Editorials: Missouri’s voter ID law was designed to discourage voting. It should go. | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Long before Donald Trump first spouted his lie that hordes of illegal voters had swarmed the polling places — his transparent attempt to soothe his own ego and explain to the nation his substantial loss of the 2016 popular vote — the Republican Party was already fully engaged in its own ongoing big lie about voter fraud. With demographics working against it, the party for years has falsely claimed rampant illegal voting, with the goal of suppressing as many Democratic votes as possible. The marriage of convenience between the GOP’s partisan cynicism and Trump’s narcissism led to last year’s creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission yielded few if any new findings of fraud but wasted lots of time, money and resources. Around the same time, a Missouri law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting their votes took effect. As with Trump’s fake commission, it was a deliberately cumbersome solution to a nonexistent problem. Now a judge is pondering whether to throw out Missouri’s voter ID law on constitutional grounds. He should.

Editorials: A plea to end all partisan gerrymandering challenges | Lyle Denniston/Constitution Daily

Reopening a deeply divisive controversy that has troubled the Supreme Court for 32 years, four state legislators from North Carolina have urged the Justices to bar all constitutional challenges to partisan gerrymandering. The decades-long search for a way to judge the constitutionality of election maps that give one party’s candidates a clear advantage at the polls has been “an exercise in futility,” the state lawmakers argued.  The time has come to end that search altogether, according to the appeal in the case of Rucho v. Common Cause.  The document has just become available publicly. If the Court were to do as asked, legislators with control of their chambers would have no limit on how far they could go to create for their party an enduring domination of seats in state legislatures and even in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The only realistic remedy would be for the people of a state to take the task of drawing new districts away from the legislature, or — ultimately — for the nation to amend the Constitution.

Editorials: Ongoing Denial of Voting Rights in U.S. Territories Incompatible With Our Founding Values | Geoffrey Wyatt and Neil Weare/Civil Liberties Law Review

This week, the Supreme Court will consider a question concerning the voting rights of American citizens residing in U.S. territories – one that goes straight to our nation’s founding principles.  Under federal and Illinois overseas voting laws, state citizens who move to a foreign country or to American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands are permitted to vote absentee in federal elections in Illinois – but not if they move to Guam, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In our petition to the Supreme Court in Segovia v. United States, we argue that this disparate treatment – and the arbitrary denial of voting rights based on where you happen to live more generally – is irreconcilable with our most cherished values.

Editorials: A clarion call to restore protections of the Voting Rights Act | Los Angeles Times

Five years after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has confirmed predictions that the ruling would hobble enforcement of that landmark law. In addition to prohibiting racial discrimination in voting nationwide, the Voting Rights Act requires states and localities with a history of discrimination —most of them in the South —to “pre-clear” changes in their election procedures with the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court. In its 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, however, the court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress had established to determine which states would have to submit to pre-clearance, effectively shutting pre-clearance down.

Editorials: Has North Carolina become democracy’s twilight zone? | Bob Phillips/WRAL

We may have entered the twilight zone for democracy in North Carolina. Just as the state is preparing for the November election, the federal government last week dropped a bombshell of a subpoena on 44 eastern North Carolina county boards of elections and the State Board of Elections. The order: Turn over all ballots, poll books, absentee ballot requests, registration applications and other election related documents since 2010. Do so by Sept. 25. That’s was a request for 20 million voting records to be turned over inside a month. While federal officials have pushed their deadline back to after the election, it is by any standard a massive and expensive request. This incredible demand is traced to ICE, the federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency. It comes after a federal grand jury’s indictment against 19 foreign nationals for possible voter fraud in our state during the 2016 election.

