On Monday, Donald Trump’s election integrity commission paused its collection of voter data in response to the latest in a series of lawsuits and complaints alleging the controversial task force is breaking the law. The commission, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, recently asked every state for an immense amount of sensitive voter information. In its rush to get the data, it seems, the commission has ignored any number of statutes and agency rules, an oversight that could ultimately prevent the group from getting its hands on any of the information it wants. Monday’s abrupt halt in data collection is a direct response to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC alleges that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires federal agencies to establish adequate data protections before collecting personal information using information technology. Specifically, an agency must prepare and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment that explains its methodology, outline how it would secure its data, and state whether the data would be disclosed to others. EPIC claims the Pence-Kobach commission has ignored this safeguard while storing voter records on an unsecure system that is not designed to protect personal data. By doing so, EPIC insists, the commission has run afoul of federal law.
National: A Secretaries of State Meeting Used to Be Friendly. Then the White House Asked for Voter Data. | The New York Times
In the partisan battlefield of elective office, the National Association of Secretaries of State has always been a DMZ of sorts, an alliance of obscure officials who would rather talk charity regulations than politics, a conclave so committed to comity that it alternates its chair between Democrats (“a nonpartisan organization,” said Denise Merrell, the outgoing president) and Republicans (“we stand together,” said Connie Lawson, the incoming one). But as the group held its semiannual meeting here this weekend, a whiff of gunpowder wafted through the air. The secretaries had the bad timing to gather the week after the Presidential Advisory Commission on El ction Integrity asked them for reams of data on the nation’s 200 million registered voters, a request that might as well have been a political call to arms. News reports from Florida and Colorado stated that voters were asking to be removed from the rolls, fearing that their personal data would wind up in the wrong hands.
National: State election officials complain feds keep them in the dark on possible voting breaches | Associated Press
State election officials gathering this weekend amid an uproar over a White House commission investigating allegations of voter fraud and heightened concern about Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections say a lack of information from federal intelligence officials about attempts to breach voting systems across the country is a major concern. Both Republicans and Democrats gathered in Indianapolis for a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State say they are frustrated because they have been largely kept in the dark by federal officials. “The chief election official in each state should be told if there are potential breaches of that state’s data or potential intrusions,” said Republican Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
National: Trump’s plan to create a cybersecurity partnership with Putin draws ridicule from within his own party | Los Angeles Times
President Trump’s touting of a proposed partnership with Russia on cybersecurity drew withering reviews Sunday from lawmakers, including several from his own party, while the president’s aides were left struggling to answer questions about just how hard Trump pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Moscow’s meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election. Late Sunday, Trump appeared to back away from the cyber-partnership idea. Trump’s encounter with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday was his first meeting as president with the Russian leader. It came after months of controversy over Russian meddling and whether anyone close to Trump’s campaign had colluded in it.
Lost in the uproar last week over a written request by a White House commission for state voter registration lists was another letter sent that same day. It came from the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), and asked states for details on how they’re complying with a requirement in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) — also known as the motor-voter law — that election officials keep their voting lists accurate and up to date. The timing and focus of the two letters — one from the commission and the other from DOJ — has made some voter advocacy groups nervous about what the Trump administration is up to, and whether its ultimate goal is to weaken or revamp the motor voter law. “It’s very concerning,” said Brenda Wright, vice president of policy and legal strategies at Demos, a liberal advocacy group that’s been fighting state efforts to purge voters from the rolls. Wright notes that the main purpose of the motor voter law is to expand opportunities to register to vote, but that millions of eligible Americans are still unregistered.
Every state in the union was sent a letter last week seeking data from its voter rolls — including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliation and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. The request came from Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. States have responded in a variety of ways: About 20 have agreed to send publicly available data, including Kansas, where Kobach is secretary of state. Other states have said the commission can only have that data if they buy it. A few — including California and Mississippi — have said they won’t be complying with the request at all. The commission was created by President Trump to investigate improper and fraudulent voting — an issue the president has said he believes is widespread (most experts disagree). The states’ arguments against compliance with its request have centered on skepticism of the commission’s intentions, as well as issues of privacy and political autonomy. But experts who have worked with voter data said the letter raised some other red flags for them. They said that although the idea of compiling and analyzing voter data makes sense — states and academics have been working on it for years — they’re concerned that the commission may not be adequately prepared to do the data analysis work it seems to want to take on.
