National: Security risks and privacy issues are too great for moving the ballot box to the Internet |

Contrary to popular belief, the fundamental security risks and privacy problems of Internet voting are too great to allow it to be used for public elections, and those problems will not be resolved any time soon, according to David Jefferson, who has studied the issue for more than 15 years. Jefferson, a computer scientist in the Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Applied Scientific Computing, discussed his findings in a recent Computation Seminar Series presentation, entitled “Intractable Security Risks of Internet Voting.” His study of Internet voting issues is independent of his Lawrence Livermore research work. Nonetheless, he reminded the audience that “election security is a part of national security,” noting that this is a primary reason he is so passionate about this issue. “I am both a technical expert on this subject and an activist,” Jefferson emphasized in his introductory remarks. “Election security is an aspect of national security and must be treated as such.” The view held by many election officials, legislators and members of the public is that if people can shop and bank online in relative security, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to vote on the Internet, Jefferson said. “Advocates argue (falsely) that Internet voting will increase turnout, reduce costs and improve speed and accuracy.” They promote the idea that “you can vote anytime, anywhere, even in your pajamas.”

National: Voting technology: Is it secure yet? | GCN

With the presidential election coming up in 2016, many constituencies are looking to how they can use technology to streamline the voting process. Security of the voting system – both with and without technology – remains a question. One method gaining support is to secure the voting process by moving to open source software. The TrustTheVote Project wants open source technology used from the top down, in voter registration, voter information services, ballot design, the foundations of ballot tabulation, election results reporting and analysis and elements of auditing. The initiative is the flagship project of the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET), which wants to have a demonstrable impact on the 2016 elections. “Our nation’s elections systems and technology are woefully antiquated. They are officially obsolete,” Greg Miller, chair of OSET told the Anne Babe of the Huffington Post.

National: The Pope v. Citizens United | Bloomberg

Campaign finance reformers have been on a steady losing streak in the courts and Congress. But they may finally have found a champion who can elevate their cause: Pope Francis. “We must achieve a free sort of election campaign, not financed,” the Pope told an Argentine magazine in an interview released this week. “Because many interests come into play in financing of an election campaign and then they ask you to pay back. So, the election campaign should be independent from anyone who may finance it.” To drive his point home, the Pontiff added: “Perhaps public financing would allow for me, the citizen, to know that I’m financing each candidate with a given amount of money.” The Pope’s remarks come in the midst of corruption scandals in his native Argentina. But American advocates of curbing the influence of big money in politics were eager to seize on his message. “We have just gained a great new ally with a worldwide voice for public financing campaigns,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of Democracy 21. “We greatly appreciate his words and wisdom on this subject.” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi similarly embraced the Pope’s “call for an end to the contaminating influence of money in our democracy.”

National: Why super PACs have moved from sideshow to center stage for presidential hopefuls | The Washington Post

In the last presidential contest, super PACs were an exotic add-on for most candidates. This time, they are the first priority. Already, operatives with close ties to eight likely White House contenders have launched political committees that can accept unlimited donations — before any of them has even declared their candidacy. The latest, a super PAC called America Leads that plans to support Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, was announced Thursday. The goal is simple: Potential candidates want to help their super PAC allies raise as much money as possible now, before their official campaigns start. That’s because once they announce their bids, federal rules require them to keep their distance. Official candidates can still appear at super PAC fundraisers, but they cannot ask donors to give more than $5,000. And they cannot share inside strategic information with those running the group.

Alabama: Legislation that would move up voter registration deadline by 16 days dies in committee |

A piece of legislation that would prohibit registering to vote within 30 days of an election died in an Alabama House committee today. Under current law adopted law year, a voter can register to vote within 14 days of an election. Rep. Jack Williams, R-Birmingham, said he sponsored the bill this session after speaking with the Jefferson County registrar who said it is difficult to get a poll list ready in 14 days due to small staffs.

California: Special election ballot error to cost San Jose taxpayers $15,000 | KTVU

The San Jose City Clerk’s Office is under fire Thursday over a mistake on the ballot for a special election next month that is costing taxpayers $15,000 to fix. The one candidate at the center of the ballot mishap says it could end up costing him votes. Ten candidates are running for the hotly contested race to be a member of the San Jose City Council. The seat is vacant since Kansen Chu is heading to the State Assembly. Some 29,000 households in North San Jose should have already received the official ballot for the April 7 special election. In the ballot, all of the candidates have a diamond symbol next to their names.

