Florida: Closed primary elections draw scrutiny | News Service of Florida

As Florida’s population grows and more residents shun traditional party affiliations, voters are befuddled, if not angry, about the state’s closed-primary system, including the use of write-in candidates, three local elections supervisors testified Wednesday. “When it comes to the primary election, our voters are confused,” Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told the state Constitution Revision Commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee. Many new voters move to Florida from other states with more open voting systems as opposed to Florida’s closed primaries, which are restricted to voters who are registered with parties. Florida is one of nine states using a closed-primary system. “We have people coming from all over the country, and they bring with them the experiences that they have had and what they know,” Snipes said. “It’s difficult for them to understand.”

Florida: Amendment to end “write-in candidate loophole” advances | Palm Beach Post

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission got off to a cautious start Monday, advancing only two of more than 1,400 constitutional changes that had been filed by the public. The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the power to put constitutional amendments on the 2018 general-election ballot, voted to give further consideration to a measure to close the so-called “write-in candidate loophole” in state election law and to an amendment that would remove obsolete language related to a failed high-speed rail plan. Commissioner Sherry Plymale of Palm City asked the commission to give preliminary support to an amendment (700396) from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg that seeks to end the practice of closing party primaries when a write-in candidate is on the general election ballot.

Georgia: Holder-Led Group Challenges Georgia Redistricting, Claiming Racial Bias | The New York Times

A Democratic group led by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has accused the State of Georgia of flouting the Voting Rights Act, claiming that Georgia Republicans reshaped two state legislative districts to minimize the electoral influence of African-American voters. Mr. Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, is expected to file suit in Federal District Court in Atlanta on Tuesday. The complaint charges that race was the “predominant factor” in adjusting two districts — the 105th and 111th — in the Atlanta area where white lawmakers had faced spirited challenges from black Democrats. Both districts were drawn in 2015, through an unusually timed redistricting law that the lawsuit claims violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Illinois: Sen. Michael E. Hastings works to make sure Illinois meets challenges of the 21st century | Chicago Tribune

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is proud to announce the state of Illinois will be observing National Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October. “National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good opportunity for Illinois residents to educate themselves on new laws and scams to protect their personal information,” Hastings said. “There are a number of resources available and new laws that will help us meet the technological challenges of the 21st century.” … The 2016 presidential elections were plagued with nationwide security breaches to 21 states’ online voting systems, including Illinois’ voter registration database. Last week, Hastings announced. Homeland Security confirmed Russian hackers were behind the breach.

Indiana: State denies consolidation law is voter suppression | Post-Tribune

Indiana officials are denying that the forced consolidation of small voting precincts in Lake County is voter suppression, as a federal lawsuit alleges. In a response filed Tuesday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jr. denied allegations a state law that would consolidate voting precincts with less than 600 active voters disenfranchised Lake County residents, particularly in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. The attorney general’s 72-page response refuted the suggestion the legislation was unlawful and that it is voter suppression, according to court documents. “Plaintiffs have failed to show SB 220 places a disproportionate burden on minorities or other voters in Lake County,” Hill wrote, in the response.

Pennsylvania: Judge: Redistricting lawsuit running out of time to alter 2018 elections | York Dispatch

A gerrymandering lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania legislative leaders went to court Wednesday, Oct. 4, but it could be several months before the courts hear opening arguments in the case, according to the judge who presided over the hearing. Lawyers representing the legislative leaders and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania squared off in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg over the leaders’ attempt to halt the League’s lawsuit. The lawsuit claims Republicans engaged in extreme partisan gerrymandering when drawing the current congressional maps in 2011. Lawyers for the League are seeking a ruling from the court that strikes down the congressional maps and orders new maps to be drawn before the 2018 election.

Ohio: Iowa can teach Ohio a thing or two … about redistricting | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Gerrymandering is a non-issue in Iowa. Since 1981, a nonpartisan state agency has drawn Iowa’s congressional district lines, following strict rules to create compact districts without regard to politics. The legislature still has the final say, but each time the agency’s work has been approved by the legislature without revision. Perhaps Ohio could learn something from Iowa.
In this sixth part of a cleveland.com series – Out of Line: Impact 2017 and Beyond – we examine what could be learned from the Hawkeye State in search of a way to rid Ohio of the politically motivated gerrymandering currently focused on politicians and their political parties rather than the citizens.

Oregon: Redistricting Task Force Wants To Strip Power From Lawmakers | KUOW

A task force created by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is recommending that future redistricting be done by an independent commission. That would be a significant change from the current model, which tasks Oregon lawmakers with drawing up a plan. Redistricting is the process of drawing new legislative and congressional districts to match shifts in population. It takes place every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. Oregon’s next redistricting will occur in 2021. The current method of allowing lawmakers to draw the maps is “susceptible to political manipulation,” Richardson wrote in a newsletter announcing the task force report. “There is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing legislators to draw their own districts and pick their own voters.”

