For all the uncertainty surrounding the Trump campaign’s associations with Russia, one thing remains clear: A foreign power interfered in the US presidential race, with hackers targeting the election systems of 21 states to do so. And yet the government has done precious little to keep it from happening again. The inaction stems not from laziness or ignorance but a deep, possibly unbridgeable divide between state and federal powers. So far this year, a handful of special elections in the US have gone smoothly, but the threat from Russia still looms, especially as the 2018 midterm races approach. France recently saw Kremlin-led meddling in its own presidential contest, and Germany has expressed fears over its upcoming election as well. Alarmism may not be productive, but states do have reason to worry. Local officials, though, have bristled at the Department of Homeland Security’s move to designate election systems as “critical infrastructure,” a move designed to unlock resources for system defense upgrades and improve state–federal communication. Everyone agrees that security matters; how to get there is another matter entirely.
Still smarting from a backlash by state election officials, the White House panel investigating claims of voter fraud and other irregularities was hit with a salvo of lawsuits on Monday that accused it of violating federal privacy laws and illegally operating in secret. Three lawsuits, filed separately by civil rights groups, underscored the depth of opposition by the Trump administration’s critics to the panel, the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, even before it formally meets. The commission’s official mandate is to look at flaws in federal voting systems and practices that could encourage fraud and undermine public confidence in elections. But advocacy groups and many Democratic leaders have called it a Potemkin exercise intended to validate President Trump’s groundless claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him a popular-vote victory in November. The true goal, they say, is to lay the groundwork for Congress to place strict qualifications on registering and voting that would primarily suppress opposition to Republican candidates for office.
We are proud to announce that Colorado has chosen Free & Fair to build a risk-limiting audit (RLA) system to be used statewide beginning with the November 2017 general election. First developed in 2008, RLAs promote evidence-based confidence in election outcomes by comparing a random sampling of paper ballots to their corresponding digital versions. This will be the first time anywhere in the United States that risk-limiting audits are conducted on a regular, statewide basis. Free & Fair has already prototyped an open source risk-limiting audit tool called OpenRLA, for RLAs of election contests in single jurisdictions. The production RLA system being developed for Colorado will facilitate statewide, multi-county and individual county audits. Like OpenRLA, the RLA system developed for Colorado will be released under an open source license (GPL Version 3). Risk-limiting audits provide strong statistical evidence that a jurisdiction’s voting system accurately interpreted and tabulated voter markings on paper ballots, with relatively little hand counting. The “risk limit” is the largest chance that an outcome-changing error in the initial tabulation will not be discovered and corrected in the audit. If the risk limit is 5% and the outcome wouldn’t match the result of a full, accurate count of the paper ballots, there is at least a 95% chance that the audit will correct the outcome.
Georgia: State to shift elections work in-house, away from Kennesaw State | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia, for the first time in more than a decade, has decided to move all its elections work in-house after a series of security lapses forced it to step away from its longtime relationship with the beleaguered elections center at Kennesaw State University.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and university officials both confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the two entities have signed a final contract good through June 2018. For the first time, however, it includes a provision for either party to terminate it midstream. That’s because the office over the next year will build its own team to run Georgia’s elections — work the KSU center has done for the past 15 years. ”Today my office and Kennesaw State University executed what will be the final contract between our two entities related to the Center for Election Systems,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement to the AJC. “The ever-changing landscape of technology demands that we change with it.
Eight months ahead of the 2018 primaries, Texas and its legal foes on Monday will kick off a week-long trial that could shake up races across the state. The state and minority rights groups have been squabbling for six years over new political district boundaries drawn following the 2010 census. As part of a long-winding legal battle, a panel of three federal judges this week will reconvene in a federal courthouse here to consider the validity of the state’s political maps and whether changes should quickly be made to the state’s House and Congressional boundaries ahead of the midterm elections. At issue is whether the current boundaries violate the voting rights of millions of Texans of color.
