The story read like something straight out of Stalinist Russia. But this casualty list was in the United States in the 21st century. Virginia: 41,637 purged. Florida: 182,000 purged. Indiana: 481,235 purged. Georgia: 591,549 purged. Ohio: two million purged. With the flick of a bureaucratic wrist, millions of Americans—veterans, congressional representatives, judges, county officials, and most decidedly minorities—were erased. To be clear, they still had their lives, but in the course of simply trying to cast a ballot, they soon learned that as far as the government was concerned, they did not exist. They were electorally dead. Their very right to vote had disappeared into the black hole of voter roll purges, Interstate Crosscheck, and felony disfranchisement. Some of the walking dead were viscerally “angry.” Others fumed, “This is screwed up!” Most felt “like an outcast,” “empty and unimportant,” and one man was actually reduced to “crying right there in the county elections office.” These were the latest casualties in the war on democracy.
National: Protection of Voting Rights for Minorities Has Fallen Sharply, a New Report Finds | The New York Times
Federal actions to enforce voting rights for minorities have declined sharply since the Supreme Court struck down the core of the 1965 Voting Rights Act five years ago, the federal Commission on Civil Rights says in a sweeping new report on voting issues. Even enforcement of the act’s remaining provisions has dropped markedly, the report states. In an interview before the report’s formal release on Wednesday, the head of the commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, called the present state of discrimination against minority voters “enduring and pernicious,” and said it was poorly addressed under federal law. “To be at this point in our history, without either meaningful federal protections in law or in practice from the United States Department of Justice, is a low point” since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, she said. “And that’s dangerous.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian cyber-operatives conducted a sustained “influence campaign” cyberattack on the American electoral system by relying on social media to radicalize voters, undermine institutions, and disseminate misleading information. The efforts are ongoing in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterms — and other countries are doing it, too. Influence campaigns — coordinated efforts to create and propagate misleading and inflammatory content on social media — borrow heavily from modern internet-based marketing techniques. “[Tech] platforms are especially good at helping marketers hit a target audience with a refined message,” says Adweek technology editor Josh Sternberg. “Influence campaigns are no different. They’re effective because social media marketing is effective.”
On Wednesday President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would automatically impose sanctions against any person or group attempting to interfere in United States elections. “The proliferation of digital devices and internet-based communications has created significant vulnerabilities and magnified the scope and intensity of the threat of foreign interference [to elections],” Trump writes in the order. “I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with this threat.” The order covers attacks not just on vote integrity and election infrastructure, but also disinformation campaigns, information leaking, propaganda, and other types of interference like what took place during the 2016 presidential campaign. Since then, efforts to improve election infrastructure defenses around the country have been uneven. President Trump himself has sent mixed messages on his willingness to prioritize election security and hold Russia accountable for its interference.
Calling the lack of evidence of fraud irrelevant, a divided federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld Arizona’s ban on “ballot harvesting.” In a 2-1 ruling, the judges acknowledged arguments by the state and national Democratic parties that the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted the HB 2023, the 2016 law, without any proof that anyone who was collecting ballots had, in fact, tampered with them. And the majority noted there are other state laws which have, for years, made it illegal to tamper with ballots. But Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the majority, said none of that is required for lawmakers to do what they did. “A state need not show specific local evidence of fraud in order to justify preventive measures,” she wrote for herself and Judge Carlos Bea. She said courts are entitled to uphold such laws if they serve the state’s interest in maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, “even in the absence of any evidence that the public’s confidence has been undermined.”
Arizona: Adrian Fontes won’t release report, focused on ‘successful election in November’ | Arizona Republic
The election day issues that left thousands of voters unable to cast ballots when polls opened on Aug. 28 were caused by a contractor error and faulty communication, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said again Wednesday. Fontes maintains that the contractor his office hired to install the new voter check-in machines failed to provide the needed man power to make sure all polling places were ready to accept voters. The company disagrees. Fontes in a news conference hinted that a legal battle with the contractor — Tempe-based Insight Enterprises — could be on the horizon. “I’m not going to get into a he-said-she-said fight with the contractor. That may end up in litigation later,” Fontes told reporters at the media event.
Delaware is set to have new voting machines for the 2020 presidential election, with the goal of putting them in place by May’s school board elections. A task force given the responsibility of approving a contract with a vendor to replace the current machines unanimously approved the selection Tuesday, although the choice must still go before the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement. That committee will meet Monday, enabling lawmakers to review and vote on the selection of Election Systems & Software. If the contract is approved, the company will provide machines and other products, including a new database application, to the state. The cost has not been publicly released and will remain private unless the contract is finalized. Officials have up to $13 million to spend, with $3 million of that coming from the federal government and the rest coming from state funds allocated in the capital bond bill.
