National: New Report Says Voter Suppression Threatens 2016 Elections | The Seattle Medium

Since the US Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states that were once required to get permission from the US Department of Justice to enact voting laws have been free to implement limits to voting that activists say could have a negative impact on the 2016 presidential elections. The high court ruling against the federal government in the Holder v Shelby case in 2013, was followed closely by several primarily southern states, enacting a series of draconian laws that have made it increasingly more difficult for African-Americans, Latinos, students and the elderly to cast their ballots. The Republican legislators supporting these bills claim that the measures are an effort to block voter fraud. Their critics contend that the laws are a way to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote Democratic. But, a national coalition of voters, advocacy groups and voting rights activists as well as in the Department of Justice, have been fighting back in the courts, statehouses and city council chambers. These advocates have now released a new report, showing the adverse impact of the Shelby case.

National: Will Dominant Images of Conventions Be of Unity or Protest? | The New York Times

Republicans arriving in Cleveland next month to nominate Donald J. Trump will be greeted by as many as 6,000 protesters on the first day, a noisy coalition of dozens of groups, including Black Lives Matter and the Workers World Party. The demonstrators intend to ignore restrictions keeping them far from the delegates, raising fears the violence that accompanied some of Mr. Trump’s rallies will be magnified on a mass scale. Two marches along routes the city has not authorized are planned for the convention’s opening day, July 18. Organizers say they want to avoid violence. But they are also gearing up for confrontation with the police, including training in civil disobedience. “If there are people willing to put themselves on the line to be arrested, so be it,” said Deb Kline, a leader of Cleveland Jobs With Justice, one of the groups that will march. A week later, as Democrats pour into Philadelphia, so will an army of Bernie Sanders supporters planning Occupy Wall Street-style protests against what they call the “fraudulent” nomination of Hillary Clinton. One group, Occupy DNC Convention, is circulating information about protecting oneself from tear gas by wearing a vinegar-soaked bandanna and swim goggles.

National: The States Where Voting Laws May Affect Election Results | Governing

Changes to state voting laws — some geared toward expanding access to the polls, some intended to prevent fraud and thus making it harder to vote — have been proliferating in recent years. But how much of an impact will they have on the 2016 elections, from the presidential contest on down? While it’s still early, a review of states that have changed their election laws since the last presidential cycle suggests that the impact will be felt widely by voters but won’t necessarily affect the outcome of contests in more than a few states. All told, 17 states — most of which are solidly conservative — have tighter voting laws in place this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions. Such laws are often decried by opponents as harmful to minorities and young voters — groups that are more likely to vote Democratic. But many of the states that have implemented such measures aren’t considered competitive in the presidential election. Nor do many of them have competitive gubernatorial elections this year.

National: Clinton Foundation Said to Be Breached by Russian Hackers | Bloomberg

The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation was among the organizations breached by suspected Russian hackers in a dragnet of the U.S. political apparatus ahead of the November election, according to three people familiar with the matter. The attacks on the foundation’s network, as well as those of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, compound concerns about her digital security even as the FBI continues to investigate her use of a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state. Clinton Foundation officials said the organization hadn’t been notified of the breach and declined to comment further. The compromise of the foundation’s computers was first identified by government investigators as recently as last week, the people familiar with the matter said. Agents monitor servers used by hackers to communicate with their targets, giving them a back channel view of attacks, often even before the victims detect them.

National: Congressional Black Caucus balks at two political reforms being pitched by Bernie Sanders | The Washington Post

The Congressional Black Caucus is voicing strong opposition to two key political reforms being sought by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention: abolishing superdelegates and opening up Democratic primaries and caucuses to independent voters. Sanders is seeking to leverage his unexpectedly strong showing against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race this year to secure a series of policy and political objectives. Although none of the political reforms Sanders is seeking would affect his standing now, they are rooted in his frustrations with the contest against Clinton. As of Sunday night, 587 superdelegates had announced their support for Clinton compared with 48 for Sanders, who sought to make a virtue of running against the “political establishment.” As a rule, the senator from Vermont also performed better against Clinton in primaries and caucuses where independent voters could participate. In a letter sent to Sanders and Clinton on Saturday, the Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they oppose changes in both areas.

