National: Federal Election Commission still in ‘significant’ danger of hacking | Center for Public Integrity

The Federal Election Commission’s computer and IT security continues to suffer from “significant deficiencies,” and the agency remains at “high risk,” according to a new audit of the agency’s operations. “FEC’s information and information systems have serious internal control vulnerabilities and have been penetrated at the highest levels of the agency, while FEC continues to remain at high risk for future network intrusions,” independent auditor Leon Snead & Company of Rockville, Md., writes. The audit, released today, comes less than two weeks after a Center for Public Integrity investigation that revealed Chinese hackers infiltrated the FEC’s IT systems during the initial days of October’s government shutdown — an incursion that the agency’s new leadership has vowed to swiftly address. The Chinese hacking attack is believed by FEC leaders and Department of Homeland Security officials to be the most serious act of sabotage in the agency’s 38-year history.

Indiana: Judge rejects ex-secretary of state’s request to overturn voter fraud conviction | Associated Press

A judge has denied former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s request to have his conviction on voter fraud and other charges overturned and ordered White to begin serving his sentence of a year of home confinement. Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Pfleging ruled Monday that there was no evidence to show that White’s trial attorney, Carl Brizzi, shouldn’t enjoy the “strong presumption of competence” and that Brizzi’s trial strategy was “objectively reasonable.” Pfleging wrote that White couldn’t point to a single piece of evidence or a witness that would have swayed the jury’s decision, and that White hasn’t presented anything during post-conviction evidentiary hearings that challenged Pfleging’s “confidence in the outcome or the process which produced it.” White’s current attorney, Bryan Ciyou, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Thursday. His office said he wouldn’t be at work Thursday.

Iowa: Gronstal pushes for online voter registration | KMAland

The Democratic leader in the Iowa Senate plans to push for on-line voter registration in Iowa. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says young people, in particular, expect to be able to conduct most of their personal business on-line and legislators should take steps to allow eligible Iowans to register to vote online. “Twenty states have on-line registration and have no problems with that, so that’s one of the things I’d like to see,” Gronstal says.

Kansas: Voter citizenship law facing new scrutiny | Associated Press

A proof-of-citizenship requirement for Kansas voters is likely to come under attack once the Legislature opens its annual session, but the debate over the policy championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach also will play in out in federal court and his re-election campaign. The law took effect at the start of the year and requires new voters to produce a birth certificate, passport or other documentation of their U.S. citizenship when registering. As the year ends, more than 19,000 Kansas residents find their registrations on hold — keeping them from legally casting ballots — because they haven’t complied. Several Democratic lawmakers have proposed rewriting or repealing the proof-of-citizenship law, and even some of Kobach’s fellow Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature want to look for ways to shrink the list of affected voters. Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, the expected Democratic challenger for Kobach, is calling on legislators to audit how Kobach’s office has administered the law once they convene Jan. 13.

Editorials: An interesting effort to expand ballot access in New Hampshire | Concord Monitor

State politicians across the country, including in New Hampshire, have spent the past few years debating a variety of ways to limit access to the ballot box – various forms of voter ID requirements, limiting hours and polling places, changing same-day registration rules and more. That context makes it all the more encouraging that there are two state legislators in New Hampshire actually working in the opposite direction: a plan to expand access to the voting booth. When the Legislature returns in January, one of the proposals on their agenda will be a constitutional amendment to allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by November to vote in that year’s primary elections. The idea sounds sort of random until you think about it a bit: The target audience are those teenagers who will have the right to vote in November but – without the change – get no say in whose names appear on that general election ballot. If you consider party primary elections part of that year’s total election process, why not let them participate in the entire operation?

Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation Election Commission votes to buy election equipment | Cherokee Phoenix

The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Dec. 10 unanimously voted to purchase election equipment from Texas-based Hart InterCivic with the expectations of running its own elections in 2015. Election Services Director Connie Parnell said she first contacted the Tribal Rights Employment Office to see if there were any Cherokee-owned election manufacturers from which the EC could purchase the equipment. After learning there were no such companies, the EC moved forward with finding a provider. “There is not a lot of companies left. They’ve all bought out each other,” Parnell said. “And of those that are left – ES&S, Dominion, Hart InterCivic – those are your three major companies that produce election equipment. And they are the manufacturers. They aren’t the middle man.” Parnell said she contacted five companies but only two were interested in working toward the EC’s goal of running its own elections, Hart InterCivic being one.

