National: Trump Supporters Monitoring Polls Alarms Voting-Rights Groups | Bloomberg

For the first time in a half-century, Americans will go to the polls in November without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key section of the 1965 law, the U.S. Department of Justice has had to curtail its federal observer program, under which trained monitors oversee access to ballot boxes in areas historically prone to discrimination. The shift comes just as Republican nominee Donald Trump has been exhorting his supporters to be vigilant about the supposed threat of voter fraud, which has been shown to be almost nonexistent in the U.S. “They’re letting people pour into the country so they can go and vote,” he said in an Oct. 7 meeting with the union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents. At a Pennsylvania rally on Oct. 10, he told the crowd, “So important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” An online movement called Operation Red is encouraging Trump supporters to wear red to the polls so people “will have no choice but to acknowledge the visible truth in a sea of red,” according to the group’s website.

Editorials: It’s Time to Fix the Voting Process | Pippa Norris/New Republic

Experts rate the performance of recent American elections as the worst among two dozen Western democracies. Why? Some longstanding practices are to blame. Partisan gerrymandering insulates incumbents. Infotainment-dominated commercial news reduce campaigns to spectator sport. Social media amplifies angry trolls. Ballot access laws restrict third-party challengers. Women and minority candidates have to fight a hostile cultural backlash. Outdated technologies are vulnerable to Russian cyber hacks. All of these problems have been heightened by the close, heated, and bitterly divided 2016 contest. The result: an erosion of American confidence in the electoral process—despite the fact that voter fraud occurs very rarely. In mid-August, Gallup found that only six in ten Americans are “very” or “fairly” confident that their vote would be accurately cast and counted. That’s down from around three-quarters of all Americans a decade earlier.

Editorials: We Must Address Gerrymandering | Thomas E. Mann/TIME

The United States is an outlier in the democratic world in the extent to which politicians shape the rules that affect their own electoral fortunes. Federal campaign finance policy is administered by a feckless Federal Election Commission, whose three Democratic and three Republican commissioners routinely produce gridlock instead of effective implementation of the law. The conditions under which election ballots are cast and counted—from registration to voting equipment, ballot design, polling locations, voter ID requirements, absentee ballots and early voting—are set in a very decentralized fashion and prey to political manipulation to advantage one party over the other. And while most countries with single-member districts (such as Canada, Britain and Australia) use nonpartisan boundary commissions to redraw lines so they reflect population shifts, in America, most state legislatures create the maps for both congressional and state legislative districts through the regular legislative process. They make their own luck.

Voting Blogs: The Russian Hack of U.S. Election Systems is About Delegitimizing, Not Changing, the Result, and It Feeds Trump Vote-Rigging Claim | Election Law Blog

The headlines over the last few weeks are suggesting Russian “hacks” of U.S. election systems. But the kinds of election systems hacked are not the ones that would change election results (at least so far). Instead, I think the Russians are playing a different, also dangerous, game involving misinformation and disruption. Let’s start with what we know. We know that it is Russia behind the hacking. Most people know about the Wikileaks revelations from the Podesta emails, with the goal of embarrassing the Clinton administration and potentially affecting the outcome of the election. Maybe if Trump were not the opponent, these leaks would have more of an effect. But beyond that there have been numerous reports of Russian hackers going after U.S. election systems, such as going after the voter registration databases of Illinois and Arizona.

Alaska: High court decision gives House win to Westlake, resolving ballot issue | Associated Press

The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court, and reinstated Dean Westlake as the winner of a disputed House election. “I’ve been dancing in my office for the last hour,” said Westlake’s attorney, Thomas Amodio. “They got it right. Four of them got it right, anyway, but that’s all that matters.” The court issued its two-page decision within five hours of hearing oral arguments in the case, with one judge partially dissenting. The high court had hoped to reach a quick decision so ballots could be shipped to villages in the Montana-sized House District 40 beginning Monday.

Arizona: After hack, Arizona working to keep its elections database secure | CBS

The hacking attempt on Arizona’s voter database started in rural Gila County when an elections worker opened an email attachment. Michelle Reagan, Arizona’s secretary of state, said it was malware meant to attack servers holding the voter information of 4 million people. Reagan was alerted by the FBI, and experts believe the Russian government is to blame. She said she was shocked and dismayed when she first heard about the breach. “We’ve never had to worry about foreign invaders coming in and trying to mess with our confidence and our election system,” Reagan said.

