“Internet voting” means different things to different people. To many folks, it might mean “click a button, submit, done.” To some—and for our purposes—it means anytime a voted ballot is transmitted in any way, shape or form via the Internet. Whatever the definition, computer scientists tell us that secure online voting is still many years, or even decades, away. For now, they say, using the Internet to return voted ballots can’t be done with confidence. Like it or not, Internet voting is on the minds of legislators and other policymakers. We say that, based on the 13 states that have had legislation in 2015 that deals in some way with permitting Internet voting. Only one has been enacted, Maine SB 552. So voters’ needs and technical expectations may push policymakers toward Internet voting—and at the same time security concerns are holding it back.
On the morning of his wedding, in 1956, Henry Frye realized that he had a few hours to spare before the afternoon ceremony. He was staying at his parents’ house in Ellerbe, N.C.; the ceremony would take place 75 miles away, in Greensboro, the hometown of his fiancée; and the drive wouldn’t take long. Frye, who had always been practical, had a practical thought: Now might be a good time to finally register to vote. He was 24 and had just returned from Korea, where he served as an Air Force officer, but he was also a black man in the American South, so he wasn’t entirely surprised when his efforts at the registrar’s office were blocked. Adopting a tactic common in the Jim Crow South, the registrar subjected Frye to what election officials called a literacy test. In 1900, North Carolina voters amended the state’s Constitution to require that all new voters “be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language,” but for decades some registrars had been applying that already broad mandate even more aggressively, targeting perfectly literate black registrants with arbitrary and obscure queries, like which president served when or who had the ultimate power to adjourn Congress. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know why are you asking me all of these questions,’ ” Frye, now 83, recalled. “We went around and around, and he said, ‘Are you going to answer these questions?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to try.’ And he said, ‘Well, then, you’re not going to register today.’ ”
It turns out that the old quip about voting early and often is not illegal in Arizona. In a unanimous ruling Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of a Bullhead City woman who prosecutors said voted in both Colorado and Arizona. The judges said the way the Arizona law is worded, people who are qualified to vote here can also cast ballots in other states — assuming the other states don’t have a problem with it. In fact, appellate Judge Kenton Jones said the only way to break the Arizona law with multi-state voting is when a presidential candidate is on the ballot. Carol Hannah was indicted in 2013 after prosecutors said she cast an early ballot in the 2010 election in Adams County, Colo. and then went to the polls that November in Bullhead City. She was convicted of illegal voting, a felony, and placed on probation for three years.
After spending nearly three years and millions of dollars defending its redistricting maps, the Florida Senate gave up the fight Tuesday as it conceded for the first time that the courts were going to find it violated the state Constitution. Lawyers for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have argued the Republican-controlled Senate violated the so-called Fair Districts provision of the state Constitution that prohibits drawing lines to favor a political party or any incumbents. As a result of Tuesday’s settlement, the Legislature will now be called into its third special session of the year to redraw at least 28 of its 40 districts statewide. That special session is scheduled to run from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6, two months after the Legislature holds a special session in August to fix congressional districts that the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month had violated the state Constitution.
North Carolina: Historic federal trial on voting rights ends; judge to issue decision later this year | Winston-Salem Journal
A federal trial regarding North Carolina’s election law — one that civil-rights activists call the most sweeping and restrictive in the country — ended late Friday afternoon, a week before the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. But U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder’s decision won’t come down anytime soon. It could be at least a month before he renders a ruling on whether House Bill 589 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. For three weeks in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom, North Carolina residents and national experts testified about the impact of House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. The law eliminated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10 and got rid of preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Virginia: Backlash over checkboxes: Intent questioned on voter registration form edits | Daily Press
State Board of Elections members mulling a redesign of voter registration forms got an earful Tuesday from conservatives who feel the changes would make it easier for non-citizens to vote, and from registrars who voiced a longer list of concerns. The biggest controversy stems from a proposal for checkboxes on the current form, where registrants state whether they’re citizens, whether they have a felony record and whether they’ve been judged mentally incapacitated. Instead of requiring people to check those boxes, the new form would make them optional. It would also beef up the form’s “affirmation” – the statement just above where people sign – to include explicit mentions of all three requirements.
Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, is poised to call a parliamentary election for October 19, kicking off a marathon 11-week campaign likely to focus on a stubbornly sluggish economy and his decade in power. Harper’s office said in a statement on Saturday night that he is due to visit governor general David Johnston – the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state – at 9:55 am (1355 GMT) on Sunday. Harper, who has been in power since 2006, is expected to seek the dissolution of parliament, triggering the start of the campaign. Polls indicate that Harper’s right-of-center Conservative party, which has been in office since 2006, could lose its majority in the House of Commons.
Despite calls to blacklist it from election deals, Venezuelan firm Smartmatic moved closer to bagging all major election contracts for the Philippines’ presidential elections in 2016. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, July 30, said it decided to award to Smartmatic a major contract for the lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines. The contract for these precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines is pegged at P1.7 billion ($37.18 million). Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will soon issue the notice of award to Smartmatic. The lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines is part of the Comelec’s last-ditch effort to ensure automated elections in 2016.
Democrats gathered on the steps of Congress in Washington D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, as they called on Republicans to restore a key mandate. “It was not this warm on March 7, 1965, when we attempted to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery,” House Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said Thursday, referring to the historic “Bloody Sunday” Civil Rights march.
Editorials: Is the Federal Election Commission’s voting procedure unlawful? | Jonathan H. Adler/The Washington Post
Does the Federal Election Commission utilize an unlawful voting procedure to initiate enforcement actions under the Federal Election Campaign Act? A decision yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Combat Veterans for Congress Political Action Committee v. FEC raises (but does not resolve) this question. Here is how Judge Pillard’s opinion for the court summarizes the issue and the case: The basic facts are few and not in dispute. The Federal Election Commission in October of 2011 imposed an $8,690 fine on the Combat Veterans for Congress Political Action Committee and its treasurer, David Wiggs, in his official capacity. Combat Veterans incurred the fine for failing to meet three required reporting deadlines under the Federal Election Campaign Act. Combat Veterans sued the Commission, contesting the fine and charging that the Commission’s procedural errors deprived it of the power to act.
After reaching an agreement this week with voting-rights groups, Florida lawmakers face the chore of going into special session in October to redraw Senate districts. But the agreement with the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause Florida and others that legally challenged the Senate’s current map doesn’t list the districts that have to be changed. And the opponents’ objections have encompassed 28 districts — fully 70 percent of the districts represented in the 40-member Senate.
The jury trial for a Wanamingo Township supervisor accused of burning township election ballots in 2014 got underway Tuesday in Goodhue County District Court. Defense attorney Alex Rogosheske said his client, Thomas Joseph Shane, 59, of Zumbrota, admits to destroying the ballots after the March 11 election, but was well-intentioned and acted following the advice of an election judge present that night. Prosecutor Christopher Schrader with the Goodhue County Attorney’s Office said the key question is why Shane allegedly burned the ballots and if he had legal reason to do so.
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in 2013, when the Supreme Court freed Southern states from the requirement that federal authorities approve any proposed election-law change in order to ensure minority voters were not harmed. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina appeared to take that as a go signal; they immediately unveiled a previously private plan to overhaul the state’s voting procedures. A 14-page bill that would require voters to show specific kinds of identification was replaced with a 57-page omnibus package. It rolled back or repealed a number of voting procedures that civil rights leaders say had made the state a leader in increasing African American voter turnout. It was approved along party lines.
North Carolina: State attorneys rest their case in federal voting rights trial | Winston-Salem Journal
Attorneys representing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory rested their case this morning after calling six witnesses in a federal trial over the state’s controversial election law. The last witness for the state was Brian Neesby, business systems analysis for the State Board of Election. Neesby testified about data analysis he conducted, including an analysis that showed higher mail verification failure rates for same-day voter registration than the traditional registration that occurs 25 days before an election. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. House Bill 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting and abolished preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds.
