Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Friday that U.S. intelligence agencies uniformly believe the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign, despite President Trump’s earlier claim there was a misunderstanding between the agencies. “There is no dissent, and I have stated that publicly and I have stated that to the president,” Coats told NBC News’s Lester Holt at the Aspen Security Forum. Trump had previously claimed that only “three or four” U.S. intelligence agencies came to the conclusion that Russian meddled in the presidential race, however Coats said agencies, such as the Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Agency, do not focus on the subject of election meddling.
Congressional Democrats announced on Saturday that a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a sweeping package of sanctions to punish Russia for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the number two House Democrat, said lawmakers had settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Donald Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.
Editorials: The Trump election commission exists solely to justify a Trump lie | E.J. Dionne/The Washington Post
President Trump had some remarkable things to say at the inaugural meeting of his Commission to Promote Voter Suppression and Justify Trump’s False Claims, which is formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He also asked a question that deserves an answer. Lest anyone believe Vice President Pence’s claim that “this commission has no preconceived notions or preordained results,” Trump was on hand last week to state clearly what its agenda is. With the resignation of Sean Spicer as White House press secretary and the rise of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications czar (an appropriate word these days), the television cameras are riveted on the latest reality show, “Spicey and The Mooch.” But we dare not lose track of the threat the Trump administration poses to the most basic of democratic rights.
The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam. It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square. It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s. Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.
Hackers successfully penetrated state-run online voter registration systems in 2016, triggering confusion and heated exchanges between voters, poll workers and poll watchers during California’s June 7 primary, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Friday. “I think that pretty quickly, as is sort of the case around our politics, partisanship got into it,” Hestrin told The California Report. “And frankly the victims of these changes were both Republicans and Democrats.” Hestrin’s investigation would ultimately show that hackers accessed voter registration information, indiscriminate of party, through the California Secretary of State’s election website, and changed some voters’ party affiliations. But because the state did not collect the IP addresses of the visits, there’s no way to know where the hacker — or hackers — were based.
Georgia’s biennial effort to clean up the state’s voter rolls got underway weeks ago, with address confirmation notices going out to hundreds of thousands of residents across metro Atlanta and the state. The action in many ways is routine, while also an important part of the elections process. It ensures an accurate and current voter registration list, a central goal for every state in the nation and required under federal law. But this year, the stakes somehow seem higher. The mailing of the notices unintentionally coincides with a request from the U.S. Justice Department to 44 states including Georgia asking how they remove voters from the rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach started drawing the ire of statewide voting rights advocates years before he was appointed to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission and continued his work on voter fraud at the commission’s first meeting this week. The controversial champion of strict voting laws long has been known for his claims of voting fraud and landed a national position under Trump, who has repeatedly claimed without evidence that illegal votes for former opponent Hillary Clinton cost him the popular vote last fall, though he won the Electoral College. Now, on a national stage, Kobach is hoping to study the election system and supposed voter fraud through the commission, which met for the first time Wednesday.
Foxboro Town Clerk Robert Cutler grimaces when asked about same-day voter registration. “We’d definitely need an updated computer system,” Cutler says, “and the state hasn’t gotten that ready yet.” Same-day voter registration — citizens not yet signed up to vote being able to walk in to a polling place on Election Day and cast a ballot — is a possibility in Attleboro area communities as a result of a lawsuit by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the 20-day deadline to register before the election is unconstitutional and unnecessary in these days of vastly improved technology.
In the near future, when you renew your driver’s license at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles, you can also register to vote. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea answered our questions about automatic voter registration becoming law — signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo this week — which will allow people doing business at the Division of Motor Vehicles to also register to vote. “I pushed for it because it is a great way for Rhode Islanders when they update their addresses with the government that that address change is made across the board into their voter file,” Gorbea said Friday during a taping of “10 News Conference.”
