The Voting News

North Carolina: Absentee-ballot fraud scandal speaks to wider issue of racism in North Carolina | The Guardian

One night last October, Jerry Ward, 49, was gathered with about a dozen other people at a relative’s house in downtown Bladenboro, a small city of just 1,700 souls in rural North Carolina. Then a young, white woman came to the door, asking about getting people inside to vote early in the upcoming and fiercely contested midterm elections. “It was a whole house full of us and the girl came after dark and she was like saying that we could vote early and we was about to fill in them papers but we didn’t. She said, ‘I’ll fill them out for you’,” said Ward who, like the other voters quoted in this story, is African American. The comment raised suspicions among those gathered, not least because in North Carolina, like much of the rural south, memories still linger about the fight for voting rights for black residents – and the equally fierce fight to resist them.

The group decided not to accept the woman’s offer. In the end, Ward voted in person. So did everyone else in the house that night.

They were right to be suspicious. After election day, which saw a narrow win for the Republican candidate, the North Carolina state board of elections announced it would not certify the results in the ninth congressional district in which Bladenboro sits. Within days, it emerged “ballot harvesters” had been hired by a veteran political operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, to pick up absentee ballots in Bladen county, the local news station WSOC-TV reported. Some of those ballots never turned up.

It emerged Dowless worked for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, who beat his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, by just 905 votes. Shortly after, McCready recanted his concession of the contest.

Full Article: Absentee-ballot fraud scandal speaks to wider issue of racism in North Carolina | US news | The Guardian.

National: Federal Election Commission could give lawmakers new tools against hacking | The Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission will vote today on whether lawmakers can use leftover campaign cash to secure their personal tech devices and email accounts against hackers. The proposal, from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), comes amid rising concern that Kremlin-linked hackers are targeting the personal email accounts and other data of lawmakers and their office and campaign staffs. Hacked information from those personal accounts could be used for blackmail or as a jumping-off point to break into email accounts for campaigns, congressional offices or even federal agencies. More importantly, hackers could strategically release hacked information to upend a political campaign, as Russia did with hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2016, or to sway a political or policy debate.   Read More

National: What Putin knew on Election Day 2016 | The Washington Post

The National Rifle Association’s 2016 annual convention was held in May of that year in Kentucky. Donald Trump Jr. attended, as he had in the past. So did Alexander Torshin, also a regular at NRA events. The two ended up speaking briefly at a dinner in Louisville, though details of that encounter are sketchy. Why does it matter? Because Torshin is a Russian government official, a representative of the country’s central bank and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. How Torshin and Trump Jr. came to be in the same room together and why is one of the smaller mysteries orbiting the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but not an insignificant one: Mueller is reportedly investigating whether the NRA specifically was used as a conduit for Russians to support Trump’s candidacy. There’s an interesting detail to that Torshin meeting, though, which hasn’t received much attention. On Thursday, a Russian woman named Maria Butina pleaded guilty in federal court to having engaged in a covert influence operation on behalf of Russia — an operation in which Torshin was involved. Part of Butina’s plea included a statement of offense, in which her criminal actions were stipulated. Read More

Florida: Lawmakers might not give voting rights back to felons, even though 64% of voters want them to | Business Insider

Florida lawmakers might not be ready to put Amendment 4 — a measure approved by 64.5% of Florida voters that would give voting rights back to most felons who have completed their sentences — into action. According to WFTV 9, a local news station in Florida, the state has put enforcement of the amendment on pause until the new governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, is sworn in. WFTV reported that lawmakers are waiting to see if the Florida Legislature might need to weigh in on the measure. The amendment, which would restore voting rights to more than 1.5 million felons, does not call for any involvement of this kind. In Florida, 23% of African-American adults cannot vote due to a previous felony conviction. Amendment 4, the measure that would change that, received wide support among residents in a state with strict clemency laws. It was scheduled to take effect on January 8.  Read More

Florida: Ron DeSantis says Amendment 4 should be delayed until he signs bill from lawmakers | Tampa Bay Times

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said that Amendment 4, which was approved by 64.6 percent (or 5.2 million) of Florida voters, shouldn’t go into effect as intended by the people who wrote the ballot measure. Instead, DeSantis said the amendment, which would restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences, should take effect after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is then sent to him for his signature. That means at least a two month delay in restoring felon rights. Advocates of Amendment 4, like the American Civil Liberties Union, say the measure should go into effect on Jan. 8, but session doesn’t start until March 5. This could deny voting rights for many in Tampa hoping to cast a ballot in the mayor’s race. Read More

