Editorials: Digital ballots, outdated machinery leave us exposed to a second Russian hack | Jason Smith/USA Today

The Russians aren’t coming. They came. And they launched a cyber strike on last fall’s elections for which the consequences remain an unknown. It’s a sexy, new Cold War replete with headlines featuring the president’s son and a curious meeting with Russians last summer. Sadly, what gets lost within these seductive media narratives are the comprehensive hazards of America’s voting components. It’s essential to note that there’s no confirmed proof any vote recording or ballot tallies were altered back in November. However, such knowledge provides little solace because American voting systems remain extremely vulnerable, and as former FBI Director James Comey said of the Russians, “They will be back.” If the U.S. does not change how it conducts elections, when the Russians return, many of the vulnerabilities from 2016 will still be intact. I learned of these insecurities while producing “I Voted?,” a non-partisan documentary on election integrity.

Editorials: The Voter Purges Are Coming | Vanita Gupta/The New York Times

The Trump administration’s election-integrity commission will have its first meeting on Wednesday to map out how the president will strip the right to vote from millions of Americans. It hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start: Its astonishing request last month that each state hand over voters’ personal data was met with bipartisan condemnation. Yet it is joined in its efforts to disenfranchise citizens by the immensely more powerful Justice Department. Lost amid the uproar over the commission’s request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, which mandates that states help voters register through motor vehicle departments. The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging.

Editorials: Kobach’s Looking-Glass Commission | Eliza Newlin Carney/The American Prospect

There was a surreal quality to the presidential “election integrity” commission’s first meeting on Wednesday, which was streamed live from a government building next to the White House, but was not open to the public. President Trump strode in to declare that “this is not a Democrat or Republican issue” and hail the “bipartisan” nature of a commission that’s headed by two Republicans and dominated by GOP members. He pledged a “very transparent process” that “will be open for everybody to see,” on a commission that’s already been sued for violating the disclosure and open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The commission’s official chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, quoted Ronald Reagan calling the right to vote “the crown jewel of American liberties,” then yielded the floor to commissioners who laid out an agenda focused on chasing down and prosecuting supposed voter fraud—a problem that repeated studies have found is virtually nonexistent.

Editorials: Trump-Kobach election commission designed to intimidate | Chris Carson/The Kansas City Star

On Wednesday, the task force known as the Election Integrity Commission met for the first time. Despite their claims of having no preconceived agenda, we know their end goals are clear: to perpetuate unsubstantiated myths of widespread voter fraud and to lay groundwork to suppress voting rights. Unfortunately, they might already be succeeding. Since commission…

Editorials: The first public meeting of Trump’s voter fraud panel was a parade of lies | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate

On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission held its first public meeting, allowing each participant to voice his or her utterly unjustified belief that fraudulent voting is a rampant problem in the United States. (The commission has already held a private meeting that may have violated federal law.) During his remarks, Kris Kobach—Kansas’ Republican secretary of state and vice chairman of the commission—asserted that more than 18,000 noncitizens may have registered to vote in Kansas. He also alleged that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which compares states’ voter rolls, has uncovered “literally millions of people” who are registered in at least two states. Both of these claims are completely false. Let’s start with the Kansas lie. When running for secretary of state in 2010, Kobach repeatedly insisted that voter fraud in the state, particularly noncitizen voting, was “pervasive” and “massive.” Then–Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh—a Republican who served in that position for 16 years—responded that “the voter fraud Kris Kobach speaks of does not exist.” Researchers found that, over the previous decade, the government had uncovered just seven instances of unlawful voting in Kansas, none of which involved noncitizens. Yet Kobach persisted, as this crude nativism was central to his campaign. A week before the election, he said he’d found a smoking gun: A deceased man named Alfred K. Brewer, Kobach claimed, had likely cast a vote in the August primary. Reporters found Brewer in his yard, alive. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” he explained. Kobach had confused Brewer with his father, who was deceased, and who had not cast a vote since he’d shuffled off this mortal coil.