National: Anti-Trump delegates raising money for staff and a legal defense fund | The Washington Post

Supporters of a growing anti-Donald Trump movement announced plans Sunday to raise money for staff and a possible legal defense fund as they asked recruits to help spread the word with less than a month until the Republican National Convention. Having started with just a few dozen delegates, organizers also said Sunday that they now count several hundred delegates and alternates as part of their campaign. “As we carefully consider not only the presidential nominee but the rules of the convention, the platform of the Republican Party and the vice presidential nominee, remember that this is true reality TV — it is not entertainment,” Regina Thomson, co-founder of the group now calling itself “Free the Delegates,” said Sunday night.

National: Why Open Primaries Won’t Change Our Politics Much | Pacific Standard

One of the reforms Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters have been pushing in recent months is open primaries. Many argue that more open primaries, allowing independents to participate, can produce more moderate nominees that are more representative of the electorate as a whole. Evidence suggests, however, that this doesn’t really happen. Here’s why. The logic of the open primary is pretty straightforward. Under a closed primary, only people who are registered party members (usually for some time) are permitted to vote. Those party registrants tend to be die-hard partisans, and the candidates they pick will tend to be from the ideological extremes. Independent voters, who might legitimately want a more moderate set of nominees, are forbidden from participating. Allow them in, and you end up not only with more moderate nominees, but nominees who recognize it’s in their interests to keep moderate independent voters happy while they serve in office. Eric McGhee, Boris Shor, Nolan McCarty, Steve Rogers, and I tested this assumption in a large-scale study a few years ago. We looked at two decades of voting behavior by state legislators across all 50 states, and we compared legislators based on the type of primary system that nominated them. Quite a few state parties have changed their primary rules one way or another over this time period, allowing us a good deal of leverage on the question.
People unaffiliated with a party tend, on average, to be less interested in politics and less likely to vote.

National: “Guccifer” leak of DNC Trump research has a Russian’s fingerprints on it | Ars Technica

We still don’t know who he is or whether he works for the Russian government, but one thing is for sure: Guccifer 2.0—the nom de guerre of the person claiming he hacked the Democratic National Committee and published hundreds of pages that appeared to prove it—left behind fingerprints implicating a Russian-speaking person with a nostalgia for the country’s lost Soviet era. Exhibit A in the case is this document created and later edited in the ubiquitous Microsoft Word format. Metadata left inside the file shows it was last edited by someone using the computer name “Феликс Эдмундович.” That means the computer was configured to use the Russian language and that it was connected to a Russian-language keyboard. More intriguing still, “Феликс Эдмундович” is the colloquial name that translates to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the 20th Century Russian statesman who is best known for founding the Soviet secret police. (The metadata also shows that the purported DNC strategy memo was originally created by someone named Warren Flood, which happens to be the name of a LinkedIn user claiming to provide strategy and data analytics services to Democratic candidates.) Exhibit B is this opposition research document on Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Exhibit B is also written in Word. Several of the Web links in it are broken and contain the error message “Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.” But in a PDF-formatted copy of the same document published by Gawker a few hours before Guccifer 2.0’s post went live, the error messages with roughly the same meaning appear in Russian. The most likely explanation is that the Russian error messages are an artifact left behind when the leaker converted the Word document into a PDF. That kind of conversion would be expected if the leaker’s PC was set up to use Russian.

National: Momentum builds to reduce politics in redistricting | Associated Press

They have nicknames like “the dead lizard,” ”the praying mantis” and “the upside-down elephant.” The odd-shaped legislative districts that dot many states are no coincidence. The jagged lines often have been carefully drawn by state lawmakers to benefit particular incumbents or political parties. The tactic, known as gerrymandering, is nearly as old as the country itself. It’s also a maneuver that can result in an underrepresentation of minorities in some legislatures. Across the U.S., minorities now comprise nearly two-fifths of the population, yet hold less than one-fifth of all legislative seats, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federal guidelines require that legislative districts are similar in population and not drawn to deny minorities a chance to elect the candidate of their choice. But racial gerrymandering can occur in a couple of ways: when minority communities are divided among multiple districts, thus diluting their voting strength; or when minorities are heavily packed into a single district, thus diminishing their likelihood of winning multiple seats.

