With Justice Antonin Scalia’s controversial statement that the Voting Rights Act represents the “perpetuation of racial entitlement” continuing to reverberate across the media landscape, it’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court is poised to hear another seminal challenge to a federal law protecting Americans’ right to vote. But next Monday, the Court will hear Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a challenge by the state of Arizona to the protections of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA, also known as the Motor Voter Act, was enacted in 1993 with the goal of boosting voter participation and streamlining voter registration. At stake in both the challenge to the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, and the challenge to the NVRA in the Arizona case, is whether the federal government will continue to have the power to beat back efforts by the states to suppress the vote. As anyone who was watching the 2012 elections knows, one of the key voter suppression methods employed by conservatives was the enactment of ever more burdensome voter ID laws. Those laws were an issue in Shelby County because the Voting Rights Act was used in 2012 to block or delay the implementation of voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.
Local election officials are moving polling places out of schools as the shootings in Newtown, Conn., have intensified concern about opening school doors on Election Day. In New York, Rockland County officials will relocate polls this year away from 10 schools at the request of the local school district in Clarkstown and Nyack. “In the wake of what happened in Connecticut, it’s definitely taken on more urgency,” says Kristen Stavisky, a county election commissioner. “Voters in these schools will have to move. They won’t be going to the polling sites that they’ve been going to — for some of them, since they were eligible and registered to vote.” In Baraboo, Wis., three polling sites will be located in the town civic center to avoid using schools, due to security concerns, says Cheryl Giese, Baraboo’s city clerk and finance director. At Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, 26 students and staff were killed by a gunman on Dec. 14.
Remarks by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in defense of the Voting Rights Act and its special protections for Alaska Natives have come under fire from some in state government, but the first-term Democrat is standing behind them and even gaining some other defenders. Speaking in Juneau earlier this week, Begich criticized a bill in the Alaska Legislature that would require photo identification for voters, as well as the Parnell administration’s court attempts to overturn the civil rights legislation, which gives special protections to Natives and special authority over state elections to the U.S. Department of Justice. Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said Begich misrepresented what his House Bill 3 would do. “Contrary to his assertion before our Legislature, nothing in HB 3 erects any barriers to any voter,” Lynn said. That’s because requiring photo identification is not a barrier, he said. Begich maintained it is, citing some of his own staff members with elderly relatives lacking photo IDs who had for years voted and participated in their villages. They’d be barred from voting without the photo IDs, he said.
To Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the state law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration is “common sense,” not a burden. To opponents, Arizona’s Proposition 200 is just another obstacle that would restrict access to the polls for the young, elderly and minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in this month in a hearing that will be watched closely by voting-rights advocates and by several other states with similar laws. At issue in the March 18 hearing is a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said federal law trumps state law on voter-registration requirements. The appeals court said in April that voters could use a federal mail-in registration form, established by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires that they attest to their citizenship only through a signature.
International: Electronic voting is failing the developing world while the US and Europe abandon it | Quartz
It was supposed to be the most modern election in Africa. Kenyan authorities, hoping to avoid the chaos of the 2007 election, decided that this time the country would use a tamper-proof, state-of-the-art electronic voting system where voter IDs would be checked on hand-held devices and results transmitted to Nairobi through text messages. But everything that could go wrong did. The biometric identification kits to scan people’s thumbs broke down; a server meant to take in results from 33,400 voting centers sent via SMS became overloaded; and some election operators forgot the passwords and PIN numbers for the software. Polling centers went back to hand counting ballots and results were delayed almost a week, until March 9 when Uhuru Kenyatta’s win was announced. And every day before that people feared a repeat of 2007 when results were delayed and violence erupted, killing 1,200 people. Kenya’s troubled electronic voting experiment is part of a strange dichotomy where electronic voting is on the way out in most Western countries, but taking hold in emerging economies, possibly to their detriment. In the US and Western Europe, more states have been opting out of electronic voting systems and returning to paper out of worries over the number of glitches and, as we’ve reported before, the inability to verify that electronic votes or the software on machines have not been manipulated.