A federal judge who’s considering whether Georgia should have to switch from electronic voting machines to paper ballots for the November election called the situation “a catch-22.” Voting integrity groups and individuals sued state and county election officials, arguing that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and provide no way to confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because they don’t produce a paper trail. They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, to implement the use of paper ballots for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
The company chosen to replace Louisiana’s years-old voting machines on Wednesday dismissed suggestions the bid process was mismanaged, saying a losing bidder for the lucrative work offered no “factual or legal grounds sufficient” to disrupt the contract plans. Dominion Voting Systems filed its official response to a protest of the contract award that Election Systems and Software lodged with the state procurement office. Dominion said its competitor simply wants another chance at winning the contract, without offering substantive reasons for throwing out the contract award. “Dominion disputes all allegations of impropriety, undue haste, carelessness or lack of diligence by the state in reviewing the proposals, unfairness, or any other disadvantage claimed by ES&S in its protest,” Trippe Hawthorne, an attorney representing Dominion, wrote in the vendor’s response letter.
There will be no straight-party voting option this year in New Mexico. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled in favor of a petition by the state Republican and Libertarian parties and others arguing that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver does not have the power to put straight-party voting back on ballots without legislative approval. The court didn’t buy Toulouse Oliver’s argument that the secretary of state’s power to decide the form of the ballot includes resurrecting the straight-ticket option. “Did the Legislature intend to delegate its decision-making authority over straight-party voting to the secretary of state?” Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said when announcing the high court’s decision. “The answer to this question is no.”
A Corpus Christi federal judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge seeking to end statewide elections for Texas’ highest criminal and civil courts. The lawsuit, filed by Latino voters and an organization founded by the late civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, argued that statewide elections for members of the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals improperly dilute Latino voting strength and deny Latinos the right to elect a candidate of their choice. Ordering Texas to adopt single-member districts, the lawsuit argued, would correct the Voting Rights Act violation by creating at least two Latino-majority voting districts — based in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas — for the nine-member courts.
Virginia: House GOP says it’s working on redistricting plan, gives tentative timeline | Virginian Pilot
House Speaker Kirk Cox said Wednesday that despite Democrats’ claims, his caucus is in “the advanced stages” of solving court-ordered redistricting and that his party has been “rebuffed” in private meetings with Democratic leadership. Addressing Attorney General Mark Herring’s request to have a federal court – instead of lawmakers – draw a legislative map, attorneys on behalf of Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and House Republicans said conversations between the two parties have continued despite Democrats’ claims of an “impasse.” They argued that lawmakers are following an appropriate timeline and accused Democrats and the governor of seeking political gain by asking a federal court to redraw the maps.
A new national report from election and hacking experts is calling for states to make some changes before the 2020 presidential election. The report, which was written by a panel of experts on computer science and election administration, recommends states use paper ballots, whether they are counted by hand or machine, because they can’t be tampered with online and can be re-counted if necessary. It also recommends increasing state funding for election administration, including training for workers. Kevin Kennedy, the former director of Wisconsin’s elections agency, served on the committee that wrote the report. He noted Wisconsin already uses paper ballots, which were used in the 2016 presidential recount, but he believes the state hasn’t funneled enough money into training for election workers. “They’ve always been behind the eight ball on that,” Kennedy said. “They could always use more funding.”
Australia: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Australia should stay away from electronic voting | IDM Magazine
The civic experience of interacting with analogue voting interfaces is as Australian as the democracy sausage. Voters are confronted with tiny pencils, plus physical security measures that involve huddling in a cardboard booth and origami-scale folding. The use of paper ballots – and human counting of those ballots – creates one of the most secure electoral systems imaginable. And the Australian tradition provides another sometimes under-recognised component of electoral security: compulsory voting. This practice secures against the voter suppression tactics used to undermine elections in the United States. In the digital era, smartphones are so prevalent that it might seem tempting to move to voting online. In 2013 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) explored internet voting. But cyber security experts say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The problems the US has had with electronic voting provide a perfect illustration of what can go wrong.
The two blocs are almost neck and neck as the counting of overseas votes starts in Sweden.
It is not yet known how many votes – Swedes abroad and some domestic votes that haven’t yet been registered – are left to count, but in the last two election they have been around 200,000. The preliminary election result is so tight that only two seats – or almost 30,000 votes of those that have been counted – currently put the left-wing bloc ahead of the four-party Alliance opposition. But based on past elections it is not likely that the late votes will change the number of seats won by either bloc, however it could change the seat allocation within the blocs, writes the TT newswire.
Thailand’s military government enacted two new laws that set in motion a countdown leading to elections by May 2019 at the latest – five years after a coup d’etat. The laws, which received royal endorsement on Wednesday with their publication in the Royal Gazette, cover the selection of members of parliament and senators. The act covering lower-house legislators becomes effective in 90 days and mandates that elections be held within 150 days after that, effectively setting a legal deadline in May next year. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the regime that seized power in the 2014 coup, said last month a general election was likely to be held on February 24 but left open the possibility of a later date.
The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region. “The United States condemns the announcement of a plan to conduct ‘elections’ in the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,'” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on September 12. “Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict. She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”