National: Uncontested Legislative Races Are Becoming More Common | Governing

Control of the Iowa Senate is up for grabs this fall. Democrats currently have a 26-24 majority, a meager margin Republicans are eager to erase. Given the circumstances, you’d expect both parties to press hard to win every available seat. But that’s not the case. Half the Senate seats are up in November, but in nine of the 25 contests, one of the major parties hasn’t bothered fielding a candidate. That’s more common than you might think. When filing deadlines had passed in the first 27 states this year, one party or the other had failed to run candidates in nearly half the legislative seats — 45 percent, according to Ballotpedia, an online politics site that tracks races and ballot initiatives. Nearly all incumbents can rest easy in Georgia, because 80 percent of the races there will be uncontested. In recent years, it’s been common for a third to 40 percent of state legislative seats to lack major party competition. It’s even worse during primary seasons, meaning legislators win re-election simply by showing up. In the four states that held legislative elections last year, 56 percent of the races went uncontested in the fall.

National: Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump | The Washington Post

Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach. The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts. The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some GOP political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available. A Russian Embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of such intrusions. Some of the hackers had access to the DNC network for about a year, but all were expelled over the past weekend in a major computer cleanup campaign, the committee officials and experts said.

National: Will your voting machine work on Election Day? | CBS

Voters in Polk County, Florida, will be using 16-year-old machines on Election Day this November, and they are either nearing or have already surpassed their average lifespan. The region, which encompasses parts of the greater Tampa Bay area, is one of many jurisdictions in more than a dozen states that are using voting machines that are 15 or more years old in this year’s election cycle, a report from the Brennan Center for Justice revealed last September. Two years ago, ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, a 10-member commission President Obama formed to figure out how to prevent long lines at the polls after the 2012 presidential election warned that the state of voting technology was an “impending crisis.” Lawrence Norden, a co-author of the Brennan Center report, told CBS News that while a lot of jurisdictions have bought new equipment or have developed plans to do so, there are still a number of places that are dealing with even older machines. An overwhelming majority of the country — 43 states — will be using electronic voting machines that are at least 10 years old in this year’s election, the Brennan Center report said. These machines last around 10 to 20 years before conking out. Many election officials, the report said, want to replace their aging equipment in the next five years, but a lot of them do not yet know where they’ll find the money.

National: Expert on DNC hack: ‘That’s straight up cyberwar’ | Tech Insider

One day after a number of documents supposedly stolen during a hack on the Democratic National Committee servers were posted online, a cybersecurity expert says it is a clear act of “cyberwar.” “It’s really strange for a Russian intelligence agency,” Dave Aitel, an ex-NSA research scientist who’s now CEO of Immunity, told Tech Insider. “That’s straight up cyberwar.” At least two different groups associated with the Russian government were found inside the networks of the DNC over the past year, reading emails, chats, and downloading private documents, as was reported on Tuesday. The hack, which was investigated by the FBI and cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, was linked to Russia through a lengthy technical analysis, which was detailed on the firm’s blog. Aitel called the analysis “pretty dead on.”

National: Lone wolf claims responsibility for DNC hack, dumps purported Trump smear file | Ars Technica

In an intriguing follow-up to Tuesday’s report that Russian hackers gained access to Democratic National Committee servers, an anonymous blogger has claimed he alone was responsible for the breach and backed up the claim by publishing what purport to be authentic DNC documents taken during the online heist. In a blog post published Wednesday, someone with the handle Guccifer 2.0 published hundreds of pages of documents that the author claimed were taken during a lone-wolf hack of the DNC servers. One 231-page document purports to be opposition research into Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. Other files purport to be spreadsheets that included the names and dollar amounts of large DNC donors. Yet another document purportedly came from the computer of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. “Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by ‘sophisticated hacker groups,” Wednesday’s blog post stated. “I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.”

National: House approves Koch-backed bill to shield donors’ names | USA Today

The House approved a bill Tuesday that would bar the IRS from collecting the names of donors to tax-exempt groups, prompting warnings from campaign-finance watchdogs that it could lead to foreign interests illegally infiltrating American elections. The measure, which has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also pits the Obama administration against one of the most powerful figures in Republican politics, billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. Koch’s donor network channels hundreds of millions of dollars each year into groups that largely use anonymous donations to shape policies on everything from health care to tax subsidies. Its leaders have urged the Republican-controlled Congress to clamp down on the IRS, citing free-speech concerns.

