The United States remains woefully unprepared for an attack on its nationwide elections system, seven months after the 2016 presidential campaign season was consumed by Russia’s multipronged attempts to undermine democracy by damaging Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Just six of the 10 states that requested additional money to firm up cybersecurity at their election agencies are expecting to receive it, Politico reported Tuesday, while 21 states have called on new federal funding to strengthen local election security or replace outdated voting machines susceptible to hacking and intrusion.
Members of President Donald Trump’s bogus “election integrity” commission vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) used personal email to conduct official business, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the commission claimed Tuesday. The claims appeared in a joint status report filed by both sides Tuesday in the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Members of the panel “have been using personal email accounts rather than federal government systems to conduct Commission work,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed suit against the committee in July.
The Electoral College is under fresh assault on the heels of Donald Trump’s victory last November—the second time in five presidential races the popularly elected candidate lost the election—but it’s not due to any groundswell in Congress for a constitutional amendment to adopt a national popular vote. Instead, the most viable campaign to change how Americans choose their leader is being waged at booze-soaked junkets in luxury hotels around the country and even abroad, as an obscure entity called the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections peddles a controversial idea: that state legislatures can put the popular-vote winner in the White House.
Over the past few months, a steady stream of information has surfaced about Russian efforts to hack the 2016 presidential election. The attacks were specifically focused on voter databases and voting software, with attempts to alter or delete voter information in Illinois and Arizona and intrusions into campaign databases. Experts believe that the goal was to change the outcome of the election. In the past, the voting process wasn’t seen as a target for hackers. Most cyber criminals go after credit card data or Social Security numbers in order to steal peoples’ identities for financial gain. The 2016 presidential elections revealed a new way of thinking. Election hacking wasn’t driven by the desire to make money, but by an effort to meddle with election results, directly by targeting voter data and indirectly through leaks of confidential information to the media.
Editorials: Trump’s voter suppression efforts must be defeated. Here’s one thing we can do | Russ Feingold/The Guardian
So much news in the US recently has been upsetting, and rarely uplifting; but the champions of voting rights have reasons to be both aghast at recent headlines and encouraged by them. On the one hand, the Trump-Pence “election integrity” commission’s every move continues to underscore concerns that it is driving at 90mph towards national voter suppression. Then there is the sudden decision by Donald Trump and attorney general Jeff Session’s Department of Justice to support purging voter rolls in Ohio. It’s enough to make voters feel like they have targets on their backs. On the other hand, Rhode Island recently became the ninth state to enact AVR – automatic voter registration – and on 28 August Illinois became the 10th when its Republican governor signed the bill into law. While the federal government perpetuates myths and conspiracies in an effort to justify taking the vote away from citizens, more and more states are taking local action to strengthen and protect this most fundamental democratic right.
The Sedgwick County Commission is seeking state approval to do voting machine audits regularly. The commission is working to get legislation passed in 2018 that will allow audits of election results. Currently, the state of Kansas does not allow a review of ballots, except as it relates to specific election challenges. Lawmakers failed to pass a bill on election audits last year. Commissioner Jim Howell says there is broad support for the legislation for the upcoming 2018 session. He says Sedgwick County’s new voting machines are designed for audits. “We would like to do random sample auditing across our county, and that would add a lot of transparency and a lot of confidence in our election process, and right now we don’t have that,” Howell says.
Proposed campaign finance rules that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver hopes to get on the books before what’s likely to be an expensive election year could be headed for a courtroom showdown. The state’s usually mundane regulatory process has become a flashpoint in a national battle over the influence of money on electoral politics. Now a coalition of conservative and libertarian groups that has campaigned against Democrat Toulouse Oliver’s policies is signaling it will sue to stop the rules. Though the policies got a final hearing last week, few of the couple dozen people who turned out for the meeting at the state Capitol were concerned about the wording of the 14-page proposal. Instead, most spoke about what the new policy would represent in a more fundamental sense.
