A Pentagon official sat before a committee of the Washington State Legislature in January and declared that the U.S. military supported a bill that would allow voters in the state to cast election ballots via email or fax without having to certify their identities. Military liaison Mark San Souci’s brief testimony was stunning because it directly contradicted the Pentagon’s previously stated position on online voting: It’s against it. Along with Congress, the Defense Department has heeded warnings over the past decade from cybersecurity experts that no Internet voting system can effectively block hackers from tampering with election results. And email and fax transmissions are the most vulnerable of all, according to experts, including officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the Commerce Department. San Souci declined to comment. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, said the Defense Department “does not advocate for the electronic transmission of any voted ballot, whether it be by fax, email or via the Internet.”
On April 14, the Virginia State Board of Elections voted to immediately decertify use of the AVS WinVote touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic voting machine. That means that the machine, which the Washington Post says was used by “dozens of local governments” in Virginia, can’t be used any more, though the commonwealth is holding primaries in just two months. The move comes in light of a report that shows just how shoddy and insecure voting machines can be. As one of my colleagues taught me, BLUF—bottom line up front: If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. A hacker wouldn’t have needed to be in the polling place—he could have been within a few hundred feet (say, in the parking lot) and or within a half-mile if he used a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.
Two hours before the city council planned to start removal hearings for Hartford’s three registrars of voters, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that it doesn’t have the power to oust the elected officials. Judge Constance Epstein said that the council can’t take any further steps to remove the registrars — Democrat Olga Vazquez and Republican Sheila Hall — from office. The third registrar, Working Families Party member Urania Petit, had also filed for an injunction to stop the removal hearings but withdrew her case before the ruling Tuesday. She submitted her resignation Tuesday morning, council members said, after reaching a settlement with the city.
Senators approved an online voter registration provision Thursday — even though the state official tasked with implementing the system pleaded with them not to. For 45 minutes, Senate Appropriations Committee members grilled Secretary of State Ken Detzner on why he opposed Sen. Jeff Clemens’ SB 228, which is supported by the state’s supervisors of elections. The bill requires the Division of Elections within Detzner’s agency to implement a statewide voter registration system by Oct. 1, 2017. The system would allow prospective voters to enter their driver’s license of Florida ID number online, which would be checked against Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records before being sent to a local supervisor of elections.
The Denver Elections Division fielded calls Wednesday from voters confused about a ballot envelope misprint but said replacement materials weren’t needed. The error, discovered as ballots for the May 5 municipal election began hitting mailboxes Tuesday, occurs on the return envelope’s flap and lists 7 p.m. June 2 as the time ballots must be returned. June 2 is the date for any potential run-off elections. City election officials blamed a vendor and subcontractor for an error that might have been as simple as inserting the wrong election’s printing plate into a machine when some envelopes were printed. It still wasn’t clear how many were affected.
Florida: House OKs Online Voter Registration Legislation: Top State Election Official Objects | The Ledger
Despite opposition from the governor’s top elections official, legislation that would allow Floridians to register to vote online was sent to the Senate floor Thursday. Meanwhile, the House delayed a floor vote on a similar measure because of a question about $1.8 million that would be needed to fund creation of the new high-tech application. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a 10-4 vote, backed a measure (SB 228) that would require the state Division of Elections to develop an online voter-registration application by Oct. 1, 2017, a year later than proposed earlier.
Gov. Rick Scott’s elections chief faced open hostility from Senate Republicans for a second time Thursday for opposing a bipartisan bill to allow online voter registration by 2017. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that he doesn’t have a plan to implement the change and is worried about having to coordinate with 67 counties while his agency and the state highway safety department upgrade their databases — which are the backbone of the system used to verify voters’ identities. To placate Detzner, lawmakers pushed back the start of the online registration system to October 2017. But he’s still fighting a way to offer a new option to make it easier to register to vote that’s favored by every election supervisor, most legislators and the League of Women Voters.
Counties across the 18th district are tightening their wallets. Between government cuts, unfunded mandates, and now, the special election, counties across the region are scrambling to meet certain requirements. Tazewell County officials say the special election will run them close to $200,000, aand this is on top of an upcoming unfunded mandate putting counties like Tazewell in a tough spot. “We’re kind of up against the gun right now,” Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman said. A new mandate from the state requires all counties to have same day voter registration by June 1st. “We’re going to have to have a computer or a tablet plus a hotspot or an air card in every one of these facilities,” Zimmerman said.
Michigan would eliminate February elections under legislation approved Thursday by the Michigan House, limiting local and statewide elections to three dates a year. Supporters say optional February elections often feature single-issue ballot questions on school millages or bonds but are marked by low voter turnout. “This is pro-taxpayer and good government legislation,” Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said in a statement. “…It just makes sense that questions of increased taxes or fees are posed in elections when more voters participate.”
The Montana legislature passed sweeping campaign finance legislation on Wednesday that will require the disclosure of all donors to any independent group spending money on state-level elections. The bipartisan Montana Disclose Act will effectively end the flood of “dark money” — electoral spending by nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors — that has plagued recent Montana elections. “Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows,” Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who plans to sign the bill, said in a statement. “Our elections should be decided by Montanans, not shadowy dark money groups.”
Ohio lawmakers rejected a request from Secretary of State Jon Husted to include $1.25 million in the budget to fund the mailing of absentee ballot applications statewide in 2016. “It’s not in there yet,” said Husted’s press secretary Joshua Eck, who added they’ve been given no indication that lawmakers against it. “In the grand scheme of things, $1.25 million is a small price to pay to ensure that when all eyes are on Ohio, we deliver another smooth presidential election,” Assistant Secretary of State Matt Damschroder said in prepared testimony before the House Finance Committee last month. Eck said they will continue to meet with lawmakers so they know this is a priority and valued by Husted.
