Virginians go to the polls today to vote on a number of statewide and legislative races. But voters in one prominent swing county in Virginia have received robocalls falsely telling them their polling places have changed. Harry Wiggins, chair of the Prince Williams County Democratic Committee, told The Intercept that voters started alerting him about these calls last Friday. “Some of those people were actually called multiple times,” Wiggins said. “They’re saying, ‘Your regular polling places has changed, you need to vote at a different polling place.’” As of Tuesday, Wiggins said 32 voters have alerted him that they had received these robocalls. Robin Williams, chair of the Prince Williams County Elections Board, confirmed to The Intercept that they have forwarded these complaints to the state — which has the power to investigate and prosecute election shenanigans. He also said that the county was not responsible for these calls. “If we change a precinct, we can’t do it 60 days before an election,” he said. He pointed out that every voter is notified by mail if their polling station is changed. “We spend a fair amount of money in order to move one of these precincts, a lot of notice. … You will never get a phone call from us or anything like that. Our communication to you is by mail.”
Ah yes, the alt-right trolls, back at it again with their meme warfare. Not content with destroying the GOP and the beloved Internet frog Pepe, these tee-hee-we’re-into-Trump-and-white-supremacy “pranksters” have been making fake Hillary Clinton ads again — this time, about being able to vote via text message. Except, unlike last week’s fake Hillary Clinton ads and the associated hashtag #DraftOurDaughters, these photoshopped images, that began circulating the evening of November 1st, may have been illegal. The very least, a violation of Twitter’s TOS on deceptive content and impersonation. Cohorts of the troll that originally spread the fake ads, the now suspended “Ricky Vaughn” whose former Twitter bio described himself as a “hero of the racist alt-right” and a “known white supremacist” (oh wow so trollsy), say the photoshopped images are just intended to be a joke, a parody.
Pennsylvania: Murrysville councilman claims online voting post was joke; officials not laughing | WPXI
A Republican councilman said he deleted an online posting about casting presidential votes via Facebook and Twitter because people didn’t realize he intended it as a joke, but state officials are taking the matter seriously. No state allows voters to cast ballots via social media, and Pennsylvania’s election oversight agency warned voters not to be misled by posts claiming otherwise. The governor’s office also issued a statement that said efforts to disrupt the election would be prosecuted. Joshua Lorenz, a Pittsburgh attorney and councilman in Murrysville, told The Associated Press the meme — which said, “Vote Hillary November 8th” and “You can vote at home comfortably online” — was meant as a joke for his friends. He said he took down the post within a couple hours Saturday because “the person who had questioned it, who I thought was a friend, had apparently misconstrued it.” In sharing the image, Lorenz wrote that it was “more proof that the election process is rigged.” GOP nominee Donald Trump has made similar claims.
Pennsylvania: ‘Rigged?’ Republican elected official circulates fake meme about online voting in Pennsylvania | BillyPenn
After weeks of Republican candidate Donald Trump warning that Pennsylvania’s — and the nation’s — election would be rigged, one Western Pennsylvania Republican official circulated an image claiming Pennsylvanians can vote online for Hillary Clinton. The official, according to a screenshot of a Facebook post, is Murrysville City Councilman Joshua Lorenz. Lorenz, a Republican, was most recently elected in 2015 and his term runs through 2019. He also works for the Meyer Unkovic Scott law firm in Pittsburgh and is the vice president of the Murrysville City Council. The image features an American flag with the phrase “You can vote at home comfortably online!” in big lettering. It then instructs voters to type “Hillary” with the hashtag #PresidentialElection to vote online on November 8. The bottom left corner features a similar but inaccurate logo resembling the Democrats’ election motto of “Change That Matters.” Big problem here: Pennsylvanians can’t vote online. For that matter, neither can voters in any state.
Georgia: Kennesaw State University warns of ‘unauthorized’ voter drives | Atlanta Journal Constitution
A sudden increase of clipboard-wielding operatives roaming Kennesaw State University’s campus could be intended to tamp down African-American balloting in November. Michael Sanseviro, Kennesaw State’s dean of students, sent a memo to students Tuesday morning, warning that “unauthorized individuals are walking around with clipboards claiming they are registering students to vote” in recent weeks. “Some of these unauthorized individuals,” the dean added, “are targeting particular student populations.” A student tipster tells us that the talk on campus is that shenanigans are afoot: The clipboard corps is targeting black students, pretending to register them so they can’t actually vote in November. A campus spokeswoman said she could only confirm that the would-be registrars were not permitted to be on campus, but the dean’s memo suggests this is a familiar problem.
