The politics of spying in America has never been more intense. President Trump has taken to publicly bashing his intelligence agencies and continues, a full year later, to question their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election on his behalf. For their part, an array of career spooks have come out of the shadows where they spent their careers to challenge the commander-in-chief in once unthinkably public terms. Michael Morell is one of the career types who’s broken with decades of practice to confront Trump. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency’s longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama’s second term. In the summer of 2016, he broke with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump, and he has continued to sound the alarm ever since.
Census experts and public officials are expressing growing concerns that the bedrock mission of the 2020 census — an accurate and trustworthy head count of everyone in the United States — is imperiled, with worrisome implications. Preparations for the count already are complicated by a sea change in the census itself: For the first time, it will be conducted largely online instead of by mail. But as the Census Bureau ramps up its spending and work force for the 2020 count, it is saddled with problems. Its two top administrative posts are filled by placeholders. Years of underfunding by Congress and cost overruns on the digital transition have forced the agency to pare back its preparations, including abandoning two of the three trial runs of the overhauled census process.
Surreptitious techniques pioneered in Moscow and Beijing to use the internet to drown out dissent and undermine free elections broke into view during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States. But Russian efforts to influence the American election are part of a larger, profound challenge to democracy worldwide. Online manipulation tactics played an important role in at least 17 other elections over the past year. From the Philippines and Ecuador to Turkey and Kenya, governing parties used paid commentators, trolls, bots, false news sites and propaganda outlets to inflate their popular support and essentially endorse themselves. In the Philippines, members of a “keyboard army” said they could earn $10 a day operating social media accounts that supported Rodrigo Duterte or attacked his detractors in the run-up to his May 2016 election as president. Many of those social media fabricators have remained active under his administration, amplifying the impression of widespread support for his brutal crackdown on the drug trade.
Civil-rights advocates in Florida are pushing to put a fundamental democratic question on the ballot: Should people convicted of felonies be able to vote? Florida bars an estimated 1.7 million people with felony records from voting unless they successfully petition the state to regain their rights. Its population of disenfranchised people with felony records accounts for more than a quarter of the 6.1 million nationally, according to the Sentencing Project, which advocates for criminal justice policy changes. Only Kentucky and Iowa currently maintain similar restrictions on voting. Every state except Maine and Vermont disenfranchises felons in some way, but in most states, they regain the right to vote automatically either after leaving prison, or completing probation and parole. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia has used executive authority to restore voting rights to 154,000 former felons in the last two years.
Iowa: In major reform, 2020 Iowa caucuses would include absentee voting, public vote totals | Des Moines Register
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucuses would break with decades of tradition in 2020 by allowing voters to cast absentee ballots and then releasing the raw total of votes won by each candidate. A Democratic National Committee panel known as the Unity Reform Commission set those changes into motion during a meeting here on Saturday, clearing the way for perhaps the most significant changes to the Iowa caucuses since they emerged as a key step in the presidential nominating process five decades ago. “There’s never been an absentee process. We’ve never released raw vote totals,” said Scott Brennan, a Des Moines attorney who serves on the DNC. “Those would seem to be pretty darn big changes.”
City Clerk Janice Winfrey has prevailed in a general election recount that uncovered poll worker errors that prevented about 20 percent of reviewed precincts from being recounted. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers on Friday certified the results at Cobo Center, declaring Winfrey as the official winner of the race. But with the conclusion came more questions about election operations in Detroit amid the review of votes that turned up missing ballots and mismatched tabulations. Winfrey’s challenger Garlin Gilchrist II sought the recount after losing to Winfrey by 1,482 votes on Nov. 7, saying his request was prompted by stories of “chaos and confusion” from absentee voters during election season.
Michigan: Special election to replace Rep. John Conyers Jr. set for November 2018 | The Washington Post
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has scheduled a November 2018 election to replace disgraced Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), a decision that will leave much of Detroit without representation in Congress for nearly a year. “Having ample time for candidates to make a decision about running for office and file their paperwork gives people more options as to who will next represent them in Congress,” Snyder said in a statement. “In order to allow several months for that to take place and to reduce the financial burden on local taxpayers, the primary and general elections will be held when regularly scheduled elections are already occurring.” The 88-year-old Conyers, who served in Congress for 52 years, stepped down Tuesday after multiple former aides accused him of sexual misconduct.
A showdown over residency and voting rights is expected to begin when the New Hampshire Senate reconvenes in January. The state Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee approved an amendment to a retained bill, which passed the House of Representatives in the last session, and would tighten the legal definitions of “resident, inhabitant and residence or residency.” The move is expected to pit Senate Democrats who consider the bill an infringement on voting rights against Republicans who claim it eliminates the legal gray area surrounding domiciled citizens.
Computer hacks and cybersecurity threats have been in the news a lot lately. Millions of Americans’ data were breached in the Equifax hack and a huge number of accounts were compromised at Yahoo. Worse than those reports, it was recently confirmed that Ohio was one of the 21 states reported on over the summer whose systems hackers attempted to breach in the lead up to the 2016 election. Foreign interference with our elections and the electronic machinery they run on is one of the biggest cyber threats we face because it’s a matter of national security. Our enemies want to create chaos at best and change outcomes of our elections at worst. It’s a direct attack on our society, the American way of life, and our ability to self-govern.
By some measures, Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts are among the most gerrymandered in the nation.
But the resulting district maps are being challenged, and one case is slated to begin today in Commonwealth Court. The League of Women Voters is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of registered voters from all over the state.
They’re accusing Republicans of intentionally designing districts so that Democrats’ votes are diluted, which they argue is a violation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause. They are calling for a new map.