Florida: Tech glitches could mar 2016 election | Herald Tribune

“Habitual” technology failures in an “obsolete” and glitch-prone state voter registration system could have devastating effects in 2016 if not addressed quickly, elections officials across the state say. The aging state computer system is used to check in voters locally, ensuring their eligibility, before they cast ballots. But local elections supervisors say the state system is prone to crash, sometimes for days, precluding efforts to verify that eligibility. They also say the state has been slow to upgrade the hardware, despite millions in federal funding. Florida’s top elections official, Ken Detzner, was not available for comment on Friday. But his spokesman said fixing the system will be his “highest priority.” In a memo to local elections officials this week, the state said it was moving to address the problem this month.

Maryland: Voting Rights for Ex-Felons Take Step Forward in Senate | Associated Press

A bill is moving forward in the General Assembly that would restore an ex-felon’s voting rights while he is on parole or probation. Senators debated the bill for an hour on Thursday, weighing the appropriate time for the restoration of someone’s voting rights. Current law states that someone in Maryland convicted of a felony is unable to register to vote for the length of their punishment, including prison time, probation and parole.

Missouri: New machines will help visually impaired voters cast ballots | Southeast Missourian

A purchase approved Thursday by the Cape Girardeau County Commission will allow visually impaired voters a little more autonomy when it comes to casting ballots. Starting with April’s election, the county’s accessible voting units will have larger screens — 15 by 15 inches versus the 7-by-3-inch screens currently in use. County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said the larger screens were not available when the county originally purchased accessible voting equipment. The requirements included in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 were the kick-start that brought such equipment to many counties, including Cape Girardeau.

New Jersey: ‘Embarrassing’ 32 % voter turnout has senator introducing Election Day registration bill |

A key Democratic state senator says he will introduce legislation allowing voter registration on Election Day as a new study shows New Jersey voter turnout lagged the nation last year and more than 50 percent showed up at the polls in states that have such laws. New Jersey ranked 40th in voter turnout last year, with only 32.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots, according to a report released today by Nonprofit VOTE, a non-partisan research group based in Boston. The national rate was 37 percent. All three of the top voter turnout states allow voters to concurrently register and cast a ballot on Election Day: Maine at 59 percent, Wisconsin at 57 percent, and Colorado at 55 percent, according to the report.

Ohio: Rob Portman says Voting Rights Act should get congressional review | Cleveland Plain Dealer

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said today that Congress should review the entire Voting Rights Act to evaluate how it is working. But he added that he doesn’t know if parts of it need to be strengthened. This comes after the Ohio Republican was criticized by Democrats for demurring last weekend on whether he supports a House bill to deal with a key section of the act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. Portman was asked about new legislation, which civil rights leaders say is necessary, while he was in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights struggle that helped pass the act. His answer upset some liberal groups and Democrats. He said in Selma, “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?”

Editorials: Restoring right to vote would help felons reintegrate | Knowville News Sentinel

The 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and a re-enactment in Knoxville on Sunday did more than honor a noteworthy event. Both ceremonies emphasized what the right to vote means to many Americans and what it should mean to all. The event in Selma helped gain passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and now is a vital part of this nation’s legacy. Voting is a right mentioned several times in the Constitution and subsequent amendments; it is more than a privilege. Significantly, no one participating in the observances in Selma or in Knoxville last week believed that the 1965 legislation or its remembrance marked the end of the quest. Pernicious state laws requiring photo identification to vote and Supreme Court decisions weakening the 1965 law open the way to expand discrimination.

Texas: Bill could allow online voter registration | Tyler Morning Telegraph

Registering to vote could soon be as easy as logging onto a website and filling out an online form. The Legislature is currently considering a set of bills that would make Texas the 15th state to allow online registration access, said Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson. Supporters of online voting registration said it would make it more convenient — just as Texas drivers can now renew their licenses online. Opponents said there’s a big risk of voter fraud. Fourteen states already utilize online voter registration, and there are five proposed bills to allow for it in Texas: House Bills 444, 446, 76 and 953 as well as Senate Bill 385. All of the bills are in committee.

