Internet voting, a technology often cited as a solution to the United States’ problematic voting machines, received failing security and accessibility grades in the latest in-depth audit conducted by the City of Toronto. Two of the three vendors audited by the city currently have contracts with over a dozen U.S. jurisdictions for similar technologies. The accessibility report, prepared by researchers at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University, and the security report, prepared by researchers at Concordia and Western universities, were obtained by Al Jazeera America through a Freedom of Information Act request. … The reports highlight the difficulty in creating a voting system that isn’t more susceptible to corruption than existing voting technology and that is easy enough to use for voters with a variety of personal computer setups, including those with disabilities who often use alternatives to traditional mice, keyboards and screens. … “It’s clear from the report for Toronto that the systems being considered don’t meet the minimum accessibility standards required,” said Barbara Simons, a board member of Verified Voting, and co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will your Vote Count?” who also obtained the reports through a Freedom of Information request.
Just weeks before elections that will decide control of the Senate and crucial governors’ races, a cascade of court rulings about voting rules, issued by judges with an increasingly partisan edge, are sowing confusion and changing voting procedures with the potential to affect outcomes in some states. Last week, a day before voting was scheduled to begin in Ohio, the United States Supreme Court split 5 to 4 to uphold a cut in early voting in the state by one week; the five Republican appointees voted in favor and the four Democratic appointees against. Cases from North Carolina and Wisconsin are also before the court, with decisions expected shortly, while others are proceeding in Texas and Arkansas. The legal fights are over laws that Republican-led state governments passed in recent years to more tightly regulate voting, in the name of preventing fraud. Critics argue that the restrictions are really efforts to discourage African-Americans, students and low-income voters, who tend to favor Democrats.
Ongoing legal battles over voting rights are threatening to complicate elections in some close races with national implications this November. North Carolina and Arkansas are both home to contests that will help decide which party controls the Senate next year. They also have impending legal challenges to changes in voter laws. The same goes for Wisconsin, which is home to one of the country’s most closely watched governor’s races, and Texas. Civil rights groups argue that new Republican-supported voter ID laws passed in some states are meant to keep minorities, who largely support Democrats, from the polls. And voter advocacy groups say the litany of lawsuits that have resulted from the regulations will lead to confusion for both poll workers and voters.
Last week, before they convened again at oral argument to mark the start of another term, the justices of the United States Supreme Court selected for review a case that will help further define the murky relationship between state judges and those who seek to shape justice before them. In Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, the Court will decide whether a state judicial canon that requires judicial candidates to seek campaign contributions through a committee, rather than directly from donors, violates that candidate’s first amendment free-speech rights. The case is interesting in its own right. The electioneering judgment employed by this particular judicial candidate was so disconcerting it’s probably a good thing for the law (not to mention the litigants of Florida) that ultimately she lost the election for which she was campaigning. But the timing of the case is interesting, too. It comes to the Court in a season of unprecedented spending on (mid-term) judicial campaigns all across the country—money unleashed upon campaigns, including judicial elections, because of the Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.
Translators are scrambling this week to meet a Friday deadline ordered by a federal judge to provide outreach and poll workers with election materials and voting information that have been translated into Yup’ik or Gwich’in. Gwich’in translators Allan Hayton and Marilyn Savage in Fairbanks are finding the work challenging, KUAC reported. “Some of it is very technical language, legal jargon,” Hayton said. But Hayton and Savage are up to the task, having translated other materials, including Shakespeare, according to Hayton. “Marilyn and I worked last year translating King Lear into Gwich’in, so we’re used to difficult challenges but we’re happy to do this.”
Election Day less than a month away and changes await Colorado voters. This November marks the first time a general election in the Centennial State will be all vote-by-mail. “All I know is I get something in the mail and I fill it out and send back in,” Colorado Springs voter Amanda Martinez said. “This is my first year voting.” “Before you used to have to opt in to get a mail ballot,” Ryan Parsell with the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office said. “Well, now everybody is opted in. As long as your registration is current, you should get a mail ballot around the middle of October.”
