National: Voting Problems Present in 2016, But Further Study Needed to Determine Impact | Brennan Center for Justice

The 2016 election is over, and while much has been written about who voted and for whom, and what the media missed, there has been frustratingly little post-election coverage on the problem of Americans being disenfranchised by predictable and avoidable shortcomings in the ways we administer elections. Election administrators had to fend off a lot in 2016 before the election even started — claims that elections were rigged, hacks into voter registration databases, out-of-date technology, calls for private citizens to appoint themselves watchers of polling places, and politicians passing laws restricting access to the ballot. Each of those issues contributed to problems at the polls. They were compounded by a persistent problem of insufficient resources. Aging voting machines are a known risk to the functioning of the voting system and public confidence. In 2015, the Brennan Center warned that 42 states use machines that are at least a decade old and approaching the end of their projected lifespans.

National: White House Confirms Pre-Election Warning to Russia Over Hacking | The New York Times

Over the past month, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has received two starkly different messages about hacking into American computer networks from the current and future presidents of the United States: Don’t you dare, and don’t worry, we’re not even sure it was you. The White House confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that eight days before the presidential election, the United States “contacted the Russian government directly regarding malicious cyberactivity” that was “targeting U.S. state election-related systems.” It sent the message over a rarely used system: a hotline connecting the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers in both countries, which they had agreed three years ago could also be employed to deal with major cyber incidents. The pre-election warning — only the latest after verbal cautions by President Obama, his defense secretary and the director of national intelligence — was reported by The Washington Post. The warnings to Russia against further hacking into polling or registration systems, or any further effort to affect the outcome of the election, are being hailed by the Obama administration as a success in deterrence. After all, they argue, a year and a half of Russian hacking activity seemed to slow, or halt, and there is no evidence that voting or counting of ballots was disrupted on Election Day.

National: NSA: WikiLeaks election leaks were ‘conscious effort by a nation-state’ | International Business Times

The leaks and disclosures published by WikiLeaks in the run-up to the US presidential election this year were a “conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect”, according to the director of the National Security Agency (NSA). US intelligence chief Michael Rogers, who has managed the secretive agency since 2014, said during a Wall Street Journal conference on 15 November that Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid was hampered by state-sponsored hackers who worked to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind – this was not something that was done casually,” he said when asked about WikiLeaks’ publications. “This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily.”

Alabama: Mobile County Still Working to Recount Results After Error | WKRG

The ballots are being recounted, but it’s not for the presidential election. This time it’s for Mobile County’s pay as you go measure. It was the last measure on the ballot last Tuesday. And according to Election Systems and Software, the company that runs the ballot machines, a wrong test pattern was used to program the machines. That resulted in 99.7 percent of votes favoring the measure. While many voters called in with concerns and filed complaints, it took a few days to figure out exactly what happened. The company has since taken accountability. “We obviously made a mistake originally for election day, we regret that. We’ve gone back in we’ve corrected the error there in the personal program, we’ve marked ballots we’ve double checked, we’ve triple checked, we’ve run test we’re confident today is 100 percent accurate,” said Mark Kelley with Election Systems and Software.

Arizona: Democrats cry foul over Maricopa County election officials’ inaction | Associated Press

The state Democratic Party on Monday slammed Maricopa County election officials who decided not to try to verify questionable signatures on some early ballots. Spencer Scharff, the party’s director of voter protection, said the county recorder’s office wasn’t following rules outlined in the state election procedures manual. That manual said election officials must make a reasonable effort to contact early voters if there are questionable signatures before discarding their ballot. “They’re clearly violating that requirement by failing to call them,” Scharff said. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage the county to simply follow the law.”

