Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rejecting bipartisan calls for a special committee to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. election, which American intelligence says was aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The likely meddling by Russia “is a serious issue, but it doesn’t require a select committee,” said McConnell, R-Ky. The Senate intelligence committee is able to investigate the matter, he added. CIA Director John Brennan has said the intelligence community is in agreement that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, although there’s no evidence Moscow succeeded in helping Trump win. “There’s no question that the Russians were messing around in our election,” McConnell told Kentucky Educational Television on Monday night. “It is a matter of genuine concern and it needs to be investigated.”
The seven so-called “faithless” votes cast by members of the Electoral College on Monday may go down as a noisy footnote to an otherwise chaotic 2016 election. But they also represent a historic breach between electors and the candidates they were expected to vote for. The number of faithless votes has now become the most-ever cast in a single presidential election. The record was set in 1808, when six Democratic-Republican electors opposed James Madison. It’s also the first time since 1832 in which more than a single elector cast a faithless vote. The bulk of the votes came from Washington state, where three Democratic electors bucked Hillary Clinton and cast votes for Colin Powell, a retired general, an African-American — and a Republican. These Democrats were supporting a failed effort meant to block the election of Donald Trump and unite behind an alternative Republican candidate. Powell turned out to be their choice.
As the votes continue to be counted in states with Voter ID laws, it seems increasingly likely that they played a role — perhaps even a decisive one — in Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in key swing states. One city that has attracted special scrutiny is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. Wisconsin saw its lowest voter turnout in 20 years during the 2016 presidential election, with voter turnout dropping by 41,000 from the previous presidential election in Milwaukee amidst numerous reports that minority citizens were unable to vote. Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes. “I believe it was voter suppression laws from the state government that crushed turnout,” said Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki, one of two officials who oversees local elections, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “They tend to hit hardest on people who are poor, who don’t drive and don’t have a license, who are minorities.”voter id, voter suppression
The 538 members of the Electoral College convened Monday and cast a majority of their votes for Donald Trump for president and Mike Pence for vice president. When Congress convenes on Jan. 6 to count the votes, it will mostly be a formality. But its decision to count or exclude the votes of some “faithless electors” will set a precedent for future elections. Faithless electors are those who are supposed to vote for the candidates named on the ballot but instead vote for someone else. States faced a number of faithless electors this year, mostly one-time supporters of Bernie Sanders. Democratic Party electors in Minnesota and Colorado were replaced when they attempted to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton. A Maine elector attempted to vote for Mr. Sanders; his vote was ruled improper, and he changed his vote to Mrs. Clinton. A Hawaii elector broke a state pledge and voted for Mr. Sanders. Four Washington state electors violated a state pledge and cast three votes for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle. Two Republican electors in Texas cast votes for Ron Paul and John Kasich. It is now the duty of Congress, which holds power under the Twelfth Amendment, to determine how to count the electoral votes from the several states.
By overwhelming majorities, Americans would prefer to elect the president by direct popular vote, not filtered through the antiquated mechanism of the Electoral College. They understand, on a gut level, the basic fairness of awarding the nation’s highest office on the same basis as every other elected office — to the person who gets the most votes. But for now, the presidency is still decided by 538 electors. And on Monday, despite much talk in recent weeks about urging those electors to block Donald Trump from the White House, a majority did as expected and cast their ballots for him — a result Congress will ratify next month. And so for the second time in 16 years, the candidate who lost the popular vote has won the presidency. Unlike 2000, it wasn’t even close. Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump by more than 2.8 million votes, or 2.1 percent of the electorate. That’s a wider margin than 10 winning candidates enjoyed and the biggest deficit for an incoming president since the 19th century. Yes, Mr. Trump won under the rules, but the rules should change so that a presidential election reflects the will of Americans and promotes a more participatory democracy.
Editorials: American democracy is being derailed. Can faith be restored? | Richard Wolffe/The Guardian
Now that the electoral college has formally selected the next president of the United States, it’s worth taking a deep breath and asking: what kind of democracy do we live in? The will of the people ought to be clear after an election. But as 2016 draws to a close, there are deeply troubling signs that American democracy – after 227 years of seeking a more perfect union – has left the rails. It turns out it’s possible to win the governorship in North Carolina but find the job is stripped of power before you’re sworn into office. And across the nation, we abide by the archaic rules of an electoral college that has all but renounced its first responsibility: to elect someone fit to be president. The Founders may have wanted to prevent demagogues from taking power, but party hacks ignored all that original intent. It makes you wonder why the candidates and voters abide by the rules of a game that nobody is interested in playing.
About 75 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the November election last month in Arizona. But, that doesn’t take into account the number of eligible voters who are actually registered. Add in that only about two-thirds of people who could vote register and, suddenly, voter-turnout numbers can seem pretty low. One way that some states are hoping to get more people to participate in elections is by automatically registering them to vote. “Some states — Alabama, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia — have created new laws that say anyone that’s eligible that’s in our motor-vehicle database will automatically be a registered voter, if they’re not already in the system,” according to Alberto Olivas, executive director of the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service at Arizona State University. “And then those people will get a notice, and they can decide to opt out of the system.”
A push to bring early voting to Connecticut — and send long lines at many polling locations the way of mechanical voting machines — is regaining momentum. State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, this week introduced a bill, the first of the upcoming legislative session, to amend the state constitution to allow for early voting. A similar measure was defeated by voters in 2014 during a public referendum, despite support from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s top election official, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who are both Democrats. Tong said it’s high time that Connecticut join 37 other states that allow anyone to cast their ballots before the election, not just those who meet the guidelines for obtaining an absentee ballot. The initiative comes after a record 1.7 million ballots were cast statewide in the November election, with long lines observed in many municipalities such as Bridgeport, Stamford, Fairfield, Milford, Norwalk and Danbury.
