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Is a North Korean Collapse Getting Closer?

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:33

Thanks to its official state ideology ‘Juche’ North Korea is in rude health in 2017

In 1994, just five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed the Agreed Framework, which was aiming to suspend the latter’s nuclear programme, Although the agreement eventually failed, US policy became predicated on the belief that the Democratic People’s Republic, like the communist…

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Dennis Rodman Takes Credit for American’s Release From North Korea

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:31

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North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier was partly down to Rodman’s trip

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman made an appearance on Friday’s “Good Morning America” and essentially took credit for North Korea’s release of Otto Warmbier, an American college student imprisoned in the country for 18 months. Warmbier returned home to Ohio on June 13 with severe neurological injuries. He died Monday. Chris Volo, Rodman’s agent, sat alongside…

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North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier—who died on Monday after returning home in a coma—was partly down to ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trip to the authoritarian state, at least according to the former basketball player himself. Warmbier was detained by North Korea for almost 17 months after being arrested in January 2016, allegedly…

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Rights Groups Call Out Middle Eastern Media Crackdown

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:30

Rights groups warn that rulers across the region are stepping up efforts to silence political dissent

Rights groups warn that rulers across the Middle East are stepping up efforts to silence political dissent, detaining journalists, shuttering newspapers and blocking news sites. Egypt added seven sites to its blacklist last weekend, including Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, bringing to 103 the number of its blocked news sites, according the Association for Freedom of Thought…

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Verified Voting With a Paper Trail is the Voter Hacking Solution

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:31

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Two of America’s top election reform champions, Verified Voting and Common Cause, released a letter to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that is investigating the 2016 election tampering controversy. The letter is titled, “Government Needs to Do More to Deal with Risk of Voting Machine Hacking”. Thanks to Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog for the link:

This letter was sent to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence following a hearing on June 21, 2017. (Download PDF)

Verified Voting vigorously applauds the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its leadership and commitment to securing our elections. With clear evidence that foreign attackers sought to attack our 2016 elections through various means, our intelligence agencies warn that hostile attackers will be back to attack future elections. Congress and the most vulnerable states should act with urgency to fund and implement protective reforms that will make our election systems resilient against cyber attack: funding the adoption of paper ballots and accessible ballot marking systems, and implementing robust, manual post-election audits of the votes.

The June 21 hearing is an important first step toward those reforms, providing valuable information through witness testimony and questions of the Senators. We wish to expand on several key points that were raised in the hearing to ensure a clear understanding of the challenges we face in securing our elections.

It is crucial to understand that further reforms are urgently needed to bolster the mitigations currently in place so that it is possible to detect and correct a cyber attack on the vote count.

Some testimony asserted that pre-election testing and post-election audits currently in place would catch errors in vote tallies caused by a malicious attacker or software failure. Unfortunately, pre-election testing, though helpful for ensuring the completeness of ballot programming, can be defeated by malicious software designed to detect when the system is in test mode. This is what happened with Volkswagen diesels cars: the software caused the cars’ emissions systems to behave correctly during testing, but then allowed them to pollute under non-testing conditions.

Likewise, while post-election audits currently in place in some states may serve to detect errors in the vote count—and indeed in a number of past elections have detected outcome-changing errors—such audits cannot be relied upon nationally. A post-election audit requires examination of some number of paper ballots marked by voters, to serve as a check on the software vote count. Because voters in five states are consigned to paperless machines, and nine other states contain jurisdictions that do not have paper ballots, it is impossible to conduct a legitimate post-election audit to detect software errors in 14 states.

Moreover, while roughly 70% of the nation has paper ballots,1 little more than half the country conducts post-election audits2 and, with few exceptions, these audits are not strong enough to always reliably detect vote count errors caused by cyber attacks or software problems. This is why we need paper ballots and robust post-election audits: to have sufficient evidence to detect and correct errors in all jurisdictions, not just in some jurisdictions.

