Election Integrity News

Drawn from various sources and updated frequently by our editorial team, the Election Integrity News is a compilation of the latest developments in the area of election integrity. That means stories covering everything from the administration of elections, the security of the vote, voter suppression, gerrymandering, money in politics, and much more.

If a story catches your eye that you think would make for an interesting item, send it to us at FairElectionTips@whowhatwhy.org.

Latest News: August 9 – August 12

  1. Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Move to Shorten Early Voting

    The Iowa Supreme Court reached a speedy decision in a lawsuit brought by organizations and individuals concerned with the details of a new set of voting laws. A judge ruled last week to shorten the state’s early voting period, overriding one portion of an injunction that a lower court issued previously. The order from the state’s Supreme Court only addressed the early voting portion of the injunction, which also addressed requirements to provide an ID number to apply for an absentee ballot and stringent signature matching measures.

    The new procedures came as part of a much-contested voter identification law that Iowa implemented in 2017, which made a host of changes to election administration. Earlier this summer, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Taylor Blaire, a student at Iowa State University, filed a lawsuit, contending that the law violated the state constitution. The state Supreme Court decision was not unanimous — one justice dissented while another abstained.


  2. Election Security Experts Don’t Like Blockchain

    Many election security experts are wary of voting-by-smartphone — especially when the software relies on blockchain technology. West Virginia is the first state to permit such a system, allowing some voters, by and large people serving in the military overseas, to cast a ballot from their smartphones.

    West Virginia piloted the program in May, working with a startup called Voatz. Reportedly, third party audits left election officials confident enough to move forward with the option for overseas voters. The convenience is clear, but many doubt that the system can be secured against manipulation. Other approaches, some contend, are simpler.

    In the Voatz system, the company controls access to the ballot through biometrics. It stores records of ballots cast on a private blockchain, which it then verifies through computers that it controls. Algorithms ensure the data is valid, according to the company. Few cybersecurity experts are convinced.


  3. White House to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Election Meddling

    Under pressure to prove that he is serious about addressing cybersecurity threats, President Donald Trump plans to draft an executive order that will impose sanctions on foreigners who tamper with US elections. Trump has faced mounting criticism from both parties after the Helsinki summit, in which he appeared to back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conclusion that the Kremlin was not behind the hacking of Democratic emails.   

    Some experts, however, felt that the order lacked teeth and would not discourage Moscow from interfering in future races. Since the most severe sanctions are discretionary, they express skepticism at the prospect of Trump actually enforcing punishment on Russia. Former Pentagon official Michael Carpenter called the measure a “cover-your-behind exercise to show the administration is doing something when in fact it doesn’t oblige them to do much of anything.”


  4. More News:
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    On Voting Rights, We Have Much More to Lose With Brett Kavanaugh

    Colyer Wants Kobach to Stop Advising Counties

    Irregularities Discovered in WinVote Voting Machines

    Democracy by Numbers

    A Fight Over Voter Rights in California

    US Census Citizenship Question Panned by Scientists, Civil Rights Groups

    Facebook Fight Over Florida Felon Voting Rights Restoration Ends in Shooting

    Kobach’s Take-No-Prisoners Style at Forefront in Kansas Race

    ACLU Raises Election Interference Concerns in St. Louis County

    Plaintiffs Say Texas Voter ID Fight Is Over

Latest News: August 5 – August 9

  1. Foreign Adversaries May Attempt to Confuse Voters

    Confusion could be among the most effective tools for foreign interference, and voter registration rolls among the most vulnerable targets, experts say. By intentionally confusing voters, foreign adversaries can encourage mass confusion about the process to keep people from voting. Changing votes is a much more intensive process than publicizing incorrect information about polling places or causing chaos at the ballot box.

    Two cases have demonstrated just how effective the tactic can be. Both Maryland and California recently struggled with computer glitches that deleted thousands of voter records. In California, some people showed up to vote only to find out that they couldn’t, inciting not only confusion, but anger. Maryland notified 80,000 people the night before they were to vote that there was an issue with their registrations. Turnout was low in both states.

    Moreover, targeting voter registration rolls could prove an efficient means to manipulate elections. Something as simple as a name or address change can keep a voter from casting a ballot. Many experts expect that Russia will not only attempt to hack voter registration systems, but use other strategies to spread misinformation about elections.


  2. Kris Kobach Wants to Manage the Recount for His Own Election

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has refused to recuse himself from a recount of the primary race for governor that he ran in. Kobach ran alongside seven other Republicans in the state’s primary this week. He secured a majority, but by a sufficiently small number 191 votes to call a recount. As secretary of state, Kobach’s office administers elections and recounts. But, despite the apparent conflict of interest, Kobach announced he would not step aside. Critics were outraged by the decision, but hardly surprised given Kobach’s record on election integrity issues. He co-chaired the now defunct Election Integrity Commission and despite ample evidence of its shortcomings has championed Crosscheck, a system used to purge millions of voters from the rolls in several states even though many of them should not have been.


  3. New Voting Machines in Michigan Don’t Work for Blind Voters

    Michigan recently upgraded its voting equipment, spending $40 million in state and federal funds. But the new equipment doesn’t meet the needs of blind voters. Michigan is home to 221,000 people who are visually disabled. Equipment that facilitates independent voting for blind voters exists, but the new machines fall short. Unlike the older versions, the keypads on the recently installed models don’t have braille and the audio instructions guide voters to buttons by referencing color, rather than location on the handset. Voters have complained about a lack of privacy with the new equipment, among the many issues that people with disabilities face at the ballot box.


