As President Trump’s voter fraud commission prepared to convene in New Hampshire this week, it already faced questions about its seriousness of purpose and whether it was a hopelessly biased endeavor. Then things got worse. An email surfaced in which the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, one of the commission’s most conservative members, lamented that Trump was appointing Democrats and “mainstream” Republicans to the bipartisan panel. Its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), drew rebukes from voting rights advocates — and a couple of fellow commissioners — for an article he wrote for the hard-right Breitbart News website. The article asserted, without proof, that voter fraud had likely changed the result in New Hampshire’s most recent U.S. Senate race. A third Republican on the panel, J. Christian Adams of Virginia, later feuded on Twitter with a journalist, questioning whether she had lied about her academic credentials. She had not.
A bipartisan pair of senators is moving to create a 9/11-style commission to examine the cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced legislation on Friday to establish the National Commission on Cybersecurity of U.S. Election Systems to study the election-related cyberattacks — which the intelligence community has attributed to Russia — and make recommendations on how to guard against such activity going forward. The commission would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission tasked with investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
National: Experts Say the Use of Private Email by Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Isn’t Legal | ProPublica
President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission came under fire earlier this month when a lawsuit and media reports revealed that the commissioners were using private emails to conduct public business. Commission co-chair Kris Kobach confirmed this week that most of them continue to do so. Experts say the commission’s email practices do not appear to comport with federal law. “The statute here is clear,” said Jason Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration. Essentially, Baron said, the commissioners have three options: 1. They can use a government email address; 2. They can use a private email address but copy every message to a government account; or 3. They can use a private email address and forward each message to a government account within 20 days. According to Baron, those are the requirements of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, which the commission must comply with under its charter.
Facebook is under fire after revealing that a Russian group tied to the Kremlin bought political ads on its platform during the 2016 elections. Lawmakers are demanding answers, and liberal groups, who say the company failed to crack down on fake news, are seizing on the new disclosure. Even Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, has cited the ads when discussing her loss during a book tour. “We now know that they were sewing discord during the election with phony groups on Facebook,” Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “They were running anti-immigrant, anti-me, anti-Hillary Clinton demonstrations. They were putting out the fake news and negative stories untrue to really divide people.” Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the company needs to be more forthcoming about the full extent of the ad buys.
One of the reasons why computer security is so hard is because you have to get absolutely everything right in order to have a secure system. And there’s lots of different kinds of things you can get wrong. Everything from your software was buggy, your passwords were too weak, you published your passwords accidentally, your hardware was insecure, the user made a mistake and fell victim to a phishing attack and gave their credentials to a foreign agent or a bad guy. All of those things have to be done correctly in order to have a secure system. It might seem tempting to think, you know, everybody has a cell phone so you could just use your cell phone to do voting like we do for American Idol or similar TV shows. It works for American Idol because nobody cares all that much who wins or doesn’t win.
Editorials: Trump lied about ‘voter fraud’ … now he wants to steal people’s votes | Lawrence Douglas/The Guardian
Of the hundreds of whoppers that President Trump has told since his election, an early one remains the most toxic. In days following his electoral college victory, Trump claimed that he would have also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump later refined this claim, insisting that three to five million undocumented voters threw the popular election for Clinton. By way of proof, the president waved at an outlandish story: that golfer Bernhard Langer – a German citizen, barred from voting in the in the US – had had his path to the voting booth clogged by men and women, who by skin color and accent were obviously fraudulent voters. At first, the voter fraud fantasy seemed like no more than a display of the touchiness and extravagant narcissism that led Trump, in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary, to insist that his inaugural crowds were larger than Obama’s. In fact, the lie concealed a much more ambitious and insidious political agenda. In May, with the creation of the “Presidential Advisory Committee on Voter Integrity,” Trump bootstrapped the myth of voter fraud into an institutional reality. The goal: to use the allegation of fraud to tighten voting procedures that will suppress the votes of minorities, groups that generally vote Democratic.