Although most voting machines are not directly connected to the Internet, they nonetheless may be exposed to hacking attacks through other connections, as Dr. Alex Halderman explained in his testimony.3 Furthermore, 32 states allow the online casting of ballots for military and overseas voters;4 these ballots are directly exposed to Internet attacks. Because these ballots are cast electronically, their accuracy cannot be verified or accurately audited.

At the hearing, Senators pressed the important point that our current system does not ensure that State election directors will disclose breaches to the public or other entities. In some localities, election systems are managed by outside vendors, some of which may not have the resources to implement strong security. In these cases the vendors would be responsible to detect and report vulnerabilities or intrusions. But vendors may feel a financial and reputational disincentive to disclose vulnerabilities or breaches of their systems. Without reforms to require such disclosure, we cannot reasonably expect to learn of all breaches and vulnerabilities. This exacerbates the difficulty of addressing security challenges.

Paper ballots and post-election ballot audits provide resilience to cyber attacks on our voting process, because the paper ballot is physical, tangible evidence of voter intent that will remain untouched by a cyber attack. In the hearing we were told that one of our adversaries’ aims is to sow distrust in our elections so as to undermine U.S. democratic principles. Paper ballots and audits provide transparency and instill voter confidence in the process. By combining paper ballots with routine, mandatory post-election manual audits, we directly and effectively undercut our adversaries’ ability to shed doubt on the election outcome. Voters will have evidence to support the computer tallies, improving both transparency and voter confidence.

We thank you for focusing on this critical issue and for your commitment to address it. We hope to work with you to move the entire nation to resilient, auditable, transparent and accessible voting systems and stand ready to assist any way we can.

  1. https://www.verifiedvoting.org/verifier/
  2. https://www.verifiedvoting.org/resources/post-election-audits/
  3. Expert Testimony by J. Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence June 21, 2017 https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/os-ahalderman-062117.pdf
  4. “Secret Ballot at Risk, Recommendations for Protecting our Democracy,” Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause, Electronic Privacy Information Center, http://secretballotatrisk.org

Russia Bars Alexei Navalny 2018 Presidential Bid

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:16

Russia announced that Alexei Navalny is barred from challenging President Vladimir Putin

Russia’s electoral body has announced that Alexei Navalny, the o pposition leader, is barred from challenging President Vladimir Putin in next year’s elections. In a statement released on Friday, the Central Electoral Commission said Navalny is “not eligible to stand for office” because he is currently serving a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement. The body said…

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Colbert Considers 2020 Presidential Run

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:11

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Colbert considering running for president of the United States in the next election period

“Late Night” host Stephen Colbert revealed Friday during an appearance on Russian talk show “Evening Urgant” that he is considering running for president of the United States in the next election period. During a game of Russian Roulette that used vodka shots instead of bullets, Colbert verified the news with the show’s host Ivan Urgant. Read:…

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Study Authors Warn Against False Claims About Illegal Voters

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:45

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Authors of falsely quoted survey had warned in the survey against using the data in regard to non-citizen voters. They expressly made clear their research should not be used to reach such conclusions. A recent article by Amy Sherman at Politifact goes point by point showing where this false and ‘ridiculous’ narrative was born. Fox and Friends and the Washington Times are among the news outlets pushing the false story as true. From Politifact:

The claim made on Fox and Friends is based on an extrapolation of a controversial study that relied on a very small number of responses. Researchers involved in the underlying survey of voters have cautioned against using their data to reach conclusions about noncitizen voters.

We emailed a spokeswoman for Fox News and did not get a reply; however, the Washington Times article showed that the information came from Just Facts, a think tank that describes itself as conservative/libertarian and was founded by James D. Agresti, a mechanical engineer in New Jersey.

Agresti’s conclusions are based on data from a paper by Old Dominion University researchers who used data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, or CCES. He multiplied the findings in that data with U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the noncitizen population to come up with a conclusion about the number of noncitizen voters nationwide.

