National: UK Guardian: Oscars vote vulnerable to cyber-attack under new online system, experts warn

Computer security experts have warned that the 2013 Oscars ballot may be vulnerable to a variety of cyber attacks that could falsify the outcome but remain undetected, if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences follows through on its decision to switch to internet voting for its members. The Academy announced last week that it would be ditching its current vote-by-mail system and allowing its members to fill out electronic ballots from their home or office computers to make their choices for best picture and the other big Hollywood prizes, starting in 2013. It announced a partnership with Everyone Counts, a California-based company which has developed software for internet elections from Australia to Florida, and boasted it would incorporate “multiple layers of security” and “military-grade encryption techniques” to maintain its reputation for scrupulous honesty in respecting its members’ voting preferences. The change will be a culture shock for an Academy voting community that tends to skew older and more conservative: indeed, concerns are already surfacing whether all of the Academy voters even have email addresses. And the claims have been met with deep scepticism by a computer scientist community which has grappled for years with the problem of making online elections fully verifiable while maintaining ballot secrecy – in other words, being rigorous about auditing the voting process but still making sure nobody knows who voted for what. So far, nobody has demonstrated that such a thing is possible. “Everybody would like there to be secure internet voting, but some very smart people have looked at the problem and can’t figure out how to do it,” said David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of the election transparency group Verified Voting. “The problem arises as soon as you decouple the voter from the recorded vote. If someone casts a ballot for best actor A and the vote is recorded for best actor B, the voter has no way of knowing the ballot has been altered, and the auditor won’t be able to see it either.”

The Voting News Daily: Contests in battleground states could hinge on ‘invisible’ overseas voters, Citizens United Lawyer: I Hate Super PACs Too

National: Contests in battleground states could hinge on ‘invisible’ overseas voters | NBC Since the 2000 recount in Florida, voting procedures have been under the microscope; in close races, painstaking legal details and arcane rules can determine the results. Among those details is the handling of ballots cast by hundreds of thousands of “invisible” overseas voters.…

National: Contests in battleground states could hinge on ‘invisible’ overseas voters | NBC

Since the 2000 recount in Florida, voting procedures have been under the microscope; in close races, painstaking legal details and arcane rules can determine the results. Among those details is the handling of ballots cast by hundreds of thousands of “invisible” overseas voters. In the swing state of Virginia this November, 10,000 votes could decide the outcome in the presidential race, or the U.S. Senate race. In 2006, Democrat Jim Webb won Virginia’s Senate seat by a margin of 9,329 out of the nearly 2.4 million votes that were cast, a mere four-tenths of one percent margin of victory. Likewise in 2008, in another battleground state, Missouri, Republican presidential candidate John McCain beat Democrat Barack Obama by 3,903 votes, a one-tenth of one percent margin.

National: Citizens United Lawyer: I Hate Super PACs Too | TPM

The Republican lawyer on the case that arguably helped pave the way for the creation of so-called “super PACs” told TPM this week that he hopes politicians will realize that the contribution limits on their campaigns are putting them at a huge disadvantage, and will pass legislation dashing such restrictions. An odd position for a key player in the opening of the anonymous-campaign-cash floodgates to have? James Bopp Jr. says no. “I’m very hopeful and actually expect that incumbent politicians are going to look at themselves and say we are severely handicapped” in comparison to super PACs, Bopp told TPM, arguing that political campaigns were more accountable to voters than super PACs. “It is of course possible that there would be a court decision that would effect that. But I think the more likely scenario is that members of Congress will realize they have cut their own throat,” Bopp said.

National: Campaign Finance Reports Show ‘Super PAC’ Donors |

Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, according to documents released on Tuesday, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states. President Obama reported raising some $39.9 million in the fourth quarter, not including money he raised for the Democratic National Committee or transfers to a joint fund-raising account with the party. The filings to the Federal Election Commission, the first detailed look at a crucial source of support for Mr. Romney, showed his ability to win substantial backing from a small number of his party’s most influential and wealthy patrons, each contributing to the super PAC far more than the $2,500 check each could legally write to his campaign. All told, the group, Restore Our Future, raised about $18 million from just 200 donors in the second half of 2011.

National: Goldman Sachs Joins Wall Street to Fund Romney | Bloomberg

Mitt Romney’s investment background, criticized by some of his Republican presidential rivals, is helping him build a financial advantage over them.
In the fourth quarter of last year, eight of the 10 biggest donors to Romney, co-founder of Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, a private-equity firm, worked for banks and investment funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on U.S. Federal Election Commission information released yesterday. Citigroup Inc. (C) employees gave $196,600. Those at JPMorgan Chase & Co. donated $180,518, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) workers contributed $106,580.