A Texas Senate panel approved a measure Sunday aiming to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud — largely through increased penalties. “Mail-ballot voting is a prime target for illegal voting and election fraud,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who authored the measure, Senate Bill 5. “In the U.S., the right to vote is sacred. Any attempt to steal an American’s vote … must be addressed.” In a 9-0 vote, the Senate Committee on State Affairs sent the bill to the full chamber. The mail-in voting issue was among the items Gov. Greg Abbott placed on his call for the special legislative session that kicked off last week. The focus on absentee balloting puts the Republican-dominated legislature on a new path for changing the voting process by addressing a documented vulnerability in Texas elections. Previously, lawmakers targeted rare in-person election fraud with voter ID legislation eventually blocked by federal courts.
The boundaries of election districts in a southeastern Utah county are unconstitutional and violate the rights of American Indians who make up roughly half the county’s population, a federal judge has ruled for the second time. San Juan County, a roughly 7,800-square-mile county that touches Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, was ordered last year to redraw its county commission and school board election districts after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that they were unconstitutional. Last week, Shelby ruled that the county’s new maps are still unconstitutional and primarily drawn on race.
After a rather lacklustre electoral year, the season of big-league African polls is finally here. July 29 will see parliamentary elections in Gabon as the second and final round of round of Congo Brazzaville’s legislative ones are held the following day. Despite their importance, the polls in the Republic of Congo and Gabon will be more or less overshadowed by the major league ones to be held in the momentous month of August. As matters stand, the limelight will be reserved for Rwanda, where a presidential election will be conducted on August 3 and 4. Already deified by his compatriots and practically given a carte blanche during last year’s constitutional referendum, multi-term President Paul Kagame is virtually guaranteed of a win. He has been in power for 17 years already.
Preliminary results from East Timor’s parliamentary election indicate that a change in leadership appears likely, as the leading member of the governing coalition has fallen behind its junior coalition partner. The National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), led by the former independence hero Xanana Gusmao, won just 28 percent of the vote, down from 36.7 percent in the 2012 election, which it won. Fretilin, or Revolutionary Front for an independent East Timor, appears to have won the election with 30 percent – essentially the same level of support it won five years ago.
Perceived unfairness in the vote count has been linked to deadly election-related violence in Papua New Guinea’s Enga province. The provincial capital Wabag remains tense and in lockdown after clashes between supporters of two rival candidates for the national election in one of Enga’s open seats, Kandep. Police have confirmed that at least four people, including two mobile squad officers, died in exchanges of gunfire in Wabag early on Saturday. Frustrations had been building last week among supporters of various candidates over disruptions to the vote count for Kandep Open. Although this electorate is in another part of Enga province, the count had been taking place in the provincial capital.
Rwanda is getting ready for its federal election on August 4. If nothing unexpected happens, then President Paul Kagame will win a third term. But there is only one remaining question: Will he get more votes than in the last elections seven years ago, when he won 93 percent? Or will it be even higher than it was in 2003, when he got 95 percent? It seems certain that the opposition doesn’t stand a chance. The press coverage from the mostly government controlled media is concentrated on the ubiquitous Paul Kagame and his FPR party. Nevertheless, two other candidates were allowed to contest for the presidency: Frank Habineza, chairman of Rwanda’s Green party and a former member of the current ruling party. Little is known about the second candidate – Philippe Mpayimana – a former journalist who recently returned to Rwanda after years of exile in the Central African Republic and France. He is contesting as an independent candidate in the elections.
Tunisia: In post-revolution Tunisia democracy endangered by low voter registration | Middle East Monitor
In Tunis, municipal elections are on the horizon. However, democracy is at risk. Registration to vote is very weak and there is a clear reluctance among the many Tunisian political parties to participate. The municipal and regional elections are the democratic exercise in post-revolution Tunisia since the last elections took place in 2010. And they are especially significant because these councils used to be appointed by the Head of State. … But according to Nabil Bafoun, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, the process suffers from the absence of political parties and a lack of seriousness regarding the involvement of civil society in the process of voter registration. In press statements, Bafoun has said that the number of registered voters in this election has so far reached 167,770 voters, including 30,252 updates for registrants who changed their residence addresses.