Tarvi Martens, a creator of Estonia’s e-election system, countered recent criticism of an open-source license, saying the continued development of the Internet voting software code must be conducted in a controlled and coordinated environment. Last week, the National Electoral Committee, which Martens heads, publicly released the source code of Estonia’s e-voting software. However, the binding Creative Commons license that accompanied the code was the topic of heated debate among IT specialists who disagreed with the restrictions on amending the code. Yet Martens said allowing derivative code and free sharing of it was not the goal of publishing the details of the e-election system.
How do we know whether the reported winners of an election really won?
There’s no perfect way to count votes. To paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant and Richard M. Nixon, “Mistakes will be made.” Voters don’t always follow instructions. Voting systems can be mis-programmed, as they were last year in Palm Beach, Florida. Ballots can be misplaced, as they were last year in Palm Beach, Florida, and in Sacramento, California. And election fraud is not entirely unknown in the U.S.
Computers can increase the efficiency of elections and make voting easier for people who cannot read English or who have disabilities. But the more elections depend on technology, the more vulnerable they are to failures, bugs, and hacking. Foreign attacks on elections also may be a real threat.
Even if we count votes by hand, there will be mistakes. How can we have confidence in the results?
Every ten years, after the U.S. Census releases its latest population reports, most of the 50 states begin the complicated process of drawing new election districts. As you might expect, partisan bickering and maneuvering inevitably distort things. So a decade ago, Arizona voters decided to end the partisanship by removing the redistricting process from the state legislature and placing it in the hands of an independent commission. Last year, the new commission, consisting of two Democrats, two Republicans, and a nonpartisan chair, got to work on its first set of maps after the 2010 census. Unfortunately, the results were anything but nonpartisan. The independent chair sided consistently with the two Democrats, essentially giving them control over the makeup of the congressional and state legislative maps. Lawsuits were launched, along with a push by Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, to impeach the chair. The new maps, if let stand, “could reshape the state’s political landscape” in the Democrats’ favor, the Arizona Republic reported. Already, state lawmakers are looking at doing away with the commission or significantly changing it.
National: Republicans hand first hearing on Voting Rights Act to opponent of Voting Rights Act | MSNBC
House Republicans are diving into the battle over renewing the Voting Rights Act, scheduling their first hearing on the issue for this Thursday. The hearing, confirmed by a GOP source and the House Judiciary Committee, marks the GOP’s first tangible legislative attempt to respond to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision in June, which invalidated part of the VRA. The move suggests that Republican leaders, who mostly offered evasive statements after the Shelby decision, have decided they should engage some kind of legislative process to discuss the ruling. In fact, the hearing will come just one day after the Senate Democrats’ first hearing on the VRA. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the VRA’s history from strong backers of the legislation, Rep. John Lewis and Rep. James Sensenbrenner. The move also shows, however, that some House Republicans are aiming to kill any voting rights reform. That’s because Republicans handed the hearing to Trent Franks, one of just 33 Republicans who voted against the last VRA re-authorization in 2006. (A total of 390 House members voted for it.)
Should Congress accept Chief Justice John Roberts’ invitation? Roberts, in his dramatic voting rights ruling last month, said Congress has a duty to update Jim Crow-era civil rights laws for a post-Jim Crow world. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court basically found that Congress committed an unforced error by renewing the Voting Rights Act without updating its formula for patrolling discrimination against voters. Now Congress can finish what the court started. As the Senate holds its first hearing in response to Shelby on Wednesday, with the House of Representatives due to hold one on Thursday, there are indications that a precise piece of legislation could pass even this divided Congress. Here are two strong ways to renew the Voting Rights Act. The first thing Congress can do is update the law’s formula for hunting down discrimination. A clear bill can begin by answering the core question in Roberts’ opinion: Is there a better baseline for discrimination than the literacy tests and voter turnout numbers from the 1960s?
A sense of relief was palpable on Sunday afternoon as the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a revised voting district map, potentially ending the board’s seven-month saga of drawing and redrawing the state’s voter districts. The map in place, used in the 2012 elections, was found to be unconstitutional by the courts. Alaska’s voting districts are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census, but the board was forced to go back to the drawing board after its last attempt was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court, which said that before making adjustments to protect minorities, districts must be socially and economically integrated, as well as compact. However, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June, the redistricting board’s process was somewhat streamlined.
Brevard County voters will be using new equipment starting in November. The County Commission this week unanimously approved the $1.5 million purchase. Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott said Brevard currently has among the oldest election equipment in the state, dating back to 1999. Brevard was one of the early adopters that year of “optical scan technology” to read the ballots. She says that equipment now is “aging and outdated,” and the vendor that made it is out of business, so spare parts are difficult to come by. “We can’t continue to limp through like that,” Scott said. With the new equipment, voters will continue to mark a paper ballot. But the new equipment that will collect and tabulate those ballots will make it easier for election workers to spot any problems with improperly completed ballots. “This is a much more user-friendly unit,” Scott said.
Broward and Miami-Dade elections officials are reorganizing hundreds of voting precincts with the goal of reducing the long lines of voters that plagued last November’s presidential elections and embarrassed the state. In Broward, Brenda Snipes, the county supervisor of elections, started the process in June, aiming to complete the work by September — more than a year in advance of the 2014 gubernatorial election. In Miami-Dade, the county’s elections office expects to present a new precinct plan to county commissioners in early 2014, spokeswoman Christina White said. In Broward, Snipes is an elected officer, so county commissioners don’t have to approve her plan and she has no immediate plans for public input. Miami-Dade had planned on reorganizing its precincts before the 2012 election, but delayed it out of a concern that voters assigned to new precincts would be confused on a presidential election day. Instead, voters at many precincts stood in line for several hours to wait to vote. Both counties, which have more than 1 million voters each, have about 800 precincts. Some are combined in the same location.
