Elections are supposed to enable voters to improve their fortunes. Sadly, that is not the case with this weekend’s vote in Venezuela. Regardless of the outcome, voters can expect no quick exit from their country’s downward spiral. Officials from the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union, the U.S., and Venezuela’s neighbors have denounced the upcoming vote as flawed beyond redemption. Even if one of President Nicolas Maduro’s three opponents were allowed to win — other more popular candidates have been barred, leading to a broader opposition boycott — he would be hamstrung by Maduro’s allies. They control the military and effectively all branches of government. Maduro’s tenure has been an economic disaster. Inflation will exceed 13,000 percent this year. Gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 15 percent; it has fallen by almost 50 percent since 2013. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves — but thanks to mismanagement, you’d never know it: By 2020, oil production will be less than half of what it was in 2013. Venezuela has already defaulted on some of its debt, which stands at nearly 120 percent of GDP.
Former White House senior strategist Steve Bannon and billionaire Robert Mercer sought Cambridge Analytica’s political ad targeting technology as part of an “arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war”, according to whistleblower Christopher Wylie. “Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” Wylie said, when asked why investors thought that the political consultancy’s efforts would work, targeting people based on psychological profiles and assessment of their personality. The pink-haired 28-year-old was appearing to give evidence on Capitol Hill for the first time since his decision to blow the whistle on the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica set off shock waves that are still reverberating through Westminster, Washington DC and Silicon Valley. During his testimony to the Senate judiciary committee, Wylie also confirmed that he believed one of the goals of Steve Bannon while he was vice-president of Cambridge Analytica was voter suppression. “One of the things that provoked me to leave was discussions about ‘voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans,” he said, noting he had seen documents referencing this.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities. “The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point,” DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself.” The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.
Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Ted Lieu. D-Calif., aim to mandate that the Trump administration fill its cyber coordinator position left vacant in the wake of Rob Joyce’s departurein early May 2018. The two congressmen introduced the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act May 15, 2018, which would create a National Office for Cyberspace in the Executive Office of the President, cementing a new cyber advisory role within the White House into law. “We have had three excellent cybersecurity coordinators since the late Howard Schmidt originated the position. It is an enormous step backwards to deemphasize the importance of this growing domain within the White House,” Langevin said in a news release on the bill. “We need a designated expert to harmonize cyber policy across the many agencies in government with responsibility in this space. We also need clear communication of administration positions on cybersecurity challenges, whether during major incidents or when establishing norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.”
For about an hour on the night of a primary election in May, residents in Knox County, Tennessee, couldn’t tell who was winning. Hackers had taken down the county’s election tracking website, crashing the page at 8 p.m., right as polls were closing. The county’s IT director, Dick Moran, said the website had seen “extremely heavy and abnormal network traffic.” Its mayor called for an investigation into the cyberattack. The incident showed all the signs of a distributed denial-of-service attack — when attackers flood a website’s servers with traffic until they can’t handle the incoming requests and crash. And it was just the kind of thing that Jigsaw, a tech incubator owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, wants to prevent. The company is already expecting even more DDoS attacks as Election Day in the US, on Nov. 6, draws closer. “We have seen that attacks spike in election cycles in different parts of the world,” said George Conard, a product manager for Jigsaw’s Project Shield.
In a declaration that may force Santa Clara to deal with long-standing complaints about equal representation on the City Council, a judge on Tuesday said the city’s current election system isn’t fair to minority voters. Superior Court Judge Thomas Kuhnle leaned in favor of the group of Asian Americans who sued Santa Clara last year claiming the city’s at-large election system discriminates against Asian Americans by diluting their vote. “Based on the evidence presented at trial, the court finds that plaintiffs have proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the at-large method of election used by the city impairs the ability of Asians to elect candidates as a result of the dilution and abridgment of their rights as voters,” wrote Kuhnle in a proposed statement of decision Tuesday. “Having found the City liable for violating the [California Voting Rights Act], this action will now proceed to the remedies phase.”
