The leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reining in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending. “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ann M. Ravel, the chairwoman, said in an interview. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.” Her unusually frank assessment reflects a worsening stalemate among the agency’s six commissioners. They are perpetually locked in 3-to-3 ties along party lines on key votes because of a fundamental disagreement over the mandate of the commission, which was created 40 years ago in response to the political corruption of Watergate.
Jeremy Epstein, senior computer scientist at non-profit research institute SRI International spoke to the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog this week to share his views on the possibility of electronic voting security. Epstein says that although some e-voting is happening in the US, Estonia and other countries — this is not *secure* e-voting, it’s just e-voting. Every system developed so far has been found to be insecure. “From a technical perspective, we’re at least 10 years away from secure e-voting, and many experts think we’re 20 or 30 years away,” he said.
Voting Blogs: Meet the new elections commissioners: US EAC has quorum for first time in several years |electionlineWeekly
Late in 2014, the U.S. Congress finally — and unanimously — approved the appointment of three new commissioners to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The commission had been without a quorum for four years with new appointments getting hung up on things the way most things on Capitol Hill get hung up — partisanship. And even with a quorum finally in place, some on Capitol Hill aren’t all that happy. Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper has introduced legislation to eliminate the EAC. H.R. 195 calls for the termination of the commission and assigns remaining duties to the Office of Personnel Management and the Federal Elections Commission. The legislation has been referred to the House Administration Committee.
North Carolina: State Supreme Court sets August hearing in challenge to legislative and congressional redistricting | The Charlotte Observer
The N.C. Supreme Court issued notice on Thursday that it would hear arguments in August on the challenges to the 2011 redistricting maps outlining legislative and congressional districts across North Carolina. The notice comes nearly three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to North Carolina’s highest court with instructions to reconsider a December decision that upheld the maps. The challengers of the maps had requested a hearing in June, but the scheduled ruled on Thursday sets arguments for Aug. 31.
National: The Supreme Court said judges can’t solicit campaign contributions. This probably won’t matter. | The Washington Post
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Williams-Yulee v. State Bar of Florida, ruling that judicial candidates could not directly solicit campaign contributions. This marked the first time that the Roberts Court has ruled in favor of a 1st Amendment regulation in an elections case. At least some reporting about the case suggested it was a big deal, as seen in headlines like “Campaign finance reformers just won a massive victory at the Supreme Court.” In reality, the decision is likely to have very little impact on the actual conduct of judicial elections, or on how the public views those elections. Here is why. First, it is not clear that a judicial candidate’s personally soliciting campaign contributions necessarily makes that individual less impartial than a judge who does not personally solicit contributions.
The world is moving online and so too now is politics. But as online, electronic voting (e-voting) increasingly becomes a reality, are we opening ourselves up to vote rigging by power-hungry politicians or fame-seeking hackers? Voting has traditionally been a pen and paper exercise; a slip filled-in and placed into a sealed ballot, with results counted and recorded by independent volunteers. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the result can’t be swayed, unintentionally or otherwise. There have been some notorious examples of foul play – Slobodan Milošević was accused of rigging elections in 1996 and 2000 in Yugoslavia – while errors can also occur, as best illustrated by the 2000 US presidential election, when a fault with Florida’s ballot paper led some people to vote for the wrong candidate. … These risks are only magnified when voting systems are pushed online. Brazil, Belgium and Estonia are just a few examples of the countries to have taken to e-voting, and while they have seen the benefits from the improved speed, accessibility and legibility (no more illegible ticks or crosses), they are arguably more open to attack.
Florida: Despite pushback from Rick Scott admin, online voting bill goes to the governor’s desk | SaintPetersBlog
As part of an en masse drop of dozens of bills onto Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk courtesy of the Florida Senate, a bill to allow online voting registration sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Clemens now sits before the Governor’s Office, awaiting his review. Scott administration Secretary of State Ken Detzner openly opposed the measure, SB 228, as it wended its way through committee, saying it would interfere with already ongoing efforts to revamp the state’s voter rolls and registration system.
When you’re out at the polls today, don’t just think about the candidates running for office, also keep in mind the the dedicated poll workers. After hours of training and — for many — more than 10 years of experience, poll workers flood into area voting sites at 5 a.m. to gear up for a 14-hour workday. While it pays well, anywhere from $95 to $175 for the day, the job involves a huge amount of responsibility as well as a deep knowledge of the election process and Indiana election laws. Poll workers are supplied to the election board thanks to the local political parties. Each party is responsible for providing poll workers.
