National: Mueller investigation into U.S. election meddling could draw focus to Russian organized crime | Associated Press

The U.S. government has long warned that Russian organized crime posed a threat to democratic institutions, including “criminally linked oligarchs” who might collude with the Russian government to undermine business competition. Those concerns, ever-present if not necessarily top priorities, are front and centre once more. An ongoing special counsel investigation is drawing attention to Russian efforts to meddle in democratic processes, the type of skulduggery that in the past has relied on hired hackers and outside criminals. It’s not clear how much the probe by former FBI Director Robert Mueller will centre on the criminal underbelly of Moscow, but he’s already picked some lawyers with experience fighting organized crime. And as the team looks for any financial entanglements of Trump associates and relationships with Russian officials, its focus could land again on the intertwining of Russia’s criminal operatives and its intelligence services.

National: Democrats: Did Americans help Russia hack the election? | Politico

The cascade of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election includes a darker undercurrent from some senior Democrats: What if Moscow had American help? Hillary Clinton, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have all stoked speculation that American insiders may have helped the Russians orchestrate their wide-ranging hacking and disinformation campaign — including with guidance on which political targets to exploit and what kinds of leaked information would most resonate with swing voters. The Democrats got backup from former FBI Director James Comey, who told lawmakers in June he was sure law enforcement would work to determine “if any Americans were part of helping the Russians.” But so far, no public evidence has surfaced that any Americans coordinated with Moscow’s digital army in selecting targets for hacking, strategically deploying the purloined documents for maximum political impact — a point echoed by research firms investigating the election-year hacks.

Editorials: On Independence Day, U.S. elections remain vulnerable | USA Today

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, it’s worth remembering that the right to vote in free and fair elections stands at the heart of that independence — and that this cherished right is under attack by a hostile foreign power. New revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election arrive regularly. Last month came news that Russian hackers had probed the voting networks in 21 states and had executed a cyberattack on a contractor that supplies voting software to states. “They will be back,” former FBI director James Comey warned in congressional testimony. In the face of this threat, the nation’s leaders, at the federal and state levels, have done little to harden defenses against future attacks. For the most part, President Trump has been in denial about Russian meddling, as if acknowledging the problem threatens the legitimacy of his election, and has focused instead on unproven allegations of extensive voter fraud.

Editorials: Congress should require paper voter ballots, electronic cybersecurity | Bruce Fein/Washington Times

Something is rotten in the state of our electronic voting practices. They are recklessly wandering towards online voting despite their high vulnerable to hacking and manipulation by cyberspace clowns, partisans, enemies, or all three. Congress should invoke its power under Article I, section 4 of the Constitution to require in federal elections use of paper ballots or electronic voting machines that produce voter-verified paper ballots. Congress should encourage States to do likewise for state elections through a federal grant-in-aid program. Firewalls should also be required between internet and voter registration, vote-tabulating machines, ballot delivery, and election management systems. Before certification of final election results, a random sample of electronic voting system totals should be compared with hand counts of the votes on the corresponding paper ballots to detect hacking or error. Elections are too important to be left to amateurs or to luck, which Congress seems not to understand.

Editorials: Trump’s next attack on democracy: mass voter suppression | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

The most important aspect of any democratic election is participation. A democracy gains its legitimacy through elections only so far as those elections represent the will of the people. Limit voter participation, and there is a direct correlation between the legitimacy of an election and the democratic system. President Trump and Vice-President Pence’s “election integrity” commission is unequivocally declaring war on voters – our democratic legitimacy be damned. The commission recently sent a letter to all 50 states asking that they provide all the names and associated birthdays, last four digits of social security numbers, addresses, political parties, and voting histories since 2006 of people on their voter rolls. This letter is helping to lay the groundwork for nationalized voter suppression. The commission is requesting the same information that Republican state governments have used to create hyper-partisan gerrymandering and enact restrictive voter ID laws. Such measures have been disturbingly successful at suppressing voting of minority and low-income citizens, groups that tend to vote with Democrats. This assault on voters might seem farfetched, except that we’ve seen this strategy too many times before to claim ignorance now.

