Stacey Abrams broke the rules of politics until the very end. The Georgia Democrat who came about 60,000 votes shy of becoming America’s first black female governor refused to follow the traditional script for defeated politicians who offer gracious congratulations to their victorious competitor and gently exit the stage. Instead, Abrams took an unapologetically indignant tone that established her as a leading voting rights advocate. “I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said in a fiery 12-minute address. “But to watch an elected official … baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.” “So let’s be clear,” Abrams concluded, “this is not a speech of concession.”
When Mostafa Zamanian voted last week in Shorewood Hills, Wis., he got lucky: He was in the short line. “Of 19 in hallway, only two of us were N-Z and didn’t have to wait to vote,” he tweeted. Like other places, Mr. Zamanian’s precinct split up voters based on their last names. Those beginning with A to M were steered one way, while those beginning with N to Z were directed elsewhere. Intuitively, that makes sense: It’s the midpoint of the alphabet—so you end up with two equal queues, right? Wrong. In the U.S., surnames are not evenly distributed, and in most places, it’s not even close.
It used to be you would sign on the bottom line, whether it was a check or a credit card receipt or even a love letter. But the art of the signature has become less important and less practiced, and that has meant less certainty for elections officials in several states who are still counting votes from the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Those officials are trying verify that the signatures required on mail-in, provisional, absentee and military ballots match the signature that voters have on file with the board of elections. But signatures change over time — a problem especially for younger voters, says Daniel Smith, a professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Florida. “Let’s say you’re a civically engaged 16-year-old and you preregister to vote in Florida, which you are allowed to do,” Smith tells NPR. “You might have a signature that has a nice heart over the ‘i’ in your name as a 16-year-old, but you come to the University of Florida, you become a sophisticated Gator, and your signature now looks very different.”
County officials in Maryland miscalculated how many ballots they would need on Election Day — and quickly ran out in more than a dozen precincts. In New York City, voters were given a two-sheet ballot that jammed machines and caused delays and long lines. And in Georgia, some voters failed to provide details like a birth year, leading officials to reject hundreds of absentee ballots for “insufficient oath information” before federal judges intervened. Nearly two decades after voting problems in a handful of Florida counties paralyzed the nation, America’s election grid this month remained a crazy patchwork of inconveniences, confusion and errors, both human-made and mechanical. The lumbering system, combined with claims of voter suppression and skewed maps from redistricting, once again tested confidence in the integrity of the vote. As in 2000, no evidence emerged of widespread fraud or political interference. But just finding enough qualified poll workers to make Election Day happen was once again a challenge, as voters navigated more than 100,000 polling places, staffed by 900,000 mostly volunteer workers and administered by some 10,000 local jurisdictions. (After the 2016 election, nearly two-thirds of local elections officials nationwide reported difficulties in recruiting workers.) As in 2000, no evidence emerged of widespread fraud or political interference. But just finding enough qualified poll workers to make Election Day happen was once again a challenge, as voters navigated more than 100,000 polling places, staffed by 900,000 mostly volunteer workers and administered by some 10,000 local jurisdictions. (After the 2016 election, nearly two-thirds of local elections officials nationwide reported difficulties in recruiting workers.) The unevenness of the system across the country — in 22 states, elections at the local level were overseen by just one person — made it a political process open to accusations of manipulation.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments early next year on lawsuits challenging the addition of a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, acting with unusual speed in a politically charged case. The justices will consider the Trump administration’s bid to limit the evidence that can be used in the challenge, which has been the subject of a trial in federal court in New York. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Feb. 19. Advocacy organizations and a New York-led group of a dozen states, cities and counties are suing, saying the citizenship question discriminates against immigrants and will reduce accuracy by lessening participation. A census undercount in areas with large numbers of non-citizens could shift congressional districts and federal dollars away from those communities.
