A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday aimed at stopping Maine’s unusual ranked-balloting system, even as election staffers scanned votes to determine the winner of last week’s congressional race. Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and three activists sued Tuesday to overturn Maine’s new voting system. U.S. District Judge Lance Walker heard arguments Wednesday about whether to halt the vote-counting process until he has time to rule on the system’s constitutionality. Walker indicated he would rule as soon as Thursday on the request to halt vote-counting. The state’s elections chief also said workers were resuming the counting with an eye toward completing it Thursday. Supporters and opponents of ranked-choice voting were eagerly awaiting both results, and wondering which would come first. Walker’s ruling could have major implications for the future of the voting method, which was approved by Maine voters but has drawn ire from Poliquin and others who believe it is confusing and violates the concept of one person, one vote.
Next year, Swiss authorities will put one of the country’s two e-voting systems up for attack by hackers – with a prize on offer for those who break it. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), a strong backer of online voting, has welcomed the confidence test. The test, organised jointly by federal and regional authorities, will take place over four weeks sometime in spring 2019, the NZZ am Sonntag reports. According to the newspaper, the Federal Chancellery has a budget of some CHF250,000 ($247,500) to implement the contest and pay the hackers; a figure not confirmed by the authorities themselves. Contacted by swissinfo.ch, OSA Director Ariane Rustichelli said that it was “a good sign that the Federal Chancellery, which is leading the project, is reacting to and taking seriously the fears [around e-voting]. Because, for about a year and a half now, more and more critical voices are arising, including in parliament”. The OSA, which represents the interests of the 750,000 Swiss living abroad, is a heavily involved in debates around voting rights and the rolling out of online ballots. “If we manage to show that e-voting is safe, this could boost confidence in the system,” Rustichelli said.
National: Key contests in Florida and Georgia remain mired in uncertainty amid expanding legal fights over ballot counts | The Washington Post
One week after Election Day, high-stakes contests in Florida and Georgia remained mired in uncertainty amid expanding legal fights and political wrangling that could further prolong the counting of ballots. In Florida, where elections officials are conducting machine recounts in the races for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a suit in federal court Tuesday evening seeking to extend the deadline to finish the count in all 67 counties.Separately, Nelson and the state party went to court to try to loosen the rules for a manual recount as both parties braced for the ultra-close Senate race to come down to a hand inspection of ballots.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Florida elections officials to take as much time as they need to tally votes, even if they blow past a key deadline. He also demanded that Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is narrowly ahead of Nelson in the Senate race, recuse himself from the recount. Scott’s campaign swiftly rejected that notion, which is the subject of a suit expected to be heard in federal court this week. In Georgia, a federal judge late Monday barred the secretary of state’s office from immediately certifying the state election results there to give voters a chance to address questions about their provisional ballots — a move that further prolongs the hard-fought Georgia governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.
The U.S. intelligence community is launching a first-ever review of potential foreign influence in an election. Although DHS and other federal agencies have said they saw no sign of such interference, the step was mandated by a September executive order. “The Director of National Intelligence will provide an assessment of any foreign interference in our elections within 45 days,” Kellie Wade, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told ABC News in a story late last week. “This assessment will be fully coordinated within the intelligence community, and will be provided to the President and to relevant Cabinet members.”
National: Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why | Wall Street Journal
After unleashing widespread cyberattacks and disinformation warfare on the U.S. during the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s trolls and hackers mostly appeared to have sat on the sidelines during the campaign ahead of last week’s midterm elections. No one is sure why. Federal agencies, state election officials and social-media companies spent the past two years working to bulletproof voting systems and better address online disinformation in preparation for Election Day. Voting largely came and went without major incident, according to U.S. officials and cybersecurity companies looking for evidence of Russian interference. Several factors may have reduced Moscow’s impact. Clint Watts, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the diffuse nature of congressional and state races makes them a harder target than a single presidential election.
Amid the recounts, recriminations and allegations of voter suppression or ballot fraud, something else happened in Tuesday’s elections — a wave of actions aimed at making voting easier and fairer that is an often-overlooked strain in the nation’s voting wars. Floridians extended voting rights to 1.4 million convicted felons. Maryland, Nevada and Michigan were among states that made it easier to register and vote. Michigan, along with Colorado and Missouri, limited politicians’ ability to directly draw, and gerrymander, district lines. Utah, where votes are still being tallied, appears poised to do the same. It was as if states around the country were pulled in two directions at once — with measures aimed at broadening voter participation coming on the heels of recent laws and regulations making it harder to register and vote. Still, for all the charges and countercharges on voter suppression, most of the momentum Tuesday was on measures quite likely to broaden voter participation and limit gerrymanders.
