National: Emails show Kobach crafting changes to federal voting law after Trump win | The Wichita Eagle

Kansas Secretary of Kris Kobach was developing federal legislation immediately after the November election to “make clear” that proof of citizenship voter registration requirements – like what Kansas has – would be permitted nationwide. Emails contained in court filings on Friday show that the day after the presidential election Kobach was already preparing changes to the National Voter Registration Act, commonly called the motor voter law, for the future administration of President Donald Trump. Kobach, who announced a bid for Kansas governor in June, began a Nov. 9 email by referencing draft legislation for submission to Congress early in the Trump administration. “I have already started regarding amendments to the NVRA to make clear that proof of citizenship requirements are permitted (based on my ongoing litigation with the ACLU over this), as well as legislation to stop the dozen states that are providing instate tuition to illegal aliens in violation of (federal law),” Kobach wrote.

National: NRCC blows off DCCC request to team up against foreign hackers | The Washington Post

The National Republican Congressional Committee dismissed as a “political stunt” a letter from its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, asking for the two parties to team up on combating hacking ahead of the 2018 election. “This letter was delivered by an intern and immediately leaked to the press to generate attention around a cheap political stunt,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said. “Cybersecurity is a high priority for us and has been for some time now. Unfortunately, the DCCC made it clear they’re more interested in trying to score political points than actually thwarting interference.” DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly quickly hit back. “This is a disturbingly flippant response to a simple request that we set partisan politics aside and work together to better protect our elections from foreign adversaries and their cyberattacks,” she told The Washington Post.

National: Bipartisan Group That Shares Voter Data Shames Trump Panel | NBC

The recent request from President Donald Trump’s vote fraud commission for a mountain of sensitive data from the states sparked a backlash and baffled many officials — not only because of concerns about privacy and security but because an organization already exists doing much of the same work. “There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel when we’re already here…and we do it very well,” said Shane Hamlin, executive director of the Election Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC. ERIC is a non-profit group currently made up of 20 states — both red and blue — and the District of Columbia that shares large amounts of sensitive voter data to root out possible fraud, ensure more accurate voter rolls and encourage registration.

National: White House releases sensitive personal information of voters worried about their sensitive personal information | The Washington Post

The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country. It further outraged voters by planning to post that information publicly. Voters directed that outrage toward the Trump White House and the voter commission, often using profanity-laced language in the 112 pages of emails released this week. “You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released,” one voter wrote. “Many people will get their identity stolen, which will harm the economy,” wrote another.

Editorials: Be wary: Trump and Putin could yet bring democracy to a halt | Joseph O’Neill/The Guardian

In November next year the United States will hold its midterm elections. Every seat in the House of Representatives, and a third of the seats in the Senate, will be up for grabs. For the Democratic party the elections represent a desperately anticipated opportunity to break the Republicans’ complete control of the federal government. If historical midterm trends and the voting patterns of recent special elections hold up, Democrats have a fighting chance of winning back the House, and an outside shot at the Senate. The Republicans will be more desperate than ever to retain their power. If the Democrats win just one chamber, the political landscape will be transformed. In addition to blocking the GOP’s legislative agenda, Democrats will forcefully scrutinise Russia’s interference with the 2016 elections and investigate President Trump’s remarkable commercialisation of his office. Impeachment of the Republican president will become a real possibility. Everything depends on the wishes of the American voters in 2018. Or does it? There is a third, even more momentous scenario: another Russian cyber-offensive sways the outcome of a US election in accordance with the wishes of Russia, not American voters. What is being done to prevent this?

Editorials: Don’t Let Our Democracy Collapse | Richard Hasen/The New York Times

The strength and integrity of the American electoral process are under tremendous strain, but the worst may be yet to come. In just the past few weeks, we learned that in the midst of the 2016 campaign the president’s eldest son, Donald J. Trump Jr., was willing to meet with a woman described to him as a “Russian government attorney” to get dirt on his father’s opponent. Voters across the country asked election officials to remove their names from voting rolls so that their personal information would not be turned over to the Orwellian Election Integrity commission that the president established to try to substantiate his outrageous and false charge that there were three million or more illegal voters in 2016. The president has stacked this commission with a rogues’ gallery of people with reputations for false and exaggerated claims of voter fraud. Democratic and Republican state officials have resisted the commission’s call to turn over voting lists.