National: Even Some Republicans Balk at Trump’s Voter Data Request. Why the Uproar? | The New York Times
The political uproar over a White House commission’s request to state election officials for a trove of personal data on the nation’s voters continued as secretaries of state gathered for their annual meeting on Friday in Indianapolis. The panel was set up to investigate claims of voter fraud, which experts generally agree is rare, after President Trump claimed illegal voting had cost him the popular vote in November’s election, and it has come under attack by election officials from both parties. As of Thursday evening, 20 states and the District of Columbia had outright rejected the request by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which works to promote expanded access to the ballot. Most of the remaining states either said they were studying the request or agreed to provide only public information like lists of voters who are registered.
Even before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity raised alarms with its sweeping requests for state voter data, House Democrats rolled out legislation they hope will ensure the voting process is fair. One measure, introduced at a news conference on Capitol Hill on June 22, would restore voter protections across 13 mostly Southern states. Sponsored by Alabama’s Terri A. Sewell and Georgia’s John Lewis, a civil rights icon, the measure is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision. That ruling struck down provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required those states to seek federal approval before changing voter laws and also set a formula for determining which states would be subject to the law. …Another measure, introduced by Virginia Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., aims to end gerrymandering of House districts by using ranked-choice voting — where voters get to rank candidates rather than just pick one — and creating districts where more than one member represents a diverse group of constituents.
The government wants to know more about how we vote. No. President Trump authorized the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 election. Independent studies all have shown that voter fraud is either non-existent or is so slight that its effect is minimal. Nevertheless, Trump established the commission last month. Its report is expected in 2018. Studying election results is nothing new. Campaigns do it to see what worked and what didn’t. Most rely on public information for their research. This commission, however, goes a dangerous step beyond. Letters were sent out last week to all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking for evidence of voter fraud, convictions for election-related crimes and recommendations for preventing voter intimidation.
Colorado: Hundreds withdraw Colorado voter registrations in response to compliance with commission request | The Denver Channel
At least two Colorado county clerks say they’ve seen a large increase in the number of people who have withdrawn their state voter registration since Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he would send the Trump administration’s election integrity commission some voter-roll information in accordance with state law. Alton Dillard, a spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division, said 180 people have withdrawn their registration in the county since July 3. When compared to the eight people who withdrew their registration from June 26-29, it marks a 2,150 percent increase, according to Dillard.
Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel got 15 calls from voters wanting to “unregister” to vote after the state said it would comply with part of a federal commission’s request for voters’ personal data. Ultimately, he convinced all who called to stay on the voter rolls. He says concerns over personal data being given to the federal panel are overblown because the state is only giving what is already available to the public. “You can’t pick and choose which public-records requests you comply with because you’re not sure about what the person’s going to do with the information,” Ertel said. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Thursday wrote to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, saying the state couldn’t give partial Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, criminal histories or personal data for police officers, judges and prosecutors because such information was exempt from Florida’s public records laws.
An Iowa woman charged with voting twice for Donald Trump last fall has pleaded guilty to election misconduct. Court records show Terri Lynn Rote entered a plea on 27 June to the felony charge and a district court judge in Des Moines accepted the plea. Sentencing is set for 15 August. Rote, who is 56 and lives in Des Moines, told police she turned in two absentee ballots before the November election because she believed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was rigged and that her first ballot would be changed to a vote for Hillary Clinton. She was arrested on 21 October at a satellite voting station in Des Moines attempting to vote the second ballot.
Ohio: How Trump, Russia and purging voters is shaping the race for Ohio’s next elections chief | Akron Beacon Journal
Two of the three candidates to succeed Ohio’s current secretary of state support his decision not to release sensitive voter information to President Donald Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity. And the third, who would not comment for this story, is accusing her primary opponent of not being a loyal Republican because he criticized Trump in the election. The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, was formed by presidential decree in May after Trump repeatedly said he only lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of three to five million illegal votes. There’s no proof of such widespread voter fraud. On that, Rep. Kathleen Clyde and Sen. Frank LaRose, each a candidate for secretary of state, agree. “To say that there is massive widespread voter fraud is not correct in my assessment,” said LaRose, who didn’t mind “studying the issue.”
Ohio: Ken Blackwell, who accidentally released Social Security numbers is on Trump’s voter fraud panel | Los Angeles Times
The Republican gubernatorial primary was just weeks away, and then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had his sights set on securing the nomination. Blackwell had served as mayor of Cincinnati and state treasurer before becoming Ohio’s top elections official, so a bid for governor in 2006 seemed a logical next step in his political career. But in March of that year, his office caused a stir: The full Social Security numbers of 1.2 million Ohio voters were posted accidentally on the secretary of state’s website. A month later, in a separate incident, Blackwell’s office inadvertently distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters. The numbers, by law, are supposed to remain private. “It wasn’t good at all,” said former Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in an interview. “Sloppy … that’s what it was.”
