Getting served with seven different lawsuits is probably a bad way to start any job. But that’s exactly what the members of President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity faced Wednesday, when the commission met in person for the first time. The latest of these lawsuits comes from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, alleging among other things that with Trump’s creation of the commission by executive order in May, he “appointed a commission stacked with biased members to undertake an investigation into unfounded allegations of voter fraud.” The lawsuit also states that “the work of the Commission as described by its co-chairs are grounded on the false premise that Black and Latino voters are more likely to perpetrate voter fraud.” The LDF lawsuit finds in the new commission a veritable rogues gallery of voter suppression. The first defendant named is Trump himself, who has touted controversial—and false—claims of millions of fraudulent votes in the 2016 election. But much of the plaintiffs’ ire is directed towards vice chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and the de facto leader of the commission. In his position in Kansas, Kobach has launched a one-of-a-kind effort to track down illegal noncitizen voters, an aggressive campaign that has challenged hundreds of votes and brought to court dozens of campaigns but has only secured one such conviction so far.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that President Donald Trump’s voting commission “was formed with the intent to discriminate against voters of color in violation of the Constitution.” “Statements by President Trump, his spokespersons and surrogates … as well as the work of the Commission as described by its co-chairs, are grounded on the false premise that Black and Latino voters are more likely to perpetrate voter fraud,” the suit alleges. As evidence, the suit points to Trump’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election. Those claims were subsequently repeated by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, now the chair and vice-chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which Trump set up to investigate his unfounded claims.
Editorials: Digital ballots, outdated machinery leave us exposed to a second Russian hack | Jason Smith/USA Today
The Russians aren’t coming. They came. And they launched a cyber strike on last fall’s elections for which the consequences remain an unknown. It’s a sexy, new Cold War replete with headlines featuring the president’s son and a curious meeting with Russians last summer. Sadly, what gets lost within these seductive media narratives are the comprehensive hazards of America’s voting components. It’s essential to note that there’s no confirmed proof any vote recording or ballot tallies were altered back in November. However, such knowledge provides little solace because American voting systems remain extremely vulnerable, and as former FBI Director James Comey said of the Russians, “They will be back.” If the U.S. does not change how it conducts elections, when the Russians return, many of the vulnerabilities from 2016 will still be intact. I learned of these insecurities while producing “I Voted?,” a non-partisan documentary on election integrity.
The Trump administration’s election-integrity commission will have its first meeting on Wednesday to map out how the president will strip the right to vote from millions of Americans. It hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start: Its astonishing request last month that each state hand over voters’ personal data was met with bipartisan condemnation. Yet it is joined in its efforts to disenfranchise citizens by the immensely more powerful Justice Department. Lost amid the uproar over the commission’s request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, which mandates that states help voters register through motor vehicle departments. The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging.
Colorado on Monday said it will become the first state to regularly conduct a sophisticated post-election audit that cybersecurity experts have long called necessary for ensuring hackers aren’t meddling with vote tallies. The procedure — known as a “risk-limiting” audit — allows officials to double-check a sample of paper ballots against digital tallies to determine whether results were tabulated correctly. The election security firm Free & Fair will design the auditing software for Colorado, and the state will make the technology available for other states to modify for their own use. The audit will allow Colorado to say, “with a high level of statistical probability that has never existed before,” that official election results have not been manipulated, said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in a statement.
Maine: Legislature poised to take one more shot at fixing ranked-choice voting law | Portland Press Herald
Maine lawmakers will make a final effort in the closing days of the legislative session to act on a citizen-backed ballot law that gives Maine a first-in-the-nation ranked-choice voting system. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kent Ackley, an independent from Monmouth, would allow ranked-choice voting for party primaries and Maine’s congressional seats. But it would set aside the part of the law, which was supported by 51 percent of the voters in November, that calls for ranked-choice voting in general elections for the Legislature and the governor’s office. Under the new law, voters will rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated.
North Carolina: Merger of elections and ethics halted while Governor Roy Cooper’s lawsuit pends | News & Observer
The state Supreme Court froze any further action in the revamp of the state elections board and ethics commission while a lawsuit challenging the merger awaits a hearing before the justices. The state’s highest court agreed this week to take up a case filed by Gov. Roy Cooper, challenging a law adopted by the General Assembly this spring calling for the merger of the state Board of Elections and the state Ethics Commission. But in an order issued on Thursday, Associate Justice Mike Morgan, the newest justice on the bench, put a halt on the process that is at the core of more than one legal challenge and has drawn heated debate. The case is scheduled for arguments at the Supreme Court on Aug. 28.