Editorials: Russia will be back. Here’s how to hack-proof the next election. | Tom Donilon/The Washington Post

We now know that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a comprehensive effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. This mission involved the cybertheft and strategic publication of politically sensitive emails, the placement and amplification of misinformation on social media, overt propaganda and efforts to penetrate the systems of dozens of state election authorities. … First, President Trump must unequivocally acknowledgeRussia’s attack on the 2016 election and clearly state that any future attack on our democratic institutions will not be tolerated. One of the oddest aspects of the president’s foreign policy to date is his refusal to criticize — let alone condemn — Russian hostility, be it directed at our elections or Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan. The president continued to make inconsistent statements in Warsaw, claiming that “nobody really knows” whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. No president should accept the representations of a foreign adversary over the considered conclusions of his own intelligence services. In all events, the president should demand a plan from his national security team to deter and prevent election attacks.

California: Partisan rift opens over vote-by-mail law | San Francisco Chronicle

A dramatic change planned for California elections next year is morphing into a partisan battle over how the state’s ballots should be cast. When Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB450 in September, it was billed as a new way to boost California’s falling election turnout. Mailing a ballot to every voter in participating counties and replacing the traditional neighborhood polling places with a relative handful of community voting centers would cut costs and make it easier to cast a ballot. “This landmark law will provide voters more options for when, where and how they cast a ballot,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who sponsored what has been dubbed the California Voter’s Choice Act, said in a statement at the time. The bill, he said, “will increase civic participation and make our democracy stronger.” But Padilla was far less jolly last month after Orange County supervisors, worried about what they said was the potential for abuse, unanimously refused to sign on to his plan, dismissing it without discussion.

Colorado: Wayne Williams responds to Donald Trump’s voter election commission | The Denver Post

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams told the Trump administration in a letter dated Friday that the state’s election system works well and that a blanket request for voter information isn’t an effective way to seek out fraud. Williams’ nine-page response to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission includes several recommendations to improve elections and suggests that it look elsewhere in its mission to uncover wrongdoing. “While this data may serve a purpose,” Williams wrote in his letter to the commission Friday, “a single request for data that lacks the non-public data necessary to accurately match voters across states can’t be used to effectively assess the accuracy of voter rolls.”

Georgia: Secretary of State plans security changes | Associated Press

Georgia’s top elections official stood out by refusing help from the Department of Homeland Security last August amid national concerns about the integrity of U.S. elections. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp called it an attempted federal takeover and insisted his office was already protecting Georgia’s vote from hackers. That stance earned him national media coverage ahead of his campaign for governor. But Kemp’s assurances threatened to become a liability after new details emerged last month about major security mistakes at the center managing Georgia’s election technology. It turns out that the contractor left critical data wide open for months on the internet, and that for the second time under Kemp’s tenure, the personal information of every Georgia voter was exposed. With his critics demanding accountability, Kemp announced Friday that he plans to bring the center’s operations in-house within a year. His brief statement made no mention of the security flaws, saying “the ever-changing landscape of technology demands that we change with it.”