Georgia: Voting Machine Panel Agrees Georgia Needs Paper Ballots By 2020, Disagrees On How To Mark Them | WABE

There was mostly cordial agreement Wednesday in the Macon office of Georgia’s Secretary of State about how the state’s elections should change. Democrats, Republicans, local election officials and one cybersecurity expert on a panel tasked with reviewing Georgia’s options for new voting machines were united. The state’s system should include a paper trail voters can check for themselves, it should be auditable, voter education should be a focus as the new machines are rolled out, and the new system should be in place before the 2020 presidential elections. “In the middle of a very contentious election year,” Republican state Sen. Brian Strickland said, “I love that we are a nonpartisan group that all have the exact same goal in mind, and that’s to make sure that we have a safe, secure and trustworthy election process where every person’s vote is counted.” Read More

Indiana: Secretary of State investigates Johnson County’s Election Day voting delays | WTHR

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson wants to figure out what went wrong on Election Day in Johnson County. Problems with voter check-in led to long lines and waits for voters. Lawson is investigating issues with the electronic poll books provided by Election Systems and Software. Susie Misiniec hoped her last election after eight years as Johnson County clerk would go smoothly. “Everything was going great until about 9:45 (a.m.),” said Misiniec. “Then we started experiencing a slow down and it just kept slowing down with our electronic poll books. We had so many people that were voting and that slowed that entire process of issuing a ballot. So, it was really overwhelming to all of us. We were really unhappy that that happened.” The voting machines worked fine. But computer tablets used to check in voters and issue ballots suffered data transmission problems. Voters waited up to three hours in line. Read More

Maine: Recount Is a Low-Drama Affair — Unlike the Election | Roll Call

Maine lawyers Benjamin Grant and Joshua Tardy are used to being holed up together. For at least eight hours a day over the past week, they’ve rubbed shoulders in a cramped conference room in Augusta, overseeing the hand recount of the nearly 300,000 ballots cast in Maine’s 2nd District. “We’re like Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner,” Tardy joked. “You gotta have each other.” Grant, a Democrat, and Tardy, a Republican, have handled most of the state House and Senate recounts in the Pine Tree State for the past decade. GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin requested the recount of the 2nd District after losing to Democrat Jared Golden last month under the new ranked-choice voting system.  The mechanics of this recount are slightly different, but the intimacy of the process — with opposing campaigns examining paper ballots side by side — is similar to what happens across the country when the counting, for one reason or another, must begin anew.  Read More

Maine: Judge rules out new election for Poliquin in decision upholding Maine’s ranked-choice voting | Portland Press Herald

A federal judge on Thursday rejected Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s constitutional claims against ranked-choice voting and denied the incumbent’s request for a new election against Democratic Rep.-elect Jared Golden. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker ruled that, contrary to the arguments of Poliquin’s legal team, the U.S. Constitution does not require that whichever congressional candidate receives the most votes – or “a plurality” – be declared the winner. Instead, Walker ruled the Constitution grants states broad discretion to run elections and that “there is nothing inherently improper about an election that requires a contestant to achieve victory by a majority,” including by the use of the ranked-choice runoff system endorsed twice by Maine voters. “To the extent that the Plaintiffs call into question the wisdom of using RCV, they are free to do so but . . . such criticism falls short of constitutional impropriety,” Walker wrote. “A majority of Maine voters have rejected that criticism and Article I (of the U.S. Constitution) does not empower this Court to second guess the considered judgment of the polity on the basis of the tautological observation that RCV may suffer from problems, as all voting systems do.” Read More

North Carolina: As Election Fraud Probe Centers On North Caroilina’s 9th District, A Cynical Cloud Settles In | WGBH

Inside his barber shop in Bladenboro, N.C., Rodney Baxley is giving Bobby Simmons a haircut. The two men are talking about what everyone in this part of the state has been talking about for the better part of the past month: McCrae Dowless, and the operation he was running to get out the vote for Republican Mark Harris in the congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th District. “I don’t think [Dowless] cares about who wins, as long as he gets paid,” Baxley says, as he trims just above Simmons’ right ear. “He’s in it for the cash,” Simmons chimes in. Bladen County, where Baxley’s barber shop is located, is rural, about 150 miles east of Charlotte, and home to the country’s largest pork processing plant, Smithfield Foods. The North Carolina Board of Election’s investigation into possible election fraud has cast a dark, cynical cloud over the community here. “It just shows you how sleazy politics are,” Baxley says. Read More