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Maryland: Online ballot tool goes uncertified over IT security concerns | Maryland Reporter

Wary members of the state election board said they could not certify a new voting system for use in the June primary election until more security measures are put in place. State election officials were hoping to certify a new online ballot marking tool that could be accessed when downloading a ballot online — a feature that is currently available to all voters. But board members were troubled by an IT security assessment conducted for the state by a firm that has never performed Internet security tests on election systems. The Largo-based company, Unatek, Inc., also didn’t study voter fraud risks at the front end of the voting system where ballots are requested online. Legislation passed last year required the state to certify the new voting system in order to facilitate some disabled voters and add to the state’s scope of online voter services. Part of the certification requires the state to deliver a secure ballot while maintaining a voter’s privacy. For years, voting advocates have been sounding the alarms that the state’s online voter service systems are highly vulnerable to Internet attacks and voter fraud.

Full Article: Online ballot tool goes uncertified over IT security concerns » Local News » Cumberland Times-News.

Minnesota: Judge: Online voter registration system must shut down | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie must immediately shut down the online voter registration system he launched last year because he lacked the authority to create it, a Ramsey County judge decided Monday. Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said Ritchie had until midnight on Tuesday to close the system and confirm that he had done so by Wednesday. More than 3,600 Minnesotans have taken advantage of online registration. Guthmann said his order “does not invalidate any online voter registration accepted before midnight on April 29, 2014.” Guthmann said he also was making no determination on whether online registration was a good idea. Instead, he wrote, “sole question presented herein is whether Respondent had the legal authority to do what he did.”

Full Article: Judge: Minnesota online voter registration system must shut down | Star Tribune.

Mississippi: Voter I.D. coming June 3, barring a lawsuit | Desoto Times Tribune

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is telling everyone he sees about two national awards the state won for its Voter ID campaign. Barring a lawsuit, the June 3 primaries in Mississippi will mark the first time the state has required voter identification in a statewide election, putting into practice a policy Mississippi voters approved by 62 percent of the vote back in 2012. Hosemann believes that the state has avoided a lawsuit on the implementation of voter ID because his office was proactive in working with the U.S. Justice Department guidance in devising a voter ID process that respected the Constitution and was as fair and accessible as possible. That’s a remarkably simply solution. Hosemann points out the obvious but important fact that voter ID has long been a contentious political issue in Mississippi. The issue dominated political debate in the state for more than 20 years with Republicans arguing for it as a tool to offset voter fraud and Democrats arguing against it as a form of voter intimidation in a state with a sorry voting rights history.

Full Article: Desoto Times Tribune > Opinion > Editorials > Voter I.D. coming June 3, barring a lawsuit.

New Hampshire: House mulls changes to voter challenges | Eagle Tribune

A bill before the New Hampshire House shifts the burden of proof in voter disputes to the challenger. The Election Law Committee, on a 16-0 vote, is recommending passage for Senate Bill 206, scheduled before the House on Wednesday. “SB 206 amends current law by shifting the burden of proof to the challenger by requiring that the specific reason and source of the information for the challenge be provided, and that it be provided in writing,” Rep. Robert Perry, D-Strafford, in a written report on behalf of the committee, told the House.

Full Article: N.H. House mulls changes to voter challenges » New Hampshire » EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA.

Afghanistan: And then there were two | The Economist

Three weeks after Afghanistan’s presidential election, the tortuous counting process is over. And the voters appear all set to finish the job—by going back to the polls. As was widely expected, none of the eight candidates managed to secure more than 50% of the vote. A run-off election will be used to pick a winner. The top two place-getters will be returning to the colourful and vibrant hustings. Abdullah Abdullah, the polished, cravat-wearing former foreign minister (pictured to the right, with an ordinary necktie), who finished second in the deeply flawed presidential election of 2009, has emerged as the clear front-runner. He secured 44.9% of the vote when the Afghanistan’s election watchdog announced the full preliminary results on Saturday April 26th. His closest rival is Ashraf Ghani (pictured left), an urbane academic and former official with the World Bank, who won 31.5%. Zalmai Rassoul, who was regarded as being the preferred choice of outgoing president Hamid Karzai—who was himself forbidden from standing for a third, five-year term by the constitution—was the only other candidate to finish with a total in the double digits (11.5%).

