The Voting News Daily: E-voting machine freezes, misreads votes, The high art of disenfranchisement

National: E-voting machine freezes, misreads votes, U.S. agency says | Computerworld An electronic ballot scanning device slated for use in the upcoming presidential elections, misreads ballots, fails to log critical events and is prone to freezes and sudden lockups, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has found. The little noticed EAC report on the DS200 Precinct Count Optical Scanner…

National: E-voting machine freezes, misreads votes, U.S. agency says | Computerworld

An electronic ballot scanning device slated for use in the upcoming presidential elections, misreads ballots, fails to log critical events and is prone to freezes and sudden lockups, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has found. The little noticed EAC report on the DS200 Precinct Count Optical Scanner in the Unity voting system built by Election Systems & Software (ES&S) was released late last month.

The 141-page Formal Investigative Report ( download pdf ) highlights multiple “substantial anomalies” in the DS200: intermittent screen freezes; system lockups and shutdowns; and failure to log all normal and abnormal system event.  For example, the DS200 in some cases failed to log events such as a vote being cast, when its touch-screen is calibrated or when the system is powered on or off, the EAC said. In addition, the EAC report said the system failed to read votes correctly when a 17-inch ballot was inserted at an angle. The voter’s intended mark was either registered as a different selection or the vote was not registered at all, the EAC noted.

Editorials: The high art of disenfranchisement | Editorial/

Attorney General Eric Holder says the U.S. Justice Department will move aggressively to review the plethora of new voting laws that state legislatures across the nation have passed in recent years to exclude minority voters. Get to it, Mr. Holder.

There is no better place to start than in Florida where picking and choosing voters has become a high art and low crime. And it is not just minority voters who face these new hurdles but young voters, voters who have moved into new precincts, voters whose interest in politics is newly awakened. In short, voters who aren’t part of a tightly knit group that can be counted on for party-line (dare we say, Republican) ballots in a state where Democrats outnumber GOP registered voters.

Consider the issue of restoring civil rights, including the right to vote, to people who have completed their sentences on felony convictions. Not a popular bunch, not a group easy to defend. Yet, these are people who have paid the debt demanded of them by society, and it’s in society’s best interest to give them a stake in the future of their communities.

California: “Top-Two” Supporters Hope to Eliminate Write-in Space on California General Election Ballots | Ballot Access News

On January 10, at 1:30 p.m., the California Senate Elections Committee will hear AB 1413. The bill abolishes write-in space on general election ballots for Congress and partisan state office. It also makes various other technical changes that will alter the top-two system passed by the voters in June 2010, when they approved Proposition 14 by a 53.7-46.3% margin.

Colorado: Required photo IDs for voting not likely | The Pueblo Chieftain

Debates aside over whether identification requirements to vote are ploys to disenfranchise the poor or to make voter fraud easier, there’s little chance that Colorado will institute a photo ID requirement until it cleans up its own system of issuing them, according to one local state lawmaker.

Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, said that the complicated process of getting a state identification card has been a hurdle in passing legislation to require IDs. “I’m a believer in a state ID to vote but how do we streamline the process?” he asked.
He’s talked a few times with Jon Manley, assistant director of the Pueblo Department of Revenue office, about the problems and gotten an earful from constituents, too. The controversy over photo IDs has surfaced in a number of states.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently intervened to block a South Carolina law opponents charged was aimed at discouraging the poor and minorities to vote. In Wisconsin, charges flew from opponents of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators facing a recent recall election that motor vehicle offices were either closed in Democratic areas or employees were told not to inform people that IDs could be obtained for free.
The argument goes that the poor, especially the elderly, will find it harder to obtain IDs if they have no way of getting to state offices or have to do a lot of paperwork.

Iowa: Voter Casts Doubt on Winner of Caucus | Nate Silver/

At just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn addressed reporters who had spent the night following the historically close Republican caucus race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The margin separating the candidates was small — eight votes — but he was prepared to declare a victor. “Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney, the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses,” Mr. Strawn said.

Mr. Romney’s victory is unofficial — the counties have up to two weeks from the caucuses to send their final certified results to the state party. However, there is no provision for a recount in the caucuses, and the campaign which might have the most interest in pursuing one — Mr. Santorum’s — is making no effort to challenge the results. Still, given Mr. Romney’s exceptionally small margin of victory, a single discrepancy could potentially reverse the outcome. On Wednesday, a voter in the town of Moulton in Appanoose County, Iowa claimed to have found one.