Editorials: Is Harris County’s vote safe from the Russians? | Dan Wallach/Houston Chronicle

Last September, in the run-up to the election, we learned that Russians had attempted to attack 33 states’ voter registration databases, later revised upward to 39 states. I was asked to testify about this in Congress, and my main concern was that the Russians might attempt to simply delete voters altogether, creating electoral chaos. All the pieces were in place, but the election came and went without wide-scale problems. What happened? We know that the Obama and Putin had a “blunt” meeting at the G20 that same September, so it’s possible that Obama was able to rattle Putin enough to make him pull back. Maybe Putin decided that leaking stolen emails was good enough. We may never know the full story, but what is clear is that we need to adequately defend ourselves against future nation-state attacks on our elections, whether from Russia or elsewhere. As James Comey warned the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, “They will be back.”

Editorials: Hacking the Vote: Who Helped Whom? | Sue Halpern/The New York Review of Books

In recent months, we have learned much about how successful the Trump campaign was in micro-targeting voters in crucial swing states. In the waning days of the 2016 campaign, especially, Trump’s data team knew exactly which voters in which states they needed to persuade on Facebook and Twitter and precisely what messages to use. The question is: How did the Russians know this, too? Last week, it was reported that both Congressional investigators and the FBI are now exploring whether Russian operatives were guided in their efforts by Trump’s digital team, and the House Intelligence Committee has invited Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale, to testify. Largely ignored in this discussion, however, is another possibility: that the Russians themselves, through their hacking of Democratic Party records, was supplying crucial information to the digital team.  

Editorials: America steals votes from felons. Until it stops, our democracy will be weakened | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

In the middle of the hot summer, citizens will gather this week in Florida to champion a ballot initiative to end the state’s permanent felony disenfranchisement. As we face the daily jaw-dropping revelations about the Trump campaign and administration’s actions, keeping our focus on restoring legitimacy to our elections and our democracy has never been more important, and ending the historic wrong of felony disenfranchisement absolutely must be part of our agenda. It seems unlikely that the Trump-Pence “electoral integrity” commission will touch this important issue, and any commission that ignores it isn’t serious about the legitimacy of our elections. The right to vote is the most fundamental right of any democracy, granting it legitimacy as a means of government by instilling power in the people and not in politicians. It ensures “consent of the governed” and holds government accountable to the people: not law-abiding people, or moral people, or any other qualifier, but the people.

Editorials: The New Assault on Voting Rights | Zachary Roth/New Republic

For a while there, it appeared that the GOP’s long-running assault on voting rights was finally losing steam. In recent years, federal courts have struck down or significantly weakened several of the country’s worst voting restrictions. At the same time, many states—including red ones—have debated or passed bills to expand access to registration and polling places. But that was before Donald Trump was elected. As president, Trump has refused to let go of his unhinged claim that “millions” of people voted illegally last November—and has used his unsubstantiated accusation of voter fraud to lay the groundwork at the federal level for a new round of voting restrictions. Republican legislators from New Hampshire to Texas are also moving swiftly to enact a wave of new laws that would make it harder to cast a ballot. Since January, according to a recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 99 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. “It looked like we had turned a corner in terms of slowing down new restrictions on voting,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project. “It turns out the pace has accelerated.”

Editorials: Trump’s voter-fraud commission itself is a fraud | The Washington Post

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, set to hold its inaugural meeting Wednesday, is already better known as the voter fraud commission, owing not only to its explicit mission but also to the fact that so many of its members, including its chairman, Vice President Pence, and vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are on record as subscribing to or defending President Trump’s unfounded view that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in last fall’s elections. In fact, the real fraud is the commission itself. Mr. Kobach, a Republican running for governor of Kansas, professes indignation and phony puzzlement over the jaundiced eye that Democrats, voting rights experts and some Republicans have aimed at the panel. Yet how could it be otherwise, given that Mr. Kobach himself has for years made a political cottage industry of his (repeatedly debunked) claims of fraud in Kansas and national elections? If ever a federal commission embarked on a “study” with a predetermined outcome, this is it.