Though an estimated 113 million US citizens got to vote in the midterms, thousands more were left out — unable to vote or even register because of laws that consider them mentally incapable of doing so. These state laws affect the thousands of adults in the US under guardianship — people who, because of a disability, have been determined legally to be incapable of performing necessary daily tasks for themselves, and therefore are in need of a guardian to help them. The status of their right to vote — much as for convicted felons — is determined by the state they live in. However, unlike the widely publicized disenfranchisement of felons, many people are unaware of the problems facing those under guardianship. “This is an issue that, for the large part, I think, flies under the radar if you are not working on it,” Michelle Bishop, voting rights specialist for the National Disability Rights network, told WhoWhatWhy. “It’s not being talked about. The average American doesn’t know this type of thing happens, that you can have your right to vote denied based on having a disability.”
In early 2011, when new census figures showed that Evergreen, Alabama, a small city midway between Montgomery and Mobile, had grown from 53 to 62 percent black over the previous ten years, the white majority on the city council took steps to maintain its political dominance. They redrew precinct lines, pushing almost all the city’s black voters into two city council districts. Then, election administrators used utility information to purge roughly 500 registered black voters from the rolls, all but ensuring that whites would maintain their majority on the council and keep control of Evergreen. That kind of voter suppression is exactly what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to prevent. For 48 years, its “preclearance” provision barred election officials in states with histories of voter suppression from making changes to election procedures without permission from the federal government. It was far from a perfect system—even with preclearance in place, Evergreen officials were able to purge the rolls—but it did help hundreds of thousands of black Southerners vote. By 1972, black registration rates had reached 50 percent in all but a few Southern states. In 2013, however, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, striking down the provisions of the law that defined which states fell under preclearance.
Editorials: It’s not rocket science: Voting should be a simple process | Garrett Broshuis/St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“I just want to vote! Why can’t I vote?” Like many others, the woman had come to this North County polling place after work. In her early 60s, she had one of her grandkids with her. She had identification. She said she had voted in St. Louis County in previous elections, and she had lived in St. Louis County her whole life. But she said it had been several years since she voted. She wasn’t in the system, so she was sent to a corner of the room known as the “solution center.” The solution center was simply the end of a table in a dimly lit corner of the polling place. Cluttered with affidavits and provisional ballots, four other voters already sat there, all awaiting their voting fates, and all African-American. One of the election supervisors at the polling place was trying to find a solution. Should they vote here? Should they vote somewhere else? Should they not vote at all? Should they fill out provisional ballots? The problem was not isolated to this handful of voters. A couple of voters per hour encountered similar problems, and more during peak hours. The situation almost always resulted in a call to the St. Louis County Election Board — which took forever.
Unlike the recent suggestions of President Donald Trump, you cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. Or even a bill in Congress. So says the Constitution. But don’t trust this president or the next Congress to necessarily agree with the plain meaning of these words. Or future federal officials. Or even the federal courts. Because unbeknownst to most Americans, for more than a century all three branches of government have perpetuated an unconstitutional denial of birthright citizenship. On Wednesday, the Trump administration will appear in federal court to defend the ability of the political branches to unilaterally restrict the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. No, it will not be to defend an executive order or congressional statute denying citizenship to U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants. Rather, in Fitisemanu v. United States, the administration is defending the unconstitutional denial of birthright citizenship in U.S. territories before the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. Many assume that the overwhelming bipartisan consensus condemning the constitutionality of Trump’s plan to restrict birthright citizenship by executive order or congressional statute makes such plans dead on arrival. Simply put, the original understanding of the Citizenship Clause requires recognizing all born on U.S. soil as citizens (the only narrow exceptions are for the children of foreign diplomats, enemy soldiers, or certain Indian tribes). An unbroken line of Supreme Court precedent agrees.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council declines to take up bill to lower voting age to 16 | The Washington Post
The D.C. Council indefinitely delayed action on legislation to lower the voting age to 16, dealing a blow to efforts to make the nation’s capital the first jurisdiction to allow minors to cast ballots in presidential contests. Lawmakers voted 7 to 6 to table the bill, imperiling its chances before an end-of-year deadline to pass legislation. The voting bill hit a setback after a pair of lawmakers who helped introduce the legislation — Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) — flipped positions and declined to vote for it. … Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had backed the proposal but distanced herself from the measure before the vote.
Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fla.) campaign filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to bar Florida’s top elections official from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots. The lawsuit, filed in federal court by both Nelson and the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm in Tallahassee, asks a judge to ensure that the Florida Department of State does not disqualify ballots where selections are marked in different ways, so long as the voter’s intention is clear. A ruling in the lawsuit could be key in determining whether numerous ballots are tallied if the Senate race in Florida goes to a hand recount. The lawsuit argues that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office could reject ballots on which a voter may have marked a selection in more than one way.
Palm Beach County’s race to recount votes is heating up — literally. The county’s decade-old ballot-counting machines overheated and gave incorrect totals, forcing the county to restart its recount of about 175,000 early votes., supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Tuesday night. The department has flown in mechanics to repair the machines. “We’re disappointed by the mechanical problems that are going to cause a further delay in the recount,” Bucher told reporters. “It became evident through the vigorous pace of counting that the machines used for the recount were starting to get stressed.” The malfunctions resulted in the loss of more than a day’s work. Bucher said on Monday that her office wouldn’t be able to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline imposed by the state. On Saturday, state election officials said Florida’s 67 counties had to recount the more than 8 million ballots cast statewide because the results in three major elections — U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — were under the 0.5 percentage point threshold that triggers the mandatory recount, according to state law.
As Florida’s races for senator, governor and agriculture commissioner undergo recounts, David Kendall Casey, watching from Atlanta, feels even more annoyed. The 24-year-old graduate student at Georgia State University said he wanted to vote. He checked in with his local elections office in Pinellas County and believed he had ordered a mail ballot. But it never arrived. “It’s literally mathematically getting more important as it gets closer,” Casey said of his vote. He assumed his preferred candidate, Andrew Gillum, would win easily, but Gillum did not. The Democrat conceded, then didn’t, and the race between him and Republican Ron DeSantis is undergoing a machine recount. “This is exactly why I was super excited to vote this year,” Casey said. “It makes you just so despondent about the process. … That power was sort of taken away from me.”
A federal judge on Monday ordered a delay in the certification of Georgia’s election results, citing concerns about the state’s voter registration system and the handling of provisional ballots. The decision effectively deepened the turmoil in Georgia’s campaign for governor, a still unsettled contest that has been among the most acrimonious campaigns in the nation this year. Although the ruling by Judge Amy Totenberg of Federal District Court in Atlanta formally affected every election in Georgia for state and federal office, it reverberated most immediately and powerfully through the governor’s race, in which the Democratic candidate, Stacey Abrams, was within 21,000 votes of forcing a runoff election against Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee. Georgia’s secretary of state, Robyn A. Crittenden, had been preparing to certify the outcome of the election as soon as Wednesday, one day after Georgia’s 159 counties were to complete their tabulations and six days before state law mandated certification. But in a 56-page ruling on Monday night, Judge Totenberg forbade Ms. Crittenden, who assumed office only last week, from certifying the results until at least Friday evening.
Georgia: A high-stakes December runoff even without an Abrams-Kemp matchup | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Even if the race for governor isn’t forced into a runoff, voting rights is set to dominate political debate through Dec. 4 with the runoff for Brian Kemp’s old job. The race pits Democrat John Barrow and Republican Brad Raffensperger, two candidates not necessarily beloved by their party’s bases, in a contest to turn out core supporters possibly without the luxury of a bigger-ticket contest. That’s the framework of the race if there’s no matchup between Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams on the ballot. And it comes against the backdrop of the same debate over ballot access and voter suppression that swirled for the last year.
The governor’s race in Georgia between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp has turned into an ugly, drawn-out affair, and we won’t know the final results for a while. Mr. Kemp, the Republican, declared victory and resigned as Georgia’s secretary of state so he wouldn’t be responsible for overseeing the counting of votes in the race — though before he resigned he did make an unsubstantiated claim that Democrats were hacking the election. There is a silver lining in this mess: The new secretary of state could finally fix Georgia’s astoundingly insecure voting system, one of the most poorly protected in the country. This has been a rough election for Georgians. Accusations of racism and voter suppression have abounded. An outside investigation found that more than 340,000 voter registrations had been improperly canceled by Mr. Kemp’s office. A significant number were reinstated by court order, but there is no way of knowing if voter turnout would have been even higher if the Kemp purge hadn’t happened.