Wisconsin’s legislature is preparing to vote on a pair of bills that would enact stricter standards for election recounts. The impetus for this legislation was Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s successful recount petition after her distant finish in last year’s presidential election. “The situation that we had last fall, with somebody who finished way back in the pack requesting a recount was, I believe, the first time anything like that has ever happened,” Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney told WhoWhatWhy. Under Assembly Bill 153 and Senate Bill 102, candidates cannot request recounts unless they finish within one percent of the winner. The proposal would also reduce the time available for candidates to petition for recounts.
Kenya experienced a remarkable, if seemingly coincidental, series of events this weekend. Nine people were beheaded by suspected al-Shabaab militants. The Secretary of Internal Security died suddenly. President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared to accuse the judiciary of meddling in the elections. And the opposition leader Raila Odinga was briefly hospitalised. All just a month before Kenya heads to the polls on 8 August in what is anticipated to be a tense vote. … The event this weekend with perhaps the most long-term effects on the elections was a decision by the high court and the president’s subsequent response. On Friday, the court nullified the tender to print ballot papers, which had been awarded to a Dubai-based firm. The opposition claimed that the company has ties to Kenyatta. In their ruling, the judges did not refer to any such connections, but stated that “the failure to consult all the presidential candidates was unfair” and concluded that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had not carried out the tender adequately. The court ordered that the process be restarted.
International election observers have said problems with the electoral roll in Papua New Guinea that prevented thousands of people from voting are “widespread”. In its interim statement, the Commonwealth Observer Group called for an urgent review after the election to improve the accuracy of the roll. Elections are in their third week and while polling continues in a small number of areas, the counting of ballots has started in others. Thousands of people were prevented from voting because their names were not on the electoral roll, despite saying they had registered. The Commonwealth Observer Group sent teams to 12 provinces to monitor the polling. The group’s chairman, Sir Anand Satyanand, said his observers found the problem was “widespread”.
When President Donald Trump’s “voter fraud panel” holds its first meeting on July 19, members of the public won’t be able to speak. Instead, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which has enraged and frightened plenty of Americans by requesting detailed data on every registered voter in the country, offered to take comments via email. And comment people did. As of Thursday afternoon, 112 pages of responses were available on the White House website — and if the feds set up a swear jar, the U.S. just might be on its way to paying off that national debt. Descriptions of the controversial panel and its aims included “pea brained,” “undemocratic,” “stupid” and “unpatriotic.” And that was the clean stuff.
There is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally in November’s presidential election, depriving Donald Trump of a popular-vote win over his opponent, Hillary Clinton. But that’s exactly what Trump contends. And now a new commission, created by a Trump executive order, is tasked with investigating the issue. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity hasn’t begun its work, and the 15 members of the panel, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, are still being appointed. But its existence has taken to the extreme what was already a volatile, fiercely partisan issue: voter fraud. Few in Washington, outside Trump’s official spokespeople, agree with the president’s assertion that “millions” voted illegally in the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyers have said that “all available evidence suggests the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.
Critics of President Donald Trump say his son’s emails about meeting a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton is a “smoking gun.”But defenders of the president and Donald Trump Jr. said the meeting, which took place last year as the race between Trump and Clinton was gearing up, amounted to “nothing” and was being overblown by the media.Among those whose job is to decide which side is right is the Federal Election Commission. The FEC is set to again consider in an open meeting July 13 what can be done to protect U.S. elections from interference by Russia and other foreign powers. The FEC is not expected, however, to directly address the newly revealed Trump meeting or other specific cases. The commission already had more than a dozen pending cases about foreign influence in last year’s elections when the news broke about Donald Trump Jr.’s meting with the Russian, leading inevitably to even more new enforcement complaints. The commission, however is as deeply divided along partisan lines as is the rest of America and has yet to signal what, if anything, it will do about these matters.