Editorials: Why Republicans Want the 2020 Census to Fail | Ed Burmila/Rolling Stone

The writers of Article I Sec. 2 of the Constitution, which mandates a census every ten years, did not have satellite analysis and probabilistic sampling in mind. Neither did they imagine a United States with more than 325 million people spread across the fourth largest country on Earth. But having created a system that ties representation to population, certainly they understood that the seemingly simple question of how to count Americans would be a political battleground. The results of the U.S. census are far more important than most Americans realize. Census data are the starting point for redistricting and reapportionment – adding and removing House districts from states as population changes dictate – not to mention the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. Housing assistance, highway maintenance and Medicare/Medicaid are just three examples of programs that distribute federal dollars to states in the form of grants based on census results. Undercounting populations guarantees that over the next decade, states will be strapped for funding in these areas. And that is likely to happen if Republicans in Congress get their way. Under cover of the non-stop Trump circus, they are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that the 2020 census fails – and fails to their advantage.

Editorials: Congress should reauthorize modern Voting Rights Act | Sensenbrenner/Milwaukee Jounral-Sentinel

I vividly remember a road trip I took as a young man with my father to the Deep South. When we stopped at gas stations, I watched out the window of our vehicle as black attendants pumped gas while white station owners collected the money. I saw first-hand the separation of water fountains and restroom facilities and wondered how communities could allow this practice to continue. Later, as a representative in the Wisconsin Legislature, I again saw racial injustice up close. While attending events and spending time in parts of Milwaukee’s majority black neighborhoods, I listened to constituents as they described unnecessary obstructions that prohibited them from voting. Their personal stories were the inspiration behind my work to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Ensuring that every eligible American voter has the ability to cast his or her ballot without intimidation, preclusion and prejudice is a constitutional right. Since my earliest days in Congress, I have fought to protect it.

Editorials: Be wary: Trump and Putin could yet bring democracy to a halt | Joseph O’Neill/The Guardian

In November next year the United States will hold its midterm elections. Every seat in the House of Representatives, and a third of the seats in the Senate, will be up for grabs. For the Democratic party the elections represent a desperately anticipated opportunity to break the Republicans’ complete control of the federal government. If historical midterm trends and the voting patterns of recent special elections hold up, Democrats have a fighting chance of winning back the House, and an outside shot at the Senate. The Republicans will be more desperate than ever to retain their power. If the Democrats win just one chamber, the political landscape will be transformed. In addition to blocking the GOP’s legislative agenda, Democrats will forcefully scrutinise Russia’s interference with the 2016 elections and investigate President Trump’s remarkable commercialisation of his office. Impeachment of the Republican president will become a real possibility. Everything depends on the wishes of the American voters in 2018. Or does it? There is a third, even more momentous scenario: another Russian cyber-offensive sways the outcome of a US election in accordance with the wishes of Russia, not American voters. What is being done to prevent this?

Editorials: Don’t Let Our Democracy Collapse | Richard Hasen/The New York Times

The strength and integrity of the American electoral process are under tremendous strain, but the worst may be yet to come. In just the past few weeks, we learned that in the midst of the 2016 campaign the president’s eldest son, Donald J. Trump Jr., was willing to meet with a woman described to him as a “Russian government attorney” to get dirt on his father’s opponent. Voters across the country asked election officials to remove their names from voting rolls so that their personal information would not be turned over to the Orwellian Election Integrity commission that the president established to try to substantiate his outrageous and false charge that there were three million or more illegal voters in 2016. The president has stacked this commission with a rogues’ gallery of people with reputations for false and exaggerated claims of voter fraud. Democratic and Republican state officials have resisted the commission’s call to turn over voting lists.

