Privacy advocates, worried that the Defense Department is sinking millions of dollars into unproven online voting systems, are suing the Pentagon for the release of long-promised test results on whether Internet-based voting is safe. The subtext of the lawsuit is that after spending millions on online voting experiments — in 2010 alone, the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program received $9 million from Congress to design and test Internet-based voting — privacy advocates worry that online voting could spread in the United States without proper vetting. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a D.C.-based advocacy group, filed a lawsuit last month against the Pentagon, under the Freedom of Information Act, to compel the release of the results of the department’s test of its online voting system. Ginger McCall is the director of EPIC’s open government project. “Voting is an integral part of our democratic system,” she said, “and it is imperative that the public have information about whether or not e-voting systems are really secure and reliable before they are used or more money is spent on their acquisition.”
With the midterm elections approaching, voting activists have developed a new online tool to make it easier for servicemembers deployed overseas to cast their votes. The Can I Vote Absentee? widget provides information about absentee voting rules and regulations on a state-by-state basis. It also helps people register to vote and request their ballots. … Registering and acquiring ballots are critical steps in the voting process, but Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, emphasized the importance of getting the ballots mailed back in time. She encouraged troops to take advantage of the Military Postal Service’s special express mail delivery service for sending ballots. The service is free and gets each ballot back to election officials within two days on average, she told reporters. “This is really helpful because it makes it a secure and private way to get your ballot back,” she said.
Voting Blogs: Mail Your Ballot Back: Why Voting Online Puts Your Vote and Privacy at Risk | Verified Voting Blog
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. 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.
Just as important, ballots sent by electronic transmission cannot be kept private. 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.
Three judges, ruling as a panel, Wednesday ruled the Kansas Democratic Party does not have to supply a name to the Secretary of State’s office for the upcoming general election race for US Senate. The ruling came mid-afternoon Wednesday, just before a requested deadline by Secretary of State Kris Kobach who has been trying to get the state party to provide a replacement name for Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor. Taylor was the Democratic nomination in the August primary election, but then backed out of the race in early September. Following his withdrawal, Kobach said he would not remove Taylor’s name for technical reasons – a decision that ultimately found it’s way to the Kansas State Supreme Court which ruled Taylor could indeed take his name off the ballot.
North Carolina: 2 New Limits on Voting in North Carolina Are Rejected by U.S. Court | New York Times
A federal appeals court on Wednesday forced North Carolina officials to restore two provisions for ballot access that had been eliminated in a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature that civil rights groups said would disproportionately harm black voters. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit restores “same-day registration,” which allows North Carolina voters to register and cast ballots in single visits to locations for early voting. The ruling also sets aside another part of the law and directs the state to count provisional ballots that are filed outside of voters’ home precincts. The elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting were two of the numerous restrictive changes enacted in the law, known as H.B. 589, that was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. The law was one of several passed recently in Republican-controlled statehouses on the grounds that they would protect the integrity of the electoral process or save money. But many Democrats see them as blatant efforts to suppress the turnout of minorities, young voters and others.
Texas’ voter identification law, which was the focus of a federal trial that concluded Monday in Corpus Christi, could be on a fast-track to the U.S. Supreme Court before Election Day in November. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, a Democrat who was appointed to the post in 2011 by President Barack Obama, is expected to strike down the law, according to election law experts. The state would then appeal to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs, which include the U.S. Department of Justice, likely would lose that round and could ask for emergency relief from the Supreme Court — all possibly within the next six weeks. It’s a scenario laid out by Richard Hasen, a professor at the law school at the University of California at Irvine, who has been closely following the Texas case.
A nonprofit watchdog group is suing an obscure Defense Department unit over its failure for three years to disclose the results of testing on the security safeguards of Internet voting systems that are increasingly being used to cast absentee ballots. The Pentagon unit, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, has effectively bankrolled many states’ shift to online voting, disbursing tens of millions of dollars in grants for the purchase of equipment that includes Internet balloting options. Its actions have drawn consternation from cyber experts, who have warned for years that Internet voting is an easy target for hackers who could tamper with or even fix election results. The government’s premier technology testing agency also has refused to endorse these systems. Now, on the eve of another federal election in which at least 31 states plan to use some form of online voting, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding disclosure of the test results so it can disseminate the information nationwide.