South Carolina: Voter registration system hit by nearly 150,000 hack attempts on Election Day | International Business Times
South Carolina’s voter registration system was reportedly hit by almost 150,000 hack attempts on Election Day 2016. According to a post-election report by the South Carolina State Election Commission, it is likely that most of the hacking attempts came from automated computer bots, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday (16 July). President Donald Trump comfortably won the state of South Carolina in the November election. However, WSJ reports that there is no evidence to suggest that the attempted cyberattacks targeting the state’s voter registration system were successful.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) waged legal war against the voter ID rules Texas lawmakers passed in 2011, saying the new restrictions would disproportionately impact minority voters. That finding was later validated by multiple federal court rulings, two of which concluded the state’s GOP majority passed a deliberately racist bill. This week brought another sign of the 180-degree change on voting rights cases under the Trump administration’s DOJ, which on Monday filed a legal brief that argues Texas should be allowed to fix its voter ID rules without federal intervention or oversight. The filing also argues that the courts should simply trust Texas to educate voters on the tweaked voter ID law the Legislature passed earlier this year, despite the state’s faceplant trial run when it tried to implement those rules during last year’s presidential election. Experts say it’s a remarkable argument, given the history of the state’s years-long legal struggle to implement some version of a voter ID law that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once called “the strictest regime in the country.”
Lawmakers voted to overhaul Moldova’s electoral system on Thursday, as thousands of opposition activists massed outside saying the changes favored the two largest parties. A smaller group of activists rallied nearby backing the measures, which they say will bring voters closer to the people who represent them. Prime Minister Pavel Filip pushed to replace the proportional electoral system with a mixed scheme which will let voters cast their ballot for constituency candidates as well as party lists.
The leader of Papua New Guinea’s National Party says that without an explanation about the use of extra ballot papers the electoral commissioner, Patilias Gamato, is complicit in election fraud. Kerenga Kua is set to retain his seat in Sinasina-Yonggamugl and his party is tracking strongly in various electorates where results are yet to be declared. However, as vote counting advanced at a glacial pace across PNG, Mr Kua said the election had been fraught with inconsistencies which appeared to favour the ruling People’s National Congress party. Ommissions of names from PNG’s electoral roll has been a feature of previous PNG elections, but the problem has been widespread in this year’s edition and appears to have disadvantaged key voter bases.
Voters in East Timor queued up on Saturday to cast their vote in the country’s fourth parliamentary elections since independence in a ballot where campaigning has focused on development and jobs in Asia’s youngest democracy. More than 700,000 East Timorese are registered to vote in the country, which has a land area slightly smaller than Hawaii and is home to 1.2 million people. Over 20 political parties are vying for 65 seats in 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 election will determine the country’s prime minister. The official results of the election is expected to be announced by Aug. 6, although preliminary results should come much earlier.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday that states that aren’t asking Washington for help in protecting their election systems from hackers are “nuts.” But while Kelly said he supported the Obama administration’s decision to designate U.S. election systems “critical infrastructure,” given threats from Russia and other entities, he also acknowledged that elections remain the domain of the states. “All of the input I get from all of the states are ‘We don’t want you involved in our election process,’” he said. “I think they’re nuts if they don’t [seek help. But] If they don’t want the help, they don’t have to ask.” Kelly spoke during the opening session of this year’s Aspen Security Forum; he’s one of several officials in President Donald Trump’s administration slated to speak at the gathering, which runs through Saturday.
National: This anti-voter-fraud program gets it wrong over 99 percent of the time. The GOP wants to take it nationwide. | The Washington Post
At the inaugural meeting of President Trump’s election integrity commission on Wednesday, commission Vice-Chairman Kris Kobach of Kansas praised a data collection program run by his state as a model for a national effort to root out voter fraud. States participating in the program, known as the Interstate Crosscheck System, send their voter registration files to Kansas. Kansas election authorities compare these files to those from other states. Each participating state receives back a list of their voter registrations that match the first name, last name and date of birth of a voter in another state. States may act upon the findings as they wish, although Crosscheck provides some guidelines for purging voter registrations from the rolls. In theory, the program is supposed to detect possible cases of people voting in multiple locations. But academics and states that use the program have found that its results are overrun with false positives, creating a high risk of disenfranchising legal voters. A statistical analysis of the program published earlier this year by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Microsoft, for instance, found that Crosscheck “would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.” Kobach’s championing of Crosscheck is one reason many voting rights advocates are concerned that President Trump’s voter fraud commission may be a vehicle for recommending mass voter purges.
