The American Statistical Association Board of Directors announces its endorsement of Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits. The December 2018 document–which updates a 2008 document with the latest statistical research and best practices–“is meant to provide guidance to relevant legislative bodies, state and local election administrators and vendors…” because a “healthy democracy requires widespread trust in elections… [and] people need to be sure that the official election outcomes match the will of the voters.” Imagine someone counted hundreds of blue, red and white marbles in a bag and concluded there are many more red marbles than blue marbles. How can you trust that conclusion? You could dump out the marbles and count each one. Or you could use statistics to do the job faster.
Florida: Rick Scott violated Broward County election supervisor’s rights with suspension | Associated Press
Former Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Rick Scott violated a former state election official’s constitutional rights when he suspended and “vilified” her without first allowing her to make her own case, a Florida federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said newly inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis must grant former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes a “meaningful opportunity to be heard” regarding her suspension by March 31. Snipes came under fire during the contentious recount that followed the 2018 elections and a legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate. In the aftermath of the November election, Snipes said she would resign on Jan. 4, but Scott immediately suspended her. Snipes then attempted to rescind her resignation and challenged the governor’s suspension as “malicious” and politically motivated.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team suspects that Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, shared polling data on the 2016 election with an associate tied to Russian intelligence and lied about it, according to a court filing by Manafort’s lawyers. The filing was badly redacted, allowing an unintended glimpse at previously undisclosed areas of Mueller’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. Those areas included the polling data as well as a meeting in Madrid and discussions of a Ukrainian peace plan. Mueller has claimed that Manafort, a political consultant, lied about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, who served as a translator and fixer on campaigns in Ukraine for a decade. Kilimnik has denied any ties to Russian intelligence.
Editorials: Donald Trump handed a chance to supercharge voter suppression in 2020 | Richard Hasen/Slate
In a short unpublished opinion so far garnering only slight media attention, the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit decided on Monday what may be one of the most consequential cases poised to affect the 2020 elections. The circuit upheld a district court decision ending a court order in effect since 1982 barring the Republican National Committee from engaging in “ballot security” measures designed to intimidate minority voters from voting at the polls. With Trump having taken over the RNC for the 2020 elections and with this consent decree no longer standing in his way, we should be concerned about a new wave of voter suppression coming from the Republican Party during the upcoming election.
Editorials: Protecting voices of all voters is critical to free and fair elections | Paul Smith/The Hill
Popular sentiment for election reform continues to grow, and lawmakers in Washington are finally listening. On the first day of the new Congress, the House introduced its first bill. Its purpose is to protect the voices of all voters in the political process and restore trust in government. Given the troubling injuries to our democracy inflicted by several recent Supreme Court decisions, such legislative solutions have become sorely needed. These Supreme Court decisions over the years have chipped away at key safeguards, including the Voting Rights Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, both put in place to protect the integrity of our elections. This regressive trend has led to increased voter suppression all across the country and unprecedented dark money in campaigns. Together, they contribute to a sense that American democracy no longer functions.
Florida: ‘I became somebody’: Former felons register to vote in Florida through Amendment 4 | Miami Herald
For the past 25 years, Anthony Bushell has served as his community’s unofficial Election Day chauffeur, transporting the elderly and homeless to and from polling places for local, statewide and federal races. And every election, while the voters Bushell ferried cast their ballots, his criminal record has kept him on the political sidelines. His last vote came in the 1992 presidential election for Bill Clinton, who was then the governor of Arkansas. On Tuesday, Bushell walked out of the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office a newly registered voter, one of several formerly incarcerated Floridians to register to vote after the passage of constitutional Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for an estimated 1.2 million felons — as many as 400,000 of those in South Florida, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis.
Georgia: SAFE Commission recommends new voting machines, meeting to wrap up Thursday | Rome News Tribune
A state committee charged with recommending changes to Georgia’s voting machines is slated to hold its final meeting Thursday in Atlanta. The Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections Commission plans to take a final round of public comment before discussing recommendations that have come out of three meetings with voting rights advocates, cybersecurity experts, elections officials and vendors. Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Rome, said he expects action during the 2019 Georgia General Assembly session that starts Monday. Lumsden said he’s looked at the voting machine options being proposed, but he’s waiting for committee hearings in the Legislature to decide where he stands.
In Louisiana, criminal offenders released from prison often linger in the purgatory of parole for years, or even decades, stripped of key civil rights. Because the Bayou State only restores voting rights to felons who complete probation or parole, some who get caught up in the system die before regaining the franchise. Those are the people whom state Rep. Patricia Smith wanted to help last year. Smith introduced a bill to restore voting rights to felons who’ve been on parole without problems for five years after their release from prison, as well as those who are on probation for five years. After three rounds of revisions, the bill passed the House in a squeaker of a vote, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law as Act 636 by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) last May. But in December, stories started appearing in the local press suggesting that the law may apply to many more people than the 2,000-3,000 it was expected to affect. The actual number, according to advocacy groups and state prison officials, may be more like 36,000.