Colorado: Pre-election tests didn’t find limits in Pueblo County voting system | The Pueblo Chieftain

State election officials said Pueblo County would have had to test the county’s election system with 50,000-60,000 test ballots to discover the limited data base on the Dominion Express system that filled up on Election Day, causing days of delay in getting final results. Dwight Shellman, county support manager for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, said the limited data base was not mentioned in any of the vendor’s documentation about the Microsoft SQL Express system and that neither state or county officials were aware of it — until the computer server stopped working on Election Day. “We approved that purchase, but if we’d known its limitations, we wouldn’t have,” Shellman said Tuesday. Both Secretary of State Wayne Williams and County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz have explained how the vendor — Dominion Voting Systems — rushed a much bigger server to the county last Tuesday to remedy the logjam in counting more than 80,000 votes.

Kansas: Software problem slowed Johnson County vote counting on election night | The Kansas City Star

Software that malfunctioned and stalled vote tallying in Johnson County for more than three hours on election night was of the same brand that has been under scrutiny for years and has caused counting errors in other parts of the country. The Global Election Management System – or GEMS – was not the only cause of a breakdown on election night, but it was definitely one of the most frustrating, said county Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker. Vote counters lost hours of time as they waited for help from a technical support person in Nebraska who they hoped could tell them why the system suddenly dropped 2,100 ballots from its database and how to get them back. When that help wasn’t forthcoming, the workers ended up re-scanning the paper ballots so they could be re-loaded into the database. In the end, election officials didn’t get their closing totals out until about 1:30 p.m. the next day, due to the computer breakdown and tidal waves of last-minute registrations and advance votes, Metsker said.

New Hampshire: University of Florida-Developed Voting Machine For Disabled Used On Election Day | WUFT

A voting machine developed at the University of Florida helped voters with different disabilities to cast their ballots in this month’s elections. Prime III, or the Premier Third Generation Voting System, was used statewide in New Hampshire — the first state to certify use of the machine — on Election Day. … With Prime III, a blind person, for example, votes by putting on headphones, and following audio prompts for the various races, they vocalize their choices. Someone without arms or someone who otherwise can’t write does the same. Juan Gilbert, chair of UF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department, came up with the idea for the voting technology after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. The act required every voting precinct to have one voting machine for people with disabilities. But Gilbert saw the new legislation and didn’t think of it as the best solution. “We saw that, and we thought that could be a problem because you’re creating a separate-but-equal connotation in voting. And we were right.”

North Carolina: Durham County Elections Chair: No evidence of inaccurate reporting on 94,000 votes | News & Observer

Officials have seen no evidence supporting questions raised about the accuracy of more than 94,000 votes that were counted manually on election night, Durham County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian said Tuesday. “We have seen no evidence to that effect,” Brian said during a Tuesday press conference. “Mr. (Thomas) Stark may have some, but we have seen no evidence to that effect.” Stark, general counsel for the state Republican Party, filed a formal protest Friday contending that the Durham County Board of Elections engaged in “malfeasance” with regard to ensuring the accuracy of votes counted Nov. 8. Durham County officials had to manually enter information after they were unable to upload data from six cards that saved information from ballot tabulators. The votes were pivotal on election night, pushing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper ahead of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, whose campaign has expressed concern about the votes. Cooper, the state’s attorney general, leads McCrory by about 5,000 votes with some absentee and provisional votes yet to be counted. McCrory can call for a recount so long as the margin between them remains less than 10,000 votes.

North Carolina: Falsified write-in votes alleged in Bladen County | News & Observer

A protest has been filed in Bladen County alleging that a handful of people may have improperly submitted hundreds of absentee ballots, while also getting paid for get-out-the-vote efforts by a community group funded by the N.C. Democratic Party. According to the protest filed by McCrae Dowless, who won election as soil and water district supervisor, the handwriting on a number of ballots and the signatures of some mail-in absentee witnesses were similar. He said the questioned ballots seem to have been cast in favor of a straight ticket of candidates and also to vote for a man named Franklin Graham, who ran a write-in campaign for soil and water district supervisor. A letter the Bladen County elections board wrote to the State Board of Elections, and attached to the complaint, raises the same concerns. While some ballots listed witnesses, few include the documentation that would be required if someone had also assisted the voters, according to the letter.