The Huffington Post also wrote about the revelations regarding the origins of the false claim that they called ‘crazy extrapolation’. Here is the Huffington Post article quoting University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who manages the database in question:

In addition to ignoring the major issue with the original study, they also claim that we should take any supposed non-citizen at their word if they claim to have voted even if we can’t match them to a vote record because they probably used a fraudulent identity. However, the issue here is why would a non-citizen who is going through the trouble of using a fraudulent identity to vote then admit to voting in a survey and give us their actual name and address?

Schaffner went on to explain how statistics works in surveys of the public:

If I do a survey of 1,000 people and on that survey five people say something crazy or non-truthful, that wouldn’t be something hard to imagine, that five people out of 1,000 people might lie, might not have actually read the text very carefully, might click on a button wrong.

Schaffner has this public bio up at University of Massachusetts Amherst:

My research focuses on public opinion, campaigns and elections, political parties, and legislative politics. I am co-PI of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. I am co-author (with Ray La Raja) of the forthcoming book Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail (University of Michigan Press), co-Editor of the book Winning with Words: The Origins & Impact of Political Framing, and co-author of Understanding Political Science Research Methods: The Challenge of Inference.

My research has appeared in over thirty journal articles, including the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Communication, Political Analysis, Political Research Quarterly, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly. I am also the Founding Director of the UMass Poll.

 

Vietnam’s Political Bloggers Are Imperiled in Crackdown

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:06

From Al Jazeera:

Since the reunification of North and South in 1975, the Communist Party has ruled Vietnam – and state’s control over the media is near-absolute.

However Vietnam’s bloggers are putting that control to the test. They’ve been challenging mainstream media outlets, pushing them to cover topics and issues the Communist Party has declared off limits. Blogs, messaging apps and Facebook carry stories that would otherwise have gone untold. And the bloggers are finding a ready-made audience. There are more people online in Vietnam than any other country in Southeast Asia.

Bloggers have also attracted the attention, and ire, of the authorities. Facing a mix of old laws and new ones, intimidation and closed trials, many have been disciplined, silenced and put away. Last year alone, 18 bloggers and activists were jailed.

Contributors:

  • Tran Le Thuy, director, Centre for Media Education & Consultancy
  • Shawn Crispin, senior southeast asia representative, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Nguyen Van Hai, exiled Vietnamese blogger

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PODCAST: Legislative Versus Executive Power Today

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:02

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The latest Election Law Blog Podcast focuses on how the executive branch’s power has changed under Trump.
From Rick Hasen:

In this era of polarization in politics, how much power does Congress have compared to the President and the courts? Is the Republican Congress a meaningful check on President Trump? How well does Congress do at policing ethical lapses of its own members?

On Episode 17 of the ELB Podcast, we talk with Josh Chafetz, Cornell Law School professor and author of the new book, Congress’s Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers.

You can listen to the ELB Podcast Episode 17 on Soundcloud, subscribe at iTunes or just click here:

New Research Gives Top-Two Election Systems Thumbs Down

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 19:08

Eric McGhee and Boris Shor have revolutionized the way we measure redistricting, they now take on top-two voting. A new article, “New Political Science Research on Top-Two”, posted on Ballot Access News by Richard Winger had some analysis:

Political scientists Eric McGhee and Boris Shor have published “Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?” Anyone may read the 36-page paper at this link. The authors studied California and Washington, which are the only two states that use top-two (as they explain on page 6 and 16, Louisiana and Nebraska don’t have top-two systems).

They conclude that since top-two started in each state, California Democrats in the legislature have become more moderate, but California and Washington Republicans and Democrats in Congress have not; nor have Republicans in the legislatures of either state moderated. The paper suggests that a strong reason why California Democrats in the legislature have moderated is because of three other changes made almost simultaneously: (1) redistricting reform; (2) term limits were eased; (3) the California budget no longer takes a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature. But the paper believes that top two has probably had some moderating effect on California legislative Democrats.

