Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” But what would it mean for democracy if it was? That’s the question psychologist Robert Epstein has been asking in a series of experiments testing the impact of a fictitious search engine — he called it “Kadoodle” — that manipulated search rankings, giving an edge to a favored political candidate by pushing up flattering links and pushing down unflattering ones. Not only could Kadoodle sway the outcome of close elections, he says, it could do so in a way most voters would never notice. Epstein, who had a public spat with Google last year, offers no evidence of actual evil acts by the company. Yet his exploration of Kadoodle — think of it as the equivalent of Evil Spock, complete with goatee — not only illuminates how search engines shape individual choices but asks whether the government should have a role in keeping this power in check. “They have a tool far more powerful than an endorsement or a donation to affect the outcome,” Epstein said. “You have a tool for shaping government. . . . It’s a huge effect that’s basically undetectable.”
The sponsor of legislation that would require Arkansas voters to show photo identification at the polls clashed Thursday with the Republican state House speaker after lawmakers delayed an attempt to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the measure. Republican Sen. Bryan King accused House Speaker Davy Carter of unnecessarily delaying the matter after the House pushed back the override attempt to early next week. Carter cited a long schedule of votes the House faced Thursday as it tried to wrap up the week before a three-day weekend for Easter. “We had a busy calendar, we had a long week and I didn’t want to deal with it today,” Carter told reporters. The House had expected to take up the override a day after the Senate voted 21-12 Wednesday to override Beebe’s veto of the bill. It takes a simple majority to override a governor’s veto. Republicans control the House and Senate.
Former Mayor Virginia Madueño’s supporters said the Stanislaus County election office shouldn’t charge them for staff salaries for the week before ballots were recounted in the November mayoral race. Madueño is contesting an itemized bill showing that Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan charged almost $4,000 for her time spent on the December recount. A Madueño supporter who asked for the recount was billed $10,217 by Lundrigan’s office for an effort that lasted 5½ hours before it was called off. In addition to a required $2,400 deposit to start the Dec. 10 recount, county elections sent a bill six weeks later seeking payment of an extra $7,817, based on staff time to prepare for the tally. According to the invoice, Lundrigan worked 30 hours preparing for and conducting the recount, at a rate of $131.42 per hour. Time sheets show a total of 108 hours worked by 11 other employees on Dec. 10 and the previous week.
Although the election canvass totals matched the votes cast for Center’s March 19 recall election, questions remain on why the canvass was conducted without checking mail-in ballot signatures against the State’s SCORE system. Town Clerk and Treasurer Christian Samora and Center Municipal Judge James Sanchez conducted the canvass, counting ballots, but not the actual results of the various races. Recalled candidates John Faron and Moe Jones requested, last week ,that during the canvass the signatures be checked with the system to verify that those who signed the ballot were those who received it in the mail. This comes after reports of rogue ballots being circulated by the recall committee in Center and several challenges made during the election process by watchers.
Two civil rights groups have sued Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to halt a new state rule allowing people to be removed from voter registration lists if their citizenship is questioned. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens filed the lawsuit Friday in Polk County District Court. The document asks a judge to find the rule, which took effect Wednesday, illegal and issue a court order that prevents its implementation. Schultz, a Republican, has said the change is needed to reduce voter fraud, an issue he’s championed since taking office in 2011. Critics have called the rule a witch hunt, voter suppression and “a solution in search of a problem.”
Maryland’s General Assembly is expected to reach final agreement in coming days on a measure promoted by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that for the first time would allow residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. Same-day registration would occur during early voting, which under the bill would beexpanded from six days to eight. In addition, the number of early voting sites would be increased.With thousands of voters in the Washington suburbs and beyond standing in line for hours at polling places in November, the measure would also require state election officials to study how to reduce the average wait to 30 minutes or less. Although it has been warmly received by much of the General Assembly, the legislation has been caught up, in part, over efforts to fix a provision that would allow absentee voters to receive ballots over the Internet instead of by mail. Advocates for people with disabilities have lobbied heavily for the measure, saying it would allow those who need a lot of time to vote or who cannot vote without the help of others to do so more conveniently from home. But a group of election technology experts warned last month that the online system could be exploited on a mass scale, potentially jeopardizing election results.
Civil rights attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department contend a federal judge wrongly denied a request to establish satellite election offices for American Indians on three Montana reservations. At issue in the case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are the long distances some Indians in rural areas of the state must travel to reach county courthouses for early voting and late registration. While not as blatant as past discriminatory practices against Indians – who were once denied the vote outright – the difficulties some tribal members face reaching election offices puts them at a disadvantage to white voters, the government and plaintiffs said. In the run-up to last fall’s election, U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sided with state and county election officials who fought the lawsuit seeking new election offices on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap Reservations.
Ohio: Suspected cases of election fraud involve only a small percentage of the total ballots cast | Cincinnati.com
Across the state 450 votes in the 2012 election have come under scrutiny, with 129 of those turned over to law enforcement for investigation, Secretary of State Jon Husted has exclusively told the Enquirer. In the majority of the cases, the fraud was an “attempted effort” and only a few actually cast two ballots, Husted said. Some of the 450 made an innocent mistake, unsure whether they cast an absentee ballot with no “nefarious” intentions, Husted said. But others intentionally tried to cast two ballots by voting in their home county and then going elsewhere to cast a provisional ballot. Those 129 votes are an infinitesimal 0.00229 percent of the 5.63 votes case in the 2012 presidential election. That’s roughly one out of every 43,478 votes.