The First District Court of Appeal has denied an appeal by three Central Florida voters to overturn a trial court’s ruling dismissing their suit. The court also denied their request to stay Monday’s electoral vote until the recount could take place. The DCA also struck down their motion to appeal the lower court’s ruling denying their motions to overturn the election results and order a recount. “Plaintiffs ask the Florida judicial system to shut down the presidential electoral process at this point to allow their elaborate recount lawsuit to proceed,” Judge Scott. Makar wrote in his concurring opinion, issued Friday. “The trial court’s thorough order, however, is eminently correct: no colorable basis exists for the relief that Plaintiffs seek,” Makar wrote. “At best, Plaintiffs raise political questions that no court — state or federal– can resolve….”
Ohioans can register to vote online starting Jan. 1, an effort that could save the state millions of dollars, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted. Currently 31 states and Washington, D.C., allow voters to register online. “Raise a glass of champagne, offer a toast, get online and register to vote,” Husted said in a statement Tuesday. Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 63, allowing online registration, back in June, but it is just now taking effect in time for the upcoming local elections in 2017. The decision was made not to have the law take effect before the 2016 presidential election. “The world is moving online,” state Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, said on Tuesday. “More and more people look to do as much of their business online as they can because it’s convenient.”
Canada: Federal government wants expat voting rights case adjourned due to proposed legislation | The Globe and Mail
Proposed legislation granting long-term Canadian expats the right to vote will render a court fight over the issue moot, the federal government argues in new filings. As a result, the government is calling for a year-long adjournment of a Supreme Court of Canada hearing – set for February – in which two expats were expected to challenge parts of the Canada Elections Act that have disenfranchised them. “If Bill C-33 is enacted in its current form, the appellants will have the right to vote in future elections,” the government says in its motion to the chief justice. “An adjournment of the appeal is warranted to allow Parliament to debate and consider the bill.” At issue in the legal battle is a ban on Canadians’ voting in federal elections if they have lived abroad more than five years. Ontario’s top court has upheld the restriction as constitutional, prompting the pending the Supreme Court challenge.
Gambia’s president-elect says he is ready to take office in January despite the refusal by the West African country’s longtime ruler to accept his election loss. “On the day his term expires, my term as the lawful president of the Gambia begins,” Adama Barrow said in a statement late Sunday. “This is the law of the land. My status as incoming president has unquestionable constitutional legitimacy.” President Yahya Jammeh, who at first surprised Gambians by conceding defeat after 22 years in power, a week later announced that he had changed his mind. He alleges voting irregularities that make the December 1 ballot invalid.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s ruling coalition won an almost two-thirds majority in parliament, while the victory of a record 75 independent candidates showed growing discontent with the government and the opposition. Ouattara’s Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace won 167 of the 255 seats contested in Sunday’s election, Youssouf Bakayoko, head of the electoral commission, told reporters in the commercial capital, Abidjan. It was the second parliamentary vote since the president took office five years ago after almost a decade of conflict. The Front Populaire Ivoirien party, which ruled from 2000 to 2010 and boycotted the last legislative ballot, took only three seats. Two smaller parties won nine seats between them while voter turnout was 34 percent, Bakayoko said.
On Sunday, Macedonia is set to re-run the December 11 general election in a single polling station – which could change the overall election result by potentially evening out the number of seats won by the ruling and opposition parties. Macedonia’s Administrative Court on Tuesday accepted one electoral complaint filed by the opposition Social Democratic Union, SDSM as a result of which the December 11 general election will be re-run in a single polling station, number 2011, in the north western municipality of Tearce. This single re-run could alter the number of seats won in parliament by the two main parties on December 11 from 51-49 in favour of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party to 50-50 with the SDSM.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has announced that Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. would have no role in the ongoing diagnostics of the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Comelec chair Andres Bautista said the poll body opted not to adopt the plan of previous election officials to involve Smartmatic in the diagnostics project involving around 81,896 PCOS machines. Bautista explained that the Comelec is not obliged to include the technology provider, which served in that capacity in the last three automated national and local polls. “The PCOS machines came from Smartmatic, but it is already the property of the Comelec and the government of the Philippines,” he said.
By now, the basic facts of the case appear largely settled: hackers working in coördination with—or on direct orders from—Vladimir Putin’s government broke into the e-mail accounts of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, passing the contents to WikiLeaks, which published them in slow drips over the summer and fall. Clinton, of course, lost last month’s Presidential election; Democrats quickly seized on the hacks, and the media coverage of them, to help explain the outcome. Anonymous sources at the C.I.A.—and, later, the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies—told the Washington Post that aiding Trump’s candidacy was exactly the point of the Russian operation. Yet many important questions remain unanswered. What was the ultimate effect of the Russian hacks? Why did the Russians do it, and how, in his final days in office, should Barack Obama respond? The first question may ultimately be unknowable. Clinton, who won the popular vote by 2.86 million votes, lost the Electoral College thanks to margins of less than a per cent in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. During a recent appearance on “Meet the Press,” Podesta avoided the question of whether he thought the election had been “free and fair,” saying only that it had been “distorted by the Russian intervention.” But was that distortion in fact decisive? To isolate the WikiLeaks e-mails to explain Clinton’s narrow loss is to elevate their importance above a host of other factors, including the Clinton campaign’s weaknesses, Trump’s genuine appeal as a candidate, as well as the diminishing power of political parties and the national press that covers them. (Not to mention the last-minute, whiplash letters from James Comey, the director of the F.B.I.)