Full Article: Afghanistan's presidential election: And then there were two | The Economist.

Canada: Fair Elections Act back on fast track after 45 amendments submitted | The Globe and Mail

The divisive Fair Elections Act has resumed its fast-track passage through Parliament, after the federal government submitted 45 changes in a bid to quell opposition to the bill. The amendments were submitted to the committee and obtained by The Globe as MPs returned Monday from a two-week break, and are among roughly 275 presented by MPs of all parties. They all must be considered and voted on by Thursday evening – a short window that all but guarantees only cursory consideration of many changes. The government’s 45 proposed amendments include backing down on both the elimination of vouching and a proposed campaign-finance change that critics said would have opened loophole. They also include elements that raise new questions – strengthening a new limit on the Chief Electoral Officer’s term, by saying no CEO can be reappointed after a 10-year term, and making no mention of a previous promise to back down on expanding partisan appointments of poll workers.

Full Article: Fair Elections Act back on fast track after 45 amendments submitted - The Globe and Mail.

Iraq: Iraq gears up for bitter, bloody election battle | The Washington Post

His campaign poster, jostling among the thousands that line the streets of the capital, has a message of unity: “Together we build Iraq.” But as the country prepares for its first elections since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political rivals accuse him of the opposite: stoking sectarian divisions and dismantling its hard-won democracy. No party is expected to win a majority in Iraq’s parliamentary elections Wednesday, the first since the last U.S. troops pulled out of the country nearly 21 / 2 years ago, which makes the results difficult to forecast. The unpredictability of Iraqi politics was underlined in the last elections four years ago, when the bloc that won the greatest share of the vote lost the premiership to Maliki in the political horse-trading that followed.
Full Article: As Iraqi police and army vote, violence kills about 50 nationwide - The Washington Post.

Macedonia: Conservatives win 2 elections, opposition refuses to recognize result | Assocated PRess

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s ruling center-right party has won its fourth consecutive election victory in Macedonia but looks likely to fall just short of an outright majority. The opposition Social Democrats refused to recognize the result Monday, alleging voter intimidation by the government, but international monitors described the vote as well run. With 99.9 percent of the vote counted Monday, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE had won 42 percent and 61 seats — one short of a majority in the 123-member parliament. The Social Democrat-led opposition alliance got 24.9 percent and 34 seats, according to the State Election Commission. Turnout was 64 percent. In a separate vote Sunday, conservative President Gjorge Ivanov won a second five-year term in a runoff for the largely ceremonial post.

Full Article: Macedonia's conservatives win 2 elections, opposition refuses to recognize result - Seymour Tribune.

Syria: Assad to seek re-election in June vote | The Washington Post

Syrian President Bashar Assad declared his candidacy Monday for a new seven-year term in June presidential elections, more than three years into a revolt against his rule that has killed more than 150,000 people, uprooted another 9 million and touched off a humanitarian crisis. At least half of the 9.5 million people displaced by the Syrian civil war are children. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, says protecting them should be a priority for the international community. While Assad had long suggested he would seek re-election, the official announcement put to rest any illusions that the man who has led Syria since 2000 has any intention of relinquishing power or finding a political solution to the conflict. Rather, he appears emboldened by a series of military victories in recent months that have strengthened his once tenuous grip on power.

Full Article: Syria’s Assad to seek re-election in June vote - The Washington Post.

Wisconsin: Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law | The Washington Post

A federal judge in Milwaukee struck down Wisconsin’s voter Identification law Tuesday, saying a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren’t as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Adelman’s decision invalidates Wisconsin’s law and could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. At least 14 states require voters to show photo ID, and legislation in dozens of other states includes proposals to either introduce new voter ID laws or strengthen existing ones. Just last week, an Arkansas judge struck down that state’s voter ID law; it is being appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Full Article: Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law - The Washington Post.