How the first Porter County election with new electronic poll books went depends on who’s asked. From the standpoint of Kathy Kozuszek, Democratic representative in the county’s Voter Registration Office and a member by proxy of the county’s election board, the equipment was rife with glitches and errors during Tuesday’s primary, something she’s raised red flags about for some time now. As David Bengs, a Republican who’s president of the election board, sees it, there were some problems but overall, the feedback he received from poll workers was that they liked the equipment, which has been steeped in controversy.
Mayor Sly James can stay on the Kansas City ballot in June. Jackson County Circuit Judge Joel Fahnestock on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block James from a place on the city’s general election ballot. Primary opponent Clay Chastain had filed suit against James, claiming James was delinquent on property taxes early this year and therefore could not run for re-election as mayor. Vincent Lee, who will also be on the mayoral ballot in June, attempted to join Chastain’s lawsuit in April. But Fahnestock said Chastain lacked standing to sue and had not explored other remedies to strike James from the ballot. Lee, she said, also waited too long to try to join the case.
The lawyers who successfully sued the county to scrap its 2011 redistricting map are asking a federal judge to award them nearly $7 million in legal fees and related costs — a claim County Attorney Thomas Marcelle blasted as “so unreasonable as to almost border on unethical.” But the attorneys countered in their court filing that the bill is entirely county leaders’ fault — first for shortchanging minority voters and then for twice failing to approve settlements that would have capped the bill “because of political bickering among themselves.” The county “cannot escape the inarguable reality that each and every dollar of any fee award to plaintiffs’ counsel is a product of defendants’ recalcitrance,” they wrote.
Four years after Texas passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation, lawmakers will debate another measure on Thursday that could make it even more difficult for Texans to vote. House Bill 1096, by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), would require the address on a voter’s approved ID, such as a driver’s license, to match their voter registration address. Currently voter ID addresses and voter registration addresses do not have to match. If a voter registrar believes a voter’s residence is different from that indicated on registration records, the registrar may send the voter a residence confirmation notice. Voters can respond by submitting a signed response confirming their residence. Under HB 1096, voters would have to provide “evidence” that their residence address matches their voter ID.
Utah Democrats said Wednesday they cannot afford the $100,000 needed to run their own online presidential primary next year, and instead simply will allow people to cast ballots at party caucuses. Lauren Littlefield, party executive director, blamed Republican infighting for blocking state funding needed for a true presidential primary and said that is forcing the alternative move that likely will hurt voter participation. Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said Democrats “are creating fiction.” He said his party can afford and will offer online presidential primary voting, along with voting at caucuses, which he predicted will increase turnout. The controversy comes after the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to pass HB329 this year, which would have provided $3 million for a 2016 presidential primary for all parties. Without it, parties are forced to fund their own presidential-nomination efforts.
A proposal to allow Washington cities to rearrange voting districts so minorities could have a greater voice in elections was praised Thursday as a way to avoid costly federal lawsuits and denounced as a Trojan horse for more litigation. The proposed state Voting Rights Act, which passed the House on a partisan vote during the regular session but stalled in the Senate despite bipartisan support, got an airing in a joint Senate committee work session. It’s unlikely to be revived for the special session, which is concentrating on budgets, but that didn’t keep tempers from occasionally flaring as legal experts disagreed on its effectiveness.
Potential changes in voter registration may be coming soon, which will add more than a million Ohioans to the state’s voter polls. Residents would be registered to vote automatically when seeking driver’s licenses or interacting with other state agencies, under legislation planned in the Ohio House and Senate. The bills also would allow online voter registration and automatically register graduating high school students.
