During a lull between elections, the Supreme Court is taking on a hot-button political issue that could change the way legislative lines are drawn across the country. It’s called gerrymandering — a term that arises from a district shaped like a salamander that was drawn during the 1810 term of Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry. Two hundred years later, legal experts are still divided on the racial and partisan considerations at issue. Earlier this month, Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, tore up two congressional district maps in North Carolina, holding that they amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. “A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines,” she wrote, referencing a 1993 court standard, “unless it has a compelling reason.”
National: Rep. Adam Schiff says alleged Russian meddling in election was an effort to destroy American democracy | Los Angeles Times
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said Tuesday that the alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election was about far more than favoring one candidate over another. He said it was an effort to undermine the foundation of American democracy in order to prop up an authoritarian regime in Moscow. “Now if you look at this as just a one-off intervention, you might be inclined to dismiss the greater significance of it, or if you listen to the president, you might be inclined to dismiss this as simply efforts to relitigate a lost election,” Schiff told several hundred people at UC Irvine. “But the significance is really far greater. Quite separate and apart from the desire of the Russians to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton was a more fundamental objective, and that was really to tear down at our democracy.”
Editorials: Kobach ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Gets Fast Thumbs Down | Miles Rapoport/The American Prospect
The Kobach Commission (sometimes referred to as the Pence Commission) on voter fraud was created in the way so many things have been in the Trump administration. It started with an angry and completely unsubstantiated tweet, echoing a campaign trope, followed by public statements doubling down on the message, followed by a half-baked executive order. The Commission was created to investigate the allegations of Trump’s alternative universe, where massive voter fraud cost the president millions of votes. The true voter fraud—creating obstacles to the right to vote—is not part of its mandate. Kris Kobach is of course the perfect choice. As Kansas secretary of state, he has made his reputation seeking to make it as difficult as possible for people in Kansas to vote, and by fanning the fantasy of massive voter fraud.
Last week, more than 100 years late, Alabama took an important step toward excising a toxic slice of white supremacy from its Constitution and restoring voting rights to perhaps thousands of people, disproportionately black, with criminal records. At the state’s constitutional convention in 1901, lawmakers amended the Constitution to bar from voting anyone convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude.” They didn’t define the phrase, but they were crystal clear about its intent: to preserve “white supremacy in this state” and fight the “menace of Negro domination” at the ballot box, as the convention’s president said.
Georgia: Who gets to vote in 6th District? Politicians already decided | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Who gets to vote and who doesn’t in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is more than an accident of geography. It’s also the result of decades of political shenanigans by Democrats and Republicans alike. State legislators have dramatically redrawn the 6th District’s boundaries to gain political advantage, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. For decades, the district covered several counties west and southwest of Atlanta, all the way to the Alabama line. It never elected a Republican until 1978, when Newt Gingrich was elected to an open seat. But in 1991, Democrats tried to draw Gingrich out of his own district. They gave the 6th an entirely new footprint, centered on Cobb County.
Republicans and Democrats are ramping up their lobbying and public outreach efforts ahead of a pivotal New Hampshire House vote Thursday on a much-debated GOP voter identification reform bill. Republicans say it closes a “domicile loophole,” while Democrats say it’s an attempt to legislate “voter suppression.” House Majority Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, told WMUR he is confident the bill will “narrowly” pass the House, but a key conservative Republican lawmaker is not so sure.
North Carolina: Redistricting case involving 12th District returns to NC Supreme Court | Greensboro News & Record
The U.S. Supreme Court has told North Carolina’s top court to reconsider a redistricting lawsuit filed by Democrats and allies after the nation’s highest court struck down congressional districts as racial gerrymanders. The justices issued a two-sentence order Tuesday in the redistricting case that challenged 2011 congressional and General Assembly districts.
North Carolina: Hurricane, vote challenges prompt push for changes to North Carolina election rules | WRAL
Events from last fall might wind up being felt for years to come during North Carolina elections. The State Board of Elections has proposed several changes to elections rules following Hurricane Matthew and the contentious gubernatorial election. One proposed change would give the state elections director emergency authority to change election schedules following a natural disaster or a military conflict involving troop deployment.
Ohio: Redistricting reform amendment clears Ballot Board, can begin collecting signatures | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Supporters of an Ohio redistricting reform ballot initiative can begin collecting signatures to put the measure before voters next year. The Ohio Ballot Board on Tuesday certified the proposed Bipartisan Congressional Redistricting Reform Amendment as one ballot issue. The measure borrows much of its language from the 2015 ballot issue that made changes to the state legislative redistricting process. The League of Women Voters of Ohio and other supporters, calling themselves Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio, say the measure would rein in partisan gerrymandering when district lines are drawn, which happens every 10 years.