Kansas: Kobach proposes rule change on proof-of-citizenship requirement to register to vote | Kansas City Kansan
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is proposing a change to the law he pushed through the Legislature that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. The Kansas proof-of-citizenship law requires people who register to vote in the state for the first time to provide a birth certificate, passport or other document. But since it went into effect Jan. 1, more than 11,000 people who have attempted to register to vote are in “suspense,” meaning they are not yet qualified to vote because of lack of proof of citizenship.
After enduring one of the most expensive — and vicious — campaigns in Montana history, a handful of state senators and representatives are preparing an attack on dark money. They’re working on a ballot initiative that would let Montana voters decide whether nonprofit groups should disclose at least some of their donors. State politicians have grown increasingly concerned that outside groups have too much influence on their politics, said Sen. Jim Peterson, a Republican who has led the push for the ballot initiative. Peterson had proposed a Senate bill requiring more disclosure earlier this year, but it died in a House committee. “Dark money supporters use these nonprofit organizations, 501(c)4s in particular, to hide behind a curtain of secrecy so they can play in these elections anonymously,” he said. “And voters don’t like it. Candidates don’t like it. I don’t like it.”
State Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, has been pushing this session to force N.C. counties that use electronic voting machines back onto paper ballots. His House Bill 607 initially required this shift, but the bill was amended this week to simply call for a year-long study of the issue, as well as a moratorium on new voting machine purchases in the interim. That bill passed the House last night, with Jones’ support. It moves to the Senate, but House members have said repeatedly this session that the Senate hasn’t been willing to pass study bills. Sometimes these studies don’t accomplish much, but they can cost a little money.
At its monthly meeting Thursday, the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections voted to bar a group of residents from reviewing tally sheets and paper ballots from the last election. The board took the action on the basis that the group – which has alleged irregularities and fraud in the Elections System – is conducting a full-fledged recount. At the meeting, board member Harry Daniel made a motion to “discontinue access for the purpose of counting the ballots.” Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. and board members Lawrence Boschulte and Alecia Wells voted along with Daniels in favor of the motion. Board members Claudette Georges and Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, who herself is part of the group reviewing the documents, voted against the motion. Board member Lydia Hendricks was not present for the vote.
The door opened Monday for tens of thousands of nonviolent felons in Virginia to regain the right to vote, with state officials outlining the steps each will have to take to recapture their basic civil rights. Gov. Bob McDonnell has said up to 100,000 disenfranchised felons ultimately could be added to the voter rolls, serve on a jury or hold political office. “For past offenders, our goal is to grant civil rights back to as many as possible,” McDonnell said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do for all Virginians to help make the commonwealth a safer and better place.” A former prosecutor and attorney general, McDonnell said offering past offenders to opportunity to resume their lives as productive citizens, “we can better keep them from committing another crime and returning to prison.” He called that step a move to thwart “prison expansion” and to promote “smart government.”
Some of the advocates who cheered Gov. Bob McDonnell’s announcement in May that he would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons are now concerned that the initiative might not have as big an impact as they thought — at least not right away. Others say they’re just happy that progress is being made. Administration officials are expected to announce details of the program today, the day it takes effect. McDonnell originally said that about 100,000 disenfranchised felons might be added to the voter rolls, but advocates for civil rights and inmates are bracing for the likelihood that only a fraction of that pool will have their rights restored in time for the November election. “People are concerned the reality is not going to match the rhetoric,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.
Bhutan’s election authorities today successfully completed the process to elect a new Parliament after the country’s second national polls saw the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) storm to power. Bhutan Election Commission (BEC) formally submitted the list of 47 winners of the country’s second national elections to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, culminating the first stage of the democratic process in the Himalayan nation in which Tshering Tobgay-led PDP secured a two-thirds majority. On Saturday, the PDP won the national elections with a massive mandate and captured 32 seats. The country’s new opposition party Druk Phuensum Tshogpa will have 15 members in the House. The peaceful elections were marked by a heavy voter turnout of 80%. This is the second national polls in Bhutan after the country became a democracy in 2008 before which it was a monarchy.
Malaysia’s opposition alliance today filed a suit against the country’s Election Commission, claiming fraud over the use of the indelible ink during the May 5 general elections in which the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional party secured victory. In their suit, the eight plaintiffs were the three opposition parties PAS, PKR and DAP and election candidates Dzulkefly Ahmad, M Manogaran, Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, Arifin Abd Rahman and R Abbo. They named seven defendants, with the first two being Election Commission (EC) chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and his deputy Wan Ahmad Wan Omar. The remaining defendants are members of the EC.
The delays yesterday during the special voting for police and other Government officials who are likely to be deployed away from their constituencies on July 31 were a result of events, not fundamental flaws in the electoral process or its organisation. The main problem was that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission did not have a final list of candidates, with their political affiliation, until late on Friday when the results of several court cases became known. But that final list for this weekend is the same final list for the main Election Day at the end of the month. So the ballot papers that were available for special voting are the same ballot papers that will be issued on July 31.