An unprecedented statewide hand recount is now under way in the Sunshine State, further extending a muddled, high stakes battle over every last vote in Florida’s crucial U.S. Senate race. But, barring a legal challenge, the race for governor is over. Following a five-day machine recount of the more than 8.3 million votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered hand recounts Thursday afternoon in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, and also the race for agriculture commissioner between Nicole “Nikki” Fried and Matt Caldwell. The race for governor, which also went through a machine recount, was outside the margins that trigger a manual recount as new tallies came in, making Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis the governor-elect a full nine days after Democrat Andrew Gillum first conceded. … Gillum, who explicitly revoked his election night concession Saturday as a machine recount began, did not re-concede Thursday, if there is such a thing.
Facebook is being hit with fresh criticism from Capitol Hill as lawmakers reacted harshly Thursday to a New York Times investigation that detailed the company’s efforts to wield influence in Washington after becoming aware of Russia-linked activity on its platform during the 2016 presidential campaign. The explosive article laid out how Facebook’s leadership was reluctant to confront the Russian efforts on its platform and was unprepared for the subsequent firestorm and fallout, which involved the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Specifically, the Times reported that the tech giant used a Republican opposition research firm called Definers Public Affairs to accuse liberal financier George Soros of funding some of the groups that were speaking out against Facebook as it faced public scrutiny over its handling of both the Russian disinformation campaigns and the Cambridge Analytica debacle. On Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats — Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) — requested that the Justice Department “expand any investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to include whether Facebook — or any other entity affiliated with or hired by Facebook — retaliated against critics or public officials seeking to regulate the platform, or hid vital information from the public.”
More than a week after Election Day, much remains murky in Georgia and Florida. But one thing is clear: Provisional ballots, often forgotten and minimized, will determine the results. Provisional ballots are a proven fail-safe for voters across the country, but their role in the political dramas playing out this week illustrates how the little-understood tool can fall prey to political manipulation. When candidates inaccurately attack provisional ballots as perpetuating voter fraud, they take advantage of a complicated process many Americans don’t understand. And when states decline to count all the provisional ballots or discard some on questionable grounds, then the system doesn’t work for all voters. Created by a federal law in 2002, provisional ballots are supposed to be a protection against administrative and technical errors that prevent registered voters from casting a normal ballot on Election Day. In other circumstances, voters cast a provisional ballot if they go to the wrong polling place or, in some states, forget their photo ID.
In the past few days, election integrity activists got up close to the current generation of ES&S voting machines — close enough to record video of a digital scanner voting machine sending results wirelessly. The ability of the machines to communicate with the outside world has generally not been acknowledged by either the manufacturer or election officials. Yet this wireless link is at the heart of concerns that election results could be hacked or manipulated, “including attacks that could change vote totals and election results,” said Emily Levy, director of communications at the voting transparency group AUDIT-USA. Almost two decades after its starring role in the 2000 Bush v. Gore Florida voting debacle, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office is still the centerfold for election integrity issues — not just in Florida but in the country as a whole.
National: Counting change: The battle over a citizenship question on the 2020 census heats up | The Economist
Only six sentences into America’s constitution, the founders instructed Congress to conduct, within three years of its first meeting, an “actual enumeration” of people living in each state as well as additional headcounts “within every subsequent term of ten years”. But the decennial census involves much more than raw numbers. A state’s share of the national population determines how many seats in the House of Representatives—and how many electoral votes in presidential elections—it will control. It also dictates how $650bn in federal funds for services like education, road-building and disaster relief are divvied up among states and localities. Every decade, the census brings angst for states that fear they may lose congressional representation and excitement for those hoping to pick up a seat or two. But the looming 2020 census (America’s 24th) has caused particular concern, over what Steven Choi of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella immigrant-rights organisation, calls a “more than fishy” decision to include a new question: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
The nuns at Zina Rodriguez’s Catholic school in the Bronx thwacked her knuckles to punish sloppy handwriting, so she was shocked when her mail-in ballot in Florida was rejected because her signature did not match the one on record with elections officials. Ms. Rodriguez, a registered Democrat, found the rejection notice in her mailbox at 7 p.m. the night before the Nov. 6 election, two hours after the deadline for appeal had passed. When she protested at the Palm Beach County Board of Elections the next morning, she learned that the culprit was a driver’s license signature, hastily squiggled on an electronic signature pad two years earlier. “There were 13 amendments on that ballot. The only reason I chose to write in was because I wanted time to research all the questions. I was fulfilling my responsibility,” said Ms. Rodriguez, 47, a behavioral health care consultant from Lake Worth, Fla. “All of that got thrown away because I wanted to get out of the D.M.V. office as fast as I can. It is incredibly upsetting.”