  4. Top Republican Invites Russian Officials to Discuss National Security in US

    A week after the Senate introduced another sanctions bill against the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 US election, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) invited top Russian officials to Washington to discuss critical national security issues. The timing is strange, to put it mildly, given the fevered backlash President Donald Trump faced following the summit in Helsinki — where he seemingly agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia did not tamper with the electoral process.   

    Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met this week with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of an equivalent panel in Russia. Kosachev backed Putin’s claim that Russia is innocent, and deemed the report from US intelligence agencies — which concluded the opposite — a cynical ploy for “political gain.”

    However, whether Russia influenced the election doesn’t seem to matter to Paul. “We all do it,” he said last month about foreign influence campaigns. “What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.”


  5. Top Democrat ‘Very Concerned’ About Russian Hacking Threat

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said she fears Russia may have successfully hacked into the US election system, after reports of failed attempts in the past few weeks. “You have 21 states that were hacked into, they didn’t find out about it for a year,” she said in an interview with NBC. With the midterms elections just three months away, Klobuchar has pushed forward a bipartisan bill to bolster the country’s election security defenses.


  6. More News:
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    Courts Must Protect Iowans’ Voting Rights

    A Paper Trail Could Help Secure Elections — and Democracy

    Iraq Reportedly Ignored Concerns Over Electronic Voting Machines

    The Voting Rights Act Was Signed on This Day in 1965 and Now Trump Is Trying to Destroy It

    Securing Election Infrastructure Against Foreign Interference

    Trump Called for All Voters to Present Photo ID, a Rule Critics Say Is Unnecessary and Damaging

    GOP Fears Steep Losses in State Legislatures

    Missouri’s Voter ID Law Will Be in Effect During Tuesday’s High-Profile Primaries

    Do the Challenges to North Carolina’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments Have a Chance?

    Election Security a Top Priority As Early Voting Gets Underway in Arizona Primaries

    A New Congress Could Restore the Promise of the Voting Rights Act

    Vote By Smartphone? This State Is Introducing It

    Florida’s Voting Rights Quandary

    DHS Launches a New Cyber Hub to Coordinate Against Threats to US Infrastructure

    Trump Administration Has Voting Rights Act on Life Support

    Local Officials Call Federal Election Funds ‘A 10-Cent Solution to a $25 Problem

Latest News: August 1 – August 5

  1. Judge Rules to Increase Transparency in Campaign Finance

    Thanks to a recent ruling in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, any group that spends at least $250 in independent expenditures has to report each contributor who gave $200 or more. Independent expenditures are money spent by an organization or individual, usually in support of a candidate, without coordination from said campaign. Often, however, coordination thrives through backchannels and a flexible interpretation of independence.

    The recent ruling in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies established standards for disclosure stricter than any enforced in the last three decades. The decision could bring much more transparency to campaign finance and reveal to the public how election influence operates.


  2. Democratic Candidate for Kansas Governor Under Fire for Backing Voter ID Law

    Sen. Laura Kelly, the Democratic frontrunner for Kansas governor, is under attack from her primary opponents for supporting a controversial voter ID law in 2011 — one championed by leading GOP candidate Kris Kobach, who is the architect of various voter suppression schemes. The bill, which had strong bipartisan backing, imposed a proof-of-citizenship requirement on voters, effective in 2013.

    Hoisting tough voter ID policies as his signature issue, Kobach, the state’s secretary of state, claimed such measures are necessary to prevent election fraud, but neither he nor other proponents of the law could provide proof of a problem beyond a few scattered examples of registration by non-citizens. In fact, a district judge ruled in June that such stringent policies disproportionately hamstring qualified voters who may forget to bring acceptable documentation. In the three years since the law came into effect, more than 35,000 Kansas residents were barred from registration — an alarming figure for a state with just 1.8 million registered voters.

    In defense of her initial support for the bill, Kelly said she has always been an advocate for voting rights but wanted to first ensure that the state’s balloting process is secure. She didn’t know that Kobach would so aggressively enforce the law.


  3. GOP Rejects $250 Million Election Security Measure

    Senate Republicans blocked a $250 million bill aimed at bolstering election system security as the November midterms near. The initiative would have directed the Federal Election Assistance Commission to provide states grants to upgrade voting equipment and combat cybersecurity threats. Only one Republican supported the amendment, which failed on a 50-49 party-line vote — 10 short of the 60-vote threshold. Congress blocked a $380 million election security grant last month, which was proposed after US intelligence found evidence of Russian election tampering.  

    Republicans said it’s not sensible to allocate more funds to election security before properly assessing how states used the 2018 grant money. Yet with the midterms just three months away, and as reports of foreign interference continue to pile up, the US is in a race against time to protect its voting integrity.


  4. Election Infrastructure Companies Lack Oversight, Sowing Vulnerability

    The US’s decentralized election administration has plenty of flaws — and cybersecurity is principal among them. A handful of private election equipment companies provide election equipment nationwide, but national standards for security protocol are lacking. The businesses that supply and maintain voting machines and software nationwide have taken advantage of weak oversight: Few have robust or clear security processes in place. Without common security standards, the largely unregulated industry of election equipment has become an easy target for interference. Many companies’ security measures fall short of the standards held by other tech companies, but few avenues exist to enforce stricter requirements. Each state government is responsible for its own election security, which foments a lack of accountability.


