As expected, Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling that invalidated two of Texas’ 36 congressional districts. “The lower court’s decision to invalidate parts of the maps it drew and adopted is inexplicable and indefensible,” Paxton said in a statement. “We’re eager for the high court to take up the case.” The U.S. Supreme Court already temporarily suspended a San Antonio court ruling that found congressional districts 27 and 35 were drawn with discriminatory intent. It also froze a separate ruling from the three-judge federal panel requiring the state redraw nine of its legislative districts because of “intentional discrimination” by race.
Want better security of election voting results? Use paper. With the US almost halfway between the last national election and the 2018 mid-terms, not nearly enough has been done yet to improve the demonstrated insecurity of current electronic voting systems. Multiple experts say one obvious, fundamental move should be to ensure there is a paper trail for every vote. That was a major recommendation at a panel discussion this past week that included representatives of the hacker conference DefCon and the Atlantic Council think tank, which concluded that while there is progress, it is slow.
National: Russian troll factory paid US activists to help fund protests during election | The Guardian
Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the US to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues, according to a new investigation by a respected Russian media outlet. On Tuesday, the newspaper RBC published a major investigation into the work of a so-called Russian “troll factory” since 2015, including during the period of the US election campaign, disclosures that are likely to put further spotlight on alleged Russian meddling in the election. The existence of the troll factory, which has a history of spamming Russian and English blogs and comment forums, has been reported on by many outlets including the Guardian, but the RBC investigation is the first in-detail look at the organisation’s activity during the election period.
The arrest, on child pornography charges, of a researcher for the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is intensifying conflict inside the group, with two Democratic members asserting again that a small band of conservatives holds disproportionate power. The researcher, Ronald Williams II, who was arrested late last week, previously worked as an intern at the Department of Justice on a case with J. Christian Adams, who is now a Republican member of the commission. Democratic commissioner Matt Dunlap contends Williams’ involvement with the commission is the latest in a series of discoveries suggesting a few conservative members wield outsize clout; Dunlap claims that Democratic members have been largely excluded from planning. Today he wrote a letter to the commission demanding information. “I am seeking information because I lack it,” stated the letter, a copy of which was given to ProPublica. “I am in a position where I feel compelled to inquire after the work of the Commission upon which I am sworn to serve, and am yet completely uninformed as to its activities.” The letter demanded copies of “any and all communication between members of the commission” beginning in May.
In a 33-page ruling, an Alaska Superior Court judge has ruled that the Alaska Democratic Party may run candidates in its primary who are not officially aligned with any political party. In practical terms, this means a non-Democrat could win against a registered Democrat in the Democrats’ primary, and then go on to represent the Democrats in the general election. For example, if Gov. Bill Walker decides to run in the Democrats’ primary, he might beat Mark Begich, whom many have thought is considering a run. If he won in the Democrats’ primary, he’d have to appear on the General Election ballot as a Democrat, according to the court ruling.
A former Arkansas lawmaker serving on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity died Monday in Little Rock. David Dunn, a lifelong Democrat from Forrest City who served three terms in the state House of Representatives, died at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock while undergoing surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm, friends said. He was 52 years old. Dunn, who grew up in Pine Bluff, was a former executive director of the Forrest City Chamber of Commerce. After serving in the General Assembly from 2005-11, he co-founded Capitol Partners, a Little Rock lobbying firm.
Florida: Online voter registration form may violate law that created it, elections chief says | Sun Sentinel
Florida’s new online voter registration form violates the very state law that created it, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Tuesday. “The law requires no differences [between in-person registration and] online,” Bucher told the Palm Beach Legislative Delegation. “But in the online program, voters must provide their exact name from the Department of Highway Safety and the last four digits of their Social Security number, and the date of issuance [of their driver’s license].” In-person registrants can provide either their Social Security number or their driver’s license number but do not need to supply both. With much fanfare, the Florida Department of State debuted online voter registration at the beginning of October. The online registration system was created under a bill passed by the Florida Legislature in 2015. That bill was filed by state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, a member of the Palm Beach Legislative Delegation.
