Editorials: Ahead of the 2020 election, let’s address Pennsylvania’s election security so your vote can count | David Hickton & Paul McNulty/Philadelphia Inquirer

Exercising our right to vote is the purest expression of our faith in democracy. Without a shared sense of trust in the integrity of that vote, we risk becoming a nation dangerously divided against itself. Great vigilance would be in order, then, even if Pennsylvanians could rely on secure, resilient election systems and architecture. The reality, however, is otherwise. Today our state is among the most vulnerable in the country to hacking and cyber attack – a democratic four-alarm blaze just waiting to happen. Pennsylvania’s role as a perennial swing-state brings with it high stakes, close presidential elections, and even closer scrutiny. In 2016, Donald Trump’s margin of victory here – fewer than 70,000 votes – was barely one percent of the nearly six million votes cast statewide. We know that faith in the validity of our elections is a quality much harder to earn than to lose. That’s why, as proud Pennsylvanians who have dedicated our careers to justice, law, and education, we feel strongly that the time is now to address this vulnerability. We must come together as a commonwealth, as communities, and as citizens to make an honest assessment of Pennsylvania’s election security architecture, to diagnose and discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for a better, more secure future.

Editorials: How voters lost the freedom to access the campaign website of their choice | Jon M. Peha/The Hill

The Senate may soon be voting on net neutrality. The net neutrality debate is driven in part by the fact that Internet service providers (ISPs) have the technical ability and financial incentive to act as gatekeepers, picking winners and losers in the Internet marketplace. Perhaps an ISP will favor a particular airline reservation website or an online newspaper by blocking access to its competitors, or simply by making access to competitors’ content painfully slow. These delays matter; Google found that a majority of viewers typically abandon a website if they have to wait just three seconds.

Editorials: Rudy Giuliani may have just implicated President Trump in serious campaign finance violations. | Richard Hasen/Slate

Donald Trump’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani took to Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Wednesday night to defend the president from the ongoing Mueller investigation and to calm the waters for the Trump faithful. But it looks like he’s gotten the president into potentially greater legal jeopardy by admitting that Trump repaid his fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to adult film performer Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet, seemingly contradicting the president and potentially implicating Trump and his campaign in some serious campaign finance violations. Just to review where we are so far. It is undisputed that Trump’s sometimes-attorney and fixer Michael Cohen negotiated an agreement with Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to get her not to discuss an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in exchange for $130,000. Cohen eventually said that he paid that money out of his own pocket, and he secured a loan to do so. He said that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign reimbursed him (he did not say that he was not reimbursed at all, leaving open the possibility of a Trump reimbursement). The president told reporters he had known nothing about the payment.

Editorials: Democracy Is Held Back in Armenia | Viken Berberian/The New York Times

On Tuesday, electoral arithmetic defeated democratic sentiment in Armenia after the Republican Party of Armenia, the majority party, used its numerical strength to back a discredited government and block the election of the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the new prime minister. A chorus of defiant honks expressing the collective angst filled the streets of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, as the disappointing result became public. Tens of thousands of people had been singing and chanting at the Republic Square near Parliament throughout the day in support of Mr. Pashinyan’s election. Mr. Pashinyan, a former crusading journalist and opposition leader, had led the massive protests against the government in April, which culminated in the resignation of the former president and prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan.

Editorials: What’s the longest war in American history? Fighting for the right to vote | Anga L. Sanders/The Hill

“No, Gertrude, you can’t go. I might not make it back, and somebody has to stay here and raise these girls.” With those words, my grandfather, farmer James DeWitt Rhoden, left his wife and two daughters in the late 1930s and set off for downtown Quitman, Texas to vote. He knew that his mission could end his life. As he mounted the tall steps of the Wood County courthouse, a crowd of hostile white men closed in behind him. “DeWitt! Where do you think you’re going?” He never turned around. Perhaps because they knew he wouldn’t go down alone, my grandfather was allowed to cast his vote and return home to his family. Decades later, my mother (his daughter) related this story to me. History may record that the longest war in the history of the United States was neither the Vietnam War nor the war in Afghanistan, but the ongoing war against disenfranchisement, which is the denial of the right to vote. History has also shown us that lynching and other forms of vigilantism were leveled at blacks who attempted to vote.

