“Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” So goes the famous quote. Without very careful study, you might get the wish of Internet voting — and live to regret it. Your birth certificate and passport are “foundation” documents. You have to show up to get them. You have to show up to get married, and you should have to show up to cast a ballot, both “foundation” activities. Internet voting advocates assume away the large risks — and certainty of abuse — of online voting, not to mention the difficulty and expense of developing the system. There is no audit trail in an online vote. Physical ballot boxes are sealed in the presence of human witnesses. The individual ballots can be recounted to determine by sight the voter’s intention. The sheer number of human beings physically watching voters makes the integrity of the ballot box difficult to breach, though people try to cheat in every election. Online voting would be used just once every four years. There is no opportunity to properly debug the system when it goes awry on election day, or between elections, or stress-test the system to determine if it stands up to the server traffic. Enersource’s web servers went down during the July rain storm power outage in the GTA. People got their information from Facebook and Twitter. Hackers thrive in the years of dark time between scheduled elections. Proponents of online voting point to the ubiquitous use of online banking and other daily Internet transactions. The critical difference is that those other systems are used, debugged, watched and stress-tested each and every day by scores of experts who know them inside out. Gaining access to the software’s root directory enables a hacker to control the system on election day, and corrupt the outcome. By the time voters see the damage, it is too late.
Days after his administration filed suit against Texas to protect minority voters, President Obama told civil rights leaders and local officials on Monday that the federal government would vigorously enforce voting rights in the country despite a Supreme Court ruling against a core section of a landmark 1965 law, several participants said after a White House meeting. “The president said that the Voting Rights Act is not dead, it’s not even critical, it’s just wounded,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist and MSNBC talk show host. “He was very reassuring,” Mr. Sharpton added. Mr. Obama met with the group for about 40 minutes, and administration officials led by the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., met with the group for a bit longer. The administration was addressing what Mr. Sharpton described as the civil rights community’s “alarm” over the court’s 5-to-4 vote last month. In that case, Shelby County v. Holder, the majority struck down as outdated and unnecessary the law’s language requiring that the federal government review and clear any changes in election laws in nine states, most of them in the South.
President Obama told a gathering of civil rights leaders at the White House on Monday that his administration is committed to restoring legal protections for minority voting, and a Florida legislator who attended the meeting said his colleagues are motivated by the knowledge that slain black Florida teen Trayvon Martin would have been eligible to vote next year. The president and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. assured the group that they will work on a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s decision in June that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a key section that the administration said was needed to combat discrimination in targeted states and districts. That provision required states with a history of voting discrimination to submit any changes on election law to the Justice Department for approval.
President Obama told civil rights leaders Monday that his administration would work to strengthen the Voting Rights Act in light of a Supreme Court decision striking down a key provision. After a White House meeting with more than a dozen attorneys, state lawmakers and civil rights activists, Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted that the administration wants “to ensure every eligible American has the right to vote.” The meeting came a month after the Supreme Court struck down the provision that required the federal government to pre-clear changes to voting systems in states that have a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the South.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was getting ready to give a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin when he glanced up at a giant video screen where old photographs of Johnson were being displayed. He was taken aback by what he saw. In an image that captured the historic day the president signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a young woman was standing nearby whose face Holder recognized immediately: his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone, one of two young students who had walked past Gov. George Wallace in 1963 to integrate the University of Alabama.
With North Carolina GOP Gov. Patrick McCrory ready to sign the most restrictive voting rights bill in generations (though he may not know what’s in it), one influential Republican is backing Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to use a creaky but powerful section of the Voting Rights Act to challenge a similar law in Texas. “The [Justice] department’s actions are consistent with the Voting Rights Act,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a VRA reauthorization co-sponsor in 2007, told The Hill last week. “Increased litigation will be one of the major consequences of the court’s decision as courts will have to litigate more allegations of voter discrimination.” Here’s hoping Holder makes North Carolina his next target, if and when McCrory signs the bill. There’s almost no chance he won’t. He’s promised to – although he then had to admit he didn’t know exactly what was in it. McCrory denied it restricted voter registration – although it eliminates same-day voter registration and pre-registration by 17-year-olds who’ll turn 18 by Election Day – insisting “there is plenty of opportunity for voter registration — online, offline, through many methods.”