Page 27 says, “The results of these analyses suggest virtually no effect of the Top Two in Washington or for Republicans in California.” That page also says that because members of congress are not subject to term limits, whereas members of the California legislature are subject to term limits, therefore term limits is probably the main reason why the results are different for California Democratic legislators, versus California Democratic members of the U.S. House. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Here is the abstract from the paper:

Party polarization is perhaps the most significant political trend of the past several decades of American politics. Many observers have pinned hopes on institutional reforms to reinvigorate the political center. The Top Two primary is one of the most interesting and closely-watched of these reforms: a radically open primary system that removes much of the formal role for parties in the primary election and even allows for two candidates of the same party to face each other in the fall.

In this paper, we leverage the adoption of the Top Two in California and Washington to explore the reform’s effects on legislator behavior. We find an inconsistent effect since the reform was adopted in these two states. The evidence for post-reform moderation is stronger in California than in Washington, but some of this stronger effect appears to stem from a contemporaneous policy change—district lines drawn by an independent redistricting commission—while still more might have emerged from a change in term limits that was also adopted at the same time. The results validate some claims made by reformers, but question others, and their magnitude casts some doubt on the potential for institutions to reverse the polarization trend.

Here is some more on top-two voting systems from the supporting side thanks to the Independent Voter Project:

The Top-Two primary fundamentally changes the traditional approach to elections. Under a traditional primary system, whether the primary is “open,” “closed,” “semi-closed,” or any other iteration, the PURPOSE of the primary election is for political parties to choose which candidate best represents THEM.

Then, after the primary, voters participate in the general election and choose from the field of candidates predetermined by the political parties. Under a nonpartisan Top-Two system, instead of having separate primaries for each political party, there is one single primary. All candidates, voters, and political parties participate on the same ballot, and the rules are the same for everyone. Unlike a traditional system, the PURPOSE of the primary is to narrow the candidate field to the “top-two” candidates who best represent ALL OF US, regardless of the candidate or voter’s party affiliations.

Ethics Concerns as Koch Brothers Run TV Ads For a Virginia Judge

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 18:48

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There is concern that the judge backed by the ads may have to recuse himself in future cases thanks to the public support. The Brennan Center’s Fair Courts E-lert, this month titled, “Federal Judicial Selection, State Court Diversity, and Costly Campaigns” had an interesting piece in its Federal Judicial Selection section titled, “Interest Group Runs Ad Supporting Trump Nominee to Third Circuit” about spending by the Concerned Veterans for America lobby. Take a look:

Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a 501(c)(4) group that receives funding from the Koch brothers, began placing advertisements supporting the nomination of Stephanos Bibas to the Third Circuit, writes Stephanie Francis Ward for The ABA Journal. According to Ward, the advertisement made “some wonder whether it might lead to him recusing himself from certain cases, if he is confirmed.”

Citing Caperton v. Massey, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice should have recused himself after a litigant with a pending case spent substantial sums in support of his election, Charles Gardner Geyh, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, said CVA’s spending “gives rise to the question of whether a federal judge or justice must disqualify himself from cases in which PAC support for (or opposition to) a nominee creates a similar probability of bias when a party closely associated with the PAC has a case before that judge.”

Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, said “I think many judges are troubled by the increasing politicization of both the confirmation process and the perception of judges.” Interest groups also spent to support the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Hellman says “shows how things that start at the Supreme Court level are now trickling down and being replicated for lower-court nominations.”

About Stephanos Bibas from his page at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where his is Professor of Law and Criminology and Director of the Supreme Court Clinic:

Stephanos Bibas studies the powers and incentives that shape how prosecutors, defense counsel, defendants, and judges behave in the real world of guilty pleas. His 2004 paper, “Plea Bargaining Outside the Shadow of Trial” (Harvard Law Review), explored the agency costs, structural forces, and psychological biases that cause plea bargaining to deviate from expected trial outcomes. He also studies the divorce between criminal procedure’s focus on efficiency and criminal law’s interest in healing victims, defendants, and communities. His new book (The Machinery of Criminal Justice, Oxford 2012) explains how criminal justice should do more to encourage acceptance of responsibility, remorse, apology, and forgiveness.

