Edmonton city council would be wise to exercise real caution before introducing Internet voting into the municipal election system. As tempting as it might be to blaze an electronic trail into the local democratic process, the notion of a vote that’s only a click away triggers some genuine concerns. City staff have recommended council approve online ballots in advance polls for next fall’s municipal election, following what was regarded as a successful mock vote last September that tested such a system with no discernible security breaches. That all-systems-go enthusiasm took a hit Monday when a local computer programmer informed council’s executive committee that he was able to cast two ballots in the mock election without being detected. Coun. Linda Sloan spoke for many citizens, and not just technophobes, when she expressed severe reservations about the integrity of a cyber-vote. “I’m not 100-per-cent confident in the security of the Internet and never have been, whether it’s my credit card information or my personal address or how I choose to vote,” Sloan said.
Leonard Gorman is a man of maps. He heads the Navajo Nation’s Human Rights Commission, which among other responsibilities, is charged with protecting and promoting Navajo voters’ rights to choose candidates who will reasonably represent their interests. He and his team all work out of their trailer office in Window Rick, Arizona—the Navajo Nation’s capitol—where they chart data that they’ve collected on the potential impacts of redistricting on the Navajo Nation. The first map Gorman’s team submitted to the Arizona Redistricting Commission resembled the letter J, encompassing the edge of Arizona’s eastern border and curving up towards the west. Although that map included large portions of Arizona’s Native population, the Navajo Nation later opted out of it because Arizona’s hardline anti-immigrants liked it too much. It included large southern border areas, where white conservative ranchers are more likely to vote Republican and would have infringed on Arizona’s growing Latino districts. “We immediately learned that the J map was playing into the extreme right position,” explains Gorman.
A new estimate from the Federal Election Commission puts total spending for the 2012 election at more than $7 billion — $1 billion more than previously thought. New FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub unveiled the latest estimate of the 2012 campaign’s record-shattering cost at the agency’s first open meeting of 2013, one that saw the departure of Cynthia Bauerly, one of the three Democratic commissioners. Though campaign spending was expected to break records after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the door for unlimited contributions, the latest FEC estimate exceeds earlier expectations. The FEC processed more than 11 million documents to calculate the spending for the election and the counting isn’t yet complete: New filings covering the final quarter of 2012 are due at midnight.
National: Program exceeds expectations in reaching overseas and military absentee voters | Fort Hood Sentinel
The Federal Voting Assistance Program exceeded congressional expectations in the 2012 election cycle by getting guidance to service members so they could vote by absentee ballot, a senior FVAP official said here, Jan. 24. David Beirne, acting deputy director of technology programs for FVAP, participated in a “MOVE and the Military” panel discussion at George Washington University during the seventh annual summit of the Overseas Vote Foundation and U.S. Vote Foundation. MOVE refers to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, designed to help military people serving overseas and citizens who live abroad to vote in U.S. elections.
Voting from abroad continued to become easier in last year’s U.S. election, thanks to the combined effects of federal law and Internet resources, according to a new study by the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter-assistance group. Whereas a full half of expatriate American voters surveyed by the group after the 2008 election reported not receiving a ballot or receiving it too late, that figure declined to one-third for the 2010 election and to just one-fifth in last year’s presidential election. “The tipping point is in the use of technology,” said Claire M. Smith, research manager for the foundation. “There’s no going back.”
“The smart money is on the court striking down [Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act] as an improper exercise of congressional power,” Rick Hasen has warned in his introduction to this forum. That bet is a poor one. The “experts” may well be proven wrong ‑ as they were in 2009 when the Supreme Court found no reason to rush into a constitutional judgment on the constitutionality of pre-clearance. “Our usual practice,” Chief Justice John Roberts said then, “is to avoid the unnecessary resolution of constitutional questions.” And that is just what the court did. Today, however, those worried about the future of the Voting Rights Act nervously point to a remark by the chief justice in a 2006 congressional redistricting case. “It is a sordid business,” Roberts said, “this divvying us up by race.” The remark suggested race-driven maps would not survive another review of Section 5’s constitutionality, and yet the enforcement of the pre-clearance provision has long involved race-conscious districting. To forbid “divvying up” is to insist that the Justice Department and the courts craft very different remedies for electoral discrimination than the familiar ones ‑ though a commitment to those race-based districting plans has long been a civil rights litmus test.
Editorials: Delegate the Voting Rights Act oversight formula | Christopher S. Elmendorf/The Great Debate (Reuters)
If the Supreme Court strikes the pre-clearance provisions (Section 5) of the Voting Rights Act, it will most likely do so because the statute’s “coverage formula” is untethered from evidence of current discrimination against racial minorities. The oversight formula determines which states must receive the federal government’s blessing before making any changes to their election laws. It is based on decades-old evidence of discrimination. When Congress in 2006 extended the pre-clearance provisions for another 25 years, legal scholars warned that the extension would be constitutionally vulnerable ‑ unless Congress updated the formula. But politically this was too hot to handle.
Democratic lawmakers say allowing voters to register and cast ballots on the same day would increase election participation, but some county officials worry that it would further complicate the voting process. State Rep. Martin J. Quezada, D-Avondale, and state Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, have introduced legislation that would allow people to register and cast provisional ballots on election day. The bills also would rescind a state law cutting off voter registration 29 days before an election. “People express a lot of interest within those last two to three weeks before an election,” Quezada said. “They’re seeing more commercials, they’re seeing more TV, they’re seeing more mail.” He said that many people become interested too late and end up not being able to vote.