Editorials: Canada needs to prevent meddling in our elections | The Toronto Star

Make no mistake: Facebook is feeling the pressure. Scarred by criticism that it enabled Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social media giant summoned its biggest tech peers to a summit late last month, meeting behind closed doors with Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and others at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. The meeting’s objective was proactive — compare and co-ordinate plans of action on how the platforms can best prevent similar foreign attacks, distortions and disinformation campaigns targeting the upcoming American midterm elections. But even as the companies huddled, one of their own senior security leaders sounded a sobering warning: It’s already too late to protect the 2018 election, declared Alex Stamos, Facebook’s recently departed chief security officer. The best the United States can hope for now, said Stamos, is to shift its security effort beyond the vulnerable midterms as “there is still a chance to defend American democracy in 2020,” when Americans choose their next president.

Editorials: Are States Trying to Stop Students From Voting? | Heather Smith/Sierra Magazine

The first time I tried to vote, I stood in line in an elementary school hallway in Michigan. One class of kids had clearly been given an assignment to draw their favorite food, and I had a lot of time to study their Crayola stylings on the wall as the line inched forward over the course of several hours. Every last kid had drawn pizza. Behind me, someone said, “When I get done voting, I’m going to eat a whole pizza.” At the front of the line, a poll worker told me that I was in the wrong place. They gave me a new address, which was off the side of the highway and too far to walk to. I tracked down a friend with a car and we drove to the new place, which turned out to be a trailer park. It also had a line. This time, the walls of the polling station were decorated with a history of mobile home innovation that ended triumphantly with the invention of the modern manufactured home, which was no longer mobile. When we got to the front, the poll workers looked at us like we were crazy. They said we had to go back to the first polling site.

Editorials: Passing the Secure Elections Act is the best way to shore up our democracy | Ben Parker/The Hill

It’s likely too late to save the midterms. Without a miracle, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in some states’ voting systems can’t be hardened against foreign cyber threats. But, at least, the damage that can be inflicted in November is limited to just a few states and localities. The looming crisis is in 2020. If, in mid-November two years hence, officials announce that foreign hackers infiltrated elections systems and the vote totals can’t be independently verified, we could face the biggest democratic crisis since 1876. Luckily, there is a bipartisan solution slowly working its way through Congress. Congress has received a lot of criticism of late for its inability to craft and pass productive legislation that does anything besides spend money (and even that it can barely do sometimes). The Secure Elections Act is a welcome exception to that rule. The bill has co-sponsors from across the partisan spectrum, from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on the right to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on the left. It makes sense that a group of people who rely on elections for their jobs and their legitimacy wouldn’t want a hacker in Moscow or Beijing having more of a say than their constituents.

Editorials: Paper Trail: Indiana vote security must include non-digital record | The Journal Gazette

Voters on both sides of the political aisle are approaching the Nov. 6 general election with concern – and for good reason. No less than the secretary of homeland security has confirmed the government has “seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians” to hack into our election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines. Congress made $380 million available to help states guard against cyberattacks, but Indiana’s $7.5 million share isn’t enough to provide the security Hoosiers deserve. Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Indiana will use its federal funds to enhance election security but said those enhancements don’t include voting machines statewide capable of producing a voter-verifiable paper trail.  “The Secretary of State’s office will coordinate and plan with the Indiana General Assembly for future replacement of voting equipment since the required budget to replace direct-recording electronic voting machines without a voter-verified paper trail requires a larger amount than the available 2018 HAVA Elections Security Grant Funds,” Lawson wrote in a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Editorials: The courts are saving democracy in North Carolina (for now). | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate

Later this year, North Carolina will probably hold its first truly free and fair election since 2010. It may also be the state’s last. Over the last few weeks, state and federal courts have issued a series of rulings striking down North Carolina Republicans’ brazen attack on democracy and the franchise. In the most important of these decisions, a federal district court held on Monday that the state’s notorious partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional and should not be used in the 2018 election. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is currently short-staffed, the justices may well split 4–4 on an emergency appeal, compelling Republican legislators to comply with the lower-court order. But once Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would likely provide the fifth vote to lock partisan gerrymandering claims out of federal courts for good. The impending election may thus be North Carolina voters’ best and only chance to end the GOP’s illegitimate entrenchment of power in their state—at least temporarily. No one seriously argues that North Carolina Republicans did not create a partisan gerrymander when they redrew congressional districts in 2011. The current lines were drawn in 2016 after a federal court invalidated part of the previous map as a racial gerrymander.

