Federal courts have reined in strict voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin, while a legal battle continues to rage over North Carolina’s rules mandating showing identification at the polls — even after lawmakers there took pre-emptive steps to soften them. The court ruling almost certainly won’t be enough for Democrat Hillary Clinton to win fiercely conservative Texas in November, and Wisconsin has been reliably blue enough in recent presidential cycles that the legal setback for its voter ID law may not prove decisive, either. North Carolina could be enough of a swing state that the fate of its election rules may have an impact — but exactly where its voter ID requirements will stand by Election Day on Nov. 8 remains to be seen. What is coming into clearer focus is just how hard it could be for Republican-controlled states to enforce tougher ballot box restrictions that energized conservative activists when they were approved in statehouses around the country in recent years. That means an issue that looked to be a slam dunk for the right following the rise of the tea party in 2010 may actually be little more than an afterthought during this year’s make-or-break presidential election.
As the U.S. heads toward an especially contentious national election in November, 15 states are still clinging to outdated electronic voting machines that don’t support paper printouts used to audit their internal vote counts. E-voting machines without attached printers are still being used in a handful of presidential swing states, leading some voting security advocates to worry about the potential of a hacked election. Some makers of e-voting machines, often called direct-recording electronic machines or DREs, are now focusing on other sorts of voting technology, including optical scanners. They seem reluctant to talk about DREs; three major DRE vendors didn’t respond to questions about security. … While a hacked election may be unlikely, it’s not impossible, said Joe Kiniry, a long-time election security researcher. Researchers have found many security holes in DREs, and many states don’t conduct comprehensive election audits, said Kiniry, now CEO and chief scientist at Free and Fair, an open-source election technology vendor. “I would say that a determined adversary, with the standard skill that people like me have, would be able to hack an election nationally,” he said. “With enough money and resources, I don’t think that’s actually a technical challenge.” Voting results are “ripe for manipulation,” Kiniry added. Hacking an election would be more of a social and political challenge than a technical one, he said. “You’d have a medium-sized conspiracy in order to achieve such a goal.”
We described the current state of the Guccifer 2.0 purported disclosures as leaking documents of minimal intelligence value for possible political points in the U.S. and reinforcing Kremlin themes to a Russian audience about the failings of democracy and the West. Here, we outline a couple of different trajectories for the Guccifer 2.0 persona and identify some of the indicators that would help us determine which path we’re on. … To have a substantial impact on the U.S. media, we assess Guccifer 2.0 would have to release documents that otherwise would have been used for higher priority intelligence objectives. If a release like this were to happen, it would be closer to the election as a final coup de grâce to push late media coverage in a way that benefits Russia’s desired outcome. If this scenario is part of a plan, we would expect to see efforts to make Guccifer 2.0 a more trusted interlocutor over the next few months by releasing higher quality documents or verifiable claims that establish his bona fides. However, if some external shock changes the Russian calculus, we might not see that on-ramp. In other words, the on-ramp would be indicative, but a lack of on-ramp does not necessarily preclude this outcome.
National: There Won’t Be Any Election Monitors in the Most Vulnerable States This Election: What Could Go Wrong? | Yahoo News
In a contentious election year with voter suppression on the rise, the list of possible catastrophes is pretty long. The Department of Justice has just dealt a major blow to voting rights in the United States with the news that it won’t be dispatching election monitors to some of the most vulnerable states in November. In a contentious election year where voter suppression is likely to be a recurring theme across the country, this is extremely bad news — because instead of relying on federal observers, we’re going to be forced to count on voters themselves enforcing their rights. If election monitors sound like something the UN dispatches to developing democracies, it’s not just nations like Iraq that need monitoring to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at the vote. Systemic inequality and a repeated pattern of voter suppression in the United States demonstrates that we can’t get it together when it comes to protecting the “one person, one vote” principle that’s supposed to be a cornerstone of American life.