As director of Penn’s Supreme Court Clinic, Bibas litigates a wide range of Supreme Court cases. He and his co-counsel won a landmark victory in Padilla v. Kentucky in 2010, persuading the Court to recognize the right of noncitizen defendants to accurate information about deportation before they plead guilty. His academic work played a central role in the Supreme Court’s landmark case of Blakely v. Washington.

An unrelated video by Concerned Veterans for America on court reform that shows what the group is seeking from spending:

America’s Bad Habit: Criticizing Other Cultures

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 14:55

Lychee and Dog Meat Festival – link

America has a problem of always interjecting their westernized opinion into the cultures of other civilizations. Whenever something is different from us, we essentially think that it is wrong. Two stories have been in the headlines of the news and both involve Asian societies. One directly concerns America because an American died, but the other? It does not concern Americans at all yet people seem to still think it is their place to interject.

Otto Warmbier – link

Otto Warmbier, was an American university student who took a trip to North Korea. Upon being there, he allegedly stole a propaganda poster while in a hotel. The poster had a picture of North Korea’s leader on it: Kim Jong-Un. Partaking in this action is considered a very serious crime in North Korea. He was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea. People were outraged and Human Rights groups said this was too much of a punishment. Eventually, Warmbier’s medical condition worsened and he was released in June, but died a couple of days after he was released and taken to a medical facility following a coma. There is a video of someone stealing the poster, but the thief’s face is never revealed.

What is important to note is that if Warmbier did actually steal the poster, one can not truly be surprised by North Korea’s action. If stealing a poster with the leader’s image or name on it is considered a high crime, then why would someone try to steal it, especially knowing the history and political climate of North Korea? Yes, people can be upset about his death, which is a sad thing to happen because he died so young, but if he truly did steal it, why?

It is well known that North Korea currently has one of the strictest rulers in the world, and one would think if you were going to visit this country that is notorious for its rules, leader, and punishments, that you would obey all of them for a safe return. Even if you ignore the part about the poster having the leader’s image/name on it, why would he steal something to begin with, if he truly did steal it? My only question is this: If he truly did steal the poster, why did he think he could get away with it? Because he was American?

More sociologically speaking, China is celebrating its annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, and a lot of Americans are outraged by it. This festival is held in Yulin during the summer solstice where festival goers eat dog meat between June 21 and June 30. Of course people have a problem with this festival because in western culture, dogs are considered domesticated animals and not animals for consumption. This is why you will see several American (or any western) celebrities and animals rights activist groups expressing distaste for this festival. Yes, there are Chinese celebrities who have expressed distaste for these festivals but let’s focus solely on Americans here for a second.

Who are we to tell another country what is and is not okay to celebrate in their culture? Dogs may be this “sacred animal” by Americans, but guess what America: the cow is considered a sacred animal by India. In regions of India, the slaughter of cattle is prohibited. In certain Islamic cultures it is considered unclean or taboo to eat pork.

What if these cultures were to come to America and interject their opinions, like America always seems to do, and say that we were the wrong ones? Let’s not act like America is so innocent with their animals. We have a long history of disrespect to our animals in factory farms. There are dozens and dozens of documentaries and exposes on the mistreatment of animals in factory farms.

Rolling Stones published an article called, “Animal Cruelty is the Price we Pay for Cheap Meat.” And besides the factory farms, let’s talk about how we abuse the environment of animals in America by keeping them in captivity, hunting them for sport, wearing their fur as clothing, littering their habitats with our trash which physically harm them, and best of all, forcing them to fight one another for money.

Americans should learn that just because a culture is different, does not mean that it is wrong. There are different reports on how the dogs were treated in the festival, some said they were killed humanely while others said they were not. If they were killed humanely, then what is the problem? This is neither our country, nor our culture. Hasn’t America learned by now that we don’t need to interject our opinions whenever we disagree because sometimes it’s not our place to say what is right and what is wrong?