More than a week after oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder, the scorn expressed by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia and others towards the Voting Rights Act continues to dominate the news. Whether it be Justice Scalia’s statement that the Voting Rights Act survives only because of the self-perpetuating power of “racial entitlements” or Chief Justice Roberts’ dubious claim that the state of voting discrimination may be worse in Massachusetts than Mississippi, there has been an outpouring of coverage highlighting just how the weak the arguments against the Voting Rights Act are. As Linda Greenhouse put it, it would be “an error of historic proportions” – akin to Plessy and other travesties in Supreme Court history – to strike down the Voting Rights Act when the Constitution expressly gives to Congress the power to eradicate racial discrimination in voting. With the focus on whether the Court will strike down our nation’s most iconic civil rights law, there has been virtually no attention to the fact that, when the Justices convene again on March 18th, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a second major voting rights case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council. But Inter Tribal Council is a very important case that will have huge implications for Congress’ power to protect the right to vote and to enact new, needed reforms in federal elections.
A new bill would allow California counties to create their own public voting systems across the state. The idea is an effort to modernize the voting process and make it more efficient. Some California counties have voting equipment that’s more than 30 years old. Currently, most California counties purchase their voting systems from one of 5 private vendors. Those companies have trademarked their technology and limit public access to operating the systems. If the equipment malfunctions, the companies have no legal obligation to notify election officials and the public. The legislation would give counties the power to develop, own and operate voting systems. Los Angeles County is spearheading the idea and could one of the first counties to create such a system.
When Secretary of State Alison Grimes proposed ways to allow military personnel stationed outside of Kentucky to cast absentee ballots more easily and quickly, nearly everyone said it was a good idea. But concerns about the integrity of emailed absentee ballots and allowing such ballots to be counted, even if they arrived a couple of days late, have led to different bills in the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House. Richard Beliles of Common Cause of Kentucky believes it would be relatively easy to hack into those emails and change votes and many county clerks – just how many is in dispute – raised similar concerns. So Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, sponsored the bill but altered Grimes’ proposal by removing the email and extra time provisions. The bill passed easily in that chamber.
Later this month, parties will begin filing briefs in a federal lawsuit where the outcome could have major implications for Indian voters in Montana and the West. On Feb. 20, an appellate court ruled that a lawsuit brought by a group of Indian plaintiffs naming Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and county elections officials in Blaine, Rosebud, and Big Horn Counties as defendants, could go forward. The court denied McCulloch’s request to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, and now the opening briefs in the case are due March 19. At the heart of the lawsuit is whether McCulloch and county elections officials violated portions of the federal Voting Rights Act that “prohibit voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups.” The plaintiffs argue their rights to equal access to voting were violated when McCulloch and county elections officials refused to set up satellite voting offices on remote Indian reservations in advance of the November 2012 presidential election.
Nevada: Ninth Circuit Seems Disinclined to Invalidate Nevada’s “None of These Candidates” Law | Ballot Access News
On March 11, the 9th circuit heard arguments in Townley v Miller, 12-16881. The hearing went badly for the people who filed the lawsuit, and those people and groups include the Nevada Republican Party. They argue that Nevada’s law, which puts “none of these candidates” on the primary and general election ballot for statewide office, discriminates against voters who choose to vote for “none of these candidates.” They argue that these voters don’t get what they want, because even if “none of these” gets a plurality, that has no effect. The problem with this argument is that it seems insincere. The people who filed the lawsuit are perceived to simply desire that “none of these candidates” be eliminated from the ballot. They don’t seem to really want “none of these” to have binding effect. They seem to be partisan Republicans who feel if “none” were removed, Republican nominees would gain an advantage in November.