Florida: FBI: Russia likely hacked Florida election contractor and Clinton campaign chairman | SC Magazine

U.S. intelligence officials’ concerns of a Russian hacking operation against political targets continues to escalate, as FBI officials now believe Russian intelligence agencies likely orchestrated the hacks of emails belonging to a contractor for Florida’s election system and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Podesta’s emails were released in the latest batch of emails released by Wikileaks. Trump advisor Roger Stone admitted Wednesday that he had “back-channel communication” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. A day earlier, Podesta told Bloomberg on Tuesday that it is “a reasonable assumption or at least a reasonable conclusion” that the Trump campaign knew about the most recent WikiLeaks leaks before their release. He pointed to a tweet from Stone that claimed: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Editorials: An ill wind (and partisan politics) threatened Florida voting rights | Fred Grimm/Miami Herald

If this case had come out of a state other than Florida, the federal judge would have only been belaboring the obvious. But Judge Mark Walker knew that Gov. Rick Scott was in sore need of some basic civics. “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live,” Judge Walker wrote, quoting the late Justice Hugo Black from a landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision. “Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” In this case, Hurricane Matthew had contributed to the undermining. Hundreds of thousands of coastal residents had heeded Gov. Scott’s warning and fled inland as the storm menaced Florida. Government offices were closed. Mail delivery was disrupted. All this as the Oct. 11 registration deadline approached for Floridians hoping to cast ballots in the general election.

Georgia: Lawsuit seeks to extend voter registration deadline | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A federal judge has set a 10 a.m. Friday hearing in Savannah over a lawsuit seeking to reopen Georgia’s voter registration due to Hurricane Matthew. Voter advocates filed the suit Wednesday just before midnight, arguing that an emergency extension of the registration deadline was needed because some coastal residents forced to flee last weekend’s storm did not have enough opportunity to submit applications. The suit requests an extension through Oct. 18 for residents of Chatham County, where local government offices were closed for what would have been the last six days of the voter registration period that ended on Tuesday. It also suggests that the extension could be made available to residents statewide.

Indiana: Write-in candidates include ‘None of the Above’ | The Star Press

If you can’t make up your mind from this list of presidential candidates, you’re not trying. Sure, voters will see Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson on their ballots on Nov. 8 and during ongoing early voting. But they’ll also have 15 write-in candidates for president to choose from, ranging from Green Party candidate Jill Stein to a guy who goes by the name Joe Exotic. Delaware County election officials caution that people who want to make their vote — even a write-in vote — count have to write in one of the 15 write-in candidates certified by the state. “If it’s not a certified write-in candidate, that office doesn’t get a vote,” Delaware County Clerk Mike King told The Star Press. So votes for Daffy D. Duck or Amanda Hugginkiss will not be counted. But voters will be able to write in Matthew “None of the Above” Roberts, a political science professor from Michigan who told a newspaper he wants to spark a “conversation” about the political system, or Richard Duncan, an economist from Ohio.

North Carolina: No extension for voter registration after Hurricane Matthew | News & Observer

The state will keep Friday as the deadline for regular voter registration, the State Board of Elections announced Wednesday, despite the upheaval in eastern counties awash in floodwater. Common Cause NC this week asked the elections board to extend the regular registration deadline to Oct. 19. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat representing counties hit by flooding after Hurricane Matthew, asked the state elections board to reconsider extending the deadline. “It would be a travesty to look at the dire situation that is being endured by people in these communities who are fighting against unparalleled flooding and not grant them additional days so that they can register to vote and exercise their fundamental right in November,” Butterfield said in a statement.

Pennsylvania: As GOP warns of voter fraud, Democrats quietly register more poll watchers in ‘fraud-filled’ Philadelphia | PennLive

It’s been the secret and sometimes not-so-secret front of this election: Behind the scenes, efforts are underway on both sides of the aisle to amass armies of eagle-eyed volunteers to be dispatched to the polls on Nov. 8 to watch for signs of voter fraud. But in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold where Republican Donald Trump has warned the possibility of voter fraud is particularly acute, officials say it is the Democrats who lead in registering poll watchers, despite more oft-invoked Republican concerns about the integrity of the city’s electoral process. “Out of 66 wards, approximately 33 wards have applied on the Democratic side [to have lists of poll watching volunteers vetted and approved],” Joe Lynch, an assistant administrator of election activities with the city, told PennLive on Tuesday. By comparison, Republicans have only submitted such lists for 8 wards, Lynch added.

