Verified Voting Blog: Hack the Vote: The Perils of the Online Ballot Box

While most voters will cast their ballots at polling stations in November, online voting has been quietly and rapidly expanding in the United States over the last decade. Over 30 states and territories allow some form of Internet voting (such as by email or through a direct portal) for some classes of voters, including members of the military or absentees.

Utah just passed a law allowing disabled voters to vote online; and Alaska allows anyone to cast their ballots online. And there were recent news reports that Democratic and Republican national committees are contemplating holding primaries and caucuses online. We estimate that over three million voters now are eligible to vote online in the U.S.

But online voting is fraught with danger. Hackers could manipulate enough votes to change the results of local and national elections. And a skilled hacker can do so without leaving any evidence.

California: Assembly approves bill for all-mail special elections | Capitol Alert

Seeking to improve low voter participation in special elections, the California Assembly on Thursday narrowly passed and sent to the Senate legislation that distribute all ballots by mail for elections to fill vacancies. The constant shuffle of elected officials seeking new seats follows a familiar pattern — a state legislator resigns or wins election to a new office, and a tiny sliver of the electorate chooses a replacement. Turnout in a recent pair of special elections hovered around 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Citing the expense, the Senate leader floated letting the governor fill vacancies. An effective solution, according to proponents of Assembly Bill 1873, is to make mailboxes, not polling places, the nexus of special elections.

Florida: Ordered to Unseal Secret Redistricting Documents, a GOP Operative Seeks High Court Intervention | FlaglerLive

A Republican consultant trying to keep hundreds of pages of redistricting-related documents secret is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the release of the records in the latest twist in a legal battle over Florida’s congressional districts. Pat Bainter on Wednesday asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to issue an emergency stay blocking an order by the Florida Supreme Court less than 24 hours earlier that granted permission for the documents to be used in an ongoing trial challenging the constitutionality of the congressional map approved by the Legislature in 2012. Bainter argues that the 538 pages of “confidential material” contain “protected political speech — internal deliberations and strategy, and the names and contact information for like-minded individuals who wish to remain anonymous,” according to documents filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Bainter, his Gainesville-based consulting company, Data Targeting, Inc., and several employees.

Florida: Seattle man pleads guilty to intimidating Florida Republican voters in 2012 election | Reuters

A Seattle man pleaded guilty on Thursday to identity fraud and voter intimidation for forged letters he sent to 200 Republican donors in Florida that told them they were ineligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election. Angered by what he believed was an attempt to suppress Hispanic voter turnout for Democratic Party candidates, James Baker Jr. in 2012 created false voter eligibility letters purporting to be from elections authorities, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. Baker, 58, entered his plea in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 in fines.

Illinois: When it comes to fall ballot questions, the more the merrier | Chicago Sun Times

Another vote, another advisory referendum. The Nov. 4 ballot seems to be getting bulkier and bulkier for every day the General Assembly remains in session this spring. On Thursday, the Senate ignored GOP charges of election-year “gimmickry” and approved two ballot questions, sending one to Gov. Pat Quinn for final approval and the other back to the Illinois House. By a 33-17 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would put a non-binding referendum on the fall ballot that would ask whether voters favor imposing an additional 3-percent tax on millionaires with money raised going toward public schools. “I’m not a biblical scholar, but I remember from my childhood and Sunday school: ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” said Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, the millionaire-tax bill’s chief Senate sponsor.

Editorials: Is Indiana’s strict voter ID law disenfranchising immigrant voters? | PRI

An increasing number of voters in the US are now required to show a photo ID to vote. Eight states have “strict” ID laws, and several more are considering similar rules: no proof, no vote. Critics argue that minorities, immigrants, and the poor are less likely to have photo IDs and are effectively being disenfranchised. Indiana was among the first states to pass a voter ID law back in 2005. If you ask Indianapolis attorney Tom Wheeler, who works with the Republican Party and Republican candidates, whether the law was necessary, he brings up the 2003 Democratic mayoral primary in East Chicago, Indiana. “The fraud was so bad, that the (Indiana) Supreme Court couldn’t even figure out who won the race,” said Wheeler. But ask Bill Groth, a lawyer who often represents Democratic Party interests, and he’ll give you a different slant. “The state of Indiana later stipulated that there was not a single recorded prosecution for imposter voting fraud in the history of the state,” said Groth. So which man is lying? Neither.