  5. More News:
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    Promoting Voter ID, Trump Claims ID Needed to Buy Groceries

    Secretary of State Candidate Peter Sullivan Calls for Comprehensive Election Security Audit

    Election Commission Discusses Voting Equipment & Tampering

    Anti-Gerrymandering Initiative to Be on November Ballot Statewide

    An Exhilarating Attempt to Stop Partisan Gerrymandering

    It’s Not Just Voting Machines That Are Susceptible to Cyberattacks

    Lancaster County Voting Equipment Should Be Replaced Sooner Rather Than Later

    Intelligence Heads Convene at White House Briefing to Warn of Election Interference

    Trump’s Voter Suppression Guru Made Big Bucks by Ripping off Small Towns

Latest News: July 28 – August 1

  1. Facebook Discovers More Fake Accounts, Deletes Them

    Despite a significant investment to prevent such activity, Facebook intercepted a “disinformation operation” on its platform this week. The company found 32 pages and profiles that contributed to efforts to sway opinion in advance of the upcoming midterm elections using ads, events, and standard posts. Much of the material hinged on topics like race, mindfulness, and feminism. At least one of the pages was connected to the Internet Research Agency the organization responsible for the 2016 interference.

    Facebook removed all of the pages and notified the users who had engaged with the materials. The discovery of the fake accounts follows several months of tightened security measures. But as Facebook has cracked down on such practices, “disinformation operators” have grown more adept and developed new tactics. Many bought ads through third parties and turned toward event promotion a corner of the social media platform that is less closely monitored and more integrated into a user’s life. Facebook discovered the fake accounts through a combination of investigations, artificial intelligence, and collaboration with law enforcement.


  2. Midterm Battlegrounds Broadening With 99 Days to Go

    With 99 days to go until the midterm election, the electoral landscape is starting to become clearer — and it’s not at all like previously imagined. Initially, many election analysts were predicting the battlegrounds to only be the well-educated, suburban districts that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. However, the map of competitive races actually seems to be much broader and it even contains some of the working-class and rural districts that constituted President Donald Trump’s base.

    This is good news for Democrats, as they can start to see a clear path to regaining control of Congress. With many retiring Republicans contributing to the 42 open seats on the map, Democrats stand to benefit from a lack of incumbent opponents. So far, the results have been positive too: The Democrats are ahead in five districts that Trump carried by at least 10 points. Experts are unsure of the reason for this swing but one dominant theory is that a voter’s presidential choice plays a smaller role in determining their midterm vote than previously thought. This is bearing out, looking at the Democrats’ struggle in areas where Clinton was successful: They are tied or losing in many of the well-educated districts she carried in 2016.

    Although Republicans have structural advantages in many states — such as gerrymandered maps and voter ID laws that suppress eligible votes — the courts may lessen the impact of these: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for example, struck down the state’s Republican-created electoral map as it was too gerrymandered; and, last week an Iowa judge blocked portions of a voter ID law. The GOP’s best bet appears to be a campaign that hammers at issues such as immigration and trade to divide the population and drive voters back to their traditional parties.

    99 days is a long time in politics, but this far out, the broadened battlegrounds suit the Democrats and could lead to another divisive campaign.  


  3. UK Organizations Petitioning Government to Suspend Voter ID Program

    More than 20 UK charities and organizations are petitioning the UK government to put a stop to the new voter ID laws tested in local elections in May. In 2018, five council areas required voters to present ID to vote, leading to 350 voters being turned away. In 2017, only 28 cases of voter impersonation occurred. The petitioners are pointing to these numbers as evidence of voter ID laws doing more damage than good.

    Another issue is that the trials were carried out in areas with very similar demographics, meaning experts are unable to fully judge the impact this will have on minorities. As with all trials of this nature, it’s also difficult to calculate how many people were dissuaded from voting by this requirement.

    The UK government was very happy with the results — and are hoping to push on and do a larger trial: “We plan to continue to pilot voter ID at next year’s local elections so we can explore further what works best for voters.” The statement went on to declare the tests a “success,” and called the requirement a “reasonable and proportionate measure.”


  4. Wisconsin’s Election System Highly Vulnerable to Interference, Experts Warn

    Local news has outlined all the ways that Wisconsin is a battleground for election integrity and how divisive the issue has become. In the 2016 election, social media played a key role in manipulating voters, and the risk persists. Voting machines in the city of Marinette miscounted votes by a huge margin. Green Party candidate Jill Stein asked for a recount. The state district map was the subject of a Supreme Court case.

    Now, state elections officials are figuring out what to do next. Wisconsin received $7 million in federal funding to address election infrastructure issues, part of which will fund new positions dedicated to cybersecurity at the state’s Elections Commission. In addition, it plans to implement election security trainings and amend its registration system. But their needs are bigger and more numerous than better job training.

    The state’s election equipment itself is at risk, experts have concluded. Voting equipment is notoriously easy to hack, and few jurisdictions have adequate audit measures. Some see the decentralized nature of election administration as a safeguard against wholesale attempts to manipulate the vote, but others are less sure. Election integrity advocates are pushing for more comprehensive risk-limiting audits like the ones carried out in Colorado, but elections officials have yet to agree on how best to manage the numerous threats.