Kentucky: Locked out: Critics say it’s time to end Kentucky’s ban on felon voting | Louisville Courier Journal
Last week’s election held personal stakes for Sara Lee. A Louisville mother of four planning to finish a master’s degree after battling addiction, Lee wanted to vote for candidates who could improve health care, education funding and women’s rights. But Lee’s 2013 felony drug conviction — for which she completed seven months in jail — meant the 37-year-old couldn’t cast a ballot. It left her watching on the sidelines. “I feel like I don’t have a voice,” she said. Kentucky has long had some of the nation’s highest rates of felony disenfranchisement — taking away voting rights because of a crime conviction. Nearly one in 10 residents — and a nation-topping one in four African-Americans — are barred from voting for life because of felony convictions, according to the Washington D.C.-based Sentencing Project.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, has a filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to block state election officials from conducting the nation’s first ranked-choice voting tabulation in a federal race. The lawsuit asserts that Maine’s ranked-choice voting law violates the U.S. Constitution in multiple ways. Among the claims: It does not award winners who obtain a plurality — or the most votes — but rather a majority by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. “What bothers is me is that we do not know if this vote-counting process is legal under the United States Constitution,” Poliquin told reporters at the State House in Augusta. “My job is to make sure I uphold and defend the Constitution.”
North Carolina: Partisan gerrymandering lawsuit calls for new legislative districts for 2020 elections | WRAL
A new gerrymandering lawsuit calls for a court order requiring voting districts for the state House and Senate be redrawn before the 2020 elections. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Wake County by good-government group Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party and 22 voters from across the state, follows the path of another Common Cause lawsuit in which federal courts have twice found that Republican lawmakers illegally gerrymandered North Carolina’s congressional districts for partisan advantage. “Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have egregiously rigged the state legislative district lines to guarantee that their party will control both chambers of the General Assembly regardless of how the people of North Carolina vote,” the lawsuit states. “This attack on representative democracy and North Carolinians’ voting rights is wrong. It violates the North Carolina Constitution. And it needs to stop.”
The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s absentee-ballot rules Tuesday, alleging that voters are being disenfranchised by the state’s tight deadlines for returning ballots. “This is not about trying to game the system for one party or another,” ACLU of Pennsylvania legal director Vic Walczak told WESA. “This is about trying to make sure that every voter who was duly registered and wants to vote is able to cast a ballot.” “Pennsylvania has the earliest absentee ballot receipt deadline of any state in the country,” the complaint contends. The time frames are so tight, it says, that many voters are unable to mail them back to county elections officials in time. “Pennsylvania’s Election Code establishes a deadline for receiving completed absentee ballots that regularly disenfranchises Pennsylvanians who … receive their absentee ballot so late that they cannot fill it out and mail it back to election officials before the Election Code deadline.”
South Carolina: Legislators call for return to paper-based voting in South Carolina | The Post and Courier
Returning to paper ballots may be the solution for eliminating lines and ensuring all votes are counted correctly, a group of South Carolina legislators said Tuesday. While there’s wide support in the Legislature for replacing South Carolina’s 13,000 antiquated voting machines before the 2020 elections, what the next system should look like is up for debate. State election officials are seeking $60 million in the upcoming budget for a new system with a paper component for auditing. The touchscreen machines South Carolina voters have used since 2004 provide no paper record. “It’s shocking to me we have no paper trail,” said Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Columbia. She was among several legislators Tuesday who said paper printouts won’t suffice. They advocate going old school with paper ballots. “We don’t want a machine auditing a machine,” said Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter. “We want something tangible.”