Michigan: Conyers discounts conspiracy theory behind challenges to keep him off primary ballot | The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. John Conyers said Thursday he doesn’t believe he fell victim to a conspiracy to bounce him from the ballot and end his storied political career. The Detroit Democrat was removed from the Aug. 5 primary ballot for not having enough valid petition signatures before a federal judge Friday restored him to the ballot over concerns Michigan’s election law may be unconstitutional. Conyers, 85, hired family friend and political consultant Steve Hood to handle the petition gathering. Hood has since publicly apologized for not checking the voter registration status of the circulators he hired — a mistake that initially disqualified hundreds of signatures and may have cost Conyers his congressional career. “I know the whole Hood family,” Conyers told The News Thursday. “I know his father, his brother. I know the church. It was very painful.”

New Mexico: Independent voters plan lawsuit over closed primary elections | KOB

For decades independent voters have been complaining about being left out of New Mexico’s closed primary elections – now somebody is doing something about it. Lawyers plan to slap election officials with a lawsuit in Bernalillo County District Court next Tuesday, June 3: Election Day. It won’t stop the primary election, but they hope it will let more New Mexicans vote next time around. You know how this thing works:  Republicans get to vote in the Republican primary, Democrats vote in the Democratic primary. Independents and minor party members don’t get to vote in the primaries, even though their tax dollars will help to pick up the $3 million for next week’s election. David Crum is an independent voter who moved to New Mexico about 20 years ago.

Ohio: Conservative groups push for voter photo ID requirement in Ohio | Twinsburg Bulletin

A conservative group says it will pursue a ballot issue if lawmakers don’t move legislation requiring eligible residents to show government-issued photo identification cards to vote. During a lobbying day at the Statehouse May 29, the Ohio Christian Alliance and other supporters indicated they would launch an initiated statute in 2015, absent lawmaker action on the issue before year’s end. The process would involve circulating petitions and collecting more than 100,000 signatures before the end of the year. The legislature would then have about four months to act before backers circulate more petitions and gather another 275,000-plus signatures to place the issue on the November ballot.

Utah: Grand County residents speak up on by-mail voting | Moab Sun News

The long-standing American tradition of going to the polls to cast your vote is going away in Grand County, and voters will have to send their ballots in by mail for the upcoming primary election. “I don’t like it,” said long-time resident and business owner Andy Nettell. “There is something about going to the polls, seeing your neighbors, and dropping your ballot in the box that makes you feel like you are participating in democracy.” Other residents were surprised when the notice showed up in their mailbox. “This was the first I had heard of it. I was taken completely by surprise,” local teacher and resident, Joanne Savoie said. “Was there any discussion on this? Who made this decision?” The decision was made by Grand County clerk/auditor Diana Carroll, under Utah State Code 20A-3-302, which allows the election officer (clerk/auditor) to conduct the election by mail. Carroll made the decision, she said, “to reduce election costs, to clean up voter rolls, and to increase voter turnout.”

Australia: Electoral Commission promises upgraded procedures for re-run WA Senate election | ABC

The Australian Electoral Commission says it has improved its security and procedures to ensure that no votes go missing in Saturday’s re-run of the WA Senate election. The election is being held again after results from last September’s Senate election were declared void when about 1,400 ballots disappeared during a vote re-count. AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the commission had re-examined all of its security procedures in the wake of the vote loss and subsequent inquiries into it by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty and a joint parliamentary committee.

Colombia: Uribe’s wrath | The Economist

Óscar Iván Zuluaga’s name was on the ballot, but it was his political mentor and the former president, Álvaro Uribe (pictured right), who pulled in the votes. A finance minister under Mr Uribe, Mr Zuluaga (pictured left) scored 29% in the first round of Colombia’s presidential election on May 25th, beating Juan Manuel Santos, the current president, by four percentage points. The two men will now face each other in a run-off on June 15th. With his direct, folksy manner, Mr Uribe has dominated Colombian politics since he first won the presidency in 2002. After changing the constitution to allow his re-election, he won again in 2006. Barred from a third term, he backed Mr Santos, his former defence minister, in 2010, expecting his successor to continue his tough security policies, particularly against the FARC guerrillas.

