Verified Voting Blog: The California College Vote Hack

I just read Doug Chapin’s article on the vote rigging at Cal State San Marcos, and I would add several observations. Had this been a public election conducted via Internet voting, it would have been much more difficult to identify any problem or to capture the perpetrator, Matthew Weaver. Mr. Weaver was captured because he was voting from school-owned computers. This was networked voting but not really Internet voting. The IT staff was able to notice “unusual activity” on those computers, and via remote access they were able to “watch the user cast vote after vote”. But in a public online election people would vote from their own private PCs, and through the Internet, not on a network controlled by the IT staff of election officials. There will likely be no “unusual activity” to notice in real time, and no possibility of “remote access” to allow them to monitor activity on a voter’s computer.  Note also that university IT staff were able to monitor him while he was voting, showing that they were able to completely violate voting privacy, something we cannot tolerate in a public election.

In the Cal State San Marcos election votes apparently had to be cast from computers on the university’s own network, and not from just anywhere on the Internet. I infer this because it makes good security sense, and because I cannot think of any other reason Mr. Weaver would cast his phony votes from a university computer rather than from an anonymous place like a public library. If this is correct, it is a huge security advantage not possible in public elections, where the perpetrator could be anywhere in the world. Even if public officials somehow did notice an unusual voting pattern that made them suspicious after the fact that phony votes were cast, there would be no evidence to indicate who it was, and no police on the spot to pick him up red handed.

National: Former Voting Rights Act provision gets hearing in Senate | Los Angeles Times

The Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that protects against racially discriminatory voting practices, had long received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, including for the last renewal of its temporary provisions in 2006. But at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, early discussions on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down Section 4 of the law saw Democrats and Republicans mostly divided over the provision’s utility and future. While several Democrats chided the Supreme Court for undermining the country’s most effective protection against voting discrimination, even as the court acknowledged that the problem still existed, Republicans suggested that policies were outdated and that the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act remained essentially unchanged.

National: Congressional action on Voting Rights may be a dream deferred for some | CNN

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a key portion of the landmark Voting Rights Act, activists and those in states with a history of disenfranchisement at the polls are pinning their hopes on congressional action. But those hopes may be long deferred. A member of Congress who shed blood during the long march to civil rights told a Senate committee on Wednesday that he believes the Voting Rights Act “is needed now more than ever.” “The burden cannot be on those citizens whose rights were, or will be, violated. It is the duty of Congress to restore the life and soul to the Voting Rights Act,” said veteran congressman John Lewis. “The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart. It made me want to cry,” the Georgia Democrat told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

National: Sensenbrenner: New voting rights law should be passed before the 2014 Congress elections | The Washington Post

The House Republican sponsor of the Voting Rights Act updates said Wednesday that Congress must pass a new anti-discrimination law before the 2014 elections that restores the federal supervision the Supreme Court struck down in June. “The Supreme Court said it’s an obligation of Congress to do this. That’s a command of a separate but co-equal branch of government to do that,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday after urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to get moving on the issue. The law, he said, should be passed before the congressional elections. He added that House GOP leaders are open to the task, but they have to see a draft first, it must address the court’s objections and be “politically acceptable in both houses” of Congress. “The American people expect us to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a veteran of the civil rights movement, said at the same hearing. The 1965 law and its extensions have historically won overwhelming bipartisan support.

National: House to hold hearing on Voting Rights Act | The Hill

House Republicans have scheduled their first hearing on the Voting Rights Act for Thursday, following a June ruling by the Supreme Court overturning a key provision of the civil rights law. The hearing, to be held by the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, comes a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the law for the first time since the ruling. The 5-4 decision found that Congress had not appropriately considered the nation’s racial progress when signaling out a set of states that required preclearance from the federal government before making any changes to election or voting laws. The states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as parts of seven other states — were selected by a congressionally mandated formula examining past history of voting rights abuses.

National: IRS Employees Showed No Politics, Lawmakers’ Memo Shows | Bloomberg

Interviews with 15 U.S. Internal Revenue Service employees show no political motivation or White House involvement in targeting groups applying for tax-exempt status, House Democrats said in a memo. The 36-page memo released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee includes excerpts from several employee interviews with congressional investigators that haven’t been distributed publicly until today. The IRS has apologized for the delays and selective scrutiny given to Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status. Democrats in Congress have resisted Republican arguments that IRS employees used their positions to harm Republican-leaning groups. Instead, they maintain that Tea Party groups were the victims of inadequate rules and inadvertent bungling.

