We may have entered the twilight zone for democracy in North Carolina. Just as the state is preparing for the November election, the federal government last week dropped a bombshell of a subpoena on 44 eastern North Carolina county boards of elections and the State Board of Elections. The order: Turn over all ballots, poll books, absentee ballot requests, registration applications and other election related documents since 2010. Do so by Sept. 25. That’s was a request for 20 million voting records to be turned over inside a month. While federal officials have pushed their deadline back to after the election, it is by any standard a massive and expensive request. This incredible demand is traced to ICE, the federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency. It comes after a federal grand jury’s indictment against 19 foreign nationals for possible voter fraud in our state during the 2016 election.
Opinion pieces and editorials on voting issues.
Make no mistake: Facebook is feeling the pressure. Scarred by criticism that it enabled Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social media giant summoned its biggest tech peers to a summit late last month, meeting behind closed doors with Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and others at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. The meeting’s objective was proactive — compare and co-ordinate plans of action on how the platforms can best prevent similar foreign attacks, distortions and disinformation campaigns targeting the upcoming American midterm elections. But even as the companies huddled, one of their own senior security leaders sounded a sobering warning: It’s already too late to protect the 2018 election, declared Alex Stamos, Facebook’s recently departed chief security officer. The best the United States can hope for now, said Stamos, is to shift its security effort beyond the vulnerable midterms as “there is still a chance to defend American democracy in 2020,” when Americans choose their next president.
The first time I tried to vote, I stood in line in an elementary school hallway in Michigan. One class of kids had clearly been given an assignment to draw their favorite food, and I had a lot of time to study their Crayola stylings on the wall as the line inched forward over the course of several hours. Every last kid had drawn pizza. Behind me, someone said, “When I get done voting, I’m going to eat a whole pizza.” At the front of the line, a poll worker told me that I was in the wrong place. They gave me a new address, which was off the side of the highway and too far to walk to. I tracked down a friend with a car and we drove to the new place, which turned out to be a trailer park. It also had a line. This time, the walls of the polling station were decorated with a history of mobile home innovation that ended triumphantly with the invention of the modern manufactured home, which was no longer mobile. When we got to the front, the poll workers looked at us like we were crazy. They said we had to go back to the first polling site.
Editorials: Passing the Secure Elections Act is the best way to shore up our democracy | Ben Parker/The Hill
It’s likely too late to save the midterms. Without a miracle, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in some states’ voting systems can’t be hardened against foreign cyber threats. But, at least, the damage that can be inflicted in November is limited to just a few states and localities. The looming crisis is in 2020. If, in mid-November two years hence, officials announce that foreign hackers infiltrated elections systems and the vote totals can’t be independently verified, we could face the biggest democratic crisis since 1876. Luckily, there is a bipartisan solution slowly working its way through Congress. Congress has received a lot of criticism of late for its inability to craft and pass productive legislation that does anything besides spend money (and even that it can barely do sometimes). The Secure Elections Act is a welcome exception to that rule. The bill has co-sponsors from across the partisan spectrum, from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on the right to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on the left. It makes sense that a group of people who rely on elections for their jobs and their legitimacy wouldn’t want a hacker in Moscow or Beijing having more of a say than their constituents.
Editorials: Paper Trail: Indiana vote security must include non-digital record | The Journal Gazette
Voters on both sides of the political aisle are approaching the Nov. 6 general election with concern – and for good reason. No less than the secretary of homeland security has confirmed the government has “seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians” to hack into our election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines. Congress made $380 million available to help states guard against cyberattacks, but Indiana’s $7.5 million share isn’t enough to provide the security Hoosiers deserve. Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Indiana will use its federal funds to enhance election security but said those enhancements don’t include voting machines statewide capable of producing a voter-verifiable paper trail. “The Secretary of State’s office will coordinate and plan with the Indiana General Assembly for future replacement of voting equipment since the required budget to replace direct-recording electronic voting machines without a voter-verified paper trail requires a larger amount than the available 2018 HAVA Elections Security Grant Funds,” Lawson wrote in a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Later this year, North Carolina will probably hold its first truly free and fair election since 2010. It may also be the state’s last. Over the last few weeks, state and federal courts have issued a series of rulings striking down North Carolina Republicans’ brazen attack on democracy and the franchise. In the most important of these decisions, a federal district court held on Monday that the state’s notorious partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional and should not be used in the 2018 election. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is currently short-staffed, the justices may well split 4–4 on an emergency appeal, compelling Republican legislators to comply with the lower-court order. But once Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would likely provide the fifth vote to lock partisan gerrymandering claims out of federal courts for good. The impending election may thus be North Carolina voters’ best and only chance to end the GOP’s illegitimate entrenchment of power in their state—at least temporarily. No one seriously argues that North Carolina Republicans did not create a partisan gerrymander when they redrew congressional districts in 2011. The current lines were drawn in 2016 after a federal court invalidated part of the previous map as a racial gerrymander.
Editorials: Election security can’t wait. Someone should convince the White House. | The Washington Post
Compared to what Congress should be doing in the face of multiple foreign threats to the integrity of U.S. elections, the Secure Elections Act is just a first step. Yet the Senate is having trouble taking even this initial move. The fault lies with a shortsighted White House, which has poured cold water on the bill, and some state leaders, who complain about being required to make some basic changes. The bipartisan bill, shepherded by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), appeared to be on its way to easy passage in October. But a committee session to consider the modest bill was suddenly and curiously canceled last week. Yahoo News reported that one cause was the White House, quoting a Trump administration spokeswoman who expressed opposition to “legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections.”
On Election Day, the people most in the dark about the security threats to Florida’s voting systems are Floridians. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has made alarming claims about cyberattacks by Russian hackers, while citing classified sources and offering no evidence, but the response from state officials has only added confusion and rancor to what should be a sober discussion. Voters need clearer, concrete information in order to have confidence that their elections are secure. Since the 2016 presidential election, Americans have known that Russian operatives have attempted various means of hacking into states’ voting systems. An indictment this summer of 12 Russian intelligence officers stated that operatives in 2016 faked a real election vendor email account to send more than 100 “spearphishing” emails to election administrators in several Florida counties. Sen. Marco Rubio has said those threats remain as hackers continue to probe for cyber vulnerabilities, and he suggested that county elections supervisors have “overconfidence” in their systems.
Editorials: The South Will Disenfranchise Again: How the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act allows states to disenfranchise black voters | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
The two notices were published in a local paper on Aug. 9, but no one could quite make sense of them. In one, Georgia’s Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration declared it would hold public meetings on Aug. 16 and 17 “to discuss Precinct Consolidation.” In the other, the board clarified that it planned to close seven of the nine polling places in the county. It announced a meeting on Aug. 24 “to consider this proposal,” but failed to specify a date or time. The notice added that the closures “shall become effective” on Aug. 24—indicating that the period of consideration was already over, and the decision to shutter the polls had already been made. For decades, Randolph County—a majority-black jurisdiction with a history of racist voter suppression—could not unilaterally alter its voting rules. It was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, compelling the county to obtain federal permission, or “preclearance,” before changing its election procedures. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court kneecapped Section 5, effectively abolishing preclearance. The result has been a dramatic escalation of voter suppression across the country, a trend that’s vividly illustrated by the direct assault on the franchise in Georgia.
A nearly $10 million infusion of cash meant to shore up New Jersey’s highly vulnerable voting system is welcome, but it’s not enough, and it won’t measurably address one big problem – the state’s lack of a verifiable paper record of votes cast. Indeed, the federal grant money the state secured this spring from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what is needed to transform the state’s election infrastructure, which a number of election experts view as susceptible to hacking or worse.