Federal courts struck down Texas’s original voter-ID law, which would have required certain forms of government-issued identification in order to vote, deeming it intentional discrimination against minorities. But GOP officials who lead the state argued that the passage and implementation of the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, and last year Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accepted the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold a slightly revised version of the law that would allow other forms of identity verification for people who can’t get the proper government-issued documentation. Yet Republicans still don’t think the regulation has done the job. Last week, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s office sent an advisory to counties involving a list of people who’d been identified as potential noncitizens with a matching voter-registration record. Activists and media criticized the list as inaccurate and misleading. But that didn’t stop GOP officials from using the list as definitive proof of rampant voter fraud, despite having no evidence that anyone had voted illegally. Their fervor seemed to add to the suspicion that the party has an endgame well beyond “ballot security,” and to the fear that new forms of voter suppression are just on the horizon.
The Democratically controlled U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched an inquiry on Friday into the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course on several key voting rights lawsuits and its efforts to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. In a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker seen by Reuters, the chairman of the committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, demanded that the Justice Department turn over any internal records on a number of voting rights issues and said he was concerned by a lack of enforcement of voter rights laws in general. The letter seeks records related to the Justice Department’s decision to drop its opposition to a contentious Ohio policy allowing the state to purge infrequent voters from registration rolls and a Texas voter identification law.
National: Russians reportedly “altered” Mueller documents and leaked them online to discredit probe | Salon
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused Russian operatives of stealing materials obtained from his prosecutors, altering the documents, and posting them online in a disinformation effort to discredit the Russia investigation, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Mueller’s team made the filing in its case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a sanctioned Russian company indicted in the probe for allegedly funding a Russian troll farm that waged a disinformation campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to prosecutors, a Twitter account with the handle @HackingRedstone was created last October. The user bragged that he had hacked evidence in the Mueller probe. “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller,” the account tweeted, according to the court filing. “Enjoy the reading!”
A new court filing submitted on Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Russian troll farm currently locked in a legal battle over its alleged interference in the 2016 election appeared to wage yet another disinformation campaign late last year—this time targeting Mueller himself. According to the filing, the special counsel’s office turned over 1 million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated the documents and leaked them to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller’s evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn’t seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad.
A judge on Friday ordered a rare second do-over election for a northeast Georgia House seat, finding that four voters didn’t live in the district, throwing its outcome into doubt. The new election means that voters will return to the polls for a third time to decide between Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin. Erwin appeared to win the first redo of the election in December by just two votes, but Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat decided Friday that four voters had moved out of House District 28 more than 30 days before the election. Because the contest was so close, the judge found that the four improper votes justified a new election. “If you’re in an election, you should want to win it legally. We all should,” Gasaway said. “I don’t know that I’ll win, but if I win I want it to be a legal election, and if I lose I want it to be a legal election.”
Kansas: Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots | Associated Press
A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary. Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit. District Judge David Hauber ruled in Hammet’s favor on Thursday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Metzger didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.
In the months after the 2016 elections, state election administrators spent millions of dollars investigating and addressing the cyber intrusions that had penetrated voting systems in dozens of states. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes emerged as one of the loudest voices calling for improvements. In February 2017, at an elections conference dominated by talk of cybersecurity, Grimes claimed to have found the perfect answer to the threat: A small company called CyberScout, which she said would comb through Kentucky’s voting systems, identify its vulnerabilities to hacking and propose solutions. Three days later, Assistant Secretary of State Lindsay Hughes Thurston submitted paperwork to give the company a no-bid two-year contract with the State Board of Elections, or SBE, for $150,000 a year. She did not inform the SBE — the agency that oversees the state’s voting systems — that she was doing so.
A lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is heading toward trial next week after a three-judge panel rejected a settlement proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and plaintiffs. Benson does not have the authority to enter into the proposed consent decree without the blessing of the Michigan Legislature, the federal judges said Friday in a ruling rejecting the deal, which would have required reconfiguration of at least 11 state House seats for 2020 elections. A trial in the high-stakes case is set to start Tuesday, but the U.S. Supreme Court could still intervene. GOP attorneys are attempting to delay the case, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday asked parties wishing to weigh in to do so by Monday at 11 a.m., a sign the High Court is considering the request.
A proposal would set a shorter deadline for Mississippi voters to show photo identification if they forget it on Election Day. Since 2014, the state has required people to show government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, before voting. Anyone who forgets an ID may cast an affidavit ballot at the precinct but must go to a courthouse within five days to show the identification. If they don’t show up, their ballot is rejected. Senate Bill 2242 would shorten the five days to three days.
