As the most populous state in the country by far — and a leader in innovations — California is always worth watching. In no situation is that more true than in its attempts to fix its voting system. Sometimes, however, those efforts prove to be entirely counterproductive. In response to reports from US intelligence that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, election officials across the country are striving to fortify their security procedures. In light of all this, many experts were shaking their heads in disappointment after California recently passed a law that election activists are calling “an open invitation to large-scale election fraud.” Earlier this month, a seemingly innocuous bill reached the desk of Governor Jerry Brown (D) after passing the State Assembly and Senate unopposed. Given its ostensible purpose — to allow mail-in voters to re-submit overlooked signatures via email — the lack of scrutiny might have been understandable. However, when the bill was amended before its final Senate vote, its purpose took an unforeseen shift. The altered bill “dramatically reduc[es] the number of ballots counties must include in the [post-election hand count] performed to verify the accuracy of software vote counts,” said the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation in a letter calling for the bill’s veto.
The guilty plea of a 30-year-old campaign aide — so green that he listed Model United Nations in his qualifications — shifted the narrative on Monday of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia: Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online. The new court filings provided the first clear evidence that Trump campaign aides had early knowledge that Russia had stolen confidential documents on Mrs. Clinton and the committee, a tempting trove in a close presidential contest. By the time of a crucial meeting in June of last year, when Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, some may have known for weeks that Russia had material likely obtained by illegal hacking, the new documents suggested. The disclosures added to the evidence pointing to attempts at collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but they appeared to fall short of proof that they conspired in the hacking or other illegal acts.
National: Trump Fraud Commissioner’s System Purges Voters With A Database That Never Works, Lawsuit Says | Newsweek
Civil rights activists have sued the Indiana Election Division and associated officials over a law the state recently established allowing county officials to purge voter registrations immediately based on a database program that a new study found is 99 percent inaccurate. The American Civil Liberties Union and nonpartisan organization Common Cause Indiana filed a federal lawsuit Friday alleging that a law Indiana implemented in July “permits or requires Indiana counties to ignore the mandatory procedures and protections in the (National Voter Registration Act), resulting in non-uniform, discriminatory, and illegal cancellations of Indiana voter registrations.” Under Indiana’s new law, county officials no longer have to wait through a notice period to get rid of voters flagged through the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which identifies people in different states with the same name and birthdate.
National: Russia-backed Facebook posts ‘reached 126 million Americans’ during US election | The Guardian
Russia-backed content reached as many as 126 million Americans on Facebook during and after the 2016 presidential election, according to the company’s prepared testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of hearings this week. Facebook believes 120 fake Russian-backed pages created 80,000 posts that were received by 29 million Americans directly, but reached a much bigger audience by users sharing, liking and following the posts. The social network plans to disclose these numbers to the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the testimony. The tech giant’s testimony will follow dramatic developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian inference in the 2016 election, with three indictments, including two top Trump campaign aides.
Congress will put Facebook, Twitter and Google under a public microscope Tuesday about Russia’s use of their networks to meddle in the 2016 election, a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation disclosed its first indictments and guilty plea. Senators want to know how the companies failed to keep Russians from exploiting their networks and using fake accounts to spread chaos and disinformation. The three companies’ general counsels will appear before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, with Facebook poised to say Russians bought 3,000 Facebook ads mostly with rubles and that posts reached the newsfeeds of 126 million users. “If someone is paying you in rubles to place a political ad, or an ad that is intended to sow the seeds of discontent and discord, that ought to be a red flag,” Senate Intelligence panel member Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview Monday. “How much more of a tipoff do you need?”
Facebook has been happy to keep congressional investigators focused on the Russian-bought online ads that helped sway voters in last year’s election — despite the many other ways that fake messages and bogus accounts spread on the dark side of social media. But that may be about to end: Facebook, Twitter and Google are preparing for hearings this week where lawmakers are expected to grill the companies about the broad reach that foreign actors achieved through fake accounts and deliberate misinformation, a topic that encompasses far more than the 3,000 paid political ads that Facebook disclosed last month. Some lawmakers are already pressing for more details about so-called organic content, including unpaid posts from thousands of fake, automated and hijacked user accounts. Those questions could require Facebook to divulge more details about the priceless proprietary algorithms it uses to decide what messages its users see.
Kennesaw State University says a computer server holding state election data was wiped clean after copies of it were made by the FBI and the agency told KSU its investigation into a possible hack was complete. A group suing the state, charging Georgia’s voting system is outdated and not secure, says KSU erased the server in July after its lawsuit was filed. The group says data on the server may have revealed whether state elections were hacked. “This was not accidental. This was something that was conducted with purpose to make sure that the information could never be recovered again,” said Richard DeMillo, a computing professor at Georgia Tech who has been closely watching the case.
Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson says he thinks Republicans may have stolen an election from his fellow Democrat, Jon Ossoff. Ossoff lost a special congressional election to Republican Karen Handel in June in the most expensive congressional election in US history. It’s easy to forget now that on April 18th, Jon Ossoff nearly won a special election to replace Rep. Tom Price. Ossoff won more than 48 percent of the vote in a crowded field – but because he failed to get 50 percent, the Democrat entered a runoff election with Republican Karen Handel. “A difference of about 3200 votes,” recalled US Rep. Hank Johnson. The Democrat had employed Ossoff as a congressional aide. Ossoff stayed consistently ahead in most polls leading up to the runoff – then lost on election night. “I think it’s quite possible that Jon Ossoff won that election and the election was stolen from him. That’s my suspicion,” Johnson said Monday.
Louisiana: State hires controversial law firm to block fix for racist judicial elections | Facing South
Back in August, a federal judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by the NAACP that the at-large voting system for judges in Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish southwest of New Orleans makes it difficult for black voters to elect candidates of their choice and thus violates the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bars discrimination in voting because of race, color or language minority status. But rather than stand aside and let the legislature fix the districts when it convenes next year, since elections are not imminent, the defendants in the lawsuit — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) — are appealing early to block the remedial process.
The secretary of state will have the authority to postpone and reschedule local elections under extreme weather conditions, according to proposed legislation. The bill is designed to address the confusion that arose last March, when an Election Day nor’easter threw elections for municipal officials and local ballot questions into chaos. A House-Senate committee created to resolve conflicts that surfaced last March unanimously agreed to draft a bill that settles the matter in a way more satisfactory to the secretary of state than to the N.H. Municipal Association. According to draft language endorsed by the five-member committee on Monday, the secretary of state can postpone local or school district elections if he believes that an emergency exists, if the governor has declared a state of emergency, or if a town moderator requests such a delay based on an “extreme weather emergency or imminent serious threat to public health and safety.”
Dozens of local elected officials Monday urged state and county agencies to investigate the possible abuse of absentee ballots in multiple races in Albany County. Officials at a press conference in front of the state Board of Elections on North Pearl Street called on the state Board of Elections, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and District Attorney David Soares to investigate the use of absentee ballots. That followed a letter, sent last week, signed by 40 elected officials after the Times Union reported on concerns that voters in some city races were being misled about valid reasons for absentee ballot voting — particularly in the 11th Ward, where incumbent Common Councilman Judd Krasher is running on the Independence Party line after losing the Democratic primary to challenger Alfredo Balarin.
The state Board of Elections has endorsed draft legislation that would block a type of electronic voting system from being used in South Dakota. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said Monday that a direct recording electronic voting system hasn’t been used in the state. Krebs says South Dakota uses paper ballots. The board supported 2018 draft legislation that would remove references to the machines from state law. Krebs says officials want to take a “very proactive approach.”
Iceland’s ruling Independence Party took the largest share of the vote in the island nation’s parliamentary election but faces difficult negotiations to form a new government after populist candidates showed unexpected strength. A record eight parties won seats in Saturday’s vote as the 2008 global financial crisis continues to roil the island’s politics. Despite topping the poll, the Independence Party saw its support dip to 25 percent. The three-party governing coalition lost a total of 12 seats, leaving it 11 seats shy of a majority in parliament, known as the Althingi. The opposition Left Green Movement finished second with 17 percent, despite predictions it could win the election. “Everyone lost,” said political analyst Gunnar Smari Egilsson said. “The current opposition gained no seats while the ruling coalition lost 12 seats. Populists alone triumphed.”
Kenya’s incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won 98 percent of the vote in a repeated election in which an opposition boycott helped lower turnout to 39 percent, the electoral commission said on Monday. The announcement touched off small protests in a few opposition strongholds but also celebrations in pro-Kenyatta areas. Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga said the Oct. 26 election was a farce. Civil society groups also cited problems with the vote. The violence has for the most part seen protesters clash with police but some Kenyans fear it is starting to take on ethnic overtones after two deaths in clashes between rival groups at the weekend. At least 66 people have died in overall election violence. On Monday, the U.S. ambassador said Washington was “profoundly concerned” by the outbreaks of violence since the re-run. Kenya is east Africa’s richest economy and a key security ally of the West against militant Islam. It also a key regional trade, logistics and trade hub.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s spokesman on Monday denied allegations from her own party that she meddled in this month’s presidential election. At a news conference on Sunday, leaders from Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party accused the president of holding inappropriate private meetings with election magistrates before the Oct. 10 vote. They accused her of showing greed “in its most callous form” with the “intent of disrupting the fragile peace of Liberia”, and backed a challenge to the first round results brought by other parties before the country’s election commission. Unity Party’s candidate, Vice President Joseph Boakai, placed runner-up in the first-round with 28.8 percent of the vote to front-runner George Weah’s 38.4 percent, setting up a second round run-off scheduled for Nov. 7.
