National: Kris Kobach: ‘We may never know’ who won 2016 popular vote | USA Today

On the day of the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, its vice chairman suggested Wednesday “we may never know” if Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election. During an interview with MSNBC, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was asked if he believed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Kobach’s reply: “You know, we may never know the answer to that question.” Later in the interview, he repeated himself and emphasized that the commission would not be able to tell which way an ineligible vote was cast. “It’s impossible to know exactly, if you take out all the ineligible votes, what the final tally would be in that election,” he said. “You could obviously, based on the data, you could make some very educated guesses.” When asked if the votes that won Trump the election are also in doubt, Kobach replied, “Absolutely.”

National: Trump’s election integrity panel won’t probe Russian infiltration of state election systems | Portland Press Herald

President Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission won’t be probing Russian infiltration of state election systems after all. At the commission’s inaugural meeting Wednesday in Washington – which the president briefly attended to push his evidence-free theory that the 2016 election was tainted widespread voter fraud – Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap raised the subject, but agreed with his colleagues to instead rely on any information a Senate probe into Russian interference in the election might provide. “The Senate Intelligence Committee will keep us apprised on what they find and we can work it into our report,” Dunlap told the Press Herald shortly after the meeting concluded. “We don’t have to do our separate investigations. I don’t think we are equipped to do that.” The substantive part of the meeting focused on what actions the commission should take now that most states have rejected its request for voter registration information, with commissioners brainstorming on what data the federal government already had in its possession and how it might be used to explore voter fraud concerns.

National: Trump stokes voter fraud fears as commission convenes | Politico

President Donald Trump put the power of the presidency behind one of his favorite theories on Wednesday, convening a panel to investigate voter fraud even though experts have largely dismissed his evidence-free claim that “millions” of illegal votes last year cost him the popular vote. Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity created by executive order in May, said at the group’s first meeting that its findings were not predetermined. But Trump himself has repeatedly declared, without evidence, that mass voter fraud took place during the 2016 election. And by Wednesday afternoon, the fraud theories became even more muddled when Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Trump’s hand-picked vice chair of the commission, indicated he had no way of knowing who actually won the 2016 election.

National: Shrugging off controversy, Trump’s voter-fraud panel seeks more personal data | The Boston Globe

Shrugging off complaints about whether it is even necessary, President Trump’s commission on voter fraud doubled down when it met for the first time on Wednesday and asked its staff to look into assembling vast new caches of information on individuals. The commission indicated it wants to collect information already held by the federal government and tasked the staff with getting the Department of Homeland Security to turn over data on people applying for citizenship, since they must check off a box indicating whether they have registered to vote. The panel also discussed seeking information on people who have attempted to get out of jury duty by claiming to be noncitizens. The reason: Jury lists come from voter rolls, so noncitizens shouldn’t be on the list to begin with. Most experts say voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States, and the commission has already come under heavy criticism for trying to scoop up personal data on voters in every state.

National: Despite criticism, 30 states intend to give voter information to Trump fraud commission | The Sacramento Bee

Despite criticism from most states about the Trump administration’s request for voters’ personal information, half have said they will deliver some or all of that data to the White House election commission. And that number could grow, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, with more than 30 states turning over some information, including names, addresses and birth dates, to the group being run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said, questioning the motives of states that have not complied with requests for information. “ What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.” Trump created the elections commission after claiming — without evidence — that millions of people had voted illegally and deprived him of a popular-vote victory. He has argued specifically that fraud denied him a win in three states: California, New Hampshire and Virginia. Independent groups and election officials said there was no evidence of either charge, but Kobach said Wednesday that the public would never know the true results of the election.

National: Activists urge voters to stay registered after fraud commission’s data request | Politico

Liberal activists are urging people to stay registered to vote after President Donald Trump’s new election integrity commission’s request for voter data spooked some Americans and caused them to cancel their registrations. Colorado got a burst of publicity after more than 3,700 residents canceled voter registrations, according to media reports. And while that’s a tiny percentage of total voters in the state, activists said it’s the wrong response to the federal government’s request for state voter information. “We don’t want people to be afraid of registering — not to do so is to play into the hands of the voter suppressors,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “To the thousands of people who have deregistered: go reregister and bring two others.”

