Donald Trump’s repeated calls for supporters to gather friends and family to monitor polling places for cases of voter fraud raises a thorny question: When, exactly, do “ballot security” measures cross the line into illegal acts of voter intimidation? “You’ve got to go out. You’ve got to go out. And you’ve got to get your friends. And you’ve got to get everyone you know. And you got to watch your polling booths,” the Republican presidential nominee said last Saturday at a campaign rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania. He went on, “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” From a legal perspective, this kind of talk occupies an uncomfortable gray area. “There is a lot activity that is not clearly illegal, but could still be perceived as intimidation,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine School of Law, told TIME. “The question is where you draw that line.”
More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of voters with disabilities reported having trouble casting their ballots — whether it was getting into the polling place, reading the ballot, or struggling with a machine. Despite some improvements, many of these voters are expected to face similar problems again this year. Ian Watlington, of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), demonstrates why. He has cerebral palsy and needs to use a wheelchair to get up a long concrete ramp outside a church in Washington, D.C. “It is one of those ramps that everybody thinks is absolutely perfect,” he says. But as he struggles to get up it, it’s clear that it’s not perfect. Watlington says the slope is fairly steep, which means some people in wheelchairs could tip backward. At the top, he finds another problem.
With less than a month to go before Election Day, not all American voters are aware of their states’ voter ID requirements. A new national survey finds that the confusion runs two ways: Some voters live in states that do not require identification to vote but think it is needed, while others living in states that do require IDs mistakenly believe they do not need one to vote. About four-in-ten voters (37%) living in states with no identification requirement incorrectly believe that they will be required to show identification prior to voting, according to a survey conducted Sept. 27 to Oct. 10 among 3,616 registered voters on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. About six-in-ten (62%) in these states know they do not have to produce a photo ID to vote. In the states that do require or request identification, more than three-quarters (77%) of voters know it is needed. However, about one-in-five voters (22%) in these states do not know a photo ID is needed, which may result in inconvenience or could prevent them from voting at all.
In a presidential election as competitive as this one, you don’t want to risk any complications with your precious vote. Be careful: If you’re voting by mail, something as simple as postage could impact your ability to do your civic duty. “The number of ballots mailed back to election officials with insufficient postage is on the rise,” the Unites States Postal Office writes on its website. “Each election cycle presents a different set of parameters for ballot creation and for the size and weight of the return mailpiece. As a result, many voters do not know the correct amount of postage required to return their ballot by mail.” 2016 is no exception. People are already flooding social media with questions about how many stamps they need, why they have to pay to vote and what happens if they don’t use the right postage, according to Snopes. Here’s what you need to know. Depending on where you are, you may need two stamps. If your absentee ballot says “extra postage required” or “apply first-class mail postage,” a single regular $0.47 stamp might not cut it. Whereas usually you can mail about four pages with one stamp in a standard envelope, absentee ballots often weigh more, according to NPR. The more pages there are, the more you need to spend to vote.
National: Why the Justice Dept. Will Have Far Fewer Watchdogs in Polling Places | The New York Times
For the first time since the days of poll taxes and literacy tests a half-century ago, the Justice Department will be sharply restricted in how it can deploy some of its most powerful weapons to deter voter intimidation in the presidential election. Because of a Supreme Court ruling three years ago, the department will send special election observers inside polling places in parts of only four states on Election Day, a significant drop from 2012, when it sent observers to jurisdictions in 13 states. And in a departure from a decades-old practice, observers will be sent to only one state in the South, where a history of discriminatory voting practices once made six states subject to special federal scrutiny. The pullback worries civil rights advocates, who say that Donald J. Trump’s call for his supporters to monitor a “rigged” electoral system could lead to intimidation of minority voters at polling places.
