Online elections could be a reality in the United States if the security world can figure out how to ensure both voter anonymity and vote verifiability — two essential but “largely incompatible” goals, according to a new report from the Atlantic Council and Intel Security. The report, “Online Voting: Rewards and Risks,” discusses what challenges must be solved if online voting is ever to take off in the US. “It’s not a matter of if, but of when,” says Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist for Intel Security. “I’ll go out on a limb and say within 10 years” the US will allow online voting for national elections. Why so confident? Davis points at the progress made in banking. Trust between customer and bank is essential to financial transactions, just like trust between citizen and government when casting ballots. Breaches notwithstanding, cryptography, identity management, and other security measures have made secure online banking a reality. Couldn’t the same technology be applied to online voting? Yes, but there is a key difference between banking and voting: anonymity.
National: Report: Voter ID laws reduce turnout more among African American and younger voters | The Washington Post
Laws requiring voters to show identification when they cast a ballot impact have a greater impact on African Americans and younger voters than on other racial and age groups, according to a new analysis. The report, issued Wednesday by the General Accounting Office [pdf], found that fewer African Americans have the types of identification — like a driver’s license or state-issued identification card — required to obtain a ballot than whites. As a consequence, turnout among African American voters fell by a larger percent than turnout among white voters in two states that implemented identification requirements between 2008 and 2012. Black turnout dropped by 3.7 percentage points more than white turnout in Kansas, and by 1.5 percentage points more than whites in Tennessee after voter ID laws passed. Among 18 year olds, turnout dropped by 7.1 percentage points more in Kansas than it did among those aged 44 to 53 year-olds in Kansas. Turnout in Tennessee fell by 1.2 percentage points more among those aged 19 to 23 than among the older set.
November will mark the first general election in which Arizonans use a dual track voting system. The new method prevents Arizona from imposing citizenship requirements on voters using the federal form. But it does allow the state to mandate proof of citizenship for local elections. It comes from a voter approved initiative to crack down on fraudulent voting. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, the new system is proving difficult for some first time voters. Jason Kordosky is the campus vote organizer for the Arizona Students Association, today he’s at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff registering first time voters. “I think this is one of the most important elections so all these sort of state elections will have a huge impact on our educational system”, Kordosky said.
In a state that that takes pride in being on the technological cutting edge, most California voters will mark paper ballots with ink by Nov. 4, whether they vote at their polling place or by mail. The state’s reliance on paper would have seemed unlikely 15 years ago. California’s then-Secretary of State Bill Jones floated a radical idea in 1999: let people vote online. He convened task force to look into the possibility. “Here we are in the dot com boom,” said David Jefferson, a computer scientist who chaired the task force’s Technology Committee. “It’s an exciting thing. Of course we would all like to vote online. Let’s just figure out how to deliver it to the people of California.” Jefferson now works on one of the world’s fastest computers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He recalls when the online voting project started to fall apart. “In the course of that study, which took place over several months, doubts began to creep in,” he said. “And then we began to find more and more flaws.”
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a brief, unsigned order reinstating provisions of a North Carolina voting law that bar same-day registration and counting votes cast in the wrong precinct. A federal appeals court had blocked the provisions, saying they disproportionately harmed black voters. In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said she would have sustained the appeals court’s determination that the two provisions “risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise.” The case arose from a law enacted by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Legislature in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court decision that effectively eliminated a central provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, its Section 5.
Online voting has the potential to boost election participation around the world, but is not yet ready to be widely rolled out due to security risks, a study released Wednesday said. The research, produced by the Atlantic Council think tank and the online protection firm McAfee, concluded that “security will need to be vastly improved” before it becomes feasible to adopt Internet voting on a large scale. According to the study, online voting faces more complex obstacles than electronic commerce, where a customer can be reimbursed in the case of fraud or theft. “Online voting poses a much tougher problem” than e-commerce, the report said. “Lost votes are unacceptable… and unlike paper ballots, electronic votes cannot be ‘rolled back’ or easily recounted.”
A federal judge on Thursday struck down a Texas law requiring voters to show identification at polls, saying it placed an unconstitutional burden on voters and discriminated against minorities. In a ruling that follows a two-week trial in Corpus Christi of a lawsuit challenging the law, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos also found that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. “The court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Ramos wrote in a 147-page ruling.