Ballots disqualified for dubious reasons. Hourslong wait times. Onerous identification requirements. Broken polling stations. The frustrations millions of people experienced during November’s midterm election have made voting rights a polarizing issue, thrusting it to the top of statehouse agendas across the country. While some states are wrestling with expanding voter access, others are seeking to further restrict access to the ballot under the guise of combating voter fraud, which is extremely rare. Now, in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, is pursuing a series of bills that would significantly expand access to the ballot for hundreds of thousands of voters. “The package of reforms in New Jersey would place the state at the forefront of the country in terms of voter access,” said Wendy R. Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The bills call for changes across the electoral spectrum: allowing online voter registration and early voting up to 30 days before an election; same-day voter registration; permitting those on parole and probation to vote; and making 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the general election eligible to vote in party primaries.
North Carolina: Election board investigated GOP operative at center of fraud probe as far back as 2010: report | The Hill
The man at the center of election fraud allegations in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District was once investigated over allegations that he paid voters to fill out ballots, a former election board investigator says. Marshall Tutor, a former investigator for North Carolina’s Board of Elections, told The Associated Press that the board investigated Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. in 2010. The probe was opened following accusations that Dowless was part of a group paying people to vote in the manner the group directed. Tutor told the AP that the 2010 investigation didn’t result in criminal charges against Dowless because there wasn’t a strong enough case against him. “Dowless was throwing a lot of money around,” Tutor said. “There was no paper trail. Witnesses refused to give sworn statements or testify in court. No one was going to admit they were paid $5 to vote. But where there’s that much smoke, there was fire.”
North Dakota has asked a federal judge to dismiss a Native American tribe’s lawsuit challenging the state’s voter identification requirements, saying in part that tribal members named in the complaint weren’t impeded from voting on Election Day. The attorney general’s office in a Monday filing also argued that the state is immune from such lawsuits in U.S. District Court and that the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe doesn’t have standing to sue for several reasons, including that it’s unclear how the tribe might be affected by the inability of any members to vote. Even if that were clear, attorneys said, the tribe “is not representing the interests of all of its members, merely a select few.”
Virginia: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Republican bid to delay redistricting in Virginia | The Washington Post
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to delay the process of drawing new districts for at least 11 Virginia House of Delegates seats, rejecting a request for a stay from state Republicans who are contesting the overall effort. A panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled last June that the districts had been racially gerrymandered to concentrate black voters and ordered a new map. Most of the affected districts are in the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas. After the General Assembly failed to agree on a redistricting plan last fall, the judges appointed an outside expert to handle it. California professor Bernard Grofman submitted a 131-page report last month outlining options for new boundaries.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission met all night and into Wednesday morning ahead of an announcement of results from the presidential election that could come later in the day. Riot police were deployed in front of the commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa and along the city’s main boulevard, as Congo braced for possible violence amid accusations of vote fraud and suspicions that the government was negotiating a power-sharing deal with one opposition candidate. The Dec. 30 poll was meant to lead to the vast Central African country’s first democratic transfer of power in its 59 years of independence, but a disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after the 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilize Congo’s volatile eastern borderlands. The electoral commission (CENI) announced on Tuesday evening that it had initiated “a series of evaluation meetings and deliberations, at the end of which it will proceed to the publication of provisional results from the presidential election”.
Lawmakers need to brace for hacking attempts ahead of a European election and get better at protecting their information online, Germany’s interior minister warned in the aftermath of a breach that exposed the private data of almost 1,000 German politicians. “We’re facing European elections in May of this year,” Horst Seehofer told journalists Tuesday. “I don’t want to conjure up or predict anything, but we have to brace ourselves for preventing attempts to influence those elections.” Seehofer announced efforts to increase cybersecurity awareness among public figures and Germany’s general population, in addition to plans for a yet-to-be-developed “early warning system” that could alert authorities and individuals about their private information being shared online.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service assured the public Wednesday it was well prepared to thwart any foreign intervention in the country’s upcoming elections, after its director warned a world power was making such efforts. The statement followed reports that Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman recently told a closed audience that a foreign country was trying to intervene in the April elections and that operatives were trying to meddle via hackers and cyber technology. “The Shin Bet would like to make clear that the state of Israel and the intelligence community have the tools and capabilities to identify, monitor and thwart foreign influence efforts, should there be any,” it said. “The Israeli defense apparatus is able to guarantee democratic and free elections are held in Israel.” Argaman did not say for whose benefit the alleged meddling was being done. Initial reports about his comments were placed under a military gag order that was later lifted, though the naming of the country is question is still prohibited.
Demonstrators gathered for the second time in three days in downtown Bangkok to protest against the possibility of another delay in Thailand’s general election schedule. Postings on Twitter on Tuesday showed dozens of people hoisting placards and calling on the junta to stick to a plan for a poll on Feb. 24, after more than four years of military rule. Such protests were banned until the government in December lifted restrictions on political gatherings ahead of the expected vote. Since then, officials have signaled the poll date may have to be moved to avoid a clash with preparations for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May. On New Year’s Day, the Bureau of the Royal Household said that the coronation ceremony will be held on May 4-6.