Hillary Clinton is hoping to use Pokémon Go to catch voters. At a rally on Thursday, Mrs. Clinton talked about the game phenomenon, saying “I don’t know who created ‘Pokemon Go,’ but I’ve tried to figure out how we get them to have Pokémon go to the polls.” The game, created by Niantic Labs in a partnership with Nintendo and Pokémon Co., is causing people to flock to public places as they search for Pokémon, which virtually pop up in the real world. The mobile game has been cited for traffic accidents, injuries and for giving its users unexpected exercise as they walk around trying to find “pocket monsters.”
National: How Technology Is Shaping Voter Registration and the Election Process for States and Localities | StateTech Magazine
As Hennepin County, Minn., prepares to implement its new electronic poll book system in August, one of election officials’ main concerns has been how to train poll workers. The workers are wonderful, says Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms, but many are older and not very comfortable using technology. Those worries proved unfounded when the poll workers in a neighboring county’s pilot project said they would return only if they could use the electronic poll books again. “That was a real eye-opener for me,” Gelms says. “It just makes their jobs so much easier that they love it.” This year’s presidential race has been unprecedented in many regards, but it’s not just the candidates who are making history. From registering voters online and nominating candidates during the conventions to casting ballots at the polls, new advances in technology continue to transform the election process. Jurisdictions throughout the country are hard at work modernizing outdated election systems, with new technologies that cut the time and cost of inputting registration data, reduce data entry errors, ensure citizens can’t vote more than once and make voting faster, easier and more convenient.
The Republican Party’s platform formally endorses laws requiring voters to show identification when they cast ballots. The new provision inserts the national party into a contentious debate over voter access at a time when several states are tightening identification requirements.The party platform, adopted unanimously by delegates in Cleveland on Monday, goes farther than language that had been included in earlier years. The party “support[s] legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting,” the document reads. Four years ago, the GOP platform “applaud[ed] legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud.” The stronger language comes ahead of a presidential election in which 12 states — including swing states like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia — will enforce voter identification laws for the first time.
The looming election and the Supreme Court will converge in the coming months as voting rights challenges on issues such as Voter ID, early vote cutbacks and same-day registration make their way to the high court. Challenges during an election year are always fraught, but this cycle things could grow even more complicated because the court only has eight members to review the cases, and there’s a good chance that it could split 4-4. In the recent past, the Supreme Court has signaled that it does not like courts to disrupt rules and regulations too close to an election out of the fear that it could cause confusion to voters. As such, there might be a sentiment on the court — when it rules on one of the emergency motions it is certain to get — to vote to preserve the status quo until after the election and then agree to take up one or two cases and settle the big issues concerning the meaning of the Voting Rights Act and how the Constitution applies to current laws regulating the voting process.
National: There Won’t Be Any Election Monitors in the Most Vulnerable States This Election: What Could Go Wrong?
In a contentious election year with voter suppression on the rise, the list of possible catastrophes is pretty long. The Department of Justice has just dealt a major blow to voting rights in the United States with the news that it won’t be dispatching election monitors to some of the most vulnerable states in November. In a contentious election year where voter suppression is likely to be a recurring theme across the country, this is extremely bad news — because instead of relying on federal observers, we’re going to be forced to count on voters themselves enforcing their rights. If election monitors sound like something the UN dispatches to developing democracies, it’s not just nations like Iraq that need monitoring to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at the vote. Systemic inequality and a repeated pattern of voter suppression in the United States demonstrates that we can’t get it together when it comes to protecting the “one person, one vote” principle that’s supposed to be a cornerstone of American life. We can blame 2013’s Shelby County v Holder for this particular DOJ decision. The agency believes that the Supreme Court’s move, which invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, limits the amount of oversight it can conduct during elections. Historically, the agency could send federal election observers to any states that it felt merited closer monitoring as a result of concerns about restrictions on voting rights. Now, it can only dispatch them in the event of a federal court ruling, and just five states have such rulings outstanding: California, Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, and New York.
“Pokemon Go,” the augmented reality app that recently became the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, has businesses and advertisers working feverishly to capitalize on its enormous popularity. And while election campaigns are already taking advantage of the game’s mechanics to incentivize players to visit political rallies and registration drives, the possible use of “lures” to attract gamers to polling places – and even to influence their vote – is proving to be an unimagined area of election law. Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, for example, has organized a “Pokemon Go” event in Lakewood, Ohio, where people can play the game and register to vote. Organizers held the event at what the game calls a “Poke Stop,” a public place at which the game’s programmers put items useful in the digital scavenger hunt. Organizers also promised what’s called a “Lure Module” – a facet of the game designed to attract the wild Pokemon whose capture is the object, and thereby avid “Pokemon Go” players, to a particular location.