A federal court has ruled Virginia’s congressional map violated the 14th Amendment and instructed the legislature to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries by April 1, 2015. On Tuesday, three federal judges sided with the plaintiffs, who argued the Republican-led legislature drew Virginia’s 3rd District to pack blacks into the district, thus diminishing their influence in neighboring districts and violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The current map will still be in effect for the 2014 elections. The court instructed the legislature to redraw the entire congressional map by April, and there will likely be more legal action before then. “This is going to get appealed to the Supreme Court,” a redistricting expert involved with the case told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. The expert pointed out the issues in the Virginia case are similar to a redistricting case in Alabama, which the Supreme Court agreed to consider.
The Supreme Court on Thursday evening stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election. Three of the court’s more conservative members dissented, saying they would have allowed officials to require identification. Around the same time, a federal trial court in Texas struck down that state’s ID law, saying it put a disproportionate burden on minority voters. The Wisconsin requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, is part of a state law enacted in 2011 but mostly blocked by various courts in the interim. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting” and would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters. The law was provisionally reinstated last month by a unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago hours after it heard arguments. The full court was deadlocked, five to five, on a request for a new hearing. “It is simply impossible, as a matter of common sense and of logistics, that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters will both learn about the need for photo identification and obtain the requisite identification in the next 36 days,” the appeals court judges opposed to the requirement wrote.
Voter identification laws suffered setbacks in two states on Thursday, with the U.S. Supreme Court blocking Wisconsin from imposing its voter-identification measure during the midterm elections and a federal judge in Texas striking down that state’s ID law. The Supreme Court’s action in Wisconsin marked its third recent intervention in a high-profile election case, and the first before the high court in which advocates for minority voters prevailed. The justices in the two other cases allowed Ohio to cut back on early voting and cleared North Carolina to impose new, tighter voting rules. The high court in each case effectively put the brakes on lower court rulings that would have prompted late changes in election procedures in the run-up to the Nov. 4 election.
The fail-safe for many voters who run into problems at the polls — such as a lack of ID or an outdated address — is called provisional voting. The person votes, and his or her ballot only counts after the problem is resolved. But many of these ballots never do count, raising questions about how good a fail-safe they really are. In Virginia, for example, some residents have been preparing to meet a new state requirement that all voters show a photo ID at the polls. Bernest Sellars, 87, is one of several elderly voters who lined up recently to get a new ID at a senior center in Arlington. After checking that he’s registered to vote, county election workers ask Sellars to look into a tiny camera attached to a laptop computer. His new photo immediately pops up on the screen. For the most part, this process is pretty easy. Still, it’s estimated that 200,000 voters in the state might not have the right ID. If they show up at the polls, they’ll likely be asked to use a provisional ballot.
National: Google integrates location-aware voter ID requirements into its search results | The Washington Post
As debate rolls on over the impact of voter identification laws on elections in the United States, a new wrinkle has quietly been introduced: a little search engine you might have heard of called Google. Starting Thursday, users across the United States who use Google to search for information on whether they might need a driver’s license or other form of ID to cast a ballot at their local polling place will be presented with the nitty-gritty details of the oft-complicated voting identification requirements and laws — specified down to whatever spot in the country from which he or she happens to be searching.
National: Federal Election Commission allows parties to form new committees to fund political conventions | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Over objections from watchdog groups, the Federal Election Commission on Thursday agreed to allow the nation’s political parties to form new committees that will raise money to finance their political conventions after Congress eliminated federal funds for the quadrennial events. The decision sought by the Republican and Democratic National Committees means each group can launch a fourth fundraising committee to collect money for convention expenses, in addition to the three committees they already operate to raise money for House races, Senate races, and general party expenses. Political donors will now be able to contribute an extra $32,400 for convention expenses on top of the other political contributions they’re allowed to make during an election cycle.
Editorials: In America, voters don’t pick their politicians. Politicians pick their voters | Wayne Dawkins | The Guardian
One out of every five Virginians in the birthplace of English America are black – disproportionally more than the one out eight people nationwide who are African American. It is therefore ludicrous that, since 2010, even more black people per capita were packed into US Representative Robert C “Bobby” Scott’s already predominantly black district. That district, three federal judges declared on Tuesday, was gerrymandered, and they ordered the Virginia General Assembly to redraw the boundaries in 2015. But elected officials have forfeited their chances to do that job competently. It does not matter whether Republicans or Democrats hold the power; both sides have been guilty over decades of abusing voters by gerrymandering districts. In the 21st century, voters don’t pick their elected officials; politicians pick their voters. This time, a nonpartisan commission should draw the congressional boundaries.
