Voting machines are so 20th century. Shouldn’t we able to vote on our smart phones by now? Here’s where a cornerstone of American democracy runs smack dab into the limits of computer science, say experts. Internet voting is “completely not ready for prime time. The security and reliability issues are significant,” says Marc Rotenberg, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit in Washington D.C. Despite that, about 3 million Americans will be eligible to vote online this election, according to Verified Voting, a non-profit that promotes election accuracy, transparency and verifiability. Most are members of the armed services who are deployed overseas. According to Dan Wallach, an expert on electronic voting system and professor of computer science at Rice University, no Internet voting systems are secure. “It turns out to be really hard to build a network system that’s hard to break into.” JPMorgan, Target and Home Depot have learned that lesson, and they have far more money and expertise available to them than local election officials, Wallach says.
Elections are just around the corner, and yes, there is an app for that. But it won’t vote for you. In a buzzing and ringing world, technology has become an integral part of society, where almost anything can be done with the press of a fingertip. But when voting is involved, things get a little tricky. With more than a million apps in the Google Play store and 900,000 apps in the Apple Store, users can download a variety of voting and polling apps. Several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, have released voting apps that are free or can be purchased in the Apple and Android store for smartphones. New Hampshire is developing its own app for the midterm elections. Voters can’t cast ballots with these apps, but they can use them to find polling locations, ask for absentee ballots, look at sample ballots and more.
Candidates from Alaska to Iowa are preparing legal teams in case tight election battles go into overtime, potentially prolonging the battle for Senate control indefinitely. New voting laws in some states, razor-thin margins in others and high stakes nationwide have increased the likelihood of recounts and challenges that could drag on for weeks or even months. It’s a prospect that has both parties preparing for any contingency, mobilizing an army of staff and volunteers in their dozen top battleground states to watch for legal violations on Election Day and be prepared to fight legal battles afterwards. With six of the GOP’s top-targeted races down to margins of less than a point, both parties say any state is ripe for a post-election legal battle. Marc Elias, national Democrats’ go-to election lawyer, said he’s gearing up for issues everywhere. “I am prepared for any of the competitive states. I don’t have the luxury of knowing whether it’s gonna be a good night for the Democrats and therefore Kentucky and Georgia are close or a bad night and the close races are in Colorado and Iowa,” he said.
During this 2014 midterm election season, mainstream and social media have inundated voters with tales of schemes and skulduggery. Whatever the result of Tuesday’s election, many will believe that the process was rigged, the outcome is fraudulent, and they were cheated. The pattern of conspiracy theories is unfortunate but familiar. How pervasive is the belief that American elections will be swayed by improper means? Very. In 2012 we conducted surveys to gauge what Americans thought about the integrity of the system. Just before the election, we asked a national sample of respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. About 50% said fraud would have been very or somewhat likely. When asked if someone was using “dirty tricks” in the election, about 85% believed that some candidate, campaign or political group was. These sentiments are not driven by members of one party or the other: Near equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats (between 40% and 50%) said fraud would be very or somewhat likely. Each side believes that if they lose, cheating is to blame, and they believe it about equally. Nobody likes losing, but it appears hard for about half the country to accept that they lost fair and square.
By Tuesday night about 90 million Americans will have cast ballots in an election that’s almost certain to create greater partisan divisions, increase gridlock and render governance of our complex nation even more difficult. Ninety million sounds like a lot, but that means that less than 40 percent of the electorate will bother to vote, even though candidates, advocacy groups and shadowy “super PACs” will have spent more than $1 billion to air more than two million ads to influence the election. There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely. There are few offices, at any level of government, with two-year terms. Here in Durham, we elect members of the school board and the county sheriff to terms that are double that length. Moreover, Twitter, ubiquitous video cameras, 24-hour cable news and a host of other technologies provide a level of hyper-accountability the framers could not possibly have imagined. In the modern age, we do not need an election every two years to communicate voters’ desires to their elected officials. But the two-year cycle isn’t just unnecessary; it’s harmful to American politics.