Long lines, voting machine malfunctions, and untrained poll workers scattered throughout the state. Alabama, on November 6, had its share of Election Day problems similar to what other states experienced. Georgia and Florida had reportedly lines that lasted as long as waiting to get on a ride at Six Flags, according to media reports. Cries about voter “suppression” or “fraud” in each state — depending on a critic’s partisan leanings — have erupted ever since Election Day. “Elections are an incredibly complicated process and there are so many moving parts for it all to go right on Election Day,” said Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama. “There will inevitably be mistakes made.” But almost as common as election-related snafus are the subsequent calls for reform. And in Alabama, there will be a push in 2019 for legislation to address some of the problems experienced on November 6.
Pulaski County faced numerous problems on Election Day, including handing out about 250 wrong ballots to Sherwood voters. At the Duran Youth Center polling station in Sherwood, workers gave about 250 voters ballots with the race for Ward 1 though those people were not residents of Ward 1. Sherwood council member Ken Keplinger and April Ford Broderick were the candidates for the position. Keplinger lost to Ford Broderick by 551 votes, according to election results. A voter notified the county election commission about 1:30 p.m about the problem on Election Day, Poe said. The ballots had been going out since polls opened at 7:30 a.m. “I mean, we’re thankful that that person called in,” Poe said. There is no recourse for the mistake because Arkansas law does not address the situation, said Pat Hays, chairman of the election commission. “It’s probably about the most unfortunate thing I’ve seen in my time on the commission,” Hays said.
Florida: Vote-Stealing Battle in Florida Portends More Distrust in System for 2020 | The New York Times
The chaotic images out of Florida’s election recount last week — the brigade of Washington lawyers, the déjà vu meltdown of the tallying in Broward County, the vitriolic charges and countercharges — have prompted flashbacks among the electorate of the 2000 presidential election. Yet to the combatants in both parties fighting over impossibly tight races for governor and senate, the 2018 election was less about revisiting past political traumas than about setting the stage for the bitter 2020 campaign ahead. The legal and political skirmishing in the state, Republicans and Democrats say, has been an ominous dry run for messaging and tactics about fraud and vote-stealing that threaten to further undermine confidence in the electoral system. Florida emerged from the 2018 midterms with a fortified reputation as the nation’s most competitive battleground, a state whose political culture most closely reflects the slashing political style of its adopted son, President Trump — with candidates focused on energizing voters with visceral, at times over-the-top, messages.
Florida: A Judge Upheld Florida Rules Requiring “Magic Words” And “Consistency” To Determine Voter Intent | Buzzfeed
A federal judge in Florida late Thursday rejected a constitutional challenge by Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Democrats to state rules that govern how counters in a recount determine what candidate a voter meant to choose on their ballot. The decision on the so-called “magic words” and “consistency” rules came as Florida officials undertake on a hand recount in the close US Senate race between Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Nelson’s lawyers argued that the rules could unconstitutionally imperil the votes of thousands of Floridians. US District Chief Judge Mark Walker held that they were “neutral, reasonable, standard” practices. “They are uniform, nondifferential standards that provide a reasonable procedure to determine the intent of voters. This is not to say the rules are perfect or the best way to do things. But they are constitutional,” Walker wrote in his opinion. Under the “consistency requirement,” a vote won’t be counted if the voter didn’t mark their preference in the same way throughout their ballot. For instance, if a voter filled in a box in one place, and wrote a check mark in another place, those votes wouldn’t be counted.
Florida: Recount did not alter outcome of Senate race, but it set the rules of engagement for 2020 | The Washington Post
Two days after Election Day, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) got a call from President Trump’s reelection campaign manager: Get to Broward County, Florida’s Democratic stronghold, where officials were still tallying ballots in a tight U.S. Senate race. Around the same time, Marc Elias, a top Democratic Party lawyer who was general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, was preparing to fly to Florida to lead a likely recount in that contest. Over the next eight days, armies of lawyers and party operatives swarmed the state as elections officials undertook a laborious recount of the Senate vote and two other statewide elections, racing into courtrooms and onto the airwaves and social media to jockey over every ballot. In the end, the exhausting fight did little to change Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who conceded in a phone call to his GOP rival Sunday. But there was much more at stake in the nation’s biggest presidential swing state: the rules of engagement for 2020.