In a step supporters hope will propel more young people to the polls, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Saturday to make Illinois the 18th state to allow online voter registration. The system, which must be in place by July of next year, is aimed at increasing the number of people taking the first step to voting while cutting the administrative costs of processing registrations on paper. Backers are confident the system will be secure and will not lead to an increase in voter fraud. “I can shop, watch movies, sign legal documents (and) even open my garage door online. There’s no good reason I should have to wait in line at a government office that’s only open during work hours to register to vote,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Don Harmon, said in arguing for its passage. The Oak Park Democrat hopes the system will be popular with young people more inclined to use their laptops and smart phones to get things done.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White has sued former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, alleging legal malpractice and other professional malfeasance in the handling of a criminal case that resulted in White being convicted of voter fraud, perjury and theft. The felony convictions forced White to resign in February 2012 from the state post he won election to in 2010. White is seeking a new trial. He said Brizzi, a former friend and political associate, didn’t provide an adequate defense at his 2012 trial. That request is pending in Hamilton Superior Court. White also is pressing that point in the lawsuit filed last week in Marion Superior Court. In the 31-page complaint, White makes numerous complaints about Brizzi’s work as his defense attorney, alleging legal malpractice, breach of contract, negligent or reckless infliction of emotional distress, fraud and unjust enrichment.
Indiana: Ex-secretary of state sues defense lawyer, claiming voter fraud trial was mishandled | Associated Press
Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White alleges in a lawsuit that he was the victim of legal malpractice by his defense attorney leading up to the voter fraud conviction that forced him from office. White’s lawsuit against former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi contends that Brizzi wasn’t adequately versed in the complexities of election, property and residency laws at White’s February 2012 trial. Brizzi “rendered legal services that fell below the reasonable standard of criminal defense attorneys because he was ignorant of the law, criminal trial procedure and ignorant of the facts in critical phases of (White’s) case during the jury trial,” White contends in the filed last week in Marion County court. A Hamilton County jury convicted White on voter fraud and other charges after Brizzi did not call any witnesses and immediately rested the defense after the prosecution wrapped up its case. White was sentenced to one year of home detention and was automatically removed from office.
At a Friday press conference, “Governor” Pat McCrory announced that he will sign the controversial “voter ID” bill into law, even though he hadn’t even read one of the bill’s crucial components – and showed a pretty weak grasp of state policy on voter registration. By the time the bill finished snaking its way through the General Assembly, it had morphed from a mere voter ID law into an all-purpose vote-suppression campaign, making far-reaching changes to the way North Carolinians may or may not vote, and earning nationwide notice as the country’s most suppressive voting law. McCrory praised the bill to reporters as just the perfect thing to “restore faith in elections.” However, when an AP reporter asked the guv how three specific parts of the bill would help prevent voter fraud, McCrory scrambled for answers. In addition to requiring a government-issued photo-ID card, the bill also ends same-day voter registration, cuts early voting by a week, and abolishes a program that let high school students register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
Legislation that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) plans to sign into law — despite not reading the entire bill — will make it more difficult for college students to vote in the Tar Heel state. The GOP-backed bill, H.B. 589, will require voters to display specific types of government-issued IDs at the polls, and it doesn’t recognize college ID as valid identification. The measure also removes preregistration for high school students, cuts early voting time and eliminates same-day registration. “It’s clearly targeting student voters,” Diana Kasdan, senior counsel at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “They tend to vote Democratic, and it’s a Republican-controlled state legislature that passed it.” Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) won North Carolina in 2012, two-thirds of voters under age 30 voted Democratic. U.S. Supreme Court precedent allows out-of-state students to vote where they attend college, but few students seek to obtain a driver’s license in the state where they attend school. For this reason, critics contend that voter ID laws that do not allow college-issued cards create an extra hurdle for young voters.