National: Senate Dems plan super PAC hearings | MSNBC

Senate Democrats decried the influx of millions in unregulated dollars in the 2012 elections, announcing Wednesday that they will hold hearings looking into the impact of super PACs. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrats’ messaging chief in the Senate, announced that the Rules committee will begin hearings this month on super PACs. Joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Al Franken (D-MN), Schumer pointed to Mitt Romney’s victory in Florida’s Republican primary as evidence of the outsize influence of super PACs. He then bashed Karl Rove-tied groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS for raising money by the millions without having to disclose all of its donors.

Voting Blogs: Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me: EAC Shutdown of HAVA Boards Provokes Resistance from State Election Officials | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Last week, the Acting Executive Director and General Counsel of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a memo directing the EAC’s 37-member Board of Advisors and 110-memberStandards Board to cease all official activities. The two boards, created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, have wide-ranging responsibilities and – in the wake of the resignations of the remaining Commissioners due in part to the growing partisan battle over the EAC’s future in Congress – had been the most active in carrying out the duties of the agency.

Voting Blogs: SuperPac Disclosure Data and “Citizens United as the Root of All Evil” Watch: Part II | Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog

Several months ago I wrote to argue against the constantly-repeated storyline that cast Citizens United as responsible for the explosion of SuperPacs in this election cycle.  Though I have written critically about the Court’s decision, I was also skeptical of the tendency to blame the Court’s decision for all the forms of newly emerging election financing in this cycle that critics disliked.  Citizens United did liberate corporate and union general-treasury funds to engage in independent election spending, but it did not otherwise change the constitutional architecture originally constructed in Buckley v. Valeo, back in 1976.

Editorials: Congress can fix the Super PAC problem |

Election junkies circled January 31st on their calendars months ago — but not because of Florida’s primary today, no matter how important it is to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Tuesday’s real significance deals with Super PACs — it’s the day “independent” groups, dominating the 2012 election, must file their financial disclosures for the last six months. Candidate-specific Super PACS — which can take unlimited sums from individuals and corporations, and likewise spend without limits — are like nothing seen in any previous election.  They’ve eviscerated the post-Watergate contribution limits that Congress enacted to curb corruption, and they’ve hit the presidential campaign with the force of a freight train.

Indiana: Prosecutors in Charlie White’s trial say documents prove voter fraud | The Indianapolis Star

Prosecutors delved into documents regarding Charlie White’s home loan and employment during his trial Tuesday to try to show that he lived in a townhome with his new wife when he claimed to be sharing a home with his ex-wife. They say they’ll also present records that show the Indiana secretary of state has lived at the townhome since late 2009. Confusion over White’s address from late 2009 through 2010 led a grand jury to indict him on seven felony charges, including theft and voter fraud, in March. If convicted of any of those charges, he’ll lose his elected position and face prison time.

Editorials: Editorial: Ex-felons’ voting rights in Kentucky | The Courier-Journal

In a list found on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, state after state after state is on the books as restoring the voting rights of felons upon the completion of their sentence, probation and/or parole. Kentucky is not — but it is time for the Bluegrass State to join the ranks of the fair and enlightened. House Bill 70 proposes to amend the Kentucky state constitution “to allow persons convicted of a felony other than treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery the right to vote after expiration of probation, final discharge from parole, or maximum expiration of sentence.” The amendment would be placed before voters for ratification or rejection. At the very least, the people of Kentucky ought to have the opportunity to weigh in on whether to correct the state’s virtual disenfranchisement for ex-felons, even after they have served their prescribed sentences. To allow a governor’s restoration of civil rights as the only way back to citizenship is unfair and onerous.

Pennsylvania: Federal suit filed in Pennsylvania redistricting dispute | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday asked a federal judge to rule that the state legislative district maps in place for the past decade are unconstitutional and may not be used for elections. Revisions to the state’s legislative map that reflect population shifts shown in the 2010 census are in limbo because a new map was rejected by the state Supreme Court last week. A spokesman for Speaker Sam Smith said the federal lawsuit was filed to resolve the ensuing “chaos” the state court’s decision creates for candidates seeking to run in special elections to fill six House vacancies.

