Cuyahoga County announced Tuesday – National Voter Registration Day – that it will hiring a voting-rights coordinator as part of a new initiative to promote the right and need to vote. The county plans to lead efforts in voter engagement, support a voter awareness summit for youth and partner with libraries to promote online voter registration options for residents. “The right to vote is critical to our democracy,” County Executive Armond Budish said in a statement. “At a time when some are trying to make it harder to vote, we need to do more to help people get registered. Cuyahoga County is dedicated to making voting as accessible as possible for all of our residents.”
Nearly 17,000 registered Wisconsin voters — potentially more — were kept from the polls in November by the state’s strict voter ID law, according to a new survey of nonvoters by two University of Wisconsin political scientists. The survey, summarized on Monday on the university’s website, is certain to further roil an ongoing debate over whether Donald J. Trump’s narrow victory in Wisconsin over Hillary Clinton was a result of efforts to depress Democratic turnout. Mr. Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton by 22,748 votes out of more than 2.9 million ballots cast. The November turnout in Wisconsin, 69.4 percent of eligible voters, was the lowest in a presidential election year since 2000. The study summarized on Monday specifically does not make that claim, its principal author, Prof. Kenneth R. Mayer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an interview. But neither did he rule it out. “The survey did not ask any questions about how people would have voted or about their party identification,” he said. “But it’s certainly possible that there were enough voters deterred that it flipped the election.”
When voters in Virginia head to the polls this November, they’ll be casting their ballots the old-fashioned way. The state’s Board of Elections decided earlier this month to de-certify the widely used Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines ahead of the gubernatorial election – prompting counties and cities to replace their touchscreen machines with those that produce a paper trail. Virginia is not alone. Several states are now considering a return to old-fashioned paper ballots or a reinforced paper trail so results can be verified, amid concerns over hacking attempts in last year’s presidential race as well as longstanding cybersecurity worries about touchscreen machines. “Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that Virginia elections are carried out in a secure and fair manner,” James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said in a statement, calling the move “necessary to ensure the integrity of Virginia’s elections.”
National: Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial and religious divisions | The Washington Post
The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign. The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women. These targeted messages, along with others that have surfaced in recent days, highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another.
In 2011, Facebook asked the Federal Election Commission to exempt it from rules requiring political advertisers to disclose who’s paying for an ad. Political ads on TV and radio must include such disclosures. But Facebook argued that its ads should be regulated as “small items,” similar to bumper stickers, which don’t require disclosures. The FEC ended up deadlocked on the issue, and the question of how to handle digital ads has languished for six years. Now, it’s blowing up again—and damaging Facebook in the process. The renewed interest follows Facebook’s disclosure earlier this month that it had sold $150,000 worth of political ads linked to Russian troll accounts during the 2016 election. Under pressure from investigators, Facebook has turned over records about the ads to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller III. Some in Congress want to summon Facebook executives to testify about the purchases. On Thursday, Facebook tried to defuse the controversy. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new transparency measures that would require political advertisers on Facebook to disclose who’s paying for their ads and publicly catalog different ad variations they target at Facebook users. Members of Congress, meanwhile, are mulling a bill that would require such disclosures.
National: Facebook, Google and Twitter face proposed bill targeting shadowy political ads | The Washington Post
Democratic lawmakers are pushing for new legislation that would require greater disclosure of political ads that run on Internet platforms, despite a pledge by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that the company will voluntarily pull back the curtain on political advertising on the social network. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.) urged colleagues Thursday to support a bill that would create new transparency requirements for platforms that run political ads online akin to those already in place for TV stations, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post. The senators said that the Federal Election Commission, the independent agency that regulates political spending, “has failed to take sufficient action to address online political advertisements and our current laws do not adequately address online political advertisements published on platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Editorials: Will the Supreme Court strike down extreme partisan gerrymandering? | Thomas P. Wolf and Michael C. Li/Los Angeles Times
The U.S. Supreme Court this fall will hear a series of blockbuster cases dealing with core constitutional rights and basic national values. Among the most important is Gill vs. Whitford, a Wisconsin case that asks the justices to address the toxic threat of partisan gerrymandering. With Whitford, Americans — who by wide margins say they are fed up with gerrymandering — may finally get the breakthrough they have long sought. The court has already tried and failed several times to limit politicians’ power to manipulate electoral maps for partisan ends. Its failures have paved the way for so-called extreme partisan gerrymanders, electoral maps drawn by politicians and paid consultants that lock in a statewide majority for their party, through good and bad election cycles. But there is reason to believe that the Wisconsin case, which the court will take up Oct. 3, may turn out differently. Several crucial factors have aligned to make judicial action both relatively easy and absolutely necessary.
