The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear a case involving the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s strict voter ID requirement shifts attention now to voter identification laws working their way through the courts in Texas and North Carolina. As in Wisconsin, these laws are being challenged on the grounds that they hurt minorities and other voters who are less likely to have the required government-issued photo ID. It’s possible — depending on what happens in the lower courts — that the Supreme Court could be asked to weigh in on one or both of these cases before the 2016 presidential election. In the meantime, the Wisconsin law is now set to go into effect, although the state’s attorney general, Brad Schimel, said that won’t happen until after state elections are held April 7.
For those interested in expanding voting access by allowing voters to cast their ballots over the Internet, one government expert/activist has bad news – the security and privacy risks associated with Internet voting won’t be resolved anytime soon. David Jefferson, computer scientist in the Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Applied Scientific Computing, has studied electronic voting and security for more than 15 years. He believes “security, privacy, reliability, availability and authentication requirements for Internet voting are very different from, and far more demanding than, those required for e-commerce.” In short, voting is more susceptible to attacks, manipulation and vulnerabilities. Some champions of Internet balloting believe the safeguards that protect online shoppers from hackers can also protect the sensitive information and meet the legal regulations associated with voting online. Advocates further believe that Internet voting will increase turnout, cut costs and improve accuracy. Jefferson refuted these claims by asserting that there currently is no strong authentication or verification solution for online shopping. Also, while proxy shopping is a common occurrence and is not against the law, proxy voting is not allowed.
The Supreme Court sided with black challengers Wednesday and told a lower court to reconsider whether a redistricting plan drawn by Alabama’s Republican-led legislature packed minority voters into districts in order to dilute their influence. The court voted 5 to 4 to send the plan back for further judicial review. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the opinion, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals to make up the majority. The challenge was brought by black officeholders and Democrats who argued that the state’s Republican leadership packed minority voters into districts that allowed the election of African American officials but reduced their influence elsewhere.
The Legislature could be on the verge of approving sweeping changes to the way most municipalities conduct elections in the state, but not until a lawmaker intends to introduce last-minute changes before the final Senate vote on the legislation. As it’s written, the bill, HB 1130, would allow military and overseas voters in Colorado municipal elections the same opportunity to return ballots using so-called electronic transmission — via fax machines and email — as the same voters have been able to do for years in county, state and federal elections, among other changes to municipal elections law. But a flurry of protests that have reached a fever pitch this week claim that the bill’s language would open the door to all manner of online voting, including posting ballots to Twitter or texting votes to election clerks. What’s more, the bill’s critics charge, clerks in small towns aren’t equipped to verify emailed ballots, which they contend can easily be hacked, spoofed or diverted.
Editorials: Google searches show that millions of people wanted to vote but couldn’t | Alex Street/The Washington Post
Fifty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, election laws are still in the news. Much of the recent attention has gone to court battles over voter ID laws. But other barriers to voting remain. Although some states allow voters to register right up to Election Day, others require registration as much as one month beforehand. In the typical state in 2012, registration was closed for three weeks before the election. Some scholars argue that requiring early registration hurts voter mobilization in the final days of the campaign, when interest in the election is most intense. But skeptics counter that most of the people who fail to register in time have little real interest in voting. Our new research shows that there is a lot of last-minute interest. We estimate that keeping registration open through Election Day in 2012 would have allowed an additional 3 million to 4 million Americans to register and vote.
A bill that will make it all but impossible for voter-outreach groups to boost turnout by collecting early ballots from voters was advanced by an Arizona House panel dominated by Republicans on Wednesday. The proposal makes it a felony for anyone but a family member, caregiver or candidate to collect more than two early ballots from voters during a two-year election cycle. Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan is backing the last-minute amendment to Senate Bill 1339. The proposal failed in the House elections committee last week, but it was revived and added to an unrelated bill. The appropriations committee approved the amended bill on a 9-5 party-line vote.
