Renewed questions about the way legislation was approved that would require Arkansas voters to show photo identification at the polls delayed the measure from heading toward a final vote in the state Senate Monday. The Senate delayed a vote on the legislation after a lawmaker questioned whether it required a higher vote threshold in both chambers of the Legislature. Similar concerns had been rejected in the House last week, but a Senate panel planned to take up the matter today.
Over a 2-1/2 week period last July, more than 2,500 online “phantom requests” for absentee ballots were made to Miami-Dade County election headquarters, marking the first known cyberattack on a US election. The fake requests for ballots targeted the Aug. 14 statewide primary and included requests for Democratic ballots in one congressional district and Republican ballots in two state House districts, according to a recent Miami Herald report. The fake requests were done so clumsily that they were red-flagged and did not foul up the election. In any case, they would not have been enough to change the outcome. But now confirmed as the first cyberattack aimed at election fraud, the incident is further evidence that the vote-counting process is vulnerable, particularly as elections become more reliant on the Internet. “This is significant because it’s the first time we’ve seen a very well documented case of attempted computer election fraud in the US,” says J. Alex Halderman, a cybersecurity researcher at the University of Michigan who focuses on election-system vulnerabilities. “This should be a real wakeup call because it illustrates the sort of computer voting attacks that many scientists have been warning were possible for years.”
An attempt to illegally obtain absentee ballots in Florida last year is the first known case in the U.S. of a cyberattack against an online election system, according to computer scientists and lawyers working to safeguard voting security. The case involved more than 2,500 “phantom requests” for absentee ballots, apparently sent to the Miami-Dade County elections website using a computer program, according to a grand jury report on problems in the Aug. 14 primary election. It is not clear whether the bogus requests were an attempt to influence a specific race, test the system or simply interfere with the voting. Because of the enormous number of requests – and the fact that most were sent from a small number of computer IP addresses in Ireland, England, India and other overseas locations – software used by the county flagged them and elections workers rejected them. Computer experts say the case exposes the danger of putting states’ voting systems online – whether that’s allowing voters to register or actually vote. “It’s the first documented attack I know of on an online U.S. election-related system that’s not (involving) a mock election,” said David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who is on the board of directors of the Verified Voting Foundation and the California Voter Foundation.
National: U.S. Supreme Court justices ask tough questions on voter registration law | Arizona Republic
The U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices lobbed a volley of tough questions at Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Monday as he argued for the state’s voter-registration law aimed at keeping illegal immigrants off the voter rolls. At stake is Proposition 200, a law passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2004, that asks Arizonans who want to vote to provide documentary proof of citizenship, such as a copy of a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, tribal identification card or naturalization number. The law goes beyond what federal voter-registration rules require for proof. The law inflamed the immigration debate when it was passed and was almost immediately challenged by voting-rights advocates as burdensome to the young, elderly, minorities or naturalized citizens and to voter-registration organizations. Supporters touted the law as a check against voter fraud.
Arizona is once again serving as a national flash point in a Supreme Court case to decide the legality of its law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. Oral arguments began on Monday with Sonia Sotomayor and Antonin Scalia squaring off, but experts say the law may lead to a trend of similar state laws if it is allowed to stand. At issue is the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which was created to make it easier to register to vote and for an individual to maintain their registration. The “Motor Voter” section of the law allows people to register to vote by mailing in a form where they are asked if they are citizens. Prospective voters must check yes or no and sign the form under penalty of perjury. Arizona’s 2004 law requires documentation of citizenship to use the form. “I’m afraid we’re moving away from the Motor Voter trend,” says Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “Arizona seems to be the initiator of these restrictive laws. It’s an act to deter those who are eligible to vote when there is no evidence of any fraudulent voting.”
Anyone entering the Supreme Court’s chamber Monday morning expecting constitutional drama over the right to vote had to come away quite disappointed. It took all of fifty minutes of a one-hour argument to get to any constitutional issue, most of the Justices wanted to focus on what “may only” means in a federal law, and one Justice pronounced the current federal-state voter registration regime “a crazy system.” In an era when very heated debates over curbing voters’ rights regularly occur in political circles, there was none of that as the Court heard Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (12-71). At the center of the case is an Arizona law, approved by the state’s voters nine years ago, that requires a would-be voter seeking to register to show proof of U.S. citizenship as an additional requirement besides submitting a federal form which includes a question — enforced by possible perjury prosecution — asking whether or not one is a citizen.