  5. More News:
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    Tennessee Sued Over PAC Contributions ‘Blackout Period’ Before Elections

    How Is Wisconsin Government Making Elections Secure?

    Here’s Why Our Brains Are the Best Defense Against Foreign Election Interference

    Cambodia to Form New Government After Election That Opposition Calls ‘Farce’

    Voting Rights Advocates Wary of Kavanaugh’s Nomination to Supreme Court

Latest News: July 25–July 28

  1. The Homegrown Element of America’s Russia Problem

    The constant conversation about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election obscures a more substantial homegrown problem, argues a recent article in Slate. While easier, and more dramatic, to focus on the nefarious intentions of an opaque foreign entity, the more significant troubling behavior lies at home. Members of the Republican Party, elected officials, and President Donald Trump’s voter base are all a little bit too comfortable with a blossoming pro-Russia position, the author posits.

    From congressional visits to Russia on the Fourth of July to an unexpected alliance between the American evangelical right and Russia’s Christian authoritarianism, the connections are growing. Meanwhile, as little is being done to protect future American elections from foreign interference, domestic efforts to suppress the vote intensify daily. Hanging on to the power they currently hold is the first priority for Republicans and Trump’s constituents — not maintaining electoral legitimacy, the piece suggests.


  2. Republican Representative Comes Down Hard on Electronic Voting Equipment

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who is chair of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his concerns over the security of electronic voting equipment. In an interview he said such equipment was “really dangerous” and “should not be used.” He says the counties he represents do not use electronic systems and is concerned about the lack of paper trail in digital voting. Nunes pointed to the ability to conduct a manual recount, which some electronic equipment renders impossible, as a necessity. Nevertheless, he remains a staunch supporter of Trump.


  3. Iowa Judge Temporarily Blocks Three Provisions of Voter ID Law Ahead of November Midterms

    Iowa scored a temporary election integrity victory, with Polk County District Judge Karen Romano blocking three provisions of the state’s new voter ID law: the shortening of the early voting period from 40 days to 29 days, the requirement of an identification number to cast an absentee ballot, and the ability of election officials to reject a ballot based on the signature not matching the one on record. The temporary blocks — which are part of a larger lawsuit filed by League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) and Iowa State University student Taylor Blair — cover the November midterms, with the rest of the lawsuit being decided after that.

    Judge Romano’s block also requires Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to stop using language in election ads which lead voters to believe ID is mandatory in the midterms. The voter ID law does not come into effect until January 2019. Voters can vote in the midterms without ID by signing an “Oath of Identification.” However, recent advertisements from Pate’s office have been very misleading on this, leading to concerns that many voters will stay home.

    Pate condemned Judge Romano’s decision, saying this law protected Iowa from voter fraud and was “overwhelmingly” supported by Iowans. He said the decision will be appealed immediately as he believes it makes “it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”

    LULAC said it is happy with the decision but that this is just the first step in the larger fight for the integrity of Iowa’s elections: “This is just a first step, but we welcome it because it means every Iowan will continue to have his or her right to vote.”


  4. New Emails Reveal GOP Plan to Gerrymander Michigan

    Internal emails made public Wednesday reveal a concerted effort by Michigan Republicans to aggressively gerrymander the state’s electoral maps. The trove was submitted as evidence by the League of Women Voters of Michigan in a federal lawsuit that alleges GOP legislators unconstitutionally manipulated districts when they swept to power in 2010.

    In one email, a staffer crudely bragged about wielding the widely deployed tactic of “clustering” or, in his words, “cramming Dem garbage” into just four districts to dilute their voting power elsewhere. In another email, an executive from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce predicted that the gerrymandered maps will help the GOP maintain power for years. The messages contain jarringly blatant examples of foul play: One aide said a Macomb County district is shaped like “it’s giving the finger” to Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), while another implied that the drawing of one district may have been dictated primarily by a now-retired congressman.

    At the same time, the Michigan Supreme Court is deliberating a case that would allow an anti-gerrymander initiative to appear on the November ballot. The measure, if approved, could transfer map-drawing authority from the GOP-controlled legislature to an independent commission. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is the largest financial backer of efforts to prevent that from happening.


  5. More News:
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    Today’s Voter Suppression Tactics Have a 150 Year History

    Possible New Election Twist for Voters Who Want to Rank More Than 3 Choices: Try 10

    ‘Dark Money’ Documentary Shows the Pernicious Influence of Money on Politics

    Democrats Propose Making It Illegal to Spread False Election Information

    A Day After Judge Blasts State, Counties Act Fast to Hold Early Voting on Campus

    Cambodian Polls Close as Rights Group Criticize ‘Sham’ Election

    Women Defied Decades of Tradition to Vote in Pakistan Election

    State Board Wants Public Input on Voting Machines

Latest News: July 15th–July 19th

  1. Supplier Installed US Election Systems With Dangerous Remote Connection Software

    ES&S, the top voting machine vendor in the US, admitted to installing remote-access software on a number of election management systems over a six year period — a decision that may have seriously compromised election integrity nationwide.