The Guam Election Commission has continued to research programs suitable for the implementation of an online voter registration portal. That task began prior to the passage of two registration reform bills, which now await the governor’s approval. GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said the commission has been researching programs since January when freshman Sen. Mary Camacho Torres, R-Santa Rita, introduced measures aimed at modernizing and streamlining Guam’s voter registration process.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Tuesday that could make voting by mail the norm in Hawaii. The panel passed HB 124, which aims to boost Hawaii’s low voter turnout and increase participation in elections. It would start with smaller counties and gradually build so all voters get ballots in the mail. The current system allows people to sign up to vote by mail or they can vote in person during the two weeks before Election Day. “It’s a very complicated operation,” said Janet Mason of the League of Women Voters. “This would smooth out the operation.”
Kansas: Kris Kobach asks U.S. Supreme Court to restore his proof-of-citizenship law | The Wichita Eagle
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision and restore a state law he wrote requiring proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote. Kobach wants the Supreme Court to undo the November decision by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeal, in a case pitting Kansas and Arizona against the federal Election Assistance Commission and a bevy of voting rights groups. The appeals court ruled that the states could not require document citizenship proof from prospective voters who register using a federal form that doesn’t demand it – and that the commission doesn’t have to alter the federal registration form to comply with the states’ demands.
Despite a broad coalition of backers and newfound bipartisan support, a measure to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they are released from behind bars once again appears doomed over reluctance from anonymous House lawmakers. The “Restore the Vote” movement appeared to receive new life in the 2015 legislative session, after some Republican lawmakers, along with conservative and libertarian-leaning groups, joined the 13-year-old push for reform. The 47,000 Minnesotans now under post-release supervision are not allowed to vote until they’re “off paper” — a process that can take years. If passed, the measure would put Minnesota in line with 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
Ohio: Legislature Advances Controversial Bill That Could Deter Students From Voting | Huffington Post
Ohio’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a transportation budget Wednesday containing a controversial provision that critics say could dissuade college students from voting. The amendment to the budget, which was added at the last minute by a Senate committee, would require out-of-state students who register to vote from their campus address to register their cars in Ohio within 30 days and obtain state driver’s licenses. Completing both of those steps would cost over $75. If the more than 116,000 out-of-state students who attend Ohio’s public and private colleges and universities fail to do so, their out-of-state licenses would become invalid and they could face misdemeanor charges. Current law has allowed new Ohioans to claim residency and vote while keeping their out-of-state licenses and registrations because the state hasn’t specified a deadline for obtaining documentation.
Oregon made history recently when newly appointed Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation into law that makes voter registration automatic for Oregonians using driver’s license records. House Bill 2177 moved quickly through Oregon’s Democratically controlled Legislature — although similar legislation had failed in 2013. It was championed by then-Secretary of State Kate Brown as well as the Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC). And on March 16, Brown got to sign her legislation into law. Now comes the hard part — implementing the new law.
Lawmakers are taking a step they hope will increase voter participation. By a vote of 20 to 7 Thursday afternoon, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow residents to register to vote on the day of an election. Currently, an individual who wishes to cast a vote on a Tuesday must have registered to vote by the previous Wednesday. “Those of us in this building spend a lot of time thinking about elections, but most people don’t,” said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham. “People move or go into long-term care facilities in a town where they were not originally registered to vote and didn’t get engaged until the last moment. That doesn’t mean they’re uninformed.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed six Republican redistricting bills live on his monthly call-in radio show Thursday, then took the highly unusual step of signing the budget plan produced by Virginia’s GOP-led legislature without a single amendment. McAuliffe’s actions came one day before the Democrat is expected to announce vetoes on a raft of Republican legislation turning on political flashpoints such as guns, home schooling, “living wage” rules and the limits of federal power. Taken together, the moves seem intended to project twin images of McAuliffe, as both bipartisan dealmaker and stalwart defender of certain liberal causes.
