National: Kill the Election Assistance Commission? Two commissioner nominees languish as Congress mulls axing bedraggled body | Center for Public Integrity

Myrna Perez and Thomas Hicks again sat before a pair of U.S. senators Wednesday for a hearing on their presidential nominations to the Election Assistance Commission. Their session, however, morphed into a debate on whether this little-known and decidedly bedraggled commission — created by Congress in 2002 to help prevent voting meltdowns like those experienced during the 2000 presidential election — should exist at all. “The Election Assistance Commission has fulfilled its purpose and should be eliminated,” declared Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the ranking member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which conducted the hearing. He quickly added: “None of my comments are a reflection of the nominees.” Reflection or not, the nominees find themselves in a political purgatory and legislative limbo soupy as any Congress is stirring.

Voting Blogs: Targeted Attacks Hijacked ‘Vast Amounts of Data’ to Foreign Countries Earlier This Year | BradBlog

We’ve discussed, many times over the years, the madness of Internet Voting schemes. Today we’ve got yet another piece of disturbing evidence that underscores why such a scheme for American democracy would be nothing short of insane. … Now, Kim Zetter at Wired’s “Threat Level” blog offers yet another reason why the Internet, as it currently exists, is simply unfit to serve as a means for secure online voting. Her recently published article, which doesn’t focus on voting, is alarmingly headlined “Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet”. And no, in this case, it’s not the NSA. At least as far as we know. Zetter details a “huge security hole” indeed, one which, as she documents, was found to have been used earlier this year to re-route “vast amounts” of U.S. Internet data all the way out to Belarus and Iceland, where it was intercepted in a classic “man-in-the-middle” fashion, before being sent on to its intended receiver. During the hijack attack, the senders and receivers of the Internet data were none the wiser, just as would likely be the case if the same gaping security hole in the Internet’s existing architecture was used to hijack votes cast over the Internet, change them, and then send them on to the server of the intended election official recipient.

Arizona: Kansas: Judge to hear arguments in voter citizenship suit | Associated Press

A federal judge will hear arguments Friday in the lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona requesting the national voter registration form be changed so that the two states can fully enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Arizona counterpart Ken Bennett want the federal court to order the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to include instructions on the federal form that would require Kansas and Arizona residents to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. Kobach has pushed the proof-of-citizenship policy as a way to prevent non-citizens — particularly immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission — from registering and possibly voting. The U.S. Justice Department, which is representing the election commission, has argued that changing the requirements on the federal form for residents of Kansas and Arizona would in essence affect nationwide policy because it might encourage every state to seek increased proof of citizenship in order to register for federal elections. The current federal registration form requires only that someone sign a statement that he or she is a U.S. citizen.

California: Special elections: They mostly just waste money | Los Angeles Times

There was a special election in Los Angeles County last week. Didn’t know? Didn’t vote? Didn’t care? Well, you’re in the majority. Less than 9% of registered voters in the 54th Assembly District bothered to show up at the polls or mail in ballots. Angelenos, a generally disunited bunch, coalesced around apathy. But what does it say about us that the one thing we can agree on is indifference? The appalling turnout last week is a symptom of a much larger problem. Why did we even have a special election Dec. 3 in this district that includes Westwood, Ladera Heights, Culver City, Mar Vista and other neighborhoods in west and southwest Los Angeles? It was held to replace former Assemblywoman and current state Sen. Holly Mitchell. Thanks to term limits, which were enacted as a political “reform,” politicians in Los Angeles and California play an endless game of musical chairs, hopping from one elected office to another, sometimes in the middle of their terms.

Florida: Elections chief faults report listing county among worst offenders |

A progressive watchdog group named Alachua County the state’s fourth-worst election offender in terms of election administration in a new report, but Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter contends its conclusions are flawed. The Center for American Progress Action Fund this week released the report, titled “Florida’s Worst Election Offenders.” The report evaluated Florida’s 40 most populous counties on various factors from the 2012 general election, including provisional ballots cast and rejected, absentee ballots rejected and voter turnout. While the report acknowledged Florida counties had to deal last year with restrictive state election laws, it named six that stood out for their failure to ensure residents could effectively and freely vote. Alachua placed fourth behind Columbia, Putnam and Bay counties. It pointed to Alachua County’s rate of removal for registered voters from its voting lists and its issuance of provisional ballots as red flags. The county eliminated a higher percentage of registered voters from its rolls than any county other than Hillsborough — a figure almost twice the state average — and issued the state’s third-highest percentage of provisional ballots to voters.

