The Voting News Daily: Internet voting systems too insecure, Is Obama letting the civil rights law die before the Supreme Court kills it?

National: Internet voting systems too insecure, researcher warns | Computerworld Internet voting systems are inherently insecure and should not be allowed in the upcoming general elections, a noted security researcher said at the RSA Conference 2012 being held here this week. David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and chairman of the election…

National: Voting Rights Act: Is Obama letting the civil rights law die before the Supreme Court kills it? | Slate

When Georgia’s Republican leaders redrew the state’s election-district maps last year, Democrats and minorities instantly cried foul. In an increasingly diverse state where 47 percent of voters chose Obama in 2008, the new maps looked likely to hand the GOP 10 of the state’s 14 seats in Congress. Perhaps even more significantly, they were drawn so as to give Republicans a shot at a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the state legislature, allowing them to pass constitutional amendments unilaterally. They achieved this in part by “packing” the state’s black voters (who overwhelmingly vote Democratic) into a handful of districts in order to make others more solidly white (and Republican).

Fortunately for the state’s Democrats, federal law seemed to offer a time-tested remedy. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark civil rights bill passed in 1965 to crack down on poll taxes and other discriminatory practices, requires Georgia and a number of other Southern states to get federal approval for any changes to their voting laws. Any that harmed minorities’ chances of fair representation were to be thrown out. And that’s exactly what Georgia Democrats expected Obama’s Department of Justice to do with Republicans’ new maps. Just two years earlier, it had invoked Section 5 to block two Georgia voter-verification laws. Liberals gleefully predicted the Republican gerrymanders would likewise be “DOA at the DOJ.”

Voting Blogs: New Federal Lawsuit Provides U.S. DoJ Golden Opportunity to Challenge Polling Place Photo ID Restrictions Under Section 2 of Voting Rights Act | BradBlog

Last September’s hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights established that polling place photo ID restriction laws have nothing to do with eliminating “voter fraud.” They are, instead, part of what Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights litigator at The Advancement Project, described at the time as the “largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era” — part of the partisan, multi-state effort by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP exercise in voter suppression. Her testimony established, yet again, that such laws have a disparate impact upon minorities, the poor, the elderly and students (all of whom happen to have the unfortunate tendency of voting Democratic).

Alabama: State, county officials blame each other for Alabama absentee ballot fiasco | The Montgomery Advertiser

The state of Alabama filed a response Wednesday to a temporary restraining order issued over absentee ballots that were sent late to military and overseas voters. The response filed Wednesday lists some of the precautions the secretary of state’s office took and the special circumstances that led to the delays. County and state election officials, meanwhile, sparred over where to place the blame for the delays. The U.S. Justice Department filed a suit late Friday against Alabama and Secretary of State Beth Chapman alleging that the state failed to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the required deadline for the March 13 primaries. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order against Chapman and the state Tuesday that requires them to work with the Justice Department to decide on a remedy for the late ballots.

District of Columbia: House Backs D.C. Special Elections Bill | Roll Call

The House backed legislation this evening that would shorten the window between a vacancy in a local office and when a special election may be held to fill it. The bill passed on a voice vote. “Today [is a] small change to everyone except to the people of the District of Columbia, who consistently have to live under a rule that costs the voters and the residents of the District of Columbia … enormous additional dollars,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees D.C. affairs. This is the second time Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has pursued such legislation, which would apply to unexpected D.C. Council, mayoral and attorney general vacancies.

Florida: Voter restrictions challenged |

Florida will become the latest battleground in the national fight voter ID on Thursday, when a federal judge will hear a suit brought by Rock the Vote and other civic groups over new restrictions. “In states around the country, we’re witnessing the most significant assault on voting rights in a generation,” said Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote, which encourages political participation. “It’s incredibly anti-American and undemocratic,” she said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Georgia: State set to keep harsh ballot access law |

In most states, independent and third-party candidates have to leap some hurdles to put their names in front of voters. In Georgia, the barriers build up to a wall. A proposed rewrite of ballot laws now seems likely to overlook a key committee’s advice and leave the biggest brick untouched. “If I wanted to run as an independent for the Bibb County Commission chair’s job,” said Macon businessman Tom Wagoner, “I was required by law to get a petition signed by 4,500 registered voters in the county.” Anyone who wants to run for county or district elected office has to get signatures from 5 percent of their prospective voters — people registered during the previous election. Getting on a statewide ballot, for governor or a U.S. Senate seat for example, would take about 58,000 signatures, 1 percent of Georgia’s registered voters.

