Editorials: Challenging the market power of one voting machine maker | Sean Flaherty/Iowa City Press Citizen

I am co-chairman of Iowans for Voting Integrity, a nonpartisan citizen group that works for voting systems worthy of the public trust. We have worked for six years for two reforms that both we and many of the world’s leading computer technologists consider essential to fair elections: First, we believe that all computer voting systems must provide a reliable paper record of every ballot cast, and Second, we believe that following every election, election officials should routinely conduct a manual tally of a sample of cast ballots to check against electronic tallies. This column revisits an issue well-known both to the small community of advocates and technology experts who work on electronic voting issues and to an untold number of conspiracy theorists around the nation, but largely unknown outside those communities. This issue is the centralized marked power of the nation’s leading vendor of election equipment and services, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and the opacity of ES&S’s ownership. I’d like to share some highly judicious and disturbing comments about ES&S that I heard June 7 at a reading at Prairie Lights by University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas Jones. Along with his co-author Barbara Simons, Jones recently published an important book, “Broken Ballots.” The reading was livestreamed on the Internet, and and audio archive should be available soon.

Editorials: The super PAC election? Not quite | The Washington Post

To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress. But it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising. As a rule of thumb, super PACs and national party committees pay significantly more for ad space (on average, about 40 to 50 percent more) than candidates do, meaning their dollar doesn’t go nearly as far on TV. And in a crowded media market, that markup can reach as high as three, four or even five times as much as the candidates when the super PACs and party committees have to pay extra to bump existing ads off the air. The Arizona special election on Tuesday is a good example of this ad reality.

Editorials: Citizens United: Watergate redux | Fred Wertheimer/Politico.com

When the Supreme Court issued its disastrous Citizens United decision, five justices took the nation back to the era of secret money, unlimited campaign contributions and corporate funds at the core of the Watergate scandal. On June 17, 1972, a burglary at the Watergate Hotel began the unraveling of the worst political and campaign-finance scandals of the 20th century — and the downfall of President Richard Nixon. Yet today, massive amounts of secret money, unlimited contributions and corporate funds are again flowing into federal elections. The same elements that corrupted government decisions and officeholders in the early 1970s have returned. As baseball great Yogi Berra said, it is “déjà vu all over again.” During the Watergate scandals, we had the benefit of the special prosecutor, congressional hearings led by Sen. Sam Ervin and aggressive investigative journalism to crack through the secrecy and reveal the depths of government corruption. Such official government efforts are absent today, however, even as huge, and/or secret contributions are flowing into the 2012 presidential and congressional races. This money has the power to influence future government actions — just as huge, secret contributions were used in the Watergate era to buy government decisions. After Watergate, 20 corporations were criminally convicted for illegal campaign-finance activities. The hotel break-in itself was financed with secret campaign contributions.

Michigan: Michigan GOP Set to Enter Voter ID Game | Politic365

A new law moving through the Michigan legislature would make it harder for groups to hold voter registration drives, unregister voters who haven’t recently voted and require voters to show identification at the polls. Does the new legislation in Michigan make it easier to vote? No. As part of a trend seen across the nation, Republican controlled legislatures are passing new and more restrictive voting laws.  In each case, the legislation makes it more likely that a citizen would be prevented from casting a ballot. The move in Michigan also comes at a time when the Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney wants to ensure that he wins the state at all costs.  The Wolverine State has become a symbolic and personal battleground for Romney since it’s where he grew up while his father George Romney was Governor from 1963 – 1969.  As a result, the stakes are high for Michigan Republicans to produce electoral results.Those stakes are even higher as a recent Rasmussen poll shows incumbent President Barack Obama “comfortably” ahead in Michigan by 8 points, 50% to 42% against Romney. In 2008, the President crushed former Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 57.4% to 40.9%, easily grabbing the state’s coveted 17 electoral votes.  Additionally, the state is over 14% African American, more than the national average and critical to Obama’s re-election hopes.

New Hampshire: Voter ID bill resisted by town, city clerks | NashuaTelegraph.com

Oops. There’s another glitch in the voter ID bill that’s headed to the desk of Gov. John Lynch. The compromise bill enjoys strong Republican support in the House of Representatives and the Senate. But this was predicated on the measure not facing opposition from the city and town clerks across the state or Secretary of State Bill Gardner. That’s where the hang-up comes in. At the 11th hour, the legislation was changed by House and Senate negotiators. The key language deals with what happens at the general election this November if you don’t have an ID. The compromise requires that you have to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that attests you are who you say you are and that you’re eligible to vote at the polling place. The clerks had wanted the affidavit to be the one the Senate had proposed for challenged voters.

New York: Proposed election law could simplify voter registration | Queens Chronicle

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law introduced the Voter Empowerment Act of New York bill on June 7. The bill will automatically register eligible consenting citizens at designated government agencies; permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds; automatically transfer registrations of New Yorkers who move within the state; provide access to voter registration records and registration of eligible citizens online and allow people to register or change their party later in the election cycle.

Pennsylvania: Western Pennsylvania Democrats to challenge voter ID law | The York Daily Record

Democrats on Allegheny County’s elections board have announced that they plan to challenge Pennsylvania’s GOP-backed voter identification law. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Friday that the legal action to be taken next week will argue that the law is too expensive and difficult to implement in time for the November election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and others have already challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing that it makes it harder for some citizens to vote, especially the elderly and minorities. Backers say the law, similar to measures recently passed in other states, will reduce existing and potential voter fraud.