It is already past midnight in Nejapa, El Salvador. Poll workers at the Jose Matías Delgado School voting center, exhausted after having arrived at 5 am, are still arguing over how to fill out the new count sheets introduced for this year’s electoral process. Scenes just like this were repeated all across El Salvador during the March 1st elections. Salvadorans took to the polls in relative calm to cast their ballot for mayors, National Legislative Assembly representatives and Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) legislators. Delayed openings, allegations of vote buying in rural areas and isolated confrontations between voters or poll staff did little to impede the active exercise of suffrage throughout the country. The process was declared broadly transparent by visiting international observation delegations, including that of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The Carter Center says Guyana’s electoral preparations appear to be on track, even as it expressed deep concern about divisive campaign rhetoric ahead of the May 11 polls. Since April, The Carter Center has deployed a team of five experts and six medium-term observers throughout the Caribbean Community (Caricom) country to observe preparations for the elections. They have conducted observation in all 10 of Guyana’s electoral districts and held meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, including political parties, the election commission, civil society organisations, and the judiciary.
Buoyed by his strong defense background and Poles’ renewed fear of Russia stoked by the Ukraine crisis, Bronislaw Komorowski looks likely to win the first round of Poland’s presidential election on Sunday. How to ensure the security of Poland in the face of events in Ukraine was the paramount question presidential hopefuls had to answer when they gathered in a TV studio this week for a pre-election debate. That issue has preoccupied Poles since Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine last year. While Poland is now a member of the European Union and a staunch NATO ally of the United States, it was under Soviet domination for decades after World War Two and so remains deeply sensitive to any Russian actions in the region.
Dozens of people planning to vote in the closest election for decades were turned away from polling stations on Thursday morning. Voters in parts of east London and Dorset were told that IT glitches meant they were not registered on the electoral roll, despite many having polling cards. Meanwhile, some Britons who live abroad have complained that postal votes have arrived too late to guarantee they can exercise their democratic rights. In Hackney, where at least 30 people queued to complain outside the town hall, Alix Rowe was one of those left disenfranchised by the problems. The 23-year-old, who works in fashion PR, registered to vote before the deadline but did not receive a polling card. Knowing that it was not necessary to have a polling card, she went to two local polling stations but was told her name was not registered and they could not help her.
A group of Harris County officials have succeeded in scuttling a bipartisan bill that would have made Texas the 27th state to let citizens register to vote online. The proposal was co-sponsored by a majority of the House, but stalled in the chamber’s Elections Committee after the Harris County Clerk and the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s offices rallied opposition, arguing it would make Texas more vulnerable to voter fraud, even with the state’s controversial voter ID law. Rep. Celia Israel, who sponsored the measure as a way to boost voter turnout and save the state millions of dollars, pronounced it dead Friday afternoon. “Texas wants this. The majority of the people on this floor want this,” said Israel, D-Austin, gesturing to her colleagues. “But I can’t get it out of committee because of some partisan election officers from Harris County.”
Editorials: As Utah’s GOP looks to an Internet presidential primary in 2016, be cautious, inclusive in adopting online voting | Richard Davis/Deseret News
The world of politics is changing dramatically. A few years ago, the notion of voting online was a dream. Now, it is becoming a reality. Universities are holding student elections online. Corporations are now using online voting to conduct shareholder meetings. In a few nations such as Canada, Estonia and Switzerland, online voting conducted by governments in official elections is becoming routine. Online voting is not common in the United States. The Reform Party selected its presidential candidate through online voting in 1996. The Democratic Party in Arizona held an online primary election in 2000. Some states have experimented with online voting for military personnel overseas. Those are rare exceptions. Why is online voting still a distant prospect? Security! Experiments of online voting systems have found them susceptible to hacking, which has made governments cautious about using them to determine electoral outcomes.
Demonstrations against Burundi’s president have degenerated into a man being burned alive in the capital, Bujumbura. Protestors said he was a member of the ruling party’s youth wing who had attacked them. The immolation on Thursday culminated two weeks of protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza bid for a third term. Opponents say his bid violates the constitution and a 2003 peace deal. “They put tires around his neck and then burned him,” a witness told the Reuters news agency, referring to a man said by protestors to have been a member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.
United Kingdom: Five million votes but just two seats. UKIP and Green set to campaign for electoral reform | Yorkshire Post
The Greens and Ukip have formed an unlikely alliance to demand electoral reform after their parties polled almost five million votes between them but won just one seat each. Ukip leader Nigel Farage joined in the criticism, eventually pledging that his party would lead the reform before he discovered this morning that he had failed to oust the Conservatives in the South Thanet seat. He said: “There’ll be lost and lots of Ukip voters out there very angry that they are not going to be represented and I think our system is bust.