Ohio: Court Won’t Reconsider Ohio Online Ballot Tool Ruling | Bloomberg BNA

A federal district court Nov. 14 declined to reconsider a decision that implementing an online ballot-marking tool in Ohio is an unreasonable request under federal law ( Hindel v. Husted , S.D. Ohio, No. 2:15-cv-3061, 11/14/16 ). The National Federation of the Blind and three blind, registered voters alleged that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide an alternative to paper absentee ballots. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled in May that the technology would fundamentally alter the state’s voting system because it hadn’t been used in a prior Ohio election nor certified in accordance with state law.

Rhode Island: Pawtucket officials demand answers after ‘historic failure’ on Election Day | The Valley Breeze

City officials say they won’t soon forget the “historic failure” of the 2016 election in Pawtucket, saying they don’t want to see the interminable lines and disenfranchisement of voters ever again. The City Council is asking the Rhode Island Secretary of State and Board of Elections for an explanation of what happened in Pawtucket, which saw the worst of the problems across the state on voting day. Councilor Mark Wildenhain said the problems were consistent all day, with people waiting five minutes to vote and then two hours or more to get that vote registered by putting it through the machine. In some polling locations, residents ripped up their ballots and left, he said. Police nearly needed to break up a fistfight at the St. Cecilia Church polling place. … Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said in a statement Monday that “the delays experienced in Pawtucket on election day were unacceptable.”

Europe: Italy and Austria elections keep Europe on edge | Financial Times

Nationwide votes in Austria and Italy on December 4 are causing palpable anxiety in Europe that, as in the Chicken Licken folk tale, this will be the day when the sky starts falling. Austria will re-run its presidential election, which in May a far-right candidate came within a whisker of winning. Italy will hold a constitutional reforms referendum on which Matteo Renzi, prime minister, has staked his political prestige. Alarmists fear that victory for the Austrian far right and defeat for Mr Renzi will signal that Europe, no stranger to anti-establishment insurgencies, is being submerged by a populist tide washing in from the Atlantic. This tide swept Britons in June into voting to leave the EU and last week lifted Donald Trump to the US presidency. In the context of rising populism, Austria’s election is arguably the more worrying event. No European democracy has elected a far-right head of state since the second world war. The symbolism of such a breakthrough in Austria, annexed to Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945, would be immense.

The Gambia: Three journalists arrested in Gambia ahead of election | The Guardian

The director-general of the Gambia’s state TV and radio broadcaster, Momodou Sabally, was dimissed last week and immediately arrested by the security services on unspecified charges. Soon after, a reporter with the same broadcaster, GRTS, Bakary Fatty, was also detained by members of the national intelligence agency, reported Gainako. These arrests were followed by a third. Alhagie Manka, a documentary maker, TV director and and photojournalist, was taken into custody after taking photographs of a presidential motorcade. All three have yet to appear in court, which is said by Human Rights Watch (HRW), to be a violation of Gambian law.

Italy: With Populists Poised to Quash Italian Referendum, Renzi Takes a Page From Trump’s Playbook | Foreign Policy

Despite a year of protest votes and howls against politics-as-usual worldwide, Italy’s leader is praying voters next month will stick with the establishment. On Dec. 4, a referendum will be put to voters on a constitutional reform proposal by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The plan itself is a dry, domestic issue, but the vote is seen by many as a proxy on Renzi’s mandate after more than two years of governing. Now emboldened by Donald Trump’s big upset in the U.S. presidential election, Italy’s anti-establishment parties are sharpening their knives in hopes that an opportunity to move in for the kill is nigh. “This is a general ‘Fuck off,’’’ Beppe Grillo, spokesman of Italy’s growing Five Star Movement, said after Trump won the election. Writing on his popular blog, the former comedian predicted his growing political party would be next to ride to power on a wave of popular discontent: “We are the barbarians! The real idiots, populists and demagogues are the journalists and the establishment intellectuals,” he crowed. “There are similarities between this American story and the Movement.”