IMPORTANT: Why you might think twice before filling in those postal vote applications

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April 20, 2019 06:59:23

Over the next few weeks, you might spot a letter marked “IMPORTANT voting information” for the 2019 Federal Election that looks official, and contains a postal vote application form asking for personal details. But they’re not from the AEC.

The unbranded envelopes have been landing in people’s mailboxes for the past few weeks, and contain a reply-paid envelope along with the form.

A number of recipients have told the ABC they thought it was an official letter from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), until they opened it to find campaign material inside.

The AEC has warned if you choose to fill out these forms and mail them in the supplied envelopes, they will not be sent directly to the AEC.

Instead, they’ll be sent to your local candidate, who may open your application before forwarding it to the AEC for processing.

Both the Liberals and Labor are deploying them — the ABC has seen them in at least five states so far.

It sounds a bit sneaky, so Phil Arntzen from Western Australia asked the ABC’s You Ask, We Answer project to investigate:

“How is it allowed that candidates can send out postal vote forms to return to them, which could be privacy-breached, and not direct to the AEC?”

The simple answer is:

According to the Commonwealth Electoral Act — which sets out all the rules for elections in Australia — political parties are allowed to distribute postal vote applications to electors, along with reply-paid envelopes addressed back to them.

“This is a longstanding provision of the electoral act,” the AEC’s director of media and issues management, Phil Diak, said.

But voters aren’t required to apply or to use the envelope supplied if they do.

“The applicant may instead choose to send a completed party-supplied postal vote application direct to the AEC,” Mr Diak said.

“If it does go back to the party, it must be promptly onforwarded to the AEC. We then send the ballot papers and there’s no further dealings with the party.”

So why do political parties send them out?

Political parties spruik postal votes as an easy and convenient way to vote if you can’t make it to a polling booth on election day.

But there is speculation data could be added to parties’ internal databases, which they use to target you in the lead-up to the election.

Knowing how old you are, your full name, and even your security question could give a local candidate useful insight into who’s living at that address, before they knock on your door.

They’ll know what to bring up, or send you campaign material that’s tailored to your interests, in a bid to capture your vote.

The ABC asked both the Liberal and Labor parties:

  • What happens if people post their application in the reply paid envelope provided by your candidates?
  • Is the party transferring or recording that data on another system, before sending the application on to the AEC?
  • What data is being recorded?
  • What is that data then being used for?
  • What provisions do you have in place to keep that data secure?

A spokeswoman for the Coalition party’s HQ wrote back:

The party provides applications for postal votes to the AEC.

All personal information is handled according to the legislative requirements required by the Privacy Act.

The Labor party did not respond before the ABC’s deadline.

Is it legal for parties to check out what’s on the form?

Yep. Mr Diak said there was nothing stopping political parties from “extracting and viewing” your postal vote application, if it’s sent back to them in the envelope they supplied.

That means they could access your:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Enrolled address
  • Postal address
  • Contact details (including your email address, mobile phone number and home phone number)
  • A security question and answer

What’s that security question about?

When you apply for a postal vote, the AEC asks you to provide a security question and answer, which it will then use to verify your vote.

“When you receive your postal vote you’ll be asked to write your answer on the envelope containing your ballot papers,” the form states.

But that might not be information you want to divulge to political parties, with your only options including:

  • In what town/city were you born?
  • What company did you first work for?
  • What was the last school you attended?
  • What was the make/model of your first car?
  • What is the middle name of your oldest child?

“Regarding the question of privacy, this is a matter for the applicant to consider in sending an application to a party,” Mr Diak said.

Full coverage of Australia Votes

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The Karlmann King is a $2 million enormous ultra-luxury SUV built upon a Ford F-550

The $2 million Karlmann King is the world’s most expensive SUV – Business Insider

  • The Karlmann King is the world’s most expensive SUV, with a starting price of close to $2 million.
  • The vehicle is built upon a Ford F-550 and weighs over 13,000 pounds.
  • Its cabin includes a host of luxury features and the exterior is available with bulletproof armor.

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Sarah Hyland posts bikini pic to motivate a return to the gym despite ‘constant pain’

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Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland is defending her decision to reveal that she wore two pairs of Spanx to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
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Sarah Hyland is finding strength amid her health battles. 

The “Modern Family” actress used throwback Thursday as an opportunity to motivate herself to work out, in spite of the fact that she says she’s experiencing unrelenting discomfort.

“I’m putting this #tbt out there to remind myself that I can make it to the gym,” Hyland, 28, captioned a photo shared to social media, in which she is donning a gold triangle-bikini top. 

“Lately I’ve been making excuses because of the constant pain from health issues,” she wrote. “But no more. A woman’s body is a miraculous thing and we can do anything we set our minds to. 

“#summer #bodygoals here I come,” she added. 