After the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on voting rights, Wisconsin activists are waiting to see how the decision could affect ongoing legal disputes on voter ID laws in the state. In its June 25 decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case, the Supreme Court redacted Section IV regarding the federal oversight of states with historic issues with voting rights and disenfranchisement of voters, of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 5-4 decision. While this decision is monumental for the mostly southern states subject to federal approval to change voter laws, Wisconsin is waiting to see the effect it will have on its own voter ID law. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which requires voters to have specific photo identification to vote, was ruled constitutional by the 4th District Court of Appeals on May 30, despite a challenge by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin that it violated the state Constitution. “In sum, the League has presented no basis to conclude that it has met its heavy burden in this facial constitutional challenge,” according to the court’s opinion.
Cambodia: Government rejects election inquiry creating unrest amid fraud accusations | NY Daily News
Cambodia’s government rejected on Tuesday calls by the opposition for an international inquiry into allegations it used massive fraud to win re-election, and said it wanted parliament to approve a new cabinet quickly. The United States and European Union expressed concern about irregularities in Sunday’s election but both said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodian electoral authorities, failing to endorse the opposition’s call for an inquiry involving the United Nations. The government announced on Sunday that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen had won 68 seats in the 123-seat parliament, a sharp fall from its previous tally of 90. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) nearly doubled its seat total to 55, in a major surprise and a setback for Hun Sen.
The Elections Commission (EC) has denied receiving any formal complaints over its capability to ensure a fair election in September this year, after rejecting requests by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to make voter registration more “lenient”. EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News no “official complaints” had been filed with the commission over its ability to capably oversee the upcoming presidential election, despite the PPM alleging in local media that it was incapable of ensuring a fair vote. Thowfeek said the PPM have previously requested the EC not to reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.
Under pressure from France and other Western powers, Mali held a presidential election on Sunday that some observers said the country was not ready for and that risked excluding thousands of its citizens. Voting went off peacefully, nonetheless, in an election that Mali’s numerous donors deemed crucial to restoring the country’s stability after more than a year of turmoil: an Islamist takeover in the desert north in the spring of 2012; a military coup in the capital; French military intervention to forestall Islamist advances in January; and the flight of nearly 200,000 inhabitants beyond Mali’s borders. Mali, a poor West African desert nation, has been ruled by a makeshift, unelected government since March 2012, with no parliament, few functioning state institutions and a weak, military junta-approved president. Billions of dollars in aid have been promised by international donors but only if the country has at least the appearance of democracy. That meant proceeding to a hasty election that some of the country’s politicians, research institutes like International Crisis Group, and even the country’s electoral commission warned might be premature.
The first official results from Zimbabwe’s election and unofficial tallies indicated Thursday that President Robert Mugabe’s party was headed for a landslide win. But Mugabe’s main rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, rejected Wednesday’s poll as a sham and warned that the country was headed for a crisis. A number of observers and civil society groups said Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party made huge gains in areas that were strongholds for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, including Matebeleland South, Manicaland and Masvingo. The party had an overwhelming lead in early parliamentary results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. ZANU-PF made no official victory claim over Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change, withdrawing what it described as an unauthorized tweet from the party account that had claimed a resounding win. But a senior ZANU-PF figure told Reuters news agency that his party had crushed the opposition.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe says he will quit after 33 years in power if he loses the country’s election, as rivals claimed they had evidence of vote-rigging. Voters go to the polls today with heavily armed riot police deployed in potential flashpoints across the capital Harare. After a violent run-up to the last election five years ago saw then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdraw, this poll has mostly been free of bloodshed. A power-sharing agreement was established after that last failed election, an acrimonious arrangement with Mr Mugabe remaining as president and Mr Tsvangirai as prime minister. Mr Mugabe’s party is accused of doctoring the roll for this election, while prime minister Mr Tsvangirai’s finance minister is in turn being blamed for failing to release funds to allow it to be revised.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has declared that, at least when it comes to voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court is guilty of wishful thinking. He is also showing both how difficult and how important it is to overcome that kind of thinking. It was just last month that a closely divided court, reasoning that voter discrimination in the South wasn’t the problem it used to be, neutered the requirement that certain states and counties with a history of such discrimination submit proposed voting changes to the federal government for approval. Last week, Holder said the Justice Department would use “every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination.” Meanwhile, in Texas, officials said they will proceed with a redistricting plan that dilutes Hispanic voting power, and an aggressive voter-identification law besides. And in North Carolina, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill of such brazenness that it can be more aptly described as an attempt to restrict voting procedures rather than reform them. In 2013 alone, more than 80 bills restricting voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. Meanwhile, the incidence of actual voter fraud hovers near zero. (Kansas, site of one of the first coordinated crackdowns on voting rights, has had more documented cases of UFO sightings than of voter fraud.)