Editorials: Congress Must Follow Up Facebook’s Exposing Russian Political Advertising | Karen Hobert Flynn/US News & World Report
Facebook’s announcement this month that it’s changing the way it handles political advertising is good news but no cause for celebration. Stung by stories about how the site sold political advertising to Russian interests last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled a self-regulation regimen that may quiet the social network’s critics and placate lawmakers alarmed about hidden foreign meddling in U.S. elections. But while Zuckerberg’s maneuver may be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it falls far short of what Americans need to protect our elections. Rather than placating Congress and the public, it should spark the passage of comprehensive and long overdue legislation requiring full disclosure of the people, businesses and groups using online ads to influence our votes.
Superficially, the question in Gill v. Whitford—the blockbuster case about partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, to be heard next month by the Supreme Court—is a legal one. Is the test for gerrymandering adoptedby the trial court “discernible,” or rooted in the high court’s precedent, and “manageable,” or consistent in the results it would produce? Lurking beneath this question, though, is a more fundamental debate about the nature of voting and representation in modern American politics. The position the Supreme Court takes in this debate will likely influence its decision more than any legal argument. In its amicus brief, the Wisconsin legislature tells a rosy tale of voter and legislator behavior. Wisconsin voters do not “blindly support one party or the other,” the brief contends. Rather, they often split their tickets, or change their allegiances from one election to the next, based on “issues that matter to the electorate” and “the quality of the candidates and their campaigns.” Legislators, similarly, are highly responsive to their constituents’ preferences. Competitive races “force the winning candidate to adopt more moderate, centrist positions,” while “a landslide may allow that candidate to move further from the center.”
Indiana: Republican’s plan would further suppress voting in Marion County, Democrats say | Indianapolis Star
The newly appointed Republican member of the Marion County Election Board has proposed a way to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination in access to voting, but a group behind the dispute and Democrats alike say the plan would worsen the problem. Melissa Thompson, who was appointed Sept. 15 to the three-person board, suggests eliminating the 600 existing voting precincts and replacing them with 99 vote centers, but also during the early-voting period a vote center or satellite site in each of the county’s nine townships. Thompson says her plan would save the county money by eliminating more than 500 locations while increasing the number of early-voting locations. She also says her plan would make voting more accessible to workers because they could cast a ballot at any vote center rather than having to go to a designated precinct. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but right now we have the opportunity to think bigger than just this lawsuit,” Thompson told IndyStar.
Less than six hours after its passage by the Republican-controlled state legislature, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law this week a measure that, effective immediately, allows candidates to raise unlimited sums of money for super PACs, which can then promptly spend that money supporting those candidates — or attacking their rivals. It also allows consultants to simultaneously work for a campaign and a super PAC at the same time, making a joke of the supposed independence of the two groups. It’s a brazen move for Snyder, who is term-limited out of office in 2018, to so fully embrace the post-Citizens United world dominated by big-money super PACs. Watchdogs warn that the law — which they have described as “Citizens United on steroids”— effectively creates an end-run around the state’s limits on campaign contributions and further obliterates the already-thin line that is supposed to maintain super PAC independence from candidates. That opens the door for the state’s wealthy donors to wield even more influence over the political system.