IT security researchers at Kromtech Security Center discovered an unprotected database exposed online due to misconfiguration of CouchDB containing nearly 600,000 records belonging to Alaskan voters. “The exposed data is a larger voter file called Voterbase compiled by TargetSmart, a leader in national voting databases that contains the contact and voting information of more than 191 million voters and 58 million unregistered, voting age consumers,” said researchers. The database with 593,328 records was available to the public for anyone to download without any security or login credentials. Each record contained names, date of birth, addresses, voting preferences, marital status, income details, children’s age, gun ownership related data and points which might help decide what issue the voter might be appealed to. TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier blamed a third-party firm for the incident and told ZDNetthat “We’ve learned that Equals3, an AI software company based in Minnesota, appears to have failed to secure some of their data and some data they license from TargetSmart and that a database of approximately 593,000 Alaska voters appears to have been inadvertently exposed.”
As next year’s statewide elections get closer, several Arizona agencies are locked in a bitter feud to determine who has the power to police so-called “dark money” groups that spend millions to influence races. The dispute is playing out in complicated legal tit-for-tats, but the heart of the fight is simple: Should the office of Secretary of State Michele Reagan or the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, a voter-created body, play the role of enforcer? And is there room for two policemen? It’s unclear how the dispute will get resolved. Ultimately, courts may have to decide.
It turns out that the city of College Park did not have enough votes after all to grant voting rights to noncitizens, officials said Saturday. The College Park City Council voted 4-3 with one member abstaining Tuesday night on an amendment to the city’s charter that would allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. But charter amendments need six votes of the eight-member council, the city announced Saturday. That rule was changed in June, and the mayor and council members said they neglected to note that they needed six votes.
A new state law approved this week changed one word in the state’s elections laws, but it could eventually be a way to get more poll workers, local officials said. Senate Bill S.443A, signed Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allows for county boards of elections to split shifts of poll workers — allowing workers to take shifts shorter than the 16-hour shifts for general elections and nine-hour shifts for primary elections, as long as there is at least one poll worker from each major party working at one time. The change in the law — which changes the word “half” to “split” — won’t mean immediate relief for long poll workers’ days, but local elections officials said it could be “a step maybe in the right direction.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments Friday in Segovia v. United States, an equal protection challenge by plaintiffs in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who would be able to absentee vote for President and voting representation in Congress if they lived in other U.S. territories or a foreign country, but are denied such rights based solely on their ZIP code. The Appeals Court panel consisted of Judge David Hamilton, Judge Ilana Rovner, and Judge Daniel Manion. Oral argument will be posted online. Earlier this week, the Trump Department of Justice filed a last-minute letter with the court arguing that the remedy to any equal protection violation should be to strip away statutorily provided voting rights that are already guaranteed to residents of certain territories.
Editorials: Decertifying Virginia’s vulnerable voting machines is just the first step | Fredericksburg Free Lance Star
The Virginia State Board of Elections has belatedly decided that all electronic touchscreen voting machines still in use throughout the commonwealth cannot be used for the Nov. 7 general election because they are vulnerable to hacking, even though they are not connected to the internet. This revelation is not new. For more than a decade, computer scientists at Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and other top universities have demonstrated that hackers can surreptitiously change votes on these machines without leaving a trace. In 2005, Finnish computer programmer Harri Hursti successfully hacked into Diebold voting machines that were in a locked warehouse in Leon County, Fla., under the watchful eyes of elections officials, a feat still referred to today as the Hursti Hack. But it took another demonstration of successful hacking at the DEFcon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas this summer to finally convince board members that they needed to immediately decertify all touchscreen voting machines still in use in Virginia. Better late than never, as the old saying goes, but that left 22 cities and counties that still use them to tabulate election results in the lurch. Decertification should have happened years ago.
It is a political practice nearly as old as the United States – manipulating the boundaries of legislative districts to help one party tighten its grip on power in a move called partisan gerrymandering – and one the Supreme Court has never curbed. That could soon change, with the nine justices making the legal fight over Republican-drawn electoral maps in Wisconsin one of the first cases they hear during their 2017-2018 term that begins next month. Their ruling in the case could influence American politics for decades. Wisconsin officials point to the difficulty of having courts craft a workable standard for when partisan gerrymandering violates constitutional protections. Opponents of the practice said limits are urgently needed, noting that sophisticated technological tools now enable a dominant party to devise with new precision state electoral maps that marginalize large swathes of voters in legislative elections.
Around 57 percent of the registered voters cast their votes yesterday at 37 polling stations spread across the city. While many agree the voting process was easier than four years ago, some residents are still skeptical over Macau’s voting procedures, and others are unaware of Macau’s controversial voting system. Speaking to the Times, several voters criticized the SAR’s voting system, arguing that the 14 directly elected seats in the Legislative Assembly (AL) are not enough. They suggested that the 12 seats nominated by the functional constituency system should be reduced to allow for more directly elected seats. “There are not enough direct selections. It doesn’t make sense that the government can have that many appointed representatives,” said a 60-year old resident who refused to be identified.