Colorado voters this November will be asked to vote on two ballot measures that would overhaul the state’s redistricting process and seek to prevent partisan gerrymandering. Supporters say the measures could serve as a national model at a time when gerrymandering — the practice of drawing political district boundaries to favor a particular party at the ballot box — is under heightened scrutiny across the country. Top lawmakers on Wednesday signed the referred measures in an afternoon ceremony, just more than a week after they passed both chambers unanimously. Kent Thiry, a political independent who previously backed successful campaigns to open state primaries to unaffiliated voters, called the proposed reforms “a big step towards protecting one of the crown jewels of any state, which is the fairness and credibility of their elections.”
In 2004, Desmond Meade, while serving a 15-year prison sentence for a drug offense in Florida, got a break. An appeals court returned his conviction to the original trial bench, allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser charge and get out of prison in three years, most of which he had already served. But his freedom came with a price, something that didn’t quite register with him at the time: as part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, Meade agreed to give up his civil rights: the right to vote, to serve on a jury and to run for office. “At the time, when I first accepted the plea deal, I didn’t understand the consequences,” Meade says. Fourteen years and a pair of college and law degrees later, Meade, now 50, still can’t vote; his application to regain his civil rights was rejected in 2011. The reason: a new Florida law that requires felons like him to wait for seven years before they could apply for rights restoration.
A bill that would restore voting rights to felons on parole who have been out of prison for five years is on its way to the governor’s desk after it passed the Senate Wednesday. The bill passed the Senate 24-13. After failing twice in the House this session, the bill, written by Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, passed the House in a 60-40 vote last week. Louisiana is one of 21 states where felons lose the right to vote for their time in prison and for the duration of their parole. Thirteen other states generally have more restrictive laws than Louisiana, according to a study conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Maine: Judge rules ranked-choice voting group can’t intervene in lawsuit to block it | Portland Press Herald
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a statewide committee supporting the use of ranked-choice voting in the June 12 primary election should not be allowed to intervene in a pending lawsuit that seeks to block use of the voter-approved system next month. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy said The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting’s participation in the lawsuit “would complicate a case that badly needs to be expedited.” Levy said the committee should instead file a friend of the court brief in support of the Secretary of State’s Office by Monday.
New Hampshire: Court could decline Gov. Sununu’s request to give advisory opinion on new election law | Union Leader
Gov. Chris Sununu is preparing to ask the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on a controversial new election law, but the court has dodged such questions in the recent past. The governor announced on Tuesday that he plans to bring a late item to the Executive Council today asking the council to adopt a resolution regarding HB 1264, the bill defining residency as a condition for voting. Supporters say the bill will help ensure that only New Hampshire residents vote in state elections, while opponents say it will suppress the vote of college students and others living in the state on a temporary basis, but still entitled to vote here. The bill has cleared the House and Senate, and is awaiting Sununu’s signature.
The storm that ripped through the region at about 3 p.m. knocked out power at several polling sites, leaving voters in one Northumberland County polling place to vote by flashlight. While generators were used at several polling sites to keep voting machines running, the voting area in Jordan Township had to employ flashlights and paper ballots, said director of elections Alisha Elliott. The storm did not deter voters from coming out, though. Elliott said turnout in primary elections during a non-presidential election is usually between 15 and 17 percent, but Tuesday’s turnout was about 20 percent. Turnout in Union County topped 25 percent, besting the 18 percent prediction director of elections Greg Katherman put forth before any ballots were returned at the county government center.
Burundians vote Thursday in a referendum that could keep the president in power until 2034 and threatens to prolong a political crisis that has seen more than 1,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries. Many in this East African nation do not see a positive outcome no matter the results of the vote, which President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government forced through despite widespread opposition and the concerns of the United States and others warning of continued bloodshed. The country descended into crisis in 2015 when Nkurunziza pursued a disputed third term. Now Burundi’s 5 million voters are asked to approve a change to the constitution that would extend the length of the president’s term from five years to seven and would allow him to stand for two more terms after his current one ends in 2020. Nkurunziza has forcefully urged voters to support the referendum.