Editorials: Truth Has Stopped Mattering in the Russia Investigation | Michelle Goldberg/The New York Times

On Friday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a report based on their cursory investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Full of shoddy rationalizations and evasions, it purported to show that America’s intelligence community failed to use “proper analytic tradecraft” in concluding that Russia wanted to help elect Donald Trump, and that there is no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Its real message was that, for Republicans in Congress determined to protect this president, evidence is irrelevant. Consider just one bit of spin about the Trump campaign’s clandestine Russia connections. During the presidential transition, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn, who had been named national security adviser, tried to set up a back channel to the Kremlin through the Russian Embassy, in an apparent attempt to evade American intelligence monitoring. The majority report treats this, amazingly, as exculpatory: “Possible Russian efforts to set up a ‘back channel’ with Trump associates after the election suggest the absence of collusion during the campaign, since the communication associated with collusion would have rendered such a ‘back channel’ unnecessary.”

Editorials: The House’s Russia report has some good ideas — but bias drowns them out | The Washington Post

Of the three major investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the House Intelligence Committee’s has been the briefest, sloppiest and most partisan. The result is a report released Friday that contains some useful information and recommendations — which will be drowned out by its slanted attacks on the intelligence community and its other attempts to give President Trump cover. “In 2015, Russia began engaging in a covert influence campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report begins. “The Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, sought to sow discord in American society and undermine our faith in the democratic process.” Although these sentences suggest that the committee does not live in the president’s world of total denial, the committee neverthe less refused to accept that the Kremlin tried to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump.

Editorials: Ohio redistricting proposal unites strange bedfellows | Dan Krassner/Cincinnati Inquirer

Political reformers across America are paying close attention to how Ohioans vote on May 8. But it’s not about candidates or political parties. It’s about how you vote on Issue 1, the ballot measure that would end gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is when politicians draw the boundaries of those districts in order to create an unfair advantage for one political party over another. Ohio voters get the first say on the topic of ending gerrymandering this year before voters consider similar ballot initiatives in November in Michigan, Missouri, Utah and Colorado. Seventy-one percent of Ohio voters approved another Issue 1 in 2015 to end gerrymandering of state legislative districts. This year’s Issue 1 ends gerrymandering of federal congressional districts. If passed, it would create a fair system to draw congressional district lines in an open, transparent manner, with citizen input. It’s a common-sense reform that would bring fairness and a level playing field to congressional elections.

Editorials: America is still unprepared for a Russian attack on our elections | The Washington Post

As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race. In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.

Editorials: Why gerrymandering is going to get even worse | Richard Pildes/The Washington Post

As the Supreme Court increasingly confronts cases challenging partisan gerrymandering, one underlying question appears to be: Is this getting worse? The answer is yes. There are some structural reasons for that. For years, party control of the House was stable. Now it’s regularly up for grabs.  For at least 50 years, from 1950 to 2000, partisan control of the House was never perceived to be at stake during any redistricting cycle. The Democratic Party dominated the House; the Republican Party consigned itself to being the permanent minority; and no one in either party thought partisan control of the House could switch hands in any upcoming election.

Editorials: Everybody wants fair maps. Right? | Chicago Tribune

The people of Illinois want fair legislative maps. They want maps that are drawn by an independent body working on behalf of voters, not by politicians looking after themselves. They want maps that promote competitive elections instead of protecting incumbents. They’ve said so, over and over again, in polls going back decades. They’ve collected hundreds of thousands of signatures — three times — and raised millions of dollars, trying to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. State lawmakers know this. That’s why they always tell us they want fair maps too. It’s why there are always several fair map proposals on file in Springfield, with many sponsors eager to point to their names at election time. Guess what? It’s election time. But this year is different. This year, voters want lawmakers to put up or shut up.

Editorials: Judge deserved more than probation after trying to rig election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Former Justice of the Peace Russ Casey walked out of a Tarrant County courthouse this week with a gift: He got a five-year, probated sentence after consciously trying to manipulate the electoral process. Casey’s plea deal looks even sweeter when compared to two other election fraud cases recently prosecuted by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. In those two cases confused — or at the very least misguided — women got prison sentences for voting violations. Forcing Casey to surrender his office — and his $126,000 salary — may be seen as a just penalty. It’s not enough. This Editorial Board thinks prosecutors and the public need to ask themselves if the scales of justice are out of balance. It offends our sense of fair play to see this kind of inequality. In the one case where an election was in real jeopardy, the guilty guy skates.

