After the “hanging chad” fiasco during the 2000 presidential recount, many states and counties switched to electronic-only voting machines to modernize their systems. Now, amid security concerns over Russian hackers targeting state voting systems in last year’s election, there’s a renewed focus on shifting to paper ballots. In Virginia, election officials decided last month to stop using paperless touch-screen machines, in an effort to safeguard against unauthorized access to the equipment and improve the security of the state’s voting system. In Georgia, which uses electronic voting machines with no paper record, legislators are discussing getting rid of their aging equipment and using paper ballots instead. In a municipal election this November, officials will test a hybrid electronic-paper system. “States and counties were already moving toward paper ballots before 2016,” said Katy Owens Hubler, a consultant to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “But the Russian hacking incident has brought the spotlight to this issue.”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has long been troubled by extreme partisan gerrymandering, where the party in power draws voting districts to give itself a lopsided advantage in elections. But he has never found a satisfactory way to determine when voting maps are so warped by politics that they cross a constitutional line. After spirited Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday, there was reason to think Justice Kennedy may be ready to join the court’s more liberal members in a groundbreaking decision that could reshape American democracy by letting courts determine when lawmakers have gone too far. Justice Kennedy asked skeptical questions of lawyers defending a Wisconsin legislative map that gave Republicans many more seats in the State Assembly than their statewide vote tallies would have predicted. He asked no questions of the lawyer representing the Democratic voters challenging the map.
A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said. It has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. And while one source said that a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.
National: Russians took a page from corporate America by using Facebook tool to ID and influence voters | The Washington Post
Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election. The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online. The Russians exploited this system by creating English-language sites and Facebook pages that closely mimicked those created by U.S. political activists. The Web sites and Facebook pages displayed ads or other messages focused on such hot-button issues as illegal immigration, African American political activism and the rising prominence of Muslims in the United States. The Russian operatives then used a Facebook “retargeting” tool, called Custom Audiences, to send specific ads and messages to voters who had visited those sites, say people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details from an ongoing investigation.
Editorials: Algorithms Supercharged Gerrymandering. We Should Use Them to Fix it | Daniel Oberhaus/Motherboard
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford, in which the state of Wisconsin will argue that congressional redistricting practices are not subject to judicial oversight. At the core of this hearing is whether partisan gerrymandering—a tactic used by political parties to redraw congressional voting districts so that the voting power within those districts is weighted toward their own party—was used to steal the 2012 state elections in Wisconsin from Democrats. The ramifications of this decision will be felt by the entire country. The Supreme Court will be deciding whether or not federal courts have the ability to throw out district maps for being too partisan, which requires the justices to be able to articulate just what constitutes partisan gerrymandering in the first place. The practice of gerrymandering has been a thorn in the side of American democracy for most of our nation’s existence, but continues largely unabated due to the difficulty of defining the point at which a new congressional district can considered to be the result of partisan gerrymandering. Various solutions to America’s gerrymandering problem have been proposed over the years, but most of these have failed to gain traction. In September, however, a team of data scientists at the University of Illinois published a paper to little fanfare that offered a novel solution to America’s gerrymandering woes: Let an algorithm draw the maps.
A couple of state employees are accusing the New Mexico government of going back on its own policy by denying workers paid time off to vote in Albuquerque’s city election Tuesday. The two workers filed suit against the State Personnel Office late Monday after a back-and-forth between officials and a union representing government employees ended in an impasse. The fight was weeks, if not several years, in the making. The lawsuit came on the same day Gov. Susana Martinez said state government employees could take time off work to donate blood after a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Secretary of State William Gardner has released dozens of documents related to his participation in a presidential commission on voting integrity, responding to a Right-to-Know request from the New Hampshire office of the American Civil Liberties Union. Many of the documents relate to logistics for a meeting the commission held in New Hampshire last month, and preparations by the Secretary of State’s office to submit voter data the committee has request. Some of the most colorful material consists of emails and postcards from New Hampshire residents urging Gardner to boycott the effort. The commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, held its first meeting outside of Washington at St. Anselm College in Manchester last month.
A month before last year’s presidential election, New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin told the site’s readers what many New Yorkers already knew: “The state with one of the worst records on voting rights is the nation’s great citadel of liberalism: New York.” Since then, another state legislative session has passed in the great citadel of liberalism, and, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted some proposed voting reforms in his State of the State addresses, none of the major reforms became law. Now, some lawmakers are hoping that Cuomo pushes harder for those same voting reforms in 2018 – and reforms campaign finance law while he’s at it. “It’s long, long past time that we closed the LLC loophole,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat on the Elections Committee. “It’s the worst-kept secret in Albany. Every year we pay lip service to reform, and every year we kick the can down the road.”
