After months of congressional investigations into Russian interference with U.S. elections, legislation is gaining traction in the Senate that would impose new disclosure requirements for political advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media. Senator John McCain gave a big boost to a proposal by Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner to require disclosure of who’s paying for online political ads, announcing he’ll co-sponsor the bill. In two weeks, executives for the social media giants are due to testify at public hearings about Russia’s use of their networks to interfere in the 2016 election. “I’ve been fighting for free and open and full disclosure for the past 25 years. This is part of that effort,” McCain told reporters Wednesday.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions conceded Wednesday that the U.S. government is not doing enough to prevent future interference in elections by Russia and other foreign adversaries. “We’re not,” Sessions said, when asked by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., if the government is taking adequate action to prevent meddling in its elections. “The matter is so complex that for most of us we’re not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.” Sessions said he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and may attempt to do so again. He said the Justice Department has been aggressively looking into the stealing of trade secrets in the private sector and noted that the FBI’s computer experts are also highly trained.
A group of Senate Democrats is asking a government watchdog to investigate President Trump’s voter fraud commission. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) saying the panel, known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, is a “cause for serious concern.” “Investigative reports raise questions about the partisan motives and actions of the Commission,” the senators wrote. They added that the panel has “ignored numerous requests” from lawmakers seeking to clarify its activities.
National: Despite backlash over political ads, Facebook’s role in elections will only grow | Los Angeles Times
Negative headlines. Congressional inquiries. Corporate apologies. The heightening scrutiny surrounding Facebook after it allowed Russian trolls and inflammatory political ads to spread on its network is the kind of thing companies would do anything to avoid. But don’t expect it to harm the tech giant’s bottom line. As the political world looks to apply the lessons of Donald Trump’s victory to future campaigns, one of the few clear conclusions is that Facebook played an outsized role in propelling the candidate to his improbable win. The company’s ability to affordably target hyper-specific audiences with little to no transparency gives it a distinct advantage over other forms of media, researchers and political operatives believe.
When our nation was founded, only a minority of the new country’s people enjoyed the right to vote. Guided by the belief that more Americans participating in our democracy would make our union stronger and more just, our foremothers and fathers fought to expand voting rights to the poor, to women, and to people of color. Those who came before us gave their lives fighting for an America where race, gender, and economic status would not keep future generations from the ballot box. Despite setbacks along the way, we made significant progress advancing voting rights. But our struggle is not over. Today, voting rights face renewed attacks that threaten to reverse our hard-won progress and ultimately hijack our democracy.
California: Conservative group sets sights on California’s Voting Rights Act | San Francisco Chronicle
A conservative who led a successful legal challenge to a core provision of the federal Voting Rights Act is training his sights on California’s version of the law, which allows minorities to challenge the practice of local “at-large” elections on the basis of racial discrimination and seek to switch them to voting by district. The 2002 California Voting Rights Act forces cities, counties and school districts “to make race the sole factor in districting,” said Edward Blum, president of the nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, as his Virginia-based group asked a federal judge to overturn the law. The contention is related to the reverse-discrimination argument Blum’s group used in 2013 when it persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the 1965 federal law’s central enforcement provision.
A federal judge says Georgia cannot close voter registration for any federal election, including runoff contests, more than 30 days before the election. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law had filed a lawsuit in April challenging the state’s registration deadline for voters wishing to participate in a June 20 special election runoff for an open U.S. House seat.
The Maine member of President Trump’s voter fraud commission has written a pointed letter to its executive director, demanding he be given documents and kept informed about the group’s activities and charging that there is “a vacuum of information.” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 12-person commission, sent the letter Tuesday after learning from a reporter that a commission staffer had been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Dunlap said he had not only not known ahead of time about the arrest last week of researcher Ronald Williams II but he was not even aware he had been hired – or that the commission had any staff members apart from its executive director, Andrew Kossack. Williams, whose employment has been terminated, faces 11 counts of possession and distribution of child pornography, officials told The Washington Post.
Michigan: New committee opposing ballot initiative on gerrymandering hints at partisan fight ahead | Michigan Radio
If you’ve been to a fall festival or any kind of carnival in the state lately, chances are there was a booth there for Voters Not Politicians. That group is gathering signatures to get a proposal on the ballot. It wants an independent commission to draw the congressional and legislative districts to avoid gerrymandering districts in favor of one party or the other. Republicans, the party in power, have been responsible for drawing those maps. They say Voters Not Politicians is a Democratic front group, according to an article from Gongwer News Service.