Egypt: International Observers Find Egypt’s Presidential Election Fell Short of Standards | New York Times

Egypt’s presidential election fell short of international standards of democracy, two teams of foreign observers said Thursday, a day after the former military officer who led last summer’s military takeover won a landslide victory with more than 95 percent of the vote. “Egypt’s repressive political environment made a genuinely democratic presidential election impossible,” Eric Bjornlund, president of Democracy International, an election-monitoring organization funded by the United States, said in a statement. In an interview, he called the political context “hugely troubling.” A team of European Union observers said in a statement that, despite guarantees in Egypt’s Constitution, respect for the essential freedoms of association and expression “falls short of these constitutional principles.” Robert Goebbels, a Luxembourg member of the European Parliament, summarized the voting process as “free but not always very fair,” noting the winner’s overwhelming advantage in both financial resources and news media attention.

Syria: Al-Assad heading for victory in upcoming ‘blood’ elections | Ahram Online

On 3 June, Syrians will go to the polls to vote in presidential elections that are expected to see Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad clinch yet another term. With two seven-year terms already under his belt, the strongman, who has managed to remain in power in despite a three-year war with rebel groups, is sure to win a third victory in the widely criticised elections. With media, state, and security apparatuses working for Al-Assad’s win, the elections are viewed by many as sham, tainted with undemocratic electoral procedures and continued human rights violations. “The state is clearly biased towards Al-Assad,” says Syrian journalist Bassel Oudat, who argues that state institutions have thrown their weight and resources indiscriminately behind the ruler in lieu of his two opponents: former minister Hassan Al-Nouri and parliamentarian Maher Hajjar.

Ukraine: Another OSCE election-monitoring team reported missing in eastern Ukraine | The Washington Post

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Friday that another one of its election-monitoring teams is missing in eastern Ukraine after a fierce escalation of violence between pro-Russian separatists and government forces over the past few days since the country’s presidential and mayoral elections. The OSCE said it lost contact with a five-member team of monitors in the Luhansk region Thursday evening. The organization said the five were in addition to four others being held by separatists in the Donetsk region since Monday. Both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions were declared “sovereign” republics by separatists after a disputed May 11 vote on self-rule. The OSCE said it lost contact with the Luhansk monitors, who were traveling in two vehicles, after they were stopped by armed men.

National: Voting problems across south could spell trouble for November | MSNBC

We’re still more than five months from midterm elections, but already Republican voting restrictions are causing chaos in states across the South, and in some cases, blocking access to the ballot. The slew of problems, even in a recent series of low-profile elections, is raising fears that large numbers of voters could be disenfranchised this fall if the laws aren’t blocked before then. Because two of the states involved, Arkansas and North Carolina, are hosting tight Senate races this fall, it’s possible that the laws could even be decisive in helping Republicans gain total control of Congress. “The problems we’re seeing in places like Arkansas and North Carolina are only going to worsen in higher-turnout elections in November, when hundreds of thousands more voters will arrive at the polls,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They demonstrate exactly why we’ve filed motions to put these laws on hold until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by the courts.”

National: Red, Blue States Find Some Common Ground on Elections Reform | Stateline

After nearly five years of partisan feuds over state elections laws, there are growing signs that lawmakers are finding common ground on both sides of the aisle, in blue and red states alike. During legislative sessions this year, several states enacted changes designed to ease the voting process, such as online voter registration and same-day registration.  When Illinois finishes the rollout of its online system this summer as expected, more than 100 million eligible voters will live in states offering online registration — about half of the nation’s eligible voters, according to the United States Elections Project. The raft of new measures comes on the heels of a bipartisan presidential elections commission report released in January that encouraged states to “transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters.”

Voting Blogs: States, counties, NGOs roll out more technology to help voters | electionlineWeekly

With the primary season in full swing, it has been a busy spring for state and local elections offices in their efforts to make voting/registering easier for citizens. Like the trees and flowers coming into season, new websites and mobile apps have been blooming from coast to coast. For some a lot of this may be old hat, but it’s important to take notice of these new apps/sites to highlight the progress being made in the elections field; and to encourage others who may late bloomers to get the ball rolling with their own tech improvements. What follows is a snapshot of what some counties, states and voter advocacy organizations have done lately to make voting and/or registering to vote easier. In Connecticut, Secretary of State Denise Merrill recently announced that a mobile app for the state’s new online voter registration system is available. The app — for smartphone or tablet — is available through Google Play and Apple. Since OVR launched in February, more than 2,000 Connecticut residents have registered to vote or updated their registration. Merrill hopes the new app will increase those numbers.