National: Primary Voting Problems Have Advocates Concerned About November Elections | TIME

Problems with mail-in ballots in California. Overcrowded polling places in Arizona. Missing names on the voter rolls in New York. Those are just some of the problems that Democratic and Republican primary voters faced over the last few months, leaving voting rights advocates concerned about the November elections, where turnout will be dramatically higher. “We are at a crossroads in our democracy. This is a moment that really requires that states and elected officials to explore ways to make voting easier,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. There’s no single fix to the problems, since each state runs elections in its own way. But advocates have found issues with malfunctioning voting machines, too few polling places and election workers misunderstanding state laws.

National: Ballot design pro helps prevent election snafus | Washington Times

Campaigns routinely spend millions of dollars on get-out-the-vote drives, but it’s money down the drain if voters can’t figure out the ballot. That’s where Drew Davies comes in. The college art major has parlayed his knack for graphic design into a career as one of the nation’s premier ballot fix-it guys. His job description may come as a surprise to those who assume that the federal government has ironed out the kinks since the 2000 presidential election uproar in Florida. As Mr. Davies can attest, there are still causes for concern. He sees ballots jammed with races, impossibly tiny print and fill-in bubbles that don’t quite align with candidates’ names. “It’s not just about prettying things up,” said Mr. Davies, who founded Oxide Design in 2001 after earning a fine arts degree from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Design is affecting our democracy. It’s affecting your lives. Look at the election in 2000: Bad design affected your life.” His work with the nonprofit Center for Civic Design to create 10 pocket-sized field guides for state and local election officials has been honored by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, which will showcase the pamphlets as part of an exhibit starting Sept. 30.

National: Can redistricting reform close the minority gap in capitols? | Salon

They have nicknames like “the dead lizard,” ”the praying mantis” and “the upside-down elephant.” The odd-shaped legislative districts that dot many states are no coincidence. The jagged lines often have been carefully drawn by state lawmakers to benefit particular incumbents or political parties. The tactic, known as gerrymandering, is nearly as old as the country itself. It’s also a maneuver that can result in an underrepresentation of minorities in some legislatures. Across the U.S, minorities now comprise nearly two-fifths of the population, yet hold less than one-fifth of all legislative seats, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federal guidelines require that legislative districts are similar in population and not drawn to deny minorities a chance to elect the candidate of their choice. But racial gerrymandering can occur in a couple of ways: when minority communities are divided among multiple districts, thus diluting their voting strength; or when minorities are heavily packed into a single district, thus diminishing their likelihood of winning multiple seats.

National: Why Is It So Hard For States To Keep Track Of Registered Voters? | MTV

Fifty-nine-year-old veteran Larry Harmon got a surprise when he went to cast a ballot in Ohio last year: He was no longer registered to vote. Harmon hadn’t voted since 2008, a result of being fed up with politics and not liking any of his choices. He didn’t know you could lose your registration just for taking a vacation from the political process. Tens of thousands of other voters in the state were taken off the rolls for the same reason, which they might not figure out until they go to cast a ballot this fall — and Ohio will be an important swing state this year. Voters all over Brooklyn had the same problem in April, when at least 70,000 people were taken off the voter rolls because they hadn’t voted enough in the past. Thousands of voters may have been mistakenly removed for other reasons as well. A baker from Bushwick who had been excited to vote for Bernie Sanders told the New York Daily News, “I’m feeling profoundly snuffed.” And it was hardly the first time this has happened. Ari Berman notes in his book Give Us the Ballot that during the notoriously messy 2000 election in Florida, about 12,000 voters were wrongfully labeled as felons and taken off the rolls. About 44 percent of those were likely African-American.

National: Amid Long Voting Lines And Claims Of A ‘Rigged System,’ Does My Vote Matter? | NPR

This year’s primaries have been filled with complaints about the voting process. Voters in Arizona were furious that they had to wait up to five hours to cast ballots. Thousands of New Yorkers had their names mistakenly dropped from voter registration rolls. Republican candidate Donald Trump called his party’s nominating system “rigged.” Bernie Sanders said the Democrats’ nominating system was “dumb.” And many state voting laws, like strict new photo ID requirements, faced court challenges by those who said they would block minorities and other voters from participating in the election. Supporters defended the laws as necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. All this controversy has left many voters uneasy, and raised questions about how confident Americans are that their votes count, and will be counted accurately in November. So far at least, voters do seem to have faith that the system works. Most say they’re confident — at least somewhat — that their votes will be counted correctly.

