The Voting News Daily: Is your vote secure? Study says any digital systems lack paper backups, FEC says it will enforce nonprofit disclosure rules

National: Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says | In elections this March in Palm Beach County, Fla., an election management software glitch gave votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. But paper ballots were available, and a recount was done. The mistake was corrected. Such failures are…

National: Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says |

In elections this March in Palm Beach County, Fla., an election management software glitch gave votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. But paper ballots were available, and a recount was done. The mistake was corrected. Such failures are hardly unique. And often they are worse. In every national election in the past decade, computer voting systems have failed with memory-card glitches and other errors that resulted in votes lost or miscounted, according to a new national study, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness.” More than 300 voting-machine problems were reported in the 2010 midterm elections and more than 1,800 in the 2008 general election, according to the study by Common Cause, Rutgers School of Law, and the Verified Voting Foundation. “Voting systems frequently fail,” the study concludes. “And when they fail, votes are lost. Voters in jurisdictions without paper ballots or records for every vote cast, including military and overseas votes, do not have the same protections as states that use paper ballot systems. This is not acceptable.” Download the Report

National: FEC says it will enforce nonprofit disclosure rules | The Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission told political advocacy groups Friday that it would enforce new disclosure rules for some nonprofits under a recent court ruling, but many key groups have taken steps to evade the requirements. Legal experts said the FEC guidance makes it clear that nonprofit groups will have to reveal some of their major donors if they pay for electioneering communications — also known as “issue ads” — that name political candidates but stop short of urging viewers to vote for or against them. But advocacy groups such as the conservative Crossroads GPS still have many ways of evading disclosure, often simply by changing the tenor or language of their advertising, experts said. The rules also only apply to ads that run close to an election. Major advocacy groups had already stopped running issue ads close to primary elections this summer in anticipation of the FEC’s guidance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said it will simply alter the language of its ads to avoid reporting contributors to the FEC.

National: State systems for overseas voters vulnerable |

States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report to be released today. The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can’t be independently audited. “They’re trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they’re putting those votes at,” says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns. The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting — which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute — has been halted by the lagging economy.

National: Outside groups may have to disclose donors |

Secretive outside groups shelling out millions of dollars for political advertisements could now be required to disclose the donors who cut them big checks. Responding to a recent court decision, the Federal Election Commission said Friday that it will force nonprofit groups that air ads that refer to specific federal candidates, but don’t overtly advocate for or against them, to report the names and addresses of donors who give more than $1,000. The FEC’s enforcement could affect nonprofits such as the Karl Rove-backed conservative group Crossroads GPS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Democratic group Priorities USA. Those groups have been able to raise unlimited amounts from donors, but haven’t been forced to disclose their names. The agency will require groups to report their donors retroactively, it said Friday. Groups will be forced to report donors who gave more than $1,000 since March 30, 2012.

National: Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day | NBC

In states that rely largely or entirely on vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, a pre-Nov. 6 disruption of mail delivery caused by the U.S. Postal Service’s fiscal crisis would be a fiasco for voters and election officials. With partisan battles already under way on voter eligibility across the nation over fears of voter fraud and charges of vote suppression, the last thing the upcoming election needs is another procedural snafu. Washington and Oregon voters cast their ballots entirely by mail or at local drop boxes, and in California’s June primary, nearly two out of three voters cast their ballots by mail. Even in states where voters still show up in person to vote at their local precinct, absentee voting by mail is common. In order for the election to take place, the mail must get delivered promptly – no matter how dire the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis is – and it’s dire indeed. In the second quarter of its fiscal year (January to March) the Postal Service lost $3.2 billion. Congressional postal experts will be scrutinizing its third-quarter financial statement on Aug. 9 to see if the distress has worsened. While the Senate has passed a reform bill to keep the Postal Service afloat, the House hasn’t yet acted. Urging the House to move, one of the Senate reform leaders, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday “Only one week from now, the Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion payment to Treasury – further eroding the confidence of the millions of customers and businesses” that rely on mail to get delivered.

National: Karl Rove’s Catch-22 | Mother Jones

For all the headlines and hand-wringing about super-PACs, it is dark-money nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity that dominate the political money wars. These politically oriented groups, which keep their donors secret, outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections. Through the spring of 2012, 91 percent of advertising by independent groups came from nonprofits and big business trade groups. And a growing pile of evidence suggests that it’s these nonprofits, not super-PACs, hauling in the bulk of corporate political cash. But come Saturday, the dark-money nonprofits face a dilemma. A high-profile court case known as Van Hollen v. FEC threatens to shine an unwelcome beam of sunlight on donors bankrolling these organizations. Nothing’s stopping Crossroads GPS or AFP from running more “issue” ads hitting Obama and other Democrats (that is, ads that don’t explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against”). Except now nonprofits will have to reveal who funded those spots. Dark-money nonprofits don’t want to name names. Their pitch to donors includes the promise of anonymity and a shield from public scrutiny. This means that Crossroads GPS and other politically active nonprofits—which aren’t supposed to make politicking their primary purpose—have to rethink their ad strategy, election experts say. Do they shift money to super-PACs? Go dark in the months before the election? Find another loophole to run ads and keep their donors secret?

National: Republicans hit Justice Department on voter ID | The Associated Press

House Republicans on Thursday criticized the Justice Department’s decision to challenge new voter ID laws in several states, saying it shows the Obama Administration is more concerned with Democrats winning in November than protecting against election fraud.
“The Department of Justice has embarrassed itself,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. “The partisan bias is obvious.” Thomas Perez, the department’s chief civil rights enforcer, denied any partisan bias or motivation in bringing federal court challenges under the Voting Rights Act to recently passed voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. In both states, Republican-controlled legislatures passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote. The Justice Department indicated this week it also is looking at whether Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law for ensuring minorities’ right to vote. “Our philosophy has been very straight forward,” Perez told a House Judiciary subcommittee that Franks chairs. “We want to enforce laws. There’s a robust debate in this country, and we think we need to continue to have that debate and we do our level best to ensure that every eligible voter casts their vote and has access to the ballot.”