The voter, Edward True, signed an affidavit which stated that he had helped to count the vote after the caucus at the Garrett Memorial Library in Moulton. Mr. True claims that the results listed on the Google spreadsheet maintained by the Iowa Republican Party differed substantially from the count that had been taken at the caucus site. Mr. Romney had received only two votes in his precinct, Mr. True’s affidavit said, but had been given credit for 22 by the state. That would be enough to flip Mr. Romney’s eight-vote victory into a 12-vote win for Mr. Santorum.

Michigan: Secretary of State Ruth Johnson hopes to install election fixes in time for this year’s big elections |

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she hopes to complete her proposed streamlining of the state’s election system this spring, in time for this year’s primary and general elections. Johnson said the 12 bills in her “Secure and Fair Elections,” or SAFE Initiative will clean up obsolete voter lists, allow more voters to use absentee ballots, tighten up registration procedures and close loopholes in the state’s photo ID requirement for voters.

As the state’s chief elections official, Johnson also is hoping to win passage of new campaign finance laws that require advance registration to prevent political “stealth efforts” such as the fake “Tea Party” created in 2010.
She also is calling for improved training procedures for voter registration groups and tighter post-election audit procedures. Six of the bills have already been reported out of state Senate committees while another six will be heard in state House committees in coming weeks, Johnson said during a visit to Grand Rapids Thursday.

New Hampshire: State Deals With Voting Rights Confusion as Primary Approaches | America Votes

New Hampshire has had a proud tradition of hosting the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary Election but this year’s election may be remembered more for voter confusion and a not-so-subtle attempt to deny the vote to targeted groups of New Hampshire voters.

There’s been a full scale war against voters going on in New Hampshire for the past year. America Votes and the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire have taken the lead in fighting back against every attempt to pass voter suppression legislation. So far, the current leadership of the New Hampshire Legislature has been unsuccessful when it comes to actually passing legislation but their obsessive efforts to suppress the vote are taking a toll on New Hampshire’s voters.

Bills that would have barred college students from the voting booth, ended same-day voter registration in New Hampshire and required already registered voters to show a photo ID to get a ballot on Election Day have all been defeated.

Texas: Case Could Change Voting Rights Act | ABC News

The Supreme Court will attempt on Monday to untangle the political mess in Texas created by a voting rights controversy. The case could have important political consequences, and highlights a lurking issue regarding the continued viability of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark legislation passed in 1965 to protect minorities from discriminatory voting practices.

At issue are two very different sets of redistricting maps drawn up to take into account new census numbers for the state: Texas has grown by 4.3 million people since the previous census, and minorities make up the majority of the growth. Because of the population growth, Texas was awarded four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Last spring the Republican-dominated Texas legislature passed one set of redistricting maps. But Democrats and minority rights groups immediately criticized them, arguing they did not reflect the growth of minority representation. Texas, a state with a history of past discrimination in voting, is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to get approval or “preclearance” from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C., for any election-related changes.

Texas: Election map fight goes before Supreme Court | Thomson Reuters

The Supreme Court next week will step into a partisan battle over remapping congressional districts in Texas, the court’s first review of political boundary-drawing resulting from the 2010 U.S. census, with elections ahead in November. At issue in Monday’s arguments will be whether Texas uses maps drawn by a U.S. court in San Antonio favoring Democrats and minorities, or maps drawn by the Republican-dominated state legislature, in the 2012 congressional and state elections.

Texas Republican officials appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that a lower court had overstepped its authority in coming up with its own redistricting plan and that it should have deferred to the state legislature’s plan. The Obama administration for the most part has supported the state Democratic Party and groups representing Hispanics and blacks before the Supreme Court, saying that parts of the state’s plan violated the federal voting rights law.

Virginia: McDonnell, Bolling say no to GOP loyalty oath |

Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are urging the Republican Party of Virginia to rethink its plans to require voters in the party’s March presidential primary to sign a loyalty oath.

The party wanted the loyalty oath — in which primary voters would promise to support the Republican nominee for president in the November election — to help weed out Democratic voters. Virginia has open primaries, which means voters of any party can vote in any primary. But the idea of a loyalty oath has been getting resistance from Republicans, and now McDonnell and Bolling both say they think it’s a bad idea.