Virginia: GOP state lawmaker calls for removal of Virginia’s top election official | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A committee meeting on Virginia’s election readiness turned into a bitter partisan fight Thursday as a Republican state lawmaker called for the removal of the state’s top election official and Democrats accused the GOP of following Donald Trump’s lead by casting doubt on the upcoming election. The proceedings turned heated after Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés, an appointee of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, took the podium to defend the state’s preparations after roughly a dozen election officials from across Virginia vented about a voter system they described as technologically deficient, underfunded, and susceptible to low-level abuse that often goes unpunished. … McAuliffe’s office said the governor has no plans to replace Cortés.

Wisconsin: Federal judge issues ‘targeted remedy’ for problems with voter ID law | The Cap Times

The state of Wisconsin must immediately provide more information to help people seeking state-issued voting credentials navigate the complex process, a federal judge ordered Thursday. U.S. District Judge James Peterson declined to suspend the state’s voter ID law before the November election, arguing he doesn’t have the authority to issue a “brand new injunction” and that it might be “unwise” to make sweeping changes less than a month from Election Day. Instead, the judge opted to focus on providing a “targeted remedy” to issues with the ID petition process, or IDPP, which is designed to help people who don’t have the proper documentation obtain IDs. “What we are doing here is to patch it up, get it in good enough shape to get us through the November election,” Peterson said, adding that a previous court order he issued in July mandates a fundamental reform of the process after the election.

Cambodia: Young Voters Face Disenfranchisement | Khmer Times

Young potential voters who have migrated abroad in search of work are facing the loss of their voting rights due to a lack of information and documents required to register to vote from a location different to their registered address, civil society groups said yesterday. During a workshop on “The Challenges and Solutions: Voter Registration for Youth,” in Phnom Penh, Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center) said that according to their data, many youths were unaware of how to register to vote in next year’s commune elections. “Youths are more than half of the country’s citizens, some of whom are migrants working in foreign countries and are facing the loss of their right to vote if they do not go to register. This is a concern as there might be a problem for the democratic process if the youth do not participate.”

Congo: Role for Berlin in salvaging DR Congo elections? | Deutsche Welle

The fate of DR Congo seems to hinge on President Kabila’s apparent bid to stay in power. Berlin is being asked to help resolve a crisis, as Congolese recall how it financially supported their elections in 2006. No matter which radio station one listens to in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the main issue is the current political crisis and the dialogue which is attempting to resolve it. Everyone is hoping for a breakthrough. But after more than a month since dialogue between government and a section of the opposition began, many questions remain unanswered as the clock ticks toward December 19, the day when President Joseph Kabila term in office officially ends. At the beginning of October, the electoral commission announced that elections would be postponed until December 2018. The commission said it would not be possible to register all voters and then prepare for a poll originally slated for the end of 2016.

Montenegro: Prime Minister accuses Russia of financing anti-NATO campaign | Reuters

Russia is pouring money into Montenegro’s election campaign in an attempt to derail the country’s progress towards joining NATO, the country’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on Thursday, three days ahead of an election. Djukanovic, who has led the tiny Balkan country as president or prime minister for more than 25 years, is facing his toughest ever electoral challenge from opposition parties that accuse him of cronyism and of treating Montenegro as a personal fiefdom. In an interview with Reuters, he said opposition parties were being financed by Moscow, which saw Sunday’s parliamentary vote as a final opportunity to stop the Balkan region’s rush to integrate with the European Union and the Atlantic alliance.

United Kingdom: Tory MPs push for rules to ensure ID checks at polling stations | International Business Times

Tory MPs have urged the Government to get a move on in introducing new rules that would ensure people have to produce ID when they vote. Gary Streeter, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, told the Commons on Thursday the commission has “recommended strongly since 2014” the use of ID at polling stations. He added: “It’s now a matter for Government and for this House to introduce this more robust new provision.” Sir Eric Pickles’ recent review into electoral fraud also backed introducing ID checks when people vote.