Editorials: Absentee ballot suppression in Florida? |

Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner, set off political alarms and quick responses in late November when he ordered the state’s 67 supervisors of elections to stop taking absentee ballots at remote locations. Detzner is the chief elections adviser for Gov. Rick Scott. Detzner told elections officials not to “solicit return” of absentee ballots anywhere but an elections office or its official branches. Sen. Bill Nelson quickly came forward stating his concern that the new rule was an attempt at voter suppression. He told the press “This is so obvious that it’s making it harder to vote for the average folks, whether Republican or Democrat.” It has become conventional election wisdom during recent years that more votes generally translate into Democrat votes. A smaller election turnout generally favors Republicans.

Ohio: Voting bill could lead to long lines, voter purges | MSNBC

A Republican-backed voting bill in Ohio could contribute to longer lines at the polls and make it easier to purge voters from the rolls. State lawmakers passed the legislation Wednesday – and there’s likely much worse to come. The bill itself has voting-rights advocates concerned enough. But it’s almost certain to be just the first step in a broad assault on access to the ballot box expected in the coming weeks from Republicans in Ohio, a pivotal state in presidential elections. The measure cleared the Ohio House of Representatives by a 60-33 vote Wednesday, with just two Democrats in support. It has already been approved by the Senate and now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign it. Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich, said Thursday morning that the governor is studying the bill and will announce a decision shortly.

Editorials: North Carolina Shows Why the Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed | The Nation

A federal judge in Winston-Salem today set the schedule for a trial challenging North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restrictions. There will be a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction in July 2014 and a full trial a year later, in July 2015. This gives the plaintiffs challenging the law, which includes the Department of Justice, the ACLU and the North Carolina NAACP, a chance to block the bill’s worst provisions before the 2014 election. Earlier this year, in July 2013, the North Carolina legislature passed the country’s worst voter suppression law, which included strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cuts to early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration, the repeal of public financing of judicial elections and many more harsh and unnecessary anti-voting measures. These restrictions will impact millions of voters in the state across all races and demographic groups: in 2012, for example, 2.5 million North Carolinians voted early, 152,000 used same-day voter registration, 138,000 voters lacked government-issued ID and 7,500 people cast an out-of-precinct provisional ballot. These four provisions alone will negatively affect nearly 3 million people who voted in 2012.

Virginia: Election Board Reviews Vote Rejected in November | WHSV

The Harrisonburg Electoral Board held an emergency meeting Thursday after a vote came into question. For the first time in three years, the electoral board pulled an absentee ballot to verify a decision made by election officers. It is concerning because of the recount that is underway in the Attorney General’s race. “One of our voters was notified that his vote was not opened and counted and he would like to know why,” said Penny Imeson, who is the secretary of the Harrisonburg Electoral Board.

Germany: SPD members finish voting on grand coalition referendum | Deutsche Welle

Germany’s Social Democrat party has begun counting votes after it held a referendum asking its members whether to join Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new grand coalition. The final count is expected late Saturday. Some 300,000 members of Germany’s second-biggest party submitted postal ballots Thursday to decided whether their party, the Social Democrats (SPD) will join forces with Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), and sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) in a grand coalition. While approval by the party is expected amid SPD leadership confidence that it will win a majority, there were fears that the unprecedented referendum would be flawed by members failing to follow all the voting guidelines Die Welt newspaper online said one-tenth of returned ballots were likely to be declared invalid because they were not accompanied by a legally binding affirmation that the member had not voted twice.

India: Electronic Voting Machines were tampered with, alleges Rajasthan Congress | The Hindu

Days after the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in the Rajasthan Assembly election, the party demanded an enquiry into Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) programmed in Ahmedabad that were used during the polls. The Congress’s Legal and Election management committee filed a complaint with the Election Commission on Thursday, casting aspersions on the functionality of the EVMs, and seeking a probe by high-level technical experts into their programming. “There have been complaints from several party workers and candidates belonging to different Assembly constituencies that the programming for these machines had been tampered with,” Sushil Sharma, president of the Congress’s legal and election management committee.