Editorials: Cybersecurity woes in U.S. midterm elections | Mary Scott Nabers/Born2Invest

The voting environment in America has been forever changed. That’s because the significant vulnerability of the country’s election systems and the fear of election “interference” by foreign or domestic operatives are genuine. With midterm elections only seven months away, this situation weighs heavily on the minds of both candidates and public officials responsible for ensuring secure and accurate election results. While hacking of American voting systems is a relatively new challenge, technical problems caused by the advanced age of most voting machines are not new. Technology in recent years set the bar for improved voting efficiency by replacing paper ballot systems with electronic voting machines. But the new technology, which does not leave a paper trail, tends to fall short when it comes to security, accuracy and attacks by hackers. Too many voting machines currently in use have not been replaced or updated in more than a decade, and a high percentage have exceeded their life expectancy.

Editorials: NRA Proves the Need for Campaign-Finance Reform | Bloomberg

The National Rifle Association is finished answering questions. That’s what the organization told Senator Ron Wyden last week in a letter complaining about Wyden’s “time-consuming and burdensome” inquiries into the NRA’s ties to Russians. That answer isn’t good enough. The NRA’s relationship with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who has been linked both to Vladimir Putin and to Russian organized crime, is too troubling to ignore. And the group’s dismissive response to Wyden has a larger significance: It underlines the need for full disclosure of sources of political funding. The Treasury Department recently put Torshin on a list of sanctioned Russians. He has been an NRA member since 2012 — tweeting (in Russian) repeatedly about his affiliation with the group and attending multiple NRA functions where he socialized with the group’s top leaders. At one such meeting in 2016, he’s reported to have spoken with Donald Trump, Jr.

Editorials: With elections looming, Canada cannot be complacent on policing social media | Tim Harper/The Toronto Star

Starting in Ontario, followed by Quebec, Alberta and the country as a whole, voters will go to the polls. New Brunswick also votes this year and another vote in British Columbia cannot be ruled out. But with these key contests looming, there has been very little serious discussion in this country about how voters will receive information they need to cast informed ballots, and the overall security of our democratic process. It’s time for a serious look at how our votes can be manipulated by “bots” and fake news, and whether the electoral process itself is safe from meddling by internal or external sources.

Editorials: Texas must retire paperless voting systems to prevent hacking | Houston Chronicle

The mechanic finishes repairing your car. “I fixed that power steering lines,” he says. “But I noticed the clutch is about to fail. Maybe next week or next month, but you’re living on borrowed time.” So what do you do? You have him install a new clutch, of course. It’s too dangerous not to. Alarmingly, Texas policy makers have not applied this logic to our state’s voting systems.  Cyber experts have warned that many electronic voting machines used in Texas and 13 other states are vulnerable to hacking because they do not produce paper records as a backup. But in recent months, counties have spent millions of dollars on new voting machines that, yet again, do not keep paper records.

Editorials: Give a lower voting age a try | The Washington Post

When DC Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) introduced legislation in 2015 to lower the voting age to 16, he was pretty much laughed down. He recalled the skeptical questions: “‘How can you convince me that a 16-year-old is mature enough, smart enough, engaged enough?” The bill died in committee. When the proposal was reintroduced this week, a majority of council members signed on as co-sponsors and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) expressed support. One reason for the different reception — and why the nationwide push for lowering the voting age has been reinvigorated — is the thoughtful and influential activism of young people following February’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Editorials: Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future | Kai Stinchcombe/Medium

Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future. Its failure to achieve adoption to date is because systems built on trust, norms, and institutions inherently function better than the type of no-need-for-trusted-parties systems blockchain envisions. That’s permanent: no matter how much blockchain improves it is still headed in the wrong direction. This December I wrote a widely-circulated article on the inapplicability of blockchain to any actual problem. People objected mostly not to the technology argument, but rather hoped that decentralization could produce integrity.