Illinois: Voter ID Bill, Pushed By Republican State Senators, Held Up In Committee | WSOY

A group of nearly 20 Republican state senators in Illinois have quietly thrown their support behind legislation that would require the state’s voters to present a government-issued photo identification card to an election judge upon voting — a requirement that currently only applies to early voters. State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) last fall filed Senate Bill 2496 and in the months since then, fellow Republican state senators have also signed onto the measure. Earlier this month, the bill was assigned to a subcommittee but has failed to gain much additional traction.

Minnesota: Voter ID sponsor promises answers to come next year |

As the photo ID constitutional amendment made an emotional passage through another committee Thursday, its Senate sponsor had a simple answer to queries about what will happen to absentee voters, mail-in voters, students voting away from home and provisional voters. Wait till next year, said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. Before the Senate Finance Committee approved his bill, Hutchinson recited his mantra: If voters approve the photo ID constitutional amendment in November, it will be up to the 2013 Legislature to decide how to implement the requirement that all voters at polling places “present an approved form of government-issued photo identification.”

New Mexico: Republican Commits Voter Fraud By Registering Dog As A Democrat | TPM

A Republican man in New Mexico wanted to show how easy he thought it was to commit voter fraud. So the Albuquerque man did just that: committed voter registration fraud by registering his dog, Buddy, to vote. Local news station KOB Eyewitness News 4 in New Mexico reported on the man’s stunt this week. “They should verify. Somebody should have verified this information and somebody should have come out and took a look at exactly who it was,” the unidentified man told the news station. “But I made up a birth date, and I made up a social security number and I had a voter registration card in my hand for Buddy two weeks later.” The news station interviewed the man on camera but granted the dog owner anonymity, and faded out any personal information, though it’s wasn’t clear why. Danielle Todesco, the reporter who put the piece together, said in an email to TPM that she discussed the decision to grant the man anonymity with her news director.

Iran: Iran: 48 million voters denied information, 48 journalists denied freedom | Reporters Without Borders

On the eve of tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Iran, Reporters Without Borders condemns the censorship imposed on the media, which prevents them from playing their role during the polling, and the continuing, relentless crackdown on journalists. Iran’s 48 million voters are being denied the independently-reported news and information they need to make a choice. The crackdown on journalists and netizens has intensified. No independent media has been spared the political and judicial harassment that the various ruling clans have orchestrated since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009. A total of 48 journalists and netizens are currently detained, making Iran the world’s third biggest prison for the media.

Iran: Key constituencies disillusioned as Iran votes | Reuters

Like many members of Iran’s paramilitary volunteer force, Mohammadreza Baqeri was a supporter of Iran’s conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nearly three years after Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election, the 27-year-old blogger says he will not vote for Ahminadejad’s camp in parliamentary elections on Friday. “I want new faces. I want a vocal parliament that can have an impact in the country,” said Baqeri, a member of the Basij paramilitary force. “I want a parliament with young and ambitious lawmakers.”

Madagascar: Madagascar unveils new electoral commission | Africa Review

Madagascar’s cabinet has agreed on a new elections body in another step towards holding a planned ballot this year after the term of its predecessor came to an end Wednesday. The Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (CENIT) replaces the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) unilaterally appointed in March 2010 by interim President Andry Rajoelina. CENI was also blamed for holding a controversial and widely-criticised referendum on November 17 of the same year. It is another step towards the envisaged holding of elections this year in keeping with a roadmap brokered by the SADC bloc last September.