Editorials: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Tim Peckinpaugh and Steve Roberts/Roll Call Opinion

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down an aggregate cap on individual contributions to federal candidates, parties and political committees over a two-year election cycle in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Certainly, this is an important holding, but this is not Citizens United II. In fact, in as much as Citizens United increased spending opportunities with outside groups, it’s just the opposite. This decision will have a major impact in national political giving by restoring congressional campaigns themselves — as well as the national parties that support them — to renewed importance by which donors of all political persuasions (and particularly wealthy donors) provide support to a slate of preferred candidates. That shift will, in turn, result in a larger portion of political giving by way of transparent, fully disclosed contributions to federal campaign committees and the Members of Congress they support. Essentially finding that the presence of any cap was arbitrary, and building on its previous free speech analysis in Citizens United v. FEC, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. illustrated the underlying faulty logic of the biennial aggregate limit in operation: “If there is no corruption concern in giving nine candidates up to $5,200 each, it is difficult to understand how a tenth candidate can be regarded as corruptible if given $1,801, and all others corruptible if given a dime.”

Full Article: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Commentary : Roll Call Opinion.

Arkansas: Attorney General files notice of appeal in Voter ID case | Associated Press

Arkansas’ attorney general told a state judge on Friday he plans to appeal a decision that struck down a new voter ID law, while a civil liberties group said it will move forward with a separate challenge to the requirement. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office filed a notice of appeal over Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox’s ruling a day earlier that voided a new law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. McDaniel is appealing the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Fox had issued the ruling in a case that focused on how absentee ballots are handled under the new law. A spokesman for McDaniel’s office and the chairman of the state Republican Party both said they planned to ask the court to stay Fox’s ruling. The GOP had been given permission to help defend the state in the absentee ballot case, and has filed a separate notice of appeal. The state’s primary is May 20, and early voting for that election begins May 5.

Full Article: Arkansas AG files notice of appeal in Voter ID case | The Baxter Bulletin | baxterbulletin.com.

Arkansas: Issue of vote threshold for voter ID law saw debate, party-line votes | Arkansas News

While the state Legislature was debating the bill that became Arkansas’ voter ID law last year, Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, argued that it had to meet a higher vote threshold than other bills. Nickels, a lawyer, said at the time that the bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls required a two-thirds majority vote to pass because it would change the Arkansas Constitution by adding to the requirements to vote in Arkansas, which are set in the constitution. The bill’s supporters argued that the law would not change the constitution because it would only affect procedures at the polls. They said the eligibility requirements to be a voter would stay the same; the bill would merely require voters to prove they are who they say they are. “I feel vindicated,” Nickels said Friday, a day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox struck down Act 595 of 2013.

Full Article: Issue of vote threshold for voter ID law saw debate, party-line votes | Arkansas News.

Voting Blogs: Arkansas Judge Declares Republican Photo ID Restriction Law Unconstitutional, ‘Null and Void’ | BradBlog

A Circuit Court judge has resoundingly rejected Arkansas’ new Photo ID restrictions on voting, declaring the law to be “null and void” and in violation of the state’s Constitutional right to vote. Last year, after Republicans took over the Arkansas statehouse for the first time since Reconstruction, they passed an onerous Photo ID restriction law for voting. The Democratic Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the new restrictions, but that veto was subsequently overridden by the Republican legislature. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Davis Fox’ 2-page Summary Judgement [PDF] finds in favor of plaintiffs in the case, the Pulaski County Election Commission and against both the defendant, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, as well as the Republican Party of Arkansas which intervened on behalf of the Board of Election. In his Thursday ruling, Fox found the law to be “unconstitutional in that it violates Articles 3, Section 1 and Article 3, Section 2 of the Arkansas Constitution.”

Full Article: Arkansas Judge Declares Republican Photo ID Restriction Law Unconstitutional, 'Null and Void' | The BRAD BLOG.

Florida: State redistricting lawsuits get political | Tampa Tribune

It was a crisp mid-February day in the nation’s capital, but a hot topic at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee had a distinctly Sunshine State feel. A handful of Democratic political operatives, many of Florida’s congressional Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat from California, huddled in the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2012 meeting to discuss an ongoing Florida redistricting lawsuit. On the agenda was an overview of the newest version of Florida’s congressional map, which was drawn as part of a lawsuit in a Tallahassee court challenging the redistricting process. Court documents and emails that are part of the redistricting lawsuit show that the map was drawn and paid for by Democratic consultants in consultation with the Florida Democratic Party, which is no longer involved in the lawsuit.