The Supreme Court on Thursday added 11 cases to its docket, including ones on redistricting, judicial elections and discrimination in housing and employment. … The redistricting case will consider the fate of an independent commission created by Arizona voters in 2000 in an effort to make the process of drawing congressional district lines less partisan. The court’s decision is likely to affect a similar body in California. The Arizona commission has five members, with two each chosen by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The final member is chosen by the other four. Republican lawmakers have complained that the commission’s latest efforts favored Democrats. The Republican-led State Legislature sued, saying that the voters did not have the power to strip elected lawmakers of their power to draw district lines. They pointed to a provision of the federal Constitution that says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”
An Alaska Senate race has the potential to once again remain undecided well after the election, and this time the wait could keep control of the Senate up in the air until at least mid-November. December and January runoffs are possible in two other states with Senate races, so it could be even longer before either party can claim a majority of seats in the chamber in the next Congress. Senate Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control. But the reason for the holdup in Alaska is, like the state itself, unique. In the Last Frontier State, the regular delay in races being called is largely a product of two confluent circumstances: close contests and an increased emphasis by campaigns on absentee voting, a get-out-the-vote method pushed to help compensate for the state’s travel and voting complications. The need to encourage absentees is a reality in one of the most topographically challenging states for campaigns in the country. Prop planes are often required for candidates to reach the state’s vast rural areas and even for timely travel between cities close in proximity but separated by mountains or water. And state officials running the election face similar logistical hurdles: All ballots are eventually transported by air to Juneau, a capital only accessible by boat or plane.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the Arizona Legislature’s argument that only state lawmakers have the authority to draw congressional boundaries. The court also wants to hear arguments on why the Legislature believes it has the legal standing to get involved in the case. Arguments could happen early in the new year. At issue is the ongoing dispute over the nine congressional districts the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission drew in 2011. Arizona lawmakers argue that the U.S. Constitution gives only the legislature the power to draw those boundaries.
An Arkansas judge erred when he struck down Arkansas’ voter identification law, an official with Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office argued Thursday before the Arkansas Supreme Court. A lawyer for a group of voters challenging the law argued that the Supreme Court should uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s May 2 ruling that the law imposes new qualifications for voting in Arkansas, in violation of the state constitution. The state’s highest court heard oral arguments but did not immediately issue a ruling in the state’s appeal of Fox’s ruling striking down Act 595 of 2013, which requires Arkansas voters to show photo identification at the polls. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the Republican-backed measure last year, but the Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto. Fox stayed his ruling pending the state’s appeal, so Act 595 was in effect for the May 20 primary election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said more than 1,000 ballots went uncounted in that election because of the law.
Losing at the state high court may not end Chris McDaniel’s months-long challenge of his election loss to Sen. Thad Cochran, his lead attorney said after arguing before the Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday. McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said the erstwhile candidate could still file a challenge of his loss in federal court, on First Amendment grounds. He said McDaniel still hasn’t had a trial to prove the election was stolen from him and “the merits have never been heard on this case.” The state Supreme Court heard nearly two hours of arguments Thursday in McDaniel’s appeal of a circuit court’s dismissal of his election lawsuit. The court gave no indication when it might rule. Cochran attorney Mark Garriga said McDaniel’s challenge needs to end. “They blamed everybody in the world for losing the election,” Garriga said. “They blamed the trial court for losing the lawsuit, and if they lose today they want to blame other people. This has been a long ordeal for the Cochran campaign, for the circuit clerks and for all the people who have been accused of wrongdoing.”
Today, the Mississippi State Supreme Court heard arguments from the legal teams of state Sen. Chris McDaniel and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran regarding the 20-day deadline to file election challenges. A lower court previously ruled that McDaniel missed the deadline to file a challenge by 21 days, thus nullifying his attempts to prove that he is the rightful winner of the June Republican primary and therefore deserves to compete in the general election as the Republican nominee. Arguments from both campaigns raised serious questions about the current state of Mississippi’s election law and who gets to decide the state’s election process. Mitch Tyner, an attorney who is cited in McDaniel’s challenge as having cast an irregular vote and who argued on behalf of McDaniel, asked the judges to look solely at the statute in question. It is under this statute that a candidate is allowed to challenge the results of a statewide election. The statute itself, Tyner argues, is enforceable on its face without needing to draw upon rules from other statutes. No time frame or deadline is outlined in its language.