National: From Selma To Shelby County, The Rise And Fall Of The Voting Rights Act | KGOU

Next week marks the third anniversary of an incredibly consequential U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions of landmark civil rights legislation. The high court’s 5-4 ruling in Shelby County vs. Holder meant that Alabama and many other southern states no longer had to seek federal approval to change their election laws under the Voting Rights Act. But what happened, and how we got there, is so much more complicated. To really understand the narrative arc of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, you have to go back 100 years to the end of the Civil War and the three so-called “Reconstruction Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments outlawed slavery, established citizenship for blacks, and gave them the right to vote. “For nearly a century, the U.S. government had done very little to defend voting rights under the 15th Amendment, and you fall into a long, deep period of disenfranchisement,” University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie told KGOU’s Oklahoma Voices. “By 1910, across the South – including Oklahoma – you have a variety of different acts, state actions, put into place that keep blacks out of the polling place and the last black officeholder has been driven from politics.” … There was no federal statute to enforce voting rights until 1957. Blacks that did try to register to vote faced poll taxes, literacy or educational competence tests, and even violence. Georgia had the highest rate of black voter registration in the Deep South by 1960, but even then, only 1 in 4 blacks eligible to vote registered. “In 1946, a black man voted in the gubernatorial election in Georgia and was shot dead in the streets in Spaulding County,” Gaddie said.

National: Groups making sure voting materials are available in Spanish | USA Today

National groups are translating state voter ID laws into Spanish to help make sure Hispanic voters bring proper identification to the polls on Election Day. “There are so many voter ID laws they can be confusing because in every state they are different,” said Joanna Cuevas Ingram, associate counsel with Latino Justice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educational Fund). “There’s a need for clarity. We believe every vote counts and every voter should have access to information regardless of the language they speak.’’ Latino Justice PRLDEF is teaming with the Brennan Center for Justice and Rock the Vote to translate into Spanish voter ID requirements and registration deadlines for all 50 states for the Nov. 8 elections. The groups plan to unveil the project later this summer.

National: ​David Dill: Why Online Voting Is a Danger to Democracy | Stanford Report

If, like a growing number of people, you’re willing to trust the Internet to safeguard your finances, shepherd your love life, and maybe even steer your car, being able to cast your vote online might seem like a logical, perhaps overdue, step. No more taking time out of your workday to travel to a polling place only to stand in a long line. Instead, as easily as hailing a ride, you could pull out your phone, cast your vote, and go along with your day. Sounds great, right? Absolutely not, says Stanford computer science professor David Dill. In fact, online voting is such a dangerous idea that computer scientists and security experts are nearly unanimous in opposition to it. Dill first got involved in the debate around electronic voting in 2003, when he organized a group of computer scientists to voice concerns over the risks associated with the touchscreen voting machines that many districts considered implementing after the 2000 election. Since then, paperless touchscreen voting machines have all but died out, partly as a result of public awareness campaigns by the Verified Voting Foundation, which Dill founded to help safeguard local, state, and federal elections. But a new front has opened around the prospect of Internet voting, as evidenced by recent ballot initiatives proposed in California and other efforts to push toward online voting. Here, Dill discusses the risks of Internet voting, the challenge of educating an increasingly tech-comfortable public, and why paper is still the best way to cast a vote.

National: How racial gerrymandering deprives black people of political power | The Washington Post

Thirty years ago, the Supreme Court expanded the meaning of one of the most important civil rights laws in U.S. history — the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Among other things, the court prohibited a then-common practice among some states of spreading minorities across voting districts, leaving them too few in number in any given district to elect their preferred candidates. The practice became known as “racial gerrymandering.” The court’s solution required that states create majority-minority districts — districts in which the majority of the voting-age population belonged to a single minority. With voting that occurred largely along racial lines, these districts allowed minority voters to elect their candidates of choice. But a fascinating development occurred in the years since. These districts, rather than giving African Americans more political power, might have actually started to deprive them of it. Majority-minority districts, by concentrating the minority vote in certain districts, have the unintended consequence of diluting their influence elsewhere. Experts say some Republican legislatures have capitalized on this new reality, redistricting in their political favor under the guise of majority-minority districts.

