Since 2000, no fewer than three blue-ribbon commissions have been convened after contentious elections to examine what went wrong during the vote and how future elections might be improved. The one that assembles on Wednesday, in a rococo 19th-century office building just steps from the White House, bears no resemblance to any of them. For one thing, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, begins public life saddled with at least seven lawsuits challenging its conduct, its transparency and even its reason for being. Two more complaints have been filed with federal agencies against two of the commission’s 12 members. For another, a broad range of experts and ordinary citizens already has written off its legitimacy. They charge that it is less an inquiry into voting fraud and faith in honest elections — its stated purposes — than an effort to bolster President Trump’s baseless claim that illegally cast ballots robbed him of a popular vote victory in November. And they say such an inflated conclusion could give Republicans in Congress ammunition to enact federal legislation curbing the ability of minorities, the poor and other Democratic-leaning groups to register and cast ballots.
A federal judge has turned down an effort to force President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission to open its first official meeting to in-person, public attendance and to force disclosure of more records about the group’s work. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said there wasn’t enough indication that the panel planned to defy a federal sunshine law, particularly after the commission published thousands of pages of information online and announced plans to make more data public in a timely fashion. Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling said there was no sign that the commission’s procedures were impeding public debate about its actions, particularly a hotly-debated request that states turn over public voter registration data for study by the panel.
National: Trump’s voter commission hasn’t even met — and it’s already off to a rough start | The Washington Post
A commission set to convene Wednesday to advise President Trump on “election integrity” includes the publisher of “Alien Invasion II,” a report on undocumented immigrants who mysteriously showed up on the voter rolls in Virginia. Another member is known for scanning obituaries in his West Virginia county to make sure dead people are promptly deleted from voter lists. Another championed some of the strictest voter identification laws in the country during her days in the Indiana legislature. And yet another warned nearly a decade ago of the “possibility for voter fraud on a scale never seen before in this country.” During his tenure as Ohio secretary of state, the Social Security numbers of 1.2 million state voters were accidentally posted on the agency’s website.
Since President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission was last in court, the commission has announced plans to dramatically alter how it plans to collect state voter information in an attempt to avoid a potential legal ruling that could require it to conduct a privacy assessment before collecting the data. The plan, more or less, is to have a few people on the White House staff conduct all of the work of the commission in order to help maintain a legal argument that the “sole function” of the commission is to advise the president. The commission is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. On Monday, Charles Christopher Herndon, the director of White House Information Technology, laid out how limited that would be in a declaration submitted in the case brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The Executive Committee for Information Technology will have no role in this data collection process. The U.S. Digital Service (which is within the Office of Management and Budget) will also have no role, nor will any federal agency,” Herndon wrote. “The only people who will assist are a limited number of my technical staff from the White House Office of Administration.”
National: Former Clinton and Romney campaign chiefs join forces to fight election hacking | The Washington Post
The former managers of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are leading a new initiative called “Defending Digital Democracy” in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them. “The Russian influence campaign was one of the most significant national security events in the last decade, and it’s a near-certainty that all the other bad guys saw that and will try to do something similar in the United States in 2018 and 2020,” said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center, which launches the initiative Tuesday.
The writers of Article I Sec. 2 of the Constitution, which mandates a census every ten years, did not have satellite analysis and probabilistic sampling in mind. Neither did they imagine a United States with more than 325 million people spread across the fourth largest country on Earth. But having created a system that ties representation to population, certainly they understood that the seemingly simple question of how to count Americans would be a political battleground. The results of the U.S. census are far more important than most Americans realize. Census data are the starting point for redistricting and reapportionment – adding and removing House districts from states as population changes dictate – not to mention the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. Housing assistance, highway maintenance and Medicare/Medicaid are just three examples of programs that distribute federal dollars to states in the form of grants based on census results. Undercounting populations guarantees that over the next decade, states will be strapped for funding in these areas. And that is likely to happen if Republicans in Congress get their way. Under cover of the non-stop Trump circus, they are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that the 2020 census fails – and fails to their advantage.
Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday he will not hand over detailed voter information to President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud as part of a settlement with the Idaho Democratic Party. Idaho now joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia also refusing to comply with the commission’s request. Many others plan to provide only limited publicly available information. “We are very pleased to tell Idahoans that we have protected their privacy by negotiating for an agreement that Secretary Denney will not send the voter information sought by the Trump Commission,” said Bert Marley, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party. Idaho Democratic officials sued Denney earlier this month arguing that the commission’s probe is illegal because Idaho law bans releasing private information for commercial use.
Illinois: State lawmaker concerned about proposed tweak to nursing home voter registration | Illinois News Network
A state representative has some questions about a proposed change to Illinois election law that would allow for more grace-period voter registration at nursing homes. Senate Bill 1479 passed both chambers in May and was sent to the governor last month. It would enhance grace-period voter registration and changes of address for eligible residents at nursing homes. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, was the only lawmaker in the House to raise questions before it passed in May. “You can easily have [nursing home residents] double registered and anytime you have somebody double registered you have the propensity for possible fraud to occur,” Ives said. “They should have the same voting rights as everybody else, but they should have no more voting rights than anybody else either.”
Supporters of legislative redistricting reform vowed to tackle the issue during the next Indiana General Assembly as about 90 people gathered for a rally Monday at the Statehouse. “We need Hoosiers in every corner of the state to talk about this issue, raise their voices up and demand that we, your representatives, strengthen our democracy by ending gerrymandering,” said State Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis. Currently, the Indiana Legislature conducts redistricting at the start of each decade, typically based on an advisory commission’s recommendations. Critics say the lines are drawn to support political parties.