National: GOP lawmaker chides FEC for two-year delay in creating enforcement manual | Washington Post
The House Administration committee’s top Republican last week scolded the Federal Election Commission for failing to approve an enforcement manual two years after lawmakers asked the panel to complete the task. “When a federal agency keeps its enforcement policies and procedures secret or makes them difficult to understand, it increases the opportunity for abuse by its employees — abuse that has very real consequences for the Americans subject to its power,” Committee Chairman Candice Miller (Mich.) said in a statement on Friday. In a letter to Miller on Thursday, FEC Chairman Ellen Weintraub raised concerns about dealing with enforcement guidelines while the Senate is considering two new nominees for the commission.
Editorials: In Going After Texas Voting Policies, Holder Takes John Roberts at His Word | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” We will now find out whether Roberts’s anti-racist rhetoric is serious, or is a code phrase meaning that the era of civil rights is now over by judicial fiat. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would ask a federal District Court to require the state of Texas to obtain prior permission before implementing its voter ID and other new voting laws. As is widely known, the Supreme Court in June gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act–the “preclearance” requirement that obliged states and local governments with long racist histories to obtain advance permission for changes in their voting systems. Roberts himself wrote the 5-4 opinion. Most news accounts focused on his blithe statement that (in the era of Trayvon Martin and Paula Deen) “our Nation has made great strides,” and thus need not suspect Southern state governments of racism.
Ever since the Supreme Court gutted a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act and threw it back in Congress’s lap, lawmakers in both parties have engaged in happy talk about the prospects of patching the provision used to proactively snuff out voter discrimination against minorities in the state and local governments where it’s most prevalent. But it’s looking less and less likely that a fix will be agreed to because Republicans have little to gain and a lot to lose politically if they cooperate. “Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call. A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”
Maryland: Fourth Circuit dismisses political consultant’s challenge of illegal Election Day robocall | Baltimore Sun
A federal court on Monday rejected political consultant Julius Henson’s appeal of a $1 million civil judgment against him for an illegal Election Day robocall. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that Henson, his company, Universal Elections Inc., and an employee violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with a November 2010 automated campaign message to more than 112,000 Democratic voters in Maryland. In the case brought by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the state argued that the call was designed to suppress black votes. The message failed to include information on the call’s sponsor. Henson was employed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Martin O’Malley for re-election.
About 1,500 people with misdemeanor convictions were mistakenly dropped from Maryland’s voter rolls over the past five years, state judiciary officials confirmed Friday. A computer system incorrectly lumped those voters in with felons, who are stripped of their right to vote until their sentence is completed, said Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary. People convicted of misdemeanors retain their right to vote in Maryland. Officials said they are fixing the error, discovered in part by former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold. Leopold was convicted in January of two counts of misconduct in office — a common-law misdemeanor — for directing his staff and police officers to carry out personal and political tasks, including emptying his catheter bag. He resigned from office and has appealed the convictions.