More than a dozen voters have used new paper-ballot voting machines in Conyers with no reported problems, the first step of a new pilot program to test the machines in Georgia. “It’s fair to say we’re excited to get the ball rolling and partner with a good elections office and give voters a preview of what the future of voting may look like,” said Chris Harvey, Georgia’s elections director. “This kind of technology seems to be what a lot of states are going toward,” Harvey added. “This is becoming the new normal.”
Two dozen Iowans testified at a public hearing Monday afternoon, offering both praise and criticism for proposed rules to implement Iowa’s new voter verification law. Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa/Nebraska NAACP, said she’s worried the rules will make it harder for groups like hers to register new voters. “I have great concern about that,” Andrews said. One proposed rule will remove people from voter registration rolls if they’ve been called to jury duty, but notified the court that they couldn’t serve because they are not a citizen. Connie Schmett of Clive, a long-time GOP activist, praised the move. “We simply can’t allow our laws and our elections to be tainted,” Schmett said.
A federal judge on Tuesday shut down the city’s attempt to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit, which alleges that Lowell’s at-large election system has shut minority candidates out of local offices for decades and continues to do so. But even as U.S. District Court Judge William Young dismissed the city’s arguments that the case did not have enough merits to proceed toward trial, he expressed a concern with the plaintiffs’ case. Lawyers representing the 13 Asian American and Hispanic residents who brought the suit had argued that if some city councilors and School Committee members were elected by district, at least one district would be majority-minority and therefore increase the chances of a minority candidate gaining office.
A federal lawsuit challenging petitions to recall three Nevada state senators in districts with significant Hispanic and African-American populations alleges the effort is an unconstitutional attempt to replace the legislators with Republicans in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court also seeks to strike down Nevada’s recall laws, which do not require any cause or justification for a recall as long as the petition has signatures from 25 percent of voters in the previous election. Recall petitions were launched in August against Democratic Sens. Joyce Woodhouse of Henderson and Nicole Cannizzaro of Las Vegas, and Sen. Patricia Farley, a former Las Vegas Republican-turned-independent.
Primary elections for trial court and appeals court seats in 2018 have been scrapped after Republicans on Tuesday overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that foretells potentially more judicial changes ahead. The House voted to make state law a measure — approved two weeks ago then formally objected to by Cooper — that also would delay candidate filing for those judicial races from February to June. The Senate voted Monday night for the override. At least 60 percent of the legislators present in each chamber had to agree to overcome Cooper’s veto. The override marks the latest action by the GOP-controlled General Assembly to retool the judicial branch. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed bills making District Court and Superior Court races officially partisan elections again and reducing through attrition the number of Court of Appeals judges from 15 to 12. Cooper vetoed both of those bills, but they were also overturned.
North Carolina: Legislature opens ballots to third parties in veto override | The North State Journal
The state legislature voted Tuesday for the 10th veto override since Gov. Roy Cooper has been in the Executive Mansion, well more than half of his 13 total vetoes. The lawmakers needed a three-fifths vote to override, voting in the Senate Monday night 26-15 along party lines and in the House Tuesday morning, 72-40. Two Democrats voted in favor of overriding the governor’s veto: Reps. William Brisson (D-Bladen) and Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland). This time the override is on an election bill aimed at making it easier to get third-party candidates on the state’s election ballots, but also canceling the 2018 judicial primaries. Lawmakers say they want to allow newly eligible candidates to be able to get a closer look at planned new judicial district maps. The effort to update judicial district lines was launched over the summer by Rep. Justin Burr (R- Stanly), but some members of both parties say its overdue.
