National: Why don’t more Americans vote? Maybe because they don’t trust U.S. elections. | The Washington Post

The U.S. election has reinforced concerns on all sides about problems of electoral integrity. During the campaign and even after his victory, Trump made claims about widespread voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights organizations accused GOP state houses of suppressing voters’ rights. Journalists criticized fake online stories. Election Day brought complaints about long wait lines and broken voting machines. Perhaps most seriously, the CIA and FBI reported that Russia attempted to influence the U.S. election through cyberattacks. Even before the Putin surprise, however, few Americans trusted the honesty of their elections. A Gallup poll two weeks before Election Day found that only one-third of Americans (35 percent) were “very confident” that their vote would be counted accurately. Even worse, when people around the world were asked how confident they were in the honesty of their elections, Gallup found that this year the United States ranked 90th out of 112 countries. Widespread belief that elections are rigged or stolen may seriously damage democracy. My research for “Why Electoral Integrity Matters” using the World Values Survey showed that when people believe that electoral malpractice is common, they are significantly less likely to vote.

National: Electoral integrity in all 50 US states, ranked by experts | Vox

Ever since the contested 2000 presidential election, the way that American elections are run has become increasingly partisan and contentious. The 2016 elections ratcheted up the number of complaints by all parties, yet there is heated disagreement about the nature of the problem — let alone potential solutions. For many years, the main complaint by the GOP has centered on alleged incidents of illegal fraud, in which it is claimed that ineligible people registered and cast ballots, for example non-US citizens and felons, or simply imposters voting more than once. Throughout the campaign Donald Trump stoked up the heated rhetoric by alleging that victory would be stolen from him. After he won the Electoral College vote, he claimed (falsely) that he also won the popular vote “if you deduct millions of people who voted illegally.” In fact, across the country, officials found next to no credible evidence for cases of voter fraud. For Democrats, by contrast, the main problem has been framed as one of the suppression of voting rights designed to depress legitimate citizen participation. Civil rights organizations routinely criticize attempts by GOP state legislatures to tighten voter ID requirements and restrict polling facilities, making it harder to vote, especially for minorities and the elderly. Here the evidence about the impact of implementing stricter registration requirements in depressing the vote is somewhat clearer, although debate continues about the size of the effect, among other questions.

National: Senate investigation of Russian hacking will be broad, going beyond 2016 elections | McClatchy DC

The Senate’s most powerful committee with oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies will meet mostly behind closed doors as it takes on a broad and serious investigation into “cyber activity directed against our nation by the Russian government,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, intelligence committee chairman, on Friday. Burr, who is North Carolina’s senior Republican senator, laid out in a news statement a lengthy description of the committee’s work ahead, which will be done by Democrats and Republicans, in nonpartisan fashion, he said. Officials who work for President Barack Obama, as well as members of President-elect Donald Trump’s team, could be called on to testify under oath in front of Congress on the issue of alleged Russian hacking and subsequent leaks. The hacking targeted the Democratic Party and, specifically, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

National: Stein pushes Justice Department for investigation of electoral system | The Hill

Jill Stein is continuing her push to investigate the integrity of the U.S. electoral system, with lawyers for the former Green Party presidential candidate asking Attorney General Loretta Lynch to probe the issue. “We write to urge the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the integrity of our nation’s election system generally, and our nation’s voting machines specifically, based on the information we discovered in the course of this representation,” reads the letter from Stein’s counsel dated Friday.

Editorials: Verifying vote should be norm | Lou Novak/The Detroit News

From the moment that Jill Stein requested a presidential recount in Michigan, Donald Trump and his Republican cronies have tried to thwart it at every turn. Despite their obstructionism, the recount began earlier this month but was stopped a few days later. The recount opponents prevailed after an onslaught of political maneuvers and lawsuits that finally found favor in the Republican bench of the Michigan Court of Appeals. It’s a sad day for our democracy when politicking prevails over ensuring the integrity of our election system. And in the media’s coverage of the political play-by-play, we missed the forest for the trees. Throughout this election, voters have endured implications, rumors, and outright accusations about a “rigged” system—vocalized frequently by none other than the president-elect himself, who then did an about-face and fought tooth and nail to prevent the verification of the vote.

