Facebook on Monday estimated that as many as 10 million people saw the political advertisements that were purchased by a shadowy Russian internet agency and ran on its platform. The company made the announcement after turning over 3,000 ads to congressional investigators examining Russian interference in the US election. Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice-president of policy and communications, said the advertisements appeared to focus on “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights”. Less than half of the ads were seen prior to the US election on 8 November, Schrage said in the post, while 56% were viewed afterward. And roughly a quarter of the ads were not seen by anyone. On 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent, he said.
The Russians who posed as Americans on Facebook last year tried on quite an array of disguises. There was “Defend the 2nd,” a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, “LGBT United.” There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads. Federal investigators and officials at Facebook now believe these groups and their pages were part of a highly coordinated disinformation campaign linked to the Internet Research Agency, a secretive company in St. Petersburg, Russia, known for spreading Kremlin-linked propaganda and fake news across the web. They were described to The New York Times by two people familiar with the social network and its ads who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. Under intensifying pressure from Congress and growing public outcry, Facebook on Monday turned over more than 3,000 of the Russia-linked advertisements from its site over to the Senate and House intelligence committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. The material is part of an attempt to learn the depth of what investigators now believe was a sprawling foreign effort spanning years to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential election.
“We’re obviously deeply disturbed by this,” Joel Kaplan, Facebook vice president for United States public policy, said in an interview. “The ads and accounts we found appeared to amplify divisive political issues across the political spectrum,” including gun rights, gay rights issues and the Black Lives Matter movement.
President Donald Trump’s opaque voter fraud probe released the most comprehensive look at its inner workings to date in court documents Friday, providing a clearer sense of how it plans to use the voter data it has collected and raising new questions about its scope and goals. The commission’s work so far has been unclear; even some commissioners have said they’re not exactly sure what the panel is working on. Friday’s disclosure is significant because it shows officials on the probe have contacted officials with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration ― which suggests the commission may be proceeding with a plan to compare the voter data it’s collected against federal databases. The commission is declining to release the email exchanges themselves, saying they are either administrative in nature or constitute individual research. Spokespeople for the commission, as well as for DOJ and the SSA, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
National: PSAs advise on protecting transgender Americans’ voting rights on Election Day | Wisconsin Gazette
The National Center for Transgender Equality and GLAAD have released a series of public service announcements advising on how transgender Americans can protect their right to vote on Election Day. The urgency of the PSAs is linked to new and stricter voter identification laws in some states. The announcements feature NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, writer and advocate Janet Mock, actress Laverne Cox, performance artist Ignacio Rivera, Charles Meins and poet Kit Yan. They are part of a nationwide “Voting While Trans” campaign to raise awareness about the impact the photo ID laws may have on thousands of transgender Americans this November.
Editorials: How to stop Russian robots from attacking the next election | Amy Klobuchar/The Washington Post
During the summer of 2016, Melvin Redick was — like many of us — posting his thoughts about the election on Facebook. Melvin’s profile painted a picture of an all-American family man from Harrisburg, Pa. He was a dad who liked baseball and cared about his country. But Melvin was hiding something: He wasn’t a real person. He was a fake account created to influence the U.S. electorate. We have since learned that there were thousands of Melvins, controlled by the Russians, posting on social media during the 2016 presidential election. And they weren’t just creating fake accounts to spread misinformation. They were also buying political advertisements designed to influence American voters. It is illegal for foreign entities to buy political ads in the United States. But that didn’t stop the purchase of thousands of political ads on Facebook, paid for — in rubles — by foreigners.
The Arizona Democratic Party goes to federal court Tuesday, Oct. 3, in a bid to overturn a ban on “ballot harvesting” and ensure that ballots cast in the wrong precinct are counted anyway. The Democrats’ attorney, Bruce Spiva, contends the Republican-controlled Legislature acted illegally last year in making it a felony for an individual to take anyone else’s early ballot to a polling place. Spiva said he will present evidence that the measure will cause undue harm to minorities and other groups. But Sara Agne, attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, who is defending the law, will argue that lawmakers were entitled to put procedures in place designed to prevent fraud. Spiva could have an uphill battle.
Nearly 1.7 million Florida citizens are permanently disenfranchised from voting in state and federal elections because of being former felons. Disenfranchisement has climbed from 2.6 percent of the state’s adult citizens in 1980, to 10.4% today, the highest rate in the nation, including one in five adult African Americans.[i] A pending Voting Restoration Amendment would automatically restore the right of all Florida’s former felons to vote after they complete parole and probation, except for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offences. If approximately 680,000 signatures are gathered by December 31, 2017, the Amendment will be included on Florida’s November 2018 ballot to be decided by Florida citizens.