By not sending the U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid sooner, President Trump has unwittingly become the advocate-in-chief for extending the right to vote for U.S. presidential nominees in the general election to Puerto Ricans. No, he has not (yet) embraced the long-standing Republican Party plank favoring Puerto Rican statehood. Instead, he has left many islanders feeling so hopeless they are fleeing to the mainland — and, along with it, garnering the opportunity to vote for president. Labeling some Puerto Rican political leaders as “ingrates,” and by waiting to act, Trump is motivating desperate islanders to flee to the mainland — mostly Florida — where they automatically can vote for all federal office holders. Even as President Donald Trump landed at Muniz Air National Guard in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Tuesday afternoon, the first three relief centers opened in Miami and Orlando to welcome Puerto Rican newcomers to Florida.
In a crucial victory for Hispanic voters in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, the city will remain under federal oversight for any changes to its voting laws until 2023 — the only setup of its kind in Texas. The Pasadena City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Mayor Jeff Wagner’s proposal to settle a voting rights lawsuit over how it redrew its council districts in 2013, agreeing to pay out about $1 million in legal fees. Approval of that settlement will also dissolve the city’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that Pasadena ran afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminated against Hispanic voters in reconfiguring how council members are elected. The local voting rights squabble had caught the attention of voting rights advocates and legal observers nationwide as some looked to it as a possible test case of whether the Voting Rights Act still serves as a safeguard for voters of color.
The success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last week’s German election has motivated two lawyers to renew their legal challenge against a peculiarity in Germany’s political landscape – the fact that Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU)does not field candidates in Bavaria to make room for their more right-wing regional sister party,the…
In a surprising but not unfathomable announcement this week, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) confirmed that the IT infrastructure deployed during the country’s recently nullified presidential election will again be utilised in the approaching re-run on October 26. The Kenyan Supreme Court last month annulled the result of the August 8 election – which had appeared to have been won by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta – after ruling that the electronic transmission of vote tallies was flawed. This came after a number of issues with the use of technology during the election itself, not least when an election official in charge of voting technology was killed, and followed a number of technological failures at the previous election. Yet, the IEBC plans to plough on with its use of the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) system, implemented by OT-Morpho/Safran, though it says it will also add infrastructure to ensure the integrity of the process and assimilate further experts into its IT department. An exclusive contract with mobile operator Safaricom has also been extended to support the relay of results.
With just two weeks left to go until Kyrgyzstan’s presidential elections, the authorities have embarked on another highly politicized criminal case, accusing a well-known lawmaker of plotting to foment riots and topple the government. The General Prosecutor’s Office announced in a statement on September 30 that it is filing criminal proceedings against Kanatbek Isayev, who has been formally detained, on charges that he planned to provoke violent unrest in the event of a political ally failing to win the October 15 election. Isayev is identified in the statement as a supporter of one of the election frontrunners, Omurbek Babanov. Prosecutors claim that Isayev entered into an agreement with “representatives of organized criminal groups” to “pursue active measures aimed at the organization of mass unrest.”
The leader of Catalonia insisted on Monday that Sunday’s independence referendum, though marred by clashes and rejected by the Spanish government, had earned his region the right to a separate state and that he would press ahead to make the vote binding. Without specifying when, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, said he would submit the result for approval to the regional Parliament. That could lead to a unilateral declaration of independence and tip the country even deeper into crisis — already one of the worst since the start of Spain’s democracy in the 1970s. Shortly after midnight on Sunday, the Catalan government announced that 90 percent of almost 2.3 million voters had cast ballots in favor of independence. But a consensus on the vote, even among Catalans, was by no means assured, despite Mr. Puigdemont’s stated determination. The referendum’s tallies could not be independently verified; the voting registers used were based on a census whose validity is contested; and, most important, Spain’s constitutional court had ordered that the referendum be suspended.
Coders aiding Catalonia’s independence push proved to be more nimble than Spain’s regional courts this past weekend, using their understanding of Google’s online app store to get residents to polling places in the illegal referendum marred by violence. The Catalan superior court on Sept. 29 ordered the Google Play marketplace to remove the “1-O Referendum” app, which was created to help Catalans know where to vote two days later. Within hours of the ruling, a similar app with the same name was up and running. By creating a new app, the developers were gaming Google rules and loopholes in arcane legal processes. Faced with a court order, the Alphabet Inc. unit will pull the offending app but won’t go beyond it to look for similar content from different developers. If two different developers produce apps — even two apps that are essentially the same — a court needs to send orders specifying both names. The Catalan court only mentioned the first one.