An apparent Republican activist tried to join Democrat Russ Feingold’s team this week in what Feingold’s campaign suspects was a plot to dig up dirt on him. In an interview with Feingold staff on Wednesday, she initially said she wanted to work on issues affecting women’s health care and unions, but clammed up when confronted about whether she had worked for conservatives and tried to infiltrate Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Iowa last year. “I’m not going to be answering any questions, so if you want me to leave, I’ll leave. If you want me to stay, I’ll stay,” she responded, according to an audio recording provided by the Feingold campaign. Told she needed to leave, she responded, “Cool! Well, it was great meeting you.” The woman signed up to be a volunteer as Allison Moss on Tuesday, but was let go Wednesday after the Feingold campaign asked her if she was actually Allison Maass.
Canada: Chief electoral officer hopes public remains vigilant over political dirty tricks | Calgary Herald
The upcoming federal election will see tougher rules around the use of robocalls, but Canada’s chief electoral officer hopes greater public awareness will help stamp out improper use of automated calls and other political dirty tricks. Fraudulent robocalls to direct voters to the wrong polling station in the 2011 election in Guelph helped lead to new rules requiring political parties and service providers to register with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) before contacting voters. Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said in an interview that Elections Canada will be watching closely for abuse of any robocalls on election day, set for Oct. 19 under the federal fixed election date law. But he said there are also other potential issues to watch for, including false Facebook and Twitter accounts and the risk of someone hacking into party or Elections Canada computer systems.
Less than a month before elections to Tajikistan’s rubber-stamp parliament, members of the embattled opposition say the authoritarian-minded government is resorting to new tactics and old – sex tapes and arrests – to discredit them. A flurry of allegations about alleged sexual impropriety among members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) has surfaced on social media and state television in recent months. Meanwhile, another opposition group has seen several members arrested on what supporters call spurious charges. For longtime observers, the harassment in the run-up to the 1 March parliamentary elections is an unsurprising attempt to discredit opponents of President Imomali Rakhmon. In its most recent report on Tajikistan, Freedom House ranked the country’s electoral process a 6.75 out of 7, with 7 representing the farthest a country can be from democracy. The Central Asian state has never held an election judged free and fair by independent observers, though it regularly goes through the motions of holding polls. Eight parties, several of them loyal to the president, will field candidates in the elections next month.
During this 2014 midterm election season, mainstream and social media have inundated voters with tales of schemes and skulduggery. Whatever the result of Tuesday’s election, many will believe that the process was rigged, the outcome is fraudulent, and they were cheated. The pattern of conspiracy theories is unfortunate but familiar. How pervasive is the belief that American elections will be swayed by improper means? Very. In 2012 we conducted surveys to gauge what Americans thought about the integrity of the system. Just before the election, we asked a national sample of respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. About 50% said fraud would have been very or somewhat likely. When asked if someone was using “dirty tricks” in the election, about 85% believed that some candidate, campaign or political group was. These sentiments are not driven by members of one party or the other: Near equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats (between 40% and 50%) said fraud would be very or somewhat likely. Each side believes that if they lose, cheating is to blame, and they believe it about equally. Nobody likes losing, but it appears hard for about half the country to accept that they lost fair and square.
New Zealand: Key wins third term with outright majority in New Zealand’s ‘dirty tricks’ election | Telegraph
New Zealand’s ruling National party secured a third term in government in the election on Saturday, winning an outright majority on a platform to continue strong economic growth. Prime Minister John Key’s centre-right party received 48.1 per cent of the vote, giving it 62 of 121 parliamentary seats and improving its performance on the previous vote in 2011. The 53-year-old former foreign exchange dealer triumphed despite allegations of dirty political tactics involving government ministers, and claims that a government spy agency had planned mass secret domestic surveillance. Investigative journalist and liberal activist Nicky Hager had previously published a book called “Dirty Politics,” which exposed the extent of the National Party’s links with a conservative blogger.