    In an April letter addressed to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the company wrote that it introduced the software pcAnywhere in 2000, allowing administrators to conduct maintenance and implement updates on election systems from a remote location. By providing “immediate access to the customer’s data and network system from a remote location,” pcAnywhere creates an avenue for hackers to infiltrate election infrastructure, conduct surveillance, and even “introduce malicious code … to disrupt an election or alter results.”

    At least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on the election-management systems. Wyden said the decision to install remote-access software is the worst “for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.”


  2. More News:
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    Maine Seeks $3.1 Million in Federal Money to Beef Up Voter Registration Security

Latest News: July 10th–July 15th

  1. New Jersey Voting Equipment Isn’t Secure — Thanks to Chris Christie

    Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) is in the news again: This time, a new congressional report finds him responsible for vulnerable election equipment statewide. The machines that are currently in use do not produce a paper record of votes cast, meaning there is no way to conduct an election audit, or identify either hacking or interference.

    The report ranked the situation in New Jersey among the five most dire nationwide. To attempt to alleviate some of the risk, the state has asked for help from the Election Assistance Commission to address immediate concerns. Reportedly, legislation to require a paper trail is under consideration. Christie has been no great advocate of voting rights he shot down legislation to implement automatic voter registration in the state. Apparently, he’s unshaken by the report from Congress. His spokesman Pete Sheridan told a local paper that Christie sees the findings as little more than “a partisan press release on ‘congressional stationery.’”


  2. Legal Advocates to Register Certain Formerly Convicted Felons in Alabama

    Voter registration for felons is the subject of a new partnership between the Campaign Legal Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center as of last week. The legal advocacy groups launched the Alabama Voting Rights Project to spread a simple message: “A felony conviction does not permanently take away a person’s right to vote.”

    Organizational efforts will focus on local community leaders and door-to-door canvassing on the issue. The efforts follow a state law passed last year that granted the right to vote to certain felons in the state. The law defined “moral turpitude” a phrase used to describe a category of felony that strips a felon of his or her voting rights. Previously, what constituted “moral turpitude” was determined on a case-by-case basis.

    Determination was by no means uniform. Since the passage of the law last year, people who were formerly convicted of acts of “moral turpitude” that the law does not consider as such can now restore their right to vote. But many still aren’t registered.


  3. Some Michigan State Senators Embrace Transparency

    A group of Michigan state senators have promised to go public with their personal finances. Their pledge is an attempt to promote a local bill that would require all elected officials in the state do the same. Currently, state legislators aren’t required to submit annual disclosures of income and assets which obscures vested interests from public view. Michigan is in the minority in that it doesn’t require disclosure, and Democratic representatives are ready to address the local landscape of money in politics head on.

    Twenty-three Michigan House Democrats have backed new bills that would bring the finances of public officials into public view. The Pew Research Center recently found that 75 percent of the population thinks self-interest motivates the state’s public servants. Michigan also came in last in a 2015 analysis of accountability and transparency in local government.


  4. More News:
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    The Russian Effort to Hack State Election Systems Was Bigger Than We Knew, Indictment Suggests

    Should State Supreme Court Justices Recuse Themselves From Gerrymandering Case?

    Trump Names Official Who Has Inaccurately Purged Voters Rolls to Oversee Election Security

    Early Voting Kicks Off in Shelby County After Dramatic Week

    Obama Explains Why Gerrymandering Is Terrible for Democracy

    Voter ID on the NC Ballot Is About Suppression, Not Fraud

    Rent Control and Tenants’ Rights Set to Be Larger Political Issues in 2018 Elections

    Lawsuit: South Carolina Voting System Vulnerable to Hacking

    Felons Can Get Advice on Restoring Civil Rights at Free Tucson Clinic

Latest News: July 5th-July 10th

  1. Supreme Court Outlines New Way of Proving — and Banning — Gerrymandering

    In a Supreme Court case on the fairness of Wisconsin’s electoral map, Chief Justice John Roberts outlined a new standard for proving and challenging a partisan gerrymander: voters are to show that they have difficulty electing their prefered official due to district manipulation, in particular the “packing” and “cracking” of specific demographics. To “pack” is to gather a party’s core supporters in just a few districts, ensuring that said party wins landslides in those areas but loses by smaller margins in all others. To “crack” is to spread a party’s supporters thin, ensuring that said party wins a majority nowhere.

    To prove these two popular tactics, the court can look to historical cases of racial gerrymandering, many of which maintain the right of a minority voter to support his or her preferred candidate. With regard to partisan gerrymandering, a court could separately examine the minority party’s candidates in each district, and estimate their chances of election. If the numbers are abysmal, the district has probably been gerrymandered.


  2. Pivotal Anti-Gerrymandering Measure Advances to Michigan Supreme Court

    Michigan’s Supreme Court will determine over the next week whether a measure to reform the state’s redistricting process appears on the November ballot. The proposal will limit the majority party’s ability to gerrymander districts by transferring map-drawing authority from the partisan lawmakers to an independent 13-person redistricting commission. To weed out political bias in final decisions, this panel will comprise four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents.

    Such a measure can bring crucial change to a heavily-gerrymandered state like Michigan. Since 2012, most of its 14 congressional seats have remained under Republican control, even though the differences in popular vote have been slim. The proposal landed before the Michigan Supreme Court after a conservative group argued that it is essentially a revision of the state Constitution, which can only be implemented by a constitutional convention.