New Jersey: State continues its decade-long stall of securing its voting machines | Press of Atlantic City
New Jersey is one of just five states in which almost none of its voting machines have a way to verify that their results are valid. All the state’s counties but one use machines that record votes directly and only into an electronic memory module. Only small Warren County uses machines that simultaneously record votes on paper, the gold standard nationwide for ensuring that what the computer says is what voters intended. Last year, New Jersey received a $10 million federal grant to help update its voting systems. The administration of Gov. Phil Murphy instead spent the biggest part of the grant on efforts to increase the number of people registered to vote, including signing up anyone at a motor vehicle agency claiming to be a New Jersey citizen, no license or other documentation required. Some of the money funded a tiny pilot program with paper-backup voting machines in small election districts, one each in three counties in the state.
wo Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making a disputed claim in a long-running, and possibly futile, effort by elections officials to determine how many non-U.S. citizens had registered to vote over the years. On Tuesday, the lawmakers, Republican state Reps. Daryl Metcalfe and Garth Everett, issued a statement saying there had been confirmation that 11,198 foreign nationals had illegally registered to vote in Pennsylvania. But that is not what state election officials said. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, first reported in July that it had identified 11,198 registered voters with some indicator they may not have been a citizen. The department did not give a specific period of time for when those people registered, but said it searched every record in its database. All the names turned up in a search of the state driver license database; Pennsylvania allows residents to register to vote while getting their license, and election officials reported a flaw in that system in 2016. That’s not where it ends.
Texas: “Someone did not do their due diligence.” How an attempt to review Texas’ voter rolls turned into a debacle | The Texas Tribune
State Rep. Rafael Anchia had been alarmed by the actions of the Texas secretary of state’s office for days by the time the agency’s chief, David Whitley, walked into the Dallas Democrat’s Capitol office on Monday. The Friday before, Whitley’s staff had issued a bombshell press release calling into question the citizenship of 95,000 registered voters in Texas. Soon after, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups were raising serious questions about how many people on that list were actually non-citizens who are ineligible to vote. But before those doubts emerged, Whitley, the top election officer in the state, had handed over information about those registered voters to the Texas attorney general, which has the jurisdiction to prosecute them for felony crimes. So as Anchia sat at the end of his green, glass-topped conference table, he wanted to know: Did Whitley know for sure that any of the names on his list had committed crimes by voting as noncitizens? “No,” Whitley answered, according to Anchia.
Texas: Civil rights group sues Texas over order to investigate potential noncitizen voters with flawed data | Dallas Morning News
A civil rights group has sued Texas for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data, claiming it violates the voting rights of U.S. citizens and legally registered Texas voters who are foreign-born. The lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleges the state has “singled out for investigation and removal” the names of U.S. citizens who are registered voters because they were born outside the United States. It asks for an injunction to prevent recently naturalized citizens from being investigated and a rescission of the state’s advisory to comb through a list of 58,000 people whom state officials said had potentially voted while not citizens.
Two voting machine manufacturers are appealing a Wisconsin judge’s ruling allowing former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s experts to comment on their review of the state’s election software. Stein’s request for a recount of Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential election results grants her the right to review voting machines. The review hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it could reveal whether the devices were hacked.
Ireland: Government fortifying IT systems for ‘fear of Russian interference’ in European elections | The Journal
The Irish government is in the process of upgrading its IT security across various departments ahead of the local and European elections for fear that they could be subject to outside interference. TheJournal.ie understands that sophisticated cyber security features were added to the internal infrastructure of many Government department’s systems in recent weeks. Late last year, the Government issued a report which identified the cyber related risks to the electoral process and made a number of recommendations to mitigate them. While the Government has not explicitly said that the upgrade is to protect elections, there is a serious fear that Russia may attempt to influence European elections, meaning Ireland could be compromised despite the small number of MEPs we have.
Amy Spiro is one of many Israeli journalists who recently received a direct message on her Twitter account linking to a sensational news story. The sender, using the Jewish-sounding name “Bina Melamed”, directed her to a fake story falsely alleging former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman was a Russian spy. “I just ignored it until I saw a lot of other people were talking about it,” said Spiro, who works for the Jerusalem Post. She avoided falling victim to the ruse, but four Israeli journalists — hoodwinked by the article appearing on a rogue but convincing duplicate of Harvard University’s website — spread the story, before it was exposed.
Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. However, DPP officials have denied being behind the attacks, blaming misguided youth who aim to tarnish the party’s image. In response, Malawi’s electoral commission has threatened to disqualify any candidate using violence. One opposition party member, Henderson Waya, a member of the United Transformation Movement, was attacked by a group of youths two weeks ago when he and others were driving to a party rally.
Several federal offices in Switzerland are investigating whether online manipulation could affect upcoming elections, says a newspaper report. The Federal Office of Communicationsexternal link (OFCOM) has set up a government working group to look into the effects of artificial intelligence on the media and public opinion, writes the NZZ am Sonntag paper. This group was set up last September and is headed by the education and research ministry, spokesman Francis Meier told the paper. Last October Swiss intelligence chief Jean-Philippe Gaudin also warned that foreign actors could try to influence the next federal elections through online artificial intelligence, saying he would propose appropriate measures to the government.
Jeremy Corbyn has called for a snap general election during a meeting of anti-poverty charities in Glasgow. He said people who have experienced “the brunt of nine years of austerity” must be allowed a new vote. The Labour leader met with voluntary organisations and charities working to tackle poverty in south-west Glasgow on Saturday, where he criticised “Tory cuts” while pointing to double-digit yearly increases in food bank use and falling life expectancy in Scotland’s most populated city. “People are suffering under austerity as a direct result of Tory cuts in Westminster passed down by the SNP in Holyrood,” he said. “The people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election. They need a general election now.”