The first meeting of the Trump administration’s new advisory committee on election integrity consisted mainly of voter-fraud fear-mongering. … Hans von Spakovsky, a committee member and senior legal fellow at the right-learning Heritage Foundation, pointed to his organization’s database of 1,071 documented cases of voter fraud over the last several decades, neglecting to mention that figure constitutes just .0008 percent of the people who voted in the 2016 election alone. Together, they painted a picture of a pervasive and insidious threat to free and fair elections, despite the mountains of research showing that actual voter fraud is scarce. But amid all the conjecture came one nugget of actual truth, offered by Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, Alabama. Not only did Judge King, one of the committee’s few Democrats, state that he’d never seen a single instance of voter fraud in all his years as head of elections in Jefferson County, he was also the lone member of the committee to use his opening remarks to raise the critically important issue of outdated voting technology. Unlike phantom zombie voters, that issue poses a real, and well-documented, threat to people’s voting rights.
Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin was at his desk on June 7, 2016, when the calls started coming in. It was the day of the California presidential primary, and upset voters wanted the county’s top prosecutor to know that they had been prevented from casting their ballots. “There were people calling our office and filing complaints that they had tried to vote and that their registration had been changed unbeknownst to them,” says Hestrin. Soon there were more than 20 reports of trouble, and Hestrin, a 19-year veteran of the office and a graduate of Stanford Law School, dispatched investigators to county polling places to see what was going on. At first what they found was reassuring. Everyone who had been blocked from voting had been offered a provisional ballot, and most had cast their votes that way. But as the investigators dug deeper, things looked less innocuous. In the days after the vote, more people started coming forward to say they’d also had problems with their voter registration on primary day. In at least half a dozen cases, Hestrin and his investigators concluded, the changes had been made by hackers who had used private information, like Social Security or driver’s-license numbers, to access the central voter-registration database for the entire state of California. There the trail went cold.
National: Read the Previously Undisclosed Plan to Counter Russian Hacking on Election Day | Time.com
President Obama’s White House quietly produced a plan in October to counter a possible Election Day cyber attack that included extraordinary measures like sending armed federal law enforcement agents to polling places, mobilizing components of the military and launching counter-propaganda efforts. The 15-page plan, a copy of which was obtained by TIME, stipulates that “in almost all potential cases of malicious cyber activity impacting election infrastructure, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments” would have primary jurisdiction to respond. But in the case of a “signifcant incident” the White House had several “enhanced procedures” it was prepared to take. The plan allowed for the deployment of “armed federal law enforcement agents” to polling places if hackers managed to halt voting. It also foresaw the deployment of “Active and Reserve” military forces and members of the National Guard “upon a request from a federal agency and the direction of the Secretary of Defense or the President.”
There was a surreal quality to the presidential “election integrity” commission’s first meeting on Wednesday, which was streamed live from a government building next to the White House, but was not open to the public. President Trump strode in to declare that “this is not a Democrat or Republican issue” and hail the “bipartisan” nature of a commission that’s headed by two Republicans and dominated by GOP members. He pledged a “very transparent process” that “will be open for everybody to see,” on a commission that’s already been sued for violating the disclosure and open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The commission’s official chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, quoted Ronald Reagan calling the right to vote “the crown jewel of American liberties,” then yielded the floor to commissioners who laid out an agenda focused on chasing down and prosecuting supposed voter fraud—a problem that repeated studies have found is virtually nonexistent.
Editorials: Trump-Kobach election commission designed to intimidate | Chris Carson/The Kansas City Star
On Wednesday, the task force known as the Election Integrity Commission met for the first time. Despite their claims of having no preconceived agenda, we know their end goals are clear: to perpetuate unsubstantiated myths of widespread voter fraud and to lay groundwork to suppress voting rights. Unfortunately, they might already be succeeding. Since commission…
Editorials: The first public meeting of Trump’s voter fraud panel was a parade of lies | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission held its first public meeting, allowing each participant to voice his or her utterly unjustified belief that fraudulent voting is a rampant problem in the United States. (The commission has already held a private meeting that may have violated federal law.) During his remarks, Kris Kobach—Kansas’ Republican secretary of state and vice chairman of the commission—asserted that more than 18,000 noncitizens may have registered to vote in Kansas. He also alleged that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which compares states’ voter rolls, has uncovered “literally millions of people” who are registered in at least two states. Both of these claims are completely false. Let’s start with the Kansas lie. When running for secretary of state in 2010, Kobach repeatedly insisted that voter fraud in the state, particularly noncitizen voting, was “pervasive” and “massive.” Then–Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh—a Republican who served in that position for 16 years—responded that “the voter fraud Kris Kobach speaks of does not exist.” Researchers found that, over the previous decade, the government had uncovered just seven instances of unlawful voting in Kansas, none of which involved noncitizens. Yet Kobach persisted, as this crude nativism was central to his campaign. A week before the election, he said he’d found a smoking gun: A deceased man named Alfred K. Brewer, Kobach claimed, had likely cast a vote in the August primary. Reporters found Brewer in his yard, alive. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” he explained. Kobach had confused Brewer with his father, who was deceased, and who had not cast a vote since he’d shuffled off this mortal coil.