Colorado: Gessler could be pivotal in battleground Colorado | NBC Politics

Scott Gessler isn’t a household name in national politics, but could become famous in a hurry, just as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris did during the 2000 presidential recount. Colorado’s swing state pattern in the last five presidential elections makes its nine electoral votes loom large this November. And, as Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, elected in 2010, Gessler could have a decisive influence on the November outcome in the state. He has launched efforts to remove ineligible people from the voter rolls. And if it’s a close vote, he would preside over any recount and be the official who certifies the state’s electoral vote to the U.S. House of Representatives after the election. Gessler scored a victory last week when the Department of Homeland Security agreed to let his agency to use DHS databases of non-citizens to cross-check the list of Colorado voters to ensure that non-citizens are not registered.

Florida: U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown files suit over reduced early voting period | Miami Herald

Days before early voting begins in Florida, a Democratic member of Congress wants a federal court to block the state from what she calls a racially motivated reduction in the days of early voting. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court along with the Duval County Democratic Party, several residents and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Brown says the reduction in early voting days unfairly discriminates against African-American voters and violates their constitutional rights. The lawsuit asks a judge to enjoin the state from implementing the new, shorter early voting schedule. “More than any other racial or ethnic group, African-Americans have come to rely on early voting,” Brown said. Although the changes to early voting adopted by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 cut the number of early voting days from 14 to eight, the maximum number of hours of potential early voting remains the same: 96.

Hawaii: Voter fraud investigation targets Hawaii County | Hawaii News Now

A possible voter fraud case on the Big Island is the subject of an investigation, a law enforcement source told Hawaii News Now Thursday. The probe focuses on allegations that some absentee ballots were improperly “doctored,” the source said.  A second source, a state government employee, said Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi spent much of Thursday afternoon meeting with a lawyer at the state Attorney General’s office in Honolulu.  Further details about the allegations or about what she spent hours meeting with a deputy attorney general about were not available Thursday night.  With just 15 days to go until the primary election, Hawaii County election officials are re-sending some voter registration notices after a first batch was sent with wrong information. The state’s chief election officer, Scott Nago, is worried the mix-up could prompt candidates to challenge election outcomes and upset that county clerk has not briefed him on what’s happening since she closed her office for an audit on Monday.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID law could extend lines at polls | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Allegheny County elections chief testified Friday that he expects the new voter ID law could lead to longer lines at the polls in November as workers explain the requirement and issue provisional ballots to people without acceptable ID. Mark Wolosik, who manages the county elections division, told the Commonwealth Court judge hearing a challenge to the new law that he anticipates traffic at the polls will slow. “You can really only process one person at a time,” he said. “So the showing of the voter ID will lengthen the process … .”

Washington: State may check citizenship but no voter purge in offing | News Tribune

Secretary of State Sam Reed’s elections staffers have finally been promised access to a federal immigration database that they asked Homeland Security for but were rebuffed – in 2005 and 2006. But now, whether Washington has the tools to actually use the data remains a big question at a time the question of citizenship checks is becoming a campaign issue in the election of Reed’s successor. Kathleen Drew, an Olympia Democrat running in the seven-person field, has criticized Reed for not funding a print-edition of his primary voter guide. Last week she criticized his request to get access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (or SAVE) program’s database. The system is typically used to verify immigration status for the purposes of determining eligibility for public-paid benefits.

Wisconsin: Group seeks hand count of ballots from June vote | LaCrosse Tribune

A group that wants to examine all of the La Crosse County ballots from the June recall vote will have to wait until after the November election. County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said her staff doesn’t have the time right now to accommodate Election Fairness’ open records request to do a hand count. Election Fairness made the request to all 72 Wisconsin counties July 2. The group’s attorney, James Mueller, did not respond to a phone call Thursday for comment. But he told the Janesville Gazette earlier this month they believe electronic voting machines could be faulty and vulnerable to tampering. They want to see if discrepancies appear between their tally and the machines’ tally.

Romania: Romanians to Hold Presidential Recall Vote | Wall Street Journal

Romanians will vote Sunday on whether to oust their country’s president as part of an impeachment process that the European Union says threatens to undermine the former communist-bloc nation’s young democracy. The nationwide recall referendum comes amid a partisan feud between a resurgent left, led by new Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and center-right politicians, including President Traian Basescu, whose popularity has been severely dented by austerity measures and a weak economy. Recent legislative and political maneuvers carried out by Mr. Ponta’s supporters and designed to make it easier to remove Mr. Basescu have drawn fire from critics inside and outside Romania who say the moves endanger the rule of law and judicial independence. Under pressure from the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, Mr. Ponta, a 39-year-old Social Democrat, agreed to roll back measures the regional group found objectionable. However, a parliamentary vote to impeach Mr. Basescu, which triggered Sunday’s ballot, remains in force. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday that Brussels is “still very much worried on the state of democracy in Romania.”

United Kingdom: Penlington-Pennington Denbighshire vote mix-up recount | BBC

The High Court has ordered a recount in a Denbighshire council election where votes for a Labour candidate were wrongly given to a Conservative rival with a similar name. Denbighshire blamed human error after votes cast for Labour’s Paul Penlington were counted for Allan Pennington. The council has admitted the Labour candidate would have won if his votes had been correctly allocated. The recount will take place in secrecy before a court official. Mr Pennington was declared winner of one of three seats in the Prestatyn North ward in the election on 3 May.