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement. Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box.
Foreign money in American politics. The phrase suggests secret payments, maybe briefcases stuffed with cash, or dinners of fine food and oblique conversation. Or spam. “Mr. Speaker, members of Parliament are being bombarded with electronic communications from Team Trump, on behalf of somebody called Donald Trump.” Sir Roger Gale, MP, was among the hundreds of legislators, from the United Kingdom to Iceland to Australia, whose inboxes had received unwanted fundraising emails from the Trump campaign. Gale continued: “Mr. Speaker, I’m all in favor of free speech, but I don’t see why colleagues on either side of the house should be subjected to intemperate spam.” He asked if the House of Commons IT staff could please make it stop. Speaker John Bercow sympathized, saying he didn’t consider it acceptable for members to be getting “emails of which the content is offensive.”
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement. Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box. The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. The court struck down the formula used to determine which states were affected. By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.
National: Congressional Democrats Introduce Transformative Automatic Voter Registration Bill | Brennan Center for Justice
Today, senior congressional lawmakers introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016, a transformative bill that would add up to 50 million new voters by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote. The initiative, led by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would also cut costs and improve the accuracy and security of America’s voter rolls. Under the plan, when a citizen interacts with a government agency — for example, to get a driver’s license, apply for public services, apply for a license for a firearm, register for classes at a public university, or when becoming a naturalized citizen — she is automatically signed up to vote, unless she declines. In the past 16 months, five states, several with bipartisan support, have adopted automatic registration, through the department of motor vehicles. Oregon, the first state to fully implement the plan, is now a national leader in voter registration rates, and has quadrupled its rate of new registrations at the DMV compared to previous years. The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 builds off this tremendous momentum by expanding automatic registration nationwide, and to more government agencies.
Hillary Clinton committed Saturday to introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision within her first 30 days in office, if she’s elected president. The announcement will come in a video during the closing keynote of the progressive Netroots Nation conference this afternoon, and it’s yet another attempt to adopt the positions of her vanquished primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The amendment would allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections,” a Clinton spokesman said in statement. Last fall as the primary season ramped up and Sanders gained momentum, Clinton called for the 2010 Citizens United v FEC decision, which spawned the creation of super PACS, to be overturned. She also said she wanted more stringent political spending disclosure rules, and a new public matching regime so that presidential and congressional campaigns could more easily solicit small donations.
National: Google Search To Offer State-Specific Voter Registration Guide Ahead Of 2016 Elections | Tech Times
With the election season just around the corner in the U.S., Google is getting in on the action and looking to make things easier for prospective voters. Google Search will simplify the registration process for voters as it will offer state-specific voter registration guides prior to the 2016 presidential elections in November. On Monday, July 18, the Alphabet subsidiary will push out the new search functionality, which will aid users in registering to vote before the elections. “Starting on Monday, we’re introducing a new tool in Search to simplify the voter registration process to make it easier for you to have your voice heard,” revealed Google on July 15. When you type “register to vote” or a similar query in Google Search post July 18, you will be greeted with state-specific and in-depth guidelines on how you can register to vote, the eligibility criteria and the deadline for your state. All these details will be reflected at the top of the search page, as well as the Google app.
During the 2012 American presidential election, 129 million people cast ballots, while 106 million eligible voters neglected to do so. That’s only a 54.9 percent conversion rate, not to mention the 51 million voters who weren’t registered. Meanwhile, in 2015, there were almost 172 million Americans making purchases online. Those are apples and oranges, admittedly, but the ease with which the shopping occurs only helps its proliferation. If the ultimate goal is maximizing the country’s voting turnout, shouldn’t we develop an Internet voting system? Voting from a computer at home could be far easier than waiting in long lines at polling stations or filling out mail-in forms. But can it ever happen? “For as far into the future as I can see, the answer is no,” says David Jefferson, a computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In May 2015, Jefferson examined the possibility of Internet voting in a paper called “Intractable Security Risks of Internet Voting.” For anyone who has ever owned a personal computer, the first problem is obvious: malware.