The Kansas Legislature is about to consider a radical change in voting. It’s called “ranked-choice voting,” and if it passes, you’ll be asked not just to vote for one candidate when you fill out your ballot, but to rank candidates by your order of preference. And those second and third choices could end up getting counted and even deciding close elections. “This year, you could see major changes (in voting), maybe the biggest in 100 years in this state since women got the right to vote,” said Russell Fox, a professor of political science at Friends University. House and Senate lawmakers will hold a special hearing on ranked-choice voting on Oct. 27. If they like what they hear, they could fast-track a bill for the session, which begins in January.
Louisiana: Advocates believe Louisiana’s voting rights have been under attack | The Louisiana Weekly
The U.S. courts are full of lawsuits challenging slick techniques by elected officials, like gerrymandering and state laws, designed to dilute the voting power of people of color. Current voter disenfranchisement tactics are part of a concerted effort by white elected officials to diminish the voting power of an increasing Brown America. A good example is Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Trump created the entity by an Executive Order in May 2017, claimed that thousands voted illegally during the 2016 presidential election, without providing any factual evidence. “The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state,” according to The Washington Post.
Oregon City’s Roxane Riseling said it was “very weird” to get a letter from the elections office for her daughter Megan saying that signatures didn’t match after the September police-bond measure; the same thing happened to both the mother and daughter in two different recent elections, and they say that their signatures “haven’t changed.” Clackamas County has some of the highest proportions of ballots being rejected because county elections officials determine that the voter’s signature on the ballot doesn’t match their registration card.
Two days before Wisconsin’s elections maps will be argued in what could be a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, folks upset over what they say is a rigged system rallied in Milwaukee. Holding signs “Democracy Demands Fair Maps” and “Fair Maps for Fair Elections,” a crowd of around 150 people cheered and applauded speakers at the rally at Plymouth Church on Milwaukee’s east side. “I’m sort of insanely excited,” Mary Lynne Donohue said shortly before the gathering. Donohue, a resident of Wisconsin’s 26th Assembly District in Sheboygan County, is a plaintiff in the suit and is flying to Washington, D.C., Monday morning.
Kenyan opposition supporters began protests to demand an overhaul of the electoral authority as foreign ambassadors called for a resumption of negotiations on how a rerun of the country’s annulled presidential election will be handled. Police fired teargas to disperse National Super Alliance protesters in the capital, Nairobi, and the western city of Kisumu, as dozens of people marched through the port city of Mombasa. The main business lobby group warned that uncertainty about the vote is damaging the economy. “We are deeply concerned by the deterioration in the political atmosphere and the impact this has had on preparations for the election,” U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec said in a statement he read on behalf of 14 diplomats in the East African nation.
Although the National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman Jerome G. Korkoya has clarified the commission’s decision to bring in excess presidential ballots for the October 10 elections, the standard bearer of the opposition All Liberian Party (ALP), said the excess ballot papers is alarming. Korkoya’s explanation was in response to comments and questions from the public regarding the commission’s decision to bring into the country nearly one million excess presidential ballots. But Mr. Benoni Urey said the excess ballot papers were something to keep the public in worry, “Because it tends to undermine the conduct of the peaceful elections.”
Pakistan: Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 to be presented for approval in National Assembly today | Pakistan Today
The Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 will be tabled in the National Assembly on Monday, after the Senate last week passed the bill. The acceptance of the bill in the National Assembly which will pave the way for Nawaz Sharif to regain chairmanship of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Earlier in August, after Nawaz had been disqualified according to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case, the ECP had informed the PML-N that according to the Political Parties Order 2002, a disqualified MNA would not hold any position in the party.
Police officers in black RoboCop uniforms and Darth Vader helmets blocked ordinary citizens from voting. They beat people with batons, fired rubber bullets and wounded pensioners. All of it was captured by smartphones and news cameras and spread around the world. It is the kind of violence the European Union would ordinarily condemn in high moral terms and even consider punishing. But that was not so easy this time. The nation in question was one of its own: Spain. The Catalan situation has put the European Union and its members in an awkward position. The bloc defends the fundamental democratic rights of free speech and free assembly and of individuals to vote. But while the European Union may be a union of democratic states, it is also, first and foremost, a union of sovereign states. It is wary of encouraging separatist forces that threaten to tear at many of the countries within it, as well as at the very fabric of the bloc.
Large numbers of Catalans have taken part in a general strike to condemn police violence at a banned weekend referendum on independence, as Madrid comes under growing international pressure to resolve its worst political crisis in decades. Schools and universities were shut on Tuesday and unions reported that most small businesses were closed after unions called for the stoppage to “vigorously condemn” the police response to the poll, in which Catalonia’s leader said 90% of voters had backed independence from Spain. “An attack on democracy without precedent in recent times calls for a united response,” said Javier Pacheco, the secretary general in Catalonia of the Comisiones Obreras union. “We have called on all sectors to take part.” No public transport will be available between 9am and 5pm in Barcelona, and in Tarragona the municipal bus service was cancelled. In the Ebro delta, the rice harvest was halted for the day.