Editorials: The New Front in the Gerrymandering Wars: Democracy vs. Math | The New York Times

n the late spring of 2011, Dale Schultz walked the short block in Madison from his State Senate office in the Wisconsin Capitol to the glass-­paneled building of Michael Best & Friedrich, a law firm with deep ties to his Republican Party. First elected in 1982, Schultz placed himself within the progressive tradition that made Wisconsin, a century ago, the birthplace of the state income tax and laws that guarantee compensation for injured workers. In the months before his visit to Michael Best, Schultz cast the lone Republican vote against a bill that stripped collective-­bargaining rights from most public employees. But if Schultz had doubts about some of his party’s priorities, he welcomed its ascendance to power. For the first time in his career, Republicans controlled the State Senate and the State Assembly as well as the governor’s office, giving them total sway over the redistricting process that follows the census taken at the beginning of each decade. ‘‘The way I saw it, reapportionment is a moment of opportunity for the ruling party,’’ Schultz told me this summer.

Editorials: Kansas’ ballot box has too many locks | The Wichita Eagle

The man who oversees the election office that threw out nearly 14,000 Kansans’ ballots from the 2016 general election is running for governor a year from now. That’s a thought six other Republicans in the gubernatorial primary field – and the Democratic candidates – probably can’t get out of their heads. Secretary of State Kris Kobach is known locally for his work in making it harder for Kansans to vote in the name of eliminating voter fraud – fraud that has been proven in the most infinitesimal numbers. He’s known nationally for that, plus being co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was seemingly created to prove Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the 2016 popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million illegal votes.

Editorials: The Texas Legislature’s persistent discrimination | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune

If somebody you know got stopped seven or eight times for driving drunk, would you think they had a problem? Texas lawmakers have now been popped by federal judges seven or eight times in recent years for intentionally discriminating against minority voters in with voter ID and redistricting legislation. Think they’ve got a problem? The federal government has a program for repeat offenders like Texas; it’s called “preclearance,” and it forces states with histories of official racial discrimination to get their new election and voting rights laws checked by the feds — either the Justice Department or the courts — before those laws can go into effect.

Editorials: Outdated technology is a greater threat than hackers to US elections | Antonio Mugica/Washington Examiner

The recent DefCon hacking conference demonstrated why America needs to modernize its voting systems with more technology, not less. Participants exposed vulnerabilities in various pieces of election technology at DefCon’s Voting Machine Hacking Village and, predictably, had no difficulty infiltrating many of the systems. The twist? They were hacking into technology that hadn’t been updated since the early 2000s. Interestingly, the key takeaways from this hack-a-thon closely mirror the recommendations recently put forth to Congress by 100 security experts. They include the need for multiple levels of encryption, post-election audits and secure servers. But it’s important to remember that these findings aren’t new. And my company, Smartmatic, has been using such measures to protect voters for over a decade, so we know the technology exists. The hackers at DefCon highlighted the dramatically archaic state of U.S. voting machines and reminded the public to prioritize securing voting infrastructure for upcoming elections. In a field where the half-life of software can be just a few months, it’s no surprise hackers took down equipment that was over a decade old. The concerning part is that some of this technology is still used in elections today.

Editorials: What I Learned at Gerrymandering Summer Camp | Issie Lapowsky/WIRED

At 6’5″, Aaron Dennis towers over the whiteboard beside him. Blue marker in hand, the 22-year-old hunches slightly to jot down suggestions being shouted by a group of people deep into a brainstorming session. Dressed mostly in nerdy T-shirts (one reads Science! with a test tube in place of the letter i), they’re trying to come up with names for a tech tool they plan to build during a two-day hackathon at Tufts University’s data lab. The group includes computer science PhD candidates, mathematicians, political operatives, and experts in so-called geographic information systems, or GIS. That’s the mapping technology that underlies many apps and software tools that run our lives, from Google Maps to logistics software. It also comes in handy when you’re carving the American electorate into voting districts that favor your political party, a time-honored—and reviled—tradition known as gerrymandering.

Editorials: President Trump’s ‘election integrity’ panel is a sham | USA Today

As the 2018 and 2020 elections approach, federal and state officials ought to be scrambling for ways to prevent a repeat of Russian interference or other meddling in American democracy. Instead, many are on an obsessive hunt to eradicate phantom problems, such as supposedly massive fraud by non-citizens and people voting in two states. The upshot is that 54 years after Martin Luther King Jr. appealed for voting rights in his “I Have a Dream” speech, those rights remain under a double-barreled assault.

