Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, July 10, a bipartisan group of leading authorities on election administration and cybersecurity will be on Capitol Hill to present an overview of current election security challenges facing federal and state policymakers. Introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK), the panel conversation comes one day ahead of a Senate Rules Committee…
For Americans who want to fight the mapmaker’s tyranny over politics, the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered the classic losers’ consolation: Wait ’til next year. Or the next. Or forever. The court passed up two chances at the end of its term to declare extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, sending cases from Wisconsin and Maryland back to lower courts. Then, the justices ducked again, remanding a North Carolina gerrymandering case—and making it less likely they’ll confront partisan district-drawing in their next term. Then Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, depriving gerrymandering’s opponents of a potential fifth vote, without resolving Kennedy’s long search for a legal standard on the practice. It’s a clear message to Americans who are sick of how gerrymandering lets politicians pick their voters, creates grotesquely-shaped one-party districts and encourages the partisan divide. With three years to go before the entire nation redistricts after the next census, if gerrymandering’s opponents want better, fairer maps, they’ll have to demand them, state by state. Ohio just showed how it can be done.
National: Battle Lines Drawn Over the Census Citizenship Question: Challenges in Federal Courts Before the Count Begins | Rockefeller Institute of Government
The 2020 Census is fast becoming one of the most litigated, even before the actual enumeration has started. Six lawsuits over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 questionnaire are currently pending before federal courts in California, Maryland and New York. Also pending before a Maryland federal court is a case alleging that the federal Commerce Department’s Census Bureau is inadequately prepared to conduct the 2020 Census due to delayed program tests, insufficient funding and staff shortages, likely resulting in severe undercount of minorities. In an Alabama federal court, that state’s attorney general and a member of Congress are challenging the Census Bureau’s decision to include all U.S. residents in the numbers used for congressional apportionment. Two of the citizenship question cases are before New York Southern District Federal Judge Jesse Furman. Both are on fast tracks, with trials expected by late October or early November (unless Judge Furman grants the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the case, which he said could come sometime in July).
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s jurisprudence on voting rights must be understood in the context of his overall constitutional philosophy. While certainly appreciative of the role that democratic elections play as part of the republican form of government established by the Constitution — see, for example, his concurrences in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thorton (1996) and Cook v. Gralike (2001) — Kennedy did not view voting rights as having a paramount status within the pantheon of constitutional rights. Nor did Kennedy consider the protection of voting rights as legitimating the rest of the Constitution. Rather, he saw voting rights as important insofar as they were part of the Constitution. For him, it was the priority of the Constitution itself that gave voting rights their significance. The hierarchy of authority, as he saw it, ran from the Constitution to democracy, not the other way around.
The sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit state lawmakers to serving 10 years said Friday that they have collected more than 135,000 signatures of registered voters in their attempt to qualify their measure for the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Thomas Steele of Little Rock, chairman of the Arkansas Term Limits committee, signed an affidavit stating that the committee turned in 135,590 signatures on parts of 19,714 petitions to the secretary of state’s office. To qualify for the ballot, sponsors of constitutional amendments are required to collect 84,859 signatures of registered voters. Friday was the deadline for sponsors of ballot measures to turn in their petitions.
Colorado: Nearly 7,000 unaffiliated Colorado voters nullified their primary votes by turning in ballots for both parties | Associated Press
One in 42 unaffiliated voters who tried to participate in Colorado’s first-ever open primaries flubbed it by submitting both Democratic and Republican ballots — ensuring neither was counted. But state election officials, who released numbers Friday, consider the lower-than-expected 2.4 percent ballot rejection rate a success for the inaugural run of the new law in the June 26 primary elections. A total of 293,153 unaffiliated voters returned mail ballots across the state, and 6,914 of those envelopes contained completed ballots for both parties, resulting in their nullification. Backers of Initiative 108, which Colorado voters approved in 2016 to open primaries to unaffiliated voters, praised the outcome in a news release. But they and election officials also said they’d work to lower the rejection rate in future primary elections.