National: Elections at Risk in Cyberspace, Part II: Variety is the Spice of Hacking for Voting Machines | Signal Magazine

Election-day activities center on polling places and their voting machines, and this is where the public interest in vote security is most acute. Each state is in charge of acquiring and managing voting machines, and many states have different types of machines within their borders. The wide variety of voting machines used across the United States, rather than deterring hackers, actually helps empower them if they want to change the outcome of people’s votes, say many cybersecurity experts. Many voting machines are so old that modern security has not yet caught up to them. The differences among voting machines also mean that no single tactic could be employed to cause them to give misleading vote totals. Any coordinated effort to use the machines to affect voting outcomes would have to be tailored to each type of machine and would require an extensive network of operatives to be effective on a large scale. Some electronic voting machines still in use in the United States date back to the last millennium, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal nonpartisan policy and law institute connected with New York University School of Law. The oldest machines have all the security of an ATM—which is to say, very little. Newer machines still are vulnerable because they provide access points for cybermarauders to inject malware that could change votes outright.
Direct-reporting voting machines that offer no paper backup are the most vulnerable, states Chuck Brooks, vice president of government relations and marketing for Sutherland Government Solutions. Also, the diversity of electronic voting machines precludes any easy security fix. Few have had software updates, he says.

National: What it takes to secure the elections | TechCrunch

While virtually every industry and domain is flourishing and being revolutionized by technological advances, more than three-quarters of U.S. citizens will vote for their next president on paper ballots this November. The main reason for this is concern over cybersecurity threats against the electoral system and process. In the wake of major breaches, such as the hacking of the Democratic National Convention and attacks against voter registration databases in at least two states, it is now feared more than ever that the presidential elections might be influenced or compromised by nation-states such as Russia. And that’s why any form of technology being used in elections is generally frowned upon and regarded as a potential attack vector for malicious actors. But is this a pattern that has to repeat itself every four years? Are we doomed to choose our leaders in settings that one expert described to me as reminiscent of the dark ages for fear of major hacks, or is it possible to see future elections leverage the full power of the newest tech without fearing cyber threats?

National: Election cyber threats: More states request DHS help | CNN

More states and local election boards have asked the Department of Homeland Security to help with cybersecurity, the department announced Monday night. The total, which has been steadily rising in recent weeks, has reached 33 state and 11 county or local election agencies, DHS said. More than two dozen states were known to have requested help before the updated tally. DHS has been urging states to take advantage of its resources, which include scanning systems for vulnerabilities and recommendations for improving cybersecurity on election and voter registration systems. The update from Secretary Jeh Johnson warned those on the fence to make a decision.

National: Hurricane Matthew and Its Effect on Voting Rights | The Atlantic

Hurricane Matthew brought utter devastation to Haiti and other islands in the Caribbean after it swept through the region early last week. In Haiti, the storm killed at least a thousand people; damaged infrastructure advancements the nation had made in its push to modernize; and delayed a presidential election originally scheduled for early October. While the problems it’s caused on the eastern United States have been less dire, the storm has nevertheless had serious consequences in many communities. And, as in Haiti, its aftereffects may have repercussions on the country’s upcoming presidential election as well. Efforts to calculate the political costs of a disaster—which are already ongoing in the case of Matthew—often generate callous, clinical results that don’t capture the length and breadth of those effects; they may focus on how displacement might benefit one candidate or the other, but can’t capture the human stories behind those missed votes. The most difficult exercise in a catastrophe’s aftermath is accounting for the things and people lost: the resulting health crises, the activities made difficult, the memories erased, and the strain of rebuilding. Worrying about political consequences can seem crass when people’s day-to-day lives are in ruins. Sometimes, though, the things victims have to lose are political in nature, making a discussion about politics unavoidable—and even necessary.

National: Unable to Vote, Ex-Convicts Reach Out, Try to Have Impact on US Election | VoA News

Kenneth Inniss, 56, has not voted in a U.S. election since 1984, when he first went to prison for a felony conviction. He is now out but will have to wait one more year until he is off parole to vote. “It’s a right that we take for granted until it’s taken from us,” he said. “And that’s when it really hit home for me. I don’t have a say in how those laws are keeping me incarcerated.” Inniss recently packed into a glossy black van with eight other formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and embarked on a road trip to Cleveland, Ohio. The group had a simple mission: Inform Ohio ex-prisoners of their right to vote.