New Zealand’s election campaign has been bitter and bizarre, unable to shake off the long shadows cast by an internet mogul and a blogger. Opinion polls suggest Prime Minister John Key’s National Party may cling to power after the real polls close on Saturday night, but it will be close. If Mr Key prevails for the centre-right, he will have overcome allegations of government dirty tricks – based on the hacked emails of burly blogger Cameron Slater, aka Whale Oil, that resulted in Justice Minister Judith Collins being forced to resign from cabinet. And a feud with German giant Kim Dotcom meant Mr Key, 53 and a fellow self-made multimillionaire, had to spend much of this week batting away claims that the nation’s GCSB spy agency is engaged in mass surveillance of its citizens. Mr Dotcom, who is fighting extradition to the US to face internet piracy charges, hosted an event in Auckland on Monday featuring WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden (both via video link), as well as US investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald to assert the spying allegations.
New York: Attorney General calls for passage of voter intimidation prevention act to combat barriers to the ballot box | Empire State News
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced new legislation to restore accountability and ensure access to the ballot box by eliminating baseless and intimidating challenges to voter eligibility at the polls on Election Day. Under current law, voters who are challenged at the polls are required to recite an oath affirming their right to vote. The challenger, on the other hand, has no such obligation. Under the Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, introduced by Assembly Member Karim Camara, those who mount challenges to voters at the polls will be required to provide the factual basis for their challenge and attest their right to challenge a voter. While these basic accountability requirements are already enshrined in law for challenges made during the time of voter registration, no such protections exist at the polls on Election Day. The Act will correct this imbalance and ensure greater access to the ballot box.
Only days before millions of Americans cast their ballots, a climate of suspicion hangs over Tuesday’s national elections. Accusations of partisan dirty tricks and concerns about long voter lines, voting equipment failures and computer errors are rampant, particularly in key battleground states such as Ohio and Colorado, where absentee and provisional ballots could decide a close election. “Those will be the states that are the most prone to confusion and chaos and contesting if the election is close or within what some people call the ‘margin of litigation,’ ” said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Scare-mongering ads, voter registration forms dumped in the trash and misleading statements on the stump: the list of dirty tricks sullying the US presidential election is seemingly endless. With the high-stakes race culminating with voting on Tuesday, experts warn that the unfortunately typical attempts to keep a rival’s supporters from the polls or sway voters with flat out lies could end up deciding the outcome. “If an election is close those kinds of things can matter,” said Kathleen Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. “We’ve had the chastening experience of 2000. And 2004 was close as well.”
Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes downright false — information about voters’ rights. Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, sixsuch trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks.
On Thursday of last week, Virginia authorities charged a man working for the Republican Party with dumping the voter registration forms of Democrats. In Albertis, Pa., authorities arrested the town’s 19-year-old Democratic city council member after he allegedly stole yard signs of his Republican opponent. In minority urban areas of Ohio and Wisconsin, an anonymous group has paid Clear Channel (owned in part by Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital) to put up billboards proclaiming that “Voter Fraud Is a Felony.” And a Tea Party-affiliated group, True the Vote, is promising to send observers into polling places in Democratic areas, leading Democrats to cry voter intimidation. Does this stuff matter? Or is it just a bunch of noise before our hyper-polarized and hyper-partisan election, as polls show both sides expect the other to try to steal the election? The answer is probably a little bit of both. But the real action when it comes to affecting election turnout probably happened months or even years ago.
While the 2002 and 2004 elections were certainly watched following the issues in Florida in 2000 and the implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 this year could prove to be under the microscope more than any in the past. Not only will all eyes being the administration of elections this year because of the multitude of new laws and regulations governing how voters cast their ballots, but also because anyone on social media becomes a de facto “reporter.” With a little more than a month to go till Election Day 2012, elections officials and campaigns are hard at working making sure everyone is properly registered and that those who want a ballot will get a ballot. But they aren’t alone. In newsrooms across the country editors and reporters are plotting their November 6 course of action as well. Even for those of us who cover elections 24/7/365 there is planning to be done.
The Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, long a favorite of U.S. conservatives for championing pro-democratic “color revolutions,” is under fire for its own alleged suppression of a domestic opposition movement headed by a billionaire tycoon. Saakashvili was lauded as a reformer after he became president in 2004, following the Rose Revolution, and he has bravely challenged Russian hegemony in the region. But he has also shown a tendency to overreach, as in the imprudent military moves that offered Russia a pretext for invading Georgia in 2008. Now, critics charge, his government has been overly zealous in combating political challengers at home. Saakashvili’s rival is a wealthy businessman named Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in Russia before returning home to form a political party called Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili’s supporters allege a series of repressive moves by the government, including a cyberattack that has ensnared not just Georgian activists but U.S. lawyers, lobbyists and security advisers for Georgian Dream.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning Hoosiers not to accept phone calls offering over-the-phone voting. Lawson was prompted to issue this warning after receiving complaints from voters who received phone calls offering to let them vote early over the phone, her the Secretary of State’s Office said last week. “Under no circumstances can you vote over the phone,” Lawson said. “If you receive a call offering to let you vote over the phone, hang up. It’s a scam. This investigation centers around a firm called Vote USA. But there could be other similar types of illegal contact with voters and we must remain vigilant.”
The Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, long a favorite of U.S. conservatives for championing pro-democratic “color revolutions,” is under fire for its own alleged suppression of a domestic opposition movement headed by a billionaire tycoon. Saakashvili was lauded as a reformer after he became president in 2004, following the Rose Revolution, and he has bravely challenged Russian hegemony in the region. But he has also shown a tendency to overreach, as in the imprudent military moves that offered Russia a pretext for invading Georgia in 2008. Now, critics charge, his government has been overly zealous in combating political challengers at home. Saakashvili’s rival is a wealthy businessman named Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in Russia before returning home to form a political party called Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili’s supporters allege a series of repressive moves by the government, including a cyber attack that has caught up not just Georgian activists but U.S. lawyers, lobbyists and security advisers for Georgian Dream.
Virginia: New voter ID law with provisional ballot option could cause election nightmare in Virginia | The Washington Post
Take two deadlocked races in a battleground state that Republicans and Democrats alike say will play a huge role in who wins the White House and controls the U.S. Senate. Blend in a new voter identification law and the possibility of thousands of additional provisional ballots that won’t be counted for days. Whip it to a froth with unprecedented political cash supporting get-out-the-vote efforts and eleventh-hour dirty tricks, and there’s your recipe for a lingering election nightmare. Virginia and 10 other states either enacted new laws or tightened existing ones in the past two years that compel voters to bring identification with them to their polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In eight of those states, Republicans are governors. Virginia’s law takes effect for the first time this fall.
Editorials: GOP’s voter ID tactics could undermine a Romney win | Harold Meyerson/The Washington Post
Suppose Mitt Romney ekes out a victory in November by a margin smaller than the number of young and minority voters who couldn’t cast ballots because the photo-identification laws enacted by Republican governors and legislators kept them from the polls. What should Democrats do then? What would Republicans do? And how would other nations respond? As suppositions go, this one isn’t actually far-fetched. No one in the Romney camp expects a blowout; if he does prevail, every poll suggests it will be by the skin of his teeth. Numerous states under Republican control have passed strict voter identification laws. Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Georgia require specific kinds of ID; the laws in Michigan, Florida, South Dakota, Idaho and Louisiana are only slightly more flexible. Wisconsin’s law was struck down by a state court. Instances of voter fraud are almost nonexistent, but the right-wing media’s harping on the issue has given Republican politicians cover to push these laws through statehouse after statehouse. The laws’ intent, however, is entirely political: By creating restrictions that disproportionately impact minorities, they’re supposed to bolster Republican prospects. Ticking off Republican achievements in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, their legislative leader, Mike Turzai, extolled in a talk last month that “voter ID . . . is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” How could Turzai be so sure?
An obscure procedural order issued the day after the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law got lost in the saturated media coverage of the health ruling and the palace intrigue over whether Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote and alienated his conservative colleagues. Without comment or dissent, the justices declined to hear Minnesota’s appeal of a federal appeals court ruling in 281 Care Committee v. Arneson — holding that Minnesota’s law banning false campaign speech about ballot measures is likely unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The result could be even nastier campaigns and more political dirty tricks. Minnesota had asked the Supreme Court to hold its petition until the court decided United States v. Alvarez, the so-called “Stolen Valor” case. The court decided Alvarez the same day as health care, striking down as a free speech violation a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Alvarez casts considerable doubt over when, if ever, states can take actions to combat false campaign statements and campaign dirty tricks — including lying about the location of a polling place or the voting date. The court could have used the 281 Care Committee case to clear up the muddle next term. But it just denied the petition. Without new clarity, I expect anyone charged with making election-related lies to raise a First Amendment defense. Which they just may win.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign is warning voters that his opponents might be engaged in “dirty tricks” after some voters said they’ve received robocalls claiming they don’t have to vote Tuesday if they signed the recall petition. The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County also said it is receiving reports of such robocalls and accused supporters of Gov. Scott Walker of placing them. “These tactics aren’t just shady and troubling. They’re un-American and downright criminal,” said Sachin Chheda, Milwaukee County Democratic Party chairman.