National: What could Trump’s fraud commission do with voter data? | PBS NewsHour

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met for the first time Wednesday, as President Donald Trump again pushed his unfounded claim that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2016 election. The voter fraud commission’s first formal meeting came three weeks after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — one of the panel’s vice chairmen, along with Vice President Mike Pence — penned a letter to all 50 states requesting that they turn over key voter information. So far, at least 24 states have said they’ll comply with the request, though there is no evidence of Mr. Trump’s claims that “millions” of people voted illegally last year and cost him the popular vote. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply with the request, which sparked a flurry of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. At the meeting Wednesday, Trump suggested that the states that haven’t complied have something to hide. “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is,” Trump said. As more states and advocacy groups wade into the debate, here is a closer look at the commission, how voter records are collected and stored across the country, and how the White House could potentially use the data to its advantage.

Editorials: Hacking the Vote: Who Helped Whom? | Sue Halpern/The New York Review of Books

In recent months, we have learned much about how successful the Trump campaign was in micro-targeting voters in crucial swing states. In the waning days of the 2016 campaign, especially, Trump’s data team knew exactly which voters in which states they needed to persuade on Facebook and Twitter and precisely what messages to use. The question is: How did the Russians know this, too? Last week, it was reported that both Congressional investigators and the FBI are now exploring whether Russian operatives were guided in their efforts by Trump’s digital team, and the House Intelligence Committee has invited Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale, to testify. Largely ignored in this discussion, however, is another possibility: that the Russians themselves, through their hacking of Democratic Party records, was supplying crucial information to the digital team.  

Editorials: America steals votes from felons. Until it stops, our democracy will be weakened | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

In the middle of the hot summer, citizens will gather this week in Florida to champion a ballot initiative to end the state’s permanent felony disenfranchisement. As we face the daily jaw-dropping revelations about the Trump campaign and administration’s actions, keeping our focus on restoring legitimacy to our elections and our democracy has never been more important, and ending the historic wrong of felony disenfranchisement absolutely must be part of our agenda. It seems unlikely that the Trump-Pence “electoral integrity” commission will touch this important issue, and any commission that ignores it isn’t serious about the legitimacy of our elections. The right to vote is the most fundamental right of any democracy, granting it legitimacy as a means of government by instilling power in the people and not in politicians. It ensures “consent of the governed” and holds government accountable to the people: not law-abiding people, or moral people, or any other qualifier, but the people.

Editorials: The New Assault on Voting Rights | Zachary Roth/New Republic

For a while there, it appeared that the GOP’s long-running assault on voting rights was finally losing steam. In recent years, federal courts have struck down or significantly weakened several of the country’s worst voting restrictions. At the same time, many states—including red ones—have debated or passed bills to expand access to registration and polling places. But that was before Donald Trump was elected. As president, Trump has refused to let go of his unhinged claim that “millions” of people voted illegally last November—and has used his unsubstantiated accusation of voter fraud to lay the groundwork at the federal level for a new round of voting restrictions. Republican legislators from New Hampshire to Texas are also moving swiftly to enact a wave of new laws that would make it harder to cast a ballot. Since January, according to a recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 99 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. “It looked like we had turned a corner in terms of slowing down new restrictions on voting,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project. “It turns out the pace has accelerated.”

Editorials: Trump’s voter-fraud commission itself is a fraud | The Washington Post

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, set to hold its inaugural meeting Wednesday, is already better known as the voter fraud commission, owing not only to its explicit mission but also to the fact that so many of its members, including its chairman, Vice President Pence, and vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are on record as subscribing to or defending President Trump’s unfounded view that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in last fall’s elections. In fact, the real fraud is the commission itself. Mr. Kobach, a Republican running for governor of Kansas, professes indignation and phony puzzlement over the jaundiced eye that Democrats, voting rights experts and some Republicans have aimed at the panel. Yet how could it be otherwise, given that Mr. Kobach himself has for years made a political cottage industry of his (repeatedly debunked) claims of fraud in Kansas and national elections? If ever a federal commission embarked on a “study” with a predetermined outcome, this is it.

Georgia: ACLU sues over poll location changes | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming the Fulton County elections board did not give the public enough notice before it approved changes last week that affected several majority African-American precincts. The suit is asking a Fulton judge to rescind the vote until the changes can be re-publicized. Fulton Director of Elections and Registration Richard Barron declined comment on the suit because it was pending litigation.