Editorials: Let’s enact a new Voting Rights Act | Norman Ornstein/The Washington Post

Imagine an intersection with a long history of high-speed car crashes, injuries and fatalities. Authorities put up a traffic light and a speed camera — and the accidents and injuries plummet. A few years later, authorities declare “mission accomplished” and remove the light and speed camera. No surprise, the high-speed crashes and fatalities resume almost immediately. This is the logic that animated Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to fillet the Voting Rights Act and that had conservative pundits, including George F. Will, praising the act as they simultaneously exulted in its demise. The predictable result took less than a day: Texas reinstated its racially tilted gerrymandered redistricting plan and moved to implement its highly restrictive voter ID law, under which voters can be required to travel as far as 250 miles to get identification. The real intent, voter suppression, is clear in the legislation’s provision that a concealed-weapon permit can be used to vote but a valid student photo ID cannot.

Voting Blogs: The Chances of a Deal to Fix the VRA After Shelby County? Observations about the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing | Election Law Blog

I had a chance to watch a good part of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today. It makes me more pessimistic about the chances of a deal to improve the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court effectively gutted section 5 in the Shelby County case. Back in February I organized a Reuters Opinion symposium on what Congress could do if the Supreme Court struck down section 5. My thinking was that such a decision would be controversial and Republicans might jump at the chance to fix the Act to improve their position with minority voters. (It’s a point I reaffirmed in this NY Times oped.) Symposium participants offered good ideas for improvements, and after the decision Rick Pildes had an important post on increasing the use of “bail in” as another alternative. I noted in the Reuters piece that I did not expect a new coverage formula to emerge, and one question would be whether a VRA fix would look more like a race-based remedy or more like an election administration (“We’ve got to fix that”) remedy. Today’s hearing showed how far apart Democrats and Republicans are.  The Democrats seemed to be grandstanding (as when Sen. Durbin attacked ALEC) or living in a different universe (as when Sen. Klobuchar asked questions about same day voter registration). Sen. Whitehouse talked about voter fraud as a non-existent problem.  These are not the ways to get at a bipartisan compromise on new VRA legislation.

Arizona: Lawmaker wants to block public vote on ballot changes | AZ Daily Sun

Calling a referendum drive misleading, a state senator has launched a campaign to keep voters from overturning extensive changes made by the Republican-controlled Legislature to voting laws. Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, wants to collect funds to counter the petition drive to force a public vote on the provisions of HB2305. These range from allowing election officials to stop sending early ballots to some voters to putting potential new legal hurdles in the path of people who want to propose their own state laws and constitutional amendments. Reagan said each of the sections helps ensure the integrity and fairness of elections.

Colorado: Recall efforts on hold, both sides head to court tomorrow | KOAA

Voters in both Pueblo and Colorado Springs gathered enough signatures to move forward with recall elections for Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron. Those petitions are already deemed sufficient by the Secretary of State, but both camps are appealing the decision. Wednesday, that court battle will play out, with supporters of both senators and petition organizers. But those aren’t the only sides getting involved. As we first reported last week, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorders office will be there, pressing the Governor to set a date for the Morse recall election.

Florida: Voting Rights Decision Could Mean Return of Florida’s Voter Purge | Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Until Congress is able to come up with new voting rights rules, states could give some of their most controversial voting laws a second life. The U.S. Senate today is discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out a section of the Voting Rights Act. That section established a formula that determined which counties nationwide would be required to clear voting laws with the federal government before implementing them. Five counties in Florida fell under that part of the civil rights-era law. However, Congress is only beginning to discuss a possible replacement of the section. Today’s Senate hearing, according to MSNBC, “will feature testimony from VRA backers in the House and some prominent VRA opponents.”

Florida: Democrat says Scott not pursuing voter registration fraud linked to GOP | Tampa Bay Times

Is Gov. Rick Scott covering up GOP voter registration fraud? The future leader of the House Democrats thinks perhaps he is and is asking Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold legislative hearings on what he says could be an attempt by Scott to “stifle” a criminal investigation. “I have been following the many news media reports about rampant fraud regarding voter registration drives associated with the company Strategic Allied Consulting and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation that was tasked by Gov. Rick Scott some months ago,” states a letter that Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, sent out Tuesday afternoon.

Kansas: Regulatory board rejects Kris Kobach’s voter registration fix |

A state regulatory board on Tuesday rejected Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proposal to allow some 12,000 residents in a suspended state of voter registration to participate in upcoming elections. The change would have allowed residents who have yet to provide proof of citizenship to county election officials to cast provisional ballots in upcoming special elections. Residents would be required to show proof of citizenship before the election was certified.

New Jersey: Hudson County to state `sue us’ – balks at $2.4 million U.S. Senate special-election costs | Hudson Reporter

Saying they will likely refuse to pay the $2.4 million costs associated with the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg, the Hudson County Board of Freeholders said at its July 11 meeting that they may force the state to take the county to court. The county is expected to use funds dedicated to the November regular election to cover the cost of the August primary and then inform the state it does not have the revenue to cover the remaining elections that include a special election in October, and a number of state and local elections in November. Freeholder Bill O’Dea said the county will explore its options, but will likely withhold payment for additional elections now that the budget for the year has been depleted by the cost of the August primary. Representatives from various county departments dealing with the election said the primary and the special election would cost about $1.2 million each.