German intelligence has informed the United States that it is not looking for help staving off the same kind of election hacking attributed to Russia during the U.S. campaign, NBC News reported Tuesday. The refusal is “a sign of the lack of trust that seems to be growing between Germany and the United States,” NBC said. The German election pitting conservative Prime Minister Angela Merkel against her party’s center-left opposition is seen as a potential target for hacking efforts similar to those Russia used against the U.S. last year. The German opposition party, the Social Democrats, were thought to take a far gentler position against Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in the past, though candidate Martin Schulz has warned against the lifting of sanctions.
Iran’s election watchdog certified President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection as fair on Tuesday, dismissing claims by the defeated hardline candidate who had asked for investigation into alleged widespread fraud. “The Guardian Council confirmed today in a letter the results of the 12th presidential election in Iran,” Salman Samani, the spokesman of the interior ministry, was quoted as saying by the state media. Rouhani easily secured reelection for a second term in the May 19 vote, winning more than 57 percent of the vote. His main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, received 38 percent.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Tuesday that Italy’s largest parties agree on the need for a proportional representation electoral system and that a law to adapt it should be enacted in the first week of July. Renzi’s confirmation of the position of the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD), of which he is head, raised the chances of an early national election before one is due to be held in May 2018, political commentators said. Some commentators said an approval of a new electoral law in early July would raise the chances of an unprecedented autumn parliamentary vote, perhaps as early as September. Italy has never had a parliamentary election later than June.
Britons vote for a new government on June 8 and, until recently, election campaigns have been tightly controlled affairs with limits on how much parties can spend per constituency, the requirement to submit detailed accounts and no political advertising on television. But the rules don’t cover online advertising – allowing Facebook to cash in, having used the Conservative Party’s 2015 victory as a case study. The Electoral Commission, which exists to regulate elections, estimates that in the 2015 general election more than 99 per cent of spending on social media was with Facebook, with the Conservatives splashing out £1.21m, Labour £160,000, Ukip £91,000, the Liberal Democrats £22,245, the Green party £20,000 and the Scottish National party £5,466.
The national Constituent Assembly will be made up of 540 members, including representatives of regions and sectors.
Venezuelans hoping to become representatives in the national Constituent Assembly can now register, while nominations of candidates have been scheduled to take place between June 6 and 10, electoral authorities announced Tuesday. Tibisay Lucena, director of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela, known as CNE, detailed the timeline and opened the floor to questions about the new voting process during a press conference in Caracas.
It’s time to fix the voting process. American voting systems have improved in recent years, but they collectively remain a giant mess. Voting is controlled by states, and typically administered by counties and local governments. Voting laws differ depending on where you are. Voting machines vary, too; there’s no standard system for the nation. Accountability is a crapshoot. In some jurisdictions, voters use machines that create electronic tallies with no “paper trail”—that is, no tangible evidence whatsoever that the voter’s choices were honored. A “recount” in such places means asking the machine whether it was right the first time. We need to fix all of this. But state and local governments are perpetually cash-starved, and politicians refuse to spend the money that would be required to do it.
Editorials: Supreme Court strikes a crucial blow against racial gerrymandering — but bigger battles lie ahead | Paul Rosenberg/Salon
In the 2012 House elections, Democratic candidates got 1.4 million more votes than Republicans (roughly 59.6 million to 58.2 million), but won 33 fewer congressional seats, the result of a highly coordinated GOP effort to raise political gerrymandering to a level never seen before. On May 22, the Supreme Court handed down a significant decision, in a case called Cooper v. Harris, that could help chip away at that anti-democratic success. Two even more significant cases could come to fruition in the coming months. Former Attorney General Eric Holder called the Cooper decision “a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering.” Holder, who now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, went on to say, “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation. Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”
Alabama has a new law that prohibits voters from switching their political party allegiance between a primary and subsequent runoff. Alabama does not require primary voters to register with a political party. The crossover voting ban is an attempt to prevent voters of one political party from trying to meddle in another party’s runoff – although there is a dispute about how much that actually happens. “If you vote in one party’s primary, you can’t switch to the other’s runoff,” state Sen. Tom Whatley, the sponsor of the bill.
