The Republican candidate for commissioner of agriculture in Florida conceded his loss Monday — sort of. Matt Caldwell, a Republican, lost the election by less than 7,000 votes. He was so stung by the series of blunders by Democrats elected to run the elections offices in two South Florida counties that he confessed that he remained unconvinced of the results. “Unfortunately, as a result of the abject failures in Broward and Palm Beach, it has become clear that we may never gain an understanding of what transpired in the hours and days after polls closed,” he said in a statement. His announcement came the morning after the embattled elections supervisor in Broward County, Brenda C. Snipes, told Gov. Rick Scott that she would step down from her post on Jan. 4, a decision that came in the wake of multiple ballot mishaps that plagued Broward County after the Nov. 6 election.
National: A Nielsen exit could leave void as DHS gains new cybersecurity authority | The Washington Post
As the Department of Homeland Security gains new authority over cybersecurity and continues its review of election security during the 2018 midterms, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s future at the agency remains uncertain. During a “Fox News Sunday” interview, President Trump would not commit to Nielsen continuing as DHS secretary following a Washington Post report that he is planning to remove her from the post. Just two days earlier, Nielsen stood by his side as he signed a bill into law that creates a new cyber-focused agency within DHS. “There’s a chance, there’s a chance everybody, I mean that’s what happens in government, you leave, you make a name, you go,” Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace yesterday when asked whether Nielsen would continue at DHS. “I like her very much, I respect her very much, I’d like her to get much tougher on the border — much tougher, period.”
A voting system has to do two things: Count votes correctly and keep them secure. The Sequoia voting system in Palm Beach County, harshly criticized and already old in 2007 when the county paid $5.5 million to keep it, has for years come under fire for not reliably doing one or the other — or both. The aging system made headlines again last week, when high-speed vote counters appeared to overheat. That delayed vote counting in the nationally watched Florida recount. Why Palm Beach County didn’t update its aging vote-counters. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher Thursday reiterated her belief that equipment malfunctions are at fault for a failure to finish a machine recount in four races by a state-mandated deadline. The county’s equipment is so outmoded she didn’t have time to even start the recount of nearly 600,000 ballots in two of the statewide races.
National: Russian hacking group ‘Cozy Bear’ likely responsible for phishing campaign, US security firm says | The Hill
A U.S. security firm on Monday said a Russian hacker group is likely responsible for a phishing campaign that used emails to impersonate a State Department employee. FireEye researchers tied the spear phishing campaign to APT29, a group often referred to as “Cozy Bear.” The hackers were targeting U.S. think tanks, the military, federal government and law enforcement, among other sectors, the security firm said in a blog post. Monday’s finding comes just days after FireEye and another U.S. cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, publicly confirmed the phishing campaign. The companies did not attribute the actions to the hacking group at the time, but noted similarities to previous activity by Cozy Bear. FireEye said the hacking group created emails that gave the impression of coming from a State Department public affairs official who was trying to share an official document. The attached document included links and a file hosted on a domain that was likely compromised, FireEye said.
Democrats dominated the midterm elections this year and took back the most House seats they have since Watergate. But the news was also full of reports about Americans facing long lines and broken voting machines — or even being unable to cast a ballot at all because of Republican-passed laws that make it harder to vote, especially in minority communities. And a new post-election poll includes a shocking indication of just how bad this problem was: At least 10 percent of people who didn’t vote say that either voter suppression tactics or voter ID laws got in the way when they tried to vote. About 1 in 10 people who didn’t vote or weren’t registered to vote (9 percent) said the following statement applied to them: “I was not able to vote, or it was harder for me to vote, because of voter suppression tactics in my state or at my polling location.”
Florida: Charges of Vote Stealing in Florida Portend 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: Lawmakers plan to tackle election problems after state called ‘laughingstock of the world’ | Orlando Weekly
Florida lawmakers will be asked to tackle how elections are run, after the chaos of this year’s elections led to a federal judge calling the state’s process “the laughingstock of the world.” Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, who will take the reins of the chamber on Tuesday, told reporters Friday that he expects lawmakers to review various aspects of the elections process, from the handling of vote-by-mail ballots to certification dates. Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he’s heard from a number of senators about the issue and that he wants to revisit aspects of state elections laws. He pointed to problems beyond the current election cycle, which has included troubled recounts in races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner and three legislative seats. The goal, he said, is to keep future elections from “judicial intervention.”
Florida’s voting system was called into question again after several high-profile recounts in the midterm elections. Florida will undoubtedly be a battleground in the 2020 presidential election, and the state will have work to do to improve the way it handles voting. From old ballot-processing machines to high levels of partisanship exhibited by election officials, there were a slew of problems with how voting was managed in Florida this year, according to Edward Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law (@OSU_Law). What happened this year in Florida’s elections that worries Foley the most ahead of 2020, though? Overheated rhetoric.