Donald Trump’s claims that the election will be “rigged” through voter fraud have become a centerpiece of his faltering campaign. There’s no evidence to support this incendiary charge, but the GOP candidate has been energetically spreading the notion that if Hillary Clinton wins, it will only be because thousands of illegal votes will be cast on Nov. 8. Polls now suggest that most Trump supporters fear the election could be stolen from their man. Trump is right that fairness is going to be a problem this year. He’s wrong about where the problem really lies. In fact, the real voting problem we face in 2016 is almost exactly the opposite of what Trump is complaining about: Officials in at least five states, including several key presidential battlegrounds, have been dragging their feet on obeying court orders to open up access to the polls. As a result, rather than an epidemic of illegal, fraudulent votes, the election is likely to see tens or even hundreds of thousands of people across the country deprived of their constitutional right to cast a ballot. The election wasn’t supposed to unfold this way. Over the summer and early fall, 2016 was shaping up as a landmark year for voting rights, as a string of federal court rulings struck down, blocked or loosened restrictive voting laws in key states across the country. In the three most significant decisions, North Carolina’s sweeping voting law was struck down, Texas’ voter ID law was significantly loosened, and a court required that Wisconsin promise to make voter IDs available on demand, seemingly blunting the impact of that state’s ID law. Voting rights supporters, who had fought for years against restrictions on who can register and when, breathed a cautious sigh of relief. But as Election Day approaches, what’s actually happening on the ground in those states reveals a troubling reality: Important as they are, court rulings can’t adequately protect voting rights if election officials simply don’t want to make things easy for voters.
All politics is local, as the saying goes, and the same is true of election law. Although the U.S. Constitution protects the right to vote, local laws can expand its scope and influence democratic representation. Voters across the country are making choices this fall that will not only affect state and local elections, they will also serve as the catalysts for nationwide reforms. Maine voters, for instance, will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting, a system in which people select their first, second, and third choices for each office. This reform would make it easier for third parties to gain support and would provide a better sense of the electorate’s overall preferences. In Missouri, voters are considering whether to amend the state constitution to allow a photo ID requirement for voting. In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the prior voter ID law violated the state constitution, so to enact voter ID law in Missouri the voters must change the state constitution.
Judges in Virginia and Florida ordered officials to extend the time for people to register to vote because of unforeseen events. In Florida, it was a major hurricane that for days upended people’s lives; in Virginia, it was a crash of the state elections website. The decisions were eminently sensible and must be commended. But they also should raise the question of why in this day and age, this country largely remains wedded to an archaic system of voter registration that discourages — even prevents — people from voting. “No right is more precious than having a voice in our democracy,” wrote Judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in ordering a six-day extension of voter registration in the wake of the massive disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew. “Hopefully, it is not lost on anyone that the right to have a voice is why this great country exists in the first place,” he said in a ruling that should shame Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).
Last Friday, Internet users across America were affected by an apparent worldwide distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack using an army of household appliances to barrage the network with data requests. … In the wake of the attack, many observers speculated on what would happen if a DDOS attack were to happen in the United States on Election Day. … If this did happen, this would be an incredibly challenging day for election officials and voters alike. And while there’s no guarantee it won’t, I think the good news is that – thanks to the routinized nature of the election process – most if not all of the information voters need to get and cast their ballots is already available.
Few local voters have answered Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to sign up as poll watchers to prevent a rigged election. On the campaign trail this week, he warned of the media and partisans conspiring to steal the election. “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places –SAD.” Trump tweeted Sunday. Trump’s vision of nefarious forces working to thwart the will of the people has failed to mobilize Leon County supporters to guard against Election Day fraud. “No effect, nothing. None at all,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.
Georgia: A growing conflict over voting rights is playing out in Georgia, where the presidential race is tightening | The Washington Post
A growing conflict over voting rights and ballot access is playing out in Georgia, where civil rights activists are trading accusations with Republican elected officials and where the stakes have risen considerably with the state’s new status as a closely watched battleground. Activists said this month that as many as 100,000 Georgia voter-registration applications have not been processed. One of the state’s largest counties offered only one early-voting site, prompting hours-long waits for many people at the polls last week. And the state’s top election official has refused to extend voter-registration deadlines in counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. These developments have prompted harsh criticism from voting rights activists. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to extend registration for six counties affected by the hurricane. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections, responded by taking to Twitter to rail against “left-wing activists,” whom he accused of trying to disrupt the election.
If ever there was a time to reveal how Indiana elections could be rigged, it was in April 2008. That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether Indiana lawmakers could require voters to show government-issued identification at the polls. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature had passed a stringent voter ID law in 2005 based on the argument that it was necessary to prevent voter fraud. The law was challenged in court. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the Supreme Court’s majority in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, said the state’s “interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters” justified voter ID. Thus, the law was ruled constitutional. But in doing so, Stevens also included in his opinion a statement that continues even today to strike at the core of ongoing — and often partisan — debates over the prevalence of voter fraud. He said there was scant evidence that anyone in Indiana had ever illegally voted in person.