Editorials: The Russians will be back: America’s election infrastructure is a sitting duck for foreign adversaries | Joe Mohen/Salon

Russia’s apparent attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election continues to make news. Some reports have suggested that voting systems were attacked — by unknown parties and in various ways — in at least 39 states. These attacks make it increasingly obvious just how vulnerable American voting systems are. This is not the first time our voting systems have been tested. After the 2000 presidential election, voting systems were updated to prevent simple counting errors. The margin of victory in Florida in the infamous 2000 presidential election was a mere 537 votes, less than the margin of error of the voting procedures then in use. We will never know who would have become president had the systems used at that time been more accurate. Less well known is that earlier that same year Al Gore won the first (and only) significant U.S. election ever run over the internet — the Arizona Democratic primary. My company at that time had been contracted to run that primary, and we assumed that every hacker in the world would be trying to sabotage that statewide election.

Delaware: Election Commissioner won’t hand over voter data to fraud commission | The News Journal

Delaware is refusing to deliver its voter registration data to the federal government. Delaware Secretary of State Jeffery Bullock recently received a letter from the White House asking for voter roll data, including names, birth dates, party affiliation, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history past 2006. This request comes from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was formed around President Trump’s unfounded assertion that millions of illegal votes were cast during the 2016 election. So far, nearly half the states have refused to comply, either fully or partly. 

Georgia: Voters, Colorado nonprofit sue to overturn special election results in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District | Colorado Politics

A group of Georgia voters and a Colorado-based watchdog organization filed a lawsuit late Monday asking a judge to overturn the results of last month’s 6th Congressional District special election and scrap the state’s voting system, Colorado Politics has learned. The complaint, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, alleges that state and local election officials ignored warnings for months that Georgia’s centralized election system — already known for potential security flaws and lacking a paper trail to verify results — had been compromised and left unprotected from intruders since at least last summer, casting doubt on Republican Karen Handel’s 3.8-point win over Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House race in the nation’s history. … The plaintiffs — including Colorado nonprofit Coalition for Good Governance and Georgia voters from both major political parties and a conservative third party — charge that recent revelations about a security hole on a computer server used to run Georgia elections only amplified longstanding concerns about the state’s antiquated voting equipment and its susceptibility to hackers. “We aren’t questioning one candidate over another,” lead plaintiff Donna Curling told Colorado Politics. “We’re saying it’s impossible to know.”

Georgia: Lawsuit Seeks to Void Georgia Congressional Election Results | Associated Press

Georgia’s electronic touchscreen voting system is so riddled with problems that the results of the most expensive House race in U.S. history should be tossed out and a new election held, according to a lawsuit filed by a government watchdog group and six Georgia voters. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Fulton County Superior Court by the Colorado-based Coalition for Good Governance and voters who are members of the group. It seeks to overturn the results of the June 20 runoff election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Handel was declared the winner with 52 percent of the vote to Ossoff’s 48. The named defendants include Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, members of the State Election Board, local election officials in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties and the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University.

Editorials: I’ve silenced Kris Kobach on the issue of voter fraud | Chad Lawhorn/ Lawrence Journal World

There are some who would say evoking silence from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is akin to a miracle. After all, despite the many criticisms of Kobach, he often isn’t shy to talk. He even has been known to provide information when he didn’t intend to. See a now infamous photo of him with a set of documents and then president-elect Trump. And when the subject is illegal voting, Kobach normally becomes like a “Game of Thrones” fan at a cocktail party. You need an actual wizard to get out of that conversation. But evidently that is not always the case. It has been a little more than four months since I first reported a potential voter fraud case involving Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern and his elderly mother. I’ve asked Kobach’s representatives approximately a half-dozen times for an update on the case. Most times, I haven’t even received a response from his office. I did on June 14. Spokeswoman Samantha Poetter sent me an email saying she expected to have an update for me later that day. That was the last I’ve heard from her, despite checking in several more times. Why is Kobach silent on the matter? I, of course, don’t know. I can only speculate. Fortunately, one of the perks of being an editor is you are allowed to do that.

