On Tuesday, Nov. 7, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter-protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provided live assistance to more than 1,000 voters through its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. Voters reported complaints, some of which impacted systemic problems, or sought assistance with voting. Since 2001, Election Protection has been the…
National: Russia’s Election Meddling Was Another U.S. Intelligence Failure | Dana Priest/The New Yorker
After American intelligence agencies failed to detect and stop Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago, Congress more than doubled their budgets and gave them unprecedented secret authorities. As the intelligence beat reporter for the Washington Post at the time, I watched these agencies grow in size, as dozens of new buildings appeared around the Washington region to house a ballooning workforce of over a million people with top-secret security clearances. The National Security Agency obtained permission to collect and store the private Internet correspondence and cell-phone data of millions of Americans. The F.B.I. was granted the power to obtain citizens’ banking, library, and phone records without court approval. The C.I.A. opened secret prisons abroad where they tortured terrorist suspects. Local police departments began employing military-grade weapons, armored vehicles, and cell-phone-tracking devices.
On November 7th, in Washington, D.C., after delivering a speech to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Eric Holder grabbed his Blackberry in search of results from the Virginia elections. As the former Attorney General scrolled backward through a long e-mail thread, he quickly learned just how stunning a night it had been for the Democrats. He also understood that, after this triumph, it might be a little harder to keep his party focussed on gerrymandering. “The system didn’t become more fair as a result of what happened last night,” Holder told me the next day. “The system appears to be more fair in spite of the reality that those Democratic candidates faced. The job that I have is to make sure people don’t become complacent.”
Russian trolls used Twitter to challenge the validity of the U.S. presidential election months before it took place, according to new NBC News analysis. In apparent expectation of a Trump loss, the trolls began sowing seeds of doubt to make voters question a win by Hillary Clinton. But when Donald Trump’s victory began rolling in, they changed their tune and began tweeting about the Trump success. Kremlin propaganda tweets using the “VoterFraud” hashtag first appeared in August 2016 and slowly ramped up to an Election Day blitz, according to the NBC News analysis of some 36,000 archived tweets from a single anonymous source with knowledge of social media data.
Donald Trump Jr.’s private exchanges with WikiLeaks on Twitter during the 2016 campaign raise a host of new questions about the Trump team’s communications with foreign entities before the election. But the messages alone don’t appear to cross any clear-cut legal lines. “I certainly didn’t see anything that looks like a smoking gun in the descriptions that we were given,” Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law professor who specializes in election law, told me. My colleague Julia Ioffe reported Monday that Trump Jr. exchanged multiple private messages on Twitter with the radical transparency organization before the election. In some cases, Trump Jr. appeared to act on requests from the group. In one instance, for example, he tweeted a link it had sent his way. A message posted by his father’s account soon after the group contacted Trump Jr. also mentioned WikiLeaks. The messaging, which WikiLeaks initiated during the election and continued as recently as July, was not previously known to the public. #url#
Election Day 2017 seems to have gone smoothly. There were few contests of major consequence and turnout was low – with Virginia the most notable exception. Election integrity – the extent to which the outcome of the election matches the will of the voters – was not an issue in the news. Things could, however, be different in 2018. Concern over election integrity could become amplified if turnout is high and margins close. Given the stakes in the 2018 midterms – now less than a year away – and other concerns such as widespread reports about Russian hacking, now is the time when election officials must begin the critical work of ensuring the integrity of the vote. When most people think about threats to election integrity, security and fraud are the primary concerns. For example, were the ballots or the election totals hacked? Were ballot boxes stuffed? Were there ballots cast by people who were not eligible to vote?
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday he’s reevaluating the state’s involvement in a longtime multistate voter registration database. Denney says that his office has received hundreds of emails from citizens raising concerns about Idaho’s involvement in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. “I don’t think anything has been compromised up to this point,” Denney said. “But we have questions about the security and we need to get answers to that before we make the decision to participate again or not.”
Federal election law requires states to keep accurate and up-to-date voter registration rolls. But one tool to help them do so is at the center of a partisan debate. In Illinois, many Democrats are calling on the state Board of Elections to stop participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, or Crosscheck, for short. Illinois is one of about 28 states that share voter registration data with Crosscheck, which uses it to look for voters who are registered at more than one address.
Massachusetts: In wake of dismal voter turnout, legislators consider automatic registration | The Daily Free Press
In the days following the Massachusetts municipal elections, near record-breaking lows in voter turnout statistics have revamped the push for automatic voter registration in the Commonwealth, as outlined in two bills currently on the Senate and House floors. The percentage of registered voters who cast their votes in the Boston municipal elections experienced a decline, with nearly 42 percent casting their votes in 2014 to only 28 percent in 2017, The Daily Free Press reported. Catherine Anderson, legislative director for the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cynthia Creem, said these figures alerted state and local officials of the need for new solutions to improve voter turnout and brought attention to the prospect of an automatic voter registration system.