Just one week away from the start of early voting, at least 42,000 residents who registered to vote still haven’t been given that right. Some applied as far back as April. “The Secretary of State is supposed to represent all the people — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, registered and unregistered voters alike,” Congressman John Lewis said Monday, during a press conference hosted by the New Georgia Project in Atlanta. “But it seems like the Secretary of State of Georgia has picked sides in this election. It seems he is not on the side of the people of this state.” Stacey Abrams, the Democratic party leader in the state House of Representatives, leads the New Georgia Project, an initiative that aims to register minority groups to vote. The initiative was successful in registering 86,000 new voters — but Abrams said the group can’t understand why half those new voters haven’t shown up on Georgia’s official list of registered voters, yet.
Last week, numerous news outlets, national and local, reported on a huge increase in registered voters in Ferguson, Mo., following the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown. But it apparently didn’t actually happen. The St. Louis County elections board reported that 3,287 Ferguson residents had registered to vote. That is a huge surge for a city of 21,000, particularly as controversy swelled about the racial make-up of the city government after the shooting. Ferguson is two-thirds African-American, but its mayor and all but one member of the six-person city council are white. But apparently that first report was in error. There was no voter registration spike. The county elections board reversed course on Tuesday and said that, actually, only 128 people had registered to vote since the shooting. Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today reported on the gigantic revision, attributed to an unexplained “discrepancy.”
North Carolina is moving ahead with plans to comply with an appeals court ruling that restores same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct ballots for the fall election, a state attorney told a federal judge Tuesday. But members of civil rights groups that sued to restore the activities told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder the State Board of Elections has to do a better job of letting voters know they will be happening. The board’s website contains inaccurate information, including that “voters who appear at the wrong precinct won’t have their votes counted,” said Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She said that will cause “confusion among voters.” “These are things that can be easily changed and should be changed by this afternoon,” she said.
Early voting began Tuesday morning in Ohio after the U.S. Supreme Court stepped into a dispute over the schedule, pushing the start date back a week in the swing state. Voters will pick the next governor along with other statewide officeholders on Nov. 4. Residents also will decide a number of legislative races and the outcome of more than 1,600 local issues. Ohioans can cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person. The start of early voting had shifted amid a lawsuit over two election-related measures.
South Carolina: Richland County Elections Board chairwoman: ‘I am not confident’ in voting machine security | ColaDaily.com
The first meeting of the new Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Board on Tuesday included confusion over rules and a dispute over the security of the county’s voting machines. The meeting opened with state Sen. John Scott swearing in the board’s four new members, appointed by legislators after a recent shake-up. The board then elected new member Marjorie Johnson as chairwoman in a 4-0 vote with the other nominee, Pete Kennedy, abstaining. The board’s lone veteran, Adell Adams, was elected vice chairwoman in a 3-2 vote after a motion by Jane Dreher Emerson to postpone that vote was defeated. Johnson initially abstained in the vote for a vice chairperson, and confusion ensued over whether the chairwoman should always vote or if she should vote only when needed to break a tie. Adams said the chairwoman always voted and was not allowed to abstain. When Johnson questioned this, Adams said, “We have five votes. We always vote.” Johnson then voted for Adams as vice chairwoman, breaking the tie. The board did not consult any rules or bylaws concerning the powers of the chairwoman.
A federal-court panel on Tuesday struck down Virginia’s congressional map, ruling the state’s last redistricting effort relied too heavily on race in drawing boundaries. The 2-1 ruling, from a Virginia federal court, sided with challengers who said the Virginia election map packed black voters too heavily into one district, reducing their influence in other state districts. The federal judges, sitting as a special election review panel, didn’t require the state to change its map for the midterm elections, which are just weeks away. Instead, the judges said Virginia lawmakers should act “within the next legislative session” to draw new electoral districts. At issue was Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which includes parts of Richmond. The black voting-age population after the redistricting makes up about 56% of the district, according to the court’s opinion. The court described the district as an oddly shaped composition of a “disparate chain” of predominantly black communities.
Whether to allow Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law for this fall’s election is up to the Supreme Court – a decision that could come any day. But on Monday, an appeals court gave the law’s backers a big lift. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit issued a ruling upholding the law. It was the same panel of all-Republican appointees that last month removed a district court judge’s injunction on the law, leading voting rights groups to ask the Supreme Court to intervene. The 23-page ruling, written by Judge Frank Easterbrook, finds that the law is constitutional and does not violate the Voting Rights Act’s (VRA) ban on racial discrimination. The opinion is striking for its blithe tone in upholding a law that could disenfranchise many thousands. One prominent election law scholar called it “horrendous.” Still, the ruling could give the Supreme Court an additional reason to keep the ID measure in place. Courts tend to be less willing to overturn a full ruling on the merits than a more quickly issued order, which is all that the appeals panel had previously offered. And since Wisconsin has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to make its case to the Supreme Court, the ruling could also give state lawyers some helpful tips for making its case.