Voting Blogs: Why Do Georgia Election Officials Insist on 100% Unverifiable Elections? | BradBlog

“I worry that what we have here in Georgia is the Titanic Effect,” Georgia Tech Computer Scientist Richard DeMillo observed, regarding the myriad security issues revealed during the course of last month’s U.S. House Special Election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. “Georgia officials are convinced the state’s election system cannot be breached. Shades of the ‘unsinkable ship’. They have neglected to give us life boats…a fail-safe system designed so that in case of a catastrophe Georgia voters can easily verify that reported vote totals match voter intent. It is the sort of common-sense approach that first-year engineering students learn. Other states have that capability. Inexplicably, Georgia does not,” DeMillo said in a statement quoted in support of a legal challenge filed contesting the 100% unverifiable results of the June 20 contest. The computer scientist’s concerns are hardly the first expressed about Georgia’s absurd voting system. In fact, they cap well over a decade of chilling revelations, shocking vulnerabilities and dire warnings issued from the community of experts who have examined the Peach State’s voting system, including a number of those who installed it in the first place back in 2002.

Maine: Ranked choice voting stays alive in Maine for now | Associated Press

Ranked choice voting is unconstitutional, according to Maine’s Supreme Court, yet it’s still the law of the land. Lawmakers were recently unable to agree on modifying or killing the voter-approved law, meaning it stays on the books. It’s the option that several Democratic and Republican lawmakers and officials said no one wants, creating a blueprint for a possible lawsuit against the state. Ranked choice voting is when voters rank the candidates in order of preference instead of voting for a single candidate. Maine is the only state in the nation with such a system.

Maryland: Gerrymandering opponents highlight convoluted districts | Baltimore Sun

Though the drive from Mount Washington in Baltimore to Hunt Valley in Baltimore County spanned only 13 miles, the travelers passed through four different congressional districts. Members of the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other groups stopped at four different restaurants along the way Sunday afternoon to highlight what they characterized as Maryland’s extreme gerrymandering, in which boundaries of districts are manipulated to favor a specific incumbent or political party. Opponents of the practice said they felt the momentum was with them to start redrawing district lines to be more compact and fair. In Maryland, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. But with the map drawn in 2011 by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and legislative leaders, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state’s House delegation by seven to one.

South Carolina: Nearly 150,000 attempts to hack South Carolina voter registration system on Election Day: report | The Hill

Hackers tried to infiltrate South Carolina’s voter registration system nearly 150,000 times on Election Day 2016, according to a South Carolina State Election Commission report that was reported on by The Wall Street Journal. South Carolina, which President Trump won easily during the election, did not find evidence that would suggest the attempted breaches were successful, the paper reported. The publication said most of the hacking attempts in South Carolina likely came from automated computer bots.

Texas: As Texas redistricting trial ends, judges skeptical of state’s defense | The Texas Tribune

The state of Texas faced a healthy dose of judicial skepticism on Saturday as its lawyers laid out final arguments in a trial over whether lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting current Texas House and Congressional district maps. A three-judge panel peppered lawyers from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office with questions that suggested they were having trouble swallowing the state’s defense of its maps, premised on the argument that lawmakers were merely following court orders in creating them. The state Legislature adopted the maps in 2013 in an effort to half further legal challenges that began in 2011. In the final hours of six days of hearings, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said he saw “nothing in the record,” to suggest the 2013 Legislature, before approving the boundaries, considered fixing voting rights violations flagged by another federal court identified ahead of time. 

West Virginia: Mac Warner Wants Info on Russian Hacking in West Virginia Election | The Intelligencer

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is seeking national security clearance for himself and at least one of his office employees after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials told him the state’s election system was accessed by Russian hackers last year. Federal officials recently told Warner West Virginia’s voting system was among those in 21 states reached by Russian hackers last year. There is no evidence at the state level showing the system was hacked, or that any election information was accessed or altered, according to Warner. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have not been able to provide secretaries of state any detailed information about how the cyberattacks occurred because of high-level security issues, but Warner said security clearance and information about possible hackings is necessary for secretaries of state so these issues can be addressed and rectified.

