National

National: Key contests in Florida and Georgia remain mired in uncertainty amid expanding legal fights over ballot counts | The Washington Post

One week after Election Day, high-stakes contests in Florida and Georgia remained mired in uncertainty amid expanding legal fights and political wrangling that could further prolong the counting of ballots. In Florida, where elections officials are conducting machine recounts in the races for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a suit in federal court Tuesday evening seeking to extend the deadline to finish the count in all 67 counties.Separately, Nelson and the state party went to court to try to loosen the rules for a manual recount as both parties braced for the ultra-close Senate race to come down to a hand inspection of ballots.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Florida elections officials to take as much time as they need to tally votes, even if they blow past a key deadline. He also demanded that Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is narrowly ahead of Nelson in the Senate race, recuse himself from the recount. Scott’s campaign swiftly rejected that notion, which is the subject of a suit expected to be heard in federal court this week. In Georgia, a federal judge late Monday barred the secretary of state’s office from immediately certifying the state election results there to give voters a chance to address questions about their provisional ballots — a move that further prolongs the hard-fought Georgia governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Read More

National: Reviewing midterms for signs of interference | Politico

The U.S. intelligence community is launching a first-ever review of potential foreign influence in an election. Although DHS and other federal agencies have said they saw no sign of such interference, the step was mandated by a September executive order. “The Director of National Intelligence will provide an assessment of any foreign interference in our elections within 45 days,” Kellie Wade, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told ABC News in a story late last week. “This assessment will be fully coordinated within the intelligence community, and will be provided to the President and to relevant Cabinet members.” Read More

National: Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why | Wall Street Journal

After unleashing widespread cyberattacks and disinformation warfare on the U.S. during the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s trolls and hackers mostly appeared to have sat on the sidelines during the campaign ahead of last week’s midterm elections. No one is sure why. Federal agencies, state election officials and social-media companies spent the past two years working to bulletproof voting systems and better address online disinformation in preparation for Election Day. Voting largely came and went without major incident, according to U.S. officials and cybersecurity companies looking for evidence of Russian interference. Several factors may have reduced Moscow’s impact. Clint Watts, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the diffuse nature of congressional and state races makes them a harder target than a single presidential election. Read More

National: Before the Fights Over Recounts: An Election Day Vote on Voting | The New York Times

Amid the recounts, recriminations and allegations of voter suppression or ballot fraud, something else happened in Tuesday’s elections — a wave of actions aimed at making voting easier and fairer that is an often-overlooked strain in the nation’s voting wars. Floridians extended voting rights to 1.4 million convicted felons. Maryland, Nevada and Michigan were among states that made it easier to register and vote. Michigan, along with Colorado and Missouri, limited politicians’ ability to directly draw, and gerrymander, district lines. Utah, where votes are still being tallied, appears poised to do the same. It was as if states around the country were pulled in two directions at once — with measures aimed at broadening voter participation coming on the heels of recent laws and regulations making it harder to register and vote. Still, for all the charges and countercharges on voter suppression, most of the momentum Tuesday was on measures quite likely to broaden voter participation and limit gerrymanders. Read More

National: Thousands With Disabilities Have Lost the Right to Vote | WhoWhatWhy

Though an estimated 113 million US citizens got to vote in the midterms, thousands more were left out — unable to vote or even register because of laws that consider them mentally incapable of doing so. These state laws affect the thousands of adults in the US under guardianship — people who, because of a disability, have been determined legally to be incapable of performing necessary daily tasks for themselves, and therefore are in need of a guardian to help them. The status of their right to vote — much as for convicted felons — is determined by the state they live in. However, unlike the widely publicized disenfranchisement of felons, many people are unaware of the problems facing those under guardianship. “This is an issue that, for the large part, I think, flies under the radar if you are not working on it,” Michelle Bishop, voting rights specialist for the National Disability Rights network, told WhoWhatWhy. “It’s not being talked about. The average American doesn’t know this type of thing happens, that you can have your right to vote denied based on having a disability.” Read More

National: Washington, North Carolina voting security may be vulnerable | McClatchy