The common refrain floating around Washington argues that Russian operatives hoping to target American voters with fake news about Hilary Clinton would need someone on the inside—like, say, a Trump campaign staffer—to tell them which voters to target. Representative Adam Schiff raised the prospect in a widely-shared McClatchy article published Wednesday, which reported that the team led by Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice-appointed special counsel, is investigating ties between the Trump digital operation and Russia. Senator Mark Warner made a similar suggestion in an interview with Pod Save America recently, asking if the Russians could, on their own, “know how to target states and levels of voters” that Democrats weren’t even targeting. It’s a question worth asking, certainly. But the answer may be far simpler—and less fishy—than Warner, Schiff, or the many Americans seeking a smoking gun in the Russian meddling investigation might expect. It also may be even more worrisome. One of the most alarming parts of this story is that in this day and age, bad actors wouldn’t even need a mole to launch a pointed propaganda campaign. The fact is, targeting voters with propaganda isn’t that hard.
Editorials: Russia may sabotage the next election, too. What will Trump and Republicans do about it? | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post
With President Trump continuing to claim the Russia scandal is a “hoax,” this question deserves more attention: What will Trump and Republicans do about the likelihood that Russia will attempt to undermine our elections again next time? Democrats are now taking new steps to increase the pressure on Republicans to take this prospect a lot more seriously. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which oversees House races, has issued a formal request to its Republican counterpart, asking it to join in showing a “united front” and creating a “joint plan” against any Russian efforts to undermine the 2018 elections, I’ve learned.
In recent weeks, our nation and our democracy were attacked by our own government. Donald Trump’s “voter integrity” commission demanded each state hand over the names, addresses, and social security numbers of millions of Americans citizens. Led by state secretaries of State, more than 40 states said “no” in whole or part to Trump’s effort. Just two weeks ago we learned of another unprecedented attack on our nation and our great democracy. Department of Homeland Security officials testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian agents attempted to hack the election systems of 21 states in advance of the 2016 elections. An earlier report by Bloomberg found that the election systems of up to 39 states were hacked by Russia.
The Arizona Republican Party sent out an email Wednesday — and a similar tweet last week — that is raising some eyebrows about both the method and the timing. The blast email was titled, in screaming all-caps, “IMPORTANT INFO MISSING” and tells the reader that their “voter profile status has been marked incomplete.” It then directs the reader to fill out a form “in the next 24 hours to remain active in our system.” The email is clearly marked with the state GOP logo and is signed by the Arizona Republican Party. It was sent to the party’s general subscriber list. Communications Director Torunn Sinclair declined to say how many people received it.
Nearly 3,400 Coloradans canceled their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration’s request for voter info, the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Thursday, providing the first statewide glimpse at the extent of the withdrawals. The 3,394 cancellations represent a vanishingly small percentage of the electorate — 0.09 percent of the state’s 3.7 million registered voters. But the figure is striking nonetheless, with some county election officials reporting that they’ve never seen anything quite like it in their careers. The withdrawals began in earnest earlier this month, after a presidential advisory commission on election integrity requested publicly available voter information from all 50 states.
Local elections officials are trying to talk voters out of unregistering, as privacy concerns continue to mount in response to a special commission created by President Donald Trump. Fears about data breaches and identity theft — or flat-out aversion to what many perceive as a Big Brother-ish information gathering activity — continued even as a representative of the commission on Monday told state officials not to provide the voter data previously requested. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner was among the state officials who received the missive from Andrew Kossack, the designated federal officer for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
Kansans who registered to vote at the DMV or otherwise used the federal voter registration form are eligible to vote in all races, according to court rulings, whether they’ve provided a citizenship document or not. But those voters might have been confused by inconsistencies on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s website. On Tuesday, the deadline to register to vote in the primary elections on August 1, the website had contained some conflicting information on the Kansas proof-of-citizenship rule. In accordance with a federal court order issued last October, some parts of the KSSOS.org site, and associated state websites, have been updated. The new language clarifies that voters using the federal registration form aren’t currently subject to the proof-of-citizenship rule and can vote in all races.
In July 2013, North Carolina lawmakers passed the Voter Information Verification Act – known more commonly as voter ID. It’s a controversial law that was ultimately struck down in federal court for being unconstitutional. Nearly four years later, state legislators are now working on another voter ID bill that would be taken to voters as a constitutional amendment, according to sources. Republicans widely support voter ID, and Democrats – making up a small minority – would likely not be needed to approve a measure. “We are a hundred percent committed to the idea of voter ID and we are still working out the logistics of what we believe to be the most sure-fired way to get voter ID implemented that will withstand the inevitable challenges that will come from the left,” said David Lewis (R-Harnett), the Rules Chairman of the North Carolina House.