Costa Rica: Electronic Voting Comes to Thousands of Voters Abroad | The Costa Rica News

Over 82% of the 12,654 Costa Ricans registered to vote abroad in the elections on February 2 may use a new electronic voting system, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced today. Electronic voting, which will be implemented for the first time in Costa Rica presidential elections, is a pilot plan that can be used at the consulates of 31 countries with more than 50 people registered in each. TSE President, Luis Antonio Sobrado, said at a press conference that the voting and the use of electronic voting is “the most important of the major innovations for the elections.” Each voter will have the opportunity to choose the electronic ballot, which includes the option to vote on a touch screen computer.

Egypt: Roadmap likely to change, presidential vote to be held first: sources | Reuters

Egypt’s government is likely to call a presidential election before parliamentary polls, officials said on Monday, rearranging the political timetable in a way that could see army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi elected head of state by April. Parliamentary elections were supposed to happen first under the roadmap unveiled after the army deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July after mass protests against his rule. But critics have campaigned for a change, saying the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a time of economic and political crisis and to forge a political alliance before a potentially divisive parliamentary election.

Thailand: Poll faces new threats | Bangkok Post

Even if the election takes place as planned, there is still the risk a new government will not be established, an Election Commission (EC) insider said. This is because the House of Representatives cannot be convened if less than 95% of the 375 constituency MPs, plus 125 from parties’ lists, are endorsed by the EC. The EC must endorse up to 95% within 30 days of the election day. However, the 125 list-MPs are based on the proportion of votes each party obtains nationwide. If votes cannot be cast in any constituency, then the calculation cannot be made. The proportion of each party’s list-MPs will be based on the nationwide vote it obtains. If voters cannot cast their ballots in any constituency, then the number of votes for party list-MPs cannot be counted. Up until yesterday, registration of constituency candidates, particularly in several southern provinces, was still being disrupted by anti-government protesters.

International: 2014: A year of electoral fireworks | Global Post

Some of the largest nations on Earth — along with some of the most violent — will hold important elections in the coming year, any of which could affect the global political landscape profoundly. The United States has entered a midterm election year, with all the sound and fury (and distortion) that brings. But in a world now dotted with democracies, that’s only the start. National votes in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Colombia and Brazil should command significant attention as all have the ability to improve or set back global growth and stability. In the huge democracies of India, Brazil and Indonesia, corruption and lowered growth expectations will dominate political debate. Brazil’s opposition parties seem weak so far, but voters in the two Asian giants look likely to spark a power change after more than a decade of consistent rule by one party.

Bangladesh: Thousands take to the streets of Dhaka as Bangladesh election storm grows | The Independent

Fresh political violence broke out in the Bangladeshi capital on Sunday as thousands of protesters turned out on the streets of Dhaka to oppose forthcoming elections they denounced as fraudulent. Thousands of security officers attempted to quell the demonstrations that left two people dead. Twenty-one political parties, including an 18 party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have said they will not take part in the elections scheduled for 5 January, after their demands for the country to be run by a neutral caretaker government during the polls were denied. M Shahiduzzaman, a security analyst and a professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, said the elections are not democratic or inclusive. The EU, the Commonwealth nations and the US have said they will not be sending observers to monitor the polls because they are not “credible”. “The crisis and the violence is likely to intensify,” warned Mr Shahiduzzaman.

Bangladesh: Protests against Bangladesh election turn violent | Reuters

Violent clashes erupted in Bangladesh on Sunday as opposition supporters took to the streets to protest against a January 5 general election which they are boycotting. The opposition says it will not take part in the vote unless an interim government oversees it and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina steps down. The boycott means more than half of 300 parliament seats will go uncontested, undermining the legitimacy of the election and making it highly unlikely it will do anything to restore stability in one of the world’s poorest countries. The leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum Khaleda Zia, called for a march on the capital, Dhaka, in defiance of a police ban to protest against what she calls the “farcical” election.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly – December 23-29 2013

