House Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday on legislation to create an independent commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. A Democratic effort to force a vote failed, with only one Republican – Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina – joining them in a procedural vote that would have allowed them to bring up the bill. But Democrats also launched a petition Wednesday that would allow them to force a vote on the bill at a later date if they get a majority of lawmakers to sign on. “Today is a courage call for our Republican colleagues,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell of Calif., who co-authored the bill with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. “Can they — as we have done with past attacks against our country — can they put party aside, put our country first and unite with Democrats to say that never again will we tolerate an attack like this?”
The 2016 U.S. election constituted a watershed for democracies in the digital age. During the election cycle, fears proliferated among policymakers and the public that foreign actors could exploit cyber technologies [PDF] to tamper with voter registration, access voting machines, manipulate storage and transmission of results, and influence election outcomes. Russian information operations and disinformation on social media compounded these fears about election cybersecurity by raising questions about foreign interference with the election’s integrity. Similar worries have arisen with elections this year in France, Britain, and Germany, and the Netherlands opted to hand count ballots in its March election to prevent hacking from affecting the outcome. In May 3 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, James B. Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicated that Russia had tried to tamper with vote counts in other countries and that it might attempt to do the same in the United States in the future. Technical strategies [PDF] to protect election systems from cyber interference exist, such as stopping the use of voting machines connected by wireless networks and deploying machines that produce auditable paper trails. However, the events of 2016 demonstrate that more high-level political action is required to manage real and perceived cyber vulnerabilities in election systems.
Georgia: Watchdog: 6th District runoff latest skirmish in voting rights war | Atlanta Journal Constitution
These past two weeks have been great for shareholders in the clipboard industry as an army of volunteers canvassed Georgia’s 6th Congressional District registering voters ahead of the June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The last-minute push for new voters came as a result of a federal lawsuit brought against the state by a coalition of civil rights groups claiming the state violated federal law by closing down registration for the special election too early. The constitutionality of Georgia’s voter registration law is still undecided, but a federal judge issued an order reopening registration for the race for two weeks while the case grinds forward. The lawsuit is another salvo in the endless back-and-forth over voting rights in the state, a battle that has its roots in Georgia’s darkest history.
Voting Blogs: Hawaii Open Primary Case – The Political Parties and Their Problems | More Soft Money Hard Law
The Supreme Court has refused to review a Ninth Circuit ruling denying political parties the right to exclude nonmembers from participation in their primaries. Hawaii law requires an open primary, and under the Ninth Circuit decision, parties would bear the burden of showing that this requirement severely burdens their rights of association. In other words when parties must open their candidate selection processes to non-members, the infringement of that associational right is not, apparently, self-evident.
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday turned away challenges to open primaries in Hawaii and Montana. Bozeman attorney Matthew Monforton, who served as a Republican Legislator in 2015, concedes this is the end of the line for Montanans who support closed primaries: “This was our last shot. This was our last chance for Republican voters to take back their primaries and it will go nowhere from here on out.
Nevada: In spite of amendments, Democrats insist ex-felon voter rights idea ‘absolutely not’ dead | The Nevada Independent
A Democrat-backed bill that would have restored voter rights to some ex-felons was scaled back Wednesday to a measure changing eligibility requirements for criminal record-sealing, but sponsors say that doesn’t mean the controversial effort to restore voting rights for former prisoners is dead. In an unusual procedural move, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford’s bill SB125 — which had passed the Assembly Corrections, Parole and Probation Committee on May 9 — was sent back to the same committee Wednesday and the old vote was revoked. The scaled-back version of the bill was brought up for a new vote, and passed with one Republican, Assemblyman Ira Hansen, opposed.
A bill that has begun to move through the state Legislature would extend the period between primary and run-off elections in New York City from two to three weeks. Run-off contests are held when no candidate in a citywide primary receives at least 40 percent of the vote. The top two candidates then face each other in a run-off. They’ve caused some difficulty since the state switched to optical scan ballots in 2010, as it takes some time to print a new batch and reprogram the machines. Earlier this year, the city Board of Elections said it might need to rely on the state’s antiquated lever machines in order to deal with the quick turnaround.
The Texas Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in all elections. By a vote of 20-10, senators passed House Bill 25 over objections from Democrats who warned of unintended consequences — including a disproportionate impact on minority voters. “Frankly, I don’t see any purpose for this legislation other than trying to dilute the vote of Democrats and, more specifically, minorities,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
Washington: How Many Voters Could Automatic Voter Registration Add to the Voter Rolls in Washington State? | Sightline Institute
Oregon’s New Motor Voter law empowered more than a quarter-million voters in its first nine months. Six states plus Washington, DC, are now implementing automatic voter registration, including Alaska, which approved it by a landslide in November. Evergreen State readers may be wondering: What about Washington? Can’t we do that, too? Yes. But it’s complicated. The number of voting-age Washingtonians who are not registered to vote has grown steadily in the past few decades. Although more voters registered in 2016, nearly 1.3 million voting-age adults in Washington remain unregistered. Adding them to voter rolls once they prove their citizenship would ensure they receive mail-in ballots and can vote in future elections. Most registered voters cast ballots only some of the time, which is their choice. When Oregon introduced its automatic registration system this year, about a quarter of the automatically registered newcomers to the rolls cast ballots in November’s US election.
Iranians will be able to learn more about their presidential candidates with a simple swipe of their phone. A California-based NGO has helped to create a Tinder-like app for the Iranian smartphone market to provide unfettered information about the candidates ahead of Friday’s national elections. Creators and supporters of the app say it will help Iranian voters make informed choices away from the regime’s propaganda machine that controls the flow of information in Iran.
With no progress in sight for addressing the demands of agitating parties to ensure commencement of the second phase of local elections in Nepal, the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) has proposed to postpone it. RJP leaders proposed that the June 14, 2017 second phase of local body elections be postponed during a meeting with Nepali Congress leaders at the Nepali Congress parliamentary office in Singha Durbar. Rajendra Mahato, Leader, Rastriya Janata Party, said, “What we clearly stated to them was the need for creating a conducive environment for the holding of local elections in the Madhesh region. If a favorable environment is not created, then election cannot be held and the second phase election cannot commence under any circumstances in this condition.”
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that the upcoming general elections in 2018 will be held according to the new electoral reforms. Speaking after a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms in Islamabad on Tuesday, the federal minister said that contentious points will be further deliberated in the sub-committee on electoral reforms meeting to be held tomorrow (May 17th). He hoped that the sub-committee headed by Law Minister Zahid Hamid on draft Elections Bill, 2017 will submit its report before the next budget.
The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into “potential offences” by Leave.EU over its spending during last year’s EU referendum campaign. The campaign group, which was headed by Nigel Farage and the businessman Arron Banks, is understood to have worked with the data firm Cambridge Analytica, which uses social media to influence voters. Cambridge Analytica’s involvement was not declared to the election watchdog, which has concluded that Leave.EU has a case to answer. If the commission decides that political spending laws have been breached, it can report the campaign group to the police.
Zimbabwean demonstrators, many who had come from other regions of the UK, gathered at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. The demonstration was one of the cross-country series of protests for #Take2Zimbabwe lined up by Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO), Restoration Of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) and Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative (ZCI). This was the third of those planned for this year, after those held in London on the 18th and Birmingham on the 22nd of April. The main goals of these demonstrations is to fight for the right to vote, to highlight corruption, and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans working together in groups are getting involved and uniting through working in partnerships, hoping that these non-violent protests will turn into voting rights, recognitions of human rights and ultimately, a real democracy.