“Unless we were to re-design the Internet from the ground up, there’s not likely to be a solution to these problems.” “We’re not even remotely close to guaranteeing that there’s no malware on your computer,” Jefferson says. The malware can do whatever task it’s programmed to accomplish, from erasing votes cast to changing them. And they can do these things without leaving any trace. “The malware might erase itself a half second later, and so there might be no evidence. And that’s one of half a dozen of problems.”
At the shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court, the next deadlock may affect the November election. A group of voting-rights cases is making its way to a court that’s all but guaranteed to have a lingering vacancy through the election. The divisive nature of the issues may leave the eight justices unable to decide who can cast the ballots that will determine control of the White House and Congress. The disputes involve voter-identification requirements in Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin; an early-voting period in Ohio; a variety of restrictions in North Carolina; and proof-of-citizenship laws elsewhere. The cases pit Democrats and civil-rights groups claiming discrimination against Republicans arguing the steps are warranted to prevent voter fraud. “They affect the rights of voters to be able to cast an effective ballot that will be counted accurately,” said Rick Hasen, an election-law professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Voting rights across the country are under attack, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. To combat that, Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Thursday to expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is spearheading a related measure in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election. It would also amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide for automatic voter registration through a state’s department of motor vehicles.
A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a Sept. 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who without public notice required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states.
National: How State Voter ID Laws Could Be Problematic For Presidential Election | Wisconsin Public Radio
This November, U.S. citizens will cast a vote for president without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act for the first time in 50 years. In July of 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 390 to 33 to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another 25 years. However, in June of 2013 a Supreme Court decision struck down a key part of the law, allowing nine – mostly southern – states to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Today, 17 states have new voting restriction laws in place for the upcoming election, many of which are in place for the first time, according to writer Ari Berman. “Whether that’s making it harder to register to vote, or cutting back on the amount of time people have to vote, or requiring stricter forms of ID to be able to vote that they didn’t need previously,” Berman said. “We’re seeing the impact already.”
National: Seen and not heard: homeless people absent from election even as ranks grow | The Guardian
It is no mean feat to cast a ballot when home is a doorway or a tent beneath a freeway underpass. When your mailing address is General Delivery, or the Prison Legal Services office, or someone else’s room at an SRO hotel. When the hunt for a voting precinct vies with the search for food and shelter. Even so, the presidential contest has been front of mind at the St Anthony Foundation dining room in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin district. The first seating at St Anthony is for families and the elderly. Lunch starts at 10am and is often the only meal of the day for people such as Tom Orrell, who is picking at his turkey dish and talking politics. His home is a patch of sidewalk at the corner of Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue. His party, the Democrats. His candidate, Bernie Sanders – but he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, even though he’s not sure America is ready for a female president. His issue is healthcare, with a dash of education. “The way I look at it, we’ve got to have healthy kids,” says the 62-year-old former construction worker, who votes whether he has a roof or not. For two years, he has not. “To get them healthy, we need to have education. We’re falling down in both. To have a bright future, we need better healthcare.”
The days of filling out a form and using snail mail to register to vote are just about over. Voters now can register to vote online in 31 states. Another seven have passed legislation to do so and are establishing their systems. More are expected to follow. States have done it for economic reasons — going paperless is that much cheaper — as well as to keep up with the digital world. It may have an additional benefit: reducing the tension around voter access issues, such as voter ID laws. Online databases make it vastly easier for states to ensure the accuracy of their voter rolls. “Online registration has been a real boon in terms of keeping the voter roles clean,” said Wendy Underhill, program director for the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of registered voters believe the 2016 presidential campaign will be compromised by a cyber breach in some way, according to a poll conducted by data security firm PKWARE and Wakefield Research. Their concerns are not unwarranted; at a time when breaches and data theft make headlines on a regular basis, much of the voting process remains unprotected. “There is a lot of vulnerability in paperless voting systems, whether they are direct reporting electronic machines, or email return ballots,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit organization that advocates for accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. Most polling places use paper ballots that are tabulated by a scanner. Even if the scanner goes haywire, there is a paper record of voters’ intent and officials can take a manual count. In fully paperless systems, no such backup exists. “In a situation like that, there’s no way to demonstrate that the software is working properly. If something seems amiss or there is an unexpected outcome, you really wouldn’t have a way to go back and correct it because you don’t have an independent record of voter intent,” Smith said. Electronic systems, then, offer a prime target for hackers looking to influence elections.