Editorials: Here’s how to fix Indiana’s rigged voting system | Indianpolis Star

Let’s be honest: Republicans have gamed Indiana’s voting system to their advantage. They gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts in their favor after the 2010 Census, helping the party gain supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate. They’ve also suppressed the number of early voting sites in Democratic areas while encouraging their expansion in counties where Republicans dominate. Consider that in Marion County, population 939,000, voters can cast early ballots at only one location, at the City-County Building in congested Downtown. Republicans repeatedly have blocked proposals to open more voting centers in Indy.

Editorials: Why did Kansas discard nearly 14,000 ballots in the 2016 election? | The Kansas City Star

On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York urged the White House to disband its misnamed Election Integrity Commission, whose vice chairman is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Otherwise, Schumer said, he’ll try to block the commission by forcing its demise in an amendment to must-pass legislation, such as an increase in the debt ceiling or a government funding bill. We’re not big fans of using must-pass bills as trees on which to hang unrelated legislative ornaments. But the senator is right to call for the dismantling of the already-discredited commission. The effort to verify President Donald Trump’s claim that millions of Americans voted illegally is a waste of time and money. Instead, Americans should support Schumer’s alternative: public hearings on the status of voting rights.

Editorials: A judge ruled Texas’s second try at voter ID laws is illegal. She’s right. | The Washington Post

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Texas’s voter identification law is illegal. Again. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had previously repudiated the state legislature’s toughest-in-the-nation ballot ID law, and the appeals court above her largely agreed. Now she has found that the state’s second try at imposing voter ID rules is not good enough, either. She is right. Ms. Ramos found previously that the forms of ID the state would accept made things disproportionately more difficult for minority voters. Polling workers would accept gun licenses, which white people are more likely to carry. But they would not accept other forms of state-issued ID that minority voters might have in greater proportion. In fact, the list of acceptable ID was exceptionally narrow, especially compared with other states. After negative court rulings, the state expanded the list slightly — but not “meaningfully,” Ms. Ramos found. The discriminatory effect still existed.

Editorials: Open-Source Software Won’t Ensure Election Security | Lawfare

The technology behind elections is hard to get right. Elections require security. They also require transparency: anyone should be able to observe enough of the election process, from distribution of ballots, to the counting and canvassing of votes, to verify that the reported winners really won. But if people vote on computers or votes are tallied by computers, key steps of the election are not transparent and additional measures are needed to confirm the results. In a New York Times op-ed a couple weeks ago, James Woolsey and Brian Fox proposed using “open-source systems that can guard our votes against manipulation.” Their hypothesis is that “open-source software is less vulnerable to hacking” than proprietary voting software because “anyone can see how open-source systems operate. Bugs can be spotted and remedied, deterring those who would attempt attacks. This makes them much more secure than closed-source models.” This sounds reasonable, but in fact, open-source systems are only one step towards guarding our votes against manipulation—and the hypothesis that using open source software will by itself improve security is questionable at best.

Editorials: It’s time to start punishing public officials who disenfranchise voters | Catherine Rampell/The Washington Post

In the federal government and in most states, there are consequences when governments deprive Americans of their constitutional right to liberty — through, say, wrongful imprisonment. So why aren’t there more meaningful consequences when states deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote? Again and again, “voter fraud” has been shown to be virtually nonexistent. Yet in the name of eradicating this imagined scourge, state officials around the country have been systemically and aggressively disenfranchising American citizens. To prevent a handful of votes from possibly being cast illegally, officials purge thousands of eligible voters from state rolls, toss ballots and pass modern-day poll taxes.

Editorials: The German Election Season Is Quiet. Too Quiet. | Jochen Bittner/The New York Times

If you haven’t heard anything about the election campaign in Germany, that’s because there isn’t much of one, despite the fact that nationwide elections that will determine, among other things, whether Chancellor Angela Merkel stays or goes are set for Sept. 24. Yes, we are talking about the same Germany that has taken in roughly one million refugees and migrants in the last two years. The same Germany that bailed out bankrupt European states with billions of euros. The same Germany that has taken a tough stance toward Russia after its annexation of Crimea. The same Germany that is switching off all its nuclear power plants and turning to green energy.

Editorials: Illinois Governor to sign ‘motor voter’ bill Monday | Rockford Register Star

While some states argue over plans to make voter registration more difficult, Illinois’ political leaders are agreeing to do just the opposite. And we applaud them. In May, the General Assembly unanimously passed a bill to link voter registration to the act of obtaining a driver’s license or state ID. It’s called automatic voter registration and nicknamed “motor voter.” On Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign the bill, according to a spokesman in his office. He vetoed a similar measure in 2016, but legislators tweaked it this year to get his support. Automatic voter registration means Illinois residents automatically become registered to vote when they go to the Secretary of State’s office to get a driver’s license, as long as they are age-eligible. But wait, there’s more. Illinoisans also will be able to register to vote through other state agencies.