A number of bills introduced by lawmakers this session could bring changes to the way North Dakotans conduct elections, vote and report campaign finances. Thirty-one pieces of legislation have been introduced in both chambers in either bill or resolution form. The bills tackle issues including absentee ballots, voting locations, initiated ballot measures and voter identification. Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, called voting the public’s most important civic duty. “We need integrity in voting,” Boehning said. That’s why, he said, he’s the primary sponsor of House Bill 1332. The bill deals with voter affidavits and outlining a requirement for having a state-issued identification to vote.
In the wake of Edmonton’s decision not to go ahead with online voting in the fall campaign, the provincial government has withdrawn its support for the idea as well. Strathcona County, which initially partnered with Edmonton for online voting, was set to vote earlier this week on including it in their election. But Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths wrote the county a letter saying the province would not support the move. “As yet Edmonton and St. Albert didn’t have confidence in the system so we are not going to run a real project where people are actually voting on the internet in this election. It’s too high risk.” he said in an interview. Griffiths said elections have to be completely reliable and he doesn’t believe the technology is there.
On Thursday, residents of this city — and some nonresidents who are registered owners of real estate — will vote on whether or not liquor by the drink will be allowed to stay. The campaign signs for and against the measure say much about the divisiveness of the issue here. Anyone who came to the Election Commission office to early-vote could not have missed the two large green signs that say “Vote FOR Alcohol Tax Revenue For Our Schools.” They would also have noticed a line of smaller signs in between the two larger ones. The smaller ones are white with black lettering. Some say “Vote NO for real liquor control.” Others say “Our Kids Are Not For Sale.” If you favor liquor by the drink, you may see the two larger signs as symbolizing a tidal wave of progress, which — according to that view — needs to sweep over isolated pockets of a last-century attitude that the smaller signs represent. Or, if you oppose the liquor proposal, you might view the smaller signs as symbolic of native guerrilla fighters, defying a well-funded mercenary invasion that is symbolized by the larger signs, and already has a foot in the door.
Leaders of protests that felled the Bulgarian government are struggling to unite to form a single political party that can challenge the old order at May’s election. Despite hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the past months over what they see as a corrupt political class that has failed to improve living standards, that impetus is now waning and their leaders are squabbling among themselves. “Suddenly, every Bulgarian is … the organizer of the protests,” Angel Slavchev, from the National Citizens Initiative, one of several groups competing to lead protesters, told Reuters. “I have had enough of fakes.”
Strathcona County council is expected to decide Tuesday if the municipality will proceed with an Internet voting pilot project that could see online ballots cast as part of October’s civic election. It’s the last chance for Internet voting in the capital region, after St. Albert and Edmonton city councils defeated proposals for Internet voting last month. Edmonton city staff tested a proposed online voting system for more than a year, including a mock “jelly bean election” and the verdict of a citizen jury. A report recommended Edmonton allow Internet voting for advance and special ballots in October’s civic election, but councillors worried the process wasn’t entirely secure and defeated the proposal Feb. 6. St. Albert councillors voted to stop work on the project two weeks later.
This information comes from members of a team that worked with the RTS system. The following is in his words:
RTS As you stated – RTS was a slick design, it was a system that was to run on 339 servers across the country and over 33k phones and at least 26k users logged in to the production system. It was a shame that issues outside the main RTS software denied it the limelight. The visualization and transmission aspects were not part of the RTS system and thus the RTS system comprised of:
mobile phone software – a J2ME application
the web service processing the request – a Servlet running on Glassfish
Memcache to cache data that was not changing
the database – running on Mysql
All of which were based on tried and tested open technologies.
The truth is that around 8PM Monday is that the /var partition on the provisioning server (running CentOS not Windows) got filled and thus the underlying RDBMS failed. It was a shame because there was so much space on that server but not in the correct (needed place). I can state that there was no hacking (nothing points to it). I can also state that RTS was not creating files and thus the partition was not filled by RTS data but rather by Mysql binary logs that were being generated in situ due to database replication which was switch on. Thus this meant that if the provision server went down – no new logins and requests for candidate data for that polling station could not be serviced. However, those individuals who had logged in at least once before in accordance to the procedure were able to send results to the other servers that were up. This explains the “slow down” experienced after the provisioning server went down.
