunky” it would be difficult for hackers to affect the outcome. Appearing at a panel with other senior US intelligence officials on Thursday, FBI Director James Comey was asked about the concerns that hackers acting on behalf of the Russian government might try to manipulate the presidential election. Such concerns have grown in recent weeks, after the FBI issued an alert to state officials about the possibility of hackers penetrating state election computer systems. In Arizona, a hacker obtained one of two credentials needed to access the state’s voter-registration system.

Editorials: How Russia could spark a U.S. electoral disaster | Anne Applebaum/The Washington Post

“U.S. investigates potential covert Russian plan to disrupt November elections.” To those unused to this kind of story, I can imagine that headline, from The Post this week, seemed strange. A secret Russian plot to throw a U.S. election through a massive hack of the electoral system? It sounds like a thriller, or a movie starring Harrison Ford. In fact, the scenario under investigation has already taken place, in whole or in part, in other countries. Quite a bit of the story is already unfolding in public; strictly speaking, it’s not “secret” or “covert” at all. But because most Americans haven’t seen this kind of game played before (most Americans, quite wisely, don’t follow political news from Central Europe or Ukraine), I think the scenario needs to be fully spelled out. And so, based on Russia’s past tactics in other countries, assuming it acts more or less the same way it acts elsewhere, here’s what could happen over the next two months:

1. Trump, who is advised by several people with Russian links, will repeat and strengthen his “the election is rigged” narrative. The “polls are lying,” the “real” people aren’t being counted, the corrupt elites/Clinton clan/mainstream media are colluding to prevent him from taking office. Trump will continue to associate himself with Brexit — a vote that pollsters really did get wrong — and with Nigel Farage, the far-right British politician who now promotes Trump (and has, incidentally, just been offered his own show on RT, the Russian state-sponsored TV channel).

Editorials: The results on voter ID laws are in — and it’s bad news for ethnic and racial minorities | Zoltan L. Hajnal/Los Angeles Times

My colleagues Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nielson and I analyzed validated voting data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in order to follow voter turnout from 2006 through 2014 among members of different groups — almost a quarter-million Americans in all — in states with and without strict ID laws. The patterns are stark. Where strict identification laws are instituted, racial and ethnic minority turnout significantly declines. One way we analyzed the data was to compare the gap in turnout among races and ethnic groups. It is well established that minorities turn out less than whites in most elections in the United States. Our research shows that the racial turnout gap doubles or triples in states that enact strict ID laws. Latinos are the biggest losers. Their turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 percentage points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states. Strict ID laws lower African American, Asian American and multi-racial American turnout as well. In fact, where these laws are implemented, white turnout goes up marginally, compared with non-voter ID states.

Voting Blogs: Monitoring the Vote With Electionland | ProPublica

There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting. But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship. Historically, newsrooms have focused on covering the outcome of Election Day, relegating voting snafus to be followed up later, if at all. Today we’re announcing Electionland, a project to cover voting access and other problems in real time. The issue is particularly urgent this election year, as states have passed laws that could affect citizens’ access to the ballot box. We’ll leave the horse race to others and focus on the ways in which problems prevent people from voting: Which voters are getting turned away (and why)? Where are lines so long that people are giving up? Is there actually any evidence of people casting fraudulent votes?

Arizona: Ballot ruling to come Friday in Arizona’s 5th District race | Associated Press

A judge will decide Friday whether to allow hundreds of contested ballots to count in the hotly contested Republican primary in a Phoenix-area congressional district. Unofficial results from the Aug. 30 primary for the 5th Congressional District had state Senate President Andy Biggs leading former internet executive Christine Jones by nine votes out of some 85,500 votes cast in the four-way race. Jones’ campaign contends Maricopa County should have counted votes from at least 300 eligible voters who cast ballots that weren’t counted for various reasons. A lawyer for Biggs argued that Jones was creating chaos and disruption in an attempt to win the election.

California: This 224-page California voter guide is heftiest one ever, thanks to 17 ballot measures | Los Angeles Times

In a season replete with clothing catalogs and campaign flyers, the biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide, coming in at a record-setting 224 pages. The information booklet covers all 17 statewide ballot propositions, a document that election officials believe is the most voluminous election guide in California history. And it hasn’t come cheap: The total cost for printing and mailing, done in Sacramento and taking seven weeks to complete, will come close to $15 million. “It could have been worse,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation.

Michigan: Half of Michigan voters used straight-ticket ballot option in 2012 | MLive

About half of Michigan voters used the straight-ticket ballot option in the 2012 presidential election, an MLive survey of county election officials found. About 30 percent of 2012 voters supported the Democratic ticket; 19 percent, the Republican ticket and 1 percent voted straight ticket for a third party. The numbers are based on statistics from 33 Michigan counties that collectively accounted for 85 percent of the 4.5 million ballots cast statewide in 2012. MLive contacted election officials from all 83 Michigan counties, but many did not have the 2012 breakdown for straight-ticket voting, which allows filling out a single bubble to vote for all candidates of one party. About half of Michigan voters used the straight-ticket option in the last presidential election. However, MLive was able to get the data for the state’s largest counties, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham, Ottawa, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Livingston, Muskegon, Jackson, Allegan and Bay, as well as 18 smaller counties.