South Carolina is one of only five states whose voting machines create no paper trail that could be used to reconstruct the balloting if hackers found a way to change votes in an election. The state has used its touch-screen system since 2004, when Congress spent $4 billion to upgrade systems across the country. That eliminated punch-card systems like the one plagued by “hanging chads” in the crucial Florida recount of the 2000 Bush-Gore race. Lancaster County Elections Director Mary Ann Hudson, whose office has 190 of the paperless machines, is concerned about the dated equipment. “I doubt any of us would wait that long to replace our personal smartphones and computers,” Hudson said. “When you have a system as old as ours, you have to start thinking about possible options.” In the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, many states are upgrading their machines and electoral databases and adding cybersecurity measures to assure the integrity of the voting process.
The mystery of how, why and by whom a few hundred Northern Virginians were registered to vote in the wrong state legislative districts in this fall’s elections does not look as though it will be resolved soon. For one thing, the registrar who might have been able to shed some light on the issue died last spring. The more pressing question is what to do about the razor-thin result in one of the districts, on which partisan control of the state House of Delegates may hinge. Short answer: A federal judge now reviewing the mess should order a do-over. That would be an unusual recourse for the race in the 28th House District, including parts of Stafford County and Fredericksburg, where Republican Robert Thomas leads Democrat Joshua Cole by 82 votes. It would also be warranted.
A bill that would let voters casting in-person absentee ballots use an electronic voting machine is getting widespread support from municipal clerks, who argue the change would reduce costs while increasing public confidence.
Currently, those voting absentee in person must fill out paper ballots, seal them in an envelope and sign the envelope. They then aren’t opened and tallied until Election Day, a timeline some clerks and the bill’s author argued strains poll workers and taps into local resources. Under the bill from Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, those ballots still wouldn’t be tallied until Election Day, although municipal clerks would have to post a daily tally of ballots cast – if the municipalities opted into giving its voters the option to cast ballots that way. “This is really just about instead of putting it in an envelope, you as a voter have the opportunity to feed it into a machine,” Brandtjen said Nov. 28 at an Assembly public hearing on the legislation.
Corsican nationalists swept elections Sunday on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica for a new regional assembly, crushing President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist movement and traditional parties. The nationalists on the once-restive island of 320,000 people want more autonomy from Paris but unlike those in the nearby Spanish region of Catalonia, they aren’t seeking full independence — yet. In what French media called an unprecedented score, a coalition of moderate and harder-line nationalists won 56.5 percent of the vote in Sunday’s second-round election, according to figures from the Interior Ministry. Local media showed nationalists sing Corsican songs and celebrating in the streets after the results were announced.
Honduras’ two main opposition parties on Friday presented formal requests to annul the results of the still-unresolved presidential election, deepening a political crisis that has roiled the poor, violent Central American nation. The Nov. 26 vote has been marred by accusations of electoral fraud, sparking protests, a widespread curfew and a growing chorus of international concern over the situation in Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. Opposition leader Salvador Nasralla, who trails conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez by 1.6 percentage points according to the widely criticized official count, arrived at the election tribunal shortly before the midnight deadline to present his center-left coalition’s request.
Ask Russian analysts to describe the coming presidential election campaign, and their answers contain a uniform theme: a circus, a carnival, a sideshow. What they do not call it is a real election. With the victory of President Vladimir V. Putin assured, the real contest, analysts said, is the bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred fight to determine who or what comes after him by the end of his next six years in office, in 2024. What might be called the Court of Putin — the top 40 to 50 people in the Kremlin and their oligarch allies — will spend the coming presidential term brawling over that future. When Mr. Putin confirmed last week that he would run again, he might as well have been firing the starting gun for the race toward his succession. He is barred by the Constitution from seeking a third-consecutive term, his fifth total, in 2024.
Labour has urged the government to use planned reforms to the electoral system to ensure more people without a permanent home are helped to vote, after statistics showed that only about 2% are registered. The Cabinet Office is due later to announce details later this month of its democratic engagement strategy, which aims to improve voter turnout by making it more straightforward for people to join the electoral register. Concerted efforts to help overseas voters and students to sign up had increased the size of the electoral register, but Labour says the system for people without a permanent address is unwieldy and offputting. Most voters can sign up online, but people who are homeless or in temporary accommodation have to download, print and manually fill in a form called a declaration of local connection, which must then be sent to the local electoral registration officer.
Venezuelans will choose hundreds of mayors on Sunday in elections pitting candidates backed by President Nicolas Maduro against a fractured opposition still bruised by a poor showing in recent gubernatorial voting. The ballots for local leaders in 335 city halls across the oil-rich nation are the final national elections before presidential elections next year in which Maduro is expected to run. Voting takes place against a backdrop of soaring inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and charges that Maduro’s government has undermined Venezuela’s democracy by imprisoning dissidents and usurping the powers of the opposition-controlled Congress. The economic and political crises have caused the socialist president’s popularity to plunge but the opposition has largely been unable to take advantage.
Venezuela’s ruling socialists triumphed in nearly all mayoral elections across the country, as President Nicolas Maduro threatened to ban opposition parties from future elections in the oil-rich country wracked by economic crisis. Hundreds of supporters shouted “Go Home, Donald Trump” to interrupt Maduro at a rally late on Sunday in the colonial centre of Caracas, where he announced that pro-government candidates had won more than 300 of the 335 mayoral offices. Sunday’s voting marked the last nationwide elections before next year’s presidential race, when Maduro is expected to seek another term despite his unpopularity. “The imperialists have tried to set fire to Venezuela to take our riches,” Maduro told the crowd. “We’ve defeated the American imperialists with our votes, our ideas, truths, reason and popular will.”