thailand_260Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Boston have shown that legislation restricting access to voting is designed to suppress the votes of voters more likely to vote Democratic: poor and Black. The Overseas Vote Foundation announced the launch of a new project aimed at taking a research-based approach to the question of whether or not absentee ballots can be securely cast over the Internet. Proposals for two-tiered voting systems in Arizona and Kansas have drawn criticism from voters. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has indicated he will not develop contingency plans in case the Election Assistance Commission determines that his office misused federal funds in a voter fraud investigation. An year-long investigation in Ohio found little evidence of voter fraud in the State. The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has made nearly $90,000 off fees during the past five years by selling voter information to political parties or campaigns and, sometimes, to private corporations who turn around and sell the data for a profit. Both candidates in Madagascar’s Presidential election claimed victory and fraud, while election protests in Thailand turned violent as the government rejected a call from the Election Commission to postpone a February vote.

National: Study: Voter Fraud Non-Existent, Partisanship at Heart of Voter Laws | Houston Press

The George W. Bush DOJ went after voter fraud hard. It became a mantra in right-wing talking circles that voter fraud was rampant, perhaps swinging elections. The problem with this narrative was that there simply wasn’t much evidence to support it. Undeterred by the lack of evidence, right-wing activists, led by Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, kept pushing the idea in state legislatures. And while many laws restricting voting rights were proposed, a number were passed especially after the Tea Party got a hold of some state legislatures in 2010. Those on the left always suspected that there was something else going on behind these types of laws: requiring photo identification, proof of citizenship, regulation of groups who attempt to register new voters, shortened early voting periods, banning same-day voter registration and increased restrictions on voting by felons. That is, these restrictions seemed designed to suppress the votes of voters more likely to vote Democratic: poor and Black. Well, now two researchers have added some empirical rigor to the debate: what is going on with these spate of voting restrictions?

Voting Blogs: New Overseas Vote Foundation Project to Examine Remote Online Voting | Election Academy

Last week, the Overseas Vote Foundation announced the launch of a new project aimed at taking a research-based approach to the question of whether or not absentee ballots can be securely cast over the Internet. Thanks to generous funding from the Democracy Fund, the project will be an opportunity to answer key questions about the feasibility of meeting growing calls for remote online voting. OVF’s press release has more details:

The project is called End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Assessment Study (E2E VIV Project) and will examine a form of remote voting that enables a so-called “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E) property. A unique team of experts in computer science, usability, and auditing together with a selection of local election officials from key counties around the U.S. will assemble for this study.Their efforts aim to produce a system specification and set of testing scenarios, which if they meet the requirements for security, auditability, and usability, will then be placed in the public domain. At the same time, they intend to demonstrate that confidence in a voting system is built on a willingness to verify its security through testing and transparency.

Arizona: Voters caught up in voting citizenship fight decry possible of 2-tier Arizona voting system | Associated Press

When Georgia Bartlett moved to Arizona more than a year ago, she did what she’s done in each of the many states where she lived since reaching voting age: She registered to vote. But Bartlett, 68, who moved to Phoenix from Arkansas to be near her grown children, was tripped up because she used a federal form to register. She signed under penalty of perjury that she’s a citizen entitled to vote, but soon found out that wasn’t good enough. Instead of receiving a sample ballot, she began receiving letters from the local registrar seeking proof she was a citizen. She sent a copy of her Arkansas driver’s license, but was told that wasn’t good enough. So she just gave up.

Iowa: Secretary of State will not follow auditor’s recommendation on funding for voter fraud investigation | Des Moines Register

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will not heed the recommendation issued this week by the State Auditor’s Office urging him to draft contingency plans in case a commission determines his office misused federal funds in a voter fraud investigation. Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins advised Schultz in a letter dated Dec. 18 that his office should develop a plan to repay federal funds granted to the office under the Help America Vote Act in case the U.S. Election Assistance Commission decides a two-year agreement Schultz struck with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to look into voter fraud cases is an ineligible use of such funds.

Ohio: Voter fraud investigation uncovers few crimes |

The Hamilton County Board of Elections spent the year investigating voter fraud allegations. In the end, six people were charged, and another 42 referred to the secretary of state, who oversees voting for Ohio. An Enquirer review of the local cases showed that, except for one criminally convicted poll worker, it amounted to a few people who stepped over the line in their zealousness to vote. Ultimately, Hamilton County’s 48 cases represented 0.011 percentof the 421,997 votes cast in Hamilton County’s 2012 general election. “Oftentimes we see dramatic allegations of rampant voter fraud,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor and election law expert. “But the more deeply you look, the less fraud there really is. “That’s not to say there’s isn’t any,” he added. “People cheat.”