A federal court on Monday sided with a Michigan man who said a law that bans voters from taking pictures of their marked ballots and sharing them on social media was unconstitutional, temporarily halting enforcement of the ban on ballot ‘selfies.’ Joel Crookston last month argued that the Michigan law, which predates the social media age and was intended to prevent voter intimidation and slowing the voting process, violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The ruling was praised by Michigan state Representative Sam Singh, who introduced legislation earlier this year to allow voters to take pictures of their ballots. “Social media is a powerful tool and individuals who wish to proudly display their ballots, and hopefully encourage friends to vote as well, should be able to do so,” he said. A similar battle arose in Colorado on Monday when two voters filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law that criminalized the showing of a completed ballot to others, arguing that the ban, which could include social media postings, was unconstitutional.
Editorials: Five reasons why you can count on Minnesota’s voting system | Mark Halvorson/Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rigged? Fraudulent? Excuse me, but as Donald Trump might interject: “Wrong!” In Minnesota, we can have confidence in our election outcomes. For the past 12 years, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIMN), a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, has worked to ensure accurate, transparent and verifiable elections in Minnesota. As the founder of CEIMN, I helped organize seven statewide observations of Minnesota’s postelection audits and recounts. Here are five reasons you can be confident that the results of next month’s election will be accurate and verifiable.
1) Routine audits of voting machines: After each general election, audits are conducted in about 200 randomly selected precincts statewide. Ballots are counted by hand to check the accuracy of voting machines. These audits are public events, and anyone can attend. Malicious attempts to influence the election through voting equipment would be difficult because we use paper ballots and we audit them.
The Alamance County Board of Elections will recalibrate the voting machines at the Graham early voting site after a second-hand, anonymous complaint. A man claiming to be a concerned citizen called the Times-News and said that when a friend of his attempted to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, it selected Republican candidate Donald Trump. The information was left in a voicemail with no return phone number or name of the individuals involved. Alamance County Board of Elections Director Kathy Holland said she received a similar phone call from one of the local political parties about a man claiming the machine had selected a different presidential candidate from the one he was attempting to select. No one, she stressed, has complained while voting. She said they would recalibrate the machines after voting ended Monday evening at the Youth Services Building.
Leon Neisius is ready to follow Donald Trump’s call to sign up as a polling place monitor. But not in his home, mostly rural Fairfield County. He wants to watch over voting in urban Franklin County. “Fraud’s more likely up there,” said the 73-year-old retired Air Force technician who lives near Pickerington. Josh Parks, 20, also wants to get trained as a poll-watcher so he can ferret out suspicious behavior. The construction worker from Westfield in Delaware County is looking forward to casting his first presidential vote — for Trump — but suspects it may not count because of fraud. “I wouldn’t doubt it,” said Parks, who, like Neisius, was attending a Trump rally last week in Delaware. While presidential elections are always high-stakes endeavors in Ohio, Trump’s insistence that this year’s vote might be rigged, and his call for supporters to keep watch at polling places, has raised the prospect of possible voter intimidation. “It’s disheartening. At some point you say, ‘When will this end?’” said Alicia Reece, head of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.
Pennsylvania: In battleground Pennsylvania, claims of a ‘rigged’ election may be impossible to disprove | ZDNet
In Wednesday’s third and final presidential debate, Donald Trump made history by becoming the first major party candidate to refuse to say whether he would honor the election’s outcome if he loses. A day later at a rally in Ohio, he told supporters he would accept “a clear election result” but would reserve his right “to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.” Trump didn’t say what might qualify as a “questionable result.” But he’s made it clear that he already thinks the election is rigged against him. It’s almost universally agreed that is a virtual impossibility. Unfortunately, the electronic voting machine millions of Americans will use to cast their ballots can be rigged, and thanks to outdated technology it will be difficult to prove they weren’t if Trump or his supporter put forth such a claim. Verified Voting, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing information on elections, said eight out of ten Americans will cast their ballot this year on an electronic voting machine that produces some form of hard copy record of their vote. But that leaves over a dozen states in this election cycle using a direct recording electronic (DRE) machine — often a button-based or touchscreen device used for recording vote counts — which don’t support paper audit technology. In several key battleground states, electronic voting machines with paper audit trails are virtually non-existent.