Florida: Florida Democrats hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot ‘cure’ forms | Tampa Bay Times
The Florida Democratic Party has hired an investigator to dig into altered “cure affidavit” forms sent out to voters whose mail-in ballots had missing or non-matching signatures, according to a statement released by the party’s lawyer. “Upon receiving notice of the allegations that the form was incorrect, FDP took immediate steps, including hiring an independent investigator to review the issues at hand,” read the statement by attorney Mark Herron. “As soon as we know the results of the investigation we will advise you.” The move comes after the Florida Department of State sent a letter to federal prosecutors on Nov. 9 asking them to look into the forms, which they had received from voters in four different counties. The forms, which the voters had apparently received from the Democratic party, had an incorrect deadline listed at the top for mail-in ballots to be fixed: Nov. 8, instead of the real deadline of Nov. 5.
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.
India Owens, a 22-year-old African American woman, voted in the 2016 presidential election at Union Grove Baptist Church in Auburn, Georgia, an exurb of Atlanta. Two years later, she hadn’t moved or changed her address, but when she returned to her polling place on the morning of November 6, 2018, she was told by poll workers that she was not registered to vote. She was not offered a provisional ballot and left without voting. She returned later that day and demanded a provisional ballot, but she does not know if it was counted. Owens’ story was not an isolated incident in Georgia this election. There were a multitude of voting problems in the gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Eligible voters didn’t show up on the registration rolls or were purged by the state. Thousands of Georgians had their registrations put on hold and weren’t sure if they’d be able to vote. Some voters were wrongly flagged as non-citizens; others had their ballots rejected because poll workers told them they had the wrong ID. Hundreds of polling places were shuttered before the election, and other precincts had four-hour lines. Absentee ballots were rejected because of signature mismatches or other minor errors. One Abrams adviser described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”
The manufacturer of the city’s jam-plagued ballot scanners misled the Board of Elections about the devices’ vulnerability to humidity, which likely contributed to the Big Apple’s Election Day meltdown, The Post has learned. Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software claimed its scanners could operate in any humidity level in a key document it filed as part of its winning bid for the $56 million contract. But ES&S contradicts itself in the very instruction manual it publishes for the model of scanner the BOE purchased, filings with authorities in other states show. “Humidity and wetness were a factor in the paper jams on Election Day and ES&S was not transparent in the contract about the implications of wetness and humidity,” said Alex Camarda, an elections expert with the government watchdog Reinvent Albany.
Editorials: Here’s how Kansas can reverse some of the damage Kris Kobach did as secretary of state | The Kansas City Star
Kansas has a great opportunity to undo some of the damage caused by Secretary of State Kris Kobach during his two terms in office. Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Scott Schwab, the incoming secretary of state, have taken the first step. They’ve announced a proposal to end the secretary of state’s ability to prosecute voter fraud cases. Instead, the responsibility would return to local prosecutors or the attorney general’s office. “It will be more efficient for our professional prosecutors to handle voter fraud cases … than for the secretary of state to maintain separate prosecution capacity,” Schmidt said in a statement. Well, yes. It was never efficient for Kobach to have the power to prosecute voter fraud. It was a stunt, designed to enhance Kobach’s national profile for political purposes. Happily, it was a failed experiment. Kobach’s office has filed a mere handful of voter cases, mostly against Kansans who improperly voted in multiple jurisdictions. We’re pretty sure Schmidt’s prosecutors will not be overburdened with work if lawmakers return enforcement powers to the right place.
A special election for the Senate in Mississippi has become a test of racial and partisan politics in the Deep South, as a Republican woman, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and an African-American Democrat, Mike Espy, compete for the last Senate seat still up for grabs in the 2018 midterm campaign. Ms. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to a seat in the Senate earlier this year, seemed until recently to be on a glide path toward winning the election in her own right. Mr. Espy, a former cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton, was running a strong underdog campaign but appeared highly unlikely to overcome Mississippi’s strongly conservative inclination. Yet the trajectory of the election was thrown into doubt last week when a video was circulated showing Ms. Hyde-Smith, 59, praising a supporter by telling him that if he invited her “to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
Editorials: Don’t use voter ID to make voting harder in North Carolina | Colin Campbell/News & Observer
I’ve got a confession to make: Back in 2006, I didn’t vote. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I’m one of those people who feels strongly that it’s a basic duty of citizenship to vote in every election. I judge people who don’t vote. My excuse was that I was a UNC-Chapel Hill student still registered to vote in my Virginia hometown. The absentee voting deadline slipped by me, as I’m sure it did for other busy college students. The following year, I moved my voter registration to North Carolina to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. But under the state’s 2013 voter ID, that switch would have been a lot harder. That’s because the legislature refused to allow student ID cards at the polls. It didn’t matter that IDs issued by public universities are effectively government-issued IDs. There had been no reports of fraudulent student IDs. GOP legislators didn’t include student IDs because they know the majority of college students tend to vote for Democrats.