“While I fully understand the reasoning that led to the establishment of this requirement, such an oath is unenforceable and I do not believe it is in the best interests of our Party, or the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a written statement this morning. “The effect of the oath could be one of diminishing participation in the primary, at a time when our Party must be expanding its base and membership as we head into the pivotal 2012 general elections this fall.”

Wisconsin: Walker campaign case against election officials allowed to proceed | JSOnline

A state appeals court has refused to halt a legal attempt by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee to force state election officials to more aggressively screen signatures in a recall attempt against him. But the court also cleared the way for recall campaigns to appeal an earlier court decision in the case.

The appeals court’s action allows a hearing to proceed Thursday afternoon in the lawsuit by the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, against the state Government Accountability Board. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the courtroom of Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis.

The suit, citing constitutional rights to equal protection, asks Davis to order the accountability board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses on recall petitions, which must be filed by Jan. 17. The accountability board reviews the signatures.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board: Statewide Recall Election Could Cost $9 Million, Up to $20 Million | Shorewood, WI Patch

A recall election for Gov. Scott Walker would cost just more than $9 million without a primary and $17 million with a primary, according to numbers released Friday. The Government Accountability Board reached those estimates after receiving information from the state’s 72 counties. The work was done after Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) made a request for the information.

“The costs are significant,” said Vos. “We asked for these figures, hoping that if people knew the cost, they would think twice.” After learning the recall elections in summer 2011 cost over $2 million, Vos wanted to know what a statewide recall would run. In a letter to the GAB back in October, Vos asked for an estimate, saying he wanted voters informed before petitions were circulated for Governor Scott Walker and other elected officials.

“I believe that Wisconsin taxpayers should know the estimated cost of running a statewide election before petitions are circulated. Taxpayers need this cost estimate so they can make a better informed decision as to how their tax dollars should be spent. This is essential information because the recall election costs will have a direct impact on all county and local government budgets,” he wrote.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh Election Commission considering bigger role for Electronic Voting Machines |

The Election Commission is mulling over using the electronic voting machines in the national elections riding on its overwhelming success in the Comilla city polls. Bangladesh’s smallest city corporation went to the vote on Thursday without any ballot paper to mark the first full-fledged electronic election in Bangladesh. The electronic machines were experimentally used in Chittagong and Narayanganj city corporation elections.

Citizens Committee candidate Monirul Haque Sakku, an expelled BNP leader, claimed a landslide victory and became the first mayor of Comilla with 65,577 votes, while his nearest rival ruling Awami League-backed Afzal Khan got 36,471 votes. During the daylong ballot, where a total of 169,273 voters cast their votes at 421 polling booths of the 65 polling centres from 8am to 4pm, both voters and the contestants expressed their satisfaction with regard to the EVMs.

Kazakhstan: Vote cancelled in troubled Kazakh oil town | Reuters

Residents of a mutinous Kazakh oil town will be excluded from a parliamentary election this month due to a state of emergency imposed after the deadliest riots in the Central Asian state for decades, the Central Election Commission said on Friday. The cancellation of elections in Zhanaozen, where at least 16 people were killed last month in clashes between protesters and riot police, will effectively deny a voice to around 50,000 potential voters in the Jan. 15 election.

“This decision can only be based on fear that the party in power would receive absolutely nothing in a real vote,” said political analyst Aidos Sarym. “Fearing any kind of surprise, and aware that the population is embittered and negatively inclined toward the authorities, the powers-that-be have simply decided to exclude this region.”

Taiwan: Presidential race darkened by spying charges |

Taiwan’s presidential campaign has taken a dark turn, with the opposition challenger accusing intelligence services under the control of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of tracking her campaign events for political advantage.

The allegations — unproven and denied by Ma — conjure up memories of Taiwan’s unsavory one-party past, when Ma’s party, the Nationalists, used their total control of the state apparatus to persecute opponents. While the island has since morphed into one of Asia’s most dynamic democracies, many senior civil servants may still believe that serving the top political echelon involves cutting corners.

“Even if the president did not give an order for monitoring, the heads of intelligence were appointed by him, and they could take the elections as a good time to return the favors,” the mass-circulation Apple Daily said in an editorial published Friday.