Asbury Park’s Wali Mohammed injured in a car accident was among the 16 million Americans with disabilities who voted in last year’s presidential election, according to a new Rutgers University study. Mohammed says he physically goes to vote in all elections with hope for those sworn in to office. “I just don’t believe they know the struggles that a person with all disabilities, I don’t care what kind of disability, I don’t think they know what they go through every day just to get up in this chair, just to move around,” said Mohammed. Rutgers Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse crunched Census Bureau data and found more than 62 percent of registered voters without disabilities voted in the November 8th election and nearly 56 percent with disabilities voted.
Pennsylvania: 90 billion: The number of times hackers have tried to infiltrate Pennsylvania computer systems | PennLive
Hackers last year made more than 90 billion cyber intrusion attempts against the Commonwealth, according to a state official. As a security precaution the state is withholding information on the number of attempts against specific applications. Wanda Murren, press secretary for the state Department of State, said that such disclosure could potentially provide useful information to hackers and draw attention to the application, resulting in even more intrusion attempts. … The 90 billion figure applies to all computer systems and applications in use by all Commonwealth agencies and offices. But the accounting comes as local and state election systems across the country remain under scrutiny amid reports that scores of them were compromised during the election. The state Department of State declined to provide specific numbers on intrusion attempts against Pennsylvania’s voter registration system.
Federal courts should trust Texas to properly educate voters on new ID rules ahead of the 2018 elections instead of insisting that money be spent on a marketing campaign, President Trump’s justice department argued in a filing Monday. The filing, part of the Trump administration’s recent support for Texas in its years-long battle over the state’s 2011 voter ID law, comes despite widespread criticism of Texas’ voter education efforts ahead of the 2016 election. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is considering what, if any, consequences Texas should face following her April ruling that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters by passing the nation’s strictest voter ID law six years ago.
Angola has rejected conditions demanded by an EU election observer mission that had been preparing to witness next month’s polls in the country, state media reported on Monday. The European team had called for unfettered access to polling stations across the vast southern African nation during the August 23 vote. “So this is Africa. And we do not expect anyone to impose on us their means of observing elections or to give lectures,” said Foreign Minister Georges Chicoti according to the Journal de Angola newspaper. “The invitation stands. But we do not want to have separate agreements with all of the organisations (sending observers).”
Two Australian politicians have been forced to leave their seats in the Senate after they discovered they were ineligible to stand because they held dual citizenship with other countries. Greens senator Larissa Waters resigned on Tuesday after revealing she also held Canadian citizenship, days after her party colleague Scott Ludlam was forced to step down after discovering he held dual citizenship with New Zealand. Australia’s constitution bars dual citizens from eligibility for elected office, unless they can show they have taken reasonable steps to sever foreign ties. Although Ludlam served in the upper house for nine years and Waters for six, the revelations mean they were technically never senators. A visibly emotional Waters apologised for failing to conduct the necessary checks to ensure she was eligible to sit in parliament. She said she had learned with “shock and sadness” she was a dual citizen after checking last week.
Azerbaijan: Foreign Ministry says holding illegal presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh is ‘ridiculous’ | APA
Holding an illegal presidential election in the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia is ridiculous, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmat Hajiyev told APA. He was commenting on the illegal “presidential election” to be held by the so-called regime in Nagorno-Karabakh on July 19. Hajiyev reminded that the so-called “parliamentary elections” on May 3, 2015 and “the referendum on constitutional changes” on February 20, 2017 of the illegal puppet regime established in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia was rejected and not recognized by the international community.
Congo voters go to the polls Sunday in legislative elections in the oil-rich African country, the first since violence-marred presidential polls last year which returned Denis Sassou Nguesso to power. While no fresh violence is expected opposition parties have cried foul, as over 2 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in the first round of polling in Congo-Brazzaville to elect National Assembly members as well as local councils. Sassou Nguesso returned to office in March 2016 after a constitutional referendum ended a two-term presidential term limit, amid deadly violence notably in the Pool region neighbouring the capital Brazzaville.
Kenya is set to hold its most expensive election ever. It’s expected to top $1 billon in aggregate spend and could be Africa’s most expensive on a cost-per-voter basis. The public and private spending are both at an all-time high, with both the government and candidates spending hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the electoral process or campaigning to get elected. In a new pre-election economic and fiscal report released before the Aug. 8 polls, Kenya’s national treasury said the preparation and execution of the election will cost 49.9 billion shillings ($480 million). The largest allotment in the budget goes to the electoral commission, which is using almost 43 billion shillings ($413.2 million) to hire personnel, procure election materials, conduct voter education exercises, besides collecting and transmitting results.
Papua New Guinea: Ruling party has 300,000 ‘ghost voters’ in election, claims analysis | Asia Pacific Report
Statistical indicators suggest the Peter O’Neill government in Papua New Guinea has used its power of incumbency to “cook the books” in its favour, claims a new analysis by the independent website PNG Economics. Comparing the 2017 electoral roll with population estimates by electorate based on the 2011 census, the Electoral Commission has created nearly 300,000 “ghost voters” in O’Neill’s People’s Congress Party (PNC) controlled electorates. “This is 5682 ‘ghost voters’ for every PNC sitting member. This is over 10 times the number of ‘ghost voters’ for non-PNC sitting members. PNC members are also being declared elected based on ‘mathematical impossibilities’,” the website said. PNG Economics declares on its website that it provides “timely, accurate, frank and fearless advice”.
UK energy companies and other “critical infrastructure” were targeted by hackers believed to have been backed by Russia during last month’s general election, according to Motherboard and The Telegraph. GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre recently sent a letter to UK energy companies, manufacturers, and water companies that was leaked to Motherboard, Vice’s technology website.