On March 4th Kenyans went to the polls to elect the country’s 4th president, among other officials. Most polling stations opened on time at 6 AM. Some, however, opened late due to late arrival of voting materials or the failure of the biometric voter registration (BVR) kits that were used to identify voters before they cast their ballots. It was the first time that Kenya had implemented an electronic voter register, the previous manual register having had hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ghost voters. It was also the first election following the enactment of a new constitution in 2010, which doubled the number of elective contests in the general election. With the botched 2007 general election still fresh on everyone’s mind, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was keen on guarding the credibility of the process. The actual voting went relatively well. Besides a night attack on the eve of the election by a separatist group in the former Coast Province, there were no major incidents. Most polling stations closed at 5 PM and those that opened late were allowed to extend voting until 10 PM.
Kenya’s Supreme Court will handle any challenge to the result of last week’s presidential election in a fair and speedy manner, the chief justice said on Monday, two days after defeated candidate Raila Odinga threatened legal action over the outcome. Uhuru Kenyatta, indicted for crimes against humanity, was declared the winner on Saturday. Odinga refused to concede, although he urged his supporters to avoid any repeat of the violence that erupted after the last election in 2007. Chief justice Willy Mutunga, appointed in 2011 to reform a legal system accused of serving the interests of the elite, said politicians and political parties had confidence in the judiciary to handle all electoral disputes. A swift and transparent resolution of the dispute is seen as critical to restoring Kenya’s reputation as a stable democracy, something that was helped by last week’s largely peaceful vote.
Indonesia: Election Commission Vows to Ensure Voting Rights for Disabled People in 2014 | The Jakarta Globe
The General Election Commission (KPU) said on Monday it would guarantee that disabled people in Indonesia would be able to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming election. “This is not about increasing the participatory rate in the election — we are hoping there will be no discrimination against the disabled community,” KPU head Husni Kamil Manik said on Monday. Husni said the KPU was drafting a special regulation for disabled people to ensure the opportunity to use their voting rights and have convenient access to voting centers. The commission also signed a memorandum of understanding with several nongovernmental organizations focusing on increasing the participation of disabled people in Indonesian elections. “We must have an honest and fair election, accessible and nondiscriminatory. We hope this cooperation between the KPU and civil societies will pave a better way for Indonesian disabled to use their voting rights,” said Ariani Soekanwo, the chairwoman of the Center for Election Access for Citizens with Disabilities (PPUA Penca).
The Iranian government has blocked the use of most VPNs in the country, three months ahead of the presidential election. “Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked,” head of Iran’s information and communications technology committee Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard confirmed to Iran’s Mehr news agency on 10 March. “Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used.” Project Ainita, a non-profit championing internet freedom in places like Iran, flagged up the issue at the end of February when access to encrypted international sites using a SSL proxy appeared to be impossible. “Email, proxies and all the secure channels that start with ‘https’ are not available,” a Tehran-based technology expert told Reuters.
It begins with prayers chanted in an ancient language and ends with a tiny figure on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica unveiled as the supreme pontiff of more than a billion Catholics. The conclave to elect a pope, which starts Tuesday, unfolds with elaborate ritual, deep secrecy and politicking that would warm the heart of a machine politician. While carried out in the trappings of past centuries, “in reality, the elections are a political fact,” said Paolo Francia, author of “The Conclave.” The voting is minutely scripted. Rectangular paper ballots are counted, collected, pierced with a needle and burned. Exactly four rounds of voting are permitted each day. The winner’s name is intoned in Latin. It is a process dating back centuries, with a rich history of chicanery — like the bought election of Julius II in 1503 and the undermining of a leading contender, Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, in 1978, thanks to the leaking of an embargoed interview he gave. There are no formal nominees, and technically, each cardinal enters the conclave as a possible pope. The next pope must garner two-thirds of the votes, or 77 of 115 in this case. In practice, a few names always emerge as favorites beforehand, although the principal truism is, “Go in a pope, come out a cardinal.”