Verified Voting Blog: Mail Your Ballot Back: Why Voting Online Puts Your Vote and Privacy at Risk

Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia allow military and overseas voters (not domestic voters) to return voted ballots by email, facsimile and/or other Internet transmission; six allow  internet return in  military in zones of “hostile fire.” Alaska allows it for all absentee voters. But these methods of casting ballots over the Internet are very insecure; ballots returned this way are at risk for manipulation, loss or deletion.

According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the agency charged with reviewing the security of internet voting systems, even the most sophisticated cyber security protections cannot secure voted ballots sent over the Internet and that secure Internet voting is not feasible at this time.[1] Even if ballots are returned electronically over online balloting systems that employ security tools such as encryption or virtual private networks, the privacy, integrity or the reliable delivery of the ballot can’t be guaranteed.[2]

Just as important, ballots sent by electronic transmission cannot be kept private.[3]  Most States which accept electronically transmitted ballots require voters to sign a waiver forfeiting the right to a secret ballot.  In some cases this waiver conflicts with State law or constitution which guarantees the right to a secret ballot.

National: As Dark Money Floods U.S. Elections, Regulators Turn a Blind Eye | Newsweek

With apologies to the cast of Cabaret, dark money makes the political world go round. Confusing rules and a regulatory void in campaign finance have unleashed a tsunami of cash from anonymous donors that is expected to have unprecedented influence over the midterm elections in November. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission judgment in 2010, individuals—and big corporations—received a carte blanche to make unlimited anonymous financial donations to “nondisclosing” organizations, increasingly nonprofit groups whose primary mission is defined as “social welfare.” There are some guidelines: Such groups, categorized as 501(c)(4), can devote no more than half of their funds to political spending if they want to retain their nondisclosing tax-exempt status. The trouble is, who is holding them to account? Since the Internal Revenue Service got hammered for oversight activities that were at best overzealous, at worst partisan, many of these groups can essentially do whatever they want, unchallenged.

Editorials: Why early voting is about so much more than convenience | The Washington Post

This was supposed to be “Golden Week” in Ohio, a prime window one month from the midterm election when the state’s residents could both register to vote and cast their ballots at the same time. In theory, political participation doesn’t get much easier than that. Monday, however, the Supreme Court halted the start of the state’s early voting in another 5-4 order along ideological lines that civil rights advocates fear will harm minority and poor voters in particular. The decision is a win for Republican officials in Ohio who had moved to curtail the state’s early voting with a law passed in February. Civil-rights groups including the ACLU and the NAACP had sued the state to block the law, and the Supreme Court’s order on Monday sets aside a lower-court ruling in their favor. Now, as a result, voting in Ohio that was supposed to start today won’t begin until Oct. 7. And Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, reacting swiftly to the Supreme Court order, has also rolled back evening hours and a day of Sunday voting that had been required by the earlier court decision.

Editorials: How the Supreme Court will continue helping GOP game elections | Paul Waldman/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court has granted Ohio’s request to throw out a ruling by lower courts stopping the state from implementing a law on early voting passed by the Republican state legislature. Meanwhile, cases on Republican-passed voting laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas are also working their way through the courts, and may all wind up in front of the Supreme Court in one way or another. So here’s a prediction: Republicans are going to win every single one of these cases. No matter how compelling the arguments of the opponents are, the simple fact is that there are five conservative justices who think that almost anything a state does to restrict people’s ability to vote is just fine with them. If you’re looking for the “tell” in laws like Ohio’s, you can find it on a Sunday — namely, the Sunday before the election (or sometimes every Sunday in the early voting period), which these laws almost always eliminate as a day when early voting can take place. What’s the significance of that Sunday? It’s the day when black churches conduct “Souls to the Polls” drives, organizing parishioners to head over to vote after services are over.

Alaska: Plaintiff says they won’t appeal ballot lawsuit ruling | Juneau Empire

The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two Alaska gubernatorial candidates will not appeal a judge’s ruling that an emergency order allowing the ticket was valid, he said Monday. Plaintiff Steve Strait said, however, that state lawmakers should enact a permanent regulation to address a legal “train wreck” — the label used by Superior Court Judge John Suddock in describing a gap in Alaska election statutes. Suddock sided with the state on Friday.

Delaware: Should Delaware’s primary elections occur earlier in the year? | WDEL

Delaware held its primary elections three weeks ago on Sept. 9, months after voters cast ballots for primaries in neighboring states like Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. State law mandates that primary elections in Delaware occur on the second Tuesday of September following the first Monday of the month, with the general election to follow nearly two months later in early November. Some believe that time period is too short and the primary should be scheduled earlier in the year. John Fluharty, the executive director of the state Republican party, said the current schedule makes it difficult for candidates who win their party’s nomination to rally support after contentious primary elections. This year, the party held its convention after the primary and did not endorse either candidate in a heated state treasurer race between Ken Simpler, the eventual winner, and 2010 Lieutenant Governor Candidate Sher Valenzuela. “At the end of the day, we need to have a spring primary and the Republican party supports that,” Fluharty said.