North Carolina: Common Cause lawsuit over special session to limit Roy Cooper powers moves forward | News & Observer

A Superior Court judge rejected Tuesday a request from North Carolina’s lieutenant governor and legislative leaders to dismiss a lawsuit accusing them of violating the state Constitution when they hastily called a special session in December to consider laws that transform state government. Judge W. Osmond Smith III ruled instead that the lawsuit filed this spring by Common Cause and 10 North Carolina residents should be heard by a three-judge panel tasked with hearing any constitutional challenges to laws adopted by the General Assembly. The nonpartisan, good-government advocacy group contends that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, president of the state Senate, Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, speaker of the state House of Representatives, violated North Carolinians’ rights when they took up bills in a three-day session in December without laying out to the public what was on the agenda.

Rhode Island: Governor signs Automatic Voter Registration into law | Providence Journal

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has signed legislation that makes Rhode Island the ninth state to allow automatic-voter-registration. The legislation championed by Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea would automatically place on the voter rolls anyone doing business with the Division of Motor Vehicles, and potentially other state offices, unless they decline. If the new system works as designed, it will update the central voter registration database, as voters change their home city and town addresses on the drivers licenses and registration, removing the potential “duplicates” from the voter rolls.

Texas: Judge Weighs Scrapping Reformed Texas Voter-ID Law | Courthouse News

Opponents of Texas’ new voter ID law asked a federal judge this week to return the state’s election rules to the days when people could access the polls with a voter registration card. Texas has been embroiled in a legal battle over its voter ID laws since 2011 when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed Senate Bill 14, claiming it was necessary to address Texans’ voter fraud concerns. Buoyed by the election of President Donald Trump, who claims he lost the popular vote in November to Hillary Clinton because 2 million people voted illegally, Texas claims in court filings that changes it’s made to its voter ID law sufficiently address the concerns of the Fifth Circuit that found SB 14 disenfranchises minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Texas: Will Federal Judges Be Able to Fix Texas Voting Rights Before 2018 Elections? | The San Antonio Current

While Texas lawmakers dive into an encore legislative session at the capitol this month, a few high-ranking federal judges are quietly weighing whether or not the legislature intentionally passed laws that discriminate against minorities. These decisions are based on two separate, long-brewing cases, both rooted in Texas election laws, both rushing to wrap up before the looming 2018 election cycle, and both guaranteed to significantly shake up national politics. The first legal battle began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional districts to keep up with the quickly-expanding population. Most of those new Texans were Latino and African American — a shift that eventually made white Texans a minority population in the state. According to voting rights advocates and federal judges, conservative lawmakers weren’t eager about their new black and brown (and predominantly Democrat) neighbors. So, they claim, the GOP-led legislature redrew district lines to dilute the votes of new black and brown Texans.

East Timor: Voters addresse East Timor’s economic future in parliamentary poll | Reuters

Thousands of East Timorese ended weeks of political rallies and entered a campaign blackout on Thursday before parliamentary elections at the weekend, with fears for the economic future of Asia’s youngest democracy the primary concern for voters. More than 20 political parties are vying for 65 seats in East Timor’s parliament as frustration grows over the government’s failure to use the wealth generated by oil and gas sales to support development and create jobs. The parliamentary poll, which will determine the next prime minister, follows the victory of former independence fighter Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres in a presidential election in March. The president is largely a figurehead, with the government run by a prime minister chosen by the party or coalition that wins the majority of votes.

Liberia: ECOWAS raises elections concerns | New Dawn

A joint ECOWAS delegation comprising the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC) and the ECOWAS Fact-finding Team has raised concerns regarding hate messages being spread by some media institutions and on social media ahead of Liberia’s presidential and representatives’ elections. But President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf has told the delegation in Monrovia Wednesday, 19 July that government is determined to manage such situation without infringing on the right to free speech. “We must ensure that peace reigns before, during and after the elections because the 2017 elections constitute Liberia’s defining moment, which will test whether the country can move forward with political maturity or retrogress,” Mrs. Sirleaf said during a meeting with the ECOWAS delegation.

Pakistan: PTI insists general elections be held under a reconstituted Election Commission | Pakistan Today

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has staged a walk-out of the parliamentary committee on electoral reform in protest against the committee for not considering the party’s proposals for meaningful electoral reforms, placed before the subcommittee in April 2017. The PTI lawmakers Dr Arif Alvi, Shafqat Mehmood and Dr Shireen Mazari in the media talks lashed out at the government for what they dubbed ‘the non-seriousness’ to implement the much-need electoral reforms. They said that the ECP has lost its credibility in holding those responsible for the wrongdoings pointed out in the SC report, on PTI rigging petition on the 2013 election.