National: Voting Rights Advocates Sound Alarm As Supreme Court Hears Proof-Of-Citizenship Case | TPM
Voting rights advocates are sounding the warning sirens as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on a low-profile but important case on whether states may require people to submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote. At issue is whether the Arizona law, known as Proposition 200, violates a federal law that requires states to let people register to vote while renewing drivers licenses or applying for social services. The form provided by the National Voter Registration Act requires people to attest that they are U.S. citizens, but not to provide documented proof, like the Arizona law does. “If Arizona’s brazen attempt to evade the mandates of the NVRA is upheld, it will make it tougher for voters in Arizona to register, and other states with legislatures that are looking to suppress the vote will surely try to pass copycat legislation,” said Doug Kendall, president of the liberal-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center. “If the Court accepts Arizona’s most sweeping arguments against the NVRA, its ruling could severely limit Congress’ power to protect the right of Americans to register to vote.”
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case that could upend the federal effort to spur and streamline voter registration. At issue is an Arizona law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A federal appeals court ruled last year that the state law must fall because it conflicts with federal law. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the NVRA, allows voters to register by mail using a federal form on a postcard. The form asks, among other things: Are you a citizen of the United States? Prospective voters must check yes or no and sign the form under penalty of perjury. The federal law also requires state officials to “accept and use” the federal registration form for federal elections. The question in this case is whether the state of Arizona may place further conditions on registration, beyond what is required by federal law.
The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections. The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law that doesn’t require such documentation. This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say. The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law.
National: Justice Department’s inspector general report: Is the Voting Rights section too politically biased and polarized to enforce the Voting Rights Act? | Slate Magazine
A long-awaited report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General issued last week sheds considerable light on the battles within the department’s voting section during the Bush and Obama administrations. The picture is not pretty. It is a tale of dysfunction and party polarization that could unfairly derail the nomination of the next secretary of labor and could even provide ammunition to Justice Antonin Scalia’s incendiary charge, made during the Supreme Court’s hearing on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act last month, that the civil rights law is a kind of “racial entitlement.” The sordid business raises serious questions about whether the whole model for the federal enforcement of voting rights should be reworked. The record of political bias in the Justice Department’s voting section during President George W. Bush’s administration is well-known. (The department’s voting section is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws.) We know from earlier reports that election officials, including Monica Goodling, went on a hiring binge to hire conservative attorneys to work in the section and, in the words of Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman, to “gerrymander all those crazy libs right out of the section.”
Three weeks after hearing a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court will decide another important voting rights case following oral arguments today in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a stringent anti-immigration law that included provisions requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the proof of citizenship requirement, which it said violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Under the NVRA, those using a federal form to register to vote must affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are US citizens. Twenty-eight million people used that federal form to register to vote in 2008. Arizona’s law, the court concluded, violated the NVRA by requiring additional documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or tribal forms. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 7 percent of eligible voters “do not have ready access to the documents needed to prove citizenship.”
Michigan’s 14th congressional district looks like a jagged letter ’S’ lying on its side. From Detroit, one of the nation’s most Democratic cities, it meanders to the west, north and east, scooping up the black- majority cities of Southfield and Pontiac while bending sharply to avoid Bloomfield Hills, the affluent suburb where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was raised. Its unusual shape is intentional. Michigan Republicans, seeking to maximize their political strength, drew the district lines — and the residential patterns of Democratic voters made their job easier. Michigan (CONSSENT)’s 14th district underscores how Democrats across the U.S. are bunched in big metropolitan areas, resulting in the party’s House candidates often winning by wide margins on Election Day while Republicans capture more seats because their voters are spread out.