Georgia: Close race is over, but doubts remain about Georgia election security | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Two months before Election Day, a judge asked state officials a deceptively straightforward question: How had they repaired a data breach in Georgia’s voter-registration system? They didn’t know. This exchange, cited in court filings last week, underscored the ambiguities surrounding Georgia’s unusually close Nov. 6 election. A series of lawsuits exposed significant failings in how the state managed this year’s voting, while also casting doubt on the integrity of future elections. One judge found that “repeated inaccuracies” in registration data kept qualified voters from casting ballots. Witnesses described chaotic scenes at polling places, where voting supervisors inconsistently applied rules on provisional balloting and other matters. And the plaintiffs in one case claimed that election officials did nothing to protect against “known vulnerabilities,” such as the data breach discovered in 2017, that left their computer system open to manipulation and attack.
Editorials: Why Democrats Should Not Call the Georgia Governor’s Race “Stolen” | Richard Hasen/Slate
Many Democrats are understandably angry about efforts to suppress the vote in Georgia and elsewhere in the 2018 midterm elections. In the Peach State, there is no question that Gov.-elect Brian Kemp, while secretary of state, made it harder for minority and other voters to register and vote, through a combination of deliberate efforts and gross incompetence. He administered what I consider to be the most egregious partisan action by an election official in the modern era when he falsely accused the Georgia Democratic Party of hacking into the state election system, and a few days before Election Day, posted that false accusation on the website that Georgia voters used to get polling information. But for three reasons, Democrats should stop with the rhetoric that the race was “stolen,” as Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio has said, and they should not follow the lead of Kemp’s Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams, who repeatedly refused to acknowledge Kemp as the “legitimate” winner of the election when questioned Sunday by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Kentucky: Bill to restore voting rights of Kentucky felons expected to be pre-filed this week | WDRB
On the heels of Florida voters deciding to reinstate voting rights to felons that have served their sentences, Kentucky could soon face a similar debate with new legislation expected to be filed this week. Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey, of Louisville, expects to pre-file a bill that would restore voting rights to convicted felons once their sentence, including probation and parole, is complete. “When they have a job and they’re living and working in our community, they need a voice in that community,” McGarvey said. “That voice comes at the ballot box.” With the passage of Florida’s bill, Kentucky and Iowa became the only states in the country that do not restore voting rights in some manner at the completion of a sentence. In Kentucky, felons can only have the right restored via an executive pardon from Governor Matt Bevin.
Michigan’s temporary ban on straight-party voting marginally benefited down-ticket Republicans in this year’s election, but not enough to overcome a strong performance by Democrats, according to a Detroit News analysis. The ban, approved by the GOP-led Legislature in late 2015, was overturned through voter passage of Proposal 3, which will restore straight-party voting for future elections and preserve the option in the Michigan Constitution. Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer won her race by 9 percentage points, but Democrats won other statewide contests by narrower margins and lost a handful of critical legislative races to Republicans, who maintained majorities in the state House and Senate. Experts said the straight-ticket ban likely led to more ticket splitting, and unofficial results show a larger percentage of voters skipped lower-profile races, choosing to not complete their full ballots. That down-ballot drop-off had a larger negative impact on Democratic candidates, who traditionally have benefited from straight-party voting.
North Dakota: Few voters verify ID under North Dakota’s new ‘set aside’ ballot system | Grand Forks Herald
Less than a fifth of North Dakotans who marked a “set aside” ballot during last week’s midterm election followed up with a valid identification and had their vote counted, a state election official said Friday, Nov. 16. Under state law, voters who don’t have sufficient identification on Election Day may mark a ballot that’s separated from the rest. If a voter returns with an adequate ID within six days, the ballot would be included in the tally. The new procedure was introduced in the latest iteration of North Dakota’s voter ID law, which passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in 2017. Across the state, 1,110 voters marked a set aside ballot, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said. Only 141 of them, or 13 percent, returned to verify their ID, but several counties had not yet reported their figures to state officials by 8 a.m. Friday. At most, 219 people returned to verify their ID.