A Pima County Superior Court judge has ruled that ballot images produced by local voting equipment are “exempt from disclosure by Arizona election law.” In August 2016, county resident Richard Hernandez filed a complaint asking that digital ballot images from the upcoming primary election be preserved. It was then the county election department’s policy to delete those images, which are used to tally votes by the new system. A judge soon granted a temporary injunction mandating that the county cease deleting the images. In his May 24 ruling, Judge Richard Gordon made that injunction permanent, but also — citing the Arizona Constitution’s requirement of “secrecy in voting” and recent legislation — ruled that both ballots and images of them are exempt “from public disclosure.”
Evan Low knows about getting involved in politics at an early age. Elected to the state Assembly in 2014, he became the youngest Asian-American legislator in California’s history. Now he’s working to challenge another governmental age restriction: lowering the statewide voting age to 17. “I chair the elections committee,” Low (D-Campbell) told San Jose Inside. “My focus has been on the electoral process. As a millennial and a political science teacher, this issue is near and dear to me.”
A bill that would automatically register Illinoisans to vote when they visit a Secretary of State’s Office passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Monday. Senate Bill 1933 would allow qualified residents to be registered to vote when they visit driver’s services offices and other state agencies. Residents would have the option to opt out of the registration. Earlier this month, the bill passed without opposition within the Senate.
Maryland: Everyone in Maryland says they want redistricting reform. Here’s why it won’t happen. | The Washington Post
Maryland’s elected leaders seem unlikely to negotiate a deal this year to end partisan gerrymandering, despite overwhelming public support for redistricting reform, pressure from citizen groups to reach a compromise, and a federal lawsuit that could force the state to overhaul its voting maps for upcoming elections. More than two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed plans to pursue a regional redistricting compact and insisted that Maryland should act alone, the state’s top Republican and Democratic officials remain sharply divided on the issue and have made no efforts to merge their proposals. “Pulling these parties together could be the trickiest piece,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, which is urging the two sides to meet this summer and hammer out an agreement before next year’s legislative session.
The majority of Gallatin County voters did not agree with the rest of the state’s decision Thursday to elect Republican candidate Greg Gianforte to the lone congressional seat, according to election results on the secretary of state’s website. Final results show the county was in favor of Cut Bank Democratic candidate Rob Quist, who earned a 14-point win in the Republican candidate’s backyard. Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks had 4 percent of the vote in Gallatin County. In total, Gallatin had 76,633 registered voters, according to the secretary of state’s website. Charlotte Mills, clerk and recorder for Gallatin County, said 35,491 absentee ballots were cast and a little more than 6,000 voters went to the polls.
North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature has worked steadily and forcefully during the past seven years to tilt the state’s election system in its favor, using voting restrictions, favorable district maps and a slew of new policies that lawmakers say are aimed at reducing voter fraud. But at every turn, Democrats and voting rights advocates have stymied their plans, dragging them to court and condemning the GOP actions as discriminatory against the state’s minorities. Instead of giving up — even after two major defeats this month in the U.S. Supreme Court — North Carolina’s Republican leaders are working to push the battle over the ballot box into a new phase.
If judges sign off on Republican legislation that curtails the new governor’s control over state and local elections, future balloting could be wracked with confusion, unethical politicians could go unpunished and campaign finance tricks could continue unabated, Democratic lawyers contend. A three-judge panel of state trial judges on Thursday starts hearing arguments about whether it’s constitutional for GOP legislators to end the century-old control governors had of overseeing elections now that a rival, new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, is in office.
The Texas House and Senate have approved a deal to relax the state’s voter identification requirements, meaning the closely watched legislation now only awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval. The Republican is expected to sign Senate Bill 5, capping a flurry of late activity that pushed the legislation to the finish line after some state leaders feared its demise — and legal consequences from inaction. The House approved the compromise bill Sunday in a 92-56 vote — one day after the Senate backed the deal along party lines.Sen. Joan Huffman’s bill, which would soften voter ID requirements once considered strictest in the nation, responds to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters.
A bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott last week that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in Texas. But opponents say the legislation could be headed to court. Texas is one of 10 states that provide the option of voting for one party straight down the ballot. Proponents say it makes voting easier and reduces wait times at the polls. Critics say it makes voters less engaged with down-ballot local races. According to a study from Austin Community College’s Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, straight-ticket voting made up nearly two-thirds of votes cast in the 2016 election. … Erin Lunceford, a Republican who also ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in Harris County, called herself a “poster child for why straight-ticket voting is bad for Texas.” “It results in the election of less qualified, experienced judges,” she told a hearing on House Bill 25.