Democrats rejected a GOP proposal to cancel voter registrations of people believed not to be U.S. citizens. The bill would have required election officials to check voter rolls against national and state immigration databases to verify citizenship. Election officials would then have hearings for people to show proof of citizenship, or have their registration canceled. Democrats say eligible voters could be disenfranchised because the databases are not reliable.
After weeks of research and a day of shopping, Page County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to purchase new voting equipment during their Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting. Supervisors agreed to spend $97,084 for new equipment under the brand name Unisyn they viewed Tuesday, Jan. 8 in Clarinda. The cost includes trade-in value of existing equipment and three-year, 0 percent interest financing. The county will use reserve funds in the Local Option Sales Tax budget. Page County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen, whose office oversees elections, said the new equipment is expected to be used for the school board elections on Sept. 10.
St. Charles County is just about to close a deal to purchase hundreds of new, state-of-the-art voting machines. But don’t worry taxpayers — the cost won’t be passed on to you. Like a squirrel storing nuts for the approaching winter, St. Charles county elections director Rich Chrismer has been salting away money raised by leasing out his machines to other election authorities throughout the county. He says that means he’s now been able to save up the million dollars or so needed to purchase 260 voting machines, split evenly between optical scan and ADA-compliant versions.
The auditor of North Dakota’s most populous county says several bills in the state Legislature would make it harder to vote and administer elections. Bills introduced by Republican lawmakers would shorten the time for early and absentee voting and more than double the number of days a person must live in a precinct before voting there. Under another bill, voters – often college students – who must fill out an affidavit because they don’t have proof of their current address would have to provide that proof within a week of the election to have their vote counted.
An effort to implement true early voting in South Carolina moved forward Wednesday with approval from a state Senate panel. The measure unanimously advanced to the Senate Judiciary Committee would set parameters for how the process would be handled, including allowing residents to vote starting 10 days before an election and directing local election officials to set up at least one early voting center in each county. Similar efforts have been put forth unsuccessfully in the past. In 2011, the state Senate approved a bill creating an 11-day window for early voting. That measure died in the House, which had already rejected early voting efforts that were tied to legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
A bill that would have banned one touch ‘straight ticket’ voting in Utah has gone straight down to defeat. The House Government Operations Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday against the bill, after its sponsor, State Representative Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said a single vote breeds confusion. “Someone walked up to me at the grocery store the other day and said, ‘I was thrilled to have voted for you this year,’”Arent recounted in a 2News interview, and during testimony before the panel. “And I said, ‘Great.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I voted straight ticket Republican.’ And I said, ‘No, you didn’t actually vote for me.’”
After Liechtenstein decided to shed its image as a tax haven, tax revenues have come down. The resulting budget cuts and tax increases are weighing on the minds of the alpine country‘s 19,200 eligible voters as they elect a new parliament Sunday in one of Europe‘s smallest nations. The election also spells the end of Premier Klaus Tschuetscher‘s term in office – his first and last after he said he would not run again. Under Tschuetscher‘s guidance, Liechtenstein decided that its banks and asset managers would follow a “clean-money strategy” by signing bilateral tax agreements with other governments that make it harder for tax evaders to park their assets in the country.
Prime Minister John Key has quashed suggestions that the Porirua City Council be allowed to trial electronic voting for the 2013 local body elections. Mayor Nick Leggett wants the Government to approve new regulations enabling electronic voting to take place. Mr Leggett says Porirua has one of the youngest populations in New Zealand and with only 20% of people under the age of 35 voting in local body elections, electronic voting could help lift voter participation. He says so many everyday interactions are done electronically, voting could be as well.
United Kingdom: Scottish Government ‘happy’ to accept Electoral Commission’s independence referendum question | The Courier
The Scottish Government has agreed to change the question it will put to voters in next year’s independence referendum, after concerns were raised its preferred version could be biased towards a yes vote. First Minister Alex Salmond had proposed to ask: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” However, the independent elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, said using the phrase “Do you agree” was commonly felt “to be biased towards a yes outcome and potentially leading people towards a yes vote”. The Scottish Government has accepted the commission’s recommendation that the question should instead be: “Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No.”
United Kingdom: Independence Referendum: Electoral Commission call on David Cameron to show what a No vote would mean for Scotland | Daily Record
Election watchdogs have rocked the referendum debate by demanding David Cameron spell out what voting No would mean for Scotland. The Electoral Commission threw down the gauntlet yesterday to the Prime Minister on more powers for Holyrood. In their recommendations for how the historic vote should be run, they urged both the UK and Scottish Governments to outline their plans for the aftermath of the referendum. As revealed by the Record earlier this week, the experts rejected Alex Salmond’s preferred question for the crunch ballot. They said his wording – “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?” – would unfairly encourage people to vote Yes. Instead, they suggested a more neutral wording – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Republican proposals in swing states to change how electoral votes are allocated have set off alarms that the party is trying to rig future presidential elections. But the plans are going nowhere fast. In the majority of states where such measures are being considered – Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Michigan, all states that voted for President Obama in 2012 but have Republican-controlled legislatures – proposals to split Electoral College votes proportionally have either been defeated or are strongly opposed by officials in those states. The only remaining states are Pennsylvania, where an electoral vote change was unsuccessful in 2011, and Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has expressed hesitance about any changes to the system. “I just said I hadn’t ruled it out. I’m not embracing it because it’s a double-edged sword,” Walker said in a recent interview with POLITICO. “What may look appealing right now depending on who your candidate was might, four or eight years from now, look like just the reverse. And the most important thing to me long term as a governor is what makes your voters be in play. One of our advantages as a swing state is that candidates come here … that’s good for voters. If we change that that would take that away and would largely make us irrelevant.”