If criminal convictions were not enough, add $1 million in civil penalties to the list of reasons Maryland politicos may think twice about ordering another election-night robo-call that could be viewed as trying to suppress voter turnout. A federal judge on Tuesday sided with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and ordered that a consultant to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) should pay for each of 112,000 automated phone calls that failed to identify Ehrlich’s campaign as the one that paid for the messages. The calls were placed to homes of tens of thousands of African American Democrats in Prince George’s County and Baltimore on Election Day 2010. They told listeners to “relax” and to not worry about going to the polls, because the incumbent, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and President Obama had already been “successful” in the day’s voting.
The United States and Mexico have not been the only places where the right wing has committed electoral fraud to win recent elections. There is evidence to suggest the Conservative Party of Canada used voter suppression schemes to help it win the 2011 elections. While ballot boxes didn’t actually go missing, the Conservatives may have flooded ridings (electoral districts) with automated, pre-recorded phone messages designed to disfranchise supporters of rival candidates. In the Ontario riding of Guelph, it is alleged by Elections Canada, the country’s election authority, that a Conservative operative using the alias “Pierre Poutine” made automated calls to suppress votes. During the 2011 elections, there was a tight race between the leading Conservative and Liberal Party candidates. False messages, supposedly from Elections Canada, sent hundreds of rival non-Conservative voters chasing non-existent polling stations on Election Day.
The man in charge of Elections Canada has broken his silence on the fraudulent robo-calls controversy, divulging that the agency has received 700 specific complaints about phony dialling from the 2011 ballot in the past three weeks. In his first statement on the matter, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand also strongly hinted Thursday that he would like to be called before a parliamentary committee so he can offer more detail about the allegations received. His office is already investigating what it has alleged in court filings is an operative connected to the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., one it believes used an alias “Pierre Poutine” and misleading robo-calls to try to suppress voting by supporters of rival parties. A senior Conservative government official said later Thursday that the Tories, who control House and Senate committees, are “amenable” to having Mr. Mayrand speak before MPs. The Commons, however, is rising for a spring break after March 16 and MPs won’t be sitting again until March 26.
The Republican National Committee on Thursday lost a bid to dissolve a decades-old legal agreement with the Democratic National Committee over the GOP’s use of improper election tactics. The agreement dates to 1982, when the Republican National Committee settled a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee accusing the GOP of trying to intimidate minority voters. Under the agreement, the Republican National Committee must obtain court approval before implementing certain poll-monitoring activities in minority precincts. The Republican Party filed suit in November 2008 to void the agreement. But the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected the GOP’s request on Thursday, affirming a New Jersey district court’s ruling. “If the RNC does not hope to engage in conduct that would violate the Decree, it is puzzling that the RNC is pursuing vacatur so vigorously,” Judge Joseph Greenaway wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. He noted that the party sought to escape the decree at a critical moment, in time for the upcoming election cycle.
More than 100 people rallied in Winnipeg Sunday to urge the House of Commons to get to the bottom of the robocall scandal. “This is something that affects everyone,” said 22-year-old Jonathan Ventura, carrying a polling station sign with arrows pointing in all directions. The student, who doesn’t belong to a political party, was joined by MPs past and present, pro-democracy, peace, labour and environmental group members at the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street, carrying signs and waving Canadian flags. Similar demonstrations took place across Canada Sunday.
Elections Canada has extended its probe of phony election calls to include yet another Ontario riding as the watchdog agency launches an online complaint form to help field reports from concerned voters. Canadians who think “fraudulent calls interfered with their right to vote, or who have information about such calls” are being asked to pass along what they know to elections investigators, it says. Elections Canada has enlarged its “inquiry” centre to handle the high volume of phone calls and email traffic, agency spokesperson Diane Benson said. The agency has been flooded with reports from voters — 31,000 by last Friday — about harassing or misleading phone calls in the 2011 federal election.