Pennsylvania: Lawsuit planned over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Democrats on Allegheny County’s election board plan to challenge the state’s new voter ID law as being too expensive and too difficult to implement in time for the November presidential election. That claim will be at the heart of a lawsuit the election board is expected to bring next week, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at a news conference Friday. Rather than challenging the constitutionality of the law itself, as the American Civil Liberties Union and others are doing, local officials say the new law is too complicated and expensive to put in place by Nov. 6. Mr. Fitzgerald is one of three members of the election board. The new law requires voters to show government-approved photo identification before they can cast ballots. Mr. Fitzgerald said it would be prohibitive for the county to train the more than 6,500 poll workers who man the county’s 1,300 polling places. He said there would not be enough time to train them in new procedures required to check identifications and allow voters to use provisional ballots if they don’t have proper ID.

South Carolina: Election Commission certifies Bromell Tinubu as 7th District Dem winner; no runoff ordered | The Republic

Election officials opted Friday not to order a runoff between the top two vote-getters in the Democratic race for South Carolina’s new 7th congressional district, although all sides acknowledged the issue would next play out in court. After 90 minutes of executive session but with no public debate, the state Election Commission voted to certify Coastal Carolina University professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu’s victory in Tuesday’s primary over Myrtle Beach attorney Preston Brittain. At issue was whether the commission would count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following an arrest for drunken driving, but remained on the ballot. Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the state Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign had argued none of the five received a majority, thus necessitating a runoff or otherwise disenfranchising voters. The commission voted 3-2 not to count Vick’s votes.

Canada: Nova Scotia town approves online voting bylaw | The Vanguard

The Municipality of Argyle has voted to approve a bylaw that paves the way for electronic and telephone voting in this October’s municipal elections. The municipality held a public hearing on the bylaw prior to its June 12 meeting, although the hearing didn’t attract any members of the public. In the upcoming fall vote there will be no paper ballots in the Municipality of Argyle, but there will still be some polling stations. The Town of Yarmouth, which is also going strictly with electronic (computer) and telephone voting, also won’t have paper ballots in this fall’s vote. The town will have one polling station set up at the town hall with computers and telephones, and at which people can get assistance, if required, to vote.

Egypt: Islamist Declares Presidential Win, Rival Disputes | VoA News

Egyptian Islamist Mohammed Morsi has declared victory in the country’s first post-uprising presidential election, but his establishment-backed rival Ahmed Shafiq disputed the claim as Egypt’s military rulers expanded their powers over the next president. Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement said unofficial results show he won about 52 percent of the vote in the two day run-off election that ended Sunday, compared to 48 percent for Mr. Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood based its victory claim on results tallied by Brotherhood representatives at almost all of the country’s the polling stations. In a speech at his campaign headquarters Sunday, Mr. Morsi said he will serve as a leader of all Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians, and promised not to “seek revenge or settle accounts” with opponents of the Islamist group. “We are seeking stability, love and brotherhood for an Egyptian state that is civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern. We all are looking forward to love each other.”

Egypt: Islamists claim presidency | Reuters

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed on Monday that its candidate had won the country’s first free presidential election, defeating Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and ending 60 years of rule by presidents drawn from the armed forces. An election committee source told Reuters that Islamist Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer, was comfortably ahead of former air force general Ahmed Shafik with most of the votes tallied, but that the count had yet to be officially finalized. However, new head of state is likely to remain subordinate to the military for some time at least. In yet another twist in Egypt’s tortuous path from revolution to democracy, the ruling military council issued a decree as voting ended on Sunday that set strict limits on the president’s powers. On the eve of the election, it had already dissolved the Islamist-led parliament. Liberal and Islamist opponents denounced a “military coup”.

Egypt: Presidential election overshadowed by further army power grab and voter fraud claims | Telegraph

Few analysts were willing to predict the outcome of the battle between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, a former general and aide to ex-President Hosni Mubarak, despite the Islamist movement’s long domination of the Egyptian street. The Brotherhood said opinion polls showed their man would win a free vote comfortably. But they also claimed that “fake voters” were appearing on polling station lists – dead people and members of the security forces, who in Egypt are supposed to remain neutral and are disqualified.

Greece: New Democracy Party Scores Narrow Win in Elections | TIME.com

Has the euro zone found some breathing room in its crisis? The conservative New Democracy (ND) party eked out a victory in Greece’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, edging out the leftist Syriza party, which is strongly opposed to the austerity measures imposed as part of the country’s bailout. The margin was less than 3 points. The victory, however, still leaves Greece without a government. ND failed to win an outright parliamentary majority and must join forces with at least one party to govern. The scenario is similar to the results of an earlier round of voting. ND also came in first in May 6 elections, again with Syriza running a close second, but failed to form a government then. Forming a government quickly is crucial because Greece could run out of cash to pay its bills as early as next month. It’s unclear which party might join ND in coalition. Greek media are speculating that the conservatives might join force with their traditional rival, the Socialist PASOK party, which came in a distant third on Sunday. Whether the results fully reflect the popular will is another question: nearly 38% of eligible voters abstained from voting — a much higher percentage than any party received.

Greece: Voters give Europe and single currency a chance | The Guardian

European leaders working to avert a meltdown of the single currency gained some respite when Greek voters handed a narrow victory to mainstream conservatives and the chance to forge a pro-euro and pro-bailout coalition. In the single most closely watched election in years, which amounted to a referendum on whether Greece would become the first country to be forced out of the single currency, the anti-austerity radical Alexis Tsipras was also given a boost, increasing his share of the vote to more than 27%. On a momentous night in European politics, Greece’s conservative New Democracy, under Antonis Samaras, appeared to have pulled the country back from the brink of what many feared would be a national catastrophe and averted a much deeper immediate crisis in Europe.