National: Senator wants nationwide, all-mail voting to counter election hacks | Ars Technica

“It’s not a question of if you’re going to get hacked—it’s when you’re going to get hacked.” Those were the words of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam as he sought to assure investors last week that the company is still interested in purchasing Yahoo despite the massive data breach of Yahoo consumer accounts. Whether McAdam’s words ring true for the hodgepodge of election systems across the US is anybody’s guess. But in the wake of the Obama administration’s announcement that the Russian government directed hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other institutions to influence US elections, a senator from Oregon says the nation should conduct its elections like his home state does: all-mail voting.

National: Facebook Helped Drive a Voter Registration Surge, Election Officials Say | The New York Times

A 17-word Facebook reminder contributed to substantial increases in online voter registration across the country, according to top election officials. At least nine secretaries of state have credited the social network’s voter registration reminder, displayed for four days in September, with boosting sign-ups, in some cases by considerable amounts. Data from nine other states show that registrations rose drastically on the first day of the campaign compared with the day before. “Facebook clearly moved the needle in a significant way,” Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, said in an interview on Tuesday.

National: Democracy Live launches voting app to view election ballots on smartphones | Puget Sound Business Journal

Democracy Live launched its LiveBallot app and website Thursday to provide American voters with online access to their ballot ahead of Election Day. The LiveBallot social-balloting technology can offer every registered U.S. voter a digital replica of the ballot they’ll see at the polls, plus candidate bios, contact information and links to recent news articles about them. The information can be shared on social media. “LiveBallot is the only app that delivers a customized ballot to each of the 200 million voters in the U.S.,” Democracy Live President and CEO Bryan Finney said in an interview. “For the first time in election history, voters will have a virtual replica of their ballots on their personal devices, computers and in their hands ahead of Election Day.”

Arizona: Federal judge: Arizona counties don’t have to tally out-of-precinct votes | Capitol Media Services

A federal judge rejected a bid by Democrats to force counties to tally the votes of people who show up at the wrong polling place. In his ruling late Tuesday, Judge Douglas Rayes acknowledged that Arizona has a history of discrimination in voting practices. But Rayes said challengers, led by the state and national Democratic parties, failed to show that the current restrictions affect minorities any more than the population as a whole. This is the second defeat for the Democrats. Rayes had earlier refused to block the state from enforcing its new law making it a felony for individuals to collect early ballots from others and bring them to the polling place. On Tuesday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to disturb that ruling.

Florida: Voter registration extended to next week after Hurricane Matthew | The Washington Post

A federal judge ordered Florida to extend its voter registration deadline by six days, until Tuesday, because of Hurricane Matthew. In the storm’s wake, many residents are still struggling to return to their homes and recover, even as they face looming deadlines to register to vote. Nowhere has the issue of voter registration been more contentious than Florida, where Republicans had refused to push back the deadline. At a hearing Wednesday morning, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered the extension. “No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections,” he said at the hearing, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The original deadline had been this week, on Oct. 11. After Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to move that deadline, Walker had issued an emergency order Oct. 10 to keep registration open one more day so his court could hold a hearing on the matter.

Kansas: Kobach files late response in voter case | The Wichita Eagle

A federal court will decide whether to excuse Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s late filing in a case about the constitutionality of requiring people to prove they are citizens when they register to vote. Kobach filed an 88-page response in a federal lawsuit Tuesday night, hours after being found in default for failing to respond in time to an amended complaint. A spokeswoman for his office said it still must file a motion to set aside the default. The plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a motion to strike Kobach’s late response Wednesday afternoon, contending it was improper because it was not paired with a motion to allow a late filing or set aside the default. “He chose to represent himself in the case, as well as several others, and he has a responsibility to get things filed and filed on time. And at this point, he hasn’t done that,” said Will Lawrence, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. Kobach did not return phone calls about the case on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Missouri: Groups opposing voter ID amendment team up to relay concerns to voters | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

With only a few weeks left before the Nov. 8 general election, opponents to a voter ID amendment are ramping up appeals to voters they hope will reject the proposal. Some advocacy organizations have formed a coalition for broader outreach. They include Progress Missouri, the NAACP, AFL-CIO, AARP, Missouri Faith Voices, Metropolitan Congregations United and Communities Creating Opportunity. At issue is an amendment that will allow Missourians to decide if the state constitution should be changed to require voters present photo identification before voting. If voters approve it, a bill passed by the legislature will also take effect, which lays out which IDs qualify and requires the state to pay for individuals to obtain an ID or documents necessary to get an ID.