National: Online voting would be a ‘complete disaster’ according to Stanford Computer Scientist | Examiner

Imagine the convenience of being able to cast a vote from the comfort of a couch, coffee shop, library or a toilet if you’re truly trying to capture the spirit of the 2016 election cycle. Online voting may seem like a no-brainer given myriad of ways one can connect to the internet. However, according to David Dill, a computer scientist from Stanford, it would be a ‘complete disaster.’ It’s not just him that isn’t fond of the idea of putting the future of our country into computer, but security experts as well. “Computers are very complicated things and there’s no way with any reasonable amount of resources that you can guarantee that the software and hardware are bug-free and that they haven’t been maliciously attacked,” Dill said in an interview. “The problems are growing in complexity faster than the methods to keep up with them. From that perspective, looking at a system that relies on the perfectibility of computers is a really bad idea.”

National: Jury Out on Effectiveness as Some States Make Voting Easier | The New York Times

A parade of Republican-controlled states in recent years has made it more difficult to cast a ballot, imposing strict identification requirements at polling stations, paring back early-voting periods and requiring proof of citizenship to register. Then there is Oregon. It is leading what could become a march in the opposite direction. From January through April, Oregon added nearly 52,000 new voters to its rolls by standing the usual voter-registration process on its head. Under a new law, most citizens no longer need to fill out and turn in a form to become a voter. Instead, everyone who visits a motor-vehicle bureau and meets the requirements is automatically enrolled. Choosing a political party — or opting out entirely — is a matter of checking off preferences on a postcard mailed later to registrants’ homes. With the change, Oregon now boasts perhaps the nation’s most painless electoral process; mail-in ballots long ago did away with polling places’ snaking lines and balky voting machines

National: Voting Rights at the Crossroads | The Atlantic

The November election will be the first presidential contest to take place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strip some of the major protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required states with a history of voter discrimination to get federal clearance before changing their voting laws. Seventeen states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time. Among them, Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina have tightened their photo ID requirements; Kansas now requires proof of citizenship to cast a ballot; and Arizona has made it a felony for people to collect ballots from others and take them to the polls. Some people—mostly Democrats—say these laws disenfranchise poor and minority voters. But others—mostly Republicans—defend the stringent requirements as part of an effort to prevent voter fraud (an occurrence scholars largely consider to be a myth, and in some states, is more rare than a lightning strike). But just as some states are making it more difficult to vote, others are passing legislation to make it easier.

National: Congressmen question voter registration actions by EAC official | Associated Press

Three Democratic U.S. congressmen on Wednesday asked a federal agency to provide information regarding whether a top federal elections official had the right to unilaterally change voter registration forms in three states to require proof of citizenship. Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady and James E. Clyburn asked the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission for records connected to EAC executive director Brian Newby’s amendment in February of forms in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The group is seeking documents relating to requests from the three states to modify voter registration forms; all analysis of the impact of modifying federal voter registration forms; and all documents giving Newby the authority to unilaterally make the changes. Voting rights activists criticized the changes Newby made in February as a “secretive move” that created additional barriers for potential voters.

National: Foreign-connected PACs spent $10 million on the US election so far | Deutsche Welle

A DW analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics finds that US subsidiaries of international companies have so far spent almost ten million dollars (9.8 million euros) supporting candidates in this election cycle with most of the contributions coming from European-based firms ($8.6 million). The only other foreign, but non-European-based, companies that have spent money on the US election so far hail from five countries: Japan ($597,000), Israel ($159,000), Canada ($108,000), Mexico ($61,000) and Australia ($32,000). While foreign nationals without permanent US residence status and foreign entities are prohibited from contributing to US elections, American subsidiaries of foreign companies are not. Just like their US counterparts, they can legally establish so-called Political Action Committees (PACs) to collect contributions for political candidates from their US employees and families. All PACs are registered with the Federal Election Commission. “It doesn’t surprise me,” said James Davis, dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at St. Gallen University in Switzerland, when asked about the fact that PACs set up by European-based companies have so far contributed more than eight million dollars to the US election campaign.