Georgia: Federal judges rule Georgia can use redrawn lines amid redistricting challenge | Associated Press
Georgia’s gerrymandering issues were recently examined by a federal court. The panel of judges ruled Georgia can continue using current district lines pending the outcome of a lawsuit alleging racial gerrymandering in two state House districts. The federal lawsuit says the Republican-led legislature unconstitutionally drew the metro Atlanta districts in 2015 to increase the percentage of white voters and decrease the percentage of black voters. The majority opinion issued in June by a three-judge panel calls the evidence raised in the lawsuit “compelling” but says it falls short of documenting intent to depress black voter strength. For that reason, the opinion says, it’s not appropriate to issue a preliminary injunction to keep the redrawn boundaries from being used while the lawsuit is pending.
Petitioners challenging Iowa’s voter ID law were in Polk County District court Friday, urging a district judge to temporarily halt enforcement of parts of the law. Ames resident Taylor Blair and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa are suing Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate over the law. The requirements in the law to show identification at the polls don’t go into effect until next year. But on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for a temporary injunction to stop the parts of the law that are already in effect dealing with absentee ballots.
Kentucky: Department of Justice Announces Settlement with Kentucky Ensuring Compliance with Voter Registration List Maintenance Requirements | Imperial Valley News
The Department of Justice Thursday announced that it recently entered into a settlement with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Kentucky State Board of Elections, and the Kentucky Secretary of State, resolving the Department’s claims that Kentucky was not complying with the voter registration list maintenance procedures set forth in Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Under the terms of the settlement, Kentucky will develop and implement a general program of statewide voter list maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of registrants who have become ineligible due to a change in residence in accordance with Section 8 of the NVRA and state law.
Maryland: Elections board and MVA reach agreement on number of voters whose information wasn’t transferred on time: 83,493 | Baltimore Sun
The State Board of Elections and the Motor Vehicle Administration appear to have reached agreement on the number of voters whose changes of address or party registration weren’t properly recorded in time for the June 26 primary elections. The number is 83,493, according to deputy elections administrator Nikki Charlson. The MVA put out a statement agreeing with the number. That’s fewer than had been reported by the elections board as of June 28, but more than the number used by the MVA. The elections board at one time reported that the information of almost 87,000 voters had been collected by the MVA but not passed on to the elections board. The cause, both agreed, was a computer glitch.
Massachusetts: A vote for noncitizens? Boston City Council president pushes access to rights | Boston Herald
The Boston City Council will consider ways it can let noncitizens vote in city elections tomorrow in a hearing on a controversial measure being pushed by Council President Andrea Campbell. “All members of a community should have the right to participate and be included in the governance of that community,” Campbell’s order states, noting that Boston has a foreign-born population of more than 190,000, or 28 percent. Her order also states that non-U.S. citizens paid $116 million in state and local taxes and generated over $3.4 billion in spending, according to a 2015 city report.
North Carolina: A little-noticed ballot change could have a big impact this year | Charlotte Observer
A little-noticed bill passed by lawmakers last month could have a big impact on the race for North Carolina’s Supreme Court. The bill, now law, will put Democrat Anita Earls’ name last on the ballot for the court contest. It would have come first under the old law. Studies have shown ballot order favors the candidate listed first, and could make a difference in a close race. That change comes on the heels of another new law that puts all judicial races — including the Supreme Court — at the bottom of the ballot behind other races. “It’s clearly done in the hopes of Republicans that ballot fatigue will kick in, and that will result in a drop-off of votes for those offices at the bottom of the ballot,” said Wayne Goodwin, the state Democratic chairman.
Editorials: Elections in North Carolina: We must keep high standards | Chris Telesca/News & Observer
North Carolina has consistently ranked high in election integrity since we passed a tough verified voting law in 2005. But – in the name of “competition” – some folks want to take us back to the bad old days before the law was passed, when our standards were low to non-existent. We can’t let that happen. Prior to 2005 our counties used 18 different types of voting machines, vendor support was infrequent, maintenance was limited, training was sparse, and security was a joke. Each county did their own thing with ballot printing, and few complied with federal laws and standards. In 2004, we saw many election problems that came largely from decades of not having or complying with election integrity standards. We had a Florida-style meltdown in Carteret County when 5,000 votes were lost at one early voting location, which almost forced a $7.5 million statewide redo election. After the meltdown, the General Assembly in August 2005 passed the Public Confidence in Elections Act with unanimous bipartisan support. The law created statewide standards administered by the State Board of Elections.