    While supporters of the measure believe that the state Supreme Court will greenlight it for the midterm ballot, Republican justices hold a 5-2 advantage.


  3. Four Months Out and the Question of Election Security Still Looms Large

    Following the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, many states are asking an important question: are our midterm elections safe? Just four months away, the scary answer appears to be “no.” The money allocated by the federal government, $380 million, is deemed minuscule when compared to the needs of some states. Kentucky, for example, will receive $5.7 million in exchange for putting up $288,671 themselves. Although it was not one of the 21 states that were breached in 2016, this is a small amount considering Kentucky’s recent commitment to ensure all voting machines provide a voter-verified paper trail.

    There is currently no consensus of the capability of the Russian hackers, with some outlets stating they would have a hard time hacking voter machines while others point to Russian hacking of the power grid as a precursor to potential Ukraine-style blackouts. While the reality lies somewhere in the middle, the Trump administration’s refusal to admit any interference at all means there is little in place to prevent any Russian meddling.

    The biggest threat may come in an area that money cannot effect at all however: social media. The 2016 election saw a Russian escalation of this kind of influence campaign and there’s no reason to believe 2018 to be different. No amount of money can prevent this form of voter manipulation, and unfortunately there seems to be little effort from either the government or the social media platforms themselves to counteract it. The Department of Homeland Security promised better lines of communication with states about potential breaches, but not only has this not been forthcoming, the department’s inability to communicate clearly on other issues — such as immigration detention policies — has left many officials worried.


  4. Iowa Judge Deciding on Case to Block Portions of 2017 Voter ID Law

    Iowa Judge Karen Romano is deciding whether to temporarily block certain portions of the state’s 2017 voter ID laws until after the 2018 midterms. An election-integrity group challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying they believe it impinges on the right to vote. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Taylor Blair, an Iowa State University student, are suing the Iowa Secretary of State, arguing that since Iowa’s constitution provides greater voter protections than the federal Constitution, the court should use the most rigorous standard of judicial review when considering any restrictions of fundamental rights such as voting.

    The portions of the law under scrutiny are the shortening of the early voting period from 40 to 29 days, the requirement of an identification number to apply for an absentee ballot, and the allowing of election officials to reject absentee applications and ballots if the signatures don’t match the records.

    The group alleges these laws directly target Democrats, who tend to use early voting more than Republicans, and Latinos who often times lack the proper identification. However, the government has accused the prosecution of not being able to present anybody affected by these laws.

    This June’s primary experienced the state’s highest-ever early voting numbers, with 50,000 votes cast. It was also the first election where pre-registered voters were asked to present a state-issued ID before voting. Due to a slow roll-out, voters do not have to present ID when voting in November, although the Republican government has been advertising that ID is needed. Voters can vote if they sign an “Oath of Identification.” The court case argues this has intentionally confused voters. The judge did not return a verdict immediately but promised one “as soon as I can.”


  5. More News:
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    Muddying the Voter ID Waters

    Kavanaugh’s Record Doesn’t Bode Well for Voting Rights

    Texas Democrats Take on Partisan Voting Maps, After Supreme Court Punts the Issue

    Supreme Court Largely Upholds New NC Districts in Gerrymandering Case

    Patagonia Is Giving Its Workers Election Day off — And Says You Should, Too

Latest News: June 30th-July 5th

  1. Illinois Rolls Out First Phase of Automatic Voter Registration

    Illinois began its transition to Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), joining ten other states that use such a system. The current first phase introduces an “opt-in system” where anyone renewing their driver’s license or state ID at the DMV will be checked against the state’s voter rolls. Should their voter information not be up to date, they’ll be prompted to update it. After answering one question about citizenship and one about age, the voter signs and is ready to vote. By July 2019, this service will also be offered at other state agencies, including the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

    The state is also hoping to implement the next phase — an “opt-out system” — by January 2019. This will allow residents who don’t want to register to tick a single box and not be placed on the rolls.

    AVR has long been championed by activists as a way to increase voter turnout, and so far results have supported this view. After Oregon passed its AVR law in 2015 — which many see as the model for AVR— its 2016 turnout rose by 4.1 percent. Georgia saw some 600,000 people registered in the first four months following the implementation of AVR. Although largely being pushed by Democrats, the results so far haven’t been heavily in the party’s favor; it actually lost ground in Oregon. However, studies have shown the AVR’s implementation have made the rolls less white.


  2. Kennedy’s Departure Is Bad News for Election Integrity

    Despite his conservative record on issues like campaign finance and voting rights, Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court is bad news for election integrity. Kennedy wrote decisions in three divisive election law cases — Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. FEC, and Shelby County v. Holder — that have come to shape the current political climate. But he wasn’t as conservative as his successor is likely to be, argues election law expert Rick Hasen in Slate.

    Even in his conservative opinions, Kennedy protected certain provisions. In a 2015 Arizona lawsuit, he sided with the liberal justices to defend voters’ ability to use redistricting initiatives to challenge district maps drawn by partisan state legislatures. In Bush v. Gore, he didn’t concur with the move by conservative justices that would have given states increased control over federal elections.

    Whoever occupies the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the bench is likely to fall to the right of Kennedy, which will only increase the already dizzying obstacles for legal recourse among election integrity advocates. The appointment could put any number of cases and details in jeopardy, among them the more moderate positions Kennedy upheld.