Editorials: Was Facebook’s work with the Trump campaign illegal? | Daniel I. Weiner/Slate

Among the more painful moments for Mark Zuckerberg in his second day of Capitol Hill grilling was the angry dressing-down he got from Rep. John Sarbanes. The Maryland Democrat zeroed in not on Facebook’s relationship with the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, but on the fact that Facebook (like Twitter and Google) had employees embedded with the Trump campaign to help craft its digital advertising strategy. For free. That arrangement may have violated long-standing campaign finance rules that prohibit even in-kind donations from private companies to candidates. Perhaps more than any exchange Zuckerberg had with lawmakers, it is a clear reminder that everyone—including the big tech companies—would benefit from better, clearer rules.

Editorials: Florida Gov. Rick Scott continues to suppress the vote by seeking to deny ex-felons’ right to cast a ballot | Perry E. Thurston/Miami Herald

Well, that didn’t take long. Instead of correcting a wrong of their own making, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to double-down to support a clemency process that a federal judge recently determined was both “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional.” In February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered the state to develop a new method of deciding when and how convicted felons can regain their voting rights by April 26. Scott and the other Republicans in the Florida Cabinet wasted little time snubbing the ruling and opting to file an appeal, a process that wastes taxpayers’ money and deprives 1.5 million Floridians of their basic civil right to vote. The decision shouldn’t surprise anyone, given state leaders’ track record of making it even more difficult for felons to regain voting and other civil rights. Seven years ago, the governor and the newly elected Cabinet dismantled what had been the makings of a legitimate clemency process and replaced it with an administrative beg-a-thon.

Editorials: It’s not just America: Zuckerberg has to answer for Facebook’s actions around the world | Karen Attiah/The Washington Post

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in the hot seat in Washington. The social media platform now admits that the data of up to 87 million profiles may have been improperly used by the data firm Cambridge Analytica. U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers — and rightfully so. But while Facebook is facing the most heat in the United States, it is is multinational corporation, and some would argue, a sort of nation-state unto itself. In many countries around the world, Facebook is the Internet. And with little ability to influence how the social media site operates, such nations are vulnerable to any policy action — or inaction — the company decides to take.

Editorials: If you can’t beat your opponent, disqualify him: Residency questioned in some North Carolina legislative races | Colin Campbell/News & Observer

A hot new trend is sweeping North Carolina campaigns this year: Trying to get your opponents disqualified and kicked off the ballot before Election Day. I’m surprised this tactic hasn’t been used heavily before. Why go to the trouble to raise money and campaign on issues when you could just knock out the other candidate on a technicality and run unopposed? These sort of complaints filed with elections boards aren’t new, but there have been at least a dozen or so this year (the state elections board doesn’t have an exact figure) — far more than past cycles. The majority are residency challenges — complaints that a candidate doesn’t actually live in the district where he or she is running for office. Normally, the state constitution requires candidates to live in their district for at least a year before Election Day. But a redistricting lawsuit has prompted last-minute changes in legislative district lines, so the courts dropped that requirement for this year.

Editorials: There’s no good reason to stop felons from voting | George Will/The Washington Post

The bumpy path of Desmond Meade’s life meandered to its current interesting point. He is a graduate of Florida International University law school but cannot vote in his home state because his path went through prison: He committed nonviolent felonies concerning drugs and other matters during the 10 years he was essentially homeless. And Florida is one of 11 states that effectively disqualify felons permanently. Meade is one of 1.6 million disenfranchised Florida felons — more than the total number of people who voted in 22 separate states in 2016. He is one of the more than 20 percent of African American Floridians disenfranchised. The state has a low threshold for felonious acts: Someone who gets into a bar fight, or steals property worth $300 — approximately two pairs of Air Jordans — or even drives without a license for a third time can be disenfranchised for life. There is a cumbersome, protracted process whereby an individual, after waiting five to seven years (it depends on the felony) can begin a trek that can consume 10 years and culminates with politicians and their appointees deciding who can recover their vote.