More than 3,000 people have registered to vote in Ferguson, Mo., since the death of Michael Brown — a surge in interest that may mean the city of 21,000 people is ready for a change. Since a white police officer shot the unarmed black 18-year-old on Aug. 9, voter registration booths and cards have popped up alongside protests in the city and surrounding neighborhoods. The result: 4,839 people in St. Louis County have registered to vote since the shooting; 3,287 of them live in Ferguson. The city’s population is two-thirds African American; five of its six city council members are white, as is its mayor. The St. Louis County Election Board does not record the races of eligible voters, but many believe the increase is a sign that Brown’s death has spurred renewed interest in politics and might mean more blacks will vote in the upcoming election. “It’s a great move when people come out and register in mass like that,” said Anthony Bell, St. Louis 3rd Ward committeeman. “They are sending a signal that we want a change. It doesn’t give justice to the Michael Brown family, but it will in the future give justice to how the administration is run in a local municipality like Ferguson.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is leading a drive to educate eligible voters on the state’s new voter ID law in time for the general election, after errors made in the law’s implementation during the Sept. 9 primary led to voter disenfranchisement, said Hillary Davis, RIACLU policy associate. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the voter ID law requires people to show photo identification in order to vote. In the past, state requirements had called for either photo ID, bank statements or government-issued documents. Voters who do not have a valid photo ID can either cast a provisional ballot or obtain a free voter ID upon request. Votes submitted using these provisional ballots are counted only after signatures are matched with voter registration records. RIACLU poll watchers positioned at various polling sites throughout the state on primary day noted cases in which poll workers mistakenly dismissed voters due to misunderstandings about the new policy, Davis said.
While a federal judge in Corpus Christi mulls whether the state’s requirement to show photo ID to cast a ballot violates the federal Voting Rights Act, a judge on the highest criminal appeals court in Texas is taking another approach: He’s suing the state over its relatively new voter ID law. Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers’ lawsuit, filed in Dallas County, claims the voting law enacted last year violates the Texas Constitution because it attempts to “prevent” voter fraud, something he says the state’s governing charter never intended. Meyers’ lawsuit states that “the Texas Constitution gives the Texas Legislature power solely to ‘detect and punish’ election fraud when it has already occurred.” In an interview on Wednesday, Meyers said the Constitution says nothing about preventing election fraud. “It’s legally unconstitutional and it’s an affront to every voter in the state of Texas,” Meyers said.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that a replacement House of Delegates candidate will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot in Kanawha County. The Justices ruled Wednesday that Marie Sprouse-McDavid should be on the ballot for the 35th House district after sitting Delegate Suzette Raines withdrew as a candidate this summer. The Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee and Sprouse-McDavid had filed a petition with the court last week to hear the case. Because of the impending election, the case was heard Tuesday and ruled upon quickly. In Wednesday’s decision, the Justices rule that the KCREC “has demonstrated sufficient grounds to warrant issuance of the requested writ of mandamus.”
Opponents of a strict new voter identification law set to go into effect for the first time in this year’s elections are asking the Supreme Court to block the law, arguing there isn’t enough time to properly implement the law before Election Day. Two voting rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project, which represents a number of other Democratic-leaning groups, filed a petition with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan seeking an emergency stay halting the new law’s implementation. The petition comes after an en banc panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday split evenly on whether to hear a challenge to the law. The 5-5 decision leaves an earlier three-judge panel’s ruling in favor of the law intact, reversing an order from a federal judge in Wisconsin this spring to strike it down as unconstitutional.
IT IS hard to make predictions, the old saying goes, especially about the future. When future involves Brazil’s presidential race, the first round of which takes place on October 5th, the task is harder still. That has not stopped number-crunchers trying. Neale El-Dash of PollingData.com.br, a website, has made a valiant attempt at “tropicalising” Nate Silver, a statistician and blogger who rose to stardom during the 2012 US election. Mr Silver took polls released each week, then aggregated and weighted them to come up with a prediction, framed in terms of probability of victory for the main contenders. Our chart shows how Brazilian hopefuls’ chances, calculated in a similar fashion by Mr El-Dash, have shaped up since the campaign was upended by the tragic death in a plane crash in mid-August of Eduardo Campos, a centrist candidate.