Editorials: Kansas voting no role model / Lawrence Journal World

Reports that Kansas discarded provisional voter ballots in the 2016 election at a rate higher than almost any other state is further proof that Kansas should not be the model to follow in establishing federal election guidelines. Kansas becoming an election model for the country wasn’t a real concern until President Donald Trump appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of Kansas’ voting policies, co-chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Kobach is the architect of some of the nation’s most restrictive voter registration policies. The requirements to register to vote require extensive documentation and are most burdensome on poor and elderly voters. New data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission show just how effective those policies have been, not only at keeping people from the polls in Kansas, but also challenging their ballots once they do turn out.

Editorials: Hacker conference proves how weak US voting machines really are | Michael DeLaGarza/The Hill

In January, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced: “Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law.” With this one statement, the nation’s election infrastructure was firmly placed for the first time on equal footing with other parts of America’s critical infrastructure such as emergency services, nuclear reactors, and water systems. While this was a welcome designation, events that unfolded in late July demonstrated just how vulnerable this infrastructure really is. With the ongoing controversy surrounding the integrity of our nation’s voting systems, hackers at the 25th annual DEF CON computer security conference held late last month in Las Vegas were given an unprecedented opportunity to find and exploit possible vulnerabilities in a variety of different voting systems supplied by organizers of the show.

Editorials: Voting Machines Are Easy To Hack – It’s Time We Face The Harsh Reality | Daniel Knighten/News4C

We live in the age of technology and every aspect of our life is evolving. Technology is present everywhere and while this provides numerous advantages, it can also become a major weak spot. The best example is the upgrade of the voting process in the US. It made things easier for voters, but it soon became clear that the voting machines are vulnerable pieces of electronic equipment that require the attention of government officials. Security experts gave out several warnings and earlier this year we have announced that the security of the voting system represents a priority for our country. In the words of Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, “Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law.” However, despite the government’s best intentions, the 25th annual DEF CON computer security conference was an eye-opener for national security. The convention, held in July, in Las Vegas, proved just how simple it is to interfere with the voting machines and it managed to expose all their exploitable parts.

Editorials: Non-citizens are gaining the right to vote. Good. | Joshua A. Douglas/The Washington Post

As President Trump continues to peddle his debunked theory that millions of illegal ballots in the 2016 presidential election cost him the popular vote, his commission on voter fraud is wasting federal resources to figure out just how many noncitizens voted in our federal and state elections. But amid all the falsehoods, there has actually been some positive news for some legal noncitizens: They are gaining the right to vote in some places. In November, San Francisco voters approved Proposition N, which grants the right to vote in school board elections to noncitizen parents and guardians living in the city. The noncitizen voters must be at least 18 years old and cannot be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction. The law goes into effect for the November 2018 school board election.

Editorials: Utah needs to think about security above all as it buys new voting machines | Robert Gehrke/The Salt Lake Tribune

State elections officials held an open house earlier this month to demonstrate five election systems vying to replace the voting machines that have been chugging away for the past 13 years. Just a few days earlier, a group of hackers in Las Vegas took part in a demonstration of their own, designed to show how easily they could exploit the machines used around the country and potentially compromise our elections process. The results were alarming. The first voting machine was hacked within 90 minutes. By the end of the afternoon, all five had been compromised. One was reprogrammed to play Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The whole thing had been Rick Rolled. … Barbara Simons, president of Verified Voting, has been sounding the alarm about voting machine security — or lack thereof — for years. But even she was skeptical before the DefCon hacker exercise that the hackers would be able to compromise the machines. She was wrong. And the Russian interest in hacking election equipment makes her doubly concerned.

Editorials: Voter suppression is the civil rights issue of this era | The Washington Post

Standing up to racism and intolerance is a moral imperative, and those who do, like Heather Heyer, the young woman who died as she challenged the thugs in Charlottesville last Saturday, are champions of American principles. In an era when so many bedrock values are under attack, it’s important to think strategically and prioritize the ones worth fighting for. … In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive. Mr. Trump’s voter fraud commission is at the vanguard of this crusade, and the fix is in. Its vice chairman, Kris Kobach, is the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression. Under his tutelage, the commission is likely to recommend measures whose effect will be that new obstacles to voting would be taken up in state legislatures.