“President Dilma Rousseff emerged on Sunday as the front-runner in one of the most tightly contested presidential elections since democracy was re-established in Brazil in the 1980s,” reports Simon Romero for The New York Times. However, “she failed to win a majority of the vote, opening the way for a runoff with Aécio Neves, the pro-business scion of a powerful political family.” What’s so special about this election? Well, whoever wins will be running what was, until recently, “Latin America’s colossus,” according to David Biller of Bloomberg View. “Brazil’s economic growth has slowed to its weakest three-year pace in a decade, advancing just 2.1 percent on average from 2011 through 2013,” he explains. “In the first half of 2014, it entered technical recession. The currency has fallen 33 percent since President Dilma Rousseff rose to power in 2011. Business confidence in July reached the lowest level in more than a decade. Sovereign debt was downgraded on March 24 for the first time in that period.”
Bulgarians appear to have taken to preferential voting with a passion, with more than third who voted in the country’s October 5 elections using their right to re-arrange the order of candidates of the party of their choice. Going by provisional figures released by the Central Election Commission, about 34 per cent of those who voted exercised preferential voting – more than 1.1 million people. Preferential voting was brought into Bulgarian law by the rewritten Election Act that was approved in March 2014. Voters’ first chance to use it was in Bulgaria’s May 2014 European Parliament elections, with the most celebrated case involving the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In the May vote, then-party leader Sergei Stanishev was shoved down the list to be replaced by the candidate who was 15th on the list. Momchil Nekov, hitherto obscure, became the toast of those amused by the BSP’s misfortunes.
The Harper government is refusing to disclose how much it will cost taxpayers to separate the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada — a move Conservatives insisted upon even though electoral experts said it was unnecessary. The government says all briefing materials on the cost and logistics of transferring the election commissioner’s operations to the director of public prosecutions are cabinet confidences. As such, they can’t be released in response to an access-to-information request. Moving the election commissioner under the auspices of the public prosecutor was a key measure in a controversial overhaul of election laws pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives last spring despite near-universal condemnation by electoral experts at home and abroad. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre insisted the move was necessary to ensure the commissioner’s independence from the chief electoral officer, who Conservatives contend is biased against their party.
It won’t help decide the heated race in the upcoming Toronto election — but it could in 2018. The Ontario Liberals are making good on a campaign promise to give municipalities some new tools to supposedly enhance local democracy. A spokesperson for Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin confirms that the Kathleen Wynne government will amend current legislation to give city governments the option of ranked ballots in future elections. “As the Premier indicated in our ministry’s mandate letter, in the course of reviewing the Municipal Elections Act, we will provide municipalities with the option of using ranked ballots in future elections as an alternative to the first-past-the-post system, starting in 2018,” Mark Cripps told Yahoo Canada News. “This work will get underway following the elections on October 27.”
As Haiti prepared Tuesday to bury a former dictator who had little use for elections, it seemed all but certain that a long-delayed legislative vote due later this month will again be postponed. And, on the week that former strongman Jean-Claude Duvalier’s death revived memories of Haiti under dictatorship, observers warned this could leave the country’s current leader free to rule the impoverished Caribbean nation by decree. Four years after a sudden massive earthquake devastated the Haitian capital, the streets of Port-au-Prince are again bustling with working people struggling to get by, but there is no sign of any political campaign.
Mass protests against Chinese rule in Hong Kong are shaping election campaigns in Taiwan. Taiwan is self-ruled, but many citizens fear China will govern it someday as it pushes for unification. That has pressured Taiwan’s ruling party and the more anti-China opposition party to make strong statements in favor of Hong Kong’s protesters. As far as relations with China (PRC) are concerned, Taiwan’s local elections in November are pivotal. Wins for the ruling Nationalist Party would help it keep the presidency in 2016 and would signal four more years of engagement with China, which claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island and wants to take it back eventually. Conversely, victories next month and in 2016 for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party could chill ties with China.