New Hampshire: Fact Checker: Kris Kobach’s claim that there is now ‘proof’ of voter fraud in New Hampshire | The Washington Post
“Facts have come to light that indicate that a pivotal, close election was likely changed through voter fraud on November 8, 2016: New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate Seat, and perhaps also New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes in the presidential election. … It has long been reported, anecdotally, that out-of-staters take advantage of New Hampshire’s same-day registration and head to the Granite State to cast fraudulent votes. Now there’s proof.”
— Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, in an op-ed in Breitbart, Sept. 7, 2017
The Fact Checker has kept close track of claims of widespread voter fraud, one of President Trump’s favorite talking points from the campaign and from the White House. Over and over again, we found little to no evidence to support his claims of voter fraud that is prevalent enough to tip elections, as he claims. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, is now leading the charge to investigate voter fraud in the U.S. electoral system. And he claims to have finally found the smoking gun. So of course, we checked it out.
Is there now proof that shows fraudulent votes tipped the presidential and Senate races in New Hampshire? The short answer: No.
Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown and others criticize Ohio’s voter culling process in Supreme Court briefs | Cleveland Plain Dealer
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown joined critics of Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s process for purging inactive voters from the state’s rolls today in filing briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court. Brown, a Democrat who held Husted’s job from 1983 to 1991 and worked in Congress to pass the National Voter Registration Act, argued that Husted’s procedure for voiding registrations of people who haven’t voted in several years “would wrongly cancel the registrations of thousands of eligible Ohio voters.” “Citizens have the right not to vote for any reason, and states cannot penalize them for doing so by canceling their registrations,” Brown’s legal brief said. “Ohio’s Supplemental Program does exactly that because it uses registered voters’ failure to vote as the trigger to subject them to the change-of-residence confirmation process.”
Pennsylvania: Federal Court Lambastes Conservative Effort To Strip Felon Voting Rights In Philadelphia | HuffPost
A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the Philadelphia City Commissioners that tried to force the city to purge convicted felons from the voter rolls, using scathing language against a conservative group that brought the suit. Felons in Pennsylvania cannot vote while they are incarcerated, but are eligible to do so upon release. The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), a conservative group that has pushed for more aggressive voting rights restrictions across the country, said felons should be removed from the voter rolls after incarceration and sued the city, alleging it was violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which sets guidance for how states can purge their voter rolls. Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a George W. Bush appointment, dismissed the lawsuit last year.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to speed its review of a lower-court ruling that said several congressional and Texas House districts had to be redrawn because they discriminated against minority voters. The request, made by lawyers challenging the maps as unconstitutional, was rejected without comment in orders the Supreme Court delivered…
Wisconsin: Elections Commission to consider new security after hack attempt | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
The Wisconsin Elections Commission Tuesday will consider increasing its cyber security efforts, a move that follows reports that Russians unsuccessfully attempted to hack the agency last year. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified Wisconsin that it was one of 21 states that Russians attempted to hack during the presidential elections.Elections Commission members and the news media will be briefed on this attack at the agency’s Tuesday board meeting, spokesman Reid Magney said. The new security would include encrypting WisVote, the statewide voter registration system used by local clerks, and requiring two-factor authentication for clerks and state workers signing into that system. That two-factor system requires both a typical password and then a second code that is sent as a text to a user’s cellphone or an email to their private account.