Now that the 2012 election is in the rear-view mirror and the 2016 election is still somewhat distant on the horizon, this is an appropriate time to return to the question of presidential election reform. As I have written about many times (including here) on this and other websites, and in academic journals, one important and prominent reform effort, known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) Compact, seeks to move the country in the direction of making it ever more likely that the President who is elected is the candidate who obtains the most voter support nationwide. The essential idea (elaborated by me, my brother Akhil Amar and, independently also by Professor Robert Bennett over a decade ago) is to get various states to sign onto an agreement that would require each signatory state to cast its electoral college votes not for the candidate who garners a plurality of popular votes in that state, but rather for the candidate who wins the most popular votes nationally.
Maine: Litchfield says ‘no’ a second time to state-sponsored ballot counting machines | The Morning Sentinel
The town of Litchfield has rejected a second state offer of a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots in favor of continuing to count votes by hand. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, left, and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap give a demonstration of one of the the new, state-leased DS 200 tabulators on Thursday in the Cross Building in Augusta. Litchfield recently rejected a second offer by the state for a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots, in favor of continuing hand-counting. Litchfield’s rejection was signed Tuesday by Rayna Leibowitz, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, following an earlier vote. “When the ballot clerks were asked their opinions, nobody, nobody wanted the machines,” said Leibowitz, who serves as a ballot clerk when she’s not a candidate for office. “We just feel it’s too important a process to rely on the machines, and we’d miss out on the social opportunities here. It’s very much a team effort. We have some people doing it for years and years and years, and they absolutely love the process.” In contrast, officials in Belgrade are enthusiastically cheering the benefits of that town’s new tabulator, which saved nine hours of counting time in the last election.
The push for in-person, early voting in Missouri is getting a bipartisan push, but it remains to be seen whether the proposal will gain enough traction to make it through the Legislature this year. Voters in nearly all of the states that surround Missouri are able to cast their ballots, in person, weeks before Election Day, without swearing to an excuse as to why they can’t vote on Election Day. Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat from Kansas City, said the fact that someone across the state border in Kansas, for example, has more time to vote than someone on the Missouri side has drawn the public’s attention to the issue. “Whether it’s Republicans, Democrats, rural voters, urban voters — everybody wants to see us get this done,” he said.
The state Senate approved Thursday a bill that will make college student identification cards valid for voting despite Sen. Stacey Campfield’s contention that lawmakers were “gutting” protections against voter fraud. The bill by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron was approved on a 21-8 vote and now goes to the House, where it faces a committee vote. Besides legalizing college student IDs for voting, the bill also prohibits use of library cards issued by the city of Memphis. The state Court of Appeals has ruled the Memphis cards are valid for voting and the state Supreme Court is considering an appeal of that decision, though it issued a temporary order last fall allowing the cards to be used in the November 2012, election. The eight no votes on the bill, SB125, included Campfield, R-Knoxville, and four other Republicans who objected to the college ID provision and three Democrats who objected to the Memphis library card prohibition. Ketron said the bill includes both provisions to imitate, as closely as practical, the voter ID law of Indiana, which has been upheld as valid in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Government of Alberta decided last week to pull the plug on proposed pilot projects to make online voting available for advanced polls, citing security concerns as well as initial set-up costs as the main deterrents. Edmonton city council also voted the idea down for the same reasons. “It really is disappointing that the province chose to really react to the decision of Edmonton city council and basically allow Edmonton to drive the determination of what’s going to happen in the rest of the province,” said Mayor Bill Given. The city received its notice through a letter from Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths on March 6.
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced that his ministry will employ the computer technology in different phases of the next presidential and Islamic City and Village Councils elections in the country, adding that the elections will be fully computerized. “Since a while ago the interior ministry’s elections headquarters has started its task according to the specified time schedule to hold the next rounds of (Islamic City and Village) Councils and presidential elections and the two elections will be held concurrently and in a fully electronic (computerized) form,” Mohammad Najjar told reporters in Tehran today.
Elections are in the air in Zimbabwe. A referendum on the new constitution was held this weekend and the general election is due before the end of October. But the signs all suggest that the upcoming vote will take place under conditions not dissimilar to 2008, when elections were characterised by widespread intimidation and political violence. Yesterday the office of the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, was raided by police, who arrested four officials – apparently for impersonating officers. A prominent human right lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, was also arrested for “defeating the course of justice”.