Editorials: Purging voter rolls to suppress turnout | Baltimore Sun

Last week, the U.S. Solicitor General took the unusual step of reinterpreting a 24-year-old federal statute specifically designed to convenience voting in order to switch sides in a pending Supreme Court case that centers on Ohio’s aggressive purging of voter rolls. The Trump Justice Department now sides with Ohio, which contends that not voting for six years — and then not responding to a single mailing asking the voter to confirm his or her registration — is sufficient to remove that person from state voter rolls. That should cause no small amount of alarm. It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to restrict voting rights under the guise of fighting fraud, which is nearly non-existent. The true purpose is to keep from the polls individuals who are less likely to support Republican candidates or causes. And it’s a potential stake through the heart of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the “Motor Voter Act,” which was meant to expand, not shrink, the nation’s voter registration rolls.

Editorials: North Carolina Republicans have made a game out of redistricting | News & Observer

Their old legislative district maps have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts because of racial gerrymandering, and now Republican leaders of the General Assembly have no choice but to draw new districts by Sept. 1. Yet they seem not just calm but upbeat about the whole process. And to do the map drawing they’ve hired Tom Hofeller, who drew the current unconstitutional maps. He’ll be paid $50,000 for the task. So there’s the first curiosity about all this. Hofeller’s of course a friend of the GOP, which is to be expected. But how can taxpayers, who are footing this bill, have confidence in someone whose last maps were thrown out by courts? But there are other curious things here. The Republicans, who have Democrats on their committees pertaining to redistricting but ignore them, have passed rules clearly aimed to benefit them in terms of guidelines for drawing the new maps.

Editorials: Kenyan Democracy’s Missed Opportunity | Neha Wadekar/The New Yorker

Last Tuesday, Nairobi felt like a city awaiting the apocalypse. Streets normally clogged with traffic were eerily quiet. Grocery-store shelves had been largely emptied of supplies. Anxious wealthy residents booked flights out of town, conveniently scheduling their summer vacations to avoid the chaos of a Kenyan national election. The Chinese government, Western private-sector companies, and other foreign investors braced as well. A peaceful vote in Kenya, which is regarded as the most vibrant economic and democratic power in East Africa, could unleash billions of dollars in infrastructure and development contracts. Kenya has had a long and calamitous history of political violence and corruption since it gained independence from British colonial rule, in 1963. Much of this conflict is rooted in ethnic tensions between different tribes, which many historians attribute, in part, to decades of British colonial rule that intentionally played major tribes against one another. Rich and poor Kenyans alike feared a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence between two of the country’s largest tribes, the Luo and Kikuyu, which killed more than twelve hundred people and displaced more than half a million.

Editorials: Illinois Automatic Voter Registration bill lingers on Rauner’s desk … why? | The Times

On June 1, the Chicago Cubs were 25-27, in third place in the National League Central, three games behind Milwaukee. As of Aug. 15, they’d improved to 62-56, taken over first place and the Brewers had fallen into third. Also on June 1, we published an editorial calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner to live up to his May promise to sign Senate Bill 1933, a measure that would make automatic voter registration the law of the land in Illinois. Rauner vetoed similar legislation in 2016, so lawmakers went back to work, crafting such agreeable legislation that it gained unanimous approval in both the House and Senate — a feat made even more staggering when placed in the context of the partisan rancor that has gripped and gridlocked Springfield for years. SB 1933 closely aligns the new automatic voter registration system with the state’s Real ID program and is designed to make the process less expensive, more modern and more secure. It also builds in the time it will take to develop a fair and effective system before launch, rather than putting the cart several lengths ahead of the horse.

Editorials: Don’t suppress the vote, but keep track of voters | Los Angeles Times

Reversing the position it took during the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice under President Trump last week asked the Supreme Court to uphold a procedure the state of Ohio wants to use to purge some voters from its election rolls — a practice that disproportionately disenfranchises poor and minority voters. The court should decline the invitation and rule that Ohio is violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. That landmark law prohibits states from purging registered voters from the rolls just because they failed to vote. Ohio argues that its procedure is justified by language added to federal law in 2002. But the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state’s interpretation last year. The appeals court said that using a lack of voter activity as a “trigger” for beginning the purge process made a “paper tiger” of the law’s ban on purges for not voting.