Weary Bulgarians will vote in a general election on Sunday for a fifth government in under two years, a vote that could produce another fragile coalition struggling to root out corruption and revive growth in the eastern European state. Led by a former bodyguard, the centre right GERB party is tipped to win but will probably fall short of a majority. It could turn to smaller parties and also reach out to its main Socialist opponents for support for legislation. But there is widespread disillusion with the political class and Bulgarians are fed up with voting for the same faces again and again without their lives improving. Tens of thousands took to the streets last year to voice their anger.
The confrontation in Hong Kong between pro-democracy demonstrators and the Beijing-backed authorities has implications reaching beyond the protesters camped on the streets of the city’s business district or the administration in the official buildings beholden to the central government in Beijing. It epitomises the wider challenge facing China as it seeks economic modernisation while retaining monopolistic Communist Party political rule. Nothing could be more modern in China than the former British colony with its advanced financial system, its freedoms and its full integration into the global economy. Nor could anything be more threatening to the rulers in Beijing than the spiralling call for open direct elections, spearheaded by student protesters defying the police. The clash between the authorities and those calling for uncontrolled democracy in their “umbrella revolution” has intensified this year, as a result of Beijing’s stronger assertion of its right to control developments in the former colony and the emergence of a new, younger pro-democracy movement, which has adopted a more radical approach than the campaigners for a liberal political system in the first decade after sovereignty passed from Britain to China in 1997. The offer of talks by the chief executive on Thursday night, a striking recognition of the power of street protest, would be impossible elsewhere in China.
As Latvia goes to the polls to electsa new parliament Saturday (04.10.2014), Russia’s Ukraine policy will likely have a strong impact on the result. The government in Riga is no longer ruling out an act of aggression from the Kremlin, which has repeatedly declared its intent to protect Russians abroad. Their share of the total population of the Baltic state is 26 percent, significantly higher than that in Ukraine, where they make up 17 percent. Latvia has a difficult relationship with Russia. In 1940 it was annexed by the former USSR. “The experience of 60 years of Soviet occupation is rooted deeply in historical memory,” says Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes, who heads the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Riga. The 100 seats in Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, will be fought for by 13 parties. Some represent Latvians only, others the Russian-speaking population, many of whom are so-called “non-citizens.” These are mostly Russians who, after Latvia became independent in 1991, were not offered passports. Nearly one in eight residents in the country is a “non-citizen.”
United Kingdom: Liberal Democrats call for more proportional parliamentary voting on English laws | The Guardian
A radical change to the voting system at Westminster, entailing parliamentary bills being passed in a more proportional way, should be introduced to resolve the row over English-only laws, the Liberal Democrats will say on Friday. In a Guardian article, the Lib Dem minister David Laws calls on the Tories to follow the example of the Labour party in setting aside “narrow partisan interest” to resolve the matter. The intervention by Laws comes as a fresh coalition row flared up after Nick Clegg accused Theresa May of making “false and outrageous” slurs against his party. She had claimed the Lib Dems were putting children’s lives at risk by blocking surveillance legislation, known by critics as the snooper’s charter.
Flaws found in the Brazilian electronic voting system could open up the possibility of fraud as more than 140 million people go to the polls in the general elections taking place on Sunday. E-voting was introduced in Brazil in 1996 as a means to ensure secrecy and accuracy of the election process, as well as speed: the system underpinned by about 530,000 voting machines currently in place enables results to be processed within a matter of minutes within closing of the ballots. However, a public test of the equipment conducted by security and encryption specialists from Unicamp and Universidade de Brasília, two of the top computer science universities in Brazil, suggests that it is possible to easily break the secrecy of the machine and unscramble the order of votes recorded by the device. “Brazilians unconditionally believe the [security of the] country’s electoral authority and processes. The issue is that common citizens actually have no other option because of the lack of independent checks,” says Unicamp professor and encryption specialist, Diego Aranha.