Maryland: Maryland official resigns from Trump fraud panel | Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s deputy Secretary of State has resigned from a controversial Trump administration panel probing alleged voter fraud in last year’s presidential election. Deputy Secretary of State Luis E. Borunda, a former Baltimore County school board member, informed the Hogan administration Monday that he resigned from Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, according to Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer. Mayer said Borunda joined Trump’s 15-member bipartisan panel “on his own,” and was not appointed by the governor. “He informed our office he has resigned from the commission,” Mayer said. Borunda did not respond to a request for comment.

Massachusetts: Trial begins in ACLU suit challenging Massachusetts deadlines for voter registration | MassLive

A trial in a civil lawsuit that challenges the legality of Massachusetts to set a voter registration deadline prior to elections is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. The suit, filed last November by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, charges that the state laws requiring new voters to register with the local election office within 20 days of an election or primary is both unconstitutional and arbitrary. It charges that the deadline bars thousands of people from being able to vote each election. The trial is scheduled to open Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in the Suffolk County Courthouse. For now, the trial is scheduled to last three days although it could be extended.

Nebraska: Groups urge secretary of state to reject fraud commission’s request for voter data | Omaha World-Herald

A nonpartisan group that advocates on election issues is raising concerns about a federal commission’s request for voter information. Nebraskans for Civic Reform called into question the information that can be provided under Nebraska law and how the data might be used. The Lincoln-based group also questioned the role of a key member of President Donald Trump’s voting commission, which is tasked with investigating allegations of voter fraud. In a letter sent Monday, Nebraskans for Civic Reform and the ACLU of Nebraska urged Secretary of State John Gale to reject the commission’s request to “protect the integrity of our voting records and the personal privacy of countless Nebraska citizens.” Gale has not made a decision on the commission’s request, said spokeswoman Laura Strimple.

Texas: Why one of the largest counties in Texas is going back to paper ballots | The Texas Tribune

Frank Phillips spent last Wednesday staring down 600 boxes of election materials — voted ballots, blank ballots, precinct records — sitting in a warehouse run by Denton County. After sitting in storage for the legally required periods — up to nearly two years in some cases — the roughly 24,000 pounds of paper were finally ready to be shredded. Yet despite the hassle — and the significant cost — Phillips, Denton County’s elections administrator, is looking forward to this fall, when he will implement the county’s newest voting plan: a complete return to the paper ballot. The unusual move sets Denton, the ninth-largest county in Texas and one of the fastest-growing, apart from the state’s other biggest counties, which all use some form of electronic voting, according to data collected by the Secretary of State’s office. Both Bexar and Harris Counties, for example, have had all electronic voting systems in place for 15 years.

Utah: Ballot initiative forming to create independent commission to redraw political districts | The Salt Lake Tribune

Yet another voter initiative may be headed for the Utah ballot next year. While petition drives already are underway to ask voters to raise taxes for schools or allow medical marijuana use, another now is forming to create an independent redistricting commission. It would handle redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries after the 2020 Census — in the wake of allegations that gerrymandering by the Legislature last time gave Utah Republicans unfair advantages. The new drive is called the “Better Boundaries” initiative. A new political issues committee, Utahns for Responsive Government, has formed to push it and it expects to file papers within a few weeks to start collecting the required 113,143 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Vermont: Condos calls in attorney general to help find way to block Trump data grab | VTDigger

Secretary of State Jim Condos has stepped up his rebuff of the Trump administration, saying he won’t comply — for now — with the demand that secretaries of state nationwide provide voter information to a federal commission investigating claims of election fraud. The Election Integrity Commission on Wednesday asked for voters’ dates of birth, voter histories, party affiliations, felony convictions, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information, according to Condos’ office. Condos said last week that he is “bound by law” to provide limited information that is publicly available. But Monday, citing new information and a public outcry over the weekend, Condos issued a statement saying he wouldn’t send any information until receiving certain assurances from the Trump administration.