Celebrity hair inspiration:  Hyland goes shaggy, cuts hair into carefree, choppy lob

Hyland was hospitalized last month after sharing on social media she was battling pinkeye and a viral respiratory infection, People magazine and E! News report.

The actress has been open about her health issues and the challenges resulting from kidney dysplasia, a disease that occurs when the organs do no fully develop while in utero and can lead to chronic difficulty filtering waste from the bloodstream.

As a result, Hyland has had two kidney transplants. After experiencing kidney failure, she received a kidney from her father in 2012. Her transplanted kidney was removed in 2017 and she received a kidney from her brother the same year.

Hyland’s ‘Family’ was there for her: Hyland reveals how ‘Modern Family’ helped her through health struggles

Not just cosmetic: Sarah Hyland defends wearing two pairs of Spanx to hide bulge from kidney transplant

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Biden set to announce presidential run next week

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By Mike Memoli

WASHINGTON — Advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are finalizing plans for the launch of his presidential campaign next week, ending months of suspense that has hung over the Democratic nominating race.

Discussions among his core group of advisers about the exact timing of his announcement and subsequent campaign events are ongoing and subject to change, multiple officials said. Those discussions were set into motion earlier this month, as Biden himself publicly acknowledged a decision was all but a formality.

“My intention from the beginning was if I were to run would be the last person to announce,” he said after delivering the second of three speeches since mid-March to union audiences. “We’ll find out whether I can win in a primary.”

Biden has eyed the presidency for most of his decades-long career, running twice before. Both campaigns ended early — in 1988, long before the first votes were cast as he faced accusations of plagiarism, and in 2008 after a disappointing finish in the lead-off Iowa caucuses.

In debates during that 2008 primary fight, then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Biden often found their views in sync. After Obama upset Hillary Clinton to win the nomination, he sought to balance out the ticket by tapping Biden as his running mate, bringing on board an experienced legislator and foreign policy expert.

When the two were re-elected in 2012, Biden turned to planning a campaign to succeed him. But just as he was preparing for his first visit to Iowa in 2013, his eldest son, Beau, was diagnosed with brain cancer — effectively putting the vice president’s political future on hold. At his family’s urging, he still explored the possibility of running in the months after Beau’s death, but ultimately ceded the field to Clinton.

When it seemed clear that Clinton would defeat Trump in the 2016 election, Biden laid the groundwork for an active post-White House life, building foreign and domestic policy hubs at a pair of universities in addition to launching the Biden Cancer Foundation to continue the work of his “moonshot” bid for a cure.

But Trump’s unlikely victory afforded Biden an unexpected final chance to seek the office. He became an outspoken critic especially of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and divisive political style, and campaigned aggressively for Democratic candidates in 2018, billing the midterms as a “battle for the soul of America.”

As his long-time team of political advisers began sketching out a 2020 campaign, they kept two possible impediments in mind: the still-tenuous emotional state of Biden’s family after his son’s death, and a Democratic Party growing younger and seemingly being pushed further to the left in part as a response to Trump.

While Biden has become an elder statesman who could be an antidote to the chaotic Trump era, his long track record also features past support for policies now anathema to broad swaths of the Democratic electorate.

Biden authored the Violence Against Women Act, helped pass a ban on assault weapons and embraced same-sex marriage even before Obama did. He also voted in support of the 2002 Iraq war authorization, was a lead author of a 1994 crime bill that swelled the nation’s prison population, and, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation, including handling testimony by Anita Hill that Thomas had sexually harassed her.

And just weeks before Biden’s decision his intensely personal manner itself became an issue, after a Nevada Democrat described unwelcome physical contact by the then-vice president as they prepared to take the stage at a campaign event in 2014.

After other women also described similar interactions, Biden acknowledged in an online video that “social norms are changing,” and that what he viewed as “gestures of support and encouragement” have sometimes made people uncomfortable. “I think it’s going to have to change somewhat how I campaign,” he told NBC News that week.

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Raiders send scouts home before draft fearing leaks

Ahead of Mike Mayock’s first draft as a general manager, the Oakland Raiders decision-maker is shrinking his circle of trust.

Mayock and second-year Raiders coach Jon Gruden sent their scouts home for the weekend and do not expect them to return by draft time, sources told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Friday.

Rapoport added that Gruden and Mayock “don’t know who to trust” among the scouts and “wanted to clear the room.”

According to the Raiders‘ website, they employ 14 people in their player personnel department, not all of whom are scouts. Raiders director of college scouting Shaun Herock was hired by former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie in 2012 and served as interim GM when McKenzie unceremoniously left the organization in December.

It’s unclear who will be in the Raiders‘ war room when the 2019 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday on NFL Network.

On its face, this appears an unusual measure taken by the coach and GM, considering their lack of experience drafting together and the high stakes of this draft in Oakland. Some of NFL Network’s former personnel execs aren’t surprised that the Raiders would pull off this move.