Pennsylvania: Elections Are Over, But Voter ID Is Not | ABC News

Pennsylvania court may rule this week on the legality of the state’s controversial new voter identification law. Passed last spring without a single Democratic vote, the law was blocked before the presidential election by a judge who said the state had not done enough to ensure people who needed IDs got them. The state offered free IDs, but there were limited locations and hours to obtain them, opponents argued. That injunction didn’t stop the state from putting up Spanish-language billboards urging people to show ID at the polls, though. The law eventually made its way to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, which ordered the Commonwealth Court to examine its constitutionality. The trial began this week and could go either way. If the court sides in favor of the law, its opponents will likely appeal to the state Supreme Court. The issue is fraught with emotion and comes just after the U.S. Supreme Court crippled a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID law trial focuses on statistics |

A statistics expert defended his estimate that “hundreds of thousands” of Pennsylvania voters lack the photo identification they need to vote under a temporarily suspended state law, which is has its constitutionality on trial in a state court. Philadelphia consultant Bernard Siskin, hired by the plaintiffs who sued over the March 2012 law, described in detail his research based on a comparison of people on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s statewide voter-registration database and a similar database maintained by PennDOT, which issues state driver’s licenses and two other IDs acceptable under the law. That analysis showed that, as of this spring, about 511,000 registered voters either lacked one of the PennDOT-issued IDs or have IDs that have expired or will expire before the Nov. 5 election.

Afghanistan: Karzai endorses election commission formation, duties and authorities | Khaama Press

Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Wednesday endorsed the Afghanistan election commission formation, duties and authorities. Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Afghan parliament house speaker on Wednesday said that president Hamid Karzai has assured regarding the endorsement of the election commission formation, duties and authorities following a telephone conversation. The parliament of Afghanistan on Monday approved the bill for Afghanistan election law following controversies which continued for several days. The law was approved by joint parliamentarian commissions after differences were resolved in the committee and was sent to president Hamid Karzai for endorsement.

Cambodia: Election council bars pardoned opposition leader from voting, running in Cambodia’s polls | Global Times

Sam Rainsy, recently-pardoned leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was ineligible to vote or run as a parliamentary candidate for the July 28 national polls, Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee, said Thursday. “According to the law, Sam Rainsy can neither vote nor stand as a candidate for the upcoming polls because the voter lists and political party candidate lists have already been officially recognized by the National Election Committee,” he told reporters. Sam Rainsy’s name was deleted from the voter registry since November on the grounds that he was a convicted criminal with an 11-year prison sentence. On Friday last week, King Norodom Sihamoni granted the charismatic opposition leader a royal pardon, allowing him to return to Cambodia after nearly 4 years abroad in a self-imposed exile.

Mali: Nigeria Seeks $25M for Mali Elections | VoA News

West African leaders have called for $25 million in international aid to help secure the upcoming elections in Mali.  As Guinea-Bissau also prepares for elections, leaders want an end to international sanctions on that country. Heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, are meeting this week in the Nigerian capital ahead of elections in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, two countries in turmoil. After the French-led invasion of northern Mali in January that wrested territories away from Islamist militant groups, nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for July 28.

Russia: Protest leader wins one battle and faces another | Reuters

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny won a rare victory on Wednesday by being accepted as a candidate in a Moscow mayoral election which he sees as a stepping stone to challenging Vladimir Putin for the presidency. But his ability to contest September’s election and the next presidential vote in 2018 depend on a judge’s verdict on Thursday in the most prominent trial of an opposition figure in Russia since Soviet times. Navalny, who emerged from anti-Putin protests last year as the opposition’s most dynamic leader, could be sentenced to up to six years in jail on what he says are trumped-up charges of stealing 16 million roubles ($493,000) from a timber firm. That would bar him from running for mayor against Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin favorite, and from contesting the presidential election in 2018, in which Putin, Russia’s dominant leader for 13 years, could try to extend his rule until 2024.

Zimbabwe: Morgan Tsvangirai: Zimbabwe elections will be rigged | Telegraph

A political deal brought Mr Tsvangirai into government in 2009 after Mr Mugabe claimed victory in a bitterly disputed presidential contest that cost hundreds of lives. But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Tsvangirai said he was not willing to repeat the experience. As he prepares to run for the presidency against Mr Mugabe for a third time, he made clear that if he lost on July 31, he would refuse any invitation to stay on as prime minister. Calling the survival of the coalition a “regressive step”, Mr Tsvangirai insisted: “The people of Zimbabwe are desperate to start on a new plate and actually give proper direction and proper policy direction to revive this economy, give people hope and actually start all over again.”