Editorials: Election security can’t wait. Someone should convince the White House. | The Washington Post

Compared to what Congress should be doing in the face of multiple foreign threats to the integrity of U.S. elections, the Secure Elections Act is just a first step. Yet the Senate is having trouble taking even this initial move. The fault lies with a shortsighted White House, which has poured cold water on the bill, and some state leaders, who complain about being required to make some basic changes. The bipartisan bill, shepherded by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), appeared to be on its way to easy passage in October. But a committee session to consider the modest bill was suddenly and curiously canceled last week. Yahoo News reported that one cause was the White House, quoting a Trump administration spokeswoman who expressed opposition to “legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections.”

Editorials: It’s Election Day in Florida. Who’s making sure our votes count? | Miami Herald

On Election Day, the people most in the dark about the security threats to Florida’s voting systems are Floridians. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has made alarming claims about cyberattacks by Russian hackers, while citing classified sources and offering no evidence, but the response from state officials has only added confusion and rancor to what should be a sober discussion. Voters need clearer, concrete information in order to have confidence that their elections are secure. Since the 2016 presidential election, Americans have known that Russian operatives have attempted various means of hacking into states’ voting systems. An indictment this summer of 12 Russian intelligence officers stated that operatives in 2016 faked a real election vendor email account to send more than 100 “spearphishing” emails to election administrators in several Florida counties. Sen. Marco Rubio has said those threats remain as hackers continue to probe for cyber vulnerabilities, and he suggested that county elections supervisors have “overconfidence” in their systems.

Editorials: The South Will Disenfranchise Again: How the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act allows states to disenfranchise black voters | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate

The two notices were published in a local paper on Aug. 9, but no one could quite make sense of them. In one, Georgia’s Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration declared it would hold public meetings on Aug. 16 and 17 “to discuss Precinct Consolidation.” In the other, the board clarified that it planned to close seven of the nine polling places in the county. It announced a meeting on Aug. 24 “to consider this proposal,” but failed to specify a date or time. The notice added that the closures “shall become effective” on Aug. 24—indicating that the period of consideration was already over, and the decision to shutter the polls had already been made. For decades, Randolph County—a majority-black jurisdiction with a history of racist voter suppression—could not unilaterally alter its voting rules. It was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, compelling the county to obtain federal permission, or “preclearance,” before changing its election procedures. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court kneecapped Section 5, effectively abolishing preclearance. The result has been a dramatic escalation of voter suppression across the country, a trend that’s vividly illustrated by the direct assault on the franchise in Georgia.

Editorials: More changes needed to safeguard New Jersey elections | NorthJersey.com

A nearly $10 million infusion of cash meant to shore up New Jersey’s highly vulnerable voting system is welcome, but it’s not enough, and it won’t measurably address one big problem – the state’s lack of a verifiable paper record of votes cast. Indeed, the federal grant money the state secured this spring from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what is needed to transform the state’s election infrastructure, which a number of election experts view as susceptible to hacking or worse.

Editorials: Time is running out to secure our elections | James Lankford and Amy Klobuchar/The Hill

In 2016, Russia attacked the United States. Not with bombs or guns, but with a sophisticated well-funded cyberattack and information warfare directed by President Vladimir Putin designed to undermine the values we hold most dear. Russian entities launched cyberattacks against at least 21 states and attacked U.S. voting system software companies. Every top U.S. intelligence official has warned us, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who recently described our digital election infrastructure as “literally under attack,” and sounded the alarm that “the warning lights are blinking red again.” Far from being chastened by these reports, our foreign adversaries have only become emboldened. Microsoft has already detected phishing attacks targeting at least three midterm campaigns this year.