The Raiders own three first-round picks (Nos. 4, 24 and 27) and, saddled with numerous needs, have been rumored to do any and all things with that first selection (trade up, trade down, pick a quarterback, etc.). Oakland also owns the third pick in the second round, giving the Raiders four of the draft’s first 35 selections.

In short, Oakland can’t afford to screw this draft up.

Mayock was hired by Gruden and the Raiders after the coach pushed out McKenzie in December. A first-year general manager, Mayock previously spent 15 seasons as NFL Network’s draft guru.

The GM told reporters last week that Gruden told him ahead of this draft, “Don’t mess it up, dude. I took a lot of slings to get you three first-round picks.”

By kicking scouts out of Oakland’s remaining pre-draft meetings, it appears Gruden and Mayock are trying not to “mess it up” by potentially allowing leaks out of the war room.

The responsibility come draft day will lie with Gruden, Mayock and few others.

“The way I look at this thing from a how-do-people-perceive-me perspective is a lot of people doubted that anybody could come out of the media and go and be a GM for any team,” Mayock said last week. “I know that. I get that.

“But at the end of the day, here’s the deal — if we win, everything will be fine. And if we lose, I’ll get fired. And I’m perfectly fine with that.”

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Atheist prayers can be denied by House chaplain, appeals court rules

In the federal appeals court Friday, the atheist didn’t have a prayer.

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with Father Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, in ruling that he could not be ordered to allow a self-described atheist to offer a secular prayer to the House of Representatives.

The case was brought Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and a former minister, against Conroy, in his official role as the House chaplain.

Barker alleged Conroy improperly rejected a request to have him serve as guest chaplain.

The lower court had dismissed Barker’s claim that his rights had been violated under the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress, but offered its own take on the issue.

In the decision released Friday, the appeals court’s three-judge panel sidestepped the legal question of whether Baker was being prevented from offering a prayer because he was an atheist, and focused instead of the content of the prayer.

Writing for the panel, Judge David S. Tatel said that the court “need not decide whether there is a constitutional difference between excluding a would-be prayer-giver from the guest chaplain program because he is an atheist and excluding him because he has expressed a desire to deliver a nonreligious prayer.”

“Even though we accept as true Barker’s allegation that Conroy rejected him ‘because he is an atheist,’ the House’s requirement that prayers must be religious nonetheless precludes Barker from doing the very thing he asks us to order Conroy to allow him to do: deliver a secular prayer,” he wrote.

The court noted that Conroy, during the litigation, had changed his explanation for blocking Barker from his initial argument that he was not a recognized or ordained religious figure.

Instead, the Court noted, “Conroy has taken a different position: that Barker could not serve as guest chaplain because he sought to give a secular prayer..”

“More important,” Tatel wrote, “the House of Representatives itself, through House counsel, has now ratified that position. Both in briefing and at oral argument, House counsel represented to this court that the House interprets its rules to require ‘a religious invocation.’”

In other words, the court ignored the issue of an atheist as a guest chaplain by finding that an atheist’s prayer would not, by definition, be a religious prayer.

House rules have authorized daily prayers as part the body’s official proceedings since William Linn, a Presbyterian, was named the first chaplain in 1789.

It was not Conroy’s first brush with controversy. In 2018, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan forced Conroy to resign after questioning whether the chaplain was delivering sufficient “pastoral services” to the entire House. Some lawyers had complained that the Catholic priest’s prayers has been too political

Ryan quickly reversed course Thursday in a showdown that included Conroy’s allegation of anti-Catholic bias by Ryan’s chief of staff. 

 

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Mitt Romney says he’s ‘sickened’ by Trump’s ‘dishonesty and misdirection’ after reading the Mueller report

Sen. Mitt Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee, condemned President Donald Trump after reading the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report on Friday.

Romney said that while it’s “good news” that Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump and his aides with conspiracy to collude with Russia, he added that the report lays out a disturbing portrait of presidential “dishonesty.”

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” Romney wrote in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Read more: Democrats have an intra-party battle brewing over impeaching Trump after the Mueller report’s release

Romney, who famously excoriated Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 and later considered joining his administration, took particular issue with Trump campaign aides welcoming help from Russia.

As Trump closed in on the GOP nomination in 2016, Romney fiercely attacked Trump’s character and record, calling him a “phony” and a “fraud” whose “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Read more: Romney’s Senate opponent roasts him for accepting Trump’s endorsement after he said he wouldn’t

Trump hit back repeatedly, calling Romney “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics,” and a “dope” who “choked like a dog” when he lost to Obama in 2012.

But just a few months later Romney met with the president-elect on multiple occasions, reportedly angling to become Trump’s secretary of state.

Trump ultimately endorsed Romney’s Utah Senate run last year. But Romney spurned the president once again in January, when he penned an op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

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