If your smartphone battery dies, it’s frustrating, but you can find a land line somewhere. Or if your car’s backup camera goes down, you can always turn around and look out of the rear window — the way it was done in the early 2000s. But if the vintage 2004 voting machine on which you cast your vote goes haywire or, worse, records your vote wrong, your options are much more limited, especially in South Carolina where electronic votes are not backed up by a paper trail. And with foreign powers eager to interfere with our elections and some U.S. politicians casting doubts on the integrity of our elections, South Carolina must not put off any longer replacing its aging, trouble-prone voting machines with new ones that use the most sophisticated security capabilities and efficiency available.
In the wake of the November midterm elections, counties throughout the U.S. are taking stock of their election processes while advocates and legislators debate what should change to make elections more secure and accessible the next time around. The piecemeal method of voting in the U.S. means that regulations and methods of voting vary dramatically from state to state, and sometimes even within states. In Texas, that piecemeal nature is even more on display: Some counties use electronic voting machines, some counties use paper ballots and some use both. One voting reform that’s frequently been invoked amid anxieties about vote recounts or voting systems being hacked is mandating a paper trail.
Virginia’s Elections Commissioner says turnout among registered voters on Nov. 6 was “slightly unprecedented” for a midterm election. “We also saw some pretty impressive absentee ballot numbers…The numbers of the return ballots and the overall turn out,” Commissioner Christopher Piper said. The State Board of Elections certified the votes for the election on Monday. The Department of Elections is still crunching the numbers, but Commissioner Piper said they roughly estimate that over 50 percent of eligible Virginians voted in the election. On Oct. 29, the Department of Elections said more than 5.6 million people had registered to vote and nearly 200,000 absentee ballots were filled out and returned the week before Election Day.
The upcoming parliamentary elections in Bahrain, scheduled for November 24, 2018, are occurring in a repressive political environment that is not conducive to free elections, Human Rights Watch said today. Bahrain’s allies should encourage the Bahraini government to take all the necessary steps to reform laws undermining freedom of expression and assembly and to release detained opposition figures. In the latest instance of the crackdown on peaceful dissent, on November 13, 2018, a former member of parliament, Ali Rashed al-Sheeri, was detained after he tweeted about boycotting the elections. On November 4, the Bahrain High Court of Appeals overturned the previous acquittal of a prominent opposition member, Sheikh Ali Salman, sentencing him to life in prison on charges of spying for Qatar. Salman is the leader of Bahrain’s largest political opposition group, al-Wefaq, which was outlawed in 2016.
Madagascar is set for a run-off on 19 December after no presidential candidate amassed enough votes to be declared outright winner following elections held in early November. The run-off will be contested by two former presidents, Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana who led first round presidential polls. According to provisional results announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI-T) on 17 November, Rajoelina and Ravalomanana emerged as the two candidates with the most votes in the first round elections, receiving 39.19 and 35.29 percent of the vote, respectively. Incumbent President, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, could only manage to secure 8.84 percent of the vote, according to CENI-T. The rest of the vote was split among 33 other presidential aspirants.
The footsteps of a snap election have been getting louder in Spain amid the country’s socialist minority government’s unrequited efforts to find necessary support from other political parties in Parliament for the government’s 2019 budget. Jose Luis Abalos, the minister of public works in Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration, said in a meeting Monday in Madrid that early general elections cannot be ruled out as “one of their options” and may be held on the same day as municipal, regional and European elections on May 26, 2019. “You can’t venture anything, between now and May there is a lot of time,” he said.
Taiwanese voters participating in islandwide local elections on Nov. 24 will need to wrestle with 10 referendums, including some that may affect relations with mainland China and Japan. The flurry of ballot questions owes to legislative changes enacted by President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to carve out a larger role for the public in politics. But these pro-democratic reforms may end up hindering the government’s efforts to make policy. Revisions to the Referendum Act approved by lawmakers last December cut the number of signatures needed to put a question on the ballot to 1.5% of eligible voters from 5%. Referendums can now pass if they are supported by at least 25% of eligible voters — down from 50% — in addition to outnumbering those who oppose the proposals. One referendum asks whether Taiwan should maintain a ban on imports of food from five Japanese prefectures around the site of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s fellow junta leaders have dropped a bombshell that might signal another delay in general elections set for Feb. 24, 2019, hot on the heels of Prayuth’s promises that polls would be held before world leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore. That follows a full four years of broken promises. The possibility of delay had been hinted at on Nov. 12 by Deputy Premier Wissanu Krea-ngam who suggested that the election might be pushed back to May 5. He argued that the delay was still within the timeframe determined by the 2017 Constitution and in line with legislative procedures. The delay took a more definitive note when the junta issued a Nov. 16 directive giving the election commission the authority to review and alter the duly completed demarcation of election constituencies as well as to extend the election timeframe.