Australia: Outbreak of homophobic violence, vandalism in same-sex marriage campaign | sydney Morning Herald
Swastikas and vile phrases such as “vote no to fags” have been scrawled on trains, and homes flying the rainbow flag have been attacked, in an outbreak of homophobic violence and vandalism accompanying the postal survey on same-sex marriage. Tasmanian police have also laid charges over the alleged assault of a transgender teenager in Hobart on Friday, just a day after former prime minister Tony Abbott was headbutted by a self-proclaimed anarchist DJ in the same area. The incidents further test Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that “overwhelmingly, Australians are engaging in this debate respectfully”, with six weeks to go until the deadline for survey forms to be received by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Germany: Looks like a Russian-language botnet tried to boost voter fraud claims in Germany | Mashable
A Russian-language network of Twitter bots tried to boost claims of voter fraud going into Germany’s national elections on Sept. 24. Those elections seem to have largely avoided the alleged Russian interference that had recently taken place in both the United States and France, but Russian-language bots still seized on a claim made by what appears to be a fake account, according to The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. On Sept. 22, an account sent a tweet in German (translated below) that made it seem as though someone going by the name of “Sahrer” was going to help run the election, and would invalidate votes in favor of Alternative for Germany, a far-right party whose leaders have developed friendships in Moscow. The above account photo, as pointed out by the Digital Forensic Research Lab, is actually a Pakistani actress with some digitally-altered red hair, and the account didn’t post much until it was close to election time in Germany.
While fighting for a seat in the German parliament over the last few months, Sergej Tschernow, a candidate for the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, knew that he could only rely on a few media outlets to give his party the coverage it craves: the Russian ones. “They show our points of view in full,” he told TIME on Election Day, Sunday Sept. 24, when the AfD became the first far-right movement to enter into the German legislature since the end of World War II, winning a remarkable 13% of the vote and going from zero to more than 90 seats in a chamber of 631 lawmakers. The party’s rise has been caused by a range of factors, not least the widespread frustrations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose political party, the Christian Democratic Union, had one of the worst showings in its history on Sunday. It won only 33% of the vote – most likely enough to secure Merkel a fourth term in office, but hardly the commanding lead the CDU anticipated.
Thousands of people in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq have cast votes in a referendum billed as a first step towards independence from Baghdad, defying regional demands that the ballot be abandoned and international fears that the outcome could spark violence. As voting stations closed, more than 80% of registered voters had cast ballots in a poll that many felt went beyond the demands of Iraq’s Kurdish north to buttress the cause of Kurds across the region. Leaders in Erbil had tried to confine aspirations to within the Kurdish regional government’s current boundaries in Iraq. However, Iran, Turkey and Baghdad fear the ballot could provide momentum to restive Kurdish movements and potentially destabilise borders elsewhere in the region. Iraq’s parliament on Monday debated a motion to send troops into disputed areas south of Kirkuk that were contentiously included in the referendum.
Kenya’s chief prosecutor has ordered police and an anti-corruption agency to investigate the country’s election commission for alleged “irregularities and illegalities” in August’s annulled presidential poll. Director of public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko said on the wide-ranging investigations into the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) must be completed within 21 days. The election board had said incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won the contest by 1.4 million votes, but the opposition said the country’s electronic voting system had been hacked and the results were doctored. A fresh presidential election between Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga is due on October 26.
Spain’s struggle to stop Catalonia’s separatist referendum overcame a potential body blow over the weekend as the region’s police force acceded to demands it take more direction from the central government in Madrid. At first, Catalan interior chief Joaquim Forn said on Saturday his rebel administration rejected a national prosecutor’s order for central-government coordination of police in the run-up to the Oct. 1 vote. Hours later, Catalan police managers issued an internal memo saying that they’ll keep obeying orders from prosecutors and judges. While that decision defused a potential showdown between security forces in Spain’s largest regional economy, tension ratcheted back up. Leaders of CUP, an anarchist party represented in Parliament, insisted on a general strike from Oct. 3. On Sunday, civic groups leading the independence movement in the streets demonstrated and handed out posters and voting slips without Catalan police intervening to confiscate them, as ordered.
As Zimbabwe prepares for a general election in 2018, rights activists are criticizing the government’s decision to reintroduce a proof of residence requirement for voter registration, saying it disenfranchises a large number of potential voters – many of them women. After proposals to relax the rules on proof of residence drew criticism from various political parties, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in June reinstated the requirement that all voters must produce a document confirming their permanent address before they can register to vote. But activists say the move disqualifies anyone who doesn’t have a fixed address, doesn’t own property or simply can’t get hold of the necessary documentation.