Voting Blogs: Bexar County Texas successfully tests email ballots for military members | electionlineWeekly
Jacquelyn Callanen, elections administrator for Bexar County, Texas has been testing programs to help service members from the four military installations in her county vote since 2006. For almost a decade Callanen and her staff have been trying a number of different ways — including fax and email — to quickly and securely get ballots to and more importantly from service members serving abroad. And finally, with legislative approval, Callanen thinks they’ve found the solution. “We’re really excited about this,” Callanen said from her office while working to conduct yet another special election in the county. “We have worked really hard on this for many, many years.”
US Virgin Islands: Senators question Elections board members, vow changes | Virgin Islands Daily News
Senators grilled Elections board members and staff Tuesday night about the 2014 primary, General and run-off elections. Senate President Neville James said at the beginning of the Committee of the Whole hearing that the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the issues that came up during the 2014 election cycle, and not to discuss election reform. He said election reform would be a topic for a future hearing. During Tuesday’s committee meeting, senators often were frustrated by the lack of a unified voice from the Elections board members. Sen. Kenneth Gittens said every time someone made a statement, some board members would be nodding in agreement and some would be shaking their heads in disagreement. “Not even a choir singing here today, everyone with their own sheet of music,” Gittens said.
Editorials: Europe will watch Finland’s election closely—perhaps for the wrong reasons | The Economist
For a useful corrective to the notion that only sunny optimism can win elections, Charlemagne recommends a visit to Finland. Like sauna-goers vigorously lashing themselves with birch branches, Finnish politicians are lining up to talk their homeland down in the run-up to the general election on April 19th. Juha Sipila, leader of the Centre Party and the most likely next prime minister, talks freely of the need to slash public spending. Antti Rinne, the finance minister and head of the Social Democrats, laments Finland’s dire export performance. The biggest dose of gloom, though, comes from Alex Stubb, the centre-right prime minister. Mr Stubb claims to be an “eternal optimist”, but says that Finland has had a “lost decade” and admits that the coalition he has led since June 2014 has often been a failure.
Judging by the multitude of spray-painted names of political parties and candidates on walls across Port-au-Prince, there is no deficit of democracy in modern Haiti. As the country heads towards an intense election season in the second half of this year, some ask instead whether there is a little too much. Diversity in viewpoints is seen as a welcome change for most Haitians, many of whom remember the ruthless suppression of political opponents and of freedom of speech in the second half of the last century under the presidency of “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son “Baby Doc”, who died last year.
Sudan on Wednesday extended nationwide elections by one day after a low turnout that the opposition said reflected apathy towards a vote President Omar al-Bashir is widely expected to win. The 71-year-old career soldier, indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, is seeking to extend his quarter-century rule virtually unopposed. He faces 15 little-known candidates for the presidency and a boycott by the mainstream opposition in the country of nearly 38 million people, the world’s third most populous Arab state. Since voting began on Monday, the elections for the presidency as well as the national and state parliaments have seen a poor turnout.
Voting rights advocates and Ohio’s top election official have settled a lawsuit over controversial cuts to the pivotal presidential state’s early voting period. The deal, announced Friday morning between Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, and the ACLU, undoes some but not all of the damage to voting access caused by last year’s cuts.…
The Virginia Board of Elections on Tuesday voted to scrap a type of voting machine used by dozens of local governments, including Fairfax City and Arlington County, after identifying security concerns. The move leaves 30 counties and cities scrambling to replace hundreds of voting machines. Ten of those local governments have primary elections scheduled for June 9. During a public meeting, the Board of Elections voted 2 to 0, with one member absent, to decertify WINVote touchscreen voting machines. Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the state Department of Elections, said continuing to use the aging machines “creates an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the election process in the commonwealth.”
As many as 66,000 votes in the New South Wales state election 2015 could have been tampered with. The election was held on 28 March 2015 and is now closed. Voters used the iVote system which is described by its makers as “private, secure and verifiable” in its operation. Further, the Australian Electoral Commission insists that all Internet votes are and were “fully encrypted and safeguarded” at this time. The iVote system is a form of voting where eligible voters can vote over the Internet or telephone as an alternative to voting at a physical polling station. Security is provided using an 8-digit iVote number, a 6-digit PIN and a 12-digit receipt number for each individual. Australia is arguably a perfect test case for electronic voting with its vast distances that prevent some voters from getting to a polling location. A system like this also benefits the disabled and other less mobile voters. However, the system has been derided by non-profit digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “The problem is that the system was not ready to be one of the biggest online voting experiments in the world.” EFF’s Farbod Faraji says that a FREAK flaw has been discovered in the Australian system by Michigan Computer Science Professor J Alex Halderman and University of Melbourne Research Fellow Vanessa Teague.
Voting ended Thursday in Sudan’s elections, with a low turnout despite a one-day extension. “Vote for who, vote for what?” said Ihab Shareef, 40, a former civil servant who now drives a taxi. “It would have been better if the elections money was spent on hospitals.” President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for more than 25 years, is expected to win amid widespread apathy and a call for a boycott by opposition groups. Final results are to be announced April 27. Fifteen other largely unknown candidates ran for president. Forty-four parties officially participated in the elections, which began Monday, for seats in the National Assembly and local legislatures.