Editorials: Transparency sought in Delaware voting system purchase | Jennifer Hill/Delaware State News

Common Cause Delaware has been closely following the state of Delaware’s work to purchase a new voting system. For the past 18 months Common Cause has attended election system demonstrations, met with state election officials and state legislators, held public forums and worked with the media in our effort to be a voice for transparency and election integrity. CCDE was able to obtain the voting system bids from the Office of Management and budget in late July. Those bids came to the Department of Elections in January of this year, and at that time only the names of the vendors were released to the public. After our requests to see the content of the bids were rejected, we made a FOIA request for the information contained in the bids so all Delawareans would know the possible options for our new voting system. Many states are replacing their aging voting systems and Delaware is one of only five states that still operate with machines that have no paper trail. Delaware first used the voting machines in 1996 and we will be voting on those same machines in the 2018 elections.

Editorials: The Georgia GOP turns to toilets to suppress more black voters | Dana Milbank/The Washington Post

It warms the heart to see the newfound concern that Georgia has for its disabled residents. Election overseers were worried sick that the disabled in Randolph County, a rural hamlet where 60 percent of residents are black and nearly a third live in poverty, might arrive at their polling place and find they had to park on grass or, worse, that there was no railing next to the toilet seat. And so, bless their hearts, the officials did the compassionate thing: They proposed to close seven of the nine polling places in Randolph. Now disabled people wouldn’t have to worry about tripping on turf. They’d simply have to haul themselves up to 30 miles round trip to one of the two remaining precincts. … Many of those present expressed suspicion that the election officials’ motive was concern for the disabled, rather than, say, suppressing African American voters. Malone assured them this was the “farthest thing from the fact.” Indeed, why would anybody suspect this?

Editorials: I Just Hacked a State Election. I’m 17. And I’m Not Even a Very Good Hacker. | River O’Connor/Politico

It took me around 10 minutes to crash the upcoming midterm elections. Once I accessed the shockingly simple and vulnerable set of tables that make up the state election board’s database, I was able to shut down the website that would tally the votes, bringing the election to a screeching halt. The data were lost completely. And just like that, tens of thousands of votes vanished into thin air, throwing an entire election, and potentially control of the House or Senate—not to mention our already shaky confidence in the democratic process itself—into even more confusion, doubt, and finger-pointing. I’m 17. And I’m not even a very good hacker. I’ve attended the hacking convention DEF CON in Las Vegas for over five years now, since I was 11 years old. While I have a good conceptual understanding of how cyberspace and the internet work, I’ve taken only a single Python programming class in middle school. When I found out that the Democratic National Committee was hosting a security competition for kids and teens, however, my interest in politics fed into curiosity about how easy it might be to mess with a U.S. election. Despite that limited experience, I understood immediately when I got to Las Vegas this year why the professionals tend to refer to state election security as “child’s play.”

Editorials: Election Security Bill Without Paper Records and Risk Limiting Audits? No Way. | Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Senate is working on a bill to secure election infrastructure against cybersecurity threats, but, unless amended, it will widely miss the mark. The current text of the Secure Elections Act omits the two most effective measures that could secure our elections: paper records and automatic risk limiting audits. Cybersecurity threats by their very nature can be stealthy and ambiguous. A skillful attack can tamper with voting machines and then delete itself, making it impossible to prove after the fact that an election suffered interference. Paper records ensure that it is possible to detect and quickly correct for such interference. Automatic audits ensure that such detection actually happens.