Texas: Judge Blocks Texas Secretary Of State From Giving Voter Information To Trump Commission | KUT

A Texas district judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos from handing voter information to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud investigation commission. The order, which came out Tuesday, adds Texas to a growing list of states not complying with the president’s investigation into the 2016 elections, which Trump says suffered from large-scale voter fraud. Judge Tim Sulak of the Austin-based 353rd Texas Civil District Court issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed July 20 by the League of Women Voters of Texas, its former president Ruthann Geer and the Texas NAACP against Pablos and Keith Ingram, the Texas Elections Division director in the the secretary of state’s office. The lawsuit seeks to stop the state from handing over voter data from the state’s computerized voter registration files to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The suit argues that doing so would reveal voters’ personal information, “which may be used to solicit, harass, or otherwise infringe upon the privacy of Texas voters.” The secretary of state’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment for this article.

Virginia: Warner Cautions Russian ‘Active Measures’ May Impact Virginia Elections Next Month | Falls Church News-Press

Virginia’s U.S. Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s role interfering in U.S. elections, confirmed at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday that the Russians’ efforts remain active and could impact the Virginia gubernatorial and other state races on the ballot next month. Warner, and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, criticized the Department of Homeland Security for delaying until just last week the release of its findings that the Russians attempted to penetrate the electoral processes in 21 U.S. states, including Virginia. Warner praised the Virginia Department of Elections for acting proactively to decertify voting machines that failed to have “paper trails” in jurisdictions throughout the state, including in the City of Falls Church. The decertification order came just in time to allow for the substitution of new voting machines with such “paper trails” in advance of the beginning of absentee balloting last month.

Liberia: Election next week is a true test of democracy in Africa’s oldest republic | The Washington Post

In landmark elections slated for Oct. 10, Liberians will vote in the country’s third postwar presidential and legislative races. Incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa’s first female president — is ineligible to run because of constitutionally mandated term limits. So January 2018 will mark the first time in recent memory that a democratically elected Liberian president will hand power to a similarly elected head of state. A nation of 4.5 million people, Liberia is a sliver of a country in West Africa “founded” in 1847 by black migrants from the United States, the Caribbean and the Congo River basin. Clashes between these settlers and the 16 ethnic groups already occupying the territory spiraled Liberia into more than a century of political upheavals.

Spain: Hidden ballot boxes, encrypted texts: How Catalans staged their referendum | CNN

The images shocked Spain and reverberated around Europe. Officers with Spain’s national security forces, in full riot gear, smashing their way into polling stations, dragging women out by the hair, and firing rubber bullets indiscriminately into crowds as they turned out to vote. It was all part of a coordinated crackdown on Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum — banned by Spain’s highest court, but held in defiance of Madrid by Catalonia’s passionate separatists who felt their long-held dream of an independent state was close at hand. Despite the attempt to thwart the vote, more than 2 million Catalans made their voice heard. Now CNN has learned more details of the extraordinary covert operation that was mounted to ensure the referendum took place. A network of thousands of officials and volunteers squirreled away ballot boxes, conferred by encrypted messages and met in secret in an effort to get as many people to the polls as possible.

The Gambia: Electoral Commission mulls switch from marbles to ballot papers in future elections | Journal du Cameroun

Gambia’s election chief, Alieu Momar Njai has said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is considering swapping marbles in favour of ballot papers for voters in future national elections.Since elections began in The Gambia under British colonial rule in the early 20th century, glass marbles instead of ballot papers are used in successive voting exercises, including the latest poll cycle which began last December. Speaking to the online Fatu Network on Wednesday, Mr Njai said the introduction of ballot papers which are the standard voting materials for much of the rest of the world, could be as early as the local government elections scheduled for 12 April 2018.  

National: Russian Hacking Fuels Return to Paper Ballots | Stateline

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.”

National: Kennedy’s Vote Is in Play on Voting Maps Warped by Politics | The New York Times

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.

National: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin | CNN

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.

New Mexico: Workers sue state over paid time to vote | Santa Fe New Mexican

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.

New Hampshire: Gardner releases records, emails on vote commission | Union Leader

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.

New York: Democrats hope to close campaign finance loopholes, open voting | City & State

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.”

Puerto Rico: Trump’s response just might bring Puerto Rico voting rights | The Hill

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.

Texas: Pasadena to remain under federal oversight of election laws | The Texas Tribune

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.

Germany: Election result faces legal challenge | Deutsche Welle

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…

Kenya: Why Kenya Must Ditch Technology For Historic Presidential Election Re-Run | AFKInsider

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.

Kyrgyzstan: MP Detained on Suspicion of Plotting Election-Related Unrest | EurasiaNet

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.”

Spain: Catalonia Leaders Seek to Make Independence Referendum Binding | The New York Times

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.

Spain: Catalan Coders Helped Sunday’s Breakaway Vote Take Place | Bloomberg

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.

National: Facebook says up to 10m people saw ads bought by Russian agency | The Guardian

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.