Let me get this straight: The Republican-controlled Ohio House will have final say on a disputed election race, deciding whether the GOP incumbent should remain or be replaced by his Democratic challenger. To recap, Republican Al Landis last year topped Democrat Joshua O’Farrell by a handful of votes and has been representing all of Tuscarawas County and part of Holmes County for months. O’Farrell sued, alleging ballots that should have been counted were tossed. The case made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which deferred to the Ohio House under seldom-used provisions in the state constitution. A select committee will hear arguments in the case, consider evidence already submitted to the court and make a recommendation that will be subject to a vote of the full chamber. Does anyone not see how this is going to end?
After learning that dozens of frustrated voters waited for hours in long lines to cast their ballots on Election Day, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D-at-large) called for the creation of a bipartisan commission to figure out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again. At the March 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, the commission—jointly chaired by Former Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley and Stuart Mendelsohn, former Dranesville supervisor—released its final report. They recommended additional poll workers, more training and better technology to keep lines moving. Recommendations encompassed a variety of training, technology, and process improvements, ranging from using more Electronic Poll Books (EPBs) to providing additional parking spaces at polling places. Read the Report (pdf)
After standing on false prestige and even becoming vindictive against those who suspected the integrity of electronic voting machines, the Election Commission has finally acceded to the demand that the machines must issue a paper receipt to voters. The commission’s decision – made known to the Supreme Court last month in response to the plea by Dr.Subramanian Swamy, President, Janata Party that EVMs be scrapped – is a major victory for all those who were campaigning against electronic voting machines because they lacked transparency. Dr.Swamy had argued that EVMs must be scrapped because they are not tamper-proof. They could be retained only if there was transparency via a paper trail, so that every voter knew that his vote had been registered correctly. Even Japan, which started the process of electronic voting had now reverted to paper ballots. Many other countries had also fallen back on paper ballots for the same reason.The commission, which had stubbornly resisted the demand for either scrapping EVMs or introducing a paper trail, began to display some reasonableness in the matter after Dr.Swamy moved the Supreme Court and a Bench comprising Justices P.Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi declared that it would hear the matter on a priority basis, so that the proceedings concluded before the next parliamentary election.
Italy was stalled in political deadlock on Saturday after a new round of talks failed to move forward toward forming a government, officials said, and news reports said President Giorgio Napolitano was weighing whether to resign to give a new team a chance at breaking the impasse. Such a move would allow Parliament to elect a new president, who would then also have the option of dissolving the body and calling new elections. The president’s office called journalists to the presidential palace around midday on Saturday, when his decision is expected. Mr. Napolitano has been under some pressure from all sides to act quickly as Italy struggles through one of its most difficult economic crises since World War II. “Enough With Games!” ran a banner headline Friday in Il Sole 24 Ore, the country’s main economic newspaper.
Kenya’s Supreme Court ordered a recount of ballots at 22 polling stations in this month’s presidential election and said it will analyze return forms as it decides on a challenge to the outcome of the vote. Raila Odinga, the outgoing prime minister, filed a petition in the nation’s highest court after he lost the March 4 election to Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president. Odinga has asked the court to overturn the result, saying the balloting was riddled with fraud and irregularities. “The re-tally shall aim at establishing whether the number of votes cast in each of these 22 polling stations exceeds the number of registered voters,” Justice Smokin Wanjala said at a pretrial hearing today in Nairobi, the capital. Turnout was a record 86 percent of 14.3 million registered voters across about 31,000 polling stations.
The Supreme Court’s insistence on enabling overseas Pakistanis to vote in the May 11 general elections has placed the relevant authorities in a fix. Severely castigated by the court for their inability to devise a workable mechanism, the authorities, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, have deliberated several options but found them all to be flawed. Talking to The Express Tribune, sources in the ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said that none of the proposed mechanisms had been tested and even a minor error could sabotage the entire electoral exercise. … In their report submitted before the SC, NADRA’s IT experts said exercising the internet option would compromise electoral rolls severely due to risks, such as hacking, which could not be mitigated within the short time given for polls. In addition to this, they maintained internet voting could not reliably confirm voters’ identities and would also compromise their privacy. “Such confirmation can only be ensured through biometric verification… in its absence the possibility of casting votes against someone else’s identity cannot be ruled out,” the experts added.
Vladimir Putin has submitted legislation to change the way the Russian parliament is elected, a move he says will advance democracy but critics say is aimed at bolstering his United Russia party. The bill calls for half of the 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to be filled by voters choosing individual candidates in districts. Currently all seats are filled by voting for parties. The legislation is expected to pass. The United Russia party, loyal to Putin, has a majority in parliament despite losing seats in the December 2011 election that set off the biggest protests of his 13-year rule.
Yemen, the only country where an Arab Spring revolt led to a negotiated settlement, on Monday launched a UN-backed national dialogue aimed at paving the way towards a new constitution and elections. The talks are, however, being boycotted by hardline southern factions who staged a general strike and protests in the port city of Aden on Sunday against the initiative. The dialogue, scheduled to run six months, brings together 565 representatives of Yemen’s various political groups – from secessionists in the south to Zaidi rebels in the north, in addition to civil society representatives. They aim to draft a new constitution and prepare for general elections in February 2014, after a two-year transition led by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
President Robert Mugabe’s plans to hold elections by June 29 continue to draw suspicion with analysts saying the dates are not tenable as long as critical political and other reforms have not been implemented. But other analysts said implementation of reforms should be speeded up as it would be impossible to do that after June 29 when Parliament is automatically dissolved in accordance with the Constitution. Mugabe last week indicated in an urgent High Court chamber application that following the adoption of a new draft constitution in the recent referendum, harmonised elections will be held by June 29.