Security gaps similar to, but much less porous than, those in Georgia’s voter registration system have been identified in Washington state, potentially providing bad actors ways to foul citizens’ eligibility to cast ballots in last week’s elections, cyber experts say. And states such as North Carolina, which make their voter registration data widely available, could enable someone to change voters’ data by mail, they said. Officials in both Washington and North Carolina expressed confidence they would spot any widespread tampering with voter registration records. “Voters can rest assured that Washington’s election system is secure,” says the website of its secretary of state. However, the cyber experts said Washington appears to have failed to plug all the holes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned last year that Russian cyber operatives had downloaded voter records from Illinois’ database in advance of the 2016 presidential election and attempted to do so in 20 other states. In “a small number of states,” the Russians “were in a position to” alter or delete voter registration information, the Senate Intelligence Committee said last May. Read More

National: Aging Machines Will Mean More Long Lines To Vote, Experts Say | Fast Company

While the midterm elections appear to have avoided any major problems with foreign interference, voters and poll monitoring groups across the country reported hours-long lines, unexpected delays in opening polling places, and technical issues with voting machines. “We received reports quite quickly on election day of a number of polling sites in Harris County, which is the home of Houston, of polling sites not only not being open at 7 a.m. but of significant delays,” says James Slattery, senior staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, which won a court order keeping polls open late at locations with delayed openings. … Experts say it’s not surprising that technical problems popped up at polling places—after all, many states and local jurisdictions are still running systems purchased under the federal Help America Vote Act, a law passed by Congress in 2002 in wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Read More

National: Democrats Say Their First Bill Will Focus On Strengthening Democracy At Home | NPR

Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January with big items topping their legislative to-do list: Remove obstacles to voting, close loopholes in government ethics law and reduce the influence of political money. Party leaders say the first legislative vote in the House will come on H.R. 1, a magnum opus of provisions that Democrats believe will strengthen U.S. democratic institutions and traditions. “It’s three very basic things that I think the public wants to see,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who spearheads campaign finance and government ethics efforts for the House Democratic Caucus. He said H.R. 1 will “demonstrate that we hear that message loud and clear.” But even Sarbanes admits the quick vote is just a first step. Republicans, who control the Senate, are unlikely to pass the bill and President Trump is unlikely to sign it. “Give us the gavel in the Senate in 2020 and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” Sarbanes said. “Give us a pen in the Oval Office and we’ll sign those kinds of reforms into law.” Read More

National: Election Day Was Filled With Frustrations, Claims of Mischief and Glimmers of Hope | ProPublica

Election Day in America brought its familiar mix of misery and allegations of mischief: Aging voting machines crashed; rain-soaked citizens stood in endless lines; laws that many regarded as attempts to suppress turnout among people of color led to both confusion at the polls and angry calls for recounts and investigations. The root causes have been at play for years. The neglect of America’s elections infrastructure, after all, has persisted, and all levels of government are responsible. And since the Supreme Court in 2013 voided a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, local governments have been emboldened in crafting hotly debated requirements for people to cast their ballots. But that is not the whole story of what happened last Tuesday. A handful of states had ballot measures aimed at making it easier for people to vote or designed to take some of the politics out of how the country’s electoral districts are drawn up. In nearly every case, Americans seized the opportunity — with what the vote totals suggest was enthusiasm. Read More

National: Midterm Voting Exposes Growing Problem of Aging Machines | Associated Press

Election experts have long warned about the nation’s aging fleet of voting equipment. This week’s elections underscored just how badly upgrades are needed. Across the country, reports poured in Tuesday amid heavy voter turnout of equipment failing or malfunctioning, triggering frustration among voters and long lines at polling places. Scanners used to record ballots broke down in New York City. Voting machines stalled or stopped working in Detroit. Electronic poll books used to check in voters failed in Georgia. Machines failed to read ballots in Wake County, North Carolina, as officials blamed humidity and lengthy ballots. Those problems followed a busy early voting period that revealed other concerns, including machines that altered voters’ choices in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. Read More