The federal judge presiding over the North Carolina voting rights trial agreed Thursday to give the state more time to prepare for closing arguments, pushing them to Friday. Thomas Farr, a private attorney representing state legislators who shepherded the 2013 election laws through the General Assembly, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder he needed more time to cross-examine rebuttal witnesses. On Thursday morning, attorneys for the NAACP, League of Women Voters, U.S. Justice Department and others challenging key provisions of the 2013 election law changes asked experts and voters about testimony presented by attorneys representing the state. The challengers’ witnesses offered rebuttal to testimony from state experts and election board workers.
Oklahoma residents who seek public assistance from various state agencies will be provided more opportunities to register to vote under the terms of a settlement agreement announced Thursday that would stave off a potential lawsuit over the state’s compliance with federal voting laws. Details of the settlement were released by the Oklahoma State Election Board and several voting rights advocacy groups that had voiced concerns about Oklahoma’s compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
Pennsylvania: Though only one race will appear on the ballot, Tuesday’s special election will cost thousands | PennLive
It might be a special election with only one race appearing on the ballot, but it still has to be run like any other election. And like regular elections, you need to rent polling places, pay poll workers and make sure you’ve got all of the supplies necessary for this important part of the democratic process, Cumberland County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Penny Brown said Thursday. Brown said Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacant state House seat in the 87th District will cost about $60,000, and maybe as much as $70,000. The county will be reimbursed this cost by the state, though, Brown pointed out.
Utah: Salt Lake City, County officials discuss mail-in voting in upcoming municipal elections | Fox13
Many cities in Utah have opted for mail-in voting in their municipal elections this year. While some cities have seen success in the past, the Salt Lake County Election Office is working out some kinks with duplicate ballots being sent out. “If someone registers with a different name or whatever, they could possibly receive a duplicate ballot,” said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. Swensen reminds anyone who receives a duplicate ballot to only vote once, as duplicate voting is considered a class A misdemeanor and is punishable with up to one year in prison.
Canada: Imminent federal election to be costliest, longest in recent Canadian history | Daily Courier
Stephen Harper is poised to fire the starting gun for the Oct. 19 federal election as early as Sunday. Sources say the prime minister is set to visit Gov. Gen. David Johnston within days, possibly as soon as Sunday, to formally dissolve Parliament and launch what will be the costliest and — at 11 weeks — one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history. Here are five things voters should know about Canada’s imminent 42nd general election campaign: Elections law requires a minimum campaign of 37 days. It does not impose a maximum length. Harper is choosing to make this the longest traditional campaign in Canadian history. Only the first two election campaigns after Confederation were longer — 81 days in 1867 and 96 days in 1872 — but in those early days voting was staggered across the country over a period of several months, necessarily extending the length of the campaigns. Since then, the longest campaign was 74 days, way back in 1926.
Myanmar: Burma’s path to democracy is being wrecked by lethal identity politics | The Conversation UK
The very word “Burma” was once shorthand for a brutal military dictatorship, but things have now changed dramatically. Burma (or Myanmar) has come to be viewed as a country firmly committed to the establishment of a new reality, founded upon respect for human rights and the rule of law. Behind this changing perception are a series of planned government reforms and gestures. In 2010, under the auspices of the so-called “seven stage road-map to democracy” Burma’s government ended the 15-year house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. A further 2,000 political prisoners were subsequently released, many of whom had languished in the aptly named Insein prison.
When Gov. Scott Walker kicked off his presidential bid this month, supporters who visited his website could view photographs of him, peruse his announcement speech, and read about the Wisconsin Republican’s life and accomplishments. Using a bit of code embedded on its website, the Walker team was able to track who visited the donation page, tell which potential backers shared interests with existing supporters, and determine who was learning about the candidate for the first time. It could then use that information to target prospective voters with highly personalized appeals. Those supporters who had already given money, for instance, were served an ad seeking another donation. But new supporters received a more modest request: to provide their email address or to click on a link to the campaign’s online store.