Florida: State ‘radically out-of-step’ in denying felons right to vote, report says | Miami Herald

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice takes Florida to task for its law denying voting rights to felons unless they successfully navigate an arduous and lengthy process to get those rights back. The Brennan Center calls Florida’s law “radically out of step with policies around the rest of the country” and “one of the harshest laws in the nation.” The law needs to be replaced,the report said. According to the report, released this month, 1.6 million Floridians are denied voting rights because of the state law. Those residents represent more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. A disproportionate number, nearly one-third, are black. “Florida’s criminal disenfranchisement law is rooted in some of our country’s most discriminatory voting practices, and it continues to have its intended effects today,” said the report’s author, Erika Wood, a New York Law School professor and director of the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law. Read the full report

Michigan: Ballot cans must be replaced after recount problems | The Digital Reporter

After problems with the Branch County recount for the November Presidential election, there will be a change in how voted ballots are stored. Branch County Clerk Terry Kubasiak told township supervisors, this week, the County Board of Canvassers plans to ban the use of decades old metal vote cans for after election ballot storage. “The Bureau of Elections was there and pretty much told the Board of Canvassers they should not have certified (the ballot cans) the last time,” Kubasiak explained. That means each township must buy approved ballot bags. Branch County ballots went through a recount in Kalamazoo before courts ended the complete state recount of presidential ballots. Six of the 22 precincts could not be recounted.

Editorials: North Carolina no longer a democracy | Andrew Reynolds/News & Observer

In 2005, in the midst of a career of traveling around the world to help set up elections in some of the most challenging places on earth – Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Sudan and Yemen, among others – my Danish colleague, Jorgen Elklit, and I designed the first comprehensive method for evaluating the quality of elections around the world. Our system measured 50 moving parts of an election process and covered everything from the legal framework to the polling day and counting of ballots. In 2012 Elklit and I worked with Pippa Norris of Harvard University, who used the system as the cornerstone of the Electoral Integrity Project. Since then the EIP has measured 213 elections in 153 countries and is widely agreed to be the most accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place. When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.

Australia: Electoral Commission plans for voting with pens, not pencils | Sydney Morning Herald

Australian voters could soon use pens to vote at federal elections, as part of a plan to replace traditional ballot box pencils. Since 1902, electoral laws have required ballot boxes to be “furnished with a pencil for the use of voters”, but in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry the Australian Electoral Commission has asked to be given the option of voters using pens. The plans comes amid moves to replace pencils for voting in state and overseas elections, although Australians have always had the right to bring their own pen on election day. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has asked the inquiry, which is reviewing the July 2 federal election, to recommend the change to section 206 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as technology for counting votes continues to improve.

Ireland: Sinn Féin delegates take ‘One Irish citizen, One Vote’ drive to Dáil | Derry Journal

Councillors from Derry City and Strabane took their campaign for votes for all Irish citizens in future Irish Presidential elections to the Dáil just before it rose for Christmas. Local delegates protested outside the Dáil over the Dublin Government’s failure to implement a Constitutional Convention’s recommendation that it hold a referendum on voting rights for all Irish citizens regardless of where they were born. The protest followed a Sinn Féin motion passed by Derry City and Strabane District Council last month in support of votes for all Irish people.

Kenya: Opposition Vows to Protest Over Amendment of Electoral Laws |

Tension is rising in Kenya after the Jubilee administration and the opposition took hard-line positions on amendment of laws that will govern next year’s elections. The Jubilee side on Thursday forced the amendment to the Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2016 after the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) MPs walked out of Parliament Buildings, where a special sitting had been convened. This has set the stage for street protests and possible violence in the countdown to the elections, scheduled for August next year. The Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2016 had been passed in September after being drafted by a special joint parliamentary committee comprising Jubilee and Cord members. On voter verification and results transmission, the law provided that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) would carry out the verification of voters in all polling stations using biometric data for 30 days. This was to be done 90 days before the election.

Macedonia: Conservatives secure win after rerun | Associated Press

Macedonia’s conservatives, led by former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, secured victory on Sunday in a bitterly contested national election after a poll rerun in a single station did not give the leftist opposition enough votes to overtake their rivals. The rerun, in the northwestern village of Tearce, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital of Skopje, gave the opposition, led by the Social Democrats, 245 votes to 149 for the conservatives, led by Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party. There were 402 people voting out of 714 registered. The rerun had been ordered following complaints about voting irregularities from the opposition Social Democrats. The result has not been officially announced but has been posted on the website of Macedonia’s Election Commission.