Editorials: Election officials have plenty to learn from hackers | Alex Padilla/The Hill

Every year, DEFCON convenes thousands of hackers who attempt to breach the security of important technologies in an effort to expose vulnerabilities. For the past two years, this has included voting machines in a room dubbed the “Voting Village.”  Rather than watch from the sidelines, or read about the findings in the news, I wanted to see for myself. So, I went to DEFCON. I listened, I observed and I had the opportunity to address attendees. While it’s important to constantly search for and understand the vulnerabilities of any voting system, a unifying message at the conference — from hackers to elections officials alike — is that we must be on alert and Congress must invest more to better secure our elections. Threats to the integrity of our elections are constantly evolving. Not too long ago, a primary focus for election officials was securing voting machines. Today, cyberattack vectors have expanded — and so must our defenses. 

Editorials: Pakistan: The vulnerable e-vote | The Express Tribune

Around six million Pakistani citizens are residents of other countries and many of them are eligible to vote. With e-voting being trialled around the world the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was tasked with finding an internet solution to their voting needs. It did so and duly submitted a proposal to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which set up a task force to investigate the proposal and its viability — and it now stands rejected. The Internet Voting Task Force (IVTF) conducted a technical audit of the proposed i-Vote and found there were flaws, specifically risks to the transparent conduct of voting.

Editorials: Kris Kobach ruined the 2018 Kansas GOP primary just like he ruins everything else | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate

It has never been clear whether Kris Kobach understands what his job is. As Kansas’ secretary of state, a position he’s held for nearly eight years, Kobach’s main responsibility is to serve as the state’s chief elections officer. But instead of ensuring that Kansas’ elections run smoothly, Kobach has used his office to foment nativist…

Editorials: Intentionally deceiving voters should be a crime | Sean Morales-Doyle & Sidni Frederick/The Hill

Democrats in the House and Senate recently introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, a bill that would prohibit the spread of false election information that’s specifically meant to prevent voters from casting ballots. (Full disclosure: Our organization, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, helped draft earlier versions of this legislation.) The bills’ introduction came in a week that has seen an attempted hack of the emails of three 2018 Senate campaigns and revealed a trove of fake Facebook pages and accounts likely meant to stir chaos as we approach midterms – reminders that the integrity of our elections is increasingly fragile in the digital age.

Editorials: Congress must not ignore the ‘flashing red light’ on election security | Steny Hoyer/The Hill

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, technology experts testified that Russia and other foreign actors are continuing efforts to influence our elections. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have already identified cyber threats against states’ election systems and made clear that this year’s midterm elections remain a target for disruption. If we do nothing, the very fabric of our democracy will be put at grave risk. The Republican-led Congress, however, continues to ignore this threat, even as Trump administration officials acknowledge that election security is a major concern. When House Republican leaders brought an appropriations bill to the Floor in July, they did so without providing funds to assist states in making their voting technology secure, accurate, and verifiable. House Republicans unanimously rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to provide those resources, and Senate Republicans rejected a similar amendment last week.

Editorials: Why Russian Money Ends Up in U.S. Elections | Bob Bauer/The New York Times

The 2018 campaign may set a record for midterm spending, predicted to hit the $4 billion mark. The ways in which this staggering sum of money will have been collected and spent, and either disclosed or not disclosed, are evidence yet again that our campaign finance system — if it can even be called a “system” — is in tatters. Super PACs, which can take money from virtually any source in any amount and spend just as freely, stand out as the most glaring example of the collapse of the post-Watergate-era model of regulation. Contribution limits, restrictions on corporate spending, disclosure requirements and muscular independent enforcement: These pillars of the systemic reforms of the 1970s are all crumbling. How bad is it? In 2016, it turns out, one of the larger political organizations active in the presidential election, employing hundreds and spending millions, was organized and run by a foreign government. This intervention from abroad did not end there: The director of national intelligence has warned Congress that Russia “perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

Editorials: Zimbabwe’s Dubious Election | The New York Times

Last week’s national elections in Zimbabwe were a critical test of whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa was really prepared to lead the revival of a country brought to ruin by his autocratic predecessor, Robert Mugabe. So far, the aftermath of the elections that gave Mr. Mnangagwa and the governing ZANU-PF party at least five more years in power has given little reason for celebration. International observers charged that the playing field was not even, with coverage on state media, misuse of state resources and intimidation working in the government’s favor. Even before the results were in, Mr. Mnangagwa’s 40-year-old opponent, Nelson Chamisa, claimed fraud and pledged to challenge the results.