  3. Florida Senators Want Help From the Department of Homeland Security

    Two Florida senators have implored the Department of Homeland Security to help secure voting systems in advance of upcoming elections. Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D) have asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to consider turning to the federal agency for help. Congress already appropriated $380 million in funds for the states to address cybersecurity threats; Florida was allocated $19.2 million.

    But the scale of the problem demands more than individual counties — or even states — can provide, the Senators argue in their letter. Plus, the DHS has already provided support — largely through “risk and vulnerability assessments” to over a dozen states. Nevertheless, involvement from a federal agency in a process run at the local level troubles some who celebrate the fundamentally decentralized nature of election administration.


  4. Non-Partisan Group Quantifies Extent of Republican Gerrymandering in Michigan

    Data scientists have finally provided hard evidence to substantiate widespread claims that Michigan is a heavily gerrymandered state. A nonpartisan group — the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) — that has put the state’s districts through three statistical tests released its findings late last month. The study was an attempt to understand whether the state’s district lines are a deliberate attempt to swing elections or merely an unfortunate consequence of federal Voting Rights Act requirements, geographic considerations, or other non-partisan factors. The results show the state is heavily gerrymandered and has been getting worse.

    The simple statistics read like this: In the 2014 and the 2016 state elections, the Republicans and Democrats split the vote down the middle, but the Republicans came away with a 63–47 majority. The 2014 Senate election was even worse, with a slight Republican edge amounting to a 27–11 majority.

    The report found this is the result of two major gerrymandering weapons used by Republicans — “packing” and “cracking.” “Packing” is when the drawing of a district concentrates a large portion of voters for the minority party in one district — allowing them to run up a large win but only in one district. “Cracking” is the opposite: to draw a district so that reliable voters for the majority party are evenly distributed across many districts — making most races competitive and every vote count. The state’s “efficiency gap” — the measure used to understand the extent to which “packing” and “cracking” take place — has increased after both the 2000 and 2010 district redrawing conducted by the Republicans.

    The CRC wanted to quantify gerrymandering ahead of a proposed constitutional amendment put forward by Michigan-based organization Voters Not Politicians, who are currently petitioning to get an initiative on the 2018 ballot to have future districts drawn by an Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission.


  5. More News:
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    New Asheville Districts Are Racial Gerrymandering, Black Council Members Say

    Getting Student Power Into the Voting Booth

    Senate Intel Just Contradicted House Republicans on Russian Election Interference

    After Mugabe, How Free and Fair Will Zimbabwe’s Vote Be?

    Challenge Filed to Law Barring Collecting of Mail-In Ballots

    DOJ Cyber Task Force Expected to Release First-Ever Report in Late July

Latest News: June 27th-30th

  1. Trump Defends Putin, Denies Any Election Interference Ahead of Meeting

    With the NATO summit quickly approaching — and the specter of a one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin right after — Trump is doing nothing to allay the fears of those worried about what will unfold over the coming weeks. Once again tweeting his support for the Russian strongman, the US president said he believes there was no interference because “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” This reiterates a point Trump made last November that he is taking Putin at this word.

    All of this directly contradicts reports issued by US intelligence and national security officials, who in a 2016 report stated they had no doubt Putin had ordered an “influence campaign” to be waged on the US election. Special counsel Robert Mueller is also investigating the same question.

    The timing of Trump’s recent claim is even more interesting, however, as it comes at a time when all eyes are on the US ahead of a NATO meeting in Brussels next month. After his G7 performance — which interestingly preceded a visit with another strongman, Kim Jong Un — people are expecting fireworks. Trump has previously showed his disgust for NATO and even refused to endorse Section 5, which stipulates an attack on one nation is an attack on all. Trump’s latest refusal to acknowledge Russian interference has been seen as a cozying up to Putin, who shares Trump’s view on NATO.


  2. Voter ID Law Might Get a Lot Worse in Texas

    Texas is already seeking out ways to use the recent US Supreme Court decision that determined its congressional map did not discriminate by design to ramp up its voter identification laws. Elected officials see the decision as an opportunity to pursue more aggressive attacks on voting rights at the state level — and voter ID laws are next in line.

    The Texas attorney general’s office filed a motion in an attempt to convince US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi to reverse her opinion on a voter ID case. Judge Ramos found that a 2011 voter ID law intentionally discriminates against people of color. The case has already been through the appellate courts, where Ramos’s opinion was upheld.

    Proponents of the law contend that revisions in 2017 have eliminated any such bias or ill intent, but voting rights advocates disagree. In its filing, the Texas attorney general’s office references the Supreme Court decision in the gerrymandering case, quoting that “the good faith of the state legislature must be presumed.”


  3. Despite Efforts, Voter Fraud Commission Will Have to Disclose Files

    President Donald Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission will have to make key materials available, thanks to a federal judge sticking to her guns. The commission, which was chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, failed to provide full access to materials and documents to one if its members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. He then sued, arguing that he had been denied access to essential materials.

    US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled in December 2017 that the commission had to allow its members to fully review all pertinent documents. Attorneys at the US Justice Department pleaded with the judge to reconsider, but she had remained true to her decision last winter.


