Riverside County may have been a proving ground for Russian hackers intent on disrupting the 2016 presidential election, according to a cover story in Time magazine. But the county’s registrar of voters is disputing Time’s account, saying the article “contained some incorrect information and may have, in some people’s minds, mischaracterized questions about voters who said their registrations had been improperly changed for elections in 2016.” The July 19 article, “Inside the Secret Plan to Stop Vladimir Putin’s U.S. Election Plot,” describes Russian attempts to hack into more election systems nationwide and an Obama administration plan to respond to an Election Day cyber attack.
National: District court refuses to block federal government voter information collection | Los Angeles Times
A federal court in Washington on Monday cleared the way for President Trump’s election commission to ask states to turn over personal voter information as part of its investigation into Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. District Court ruled against the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public-interest research group that had sought a temporary restraining order to block the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The court rejected arguments that the commission’s request for certain voter data violated Americans’ privacy and that the commission did not follow constitutional proceedings. … The commission has been hit with a flurry of lawsuits since its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to state officials nationwide June 28 requesting voter information, including dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers and information about which elections voters participated in since 2006.
National: Beyond Russia: 5 Ways to Interfere in U.S. Elections—Without Breaking the Law | The Atlantic
Russia’s apparent interference in the U.S. presidential election is a big story, but it’s part of an even bigger one: the ease with which foreign actors can insert themselves into the democratic process these days, and the difficulty of determining how to minimize that meddling. Witness the disagreement in recent weeks among leaders of the U.S. Federal Election Commission. Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has urged the regulatory agency to plug the types of “legal or procedural holes” that enabled Russia to pose “an unprecedented threat to the very foundations of our American political community,” while her Republican colleagues have resisted her proposed fixes.
Editorials: Federal Election Commission must not shy away from Russia probe | Stephen Spaulding/The Hill
Two summers ago, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, boasted in her memoir that she “successfully manipulated the Republican (Missouri Senate 2012) primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat.” Fast-forward to today, amid multiple investigations into whether and how the Kremlin successfully manipulated the presidential election so that its preferred candidate, Donald Trump, would win the White House. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) carefully considered investigating the McCaskill gambit upon advice of its nonpartisan career attorneys, but deadlocked on whether to move forward. It ought not make the same mistake with Trump’s campaign and its possible connections to the Russian government.
Voting Blogs: The Case for Courage: Fight for voting rights, not just for yourself but for your neighbor, too | Andrew Cohen/Brennan Center for Justice
The catastrophic first months of the Trump administration have caused countless Americans to ponder, aloud or to themselves, what they can do to save the nation from the looming grip of authoritarian rule, what they can do to save democracy itself from the clutches of a venal White House and a supine Congress. Millions have taken to the streets in protest. Others have decided to run for federal office themselves. Some have filed lawsuits to challenge some of the more dubious actions of the Trump team. Others have become symbols of resistance simply by being fired. But the simplest and most direct way to effect change, to restore respect for the rule of law and for legal and political norms, is to vote and to fight back forcefully against the administration’s cadre of vote suppressors so that other citizens can vote as well. That this requires some degree of personal courage again 52 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act says a lot about how powerful and well-placed are the men and women who want to make it harder for certain Americans to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot.
In response to an open-records request, Secretary of State Paul Pate has turned over the “sum total” of correspondence between his office and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — two emails. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa requested the correspondence as part of its nationwide effort to gather all communications between the commission and state election officials. ACLU could have made a “simple inquiry” rather than go through the public records request process, Pate said. He suggested ACLU’s intent was “not to obtain information, but to receive media coverage.” ACLU of Iowa rejected that criticism, but Executive Director Mark Stringer said the organization is satisfied with Pate’s response.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Monday ruled unconstitutional a state law that forbids people from voting in an election unless they have registered 20 days beforehand. The law denies qualified citizens their right to vote, Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled. In a lawsuit filed last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Chelsea Collaborative, a social services nonprofit, and MassVOTE, a nonprofit that registers people to vote, argued that the law is “unnecessary and arbitrary” and that it excluded thousands of citizens from voting. Wilkins agreed, rejecting the state’s claim that removing the deadline would impose overly burdensome duties on local election officials.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered state agencies to make voter registration forms available to the public and offer assistance in filling them out in an effort to boost participation in elections. An executive order the governor signed Monday requires agencies to mail or provide electronic voter registration forms to any member of the public whose contact information is on file. Previously, only the state Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies provided voter registration forms.
Plaintiffs who successfully challenged the legality of North Carolina’s legislative districts are asking federal judges to require lawmakers to draw new maps by Aug. 11 and to hold new elections in March, before the next regularly scheduled session of the General Assembly. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs say, state lawmakers lost their authority to pass bills or override vetoes after June 30, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s voting districts are unconstitutional went into effect. Those arguments are part of the latest filing in the Covington v. North Carolina case, scheduled for a hearing Thursday in a federal courtroom in Greensboro. The three-judge panel that declared the maps unconstitutional last year and ordered lawmakers to draw new ones will now hear arguments about how quickly the process should happen.