Editorials: Fine Lines: Partisan Gerrymandering and the Two Party State | Lexi Mealey/Harvard Political Review

The American experiment began with a revolution. At its core was fair representation, the idea that individuals should be able to exercise control over their government. The Declaration of Independence expresses this idea, with Thomas Jefferson writing, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” Since the nation’s founding, equal representation has served as a crucial catalyst for social progress. The 15th Amendment that granted African American men the right to vote was based on this fundamental principle, and the 19th Amendment granting suffrage to women followed under the same premise. The idea that all individuals deserved fair representation, regardless of race and gender, later spurred the civil rights movement, and continues to influence modern political reform across the nation.

Editorials: Trump’s fraud commission should support automatic voter registration | Kenneth Cosgrove & Nathan R. Shrader/The Hill

President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity has ignited a fierce debate about whether rampant voter fraud exists in this country as well as the extent of the federal government’s role in administering elections and maintaining voting rolls. Despite the tremendous push-back thus far against the Commission, this remains a golden opportunity to vastly improve elections in America. As scholars and practitioners of politics, we believe that the top priority for the Commission should be to make our system of administering elections and registering voters fairer and more efficient. The time has come for universal voter registration for every American who turns 18, with this linked directly to our existing Social Security numbers. With this approach, voter registration would also become portable as people move across precinct, municipal, county, and state lines. 

Editorials: Partners in Voter Suppression | The New York Times

The Trump administration moved deeper into the politics of voter suppression this week by reversing the federal government’s opposition to Ohio’s effort to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls simply because they vote infrequently. A federal appeals court blocked Ohio’s move last year as a violation of voting laws, in a case brought by civil rights advocates and backed by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice. Now that an appeal has been accepted for this term by the Supreme Court, Trump appointees at Justice — not career professionals — have changed the government’s position to side with Ohio, in effect endorsing the purge and asking that it be allowed to go forward.

Editorials: Our Hackable Democracy | Sue Halpern/The New York Review of Books

The recent news that thirty electronic voting machines of five different types had been hacked for sport at the Def Con hackers’ conference in Las Vegas, some in a matter of minutes, should not have been news at all. Since computerized voting was introduced more than two decades ago, it has been shown again and again to have significant vulnerabilities that put a central tenet of American democracy—free and fair elections—at risk. The Def Con hacks underscored this. So did the 2016 presidential election, in which the voter databases of at least twenty-one and possibly thirty-nine states, and one voting services vendor, came under attack from what were apparently Russian hackers. Last September, then-FBI Director James Comey vowed to get to the bottom of “just what mischief” Russia was up to, but, also sought to reassure lawmakers that our election system remained secure. “The vote system in the United States…is very, very hard for someone to hack into because it’s so clunky and dispersed,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee. “It’s Mary and Fred putting a machine under the basketball hoop in the gym. These things are not connected to the Internet.” Comey was only partially correct. Clunky and dispersed, American elections are run by the states through three thousand individual counties, each one of which is responsible for purchasing and operating the voting machines set up by Mary and Fred. But Comey missed a central fact about many of those machines: they run on proprietary, secret, black-box software that is not immune to hacking, as Def Con demonstrated. 

Editorials: The Trump Justice Department joins the GOP crusade to shrink the vote | The Washington Post

The idea that voting should be encouraged, and voter registration simple, has been a touchstone of federal law for decades. That idea is now under assault by Republicans in statehouses across the country and, more recently, in the Trump Justice Department. On Monday, political appointees in Justice engineered an about-face in the government’s position on a key voting rights case before the Supreme Court, backing Ohio’s efforts to purge hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters from the state’s voter rolls. You read that right. According to Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, who is now running for governor, it’s okay for a state to disqualify people from voting in the future if they haven’t voted in the recent past — specifically, in the past six years.

Editorials: Can Youth Suffrage Finally Become a Mainstream Issue in 2020? | Elizabeth King/Pacific Standard

Turning 18 is an exciting time for a lot of American teenagers: Once turned the age of majority, one is suddenly allowed to buy tobacco, enlist in the armed services, gamble, and, come election time, head to the polls and vote. And yet, maybe 18 shouldn’t be the franchise gatekeeper that it is: Teenagers under 18 are stakeholders in a variety of local and national issues (education, transportation, and labor rights, to name a few), as the past two years have shown. After the election of Donald Trump, teenagers in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area walked out of school in November, and took to the streets to march. California high schoolers in Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego staged similar walkouts, among other forms of peaceful protest. Those under 18 were unable to participate in politics at the ballot box because of their age, but advocates for youth suffrage hope this won’t always be the case, and are working to lower the voting age to 16. In a country where the president waxes political to a crowd of teenage Boy Scouts, politics are visibly changing the lives of American teens—and youth-suffrage activists are looking to maximize the opportunity to revive their cause.