Editorials: Russia will be back. Here’s how to hack-proof the next election. | Tom Donilon/The Washington Post

We now know that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a comprehensive effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. This mission involved the cybertheft and strategic publication of politically sensitive emails, the placement and amplification of misinformation on social media, overt propaganda and efforts to penetrate the systems of dozens of state election authorities. … First, President Trump must unequivocally acknowledgeRussia’s attack on the 2016 election and clearly state that any future attack on our democratic institutions will not be tolerated. One of the oddest aspects of the president’s foreign policy to date is his refusal to criticize — let alone condemn — Russian hostility, be it directed at our elections or Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan. The president continued to make inconsistent statements in Warsaw, claiming that “nobody really knows” whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. No president should accept the representations of a foreign adversary over the considered conclusions of his own intelligence services. In all events, the president should demand a plan from his national security team to deter and prevent election attacks.

Editorials: Russia Could Easily Spread Fake News Without Team Trump’s Help | Issie Lapowsky/WIRED

The common refrain floating around Washington argues that Russian operatives hoping to target American voters with fake news about Hilary Clinton would need someone on the inside—like, say, a Trump campaign staffer—to tell them which voters to target. Representative Adam Schiff raised the prospect in a widely-shared McClatchy article published Wednesday, which reported that the team led by Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice-appointed special counsel, is investigating ties between the Trump digital operation and Russia. Senator Mark Warner made a similar suggestion in an interview with Pod Save America recently, asking if the Russians could, on their own, “know how to target states and levels of voters” that Democrats weren’t even targeting. It’s a question worth asking, certainly. But the answer may be far simpler—and less fishy—than Warner, Schiff, or the many Americans seeking a smoking gun in the Russian meddling investigation might expect. It also may be even more worrisome. One of the most alarming parts of this story is that in this day and age, bad actors wouldn’t even need a mole to launch a pointed propaganda campaign. The fact is, targeting voters with propaganda isn’t that hard. 

Editorials: Russia may sabotage the next election, too. What will Trump and Republicans do about it? | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

With President Trump continuing to claim the Russia scandal is a “hoax,” this question deserves more attention: What will Trump and Republicans do about the likelihood that Russia will attempt to undermine our elections again next time? Democrats are now taking new steps to increase the pressure on Republicans to take this prospect a lot more seriously. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which oversees House races, has issued a formal request to its Republican counterpart, asking it to join in showing a “united front” and creating a “joint plan” against any Russian efforts to undermine the 2018 elections, I’ve learned.

Editorials: Secretaries of State: Our democracy’s new first responders | Ellen Kurz/The Hill

In recent weeks, our nation and our democracy were attacked by our own government. Donald Trump’s “voter integrity” commission demanded each state hand over the names, addresses, and social security numbers of millions of Americans citizens. Led by state secretaries of State, more than 40 states said “no” in whole or part to Trump’s effort. Just two weeks ago we learned of another unprecedented attack on our nation and our great democracy. Department of Homeland Security officials testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian agents attempted to hack the election systems of 21 states in advance of the 2016 elections. An earlier report by Bloomberg found that the election systems of up to 39 states were hacked by Russia.

Editorials: Trump’s election commission has been a disaster. It’s going exactly as planned. | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate

t’s hard to imagine how Kris Kobach could have screwed things up so badly. Here is a man who has pledged the better part of his legal career to ensuring that fewer people can voteand to treating any and all immigrants—documented or otherwise—like criminals. Here is a man, in short, who had a meeting with destiny. As Kobach put it to Ari Berman last month, his whole master plan for world dominion was so simple: to create in Kansas—where he is running for governor and has been secretary of state for a number of years—a template for programmatic vote suppression nationwide. If he created “the absolute best legal framework,” other states and the federal government would follow. Somehow, though, Trump’s “election integrity” commission turned into one of the most colossal cockups in an administration already overflowing with them.