Germany has a notoriously complex voting system for electing its Bundestag, or lower house. The system seeks to combine the benefits of both direct and proportional representation while guarding against the electoral mistakes of German history, which saw political fragmentation during the Weimar Republic between WWI and WWII. The 2009 and 2013 parliamentary elections saw a significant drop in German voter turnout to around 70 percent, but with the rise of the populist movement that draws on non-voters in all democratic states, the numbers are expected to rise this year. This year, 61.5 million people age 18 and above are eligible to vote in the national election, according to figures from Germany’s Federal Statistics Office. Of those, 31.7 million are women and 29.8 million are men with some 3 million first-time voters. Over a third of Germany’s voters – 22 million – are over 60 years old, meaning the older generation often has particular sway over the election outcome.
Iceland: Prime Minister calls snap election after coalition party quits over ‘breach of trust’ | Reuters
Iceland’s prime minister called for a snap parliamentary election on Friday after one party in the ruling coalition quit the government formed less than nine months ago. The outgoing party, Bright Future, cited a “breach of trust” after Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s party allegedly tried to cover up a scandal involving his father. That leaves the country, whose economy was wrecked by the collapse of its banking system nearly a decade ago, facing its second snap election in less than a year. The outgoing government would be the shortest-living in Iceland’s history. The previous government was felled by the Panama Papers scandal over offshore tax havens.
Top Kurdish leadership have decided to refuse the current US-backed alternative to the referendum as it did not “include the necessary guarantees” that can convince the people of Kurdistan to postpone the vote, a statement from the High Referendum Council that is headed by President Masoud Barzani read Sunday night. While it praised the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations to have offered to present the alternative, the meeting said that it did not meet their demands. “The process of the referendum will continue because the suggestions that have been presented until now don’t include the necessary guarantees that could meet the satisfaction and conviction of our people,” the statement read as it explained that the Referendum Council assessed the alternative.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering calling a snap election as early as next month to take advantage of an uptick in approval ratings and disarray in the main opposition party, domestic media reported on Sunday. Abe’s ratings have recovered to the 50 percent level in some polls, helped by public jitters over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and chaos in the opposition Democratic Party, struggling with single-digit support and defections. Abe told the head of his Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, that he could not rule out dissolving parliament’s lower house for a snap poll after the legislature convenes for an extra session from Sept. 28, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unidentified informed sources.
Polls opened in Nepal on Monday (Sept 18) for the final phase of local polls, the first in nearly two decades and a key step in the country’s post-war transition to a federal democracy. Most of the country has already voted in the landmark polls, but the vote was repeatedly delayed in one province of Nepal’s southern plains, which was the epicentre of deadly ethnic protests two years ago. Protests kicked off after a new Constitution was passed in 2015 – nearly a decade after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency – with ethnic minority groups saying the charter left them politically marginalised.
More than 700 mayors from Catalonia met Saturday in Barcelona in a show of strength amid pressure from Spain’s central government not to hold an independence referendum for the northeastern region. Political tensions in Spain are increasing as the proposed voting date of Oct. 1 nears. The Catalan government has been scrambling to push forward the vote, despite the central government’s warnings that local municipalities are not allowed to use public buildings for it and mayors can be legally prosecuted for it. Hundreds of mayors stood Saturday next to regional President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in Barcelona, the capital and main city in the region. “We will not be intimidated. This is not about independence, it’s about our rights,” said Colau.
The use of electronic voting in Switzerland has been making slow progress amid setbacks over security concerns. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) is pushing for the introduction of e-voting for all Swiss expats by the next parliamentary elections in October 2019. Critics complain that the number of cantons offering their registered Swiss citizens abroad the option of e-voting falls short of expectations. In all, 775,000 Swiss citizens live overseas and if you consider that e-voting trials using online technology have been underway since 2004, the number of potential beneficiaries is rather modest. About 158,000 expats from eight cantons (see map below) have the option of participating in the September 24 votes on the controversial old age pension reform, food security and some cantonal issues using a secure computer programme. Eighteen other cantons, including the populous cantons of Zurich and Vaud, do not offer e-voting.