Belarus: With eye on West, Belarus votes in slightly freer election | Reuters

Lawmakers loyal to hardline Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko look set to retain power in an election on Sunday, but the easing of restrictions on opposition candidates could help the ex-Soviet nation further improve ties with the West. The opposition, which has not been represented in the 110-seat parliament since 1996, is not expected to win any seats, but in a concession to Western calls for greater transparency its contenders have been able to register more easily. External monitors will also be given access to the vote count. Relations between Minsk and the West have warmed since recession-hit Belarus held a peaceful presidential election last October.

North Carolina: GOP leader lobbied counties to offer just one early voting site in ‘confidential’ email | News & Observer

While the N.C. Republican Party’s executive director pushed counties to reduce early voting opportunities, another GOP leader went a step further: Calling on Republican county election officials to offer only one early voting site for the minimum hours allowed by law. In an email with the subject line “CRITICAL and CONFIDENTIAL,” NCGOP 1st Congressional District Chairman Garry Terry told county election board members that they “are expected to act within the law and in the best interest of the party.” Terry argued that any early voting hours and sites beyond the legal minimum would give Democrats an advantage in November. “We will never discourage anyone from voting but none of us have any obligation in any shape, form or fashion to do anything to help the Democrats win this election,” Terry wrote. “Left unchecked, they would have early voting sites at every large gathering place for Democrats.”

North Carolina: Some election mailers still say voters will need ID at polls | WRAL

Some voters are getting mixed messages about voter ID rules when they receive registration information from their local county board of elections. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s 2013 law that required most voters to show photo identification at the polls. In a subsequent August order, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to put that 4th Circuit order on hold. However, a concerned viewer sent WRAL News pictures of material that was part of a packet sent to a newly registered voter in Alamance County that touted the now defunct ID rules. The packet, postmarked Sept. 2, bears a large box with red type that says, “BEGINNING IN 2016, VOTERS WILL BE ASKED TO SHOW A PHOTO ID WHEN VOTING IN PERSON.” The same card carries instructions for what voters who might not have appropriate IDs should do. In a separate black and white alert box on a different portion of the material, it bears a conflicting message that reads, “ALERT: PHOTO ID NOT REQUIRED TO VOTE.”

Editorials: Voter Suppression in North Carolina | The New York Times

North Carolina Republicans are at it again. Barely one month after a federal appeals court struck down the state’s anti-voter law for suppressing African-American voter turnout “with almost surgical precision,” election officials in dozens of counties are taking up new ways to make it as hard as possible for blacks, and others who tend to support Democrats, to vote. A ruling issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29 invalidated most of a 2013 law. The court’s scathing opinion said that “because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.” The law, passed by a Republican-dominated legislature, imposed strict voter-ID requirements, cut back early-voting hours and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration for those under 18.

Wisconsin: College students face unique, growing challenges getting to ballot box | The Capital Times

There are many barriers that keep college students away from the polls. They include registration and voting requirements that vary from state to state, difficulty with obtaining the proper ID or proving residency, lack of familiarity with local issues and local candidates and uncertainty about how or where to vote — at home or at school. Some laws passed over the previous four years, including in Wisconsin, have created even more barriers. In August, a federal judge in Madison threw out some additional requirements for college students in Wisconsin, including a provision that had barred students from using expired but otherwise qualifying campus IDs for voting.

Austria: Interior ministry could postpone new presidential vote | Reuters

Austria’s Interior Ministry said on Friday it was considering postponing the re-run of a presidential election that is scheduled for Oct. 2 on technical grounds after ballot papers for postal voting turned out to be damaged. The election was originally held in May but the Constitutional Court ordered a repeat poll after the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) successfully challenged the result. Its candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly lost that vote to former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen but has led in recent opinion polls.

Gabon: Opposition leader challenges vote as mediation mission postponed | Reuters

Gabon’s opposition leader lodged a constitutional court challenge on Thursday against a presidential election he narrowly lost, hoping to overturn a result whose validity has been questioned at home and abroad. Former foreign minister Jean Ping lost the Aug. 27 election to President Ali Bongo by fewer than 6,000 votes, an outcome that sparked days of riots in which at least six people were killed. Ping’s spokesman said in a statement he would seek a recount in the province of Haut-Ogooue, a stronghold of the Bongo family, who have ruled the central African oil-producing nation of 1.8 million for nearly half a century.

Editorials: The Disputed Vote in Gabon | The New York Times

For nearly 42 years, Omar Bongo ruled Gabon, presiding over a system of patronage that funneled much of the country’s oil wealth to his family, his clan and his cronies, while leaving most Gabonese short of housing, education, hospitals and hope. When Mr. Bongo died in 2009, his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, succeeded him, winning an election marred by allegations of fraud and followed by violence. Many Gabonese hoped a new presidential election held on Aug. 27 would be different. That hope has been dashed. After election results last Wednesday gave Mr. Bongo a slim victory over his main challenger, Jean Ping, violence erupted in Libreville, the capital. Mr. Bongo responded by sending in the army and temporarily suspending the internet. At least six people died and more than 1,000 were arrested.