North Carolina: Court-appointed specialist draws new maps for gerrymandered House, Senate districts | Greensboro News & Record
An outside expert appointed by a federal court to help redraw some North Carolina legislative districts that judges worry remained unconstitutional — including at least two in Guilford County — has suggested changes. On Monday, Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily filed his preliminary House and Senate plans. He also requested formal responses from Republican legislative leaders who originally drew the boundaries and from voters who successfully sued over them. Judges want Persily’s final proposal by Dec. 1. Judges have said four districts redrawn last summer by GOP legislators still appeared to preserve illegal racial bias, so Persily said he redrew compact replacements for them. He also retooled several districts in and around Charlotte and Raleigh because of potential state constitutional problems.
A legal dispute over when Ohio deprives blind voters of their right to a secret ballot must be heard in federal court, an appellate court ruled Monday. Because blind voters must seek assistance from sighted individuals to fill out the paper ballots set aside for the sight-impaired, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a district court judge must consider factual claims contending that Ohio deprives them of their equal opportunity to vote privately and independently. Judge George Smith of U.S. District Court had ruled in favor of Secretary of State Jon Husted, noting that the changes proposed by groups representing blind voters would fundamentally alter Ohio’s voting program. But the appellate panel essentially said Smith should not merely have taken Husted at his word.
A recount that could help determine the winners of eight York County elections began Monday, Nov. 13, after an election board meeting where numerous residents scrutinized the county’s Election Day decisions. County election staff discovered a technical oversight the afternoon before Election Day that allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in races where more than one candidate was elected. The oversight, which was the result of a programming error by county staff, potentially impacted eight contested races, including the York County Court of Common Pleas judges race. About 20 volunteers, all county employees, began counting votes in those races Monday morning in the basement of the county’s administrative building, looking for instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate. Those instances will be referred to as an “overvote” for that candidate, according to Nikki Suchanic, director of the county’s election department.
While this year’s elections have seen some interesting twists, one of the most problematic could be the printed stickers used by those voting for Provo mayoral write-in candidate, Odell Miner. In a generous move, Miner had transparent stickers printed with his name and a filled-in voting oval or bubble to affix to the mail-in ballot in the hopes of making things easier for those voting for him. Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk/auditor, was uneasy about Miner using the stickers in case a reading machine got jammed or had some other problem. However, Thompson said he couldn’t stop Miner from doing it either. “I told Odell you may not see all of your count,” Thompson said.
A new international report has revealed more than a dozen nations fell prey to online manipulation and disinformation tactics during election cycles in the last year, risking internet freedom across the globe. The annual Freedom House “Freedom of the Net” report released on Tuesday found that at least 16 countries sustained attacks similar to Russian online meddling efforts reported during the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Overall, the study of 65 nations found internet freedoms have widely declined since last year’s report. Those 16 nations – Angola, Armenia, Colombia, Ecuador, France, The Gambia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Rwanda, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Zambia – had election campaigns that were touched by fake news reports and had websites and social media accounts vandalized, according to the findings. In some instances, political bots and hijacked accounts were also reported.
Kenya’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the participation of the main opposition coalition in petitions challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in last month’s presidential election, in what may be the last chance for legal scrutiny of the vote. The ruling, on the first day of the court’s review of the petitions, is a setback for opposition leader Raila Odinga’s NASA coalition, which hopes to overturn President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the Oct. 26 poll. The court has until Nov. 20 to rule on the petitions, the latest chapter in a protracted political crisis that has stirred fears for the stability of the east African nation, a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security. If the election result is upheld, Kenyatta will be sworn in on Nov. 28.
Nepal: Differently-abled persons ask Election Commission to guarantee secret voting rights | The Himalayan Times
Differently-abled persons have requested the Election Commission to guarantee the rights of secret voting for the upcoming House of Representatives and State Assemblies elections. At an interaction organised on election of the House of Representatives and State Assemblies at Dhulikhel today, they complained that physically disabled persons are deprived of opportunity of voters’ education.
Somalia: Somaliland 1st in World to Use Iris Scanner Technology to Stem Voter Fraud | teleSUR English
Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia, was the guinea pig for iris-recognition technology at a presidential poll, according to election spokesman Saed Ali Muse. The self-declared sovereign state became the first in the world to use the scanners, which is the world’s most sophisticated voting register. Somaliland’s implementation of iris recognition devices follow incidents involving duplication of voters and other alleged fraud and logistic problems dating back to the 2008 elections.
Madrid believes Russian-based groups used online social media to heavily promote Catalonia’s independence referendum last month in an attempt to destabilize Spain, Spanish ministers said on Monday. Spain’s defense and foreign ministers said they had evidence that state and private-sector Russian groups, as well as groups in Venezuela, used Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sites to massively publicize the separatist cause and swing public opinion behind it in the run-up to the Oct. 1 referendum. Catalonia’s separatist leaders have denied that Russian interference helped them in the vote.
United Kingdom: Electoral Commission investigates Brexit campaign funding amid speculation of Russian meddling | Reuters
Britain’s Electoral Commission is investigating whether a leading anti-EU campaigner breached referendum finance rules, after speculation mounted that Russia may have meddled in the Brexit vote. Arron Banks, a major donor to the anti-EU campaign who was pictured with Donald Trump and leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage outside a gilded elevator soon after Trump’s 2016 U.S. presidential election victory, denied the allegations. The Electoral Commission, which is already looking at whether Banks’ pro-Brexit Leave.EU group received any impermissible donations, said its new investigation would examine whether he was the true source of loans to a campaigner.