  4. More News:
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    Breaking Down the Supreme Court’s Inaction on Gerrymandering

    The Supreme Court Dealt a Devastating Blow to Voting Rights This Term

    North Carolina GOP Puts Voter ID Amendment on November Ballot

    Kennedy’s Retirement Could Threaten Efforts to End Partisan Gerrymandering

    Supreme Court Abortion Rights Threat Will Be Election Boost for Democrats: Poll

    Voting Rights Roundup: Five Reasons Why Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement Is a Catastrophe for Democracy

    Iraq Elections: Manual Recount to Begin on Tuesday

Latest News: June 23rd-June 27th

  1. Silicon Valley and US Intelligence to Cooperate on Election Security

    Big tech and law enforcement are beginning to converse about how to handle digital interference in the upcoming elections, despite failures from both to identify or address these issues in the 2016 election. Executives from companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter met last month with officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. But just what they’re planning or talking about — besides “looking for more activity” and “running investigations” — is opaque.

    The Washington Post suggests that if private tech companies and public law enforcement had cooperated during the 2016 election, they could have reduced the scope and scale of Russian interference. Facebook has complained about a lack of engagement and openness from intelligence officials. Just what the implications of such cooperation would mean beyond cyber-security for elections remains to be seen.


  2. States Struggle With Time Crunch to Replace Voting Equipment

    Congress allocated $380 million in funding to upgrade voting equipment state-by-state, and it has proven insufficient in more ways than one. The latest issue? Time. It takes more time than state governments have to outline their budget proposals, get them approved, then contract with equipment vendors, and eventually procure equipment.

    As a result, it’s unlikely that the money will prove useful before the 2018 midterms. Some say that it would be more efficient to use the funds to hire security auditors, rather than investing outright in new equipment. Such auditors would inspect the machines on a county level, identify, and hopefully address vulnerabilities. The trend appears to be toward the former — upgrading outdated machines that may not come into use until 2020.


  3. Mainstream Media Catches Up With Alabama’s Attacks on Voting Rights

    Half a decade after the Supreme Court struck down a key requirement of the Voting Rights Act, Alabama has implemented a string of highly effective laws to curtail representation from marginalized groups — and the New York Times seems to be finally catching on.

    Before 2013, certain states, including Alabama, needed to obtain federal approval to alter election laws, which worked as a safeguard against arbitrary restrictions that disproportionately harmed minority voters. But the ruling of Shelby County v. Holder created an opportunity for states like Alabama to pass laws without federal oversight — regulations ostensibly aimed at preventing voter fraud that actually just discouraged voter participation in majority-minority districts.

    That decision has had a massive ripple effect: Alabama instated a photo ID law within 24 hours of the Supreme Court decision; studies have shown that black and Hispanic voters are more likely than whites to lack acceptable documentation. A year after the ruling, the state shut down 31 driver’s license offices — the most-frequented place to obtain photo ID. (Eight of 10 counties with the highest concentration of black voters were subject to office closures). Alabama also closed at least 66 polling places between 2013 and 2016, many in counties dominated by marginalized voters. Much of this news has been covered by WhoWhatWhy and others — and it’s reassuring to see major news outlets giving these issues their due.


  4. The Decades-Long Process for a Florida Felon to Become a Voter Again

    The process for a felon in Florida to become a full citizen again is long, obstacle-filled, and ends with the governor asking if you go to church or take your parents out to eat often. Once convicted, a felon in the state loses their right to vote, sit on juries, or purchase firearms for the rest of their lives. In order to get their rights renewed, they must file an application with the state government and then wait: The current wait time is approximately a decade, due to the wait list that consists of 10,000 people. Current Governor Rick Scott (R) changed the laws to state that felons must wait between five and seven years after they complete their sentence to even apply. There are currently 1.5 million people in the Sunshine State who have had their rights stripped due to a felony charge, accounting for 10% of eligible voters. This is the highest rate in the country.

    Once the application has been selected, the Florida Commission on Offender Review begins its formal investigation. The commission is looking for any evidence the felon has turned their life around, and the investigation typically takes six months to a year before a hearing date occurs.

    The hearing itself takes place in a cabinet meeting room in the lower level of the Florida Capitol before the Executive Clemency Board. This board consists of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam. They meet four times a year, seeing around 100 people each time, although some people can have their rights restored without a hearing.

    The felon presents a case of why they should be granted their rights back, and witnesses are able to testify for them in person or through a letter. The felon is then interrogated by the board, with no questions off limits — after all, there are no guidelines to what evidence they can or cannot make their ruling based on. Questions of drug use, alcohol consumption, family relations, employment records, church attendance, and anything else they deem to make a morally sufficient voter can be enquired about.


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    Why Turkey’s Election Result Matters to America

    Gerrymandering Critics Suffer Twin Blows at the Supreme Court

    Crypto-What? Centralized Virtual Currencies Greater Threat to US Elections, Expert Tells Senate

    Supreme Court Sends Case on North Carolina Gerrymandering Back to Lower Court

    Illinois Finalizes Its Plans to Prevent Another Russian Hack

    SCOTUS Upholds Ohio’s Voter Suppression

    We Shouldn’t Be Surprised About Election Hacking in 2018. But Are We Prepared?

    Cyberattacks in Mexico Raise Alarm Bells

    Deadline to Replace Voting Machines Pushed Back Indefinitely

    Voting Machine Upgrades Cause Issues Between County, State

    How Voting Laws Have Changed Since 2016