Officially, it was a cybersecurity briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by Jean Morrison, Boston University provost, and the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, but it felt a little like a college freshman-level computer science seminar. Sharon Goldberg, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of computer science, was explaining some of the deep insecurities built into the internet, and why they matter. Her students were a group of Congressional aides and interns and other Hill staffers. They had crowded into a room in the Cannon House Office Building recently on their lunch hour and were taking copious notes so they could better inform policymakers, who are scrambling these days to catch up with technical reality. “The internet was designed several decades ago as a network for universities, for graduate students to send each other emails, to do scientific computing—not for what it’s doing today,” said Goldberg, one of three cybersecurity experts who addressed the briefing. It was a time, she added, “when basically everyone on the internet believed they could all trust each other because they were all graduate students playing with computers.”
Last-ditch attempts by a group of Republican delegates seeking to stop Donald Trump from becoming the GOP presidential nominee are quickly fading — and now their fight is facing a federal legal challenge. At issue is whether delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland are bound to vote for the results of state caucuses and primaries. A group that claims the support of hundreds of convention delegates has been pushing to change Republican presidential nomination rules so that delegates can “vote their conscience” — reviving a long-simmering debate led by GOP purists who believe that only convention delegates — not the millions of voters who participated in the primary process — can ultimately pick a presidential nominee.
Allowing voters to show up and cast ballots ahead of Election Day appears to actually reduce participation, but letting them vote by mail or to show up and register on Election Day boosts turnout, the government’s chief research agency said in a new report last week. The surprising findings by the Government Accountability Office contradict the conventional wisdom in a number of states, which are moving to expand so-called early voting, believing it makes it easier for those who are busy on Election Day to take part in the political process anyway. But the findings confirm the experiments of states such as Colorado, where voting by mail has become the standard. Still, the changes affect only the margins, and the main factors in predicting voter turnout are voters’ demographics and whether an election is seen as interesting, GAO analysts said.
National: Federal judge rejects bid to block proof of citizenship for new voters in three states | The Washington Post
A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday rejected a request that would have blocked Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from enforcing proof-of-citizenship requirements for people using a federal form to register to vote. The decision by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon came in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP in Georgia and other civil rights groups that sought a preliminary injunction. The groups filed suit in February after Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, notified the three states in a Jan. 29 letter that they could require documentary proof of citizenship on the federal voter registration form. The Justice Department did not defend Newby’s decision and instead sided with the plaintiffs. A department spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.
Kansans who register to vote using a federal form at the Department of Motor Vehicles will have to provide proof of citizenship as a lawsuit plays out, a judge ruled Wednesday. The League of Women Voters and other civil rights groups had sought a preliminary injunction to block such rules in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. “Because it’s a barrier to voting,” says Dolores Furtado, the immediate past president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “The percentage of eligible registered people that vote is sometimes terrible.”
The Federal Election Commission, in a split decision, will not punish Fox News for expanding their criteria by adding the second ‘undercard’ debate for the first Republican primary debate in August, 2015. But while the decision, made in May but only published on Thursday, leads to no action, it’s exposing fraught political fault lines within the FEC. The decision stems from a complaint filed by Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner and relatively unknown Republican candidate for president, who alleged that when Fox News dropped the requirement that candidates must poll at least 1 percent in national polls, it violated FEC rules on debates that say debate hosts must use “pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate in a debate.” Because of the split decision on party lines (three commissioners voted against a violation, two voted for, and one voted to dismiss), no action will be taken against Fox News. But one of the Republican commissioners, Lee Goodman, began publicizing the ruling before it was published on Friday because he said he was alarmed by the way the three Democratic commissioners voted.