Burundi: A lot is at stake as Burundi votes tomorrow on controversial constitutional amendments | The Washington Post
On Thursday, Burundi will hold a referendum to revise its constitution. The current constitution, adopted in 2005, grew from the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which helped end Burundi’s civil war by establishing one of Africa’s most inclusive political arrangements. The proposed amendments threaten to dismantle the Arusha Agreement without a broad national debate — and could lead to renewed instability. During Burundi’s civil war, which lasted from 1993 to 2005, rebels from the Hutu majority battled the ruling minority Tutsi army. The war started after Tutsi soldiers assassinated Melchior Ndadaye — the country’s first democratically elected president and first Hutu president. Leaders from countries in the region, including Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, and international organizations such as the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, worked for two years with Burundian political and armed actors to negotiate the Arusha Agreement.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside an election office in this northern Iraqi city Wednesday to protest alleged fraud in last week’s parliamentary elections. The head of Iraq’s national election commission said at a news conference that armed men had taken over the election office and that the workers inside were “in effect, hostages,” but local officials and witnesses disputed that account, saying there was no sign of weapons at what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration. They said hundreds of ethnic Turkmen and Arab demonstrators massed outside the offices to protest alleged fraud after early returns showed a Kurdish party winning most of the vote. Oil-rich Kirkuk is at the heart of a long-running dispute between the Kurds, who claim it as part of their autonomous region, and the central government in Baghdad. The city’s Arab and Turkmen communities side with the central government.
The Dutch government is phasing out the use of anti-virus software made by Russian firm Kaspersky Lab amid fears of possible spying, despite vehement denials by the Moscow-based cyber security company. The Dutch Justice and Security ministry said in a statement late Monday the decision had been taken as a “precautionary measure” in order “to guarantee national security”. But Kaspersky Lab, whose anti-virus software is installed on some 400 million computers worldwide, said Tuesday it was “very disappointed” by the move. The firm, which is suspected by US authorities of helping the Kremlin’s espionage efforts, also announced Tuesday that it was moving its core infrastructure and operations to Switzerland.
Globally, 26 countries conduct elections with one form of electronic voting or the other with some even allowing internet ballots for general elections. In 2014, Namibia joined the list becoming the first African country to conduct an e-voting election. Nigeria has made moves too. In 2017, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), unveiled a solar-powered electronic voting machine that was reportedly made in Nigeria. Ever since this announcement, Nigerians have clamoured for electronic voting in the 2019 general elections but this may be a bad idea. Kaduna State recently made history when it pulled off Nigeria’s first electronic voting in its local government elections. Ironically, howbeit successful, Kaduna illustrates practical reasons Nigeria is not ready for e-voting in 2019.
Venezuela: Maduro’s Top Rival Has a Problem: Venezuela’s Opposition Won’t Vote | Wall Street Journal
Henri Falcón, the top Venezuelan opposition candidate in Sunday’s presidential election, faces two obstacles to winning: his friends and his foes. He must not only outmaneuver a ruling administration using state machinery to dominate the vote. Mr. Falcón must also overcome the reluctance of a coalition of like-minded opposition parties that is boycotting a contest they say is rigged. Mr. Falcón’s message, in contrast is: You can’t win if you don’t participate. “I decided to show my face to the country,” Mr. Falcón told followers last week from a stage in this hard-bitten industrial town southwest of Caracas. “I don’t care about the criticism…It’s the moment of truth now, a time for common sense, for being rational.”
A visually impaired man has taken the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to the High Court seeking an order to compel the elections body to print and avail ballot papers in Braille or the template ballot as a way of ensuring that visually impaired enjoy their right to a secret vote. Abraham Mateta, who is visually impared and is a registered voter wants ZEC to put in place administrative measures to enable people in his condition to vote by secret ballot in the coming 2018 harmonised election. Mateta also proposed that ZEC must provide tactile voting devices to all the visually impaired people who want to vote secretly arguing that those who wish to be assisted in voting, should select their own assistants and cast the vote without the involvement of a presiding officer or any other third party.