Florida: ‘We chose not to fix this’: Florida’s new election crisis, 18 years after Bush v Gore | The Guardian
The judge’s indictment was damning. “We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election,” the US district judge Mark Walker told a court in Florida on Thursday. “And we chose not to fix this.” The midterm elections took place more than a week ago. New members of Congress are posing for photos on Capitol Hill in Washington. Yet the Sunshine state is still counting votes in the knife-edge US Senate race between the Republican Rick Scott and the Democrat Bill Nelson. It has been a tortuous 10 days of chaotic leadership, catnip for lawyers, protesters in the streets, clapped-out counting machines and partisan allegations of incompetence and worse. Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist, said bluntly: “Florida is where good elections go to die.” He should know. Shrum was a senior adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, which all came down to Florida. Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state and co-chair of George W Bush’s statewide campaign, announced that he had won the state – and with it the presidency. At first Gore, phoned Bush to concede but, as the margin tightened, he called back to withdraw his concession.
Less than 24 hours since his last suit was filed, Bill Nelson is suing Bay County again. The incumbent candidate for U.S. Senate, who has filed three other lawsuits in the past week, is suing Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen to stop any ballots received via email or fax from being counted. The second round of unofficial returns is due from the counties at 3 p.m. Thursday. The supervisor told the Herald/Times Monday that 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 ballots were domestically faxed in, though state statute does not allow emailed ballots, and faxing in ballots is only permitted for military and voters overseas. Andersen was not aware that a lawsuit had been filed until he received a call from a reporter Thursday inquiring about the filing.
As the general counsel of Al Gore’s 2000 recount effort in Florida, I’m often asked this question about the Senate and gubernatorial recounts now going on there: Why does “this” keep happening in Florida? Part of what we are seeing now in Florida, as we did in 2000, is the product of factors specific to the state: persistently weak election administration in key counties, perennially close and hard-fought elections, and a colorful group of political players that seems ripped from the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel. But the most important thing to know about what’s happening in Florida is that it has little to do specifically with Florida at all. Take a step back and look at the big issues playing out in Florida, and what you’ll see, instead of Florida’s foibles, are three critical challenges to American democracy as a whole. First, we allow interested parties — not neutral officials — to oversee the electoral process. It may seem absurd that Florida’s chief law enforcement officer, Gov. Rick Scott, who is also the Republican nominee in the Senate recount, is in a position to allege crimes by election officials, attempt to seize voting machines and dispatch state troopers to try to intervene in the post-election dispute. But a similar spectacle has been unfolding for months next door in Georgia.
Georgia: A rush for uncounted votes scrambles unsettled Georgia governor | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia elections officials scrambled Thursday to count a cache of hundreds of ballots that were previously rejected as they raced to comply with the latest federal ruling in the too-close-to-call contest for governor. Democrat Stacey Abrams called the judge’s order a major victory to extend her quest to become the nation’s first black female governor, but Republican Brian Kemp said it would hardly dent his “insurmountable lead” in the race for Georgia’s top job. The latest tally showed Abrams is roughly 55,000 votes behind Kemp — and in need of more than 17,000 votes to force a Dec. 4 runoff. Georgia law requires a runoff if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, which is only a possibility because a third-party contender netted about 1 percent. In the tight race for the 7th Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall appeared to defeat Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux after additional ballots were counted Thursday in Gwinnett County. Bourdeaux gained more than 100 votes but still trailed Woodall by about 400 votes.
Maine: Democrat prevails in Maine congressional race that used ranked-choice voting system | The Washington Post
Democratic challenger Jared Golden prevailed Thursday in a Maine congressional contest, defeating a Republican incumbent in the first federal race in the country in which a ranked-choice voting system was used to determine the winner. After Election Day, Golden, a state representative, narrowly trailed Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) in a four-way race in which no candidate received 50 percent of the vote. The result flipped Thursday after the rules of the ranked-choice system were applied. The system allows voters to cast ballots for their candidate but also rank other contenders in order of preference. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote outright, those choices are factored in.
Voting on the weekend could be coming in 2020 for New Yorkers. An overhaul of the state’s election procedures is expected to be one of the consequences of the Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which will likely be more receptive to proposed reforms that had passed the Democratic-controlled state Assembly, including early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and a single legislative primary date. Progressive activists and Senate Democrats anticipate voting reforms will be near the top of the Legislature’s agenda when state lawmakers return to Albany in January. Many of these proposals were held up in the state Senate’s committee process during GOP control of the chamber.