Alongside the andouille gumbo, the crab-and-shrimp bisque and a succulent smoked pork shoulder, there was an endangered species featured at this town’s recent Taste of the South picnic. Her name is Susan Smith, and she is a white Democrat seeking election to the Alabama Senate. Such creatures used to rule the state, but only four remain among Alabama’s 35 senators. Two of them decided not to compete in Tuesday’s election after the Republican super-majority in the legislature redrew boundaries to make their districts more hospitable to GOP candidates. It’s a familiar story in the increasingly Republican South. But the Supreme Court has decided to step into this one and will hear arguments in the matter next week. The justices are being asked to find that, as has happened many times in Alabama’s history, race played an improper role in how the state was reapportioned. But the essence of the allegation is not that Republicans made it too hard for African American candidates to be elected. It’s that they made it too easy.
This campaign season, Colorado’s new mail-ballot voter law has drawn the national sideshow attention of cable news and opinion, AM radio and even a sting by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe — all focused on the notion that Tuesday’s outcome could be tainted. But perception hasn’t been reality, according to election officials on both sides of the deep political divide who report only a routine percentage of challenged signatures, undeliverable ballots and reports of alleged shenanigans. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said the lack of actual trouble is largely because voting by mail is nothing new. It’s been an option for Colorado voters since 1992. And in the 2012 general election, 73 percent of Coloradans cast mail ballots. “What’s different is we have a party that’s made allegations of fraud part of its platform,” Reiner, a Republican who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said of some members of her party.
A get-out-the-vote drive that encouraged minority voters to cast their ballots Sunday saw record-breaking turnout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties —three of the largest and heavily Democratic counties in the state. Statewide vote totals for the two-weeks of early voting — won’t be known until number-crunchers for both parties finish analyzing data to determine whether “Souls to the Polls” brought in enough ballots to close the GOP’s 125,000 vote advantage. In Palm Beach County, Sunday’s turnout was 11,069, compared to Oct. 31 — the second-highest turnout — when 9,060 ballots were cast.
Editorials: Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights broken | Mark Schneider/Palm Beach Post
The Palm Beach Post has done well to inform local residents that one in 10 of their fellow Floridians is barred from the voting booth by a felony conviction. What remains less known is how broken the system for restoring voting rights has become. In Florida, both serious crimes and less serious ones, like altering a lottery card or molesting a stone crab trap, take away your voting rights for life. We are one of a very few states with this provision in our constitution, and we’re the state with by far the greatest number of felons disfranchised — 1.5 million. Our constitution does provide a way to get your voting rights back — executive clemency — but this system is overburdened. As a result of policy changes put in place in 2011, felons now have to wait five to seven years before they can apply to have their rights restored, and that’s after they have completed their sentence, their terms of supervision and any restitution requirements. When they do apply, however, many are going to have to wait a very, very long time.
Kansas: More than 21,000 voter registrations in suspense because of proof of citizenship | The Wichita Eagle
De Anna Allen has served on a jury. She has served her country. So she was surprised when she couldn’t vote. Allen went to cast a ballot in the primary election in August and poll workers couldn’t find her name among the list of registered voters. She did cast a ballot, but it was provisional and did not count. Allen was among 27,131 people statewide who had signed up to vote but whose registrations were considered in suspense, or limbo, as of Oct. 14, the last day to register before the midterm election. Most of them – 23,026, including Allen – had not yet provided proof of citizenship. By Friday, the state had whittled that number to 21,473. The numbers of Kansans with incomplete registration because of citizenship are highest among the young and unaffiliated, an Eagle analysis found. Statewide, 12,327 people who identified as unaffiliated had their registrations suspended because of lack of proof of citizenship, compared with 4,787 who identified as Republicans, 3,948 who identified as Democrats and 361 who identified as Libertarians. Not all who applied identified a party, records requested by The Wichita Eagle from the state show. The number of men and women with suspended registrations was split pretty evenly. “It just caught me off guard that I was not registered,” Allen said. “I served for a week on a jury trial, which basically told me I was a registered voter. I’m a disabled veteran, so it’s particularly frustrating. Why should I have to prove my citizenship when I served in the military?”