Maptitude for Redistricting may not be a household name, but it is dominant in the niche market of redistricting software and is used to literally shape the political landscape. Its client roster features a majority of state legislatures, two national party committees and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, plus the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which was upheld in a Supreme Court decision last month. Caliper Corporation President Howard Slavin credited Maptitude for Redistrictring’s dominance in part to its simplicity and effectiveness. “You can be productive and it doesn’t require you to be an expert user of the software,” Slavin said. “You have a good product when you know it’s simple enough for a politician to use it.” But the software’s dominance in the redistricting market happened almost by accident. “We just sort of fell into it, it wasn’t part of any grand plan or scheme,” Slavin said.
The Kansas division of a federal civil rights commission will investigate whether voter identification laws have affected turnout around the state. The Kansas Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission voted Tuesday to hold hearings to determine if turnout in some communities has been suppressed, KCUR-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1SMwZAi ). The committee also agreed to ask Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who strongly advocated for the laws, to testify at its hearings, which are expected to take place early next year. “My office would be happy to appear before the Kansas advisory committee and point out the success of the Kansas photo ID law,” Kobach told The Associated Press late Wednesday afternoon.
Five of Mississippi’s 82 counties are reporting high rates of absentee voting, the state’s top elections official said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said about 5 percent to 6 percent of voters usually cast absentee ballots. Hosemann said the rate so far this year is nearly 14 percent in Noxubee County, 11 percent in Quitman County, 8 percent in Claiborne County, 7 percent in Tallahatchie County and 6 percent in Benton County. All five are Democratic-leaning counties.
North Carolina: State elections director discusses prevention of voter fraud | Winston-Salem Journal
Kim Strach, the executive director of the State Board of Elections, took the stand Tuesday for a second time in a closely watched federal trial over North Carolina’s controversial election law. But this time she was on much friendlier ground. Unlike last week, she was called as a witness by attorneys representing the state and Gov. Pat McCrory. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, legislation passed in 2013 that eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting and eliminated preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, among other provisions.
A new vote tabulation system in Multnomah County will “completely revolutionize the way we process ballots,” said the county’s election director Tim Scott. On Tuesday, the county unveiled the ClearVote system which will scan both sides of a ballot at once and then create an image. The system will also be able to count about 4000 ballots an hour instead of the current pace of 1000 per hour. If there is a questions over a voter’s intent, a bipartisan group will work to determine what the voter meant, and do it in a separate room.
Two Canadians stripped of the right to vote because of their lengthy stay abroad are hoping the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case, their lawyer said Wednesday. Shaun O’Brien said last week’s split Appeal Court decision affirming the voting ban prompted an outpouring of support “There’s been a strong response,” O’Brien said in an interview. “People (have been) reaching out to us – expats living around the world – who are very disappointed and dismayed by the decision, and who are urging us to move forward and who are offering their support.” Among those unhappy with losing their right to vote is veteran Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, an Officer of the Order of Canada, who wears his Canadian citizenship on his sleeve.
On Monday, Tory MP Pierre Poilievre announced a re-elected Conservative government would pass a law to prevent any future government from changing the voting system without a referendum. The NDP wants to bring in proportional representation, electing some MPs from party lists to make the House of Commons more representative. The Liberals want ranked ballots — where second choices are counted in — but say they would have a parliamentary committee consider both ideas. Neither party has promised a referendum on the change, and the Conservatives think that’s bad. “Both Justin Trudeau and the NDP say they will revolutionize how Canadians elect their government and neither is willing to give the Canadians a say in the matter,” Poilievre said.
A team of researchers in Athens say they’ve designed the world’s first encrypted e-voting system where voters can verify that votes cast actually go to the intended candidate. The process happens on a distributed, publicly-available ledger, much like the blockchain — the peer-reviewed software architecture that underpins bitcoin. The digital ballot box, called DEMOS, decreases the probability of election fraud as more voters use the system to verify their votes. The voting system starts by generating a series of randomized numbers. Each voter gets two sets of numbers, or ‘keys’: a key corresponding to the voter, and a key that corresponds to the voter’s preferred candidate. This is akin to the blockchain’s private and public key combination which authenticates bitcoin transactions.
Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday registered for November elections to keep her seat in parliament and challenge the ruling military-backed party. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will contest almost all the 498 parliamentary seats in the Nov. 8 polls, and expects heavy gains, according to party spokesman Nyan Win. He said the party will announce the first batch of candidates Wednesday.