Russia: Election Watchdog: Putin supporters ‘using illegal methods to ensure victory’ | Telegraph

Supporters of Vladimir Putin are using a raft of underhand and illegal methods to ensure his victory in Russia’s presidential poll, according to a report by the country’s top independent election watchdog. Golos said campaigning for the vote on Sunday, and for municipal elections in Moscow and other regions on the same day, was riddled with violations of electoral law. Monitors from the organisation reported that opposition figures had been intimidated, factory workers were being forced to vote under tight control at their place of work and Putin, Russia’s prime minister, had made widespread use of “administrative resources” to underwrite his own campaign. Golos said that public sector workers such as doctors and teachers were being pressured into casting their ballot for Putin.

Russia: Putin may win the election but for Russia political stability is over |

Supporters of Vladimir Putin are treating his win of the presidential election on 4 March as a foregone conclusion – and they’re probably right. Yet as the old adage goes: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Even as the opposition’s protest movement in Russia continues unabated, Putin remains the most popular politician in the country. He has no strong competitor in this election – according to the latest data from the Levada-Center, Russia’s largest independent polling agency, 63 to 66% of voters who say they are coming to the polls will cast their ballot for Putin. Putin himself has warned that protest rallies following the elections could turn dangerous, because provocateurs from abroad are looking for a “sacrificial lamb” among the famous opposition members. None of this – the numbers, Putin’s own view of the situation – is all that surprising. But what makes for genuine news is that whichever way you cut it, Putin’s third term in the Kremlin is going to be difficult in an unprecedented way; because this much is clear – his government faces an inevitable decline.

United Kingdom: Data-matching: Electoral Commission throws a spanner in the database |

Government plans to meddle with who gets to vote in British elections appear to have suffered another setback today. All parties support moves to switch from household registration to individual electoral registration (IER). But there are fears six million voters could fall off the list of those eligible to vote, and the coalition has been under serious pressure to come up with ways to fix this. Its solution is ‘data-matching’, which would see the government use its other databases – for driving licences, benefit payments and the like – to retain up to two-thirds of the current electoral register. Ministers have placed great store by this – constitutional reform minister Mark Harper, as recently as February 9th, stated: “I am confident we now have a set of proposals behind which we can all unite.”

Iran: Why Iran’s Election Is a Farce |

ON just two occasions have recent elections in Iran reflected the people’s will and yielded particularly surprising and disorienting outcomes for the ruling establishment, first in 1997 with the election of Mohammad Khatami, and again, three years ago. In June 2009, the democratic opposition, led by the reformist Mir Hussein Moussavi — a former prime minister with a reputation for honesty, integrity and clean politics — polled strongly, only to have the election stolen from it through fraud. Popular protests were met with widespread arrests, street assaults and assassinations, and a show of force by police commandos, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, militia members and countless paid plainclothes vigilantes.  Soviet-style show trials and TV confessions followed. Since early 2010, except on one occasion, the ruling authoritarian clique has used sheer force, intimidation and fear to prevent public protests by the supporters of the opposition. Mr. Moussavi and a fellow opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, have been illegally under house arrest since February 2011.

National: Internet voting systems too insecure, researcher warns | Computerword

Internet voting systems are inherently insecure and should not be allowed in the upcoming general elections, a noted security researcher said at the RSA Conference 2012 being held in San Francisco this week. David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and chairman of the election watchdog group Verified Voting, called on election officials around the country to drop plans to allow an estimated 3.5 million voters to cast their ballots over the Internet in this year’s general elections. In an interview with Computerworld US on Wednesday, Jefferson warned that the systems that enable such voting are far too insecure to be trusted and should be jettisoned altogether.

Jefferson is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on the topic at RSA on Thursday. Also on the panel are noted cryptographer and security guru Ron Rivest, who is the “R” in RSA, and Alex Halderman, an academic whose research on security vulnerabilities in e-voting systems prompted elections officials in Washington to drop plans to use an e-voting system in 2010. “There’s a wave of interest across the country, mostly among election officials and one agency of the [Department of Defense] to offer Internet voting,” to overseas citizens and members of the military, Jefferson said. “From a security point of view, it is an insane thing to do.”