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How the Tinder App Could Take Back the White House

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 14:32

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Dating app Tinder is popular enough that it has become the target of political campaign spending. Launched in 2012, Tinder now has some 50 million estimated users with up to 10 million using the app daily according to this tally. The app has been downloaded over 100 million times in a country of roughly 320 million making it definitely of a size that can draw advertisers of all sorts, including apparently your elected representatives. The interesting new article was by Yara Rodrigues Fowler and Charlotte Goodman in the New York Times:

With the help of two software engineers, Erika Pheby and Kyle Buttner, we designed a chatbot, a smart computer program that deployed an adaptable script. In the two days ahead of the election earlier this month, the chatbot struck up conversations with thousands of young people between 18 and 25 years old on Tinder. The chatbot talked about politics, with the aim of getting voters to help oust the Conservative government. The results were amazing. Over 30,000 messages reached young people in key constituencies.

This is how it worked: People we recruited from Facebook and Twitter “lent” us their Tinder profiles, and the bot convinced Tinder that their profiles were in geographical locations where the vote was close. In these places, the proportion of 18-25-year-olds was high enough that they could swing the election — if they turned out at the national average.

Using the photograph of the person who’d lent their profile, the program would automatically swipe “yes” on every user, and if someone swiped “yes” back, creating a “match,” the bot would ask about the user’s voting plans.If the user planned to vote for Labour (or whatever party best placed to beat the Conservatives), the bot sent a message with a link to the nearest polling station. If the user planned to vote for another progressive party, the bot asked if he or she would consider a tactical vote to beat the Tories, voting for the progressive party most likely to beat the Conservatives in their area. And if the user was voting for a right-wing party or was unsure, the bot sent a list of Labour policies, or a criticism of Tory policies. People who lent their profiles could jump in and chat at any time. And they did.

Project Seeks to Elect Independent Colorado Legislators

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 11:22

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The Centrist Project changed its focus to state level politics, expanding its master plan to boost independent candidates. The article, “Centrist Project in 2018 Will Concentrate on Electing Independent Candidates to Colorado Legislature”, was recently posted on Ballot Access News by Richard Winger. Take a look:

The Centrist Project, which has been organized for four years, will concentrate its efforts in 2018 on electing some independent candidates to the Colorado legislature. In the past the Centrist Project has only said it planned to elect independent candidates to Congress, particularly U.S. Senate. That goal is not being abandoned but according to this story, the biggest effort will relate to the Colorado legislature. Colorado has lenient ballot access laws for independent candidates.

Here is some more from the plan thanks to the Colorado Independent article:

In Colorado, the group is looking to target at least five specific House and Senate districts. Staffers have been doing research here since last November’s legislative elections. Working out of a co-working space in downtown Denver, the Centrist Project staff of about a dozen has already reached out to hundreds of potential candidates across the state so far, Troiano told The Colorado Independent. He says the project’s largest donors come from its leadership team, and it accepts individual contributions.

The plan is to recruit, endorse, help fund, and offer campaign support to unaffiliated candidates, and then run them as a slate. While centrist efforts have popped up nationally before— think Unity08 or No Labels— 2018 will be the first time a national group makes a concerted effort to draft unaffiliated candidates into the Colorado legislature. Those candidates, Troiano says, will agree to seek common ground, follow the facts where they lead when voting on legislation, be pro-growth while fiscally and environmentally responsible, and socially tolerant.

Here is an overview of the Centrist Project:

The Centrist Project aims to reshape and reform our political system – not as a traditional third party, but as America’s first Unparty. We are a 21st Century grassroots organization dedicated to organizing Centrist Americans, supporting Centrist policies and encouraging more independent candidates to run for public office to put our country ahead of any political faction in order to solve problems.

We want independent candidates to run for office unaffiliated with any political party. Our Centrist Election Engine provides prospective candidates with access to the tools, training, and talent they need to run competitive campaigns without traditional party support. We seek candidates of great personal integrity who are aligned with the Centrist Principles and approach to governance.

VIDEO: Violent Venezuelan Protests Continue Into a Third Month

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 11:21

Venezuelan troops have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at opposition protesters as demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro move into a third month. Maduro, however, has not shown any signs of reaching a compromise with the opposition. Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from Caracas.