Election officials across the country are trying to make sure voting infrastructure is up to date, after concerns over potential hacking in the 2016 election. Pennsylvania is no exception. In 2002, the federal government handed down almost $4 billion for states to update their voting machines and other election equipment. Most states–including Pennsylvania–have long since drained their share.
A divided federal appeals court has stayed a lower judge’s ruling barring Texas from implementing a revised version of its voter identification law. A panel of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2-1, to allow Texas to use the revised voter ID measure known as SB 5 for this November’s elections. “The State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits. SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. This declaration is made under the penalty of perjury,” Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod wrote in a joint order Tuesday. “The State has made a strong showing that this reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs’ alleged harm and thus forecloses plaintiffs’ injunctive relief.”
Angola’s election commission on Monday rejected accusations of irregularities in last month’s vote which saw the MPLA party, which has ruled since 1975, retain power. Four defeated opposition parties complained that the August 23 election was conducted incorrectly, with ballot boxes and voter forms allegedly disappearing. Election commission chief Andre da Silva Neto told reporters that the body “categorically rejected the criticism”, which he said was a deliberate “attempt to discredit the Angolan electoral process”.
If Australian conservatives thought young people would ignore a nonbinding postal survey on marriage equality, they were wrong. Under pressure from his party’s vocal right wing, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Aug. 8 that a nonbinding plebiscite (or vote) of the nation’s citizens will be held by mail to determine whether Australians support legalizing same-sex marriage. Notwithstanding that we already know the stance of most Australians on marriage equality — they support it, according to a number of recent polls — the option of a plebiscite had been strongly opposed by LGBT communities and marriage equality advocates. They’d pushed for a vote in Parliament that would have changed the marriage law. In early September, Australia’s High Court will consider whether the planned plebiscite is unconstitutional. Critics say the postal survey is little more than an opinion poll — one designed to defer action on marriage equality and perhaps skew results in favor of older, more conservative respondents.
Last Thursday, Estonia’s Information System Authority (RIA) was informed by an international group of researchers that a potential security risk had been detected affecting all national ID cards issued in Estonia after October 2014. Estonian experts have determined that the potential risk does indeed exist, affecting 750,000 currently valid ID cards issued after Oct. 17, 2014. ID cards issued prior to this date use a different chip and are unaffected by this risk. Likewise unaffected is the SIM card-based Mobile-ID system, which the government is recommending people sign up for.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said Tuesday he does not accept the date for the new presidential elections, demanding reforms to the electoral commission and other “legal and constitutional guarantees.” The East African power faces an Oct. 17 vote after the Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, saying the electoral commission had committed irregularities. The court called for a new vote within 60 days.
Kenya: Role of international observers under scrutiny after Kenya’s presidential election annulment | Quartz
When Kenya returns to the polls to decide its next president, the hundreds of election observers who attended last month’s vote might not be welcome. Election monitors are tasked with assessing the conduct of an election process as an independent party. Observers of this kind, from the African Union, the European Union, the Commonwealth Nations, and the United States-based Carter Center endorsed the results of Kenya’s Aug. 8 election. Former US secretary of state John Kerry, head of the Carter Center’s mission, applauded the process as “free, fair and credible” despite “little aberrations here and there.” Less than a month later, those aberrations, which include 5 million unverified ballots, led Kenya’s high court to annul the election, overturning the victory of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta. The president should face his rival, opposition candidate, Raila Odinga again on Oct. 17, a date set by the electoral commission.
Venezuela’s opposition is shifting its focus to forthcoming state elections as protests aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro have subsided following the installation of an all-powerful, pro-government legislative body. Four months of violent demonstrations in which at least 125 people were killed have all but stopped due to fatigue among protesters and disillusionment at seeing the ruling Socialist Party cement vast powers despite the concerted opposition push. Most opposition leaders say October’s elections for governors in all the country’s 23 states now represent the best means to keep pressuring Maduro, providing a chance to win some of the governorships at stake and an opportunity for a protest vote to demonstrate the president’s unpopularity.