A few weeks ago, at the San Jose airport on my way to participate in an international election observation of Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum, the airline ticket agent asked me for my passport. This request surprised me: Puerto Rico is part of the United States, so a passport isn’t required for Americans to travel there. But as I soon discovered, through my work on the election, this request shone a light not only on the complex, and at times thorny, relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico that has persisted for over a century, but also on what true voter access and democratic engagement might look like. To understand the dynamics of the referendum, which was the fifth time since 1967 that Puerto Ricans voted on their future (to be a Commonwealth, independence, or statehood), it’s helpful to look at the vote’s connection to the past. A hundred years ago, an Act of Congress provided American citizenship to Puerto Ricans and increased their democratic self-governance. But today, Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico don’t have all of the rights of citizenship. For one, Puerto Ricans residing on the mainland of the U.S. may vote for president, but the 3.5 million people who live in Puerto Rico can’t, except in the primaries. Moreover, they don’t have full voting representation in Congress.
The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Sunday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud in Texas and increase penalties for people who try to steal others’ votes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud could reach $4,000 and up to a year in jail. Hancock said his bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities.
Utah: ‘Better Boundaries’ ballot initiative would create independent redistricting commission | St George News
Another initiative aiming to be on the 2018 ballot was filed last week. This initiative seeks to create an independent commission that could redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries following the 2020 census. Drafted by a group called Utahns for Responsive Government, the “Utah Independent Redistricting and Standards Act” – better known as the “Better Boundaries” initiative – was submitted to the Lt. Governor’s office for review Thursday. It is the third ballot initiative to be filed so far this year. The other initiatives call for a tax hike providing more funding for schools, as well as legalizing medical marijuana. The Better Boundaries initiative would create a bipartisan, seven-member advisory commission that would have no power to redraw the districts itself but would make recommendations to the Legislature following the once-a-decade census.
Washington: In Seattle, vouchers let voters steer city money to political campaigns. But some aren’t buying it | Los Angeles Times
The nation’s first “political voucher” system — a coupon of sorts that lets voters direct public money into the campaigns of candidates — is a rousing success in Jon Grant’s view. Vying for a seat on the Seattle City Council, Grant has raised $186,000 through the vouchers, which are funded by a city property tax and intended to offset the financial advantage of big-money candidates. “The last time I ran,” says Grant, a community activist who unsuccessfully sought a council seat in 2015, “our campaign was outspent 8 to 1.” This time he’s the one outspending his opponents.
Electoral campaigns began over the weekend in Angola, with just a month to go before voters head to the polls on August 23. The official campaigns began quietly with André da Silva Neto, head of the National Electoral Commission, calling for tolerance and respect for order, according to the state-affiliated ANGOP news agency. The 2017 elections move forward without the ailing President Eduardo Jose dos Santos, who announced earlier this year he would not be seeking re-election. He has been the president of Angola since 1979. The longtime ruling party Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was quick to rally and began door-to-door campaigning for presidential candidate João Lourenço in Luanda on Saturday.
Indian expatriates from all walks of life have welcomed the Government of India’s decision to amend the existing electoral law and allow millions of Non-resident Indians (NRIs) to vote from abroad in elections back home. They opined that the decision will involve NRIs in nation-building activities and expressed hope that now political parties will give serious considerations to the problems faced by NRIs. Bindu Suresh Chettur, eminent advocate, legal consultant and President of the Indian Business and Professional Council, Dubai, welcomed the decision and said that it was a constitutional right of the NRIs.
Fears of a renewal of the intertribal violence that marred the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 presidential election have surfaced ahead of the country’s general election next month. The anxiety is not obvious upon first meeting residents of the communities concerned. But ask them to recount their personal experience of the east African country’s disputed election in December 2007 and concerns over the August 8th poll quickly come to the fore. …According to international investigations, most of that ethnic violence, which left 1,300 people dead nationwide, was orchestrated by politicians and business people who felt aggrieved about the election’s outcome. Afterwards Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his political rival at the time, William Ruto, were charged by the International Criminal Court with inciting their respective Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes to carry out atrocities. The prosecutions were later abandoned, however.
Editorials: It matters that Nigerians in diaspora want the rights to vote for our leaders | Cynthia Okoroafor/Ventures
Ahead of the Diaspora Day celebrations scheduled for tomorrow, July 25, and with a view of the next defining round of general elections, about 17 million Nigerians in diaspora are pushing for their rights to participate in the political endeavours of the country by way of casting votes where it matters – our leadership. Although the existing merits and logistical concerns to consider in pursuing this desire might strain the possibilities, it is realisable and should be a key concern of the Nigerian government for reasons which include progress and inclusion. Unlike their around 30 counterparts across the continent, including Benin, Mozambique, Senegal, and Mali, Nigerians in diaspora are constitutionally unable to contribute to electoral activities in the country and are demanding a change. Their argument for the cause lies in their interest and commitment to the development of the country, and their present and potential contributions to the objective thus far.
Papua New Guinea: PNG citizens deprived of the right to vote – Forum observer team | Radio New Zealand
The Pacific Islands Forum’s election observer team to Papua New Guinea says a large number people were deprived of their constitutional rights to vote during the past month’s polling. The team deployed from 19 June to 24 July, and observed pre-polling, polling, and counting. In an interim statement released yesterday the observer group said there were several significant challenges noted, the most serious of which was the alarmingly large number of names missing from electoral rolls. It said this was especially disappointing given the team observed high levels of civic awareness and interest in participating in the election.