Israel: Arab parties unite into potent force | Telegraph

As an Arab living in Israel, Ayman Odeh never had the brightest of political futures. His fellow Arab politicians, divided among four parties with radically different ideologies, have always squabbled too much to be counted as a real force. But now Mr Odeh could be on the verge of a major breakthrough, as the top candidate on a united list for all the Arab parties for next Tuesday’s general election. The list, which could give Israel’s Arab population unprecedented political clout, was born of necessity after Right-wingers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, raised the threshold for representation from two to 3.25 per cent, thus threatening small Arab parties with electoral oblivion.

Voting Blogs: A perfect storm: Boko Haram, IS and the Nigerian election | openDemocracy

The news that Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) makes for sombre reading. The conflict raging in west Africa has taken thousands of lives, destroyed homes and destabilised a fragile region. The human cost is a tragedy and the political ramifications alarming. Nigeria’s presidential election, already postponed, is close to being unhinged as the conflict with Boko Haram becomes a focal point of the campaign. Indeed, should it go ahead? If the election were to be deferred again, it would not guarantee against a scenario of riots, authoritarian twists and political manoeuvring. A second postponement would send out two signals: that Nigeria is not ready for democracy in action and that it is weakening in the face of Boko Haram’s assault.

Sudan: Electoral body rejects complaints over NCP’s use of state resources for presidential campaign | Sudan Tribune

The National Election Commission (NEC) in Sudan has brushed aside complaints by independent presidential candidates on the use of aircraft and cars by senior officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the electoral campaign of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir. The electoral body explained to representatives of those disgruntled candidates that these activities are in line with NCP resources at their disposal and vehemently denied being biased in favor of certain candidates.

Guam: 50 years after Selma, Guam and territories denied voting rights | Pacific Daily News

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” marches in Selma, Alabama, a time that fundamentally transformed the fight for civil rights in America. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, hundreds of extraordinary people were brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest racial discrimination in voting. The events of “Bloody Sunday,” as it became known, led Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — one of the greatest pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. But Selma’s promise remains unfulfilled for all Americans. U.S. citizens in Guam and the other territories still can’t vote for president. We have no representative in the Senate. Our representative in the house can’t vote.

Iowa: Controversial Iowa voter rules will not take effect | Des Moines Register

Voter registration rules enacted by former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz that critics said threatened to disenfranchise eligible voters will not take effect, after a long-running lawsuit was resolved on Friday. The Secretary of State’s Office — now held by Paul Pate — voluntarily dismissed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court that was initiated by Schultz last year following a loss at the district-court level. “This is an important victory for the protection of voters’ rights in Iowa,” American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement. “It means that Iowans will not have to worry about the voter purges we’ve seen take effect in other states with a disastrous impact, especially for new U.S. citizens and Latinos.” By declining to continue the appeal, the state has effectively concluded the lawsuit and allowed the lower-court ruling to stand. That means the rules will never take effect.

North Dakota: House defeats student ID bill intended to make voting easier | Grand Forks Herald

The North Dakota House defeated a bill Wednesday that would have required the state’s colleges and universities to provide student identification cards that could be used to vote. Senate Bill 2330, sponsored by Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, would have required photo identification cards provided by the universities to include the student’s residential address and birth date. The bill failed 28-63 after sailing through the Senate 46-0 last month. The presidents of North Dakota State University and Dickinson State University opposed the bill in a committee hearing in early March, arguing that it would put students at risk because the IDs are used as keycards for residence halls and students tend to lose them.

Utah: Last year’s ‘Count My Vote’ deal survives many attacks | The Salt Lake Tribune

Legislators, at least most of them, decided this year that a deal is a deal. Despite numerous attempts to overturn it, lawmakers stood by last year’s deal to reform how political parties choose their nominees. They killed five bills to overturn, rework or delay a compromise that last year led backers of the Count My Vote ballot initiative to discard more than 100,000 petition signatures they had gathered to create a direct primary. The compromise, called SB54, allows candidates to qualify for a primary either by gathering enough signatures (similar to a direct primary), or through the old caucus-convention system. It also allows unaffiliated voters to vote in party primaries, which the Utah GOP previously banned in its primary.