The internet and social media pose an unprecedented threat to Australia’s democratic systems and an urgent response is needed to safeguard against attacks, according to a new report. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report drew on case studies from the US and found technology had enabled malicious foreign forces to potentially influence elections on a “scale and scope previously unseen”. “Two critical elements of the democratic process are under assault,” said the report’s author, Zoe Hawkins. “The security of our election infrastructure — think hacked voting machines — and the integrity of our public debates — think fake news.
Transparency International has pledged a rapid assessment of potential irregularities in Sunday’s commune elections by sending 1,100 observers across Cambodia—including, if needed, by boat and helicopter. At a news conference in Phnom Penh on Monday, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said USAID had donated nearly $200,000 to fund the Election Day operations, in which a sample of 410 polling stations out of 22,148 would be observed. The plan was to produce a report more quickly than other organizations carrying out comprehensive assessments, Mr. Kol said.
Somalia’s Supreme Court has nullified several seats of the Lower House chamber considered to be rigged during the parliamentary electoral process in the regional states last year, Garowe Online reports. A total of 8 seats were ordered for re-contest for failing to adhere to the rules of the electoral process, ruling in favor of the appellants who filed for complains against the voting results.
DEFCON, the world’s longest running and largest underground hacking conference, has announced that the subject of this summer’s meeting will be voting machines. Hackers will attempt to compromise voting machines from a variety of perspectives: remote attacks, hardware and software vulnerabilities and potentials available to insiders with physical access to the equipment.
The Atlantic posted an extensive article on risk-limiting audits, which offer a simple low-tech way of verifying the accuracy of software-generated vote counts. In a risk-limiting audit a random sample of ballots is chosen and then hand-counted. That sample, plus a little applied math, can tell us whether the machines picked the right winner. Since risk-limiting audits verify elections while minimizing the number of audited ballots, they are both inexpensive and speedy. They largely eliminate the need for emergency recruitment of recount workers and can be conducted before the election must be certified by law.
Barbara Simons penned an oped in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune calling for the elimination of all internet voting and paperless voting machines. Simons notes that “[d]espite a decade of warnings from computer security experts, 33 states allow internet voting for some or all voters, and a quarter of our country still votes on computerized, paperless voting machines that cannot be recounted and for which there have been demonstrated hacks.”
The Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers had violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race in drawing them. The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their purpose in drawing the maps was not racial discrimination but partisan advantage. Richard Hasen notes that two footnotes in Justice Kagan’s opinion provide a useful tool for voting rights advocates and may limit legislators’ attempts to hide behind claims of partisan motivation to protect themselves from racial gerrymandering claims.
A lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court, argues that Georgia’s voting infrastructure is too old, unreliable and vulnerable to be used without a forensic review of its operating systems. The suit notes that most recently Fulton experienced a technical problem April 18 that delayed reporting of election results because of what officials called a “rare error” involving a voting memory card that didn’t properly upload its tallies.
Ina unanimous decision Maine’s high court ruled that the state’s ranked-choice voting system is unconstitutional, throwing the voter-approved law into jeopardy ahead of the 2018 election when it was supposed to be implemented. After the court decision the state legislature approved the introduction of two competing bills that address ranked-choice voting – one would repeal the first-in-the-nation voting law and the other would put a ballot question to voters on whether to change the state’s constitution to make it legal statewide.
Under legislation approved Tuesday by the Michigan State Senate, fees for long-shot election recounts would double. The move was prompted by the partially successful effort of Green Party nominee Jill Stein for a manual recount of last November’s election. Responding to court rulings that current voter id requirements discriminate against black and Latino voters, the Texas House approved legislation to overhaul the law.
Wisconsin’s attorney general on Monday asked the US Supreme Court to block a ruling that would force lawmakers to draw new legislative maps by November 1, contending legislators should not have to draw new lines unless the Supreme Court agrees with the three-judge panel that the existing maps are unconstitutional.
The Maltese government claims that it has come under attack from a Russian-backed campaign to undermine it, amid worsening relations with the Kremlin. Since Malta assumed the presidency of Europe’s Council of Ministers in January, the government’s IT systems have seen a rise in phishing, DDoS and malware attacks.
Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned, paving the way for Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to form the next government as per their agreement last year. Results of the first local elections in 20 years held on May 14 have still not been announced. The second vote is scheduled for June 14, but analysts question whether a new government will be able to pass the constitutional amendments in time or have enough time to prepare for second round elections.