Editorials: Trump’s plan to make voters older, wealthier and whiter | Scott Lemieux/Reuters

Whatever else can be said about the Republican Senate health care bill, it cannot be accused of pandering. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) hopes to bring to a vote next week – is astonishingly unpopular, often getting less than 20 percent support in polls. There isn’t a single state in which a majority favors the GOP’s proposals. In a starkly polarized political environment, it’s almost impossible for a major proposal to be this widely hated. So why would the House pass a similar bill, and why didn’t McConnell immediately bury it? Many Republicans legislators are insulated from even the fiercest political backlash because the political playing field is tilted strongly towards the GOP side. Now the White House is about to make it even more so with a scheme to shrink the electorate and skew it towards the GOP.

Editorials: Donald Trump Jr.’s free speech defense is as bogus as it sounds. | Richard Hasen/Slate

Get ready for the latest defense for Donald Trump Jr.’s actions: He had a First Amendment right to collude with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. This defense, which has been advanced by noted First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh and others, posits that he cannot be charged under campaign finance laws for soliciting a foreign contribution because seeking and providing such information would be protected political speech, or at least protected for an American to receive. It’s a dangerous argument which fails to recognize the compelling interest promoted by Congress’s ban on foreign contributions: specifically guarding American self-government against foreign intrusion. Let’s first start with the statute Trump Jr. may have violated. Federal law makes it a potential crime for any person to “solicit” (that is, expressly or impliedly ask for) the contribution of “anything of value” from a foreign citizen. While we do not know enough to say that Trump Jr. should be charged with violating this statute, emails released by Trump Jr. himself on Tuesday (as the New York Times was about to report on them) provide more than enough detail to merit an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Editorials: A post-election assessment of the Cayman Islands electoral process | Cayman Compass

In a report released this week, election observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region made 21 recommendations to improve the voting process in the Cayman Islands. Their observations, especially those concerning suffrage and campaign finance, deserve serious consideration. Of particular note, the observers took issue with the obvious – the unequal weight of voters depending on the districts in which they reside. For example, East End’s 692 registered voters have a disproportionately greater impact in their district’s elections than, say, the 1,513 registered voters in Bodden Town East. The Sister Islands are also way out of balance. Observers also voiced concerns about lengthy residency requirements for voters – even those of Caymanian status – and the exclusion of permanent residents from voting. This is the junction at which voting rights and human rights oftentimes collide. But some of the most troubling shortcomings found by observers are in the area of campaign finance.

Editorials: Kenya election: ‘I’m tired of people asking about violence’ | Kate Lyons/The Guardian

One of Kenya’s leading economists has said he is “sick” of being asked whether the country’s general elections next month will trigger violence. He added that people whose sole interest in the polls on 8 August was whether or not there would be clashes were setting a “very low bar” for the country. Kwame Owino, chief executive of Kenya’s Institute of Economic Affairs, told the Guardian he was fed up with people only asking him for a prediction as to whether there would be unrest after the country goes to the polls, as there was after the 2007 elections, which resulted in more than 1,000 people being killed and 600,000 displaced from their homes. “We are hung up with 2007 and 2008, which were very specific circumstances,” he said. “We have the view that anything that doesn’t lead to violence is acceptable. It’s not.

Editorials: Trump’s voter panel is scaring away voters | Joshua A. Douglas/CNN

President Donald Trump and Kris Kobach’s voter fraud commission is a stain on our democracy. It is already harming voters by reducing the registration rolls. Two weeks ago, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked election officials in all 50 states to turn over detailed voter information. Now, in response, voters in some states — such as Colorado, Florida and North Carolina — are seeking to “unregister,” asking their states to remove them from voter rolls before any information is sent to the commission. As Denver elections director Amber McReynolds lamented, “I never expected to see more withdrawals in a day than new registrations. The impact on voters is real. The impact on civic engagement is real. The impact on election offices is real.”