National: Weird Loophole Allows Corporations to Incentivize Employee Contributions to Corporate PACs | Nonprofit Quarterly

U.S. corporations cannot give money directly to political action committees, but individuals can. Can corporations find a way around the prohibition? Of course they can! That’s what loopholes are for. Bloomberg News reports that corporations are getting their employees to donate to PACs in return for the corporations making matching contributions to the employees’ choices of charities. Among the corporations doing this according to Bloomberg are Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Boeing, and Hewlett-Packard. The loophole isn’t just a recent discovery. The practice was specifically approved by the Federal Election Commission in the late 1980s and has been reviewed and approved by the FEC seven times between 1994 and 2009. It is also a practice that is reprehensible, clearly intended to skirt the intention of the law. Election law prohibits corporations from reimbursing employees for their PAC donations, either directly or indirectly, but the corporations are making the case that making donations to charities is different than offering employees reimbursement, bonuses, or other compensation.

Missouri: Now you can register online in Missouri | Lake Expo

Finally, a development in Missouri that makes it easier to vote, rather than harder. Secretary of State Jason Kander on Thursday unveiled a new online tool that allows Missourians to fill out a voter registration form online through his office’s website. The new online form is at and, get this, it’s designed to make things simpler for voters. “I am committed to ensuring that all eligible Missourians have the opportunity to cast a ballot, and since you can’t vote unless you’re registered, we decided to do what we could to simplify the process and make it more convenient for voters,” Kander said.

Pennsylvania: Voting change proposed | Pittsburgh Tribune

By choosing just one lever or button, Pennsylvanians have had the ability to select either the Democrats’ or Republicans’ entire slate of candidates for more than 70 years. But that would change if a proposal in Harrisburg by state Rep. Eli Evankovich — and 15 Republican cosponsors — becomes law. The House State Government Committee had a hearing Dec. 11 on Evankovich’s legislation to eliminate the straight-party ballot option in Pennsylvania, which would mean voters would have to identify their preferred candidate in each individual race rather than being able to press one button to choose all Democrats or all Republicans automatically. Pennsylvania is one of only 14 states that provides a straight-party option, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Not only would the change reduce some of the polarizing partisanship in elections, Evankovich said, it would encourage voters to review candidates at the bottom of the ballot instead of simply choosing a party’s lineup based on the higher-profile candidates who are running.

Texas: Attorney fee award reversed by appeals court in Texas voting rights case | Louisiana Record

Plaintiffs in a Texas redistricting battle who were initially awarded attorney’s fees by a district court were rebuffed in a ruling by the U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals after being unable to prove they were the “prevailing party”. A dispute between seven elected officials and one citizen of Galveston, Texas, against Galveston County began when the county redrew district lines following 2010 census. The plaintiffs filed suit on grounds that the proposed electoral maps violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires certain jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination to receive federal approval before changing voting procedures.

Wisconsin: Legal filings hone arguments over voter ID law | Journal Sentinel

The federal judge deciding the legality of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received an early Christmas present last week in some reading for over the holidays: more than 200 pages of post-trial briefs. Don’t blame the parties. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, who presided over eight days of testimony in November, invited the briefs and set the pre-holidays deadline. He hasn’t indicated when he will rule. Despite their length, the briefs are meant to sharpen the points both sides tried to make at trial. The plaintiffs, individual voters and groups representing minorities, contend Act 23 violates the federal Voting Rights Act because it has a disproportionate negative impact on members of those groups, regardless of the law’s intent. The state contends the law furthers a legitimate interest in protecting the integrity of the electoral process and stopping fraud, and that it allows enough alternative forms of photo ID to accommodate anyone who truly wants to vote.