Kansas: No ruling in bid to make Dems fill U.S. Senate candidate vacancy | Topeka Capital-Journal

A three-judge Shawnee County panel didn’t decide Monday whether Kansas Democrats should be required to fill the vacancy left when Chad Taylor dropped out of the closely contested U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Pat Roberts, a three-term Republican. The court challenge seeking to force Democrats to fill the vacancy hit a stumbling block Monday when David Orel, the man who filed the suit, failed to show up for his day in court. The judges didn’t rule on whether the suit was still viable in light of the plaintiff’s absence, preferring instead to hear more arguments before making a ruling they indicated would come before 2 p.m. Wednesday — the time Secretary of State Kris Kobach says ballots absolutely must have candidate names to be sent to printers.

Ohio: Supreme Court grants Ohio’s request to shorten early-voting period | Los Angeles Times

e Supreme Court ordered a halt Monday to early voting in Ohio that was scheduled to begin this week, clearing the way for the state to close polls on the Sunday before election day, when African American turnout has been heaviest. The emergency order, approved 5 to 4, is a victory for Ohio Republicans and a setback for civil rights lawyers who had challenged a law that shortened the early-voting period by about a week. Several other election-year disputes could reach the high court before November. Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina also face pending court challenges to Republican-sponsored voting restrictions that take effect this year. Ohio had adopted one of the nation’s most generous early-voting policies after what was widely considered to be an election day debacle in 2004, when voters waited hours in long lines to cast ballots and many cities did not have enough voting machines to accommodate the turnout.

West Virginia: State Election Commission criticized in Supreme Court arguments | WV MetroNews

Members of the state Supreme Court openly questioned Tuesday why the State Election Commission didn’t consider a 1992 opinion about ballot vacancies when it decided to keep a spot open on the Kanawha County ballot. At issue is whether the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee should be allowed to replace Del. Suzette Raines on the ballot in the 35th District delegate race after Raines withdrew from the race. The SEC decided Aug. 13 Raines’ reasons to get out of the race didn’t meet the standard needed to replace her. Republicans are challenging the ruling. The case was argued for 45-minutes before the High Court Tuesday afternoon.

Wisconsin: Elections agency asks for nearly half a million dollars for voter ID | Wisconsin State Journal

Saying “there is very little time left to reach out to the public,” the head of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced Tuesday that he is asking the Legislature for nearly half a million dollars for a statewide campaign to notify voters that they must present a photo identification to vote Nov. 4. Kevin Kennedy, director of the state’s elections agency, said the money is needed to alert voters to the voter ID law, which a federal appeals court reinstated on Sept. 12.

Bulgaria: Election frontrunner open to talks with other parties | Standart

The frontrunner in Bulgaria’s October election said on Thursday he was ready to hold talks with other parties after the vote, including to discuss securing cross-party support for legislation to ensure political stability. Boiko Borisov, the leader of the centre-right GERB party, is tipped to win the Oct. 5 poll, but may fall short of a majority, which risks dragging the Balkan state into more political turmoil and hurting its growth prospects. In the wake of the country’s worst financial crisis since the 1990s, Borisov also said Bulgaria’s Central Bank Governor Ivan Iskrov should resign the day after the election for his handling of troubled lender Corporate Commercial Bank. Bulgaria is gearing up for its third election in two years, after the Socialist-led government, whose one year in office was overshadowed by massive anti-graft protests, floods and a banking crisis, resigned in July.

China: The People Behind Hong Kong’s Protests | Foreign Policy

An uneasy calm rests over Hong Kong as the city closes its fourth day of demonstrations, the largest protests to hit the city since its handover from Britain to China in 1997. With some area banks, ATMs, schools, and subway stops closed due to the occupiers purposefully obstructing main thoroughfares, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government has repeatedly demanded that protesters return home; the demonstrators, ranging from high school students to retirees, have refused. Who leads this disparate group of city residents, who have launched the port city, well-known for its stability and investment-friendly environment, into historic civil disobedience? From a 17-year-old with an already long history of standing up to Beijing, to a 70-year-old reverend with a dream for the city, Foreign Policy explains which movements and leaders to watch.

Kazakhstan: Election held for Senate deputies | Trend

Kazakhstan today on Oct. 1 holds the election of Senate deputies (upper house of parliament). Some 53 candidates, who have passed the registration procedure, originally submitted their request, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Kazakhstan. Some 39 people were included in the list of candidates, because 14 candidates submitted applications to quit the race. The preparation and election is observed by 166 representatives from foreign states and international organizations, as well as 110 foreign media representatives, CEC said.

Tunisia: Voters to choose among 27 candidates in Tunisia presidential race | Middle East Online

Twenty-seven candidates including officials who served under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali have signed up as candidates for Tunisia’s November 23 presidential election, the organising body said Tuesday. No fewer than 70 people originally filed applications to the Isie, which is organising the first presidential election since the January 2011 revolt forced Ben Ali to flee. “Of the 70, 27 complied with all of the conditions and were accepted, while 41 were rejected,” Isie chairman Chafik Sarsar told a news conference, adding that two other candidates withdrew.