When many Texas counties bought their latest voting machines, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears just broke up, Nickelback was popular, and the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law. The year was 2002. Most county officials bought machines after Florida’s fumbled the 2000 election and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. In 2018, county voting machines confused many Texans who accidentally changed their votes after machines took several seconds to populate results. “Connection issues” plagued Hays County and voting machines temporarily malfunctioned in Williamson County during the 2018 November elections. Several Texas lawmakers filed bills to require new voting machines but one Central Texas lawmaker thinks the state should help pay for them.
With a federal election less than a year away, Canada’s defence minister is warning voters they will be targeted by online cyber-attacks and fake news as Russia steps up its efforts to undermine western democracies. “We have taken this into account very seriously in our defence policy,” Harjit Sajjan said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “We need to further educate our citizens about the impact of fake news. No one wants to be duped by anybody.” Sajjan made the comments while attending a defence and security conference in Halifax, where experts, military officers and politicians representing democracies from around the world spent a great deal of time discussing cyber-warfare. “When we stand up for human rights, and when we stand up … to nations like Russia who are going against the rules-based order … you become a target,” Sajjan said, adding that Canada’s decision to protest Russia’s annexation of Crimea has also raised Russia’s ire.
Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has held on to power in a general election, with his party winning a narrow majority. The Pacific nation this week went to the polls for only the second time since Bainimarama seized control in a military coup in 2006. A final count on Sunday put his FijiFirst party on 50.02% of the total vote, with the Social Democratic Liberal party, led by former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, second on 39.85%. The National Federation party received 7.38%. The outcome is expected to give FijiFirst a narrow but outright majority in the country’s 51-seat parliament and Bainimarama a second term but is significantly tighter than the last election in 2014 when the party won almost 60%. Opposition members are considering challenging the result, local media have reported. While an interim Multinational Observer Group report has called the election process credible, a row broke out between opposition parties and electoral authorities over the weekend about the release of results, which have trickled in since the vote on Wednesday.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Saturday he has no plans to call an election before Christmas and that uncertainty over Brexit must take precedence over the outcome of talks to extend an expiring government cooperation deal. Varadkar’s Fine Gael party and the main opposition group backing his minority government began talks on whether to renew their “confidence and supply” deal three weeks ago. His deputy leader said on Friday the agreement had a few more weeks to run. Varadkar insists that he wants to extend the pact until mid-2020, rather than capitalize on his Fine Gael party’s increased popularity by calling an immediate snap election.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought to save his tottering government after his defense minister’s resignation, pinning his hopes on a crucial meeting Sunday with a wavering coalition ally. Netanyahu is set to meet with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who has urged the prime minister to go for early elections after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s departure last week left the government in control of just 61 out of 120 parliamentary seats. It’s not possible to govern with such a narrow coalition, which will be subject to constant pressures from its partners, Kahlon said in an interview Saturday on Hadashot News. Still, he said he would keep an open mind for Sunday’s meeting with Netanyahu. “Maybe he’ll pull a rabbit out of his hat,” Kahlon said. “Although for a long time it seems there has been no rabbit and no hat.”
In Madagascar, two former heads of state qualified for the second round of the presidential election, to be held on December 19. Andry Rajoelina, president of the transitional period of 2009 to 2014, won 39% of the vote and Marc Ravalomanana, president from 2002 to 2009, received 35% of the vote. The remainder of the votes were split up between the 34 other candidates. A candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to become president. The second round will be a competition between the two main protagonists of Madagascar’s 2009 crisis, who each responded on Sunday to the results.