As Los Angeles County prepares for the procurement and manufacturing stage of its nationally-recognized Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP), Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan is focusing resources on election security. “Amid continuous investigation of attempted nation-state hacking of voter data and ongoing concerns about the age and technical vulnerability of the voting equipment used in the United States,” said Logan, “it is imperative that next generation voting systems like the one we are developing in Los Angeles County are equipped to deliver voters a secure, usable and transparent voting experience.”
California: A new suit says lawmakers broke the law when they changed California’s recall election rules | Los Angeles Times
Republican activists and an anti-tax organization filed a lawsuit Thursday to scrap a new law that revised the rules for California’s recall elections, accusing Democrats of a blatant attempt to help an embattled state senator keep his job. The court challenge to the law, enacted as part of last month’s new state budget, comes after critics of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) submitted some 85,000 voter signatures to force a special election on whether he should be removed from office. “For them to come in and try to pass a law undercutting a legitimate exercise of direct democracy, we feel that the court’s not going to like that very much,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Several sources tell NBC 5 that Gov. Bruce Rauner had planned to sign the new Automatic Voter Registration bill last week during the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention, but at the last minute the event was cancelled. The bill allows voters to automatically be registered to vote through an electronic process when applying for a driver’s license or state ID, unless they opt out. Repeated questions to the governor’s communications team have not been answered, but those who support the bill expect him to sign it.
Last September, in the run-up to the election, we learned that Russians had attempted to attack 33 states’ voter registration databases, later revised upward to 39 states. I was asked to testify about this in Congress, and my main concern was that the Russians might attempt to simply delete voters altogether, creating electoral chaos. All the pieces were in place, but the election came and went without wide-scale problems. What happened? We know that the Obama and Putin had a “blunt” meeting at the G20 that same September, so it’s possible that Obama was able to rattle Putin enough to make him pull back. Maybe Putin decided that leaking stolen emails was good enough. We may never know the full story, but what is clear is that we need to adequately defend ourselves against future nation-state attacks on our elections, whether from Russia or elsewhere. As James Comey warned the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, “They will be back.”
Kenya’s appeals court on Thursday quashed a ruling cancelling a contract to print presidential ballot papers, a victory for the electoral commission less than three weeks before general elections. The decision comes two weeks after the high court ordered the electoral commission to start a tender process from scratch, arguing a lack of transparency in the awarding of the printing contract to a Dubai-based firm. The pending court case raised tensions in the lead-up to what is set to be a close battle between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga on August 8, with observers on high alert for possible violence. However, the five-judge bench at the appeals court quashed the ruling.
Speakers at a programme here stressed for a provision wherein the Nepali migrant workers abroad could cast their ballots back home by any means. At an interaction programme themed on the voting rights of the migrant workers and organized by People Forum in the capital city, they also suggested the concerned authorities to consider the ways for the Nepali migrant workers off-shore to help them exercise their franchise in the next local level election to be held after five years. There are a total of 115 countries in the world having provisions for their fellow citizens in the foreign soil to vote, they shared recommending a system wherein the Nepali migrant workers could cast vote at Nepali diplomatic missions from the respective countries they work in.
Pakistan: Electoral reforms committee approves ‘Election Bill 2017’ with dissenting notes | Daily Pakistan
The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms finalised ‘The Election Bill, 2017’ on Wednesday with dissenting notes by five political parties. Talking to newsmen after the approval Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is the chairperson of the committee expressed that the bill will formally be signed on July 21 (Friday) by the committee for its onward submission to parliament for approval. “Nine major election laws have been merged in The Election Bill, 2017 as per best international practices, with the input of all political parties having representation in parliament,” Dar said.