Wisconsin: Redistricting case heads to Supreme Court with high stakes | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Wendy Sue Johnson can look out her bedroom window in the 91st Assembly District and see across her side yard into the 68th District. Her house was in the 68th until Wisconsin lawmakers redrew state legislative borders in 2011. Republicans, who had just won control of the Legislature, rearranged districts that year to maximize the number of seats their party would win. It worked. In 2012, Republican candidates collected 48.6 percent of all votes cast in Assembly elections, but they won 60 of 99 Assembly seats. Johnson is among 12 Democratic plaintiffs who challenged the constitutionality of the new map. A federal court agreed with them in November. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Wisconsin case in October, setting the stage for historic changes to a bedrock political process and the balance of power in state capitals.

Congo: Congo votes for parliament with opposition calling foul | AFP

Voters went to the polls in legislative elections in the oil-rich Republic of Congo on Sunday, the first since a violence-marred presidential poll last year which returned Denis Sassou Nguesso to power. The first round of polling to elect National Assembly members as well as local councils is taking place with the opposition calling foul, accusing the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) of giving its candidates an unfair advantage. Electoral officials said voting was nevertheless proceeding calmly although some polling stations opened more than a hour late because of a delay in receiving voting materials.

Germany: Anti-fake news lab yields mixed results |

With an election looming in September, fake news is big news in Germany. So concerned is the German government by a growing quantity of false and defamatory information online that it is going further than others in pressuring tech companies to better police their networks. Parliament approved a new law this month under which lawmakers could soon impose fines of up to €50 million on social media firms if they fail to remove criminal content like defamatory and hate-inciting posts quickly enough. “Something has changed,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament shortly after fake news played a prominent role in the U.S. election. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls … We must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.” It’s one thing to confront fake news and another to find a solution for it. Germany is hardly alone. Policymakers, the media and tech companies on both sides of the Atlantic have struggled for months now to improvise responses.

India: Postal ballots for Non-Resident Indians could be a reality | India Legal

Despite the Representation of the People Act allowing a Non Resident Indian (NRI) the right to enrol as a voter in India, he/she is not allowed to vote through postal ballots (like defence personnel) or through a more modern e-voting system. This denied them their fundamental rights. On Friday (July 14) the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre for this lapse and gave the government a week to decide whether the Act would be amended to allow such people to vote. The bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud studied a report of a panel headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi which said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre were, in fact, agreeable to the issue, but action has been missing in this regard.

Japan: Redistricting law to reduce lower house seats takes effect | Japan Today

A law to revise lower house electoral districts to reduce voting weight disparities between densely and sparsely populated constituencies took effect Sunday following a monthlong period to notify the public about the changes. The revised Public Offices Election Law reduced the number of lower house members elected from Aomori, Iwate, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Mie and Nara prefectures by one each, with another four seats cut from proportional representation blocks, shrinking the lower house to a postwar low of 465 seats. The amendment brings the maximum vote weight disparity between districts down to 1.999 to 1 — just under the 2-to-1 threshold that the Supreme Court has said would undermine the Japanese Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all under the law.

Rwanda: President Paul Kagame declares he’s won election a month before it’s held | The Independent

The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has claimed a win in next month’s election. He stated that the outcome of the vote was already known in 2015, when a petition to Parliament by 4 million people, changed the constitution, permitting him to run for office once more. “You can choose not to hear the truth but you cannot deny what your eyes show you here today,” he said, according to an ABC News report. “Pretending not to know the will expressed by the people during the referendum would be a lie, not democracy.” The 59-year-old head of RPF-Inkotanyi, the governing party, came to power 23 years ago. He is also backed by nine other political parties.

Venezuela: Venezuelans Rebuke Their President by a Staggering Margin | The New York Times

Millions of Venezuelans signaled their disapproval of President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to hold a constituent assembly by casting ballots on Sunday in a vote unlike any other in this nation’s history. More than 98 percent of voters sided with the opposition in answering three yes-or-no questions drafted with the aim of weakening Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy days before his constituent assembly is expected to convene. Opponents see the assembly as a power grab by an increasingly unpopular leader and fear he may use it to do away with democratic elections. Sunday’s exercise, known as a popular consultation, was organized by a slate of opposition parties that dominate Venezuela’s National Assembly.