US Virgin Islands: Elections Board Compelled to Certify Sarauw’s Election When It Meets in Two Weeks | St. Croix Source
The St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections must certify the April 8 special election results, according to a judge’s order, clearing the way for Janelle Sarauw to take the vacant seat in the V.I. Senate. Board members said Thursday they will deal with the issue in two weeks. According to a short ruling issued Thursday by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay, Sarauw had “no other means” of obtaining emergency relief and is therefore entitled mandamus relief.
When former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned on June 30, he sent state officials scrambling to organize Utah’s first congressional special election in 87 years. Now, counties must cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected costs to pay for it. As counties gear up for the Aug. 15 GOP primary, they’re estimating it will cost more than $675,000 to host the special election, particularly in areas that otherwise wouldn’t be holding municipal primaries. … With more than 60 percent of 3rd District voters, Utah County will eat the majority of the cost — which Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson says will be paid for out of the county’s “rainy day” fund.
Five African presidents with a collective 90 years of leadership under their belt are meant to hold elections in the next five months. Among them, only Joseph Kabila, who “inherited” the presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo from his assassinated presidential father in 2001, is ducking the challenge, claiming his country is too broke to organise a poll. Four out of five, as they say, ain’t bad. The elections that will take place — starting with Rwanda on August 4, followed by Kenya, Angola and Liberia — tell the variegated story of African democracy. Two of the four, those in Kenya and Liberia, will be genuinely competitive and fiercely fought. The other two, in Rwanda and Angola, will be walkovers for the dominant ruling parties, though in Angola, President José Eduardo dos Santos is calling it a day — after 37 years. He has already anointed João Lourenço, defence minister, as his replacement.
The deputy leader of an Australian political party announced Friday that he was ending his nine-year career in Parliament because he had discovered he had technically never been a senator. Scott Ludlam, the 47-year-old deputy leader of the minor Greens party, said he was “personally devastated” to learn that he was a citizen of New Zealand as well as Australia, which made him ineligible for the Senate job he has held since July 2008. The constitution states that a “citizen of a foreign power” is not eligible to be elected to the Australian Parliament. … Born in in Palmerston North in New Zealand, Ludlam moved to Perth, Australia, when was 3 years old. He became an Australian as a teenager and said he hadn’t realized that New Zealand citizenship “might be something that sticks to you in that way.”
A Melanesian Spearhead Group observer team says all polling stations it visited in Papua New Guinea’s election had too many incidences of names missing from the common roll. The MSG observers have issued an interim statement, as the vote counting stage of PNG’s lengthy election is underway across the country. It said “the 2017 PNG National Elections were fully embraced by PNG citizens, even though it presented many challenges”. In all the polling stations that were visited by the seven MSG observers, the voters were described as “excited to participate in the election” but many found their names had dropped off the roll, or not been added.
Rwanda: Savior or Dictator? Government Critics Challenge Rwanda’s One-Party State and President Ahead of Election | Newsweek
Sitting outside his grocery shop in the Nyabugogo slum in Kigali, Rwanda, in June, Francis Nduwimana described his longing for a change in leadership in the presidential election on August 4. “We are tired of Kagame, but we cannot express our views openly,” said Nduwimana, an ethnic Hutu, in his vernacular language of Kinyarwanda. “If you criticize him, you will be accused by the government agencies of dividing the country, and you will either be imprisoned or killed. ”As Rwandan President Paul Kagame — an ethnic Tutsi who has been in power since 2000 — runs for another seven-year term, many Rwandans, particularly ethnic Hutus, share Nduwimana’s fear. They see a government that is crushing dissent ahead of the election. And they worry that their country is turning into a one-party state: Following a 2015 referendum to extend term limits, Kagame can now legally remain in power until 2034. Seventeen years is a long time for one leader to run a country, but not everyone in Rwanda is ready for change. Many would like to see Kagame in power as long as possible.