Editorials: The Trumps Embraced a Russian Plot | Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

The astonishing email just released by Donald Trump Jr., setting up the meeting last year with a Russian lawyer, is devastating for the White House. Above all, it underscores that the Trump family knew of a secret Russian campaign to interfere in the American election — and embraced it. Read the whole email exchange, but here’s the key paragraph: “The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” This passage undermines the Trump and White House position in three crucial ways — not attributed to vague “sources” but in black and white documentary form.

Editorials: Voter fraud commission very quickly runs into roadblocks | Carl P. Leubsdorf/The Dallas Morning News

One of democracy’s best protections against blatantly preposterous proposals is that the perpetrators inevitably go too far. In the case of President Donald Trump’s fraudulent voter fraud commission, that didn’t take long. Even before next week’s first official meeting, the panel Trump created to pursue his ridiculous claim that 3 million to 5 million Americans voted fraudulently last November, is running into roadblocks both federal and state. On Monday, it temporarily suspended its request for reams of public and personal election data in the wake of multiple federal court suits from liberal groups contending it has failed to protect voters’ privacy. But the principal resistance has come from the nation’s secretaries of state, many of them Republicans.

Editorials: Open Door to Moscow? New Facts in the Potential Criminal Case of Trump Campaign Coordination with Russia | Bob Bauer/Just Security

The Trump campaign in 2016 was signaling to Russia that it would be happy to have the Putin regime’s help.  President Trump, as a candidate, famously called for Russia’s assistance. Later, when pressed, he repeatedly refused to clearly acknowledge its interference or condemn it. Now it appears that Trump campaign was not simply hinting that it would welcome this help. The Wall Street Journal very recently, and now the New York Times, have reported active Trump campaign or campaign supporter contacts with Russian agents or intermediaries toward the goal of obtaining negative information about Hillary Clinton.  And, for the first time, someone named Trump–Donald, Jr.–has publicly confirmed that the campaign communicated directly with a Russia foreign national connected with the Putin regime in the bid for material damaging to the former Secretary of State.

Editorials: Cambodia: Revoke Ban on Election Monitors | Human Rights Watch

The Cambodian government should rescind its recent order restricting independent election monitoring groups, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 4, 2017, a month after the country’s flawed commune elections, the Interior Ministry issued a letter to two election-monitoring organizations to cease their activities in alleged violation of the country’s nongovernmental organization law. The government’s action sets the stage for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to broaden restrictions on election monitoring prior to the 2018 national elections. “The Cambodian government appears intent on quashing any challenges to its political control – and obviously doesn’t want any witnesses,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Cambodia’s donors should call for the government to rescind these orders and ensure independent monitoring of the 2018 elections.”

Editorials: Commission wants to snoop on voting in the name of ‘integrity’ | Tulsa World

The government wants to know more about how we vote. No. President Trump authorized the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 election. Independent studies all have shown that voter fraud is either non-existent or is so slight that its effect is minimal. Nevertheless, Trump established the commission last month. Its report is expected in 2018. Studying election results is nothing new. Campaigns do it to see what worked and what didn’t. Most rely on public information for their research. This commission, however, goes a dangerous step beyond. Letters were sent out last week to all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking for evidence of voter fraud, convictions for election-related crimes and recommendations for preventing voter intimidation.

Editorials: A startling reality: Hacking democracy easier than you think | David Shipley/CBC

It’s hard to imagine that people thousands of miles away are able to sit at a computer and change the course of an election. But as we’ve seen in the United States, that’s not just a troubling concept, it’s a startling reality that has profound implications for voters, politicians, political parties and the media. When it comes to Canada, most experts agree it’s not a matter of if or even when (we experienced some limited interference in 2015), but of how badly nation-states, organized crime, activists and thrill seekers will want to sow chaos, confusion and manipulation.