Tennessee: American Association of People with Disabilities says ID law unfair | The Tennessean

A representative for the American Association of People with Disabilities visited the Capitol Tuesday to complain that the state’s new voter identification law is unfair to the disabled because it raises hurdles to their casting their ballots in person. “The state, counties and federal government have spent a lot of money making polling places accessible,” said Jim Dickson, vice president of organizing and civic engagement for the Washington-based organization. “Voting is an amazing experience and it is wrong — wrong — and it is mean-spirited to place a photo ID barrier between a citizen with a disability and a voting booth.”

Algeria: Foreign observers to monitor Algeria vote |

When Algeria holds legislative elections in May, the country will for the first time permit monitoring by international observers. The European Union and the African Union recently accepted Algeria’s invitation to observe the poll. According to Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, “the Arab League, the OIC and the UN “will join in this effort and…the Arab League and the OIC will do likewise”. “We are interested in improving the conditions in which these observers will work,” Medelci told Liberte on January 10th. “We are in a situation where what we call the Arab Spring has exerted a positive influence on everyone to do better, including Algeria.”

Belize: Belize Prime Minister Sets 7 March As Date For General Elections | Belizean

Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has today announced General Elections for 7 March 2012. In an official press release issued today by the Government Press Office Mr. Barrow who was elected to office for a five year term on 7 February 2008, stated that he had called on Governor General Sir Colville Young to dissolve the National Assembly on Friday February 3rd and set the date for Belize general elections one year before they are due. In his statement to the nation aired on all radio and television stations this morning Mr. Barrow said that as municipal elections are due on March 7th, he had decided to have General Elections on the same date to save resources and expenses. Under Belize law municipal elections are held every 3 years and General Elections every 5 years. The dates for municipal elections are set but the general elections can be called at any time with the prime minister giving 30 days notice.

Canada: Vancouver voting machine ticks trouble losing mayoral candidate | Vancouver Courier

Troubles with voting machines during the 2011 civic election revealed through a Freedom of Information request are another reason to reform civic elections, says an unsuccessful mayoral candidate. Randy Helten of Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver received 226 pages about preventive maintenance and repairs of the City of Vancouver’s 160 AccuVote-OS machines. Records show the units were tested in late February and early March 2011, but a document titled AccuVote Call Sheet lists 37 malfunction incidents between Nov. 9 and 19. “The [Nov. 23] staff report from the chief election officer made absolutely no mention of any problem at all,” Helten said. “This is worthy of further discussion. This leads to the need for discussion about is it appropriate for employees of the city to be chief election officer?”

Chile: Parties defend proposed changes to Chilean electoral reform | Santiago Times

Christian Democrat (DC) Ignacio Walker and National Renewal (RN) partymember Carlos Larraín defended their proposed changes to the binomial system for the first time in front of the Center for Public Studies (CEP) on Wednesday. The main message from the two party leaders was that their proposal was not something concrete, but meant, right now, as a diagnosis of the lack of accurate political representation under the current system. “I think President Sebastián Piñera nonetheless likes some of the things we proposed,” Larraín said, putting to rest rumors that the accord between the DC and RN may have fallen apart since the proposal was submitted. “This reform is a central question in Congress, and we hope our proposal guides the discussion of this important issue.”

Kuwait: Kuwait parliament election test for growing array of opposition groups | The Washington Post

Kuwait is heading into elections in much the same combative style that gripped the last parliament: Opposition groups pressing for even a bigger voice against the nation’s Western-allied rulers and domestic tensions running so high that one group torched the campaign tent of a rival. Thursday’s voting for the 50-seat assembly — one of the most outspoken elected bodies in the Gulf — will test how much Kuwait’s ruling family and its backers can hold back a growing array of challengers, including hard-line Islamists and young liberals inspired by the Arab Spring. An expected strong showing by opposition groups also could bring major distractions for Kuwait’s leadership as the nation regains its role as the main base for American ground troops in the Gulf following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq last year.

Russia: Putin Warns Against Election Dirty Tricks | RIA Novosti

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned against the use of “dishonest” political tricks ahead of the March presidential elections.
“It’s very important to fight against dishonest methods of political combat, especially when the elections are already labeled unfair and illegitimate before they even took place,” Putin said during a meeting with young lawyers in Moscow. Putin, who held the presidential post from 2000 to 2008, is widely predicted to win the March vote, however, analysts suggest growing discontent could see him forced into a runoff. Claims of vote rigging during December’s parliamentary elections sparked mass street protests against the prime minister and his United Russia party.