Washington: With Russian hacking fresh in mind, Washington state beefs up elections cybersecurity | The Seattle Times
Exercises that simulate a hacking attempt. Assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with higher-level security clearances for top state officials. A Washington National Guard contingent ramping up to go on alert. In years past, you might have mistaken these preparations as defense against a foreign invasion. But in Washington, in 2018, this is what officials are doing to safeguard the state’s elections systems. Roughly a year after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections, federal officials announced that Russian hackers had targeted the election systems of at least 21 states, including Washington.
Cambodia: Cambodia claims its election will be fair. Civil society says otherwise | Asian Correspondent
Liberal, pluralistic, democratic, peaceful, free, fair, and non-violent. These were the words used by a Cambodian state-affiliated press office to describe how the government will conduct the general election scheduled to take place on July 29, 2018. Campaigning starts on July 7. A video produced by the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers even boasted that the upcoming election “could be considered one of the best Election (sic) in Cambodia’s history.” The video was likely intended to address the criticism from local and global civil society groups with respect to the deteriorating state of democracy in Cambodia. The Cambodian People’s Party has been in power for 33 years under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is considered to be Southeast Asia’s longest-serving head of state.
The official campaign to become president of Mali kicked off on Saturday under heightened security, three weeks before election day in the West African nation. Mali’s incumbent president Ibrahima Boubacar Keita, who took office in 2013, and opposition frontrunner Soumaila Cisse are expected to be the two main candidates in the July 29 polls out of a field of 24 hopefuls. More than 30,000 security and defence officers have been mobilised, according to the interior ministry, to “secure candidates on the ground and voting operations”, amid fears of possible jihadist attacks.
With the European Parliament elections just round the corner, Malta is facing renewed calls to end the disenfranchisement of Maltese nationals who live overseas. The European Commission has repeatedly called on Malta and the five other countries to stop disenfranchising citizens by not allowing them to vote unless they reside in their home countries. The others are: Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In Malta, the issue is a bone of contention each time a general election rolls around, with political parties lodging court cases to have certain people struck from the electoral register under the voter registration rules in place. Citizens are disenfranchised unless they have resided in Malta for at least six months within the last 18 preceding their registration to vote.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is rejecting calls for early elections as a solution to a political crisis in which more than 250 people have been killed amid a heavy-handed crackdown on protests. Ortega said late Saturday that the Central American country’s constitution sets the rules and they “cannot be changed overnight.” He said protesters who are demanding he leave office are “coup mongers” and said they should “seek the vote of the people” if they want to govern.
The United States on Thursday condemned a bill proposed by South Sudan’s government that would extend President Salva Kiir’s term for three years. “The draft bill undermines ongoing peace talks with opposition groups and civil society,” a State Department official, who spoke on condition anonymity, said. Backed by the United States, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Fighting broke out two years later over a political disagreement between Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar. Tens of thousands of people have since been killed and over three million forced to flee their homes.
Taiwan is preparing for a drastic increase in Chinese cyber-attacks in a bid to influence the result of Taiwan’s municipal and local elections on November 24, 2018 and 2020 presidential election. “We anticipate in the run-up to elections at the end of this year and continuing until the 2020 presidential elections Taiwan will become a global hotspot for cyber attacks and fake news,” said a spokesperson for President Tsai-ing wen (蔡英文), reported the Financial Times of London. Recent months have seen an increase in Chinese-led cyber-attacks against Taiwan, with the most public example being the hacking of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) website on July 3. According to a Taiwanese cyber security official, the majority of cyber attacks against Taiwan originate in China, and that China instigates up to 40 million cyber attacks against Taiwan per month.