Juanita Wallace was among many voters of color who sued the state over its redistricting plans in 2011, accusing lawmakers of redrawing its political boundaries in a way that diluted the power of black and Latino Texans. Six years later, several elections have played out using embattled state House and congressional maps, even though federal judges so far ruled that Texas leaders intentionally discriminated in approving the boundaries. And the maps will probably stay in place for the 2018 elections as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the state’s latest appeal. Wallace — a longtime educator, civil rights advocate and former head of the Dallas NAACP — won’t be around to see the result. She died of cancer last year at age 70.
Wisconsin: Elections official blames Schimel for keeping him from talking | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The head of the state Elections Commission says the attorney general is effectively stopping him from participating in a forum on Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case — a move that he says amounts to a top Republican limiting the speech of a Democrat. Attorney General Brad Schimel counters he is simply following a rule for lawyers to make sure one of his clients doesn’t talk to opposing attorneys without his own lawyers present. The dispute comes as state officials adjust to a new elections agency that is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Mark Thomsen, a Democrat and chairman of the commission, was invited to speak Friday on a panel that also features attorneys challenging Wisconsin’s election maps and voting laws. Thomsen wanted to participate in the forum but Schimel barred Thomsen and the attorneys from appearing together because Thomsen is a named plaintiff in the lawsuits at issue.
A senior Kenyan electoral official has resigned and fled the country, in a new blow to the country’s presidential vote due to be held in eight days’ time. Roselyn Akombe quit as a commissioner of Kenya’s electoral board by issuing a statement from New York saying the rerun of the presidential election scheduled for 26 October cannot be free and fair. “I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity,” Akombe said in a statement. The flight of such a high-profile electoral official underlines the growing crisis in the east Africa state, long seen as a bastion of relative political stability in a volatile region.
A retired soccer star and Liberia’s vice president will square off in November in a runoff to succeed the longtime president after no candidate got enough votes in this month’s first round. George Weah, who was FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 1995, took 39% of the vote in the Oct. 10 poll, with nearly 96% of ballots counted. Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party was second with 29%. The two candidates, who topped a field of 20, will vie to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist who has served two six-year terms, the maximum allowed under the constitution. The contest is set to result in the West African nation’s first peaceful transition of power in more than 50 years. Final results, as certified by Liberia’s National Election Commission, will be announced by Oct. 25.
Macedonia’s ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) have won a sweeping victory in the first round of local elections and delivered a severe blow to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party that ruled much of the country for more than a decade. Macedonia’s State Electoral Commission late on October 16 reported final results that show the SDSM won outright 37 out of 81 municipalities and has a significant lead in another 13, while the VMRO-DPMNE lost control of 56 municipalities and won in only three rural areas in polls held on October 15. In the biggest prize, the SDSM appears close to wresting control of the capital, Skopje, from the VMRO-DPMNE, headed by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Runoff elections are scheduled for October 29.
Europe’s top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s conviction for fraud in 2014 had been “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” and ordered Russia to pay him compensation. “We have won. Thanks everyone for support,” tweeted Navalny, a campaigner against corruption among Russia’s elite who hopes to run against Vladimir Putin in a March election. Putin is widely expected to seek and win a fourth term as president. Russian authorities have three months to decide whether to appeal against the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the TASS news agency cited Russia’s deputy justice minister and ECHR representative Mikhail Galperin as saying.
For members of Venezuela’s opposition, the big question heading into Sunday’s elections seemed less about whether they would win than how much power they would be allowed to wield once they did. Widespread dissatisfaction with President Nicolás Maduro’s ruling party was plain to see. Violent demonstrations had taken over the streets for months, while many thousands of Venezuelans had fled the country to escape scarcities of food and medicine, rampant violence and a triple-digit inflation. Polls had predicted that opposition candidates could nearly sweep the board in Sunday’s gubernatorial races, taking as many as 18 of the nation’s 23 statehouses. Yet the result was the opposite: Candidates aligned with the president won at least 17 state races, some by wide margins. Opposition candidates took only five. They even lost in states that were considered overwhelmingly pro-opposition.