Editorials: Viktor Orban’s Perversion of Democracy in Hungary | The New York Times

On Sunday, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party will likely cruise to another victory in Hungary’s general election, giving Mr. Orban, the reigning champion of “illiberal democracy” — a term he proudly embraces — a fourth term to pursue his assault on democratic institutions, immigrants, the European Union and anything smacking of social change. The campaign has been surprisingly tough, but then Fidesz designed the voting system and controls much of the media. A victory will no doubt hearten the ranks of the nativist populists who, despite their avowed aversion to international organizations, take pride in being in the vanguard of an international reactionary movement. It is telling that after his ouster from the White House, Stephen Bannon went on a tour of European soul mates, during which he hailed Mr. Orban as his hero and “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”

Editorials: Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Fifty Years After His Death | The New Yorker

Occasionally, a particular year transcends its function as a temporal marker to become shorthand for all the tumult that occurred within its parameters. 1968, a leap year, brought the Tet Offensive, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the student protests at Columbia University, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the bedlam of the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Black Power salutes at the Olympics, the emergence of George Wallace as an avatar of white-resentment politics, and the triumph of Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy. That’s a great deal of history, even adjusting for the extra day in February. We have not, in the past half century, had a year freighted with such emotional and historical heft, in part because we have not seen the convergence of so many defining issues—war, civil rights, populism, political realignment—in so short a timespan. Yet the singularity of 1968 does not diminish its pertinence to our present turmoil. This week, two events in particular are worth considering in tandem: one a cataclysm, the other a tragically predictive attempt to understand how such cataclysms occur.

Editorials: Protect our elections from Russian (and other) threats | Los Angeles Times

In addition to peddling fake news and hacking into email systems, Russia apparently tried but failed to interfere with the machinery of 2016 U.S. elections. No votes were changed, as far as we know, but Russian hackers attempted to invade election systems in 21 states and succeeded in penetrating Illinois’ voter registration database. The U.S. intelligence community believes that the Russians — and others — will keep trying to interfere with U.S. elections, not only through the dissemination of disinformation but also with continued attacks on computer systems. Testifying before Congress earlier this year about election security, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that “the United States is under attack.”

Editorials: The bitter lie behind the census’s citizenship question | Vanita Gupta/The Washington Post

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed a crucial test of leadership this week. Buckling to President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and their anti-immigrant agenda, Ross agreed to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, sacrificing the integrity, fairness and accuracy of the count. For the good of our democracy, Congress must overturn his decision. Ross testified just last week that he was still considering the Justice Department’s last-minute, “very controversial request” (as he put it) to jam an untested, unnecessary question about citizenship status onto the 2020 questionnaire. That request drew intense opposition from a nonpartisan and ideologically broad group of business leaders, state and local officials, social scientists, and civil and human rights advocates who know how much is at stake with a fair and accurate census.

Editorials: The Trump Administration Sabotages the Census | The New York Times

In a last-minute move that would give Republicans an advantage in maintaining control of the House of Representatives, the Trump administration is reinstating a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. Coming from an administration that has been hostile toward immigrants, the change was not surprising, but it’s galling nonetheless. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the decision Monday, less than a week before the Census Bureau, which his department oversees, is supposed to send final questions for the 2020 census to Congress. If his decision stands — the attorney general of California has filed a lawsuit to block it, and other elected officials are preparing to do so — it would be the first time in 70 years that the federal government has asked people to specify their citizenship status on the census form sent to every household.

Editorials: Venezuela’s Elections Will Surely Be Rigged. So Why Run? | Americas Quarterly

Venezuela’s presidential elections, now set for May 20, are designed to help President Nicolás Maduro tighten his grip on power. Originally scheduled for late 2018, the administration brought forward the date of the election in a clear effort to capitalize on disharmony within the opposition. After getting trounced in October in provincial elections that were widely seen as fraudulent, most members of the opposition MUD coalition have decided not to participate in the coming contest. The government’s willingness to stuff ballots, break electoral rules and limit opposition voters from reaching the polls means there is almost no risk of Maduro losing.  But four opposition candidates, three from small parties and one independent, have nonetheless thrown their hats into the ring. Most prominent among them is Henri Falcón, a retired military officer and former Chavista politician who broke with the government and joined the opposition in 2010.

Editorials: Stop Russia from stealing our votes | Houston Chronicle

The Russians are coming, and that’s no joke. The invasion is happening in cyberspace. We’re not talking about trolls posting fake news stories on social media sites. Russian hackers are trying to figure out how to steal our elections. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been conducting a serious, bipartisan investigation into Russia’s ongoing attacks on our nation’s voting systems. What federal authorities have discovered is deeply disturbing. Now this committee has drafted a series of recommendations for securing our country’s election infrastructure, and it’s crucial that authorities on all levels of government act together to implement those ideas and ensure the sanctity of our votes.