Editorials: The great revolution in UK prisoner voting will affect … a few dozen people | Rob Allen/The Guardian
n 2005 the European court of human rights ruled that the UK’s blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners was a violation of the right to free elections. Fearful of media and parliamentary uproar, successive Labour, coalition and Conservative governments have refused to make even a partial relaxation to the ban – until now. A leaked paper suggests that some short-term prisoners may finally be permitted to vote in elections, albeit in very limited circumstances. It’s not exactly clear which prisoners will get the vote. It could be those serving sentences of less than 12 months who happen to be outside prison on day release on the date an election happens to fall. Or a more proactive scheme could be introduced for short-term prisoners who are eligible for what’s called “release on temporary licence” either to go out to a polling station or cast a vote in jail. Whichever proposal emerges from the Whitehall consultation, it’s a tiny number who will be enfranchised. The leaked paper talks of hundreds (out of 86,000 prisoners), but it could be tens. Day release is almost never used for the 6,000-odd short-term prisoners as things stand.
Three of Venezuela’s largest opposition parties vowed on Monday to boycott mayoral polls later this year in protest at an election system they say is biased in favor of President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialists. The multi-party Democratic Unity coalition has had a tough 2017, first failing to bring down Maduro in four months of protests that led to 125 deaths, then losing surprisingly to the Socialist Party in a gubernatorial election earlier this month. That has left the opposition weakened and divided, and Maduro strengthened, despite growing foreign pressure on his government over alleged rights abuses and corruption, and an unprecedented economic crisis that has millions skipping food. Three heavyweight movements in the opposition – Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action – announced on Monday they did not trust the government-leaning election board sufficiently to participate in the municipal polls in December.
State and federal officials are worried that obsolete voting equipment may be putting state election infrastructure at risk. At an Oct. 24 meeting of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security Forum, Election Assistance Commission Commissioner Thomas Hicks, called aging voting equipment “one of the biggest vulnerabilities I see right now.” Some states are using 15-year-old machines that are at the end of their lifecycles and don’t have resources to buy new equipment, Hicks said. Concerns about aging equipment are heightened because of reports from the Department of Homeland Security that Russian hackers targeted voting systems in 21 states.
These ain’t your grandfather’s gerrymanders. Gone is the era of elaborate cartographical sketches and oil paintings of salamanders, and of salted old-timer politicians drawing up their “contributions to modern art” armed with markers and heads full of electoral smarts. Today, political mapmaking is a multimillion dollar enterprise, with dozens of high-profile paid consultants, armies of…
National: First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller | Wall Street Journal
At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter. That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Peter Carr, declined to comment. The news of the charges, marking the first in Mr. Mueller’s investigation, was first reported by CNN on Friday.
Some Democratic lawmakers want to repeal Alabama’s new crossover voting law, saying it created rather than solved a problem and its threat of felony-level penalties will discourage voter participation. “The right to vote is just so precious,” Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma said. “And we ought not to be doing things to limit it. And we certainly ought not to be doing things to end up trying to put people in jail.” The law was in force for the first time for the Sept. 26 Republican runoff between Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange in the special election for the U.S. Senate. The law prohibits voters who participate in one party’s primary from crossing over and voting in the other party’s runoff. So, voters in the Aug. 15 Democratic primary could not vote in the Republican runoff.
Florida: Voting-rights effort finds a new venue in constitution commission | The Florida Times Union
The committee traveling the state on a mission to improve Florida’s constitution is hearing one message over and over. “Every place we’ve gone around the state, every single time we’ve had public comment, a full third have mentioned restoration of rights,” said Chris Smith, one of 37 members of the state Constitutional Revision Commission. Voting rights are revoked in Florida when a person is a convicted of a felony. It’s one of just three states with such a rule, the others being Iowa and Virginia. Florida has disenfranchised 1.5 million people because of felony convictions, according to the nonprofit Sentencing Project, which says that figure includes 21 percent — more than one in five — of the state’s African-Americans. Florida’s disenfranchisement rate is the highest among the 50 states, according to the organization, which said Florida is connected to more than a quarter of the people nationwide who have lost their right to vote.