Editorials: How to Protect the Midterms From Hackers | Bloomberg

Some 13 weeks till Election Day, and “The warning lights are blinking red,” says the U.S. director of national intelligence. “I cannot emphasize enough the vulnerability,” says Senator Marco Rubio. “We could be just a moment away from it going to the next level,” says the FBI director. On Thursday, the Trump administration’s national security team held a joint press conference to underscore the threat. They’re all worried about foreign countries meddling in the midterms, just as Russia did in 2016. And with good reason: Although election security hasn’t been a notable priority for this administration — it has evidently held just two meetings on the topic since taking office — there’s every reason to think more attacks are imminent. What’s the proper response? Precaution, not panic. In particular, three problems need attention. 

Editorials: Russia Attacks America’s Election System. Trump Shrugs. | The New York Times

With fewer than 100 days to go until the midterms, the evidence continues to pile up that America’s electoral system remains a hot target for hackers, most notably agents of the Russian government. Last Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat up for re-election this year, confirmed that she was one of two or possibly three congressional candidates whose computer networks had been unsuccessfully targeted by the Russians last year. The phishing attack, which occurred last August, was thwarted by Microsoft, which subsequently alerted her to the attempt. “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this,” said Ms. McCaskill in a statement. Three days later, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, acknowledged that, in an unrelated episode, her office also had been a target of multiple spear-phishing attacks, the origins of which have yet to be officially determined. The effort bears similarities to Russia’s handiwork, but the matter is still under investigation. Ms. Shaheen said she had been told that this problem “is widespread, with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate.” (Ms. Shaheen, a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, also received a phone call in November from someone impersonating a Latvian official and hoping to gain inside information on American sanctions against Russia. 

Editorials: Replace Georgia’s risky touchscreen voting machines | Richard DeMillo/Atlanta Journal Constitution

s the 2016 cyber-attacks on U.S. elections continue unabated this election year, most everyone agrees that Georgia’s aging, insecure voting machines must be replaced with a new system to increase public confidence. Georgia legislators tried this spring to authorize purchase of a new system, but the flawed legislation failed. That’s a good thing. It would have made the situation worse, not better. In the wake of this failure, Secretary of State Brian Kemp formed a blue-ribbon Commission on Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections (SAFE) to study the options for Georgia’s next voting system. In short, the Secretary set up a way for Georgia to dig itself out of its election integrity hole and leapfrog to the front of the pack nationwide. At SAFE’s first meeting, Mr. Kemp sabotaged his own commission. The laudable goal of that meeting was to describe Georgia’s current system. Briefing slides are available online. Not apparent in the published material is a disturbing pattern of giving SAFE false and misleading information. If not corrected, the Commission’s recommendations will be as flawed as other efforts to fix the current system. Here are five egregious examples of such misinformation.

Editorials: Is Lying About an Election Free Speech or Fraud? | Matt Ford/The New Republic

In the weeks before the 2016 election, memes proliferated on Twitter bearing instructions on how to vote by phone or text message. The images were stylized to resemble Hillary Clinton’s campaign materials, and targeted her supporters in both English and Spanish. “Save time. Avoid the line. Vote from home,” they read. But no state allows either method for casting a ballot.  It’s unclear who crafted this low-budget bid at voter suppression. Far-right Twitter accounts helped spread them in an apparent attempt to reduce Clinton voters’ actual participation on Election Day. Similar ads on Facebook that falsely told voters they could vote by tweet were later found to be part of a Russian influence campaign that sought to damage Clinton’s candidacy. While their efficacy is uncertain, the ads and memes fit within a broader pattern of spreading false and misleading information to confuse and deter voters.