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VIDEO: Obama’s Secret Deliberations on Russian Vote Hacking

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 11:19

New revelations shed light on how former President Obama learned of Russia’s efforts to tip the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor and how his administration responded, including their debate over punishing Russian President Putin. Greg Miller of The Washington Post joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss his reporting.

Reporters explain how the Obama administration struggled to retaliate against Russia and Vladimir Putin for interfering in the U.S. presidential election.

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Moving Towards a South Dakota Top-Two Voting System

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 14:32

South Dakota may hold a referendum on starting a top-two election system like California has. The recent article titled “South Dakota Supporters of Top-Two Will Attempt to Qualify an Initiative for Top-Two in 2018” was posted on Ballot Access News by Richard Winger. Take a look:

South Dakota supporters of top-two systems will try to qualify an initiative in 2018 for their system. See this story. The story is erroneous when it says that Louisiana has a top-two system. Louisiana had a top-two system from 1975 through 1997, but after the Louisiana version of top-two was declared to violate federal law (in the US Supreme Court decision Foster v Love), Louisiana abolished primaries and only has general elections in November (for Congress) and a run-off in December if no one gets 50%. Thanks to Mike Drucker for this news.

According to the article by reporter Dana Ferguson on Argus Leader:

Under the proposal, candidates for governor, state Legislature, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would be listed on one primary ballot regardless of party affiliation. All voters would be eligible to cast ballots in the primary election and the top two vote recipients in each race, regardless of party, would move on to the general election. That means two Republicans or two Democrats could compete against one another in the general election.

Here is some more on top-two voting systems from the Independent Voter Project:

The Top-Two primary fundamentally changes the traditional approach to elections. Under a traditional primary system, whether the primary is “open,” “closed,” “semi-closed,” or any other iteration, the PURPOSE of the primary election is for political parties to choose which candidate best represents THEM.

Then, after the primary, voters participate in the general election and choose from the field of candidates predetermined by the political parties. Under a nonpartisan Top-Two system, instead of having separate primaries for each political party, there is one single primary. All candidates, voters, and political parties participate on the same ballot, and the rules are the same for everyone. Unlike a traditional system, the PURPOSE of the primary is to narrow the candidate field to the “top-two” candidates who best represent ALL OF US, regardless of the candidate or voter’s party affiliations.

VIDEO: Why a Coal Titan is Suing John Oliver for Defamation

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 14:17

Excerpt from the related Washington Post article:

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver knew he was inviting a legal battle when he used his show Sunday to lambaste one of the country’s largest coal mining companies and mock its chief executive. But it had to be done, he said.

In a 24-minute segment on the decline of the coal industry and President Trump’s tenuous promises to bring it back, Oliver railed against the mining giant Murray Energy Corporation and chief executive Robert E. Murray, who has blamed the industry’s troubles on an “evil agenda” by President Barack Obama.

Before he got going, Oliver offered up a proviso. “I’m going to need to be careful here,” he said, “because when we contacted Murray Energy for this piece, they sent us a letter instructing us to ‘cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy,’ and telling us that ‘failure to do so will result in immediate litigation.’”

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Exposing the Dark Money Group Backing the Health Care Bill

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:51

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A secretive nonprofit closely linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan has been playing a pivotal role

A secretive nonprofit closely linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan has been playing a pivotal role in supporting Republican policies and candidates since the November 2016 election, a MapLight analysis has found. The American Action Network (AAN) has donated more than $6.5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) — a super PAC that has been…

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Can Technology Solve the Low Voter Turnout Problem

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:37

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It is not yet clear whether voting technology actually does spur greater voter participation

A voter wears a shirt with words from the United States Constitution while casting his ballot early as long lines of voters vote at the San Diego County Elections Office in San Diego, California, US, November 7, 2016. [Photo/Agencies] According to an unpublished “kitchen table survey”, conducted before last November’s presidential election in the United States,…

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