Republicans with a firm grip on the North Carolina legislature — and, until January, the governor’s seat — enacted a conservative agenda in recent years, only to have a steady stream of laws affecting voting and legislative power rejected by the courts. Now lawmakers have seized on a solution: change the makeup of the courts. Judges in state courts as of this year must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections. The General Assembly in Raleigh reduced the size of the state Court of Appeals, depriving Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of naming replacements for retiring Republicans. And this month, lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide, which critics say are meant to increase the number of Republican judges on district and superior courts and would force many African-Americans on the bench into runoffs against other incumbents.
Puerto Rico faces an imminent humanitarian crisis. President Trump and Vice President Pence’s recent visits hopefully will result in additional federal resources and attention to address the human suffering happening on the ground. But their visits also highlight a democratic crisis that can no longer be ignored — one that Trump and other American leaders would be wise to address. As a Puerto Rican who relocated to Virginia shortly after Hurricane Irma, these issues are deeply personal. Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth, although nearly half of Americans do not know this. However, residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands — whose population of nearly 4 million is greater than the smallest five states combined — cannot vote for president and are denied any voting representatives in the U.S. House or Senate.
Rhode Island: Embattled ex-Board of Elections head Kando files new suit in state court | Providence Journal
Ex-state Board of Elections executive director Robert Kando is once again suing his former employer, this time in state Superior Court. Kando filed suit Monday in Providence County Superior Court, accusing the board of violating his due process rights, the state Whistleblower’s Act and the Open Meetings Act by firing him in August 2016. The filing comes after U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell ruled in the board’s favor in June by refusing to reconsider his dismissal of Kando’s lawsuit challenging his firing from the $143,000-plus position he had held since 2005.
The fight over the state’s embattled voter ID laws should be over, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a new court document filed late Tuesday. Paxton, as expected, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals calling for the judges to end a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law for good. In his 101-page document, the Republican argued that because the state has already added new exceptions to the law to allow people who have a reasonable-impediment to getting an ID to still vote, the case should be officially concluded. “This case should be over,” Paxton’s brief states.
International: Making voting both simple and secure is a challenge for democracies | The Conversation
Recent elections around the world have raised concerns about the procedures used for voter registration and their potential consequences. The effects include disenfranchisement (voters being prevented from casting a ballot) and voter rights, fraud and security, and mismanagement and accuracy. It’s critical to strike the right trade-off between making registration accessible and making it secure. But how many countries are affected by these sorts of issues? And which is more problematic – lack of security or lack of inclusion? Our Perceptions of Electoral Integrity survey asked experts for their assessments of electoral integrity in 161 countries that held 260 national elections from January 1 to June 30, 2017. The study used three criteria to monitor the quality of the voter registration process: inclusion, accuracy, and security.
The barrage of suspected electoral fraud and irregularities has made political parties who did not make it to the runoff elections hesitant to endorse any of the two parties contesting in the November runoff election. While the ruling Unity Party (UP) and the opposition Coalition for Democratic are intensely lobbying to win over some of the major opposition political parties to complement their strength in the runoff election, most of the parties being relied upon are doubtful over who to support because they feel cheated in the elections. Liberty Party for example, is calling for reelection on ground that the October 10 polls did not meet the minimum standards to be referred as free, fair, transparent elections.
A year out from New Caledonia’s independence referendum, it is still unclear who will be allowed to vote. A similar referendum was held during the tumultuous 1980s but the indigenous people boycotted it, which exacerbated tensions between the Kanaks and French loyalists. Since then two major accords between the rival camps have stabilised the political scene, with the 1998 Noumea Accord providing the decolonisation roadmap to next year’s vote. Challenges to finalise the electoral roll remain, which legal scholar Mathias Chauchat is watching closely.
Venezuela’s opposition boycotted a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday for governors held by the all-powerful, pro-government constitutional assembly following disputed elections largely won by ruling party candidates. Eighteen new socialist governors stood, lifted one hand and pledged to uphold Venezuela’s constitution in the ceremony at the assembly’s chamber. A painting of the late President Hugo Chavez stood nearby. Notably absent were the five opposition candidates who won seats in Sunday’s regional elections. The opposition’s alliance said earlier in the day that it would boycott the session before a body they consider unconstitutional. “They will only pledge before God and their respective legislative councils,” the opposition said in a statement.