Afghanistan: Security remains a challenge before Afghan polls | Xinhua

As Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections is getting closer, both the election commission and the citizens are increasingly concerned that security challenges may disrupt the polling process. “Security problems have remained the main challenge before holding elections and it is a matter of concerns for the Independent Election Commission(IEC),” spokesman for the election body, Noor Mohammad Noor told Xinhua recently. He also confirmed that the election commission had failed to open registration centers for voters in four districts of Bagran, Disho, Kakar and Alasai in the country’s more than 400 districts because of security problems. Afghanistan’s third presidential and provincial councils’ elections are slated for April 5, 2014 in the post-Taliban nation amid Taliban threats to disrupt the process. Meanwhile, Noon Mohammad Noor, the IEC spokesman, admitted that security problems are a challenge for the historic polls scheduled for April next year.

Bangladesh: Army deployed ahead of January elections | BBC

Tens of thousands of troops are being deployed across Bangladesh to try to prevent potential political violence ahead of next month’s elections. This comes as main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has urged her supporters to stage nationwide protests. She says she will boycott the 5 January general elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quits and a neutral caretaker government is installed. Ms Hasina’s government has rejected the opposition’s demand. Caretaker governments previously oversaw elections, but Ms Hasina scrapped the arrangement in 2011.

Mauritania: Ruling party wins majority vote | Al Jazeera

Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic Party (UPR) has won a ruling majority in parliament after a second round of legislative elections, issued results show. The UPR party entered Saturday’s election with a secured victory in the November 23 first round after a boycott by several opposition parties – who insisted that they would not be fair – in the mainly Muslim republic, a former French colony on the west coast of the Sahara desert. According to Sunday’s results, which decided an outstanding 26 seats, the UPR held 74 seats in the 147-member National Assembly.

Thailand: Thailand protests ramp up amid election preparations | Associated Press

Protesters trying to halt preparations for elections fought running battles with police in the Thai capital on Thursday, as the country’s festering political crisis again flared into violence. Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets toward protesters trying to force their way into a sports stadium where candidates were gathering to draw lots for their position on polling papers, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. The demonstrators, some armed with sling shots, threw rocks and attempted to break through police lines. Inside the stadium, candidates for at least 27 parties took part in the lot-drawing process, which apparently went on unaffected despite the turmoil outside the gates. Three officers were injured, said police Col. Anucha Romyanan. He urged the demonstrators to assemble peacefully and said “attempts are being made to escalate the political situation by causing violence.” It was unclear how many protesters were hurt in the clashes, which were contained to the area around the stadium. It was the first violent incident in nearly two weeks of daily protests on the streets of Bangkok.

California: Turnout in Special Elections Has Declined by 1/3 Since Top-Two Rules Came into Force | Ballot Access News

Many large newspapers in California are bemoaning the very low turnout in special U.S. House and legislative elections recently. Some newspapers are editorializing in favor of eliminating special elections for the legislature, and advocating that the Constitution be changed to let the Governor appoint legislators to fill vacant seats. See this Los Angeles Times editorial, and this Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial. The newspapers are correct that voter turnout in recent special elections has been low. Ever since the top-two rules were in force, starting in 2011, the median voter turnout in California special legislative and U.S. House elections has been 13.84%. The average has been 15.80%. There have been 19 special elections under top-two rules.

California: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez plans to introduce bill requiring district-based elections | Daily Bulletin

Calling it an effort to strengthen the California Voting Rights Act and address the problem that “it’s difficult for people of color to get elected,” Assemblyman Roger Hernandez says he plans to introduce legislation that would require cities with populations of 100,000 or more to hold district-based municipal elections. The bill, the Municipal Fair Representation Act, as currently written would apply only to general law cities, such as West Covina, El Monte, Fontana, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamonga. It would not apply to cities that are established under charters. “It’s important that we do our best as governmental leaders to have voting systems in place to give our diverse populations the best chance of having reflective representation,” Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a telephone interview Friday. An aide said Hernandez plans to introduce the legislation in January.

Iowa: Voter fraud investigation possibly financed by misused funds |

Iowa’s Secretary of State has been warned by the State Auditor’s Office that funds used for a voter fraud investigation may need to be repaid. According to a report by the Des Moines Register, in July of 2012 Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz launched an investigation with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to look into cases of alleged voter fraud. Schultz reportedly used Help America Vote Act funds for the investigation, which may have violated how the HAVA funds are supposed to be used. A letter dated Wednesday, December 18, 2013 from the Chief Auditor of State Warren Jenkins said that the HAVA Act doesn’t explain whether it’s permissible to use HAVA funds to investigate potential voter fraud.