When independent candidate for president Evan McMullin filed to run in Utah, he gave a name for his running mate, whom he said was only a “stand-in” until he could choose the person he really wanted for the job. “I designate Nathan Johnson as my Vice Presidential candidate,” said a ‘certificate of nomination’ signed by McMullin, and delivered to the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office in August. The Lt. governor — in charge of elections — certified the Utah ballot weeks ago, and listed Johnson right beneath McMullin; the two are also paired on ballots in ten other states. Sunday, on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, McMullin repeatedly mentioned his actual running mate, Mindy Finn, a woman who began a political career “as a communications and legislative aide on Capitol Hill,” and is said to have worked “with both President George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.”
It may be tempting to think that the United States, the land of smartphones and supercomputers, would have commensurate levels of technology when it came to voting. Dispelling this, sadly, does not require us to look very far. Meet the WINVote touchscreen voting machine. Created and implemented in the early-2000s (and without any form of update since 2004), the WINVote machine is essentially a glorified laptop running Windows XP that also features a touch display. Its USB ports are physically unprotected, the wireless encryption key is set to “a-b-c-d-e,” the administrator password to access the machine (which is unchangeable) is “admin,” and there exists no auditable paper trail after an individual has voted. Oh, and it’s prone to crash. A lot. All of these, among other concerns, combined to lead security experts to term it “the worst voting machine in the U.S.” Despite these documented flaws, when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe cast a ballot in 2014 at a Richmond-area precinct, he — like many voters in the city and in other parts of the Commonwealth — encountered the problematic WINVote machine. Multiple complaints over crashes and slow voting led the Governor to call for an investigation by the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA).
Investors drawn to Iceland’s high yields following the partial dismantling of capital controls are facing parliamentary elections that could produce a toxic mix of political turmoil and radicalism. Klaus Spoeri, a fund manager at Frankfurt-Trust, says that while he recently bought more Icelandic bonds because of their attractive yields of more than 5 percent, he’s now holding off. “We’re quite confident about Iceland and the turnaround,” Spoeri said. But if Saturday’s elections should “go wrong, we’ll liquidate the position.” Despite an impressive turnaround in the economy, latest surveys suggest the ruling conservative coalition of the Independence and Progressive parties stands little chance of surviving the election. An untested alliance of opposition parties has set its sights on the leverages of power. The alliance is spearheaded by the Pirate Party, a direct-democracy movement that’s been leading the polls by riding a global wave of resentment toward the establishment.
Serbia has detained a number of people over a suspected plot to sway the outcome of Montenegro’s Oct. 16 election, the Serbian prime minister said on Monday, citing “undeniable and material” evidence found by his country’s security services.Aleksandar Vucic’s remarks were the first detailed Serbian reaction to the arrests on election day in Montenegro of 20 Serbian citizens, including a retired police general, accused of planning attacks on government institutions and officials. The vote, in which veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s party came out ahead but without a parliamentary majority, was billed as an opportunity for voters to endorse his pro-NATO and pro-EU stance instead of pursuing closer relationships with traditional allies like Serbia and Russia. Vucic told a news conference that the evidence found included 125,000 euros ($135,975) in cash and stashed uniforms that were to be used in attacks on Montenegrin state institutions and individuals. Supportive evidence had been given by detained suspects under questioning, he said.
United Kingdom: Labour fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending including for Ed Stone | The Guardian
Labour has been fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission, the largest imposed by the body in its history, for undeclared election spending during the 2015 campaign, including more than £7,000 on the so-called “Ed Stone”. The commission launched an investigation into two payments totalling £7,614 missing from the party’s election return that were spent on the stone tablet on which then Labour leader, Ed Miliband, had carved his six key election pledges, promising to display it in the Downing Street rose garden if he won the election. The problems with the party’s spending came to light when the commission published the return in January, and journalists immediately contacted the commission because they could not find any reference to the 8ft 6in, two-tonne slab of limestone. The commission then found the item was indeed missing from the return, and began a full inquiry.