South Carolina election officials said Friday they’re pushing ahead with plans to replace the state’s nearly 13,000 electronic voting machines in time for the next presidential election in 2020, following complaints by some voters last week that the aging equipment changed their ballots or simply broke down, causing extreme wait times at polling places. The State Election Commission said it is requesting $60 million from South Carolina lawmakers to swap out the existing equipment, which was purchased in 2004, for a balloting system that can produce a paper ballot. The machines the state currently uses to conduct elections only offer voters a touchscreen interface and are not capable of printing out paper backups of votes that can be audited. South Carolina is one of five states that exclusively use these types of machines — known as direct-recording electronic, or DREs — to collect votes, along with Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and New Jersey. Several other states, including Texas and Pennsylvania, use DREs as their main type of voting equipment.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will review for a second time whether Republican legislators in Virginia drew electoral districts in the state in a way that unlawfully diluted the clout of black voters. The high court will hear an appeal by the Republican-led state House of Delegates of a June ruling by a federal three-judge panel that said the 11 state House districts in question all violated the rights of black voters to equal protection under the law under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Democrats have accused Republicans in Virginia and other states of crafting such legislative maps in a way that crams black and other minority voters into certain districts in order to reduce their overall sway in the state. When the litigation first reached the high court, the justices last year threw out an earlier lower court ruling that had found the 11 districts, as well as one other district, to be lawful. The justices said the lower court had not sufficiently analyzed the consideration of race by the Republican legislators in the process of drawing Virginia’s electoral map.
Election officials have ordered hand counts of paper ballots from 5 percent of the state’s voting machines in an effort to audit the accuracy of Election Day results. Currently, election officials only check to verify that the number of paper ballots cast matches the number counted by the machines. But, in 2006, the state adopted a law requiring officials to ascertain whether the actual candidates selected on paper ballots corresponds with the machine count of votes for those candidates. In the past, the state has ignored that law. But questions raised by Russian interference in the 2016 elections prompted the Wisconsin Election Commission to take a step toward compliance with the law, said Karen McKim, the coordinator of Wisconsin Election Integrity, a bipartisan nonprofit group that advocates for fair elections. She praised the election commission for taking the step.
“My fellow Americans, an hour ago I learned that Russia had begun preparing its nuclear arsenal. I immediately ordered the United States’ armed forces to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Seconds ago I was told that Russia has launched a counterstrike at the continental US. We anticipate that many of these missiles will reach their targets. Make peace with God and your family. God bless America.” The voice is that of US president Donald Trump, reshaped by artificial intelligence software to pronounce a pre-written script. A data scientist with two hours of recorded Trump speech processed it through an algorithm. The chilling announcement, reminiscent of Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast about an invasion of earth by Martians, was played on Monday at the Paris Peace Forum to show the challenge faced by the newly formed Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity.
Heavy rain has forced more than a dozen polling places in Fiji to close early on election day, affecting 7,852 people, who officials say will be permitted to cast their votes at a later date. Fiji’s supervisor of elections, Mohammad Saneem, told a press conference the 23 polling venues in question were no longer accessible due to rising water levels. “It appears that the waters are rising as I speak, and therefore it has become necessary [for me] to consider adjourning polling at these locations,” he said. Mr Saneem said polling at those locations would begin at a later date, to be announced following consultations between his office and Fiji’s Electoral Commission.
The U.N. envoy for Libya hopes another attempt to hold an election will take place by June after he scrapped a December plan, but said Libyans should first use a national conference in early 2019 to decide on the poll’s format. U.N. Special Envoy Ghassan Salame decided to abandon a plan to hold elections on Dec. 10 after a spike in violence in Libya, which has been gripped by conflict and paralysed by political deadlock since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Salame was speaking to Reuters before the start of a conference in Palermo organised by Rome with the aim of pushing forward a new U.N. plan. Salame said last week this plan would include an election in the spring, without elaborating.
Malta: Vote counting hall transformed as electronic system in place for European elections | Malta Today
The vote counting hall in Naxxar has been transformed into one equipped with a fully-functional electronic system, which will be first used for the European Parliament and local council elections in May next year. The new system will see the old manual method of counting votes ditched in favour of an automated e-Counting process, which will mean less time is taken for all votes to be counted, and the chance of human error is minimised. E-counting will also be used for the general election and local council elections in 2024. Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church told the press, at an event showcasing the system, that two mock counts are planned to identify any teething troubles in the new system, one scheduled for Saturday, and the other for December. The latter will be a full-scale simulation of the counting process for the European elections.
Supporters of Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister and a top election official on Monday challenged in court the president’s dissolving of parliament, upping the ante in a political crisis that has sparked international alarm. Late on Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena called snap elections and dissolved the legislature, two weeks after sacking the prime minister and installing the divisive Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. The United States has led a chorus of international concern over events in the Indian Ocean island nation of 21 million people. Three political parties holding an absolute majority in parliament and an election commissioner, one of three officials tasked with conducting polls, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to declare the president’s actions illegal.