Mayor Len Brown wants the Government to rethink its ban on Auckland taking part in the online voting trial at the 2016 local body elections. Auckland has been excluded at this stage because, with 1,050,000 electors, the bureaucrats are worried about their ability “to mitigate any risk”. Auckland Council sees online voting as part of its campaign to lift voter turnout to “at least” the 2013 national average of around 40 per cent at next year’s poll. In 2013, only 34 per cent of enrolled Auckland voters bothered. … In the aftermath of the 2013 low turnout, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain announced plans to fast-track trials of online voting. Last December, the Cabinet agreed to a limited number of local authorities trialling it in 2016. But not Auckland. Their fears about risk seem well placed.
Nigeria’s electoral commission says it has found a means to fight fraud that has marred votes repeatedly in Africa’s most populous nation: technology. While its decision to use biometric voter-card readers in general elections starting March 28 is favored by Muhammadu Buhari’s opposition alliance, President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, which has won every election in Africa’s biggest oil producer since the end of military rule in 1999, is crying foul. All of the previous elections were marred by ballot stuffing, multiple and underage voting, and falsification of figures, according to local and international monitors. About 800 people died in violence in 2011 after Buhari lost to Jonathan and said the result was rigged.
Nigeria: Will Card Readers Work? Electoral Commission Responds To Concerns Over Voter Disenfranchisement, Delays | IB Times
Fears were mounting this week in Nigeria about whether polling places’ voter card readers would work correctly during Saturday’s presidential election. Several politicians had expressed concern that mechanical malfunctions could lead to disenfranchisement, but the Independent National Electoral Commission promised stakeholders Tuesday that the card readers would not fail. “I want to assure all prospective voters in Ebonyi that no person with Permanent Voter Card (PVC) will be denied the opportunity to vote,” said resident electoral commissioner Lawrence Azubuike, according to Vanguard. “Once the PVC is verified and certified correct, even if the authentication of the voter’s fingerprint does not go through, the voter will still go ahead to vote.”
It’s one of the world’s most predictable elections, but Uzbeks gave their long-term leader something of a wake-up call in the run-up to Sunday’s vote. Authoritarian President Islam Karimov can still count on a fourth consecutive victory. But an unprecedented mass gathering in honour of an Islamic scholar who died earlier in the month rattled a regime which keeps a tight grip. The event – right in the middle of the campaign – suggested that people’s acquiescence cannot be taken for granted. In startling contrast to poorly-attended election events, huge crowds flooded the streets of the capital, Tashkent, on 11 March following the death of Sheikh Muhammad Sodiq Muhammad Yusuf. Traffic came to a standstill as people paid their respects in a spontaneous outpouring of grief. It was a highly unusual scene for a country where public gatherings are tightly controlled.
For the second day in a row, an apparent cyberattack took down the state of Maine’s website. A Twitter account with the handle Vikingdom2015 posted Tuesday morning that Maine.gov will be offline for more than five hours. Another post said other hackers helped make the website unaccessible. Service to Maine.gov was restored by 9:45 a.m. The outages lasted about 2 1/2 hours. On Monday, Vikingdom2015 took credit for knocking out Maine.gov for three hours.
Nigerian’s electoral commission extended voting to Sunday in a president election plagued by polling place delays and glitches in a new electronic voter accreditation system. The balloting was also marred by violence, with seven voters killed in Gombe state by suspected Boko Haram gunmen, according to local residents, and attacks on electoral officials in the volatile Rivers State. Widespread problems were reported with the new biometric card readers aimed at identifying voters’ thumb prints before actual balloting began, As a result, voting was delayed for hours. The Independent National Electoral Commission agreed to extend voting to Sunday at polling places where there had been failures in the biometric system. The election commission acknowledged that the equipment had failed in many areas and voter accreditation had been too slow. “The commission reassures the public that it will thoroughly investigate what happened while it stays committed to credible elections,” the board said in a statement Saturday.