Wyoming: Secretary of State Won’t Release Voter Info to ‘Election Integrity’ Commission | Planet Jackson Hole

Wyoming voter information is safe from federal meddling. Republican Secretary of State Ed Murray announced Monday he will not provide voter info to President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “I am going to safeguard the privacy of Wyoming’s voters because of my strong belief in a citizen’s right of privacy,” Murray said in a statement. “I believe elections are the responsibility of the states under the United States Constitution and I do believe this request could lead to a federal overreach.” In his statement, Murray also noted skepticism about the commission’s intent: “I am not at all convinced that it has clearly stated its purpose is connected to the information requested.” … Wyoming is among 44 states that have refused to provide the commission with voter data, CNN reported Tuesday.

Australia: Potentially thousands of prisoners prevented from voting in federal elections, FOI documents reveal | ABC

Correctional services in Australia’s most populous states barred Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) staff from entering prisons to conduct voting in successive federal elections, new documents show. Potentially thousands of prisoners were prevented from voting in the 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections due to a failure to enrol them and register their ballots. The revelations come in the form of hundreds of AEC documents, including internal memos, emails and records, obtained by the ABC under freedom of information legislation. The documents show the AEC went to great lengths to ensure prisoners were correctly enrolled and equipped to vote, but the efforts had little effect.

France: In address before parliament at Versailles, Macron Calls for Changes to France’s Parliament, Voting | AFP

In his first address to members of the National Assembly and Senate since his election in May, Macron delivered a US-style state of the nation speech in the Versailles palace, the former seat of French kings, saying the country must change. “Until now, we were too often on the wrong track,” said the 39-year-old leader, who won office on a promise of political renewal. “We preferred procedures to results, rules to initiative, a society where you live off inherited wealth, to a just society.” He confirmed a plan to implement reform of France’s jaded political system, changes first raised during campaigning. That would include shrinking the number of lawmakers in both houses of parliament — 577 in the lower house National Assembly and 348 in the Senate — by a third, saying it would have “positive effects on the general quality of parliamentary work”.

Germany: Berlin braces for Russian meddling before September election | Financial Times

Berlin is braced for a possible Russian campaign aimed at damaging democracy in the run-up to September’s German election, officials warned on Tuesday, as they pointed the finger at several states for launching cyber attacks. Russia, China, Iran and Turkey are all accused of having targeted Germany in an annual government report on domestic and foreign security threats. The dangers range from the loss of sensitive data to the planting of delayed-action malware that could trigger “silent, ticking digital time bombs” primed to manipulate computers and sabotage infrastructure. The warning, a few days before G20 leaders are due to discuss global cyber threats, shows increasing international concern over cyber security but could also raise tension at the Hamburg summit, which Angela Merkel, German chancellor, is hosting.

Kenya: Human Rights Watch Reports Threats to Voters a Month Before Kenyan Election | VoA News

With Kenya’s general election five weeks away, Human Rights Watch says some communities in the Rift Valley region live in fear of attacks if they vote against the ruling Jubilee party, and some people have left after young men warned them to stay away from polling centers. The rights organization is calling on authorities to investigate and prosecute those behind the threats and intimidation. “We also had some direct threat of people telling their colleagues, ‘Let us wait for August 8. We shall see where you will go. We shall be coming for you.’ Those kinds of utterances,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Otisieno Namwaya. “So people are afraid, people are leaving. Some of the families told us they were waiting for the schools to close and they will leave the area.”

Turkey: Opposition leader launches court challenge as he marches to Istanbul | Reuters

Turkey’s main opposition leader launched a European court appeal on Tuesday over an April vote that granted President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers, stepping up his challenge to the government as he led a 425 km (265 mile) protest march. Erdogan accuses the protesters, marching from Ankara to Istanbul, of “acting together with terrorist groups”, referring to Kurdish militants and followers of a U.S.-based cleric who Ankara says was behind last year’s coup. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), hit back on Tuesday, defending his “justice march” and accusing the government of creating a one-party state in the wake of the failed putsch on July 15.