In a confrontation six years in the making, a federal court in San Antonio will devote the upcoming week to a jam-packed trial that will determine whether Texans have been electing members of the U.S. House and Texas House in districts that discriminate against minority voters. If the challenge to the maps succeeds, many Texans can expect to be voting in new districts during the 2018 primary and general elections — giving Democratic candidates a boost in areas redrawn to give greater clout to Latino and African-American voters. The trial before a three-judge panel begins Monday. The days will be long, starting at 8 a.m. and ending about 6 p.m., and the testimony will include a dense blend of legal theory, statistical analysis and expert opinion.
One of the toughest voter ID laws in the country might soon be back in use, only this time with a stamp of approval from the Department of Justice. On Wednesday, the department submitted a brief to the U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, in support of the state’s Senate Bill 5. The legislation is currently facing a lawsuit in that court from plaintiffs who claim it discriminates on the grounds of race. In its current form, it requires voters to have an authorized photo ID—driver’s license, passport, military identification, or gun permit—or a signed affidavit and other identifying documentation, like a utility bill, in order to cast a ballot. This is the third time a Texas voter ID law has gone through the courts, each time through Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who in 2014 called a 2011 bill’s even stricter ID requirement—it didn’t offer affidavits as an option—a “poll tax without the tax.”
It’s hard to imagine that people thousands of miles away are able to sit at a computer and change the course of an election. But as we’ve seen in the United States, that’s not just a troubling concept, it’s a startling reality that has profound implications for voters, politicians, political parties and the media. When it comes to Canada, most experts agree it’s not a matter of if or even when (we experienced some limited interference in 2015), but of how badly nation-states, organized crime, activists and thrill seekers will want to sow chaos, confusion and manipulation.
The president of Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission said on Sunday that a vote to replace President Joseph Kabila will probably not be possible this year, violating a deal that let Kabila stay on past the end of his mandate. Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his second elected term in December sparked protests that killed dozens of people. The opposition quickly denounced commission president Corneille Nangaa’s announcement on Sunday as a declaration of “war”.
The Election Commission (EC) is expected to get delivery of around 30,000 voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) voting machines by the first week of September, enabling it to hold 100% paper trail-based assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the end of this year. The commission, which has a stock of 53,500 VVPAT machines, requires around 70,000 units for Gujarat polls and around 15,000 units to conduct Himachal Pradesh elections. The additional 30,000 machines will complete the requirement for two state polls.
Populist former martial arts star and businessman Khaltmaa Battulga has won Mongolia‘s presidential run-off election, according to voter data from the General Election Commission released on Saturday. The poll was seen as a referendum on the government’s economic recovery plans and the role of southern neighbour China in the landlocked but resource-rich country known as the birthplace of Mongol emperor Genghis Khan. Battulga, of the opposition Democratic Party, won with 50.6% of the vote on a 60.9% turnout, giving him the majority needed to overcome his opponent, said parliament speaker Miyeegombo Enkhbold of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party. Election officials are still, however, waiting on a final count of votes from abroad.
Members of an advisory committee assessing Papua New Guinea’s general election have resigned. This comes as polling is still in progress in some electorates, past its scheduled conclusion on Saturday. Polling could still take several more days to complete in an election full of disruptions. Yet counting is well advanced in a number of electorates, with at least one seat already declared – that of Tari Open in Hela province where the incumbent Finance Minister James Marape has swept to victory. The various complaints that have surfaced about electoral roll inconsistencies in Hela and other provinces are part of an area that the Electoral Advisory Committee was appointed to assess. The committee members were Chief Ombudsman nominee Richard Pagen, Transparency International nominee Richard Kassman and lawyer John Luluaki.
Russia is causing cyberspace mayhem and should face retaliation if it continues to undermine democratic institutions in the West, the former head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency said on Monday. Russia denies allegations from governments and intelligence services that it is behind a growing number of cyber attacks on commercial and political targets around the world, including the hackings of recent U.S. and French presidential election campaigns. Asked if the Russian authorities were a threat to the democratic process, Robert Hannigan, who stepped down as head of the UK’s intelligence service in March, said: “Yes … There is a disproportionate amount of mayhem in cyberspace coming from Russia from state activity.” In his first interview since leaving GCHQ, Hannigan told BBC radio that it was positive that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had publicly “called this out recently”.