Full Article: State redistricting lawsuits get political.

Guam: Center ensures accessible voting: Voters with disabilities are encouraged to vote | Pacific Daily News

The Guam Legal Services Corporation-Disability Law Center has a vested interest in accessible voting. Our office works to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to polls and cast private and independent ballots. The right to vote is an important issue for all citizens because it is our way of guaranteeing that the government hears our voices and provides for the needs of all individuals. This was the movement behind the American with Disabilities Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act, and the Help America Vote Act.

Full Article: Center ensures accessible voting: Voters with disabilities are encouraged to vote | Pacific Daily News | guampdn.com.

Hawaii: Same-day voter registration measure to get final hearing | Hawaii News Now

In the 1960s, Hawaii had the highest voter turnout in the nation. Fifty years later, it is now 50th among the 50 states. Now, state lawmakers are considering a measure to reverse the trend by allowing same-day voter registration. According to the State Elections Office, only 42 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2012 primary election. Just under 62 percent turned out in the general election. House Bill 2590 would allow voter registrations at early-voting sites in 2016, and same-day registration in 2018. Same-day voter registration is already allowed in eleven states and the District of Columbia.

Full Article: Same-day voter registration measure to get final hearing - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL.

Maryland: Elections chief predicts smooth absentee voting | Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s top elections official expressed confidence Friday that the state will deliver absentee ballots to voters smoothly and on time despite a change in plans ordered just two months before the June 24 primary. The State Board of Elections decided this week not to move forward with a system that would have allowed voters who receive an absentee ballot through the Internet to mark their choices on a computer screen before printing the ballot and mailing it in. Linda H. Lamone, administrator of the elections board, said the agency will do what is needed to comply with the decision of the five-member panel. … Lamone and her staff have interpreted the board’s action as preventing them from offering the ballot-marking function — which had been eagerly anticipated by advocates for the disabled — but allowing them to go forward with the part of the system that would let any voter go online to ask for and receive an absentee ballot over the Internet. If that interpretation stands, the board decision will be a hollow victory for election security advocates who had opposed both parts of the system. Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor, said the delivery system opens the door to election fraud much wider than the marking tool would have. Greenberger contends that the two systems are inseparable and that the board’s decision to offer online delivery is inconsistent with state law. He said he does not plan to sue. 

Full Article: Elections chief predicts smooth absentee voting - baltimoresun.com.

Utah: Grand and San Juan Counties switch to vote by mail system for all elections | Moab Times-Independent

Local voters who show up at the polls on June 24 will be in for a surprise. Both Grand and San Juan counties are switching to a vote-by-mail process this year, so primary and general election voters will no longer be able to cast their ballots in person. Anyone who is currently registered to vote should keep an eye out for official-looking letters from the counties, since those notifications will include important information about the vote-by-mail process. Grand County will be asking active voters to return signature verification cards. At the same time, it will also be mailing out separate notices to inactive voters who have not participated in the last two elections, according to Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll. Those who have not voted in the past two elections will be required to renew their voter registrations, according to information from the clerk’s office. Local residents can verify their voter information online at www.vote.utah.gov or by calling the Grand County Clerk’s Office.

Full Article: Moab Times-Independent - County switches to vote by mail system for all elections.

Wisconsin: State lags behind offering online voter registration | Associated Press

Wisconsin may soon be in a minority of states that don’t allow voters to register online. The state, long considered a model for its high voter turnout and election administration, seems stubbornly old-fashioned as it sticks to paper registration while others move to online systems that are simpler, cheaper and less prone to errors, elections experts told lawmakers recently. Legislators from both parties have expressed interest in online registration, but progress has been stymied by a long-standing fight over same-day voter registration and other party divisions. Two bills that would have allowed online voter registration have failed to pass in the past four years, frustrating elections officials. “Online registration is no longer cutting-edge innovation. It is a well-established and essential tool,” said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin’s elections. “We already have in place what we need to do. We need the legislative authorization to do this.” Eighteen states have already adopted online registration, with Arizona pioneering the approach in 2002 and others following since 2007. Four states have approved the method and are working on the systems. Fifteen more states, including Wisconsin, are considering legislation, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Full Article: State lags behind offering online voter registration - Leader-Telegram: Daily Updates.