Every document Casper Pryor could think of that bore his name was folded in the back pocket of his jeans. But sitting on a curb Thursday, a can of Sprite in hand, Pryor wasn’t sure whether those papers and the hour-long bus ride he had taken to get to Holman Street would result in a crucial new piece of ID. An ID that would allow the 33-year-old Houston native to vote. Election identification certificates were designed for the 600,000 to 750,000 voters who lack any of the six officially recognized forms of photo ID needed at the polls, according to estimates developed by the Texas secretary of state and the U.S. Department of Justice. Legislators created the EICs, which are free, in part to quell criticism that enforcing the state’s much-litigated ID law amounted to a poll tax that could disenfranchise low-income and minority voters. But as of Thursday, only 371 EICs had been issued across Texas since June 2013. By comparison, Georgia issued 2,182 free voter ID cards during its first year enforcing a voter ID law in 2006, and Mississippi has issued 2,539 in the 10 months its new law has been in place. Both states accept more forms of photo identification at polls than Texas does, so fewer voters there would need to apply for election-specific IDs. In Texas, some would-be voters are hitting roadblocks.
Romania’s presidential election is set to enter a run-off after exit polls suggested no candidate had won an overall majority. Initial polling data indicated that current PM Victor Ponta has topped the poll with 38-40% of the vote. His main challenger, Klaus Iohannis, is said to be trailing him on about 32%. Romanians are voting to decide who will replace President Traian Basescu, who is stepping down after serving his two-term limit. The election in the ex-communist nation has occasionally been marred by bitter recriminations. Mr Ponta, a social democrat, often feuded with centre-right President Basescu, who he served under for two years while premier.
Campaigning opened Saturday for a presidential election in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, with secularist Beji Caid Essebsi seen as the front-runner after his party won milestone parliamentary polls. Essebsi, 87, leads a field of 27 candidates in the November 23 vote, after Nidaa Tounes came out on top in last Sunday’s legislative election, beating the previously dominant moderate Islamist movement Ennahda. Tunisians hope both elections will provide much-sought stability nearly four years after the revolution that drove longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011. Presidential candidates include the incumbent, Moncef Marzouki, woman magistrate Kalthoum Kannou and also former Ben Ali ministers. If no candidate secures an absolute majority on November 23, a second round of voting will take place in late December. It will be the first time Tunisians have voted freely for their head of state.
Residents of separatist-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine voted Sunday to elect legislators and executives in polls that have been staunchly denounced by the international community. Voting in the main rebel city of Donetsk proceeded in the presence of gunmen inside three polling stations visited by the AP. Alexander Zakharchenko, whose election as head of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic is a foregone conclusion, said Sunday that he hoped the vote would bring peace to a region where 4,000 people have been killed in fighting. Roman Lyagin, chief of the rebel election commission, said late on Sunday that Zakharchenko was leading the race with more than 70 percent of the vote after about half of the ballots were counted.
Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine hold controversial leadership elections on Sunday which Kiev and the west have refused to recognise and which threaten to deepen the international crisis over the conflict. Fighting raged across the region on the eve of the vote, with seven Ukrainian fighters killed and intensive shelling at the ruins of Donetsk airport, a key battleground between the rebels and government forces. The elections in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, which are based around the two main rebel-held cities, are designed to bring a degree of legitimacy to the makeshift military regimes that already control them. Both are choosing new presidents and parliaments, but there is little question that the current unelected rebel leaders – Aleksandr Zakharchenko in Donetsk and Igor Plotnitsky in Lugansk – will be confirmed in their posts.
Ukrainians are still scared, terrorized by the war; for that reason alone, the vote should not be considered valid. Just last week, the self-proclaimed leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics used this excuse to discredit Ukraine’s internationally accepted parliamentary elections. And yet, these hypocritical separatists have just held their own election – right in the middle of a war zone, Kalashnikovs at the ready and with backing from Moscow. These were pseudo-elections, with the winners already fixed well in advance. Pro-Ukrainian parties and candidates were not allowed to take part in the so-called presidential and parliamentary elections. In Donetsk, even pro-Russian communists were barred from the electoral list, despite the city being one of its strongholds. In the Donetsk region, only two parties took part: Donetsk Republic and Free Donbass. Both groups have only one goal in mind: secession from Ukraine. And now they have secured, along with separatist groups in Luhansk, their uncompromising course.