A server and its backups, believed to be key to a pending federal lawsuit filed against Georgia election officials, was thoroughly deleted according to e-mails recently released under a public records request. Georgia previously came under heavy scrutiny after a researcher discovered significant problems with his home state’s voting system. A lawsuit soon followed in state court, asking the court to annul the results of the June 20 special election for Congress and to prevent Georgia’s existing computer-based voting system from being used again. The case, Curling v. Kemp, was filed in Fulton County Superior Court on July 3. As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the data was initially destroyed on July 7 by the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, the entity tasked with running the Peach State’s elections. The new e-mails, which were sent by the Coalition for Good Governance to Ars, show that Chris Dehner, one of the Information Security staffers, e-mailed his boss, Stephen Gay, to say that the two backup servers had been “degaussed three times.” No one from Kennesaw State University, including Dehner or Gay, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment as to who ordered the servers to be wiped and why it was done.
Days after activists filed a lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s election systems, the university housing the servers at the center of the case wiped them of all data. The servers had been in the possession of the Center for Elections Systems (CES) at Kennesaw State University, which had been contracted to maintain Georgia’s election systems. The state ended its relationship with Kennesaw State in July. According to emails retrieved by one of the plaintiffs in that case through an open records request and provided to The Hill, information technology (IT) staff first confirmed deleting files from the system on July 7 — four days after the suit was filed. In March, the CES was notified by researcher Logan Lamb that a vulnerability in web security allowed attackers to read internal files not meant for public consumption. Those files included voter records which contained the date of birth and Social Security number of 5.7 million Georgians. They also included memos containing credentials to the state’s ExpressPoll brand electronic poll book.
Bill 45-34, an act to remove the primary election from the Guam Code Annotated was sent back to committee during session yesterday. Speaker Benjamin Cruz ordered that the bill, also known as the “Election Reform Act of 2017,” be sent back after several issues were raised about the provisions of the bill. “With these issues, we may need to completely restudy the whole bill,” he said. Prior to the decision, lawmakers deliberated on a bill provision concerning the election of the public auditor following Sen. Joe San Agustin’s motion to amend the bill to remove the provision that refers to a runoff election.
A tiny town in central Kansas is getting a second chance to vote itself out of existence after people in another community mistakenly cast ballots on the issue last year. Residents in Frederick will get another chance Nov. 7 to decide the town’s future. Robert Root, acting mayor by law, told the Hutchinson News that the eight people left in town have committed to voting for disincorporation. During the November 2016 election, 20 people cast ballots, but Frederick had only nine registered voters and only six of those voters went to the polls. The problem was that at the Eureka township voting precinct, election workers accidentally gave ineligible township residents ballots with Frederick’s incorporation question.
The results of the 2016 election are being replayed in federal court as the state of Michigan defends a Republican-backed law that would abolish straight-party voting, an easy ballot option that’s especially popular in urban areas that go Democratic. The law was suspended last year by a judge who said an end to straight-party ballots could cause long lines and place a disproportionate burden on black voters. Now, after months of analysis by experts, that same judge must decide whether the lawsuit should go to trial or be dismissed in favor of the state. Straight-party voting is the act of making a single mark on a ballot to pick candidates of one party, from president to county commissioner. It’s been in practice for more than 100 years in Michigan and is widely held in urban areas; Detroit’s rate was 80 percent in 2016.
Texas: Some Texans will have a different way to vote — but only in the Nov. 7 election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Texans living in nursing homes will have a new way to vote in this November’s election. But then that method will go away. Texas lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that requires, when five or more absentee ballots are requested by residents at facilities such as nursing homes, election judges for both parties to deliver the ballots — and oversee the voting on them — during the early voting period. “We post a notice of the day we are going to come,” said Stephen Vickers, Tarrant County’s elections administrator. “Then we have to send out a team of judges and ballots. They do the process there so they don’t have to mail it.” The goal of this law, House Bill 658, was to make sure no one influences these Texans’ votes. But election officials complained that this is a massive unfunded mandate.
It’s no secret that Utah County faced some issues during its first foray into an all vote-by-mail election during the August primary, but the county is taking steps to make sure the general election goes more smoothly. The issues started when 60,000 ballots were sent to unaffiliated voters in the county, mistakenly containing the option to vote in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District Race. Then final results were drawn out, with the fourth and final batch of election results being released more than a week after the primary election on Aug. 15.
Iceland’s ruling centre-right parties have lost their majority after a tight election that could usher in only the second left-of-centre government in the country’s history as an independent nation. With all votes counted after the Nordic island’s second snap poll in a year, the conservative Independence party of the scandal-plagued outgoing prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, was on course to remain parliament’s largest. But it lost five of of its 21 seats in the 63-member Althing, potentially paving the way for its main opponent, the Left-Green Movement headed by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to form a left-leaning coalition with three or more other parties. The make-up of the new government, however, remains uncertain since both left- and rightwing blocs have said they deserve a chance to try to form a coalition and Iceland’s president has yet to designate a party to begin talks.