A recent presidential commission report on election administration characterizes the state of U.S. voting machines as an “impending crisis.” According to the report, created in response to a presidential order, existing voting machines are reaching the end of their operational life spans, jurisdictions often lack the funds to replace them, and those with funds find market offerings limited because several constraints have made manufacturing new machines difficult. On Election Day, these problems could translate into hours-long waits, lost votes and errors in election results. In the long term, such problems breed a lack of trust in the democratic process, reducing the public’s faith in government, experts say. According to Barbara Simons, a member of the board of advisers to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the problem can’t be avoided any longer. “People died for the right to vote as recently as the civil rights movement,” she said. “The American Revolution was all about being able to control our own democracy, and that means voting … We know that a lot of machines were breaking in the 2012 election. It’s not that it’s an impending crisis. This crisis is already here.” Also, outdated voting machines can present security risks both in hardware deficiencies (some machines use generic keys to protect sensitive panels) and in software flaws that are difficult if not impossible to detect when compromised, according to security audits. Assessing the security of many of these systems is difficult, however, since companies insist proprietary software and hardware may not be disclosed to third parties. Government audits are often not fully public. The current problem is rooted in the short-term fixes that were implemented to solve the last major voting crisis, in 2000, when unreliable punchcard machines led to ambiguous ballots in Florida, putting the presidential election into question. After further issues in the 2002 midterm elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that fall. HAVA gave states millions of dollars to replace punchcard machines and created the EAC, charged with establishing standards for voting systems.
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Attorneys have responded to the State of Alaska’s proposed plan to address a state Supreme Court order to improve translation of voting materials in Native languages before November 4th Elections. In a 30-page document, Attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund, representing Yup’ik and Gwich’in Alaska Native voters, asked for five main changes before election day. NARF Attorney Natalie Landreth says the most important request is that the state have bilingual help for Native language voters in every community where it’s needed. Voters at the Lower Kuskokwim School District choosing primary election ballots on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014. “You have to have a bilingual person in place in each place in each village in advance of the election and on election day, that’s number one. Number two: you have to have written translations in Yup’ik of the ballot measures, the pro and con statements, the neutral summaries and the complicated pre-election information like what early voting is, how to get registered,” said Landreth.
Voter turnout during last month’s primary races was a little too good in some counties, Arizona elections officials said Friday. Some precincts in northern Arizona tallied more ballots cast than there are registered voters, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. According to officials, errors made by poll workers and elections officials in Apache and Navajo counties led to the miscalculations. Initial reports from some precincts showed a turnout of anywhere from 200 to 400 percent. In Apache County, the Puerco West precinct reportedly had 100 votes cast, but only 23 voters are registered there. The voter turnout added up to 434 percent. Similarly, the Fort Defiance precinct cited 1,046 ballots cast though only 357 voters reside there. As a result, turnout was shown to be 293 percent.
Activists in Whittier on Monday filed an appeal to a judge’s dismissal this month of their lawsuit challenging the city’s system of electing its officials. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael M. Johnson on Thursday granted the city’s request to dismiss the suit alleging that its at-large method of electing council members violated the California Voting Rights Act. When voters gave the city permission this year to switch to electing officials by geographic district, the lawsuit became moot, Johnson said in dismissing it. Whittier is one of several California cities with significant minority populations but few or no minority elected officials. Activists have been suing such cities, school districts and other local government bodies, claiming the at-large elections deprive minorities of opportunities to elect a representative of their choice. Several jurisdictions have switched to district elections when confronted with evidence of racially polarized voting.
D.C. residents and city lawmakers packed a Senate hearing Monday for their first chance in two decades to make the case that the nation’s capital should be the 51st state. They came prepared with statistics: $4 billion in federal income taxes are paid annually by city residents. They came with constitutional theories: D.C. residents are unfairly “subjugated” without a voting member of Congress. And they came with stacks of testimony often built around one word to describe the District’s condition. When it comes to full democracy, the rights of D.C. residents are “denied,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D). From the dais, however, there wasn’t much interest. Only two senators attended the first hearing on D.C. statehood in almost 21 years. Those two were Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who introduced the bill, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who called the whole exercise a waste of time. Coburn then promptly left after little more than a half hour. Carper’s exact reasoning for calling the unusual hearing — and on a day that many members of his committee remained in their districts — remained unclear.
More details and statistics about turnout in the August primary are emerging and stirring up some chatter about the possibility of including “none of the above” in all races. First, the new, party turnout numbers: 54,409 Republicans cast primary ballots, or 18.6 percent of the total turnout; 21,485 Democrats voted, or 31.9 percent, and 12,111 “others” also voted, 10.3 percent. Since Republicans have more and more hotly contested races to vote in, their higher turnout is usual for Lee, even though it’s not even half the almost 170,000 registered Republicans. But in the GOP primary for governor, where Gov. Rick Scott faced virtually nonexistent and unknown competition and all Republicans could vote, he collected 48,284 votes, meaning 5,125 Republicans went to the polls and did not vote for Scott. His two opponents collected about 4,200 votes, but given their lack of campaign activity or name ID, it leads to questions about whether those votes were really for them, or “anybody but” Scott. And there’s still 1,000 or so GOP votes “missing” in that race.
Democrat Chad Taylor’s lawsuit against Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be heard by the Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday in an unprecedented case that could help decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Never before has a major party candidate sued to be removed from an election in Kansas. Taylor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, wants his name off the November ballot and has called in one of the Democratic Party’s top attorneys for help. Kobach ruled that Taylor failed to properly withdraw because he did not include a declaration that he is incapable to serve in a letter that he submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office on Sept. 3, the deadline to withdraw.
Kansas: Analysts: Decision to keep Taylor on ballot could hurt Kobach in his own race | The Wichita Eagle
Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t worried about potential political fallout from his decision to keep Democrat Chad Taylor on the ballot in the U.S. Senate races. Political scientists predict the move could damage Kobach in his own re-election race against Jean Schodorf, a Wichita Democrat. Kobach says he’s doing his duty of upholding the state’s election laws. “If someone is upset at me for enforcing the law as it is clearly written and they want to vote against me for that reason, that’s fine,” he said last week. “My job is to enforce the law, not make it up. In my view, my electoral consequences have to be set aside.” Taylor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, submitted a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office to withdraw his name from the ballot, a move political observers said would benefit independent challenger Greg Orman in the race against longtime Sen. Pat Roberts.
Republican candidate for state secretary David D’Arcangelo pledged Monday to bring electronic balloting to Massachusetts and make public records more readily available if elected. D’Arcangelo, standing outside the Massachusetts Statehouse with a life-size cardboard cutout of longtime incumbent William Galvin — said the Democrat is behind the times and has to embrace new technologies. He said secure computer terminals could be set up at local polling locations and even overseas to allow service members to vote without having to mail back paper ballots. ”I envision every precinct across the commonwealth having a secure terminal, a secure kiosk where you can go in and vote electronically if you choose to,” D’Arcangelo said. “The technology is available. We need to embrace it. We need to come into 2014.”
Minnesota has joined a multistate consortium that will help provide more accurate voter registration officials at the polls. As a new member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), officials say Minnesota will now compare Minnesota’s voter rolls to Minnesota’s driver’s license database, the Social Security Administration’s death information and other states’ voter rolls. Also in the consortium are the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.