The Baxter County Election Committee held an emergency meeting Thursday morning to discuss an error discovered after testing voting machines earlier this week. In its findings, the commission found paper ballots to be correct. However, after testing, touch screen voting machines for three precincts, 8-1, 6-2 and 6-3, left the state representative race for District 100 between Democrat Willa Mae Tilley and Republican Nelda Speaks off the ballot. The three precincts in question represent a total of 1,705 registered voters. … By state law, the election commission had to hold a public meeting concerning the ballot error, but was unable to give public notice due to time constraints, as cited by the commission. According to the law, the election commission either has to correct the error immediately or show why the correction should not be done.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Wednesday that means voters in North Carolina will not be able to vote out of their precincts on Nov. 4 nor register to vote and cast ballots on the same day. The ruling blocked a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Oct. 1 that reinstated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting for the coming election. The justices offered no insight into their 7-2 ruling to uphold a district court ruling to let the November election proceed under the 2013 rewrite of the state’s elections laws. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented and issued an opinion outlining their reasons. They said they had no reason to disagree with the 4th Circuit’s reasoning that elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would limit opportunities for black voters to cast ballots. Ginsburg said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had “worked to safeguard long-obstructed access to the ballot by African-Americans” by blocking such election-law changes in the South. But the court voided that “pre-clearance rule” last year in a 5-4 decision. North Carolina voting laws were changed weeks after the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act.
Texas can’t enforce what would be the strictest voter photo-identification law in the U.S. after a judge ruled its purported goal of preventing voter fraud doesn’t outweigh the discriminatory effect on poor blacks and Latinos. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, a 2011 appointee of Democratic President Barack Obama, threw out the measure, agreeing with the Justice Department and minority-rights activists that evidence of in-person fraud was negligible and that the law was imposed with an “unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The draconian voting requirements imposed by SB 14 will disproportionately impact low-income Texans because they are less likely to own or need one of the seven qualified IDs to navigate their lives,” Ramos wrote in yesterday’s ruling.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law late Thursday, issuing a terse yet dramatic one-page ruling less than four weeks before the Nov. 4 election. The 6-3 vote means in all likelihood the requirement to show ID at the polls will not be in effect for the election. But Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he would seek ways to reinstate the law within the month. Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans approved the law in 2011, but it was quickly blocked by a series of court decisions in four lawsuits. It was reinstated by a federal appeals court in recent weeks, but Thursday’s ruling again put the law on hold. “That is great news, wonderful news,” Milwaukee NAACP chapter President James Hall said. “I think it’s gratifying that the court has seen fit to block the implementation of this law that would most certainly create chaos and confusion in this election.”
The former front-runner in Brazil’s presidential campaign shook up the race again Thursday when she unexpectedly withheld an endorsement for center-right candidate Aecio Neves, who is challenging incumbent Dilma Rousseff. Marina Silva had turned the race on its head this summer when she stepped in to take the place of the Socialist Party candidate, who was killed in a plane crash. After a brief reign as front-runner, she was reduced to the role of spoiler when she finished third in the election’s first round, on Sunday. But on Thursday, she appeared to step back from even that position when she canceled plans to announce an endorsement, which had been expected to be for Neves. She said she needed more commitments from the candidate, who will take on Rousseff in an Oct. 16 runoff.
Canada: Conservatives denying some Canadians the vote, group says in legal challenge | The Globe and Mail
The federal government’s recent overhaul of Canadian election laws is facing a Charter challenge, one alleging the changes will deny some Canadians the right to vote. The groups behind the case argue that the Fair Elections Act, an amended version of which became law in June after the bill received widespread criticism, will suppress the vote of certain Canadians and make it difficult for some to obtain a ballot on election day. A legal challenge was filed Thursday in the Ontario Superior Court by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students and three individual electors. They are challenging the law under section three of the Charter and Rights of Freedoms, which guarantees citizens the right to vote, and section 15, which says every individual is equal before and under the law. “We believe [the bill] will disproportionately impact disadvantaged groups,” lawyer Steven Shrybman, who will argue the case, told a news conference Thursday.
The President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acting pursuant to powers vested in her by both the Constitution of Liberia and the Declaration of the State of Emergency, has in a Proclamation issued on October 4, 2014, suspended the holding of the October 14, 2014 Senatorial Elections. A Foreign Ministry release says the President has also suspended all voting rights associated and connected with the Senatorial Elections.