Michigan consistently leads the country in the number of elected officials facing recall, but major changes to its recall rules could change that. Citizens hoping to remove public officials from office must adhere to new requirements under a law signed seven months ago. Though experts are cautious in predicting a drop in recalls at this point — in part because drives targeting new officeholders couldn’t start until earlier this month — they won’t be surprised if a decline occurs. Michigan has “taken a lot of bite out of the recall,” said Joshua Spivak, a national expert on recalls and a senior fellow at Wagner College in New York. Key changes include shortening the time to collect recall signatures from 90 to 60 days and giving voters a choice between the officeholder and a challenger, not an up-or-down vote followed by a replacement election later on.
To become better citizens “we must know and understand our heritage and our history, its triumphs and its mistakes,” Justice Anthony Kennedy told an audience last Monday at the Chautauqua Institution in Upstate New York in a speech that, sadly, was neither recorded nor transcribed for posterity. Four days later, as if on cue, the governor of the relentlessly regressive state of North Carolina showed the justice who last month helped scuttle the heart of the Voting Rights Act exactly how some intend to interpret his lecture. Pat McCrory, the Republican presiding over the dismantling of the state’s relatively reasoned approach to race and the law, declared Friday that he was eager to sign the state’srestrictive new voting law, the most suppressive of its era, even though he had not read a key part of it. “I don’t know enough, I’m sorry,” the governor told a reporter who asked about a provision in the pending measure that will preclude pre-registration for those under 18 (because, after all, if there is anything this nation needs to do when it comes to encouraging civic participation it is to make it harder for eager young people to vote).
Molly McDonough was among the hundreds of North Carolinians jailed this year for demonstrating inside the statehouse against legislation she fears may prevent her from voting. “Voting is a right, and these laws are encroaching on that right,” said McDonough in an interview on the N.C. State campus where she’ll begin her sophomore year this fall. McDonough, 18, doesn’t have a driver’s license or a passport, and her college ID won’t be accepted under the voting reform bill passed Thursday along party lines by both houses of the Republican-majority state legislature. McDonough says obtaining documents required to get a state-issued photo ID — birth certificate, Social Security card, university transcript — and missing hours at her bookstore job to wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles is unfairly expensive, she figures, about $120 in all.
Cambodia faces a volatile and possibly prolonged political standoff after leaders of the opposition said on Monday that they rejected the preliminary results of Sunday’s election and accused the authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of large-scale cheating to achieve a relatively narrow victory. With a number of monitoring organizations describing widespread voting irregularities, Sam Rainsy, the leader of the newly energized opposition, said at a news conference that the party would seek help from foreign and Cambodian election experts to decide whether to call for a recount or new elections. “We will not accept the result — we cannot accept the result,” he said. “The party in power cannot ignore us anymore.” Mr. Sam Rainsy had initially announced a victory after the polls closed on Sunday but retracted his claim.
Cambodia’s opposition leader on Monday rejected the results of a weekend election showing a win for the long-time ruling party, raising fears of post-poll instability and setting the stage for a new showdown with Prime Minister Hun Sen. The challenge by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who returned from exile last week to campaign for his Cambodia National Rescue Party, comes despite his party’s relative success in Sunday’s polling, in which the opposition made its biggest gains in years. Provisional results from Sunday’s voting showed the opposition capturing 55 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won 68 seats, or a majority of 55 percent.
The centre-left Republican Turkish Party-United Forces (CTP), the leading opposition party for most of the past four years, has won snap elections in the Turkish Cypriot community, preliminary figures suggest. It won a clear, 11 percentage point victory, but fell four seats short of winning a majority in the 50-member parliament of the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The CTP had been in opposition until mid-June, when the National Unity Party (UBP) four-year rule was ended by an internal split. The CTP then formed a caretaker government under Sibel Siber, the first female head of government in the Turkish-occupied northern half of Cyprus.
The polls are closed and counting has begun in the presidential election in the West African state of Mali. Observers said they have had no reports of any major incidents in a ballot which is seen as crucial in uniting the country following a coup in March last year. Early reports indicate the turnout was high at the country’s 21,000 polling stations. Government official, Madame Coumare highlighted the importance of the ballot.