Texas: Straight-ticket voting ends in 2020. For some down-ballot Republicans, that wasn’t soon enough. | The Texas Tribune
As Harris County judge, Ed Emmett led the state’s biggest county — 4.7 million people — through its most devastating natural disaster. That work won the moderate Republican bipartisan support, even in a county that overwhelmingly went blue in 2016. But last week, Emmett lost his re-election bid in a close race — the closest in the county. And come January, the incumbent will turn his job over to Democrat Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old political newcomer who had never attended a meeting of the commissioners court she will now lead (she has, she said, watched them online). At the top of the ticket, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz lost the county by more than 200,000 votes; Emmett’s race — midway down the longest ballot in the country — was decided by a margin of about 19,000 votes.
Utah: Trailing in tight election, Republican Rep. Mia Love sues to stop vote count in Utah | USA Today
Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love sued Wednesday to halt vote counting in the Utah race where she is trailing her Democratic challenger by a razor-thin margin, saying her campaign must be allowed to issue challenges if they dispute the validity of mail-in ballots. In a contest where “every single vote is crucial,” the Love campaign claimed poll-watchers have seen a few cases where voter signatures on ballots accepted by election workers did not appear to match those on file in Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County. County attorneys pushed back in court documents, arguing state law gives the campaign no right to interrupt the vote count, and letting the campaign question signatures could violate voters’ rights by revealing who they cast their ballots for. Democratic challenger Ben McAdams, meanwhile, said the lawsuit “smacks of desperation,” and elections officials, not candidates, should decide what votes should count.
Clerks across our state are in the middle of a renewed effort to ensure Wisconsin’s elections are accurate and secure. For the first time this year, the Wisconsin Elections Commission is asking more clerks — at least one in every county — to hand count a select amount of ballots and compare results to what machines counted. While there’s not been an issue with inaccuracy, they hope this lets voters see that for themselves. In the Green Bay City Clerk’s office, the audit begins at promptly 9:00 a.m. Staff take out ballots cast in two east-side wards and hand count the results — twice. They’re then compared to the results machines tabulated on election night.
A deadly Ebola outbreak grows. Rebels kill civilians in the streets. And yet the arrival of voting machines in this troubled corner of Congo has some especially worried as a long-delayed presidential election promises further upheaval. The machines now arriving by the thousands in this Central African nation are of such concern that the U.N. Security Council has come calling, the United States has issued warnings and opposition supporters on Friday plan a national protest. As Congo faces what could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power, fears are high that the more than 100,000 voting machines will be ripe for manipulation. They also could pose a technical nightmare in a sprawling nation of more than 40 million voters where infrastructure is dodgy – just 9 percent of Congo has electricity – and dozens of rebel groups are active. … Now attention turns to the voting machines, made by South Korean company Miru Systems, that security researchers say are vulnerable to rigging and print codes that include ballot-specific information that could strip away voters’ anonymity. The researchers include experts from Argentina, which rejected the company’s machines after learning of the issues.
Perpetrators of coups tend to do badly at the polls. Those who start their political careers as soldiers seldom adjust easily to life as elected politicians. Frank Bainimarama seems to be an exception. A former head of the armed forces who seized power in a coup in 2006, he won a general election on November 14th, for the second time in a row, with 52% of the vote, according to partial results released the next day. He may have been helped by the fact that his main opponent was another former coup leader and army commander, Sitiveni Rabuka, who started Fiji’s cycle of coups and counter-coups back in 1987. Despite his civilian clothing, Mr Bainimarama has not entirely shed his authoritarian instincts. He bullies journalists and uses an anti-corruption agency to hound rivals. Before the election he said he hoped for a parliament devoid of opposition. On that, at least, he will be disappointed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced calls on Thursday from his coalition partners to hold an early election, a day after the defense minister’s resignation left the government with a razor-thin majority. Avigdor Lieberman quit on Wednesday over what he described as the government’s too-soft policy on cross-border violence with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. The loss of the five seats of Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu faction leaves Netanyahu with control of just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, raising the prospect that a scheduled November 2019 election would be brought forward. Lieberman’s resignation takes effect 48 hours after being handed in, which he did early on Thursday. Each coalition partner will then have the power to bring down the government.
Two former presidents of Madagascar look set to compete in a hotly-contested run-off election in December after partial results on Thursday showed they were frontrunners in the first-round vote. With 80% of the ballots counted from last week’s vote, Andry Rajoelina was on 39.63% and Marc Ravalomanana was on 35.42% – pointing towards a close race for the presidency in the head-to-head second round. Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was in third place with eight percent. “Given the results of the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission), the second round is now inevitable,” Madagascan analyst Mahery Lanto Manandafy told AFP.