Mali: Mali battles voter fatigue ahead of parliamentary polls | eNCA

People in Mali are being urged to cast off election fatigue and vote Sunday in the fourth nationwide polls in less than six months, amid widespread apathy stoked by fears of Islamist violence. The second round of the country’s parliamentary elections comes three weeks after a poorly attended first, and follows two rounds of voting in July and August which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita take office as the troubled west African nation’s president. “There is a feeling that after the election of the president of the republic, it was game over. This is a mistake, but that’s how it is,” said Mamadou Samake, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Bamako, who told AFP that Malians were “tired of going to vote”. Sunday’s polls, completing Mali’s return to democracy, come during an upsurge in violence by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels who stalk the vast northern desert, an ever-present danger to French and African troops who are tasked with providing security alongside the Malian army.

Pakistan: Nadra develops electronic voting machine | The Nation (pk)

In the wake of ongoing thumb print verification controversy, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has taken proactive initiative by developing electronic voting machine (EVM) solution proposed to be placed on all polling stations across the country. The Nadra claims that the system aims at ensuring transparency and rigging-free elections because each voter will be able to cast only one vote. An official press release issued by the authority says that electronic thumb verification of each voter shall be done at the respective polling station before casting the vote without the use of magnetized ink. The new EVM solution will incur only 40 per cent of total cost of magnetized ink that amounts to Rs 2.5 billion.

Philippines: Comelec vows to improve absentee voting for 2016 polls | Phillipine Star

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is working to improve overseas absentee voting (OAV) for the 2016 presidential polls. Speaking to reporters, Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said a new system must be adopted to encourage Filipinos abroad to participate in national elections. “Voter’s registration was increasing but the turnout is still low,” he said. “That is why we have a new law already. We have taken out the (word) absentee, it’s just overseas voting. We are creating a special office for overseas voters because everybody agrees there’s really a problem.” The government must deal with the difficulty of many overseas Filipinos who have to go to Philippine embassies and other diplomatic posts to vote, he added.

Editorials: Digital voting is a game changer but we have to get it right | The Conversation

The UK may be taking its first, tentative steps towards introducing online voting with the establishment of a Commission on Digital Democracy. As so many of our routine tasks are going digital, the shift towards virtual polls seems like a natural progression. However, there are many technical issues that need to be ironed out and the stakes are very high. John Bercow, Speaker in the UK House of Commons, established the commission with a view to looking at how technology can be used to aid the democratic working of parliament, including online voting. This team would do well to take a look at what has, and has not, worked elsewhere around the world. Electronic voting can take a number of forms, including tallying votes by computer, using electronic equipment in polling stations and voting over the internet from the voter’s own computer or mobile device. Voting by phone is already used in entertainment shows, though multiple voting is possible and result-fixing has been known to happen. Internet voting is also carried out for professional societies, student unions and other forms of election. It works well when cost and desire to increase turnout are important factors and where the likelihood of an attack on the election is considered to be low. If we were to start using e-voting systems for electing political representatives, we’d need to be absolutely sure of their trustworthiness. Computer systems, including e-voting systems, can go wrong accidentally through software bugs, they can be hacked, and they can be subverted by corrupt insiders. Systems used in elections have been the subject of criticism for all these reasons, resulting in some cases from their withdrawal.

Voting Blogs: In Arkansas, Face Off Over New Voter ID Law | State of Elections

Controversy surrounding voter identification laws has now reached the Natural State. On April 1, 2013, the Arkansas state legislature completed a bicameral majority vote overriding Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto of a law requiring voters to show photo ID. The law, which is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014, provides for the state to issue a free photo ID to voters who lack one. The law also allows a voter without photo identification to cast a provisional ballot on election day. The provisional ballot will be counted if the voter reports to the county clerk or county board of election commissioners by noon of the Monday following the election, with proof of identity or an affidavit showing the voter is either indigent or has a religious objection to being photographed. Voter identification laws have proven contentious throughout the country, and the new Arkansas law is no exception. When questioned about the impetus behind the new legislation, State Senator Bryan King (R), primary sponsor of the bill, stated, “The purpose of the law is to ensure electoral integrity.”

North Carolina: Voting changes to go on trial in 2015 | Reuters

Challenges to North Carolina’s new voter regulations that limit early voting and require voters to show photo identification at the polls will not go to trial until after the 2014 mid-term elections, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. The groups protesting the state’s new law will have a chance, however, to argue for some of its provisions to be blocked before the full case is heard, Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake said at a hearing in Winston-Salem. The law’s opponents had sought a quicker resolution to the legal battle. A trial ahead of next November’s elections would help prevent “irreparable loss” for some voters, said an attorney for the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “It’s going to determine whether people actually have the right to vote,” said NAACP lawyer Daniel Donovan. “The clock is ticking.”