National: Nine Years Ago, Republicans Favored Voting Rights. What Happened? | Jim Rutenberg/The New York Times

On July 20, 2006, the United States Senate voted to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. The vote was unanimous, 98 to 0. That followed an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, which passed it by a vote of 390 to 33. President George Bush signed the renewal with apparent enthusiasm a few days later. This bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Act — first enacted into law 50 years ago this month by Lyndon B. Johnson — was not unusual; indeed, it was the rule throughout most of the legislation’s history on Capitol Hill. And if you want to understand how dramatically Congress’s partisan landscape has changed in the Obama era, it’s a particularly useful example. As it happens, two bills introduced in the past two years would restore at least some of the act’s former strength, after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened it. And both are languishing, with no significant Republican support and no Republican leader willing to bring them to the floor for a vote. What was, less than a decade ago, an uncontroversial legislative no-brainer is now lost in the crevasse of our partisan divide.

Voting Blogs: A Hacked Case For Election Technology | OSET Foundation

Catching up on piles of reading, I noticed a respectable digital journal—Springer Link recently (in June) published an article by Antonio Mugica of Smartmatic in London, UK, titled “The Case for Election Technology.” I am going be bold here: IMHO, it is unfortunate to see a respectable journal publish this paper, or any that claims to describe a system that is “un-hackable”, completely secure, impenetrable, and/or impossible to compromise. It’s the computer systems equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.Impossible. Bear in mind, I think Smartmatic has some fine technology. I know folks there, and I am confident that if they had been aware of this article going to press before it did, they would have done everything they could to put the brakes on it, until some revisions were made for basic credibility. But that cat is out of the bag, so to speak. And the article is being widely circulated. I also disagree with most of Mugica’s comparisons between eVoting and paper voting because from a U.S. perspective (and I admit this review is all from a U.S.-centric viewpoint) it’s comparing the wrong two things: paperless eVoting verses hand-marked hand-counted paper ballots. It ignores the actual systems that are the most widely used for election integrity in the U.S.

Florida: Lawmakers offer flurry of amendments to proposed congressional districts map | Miami Herald

After days of listening to how their staff redrew Florida’s 27 congressional districts in relative seclusion, state legislators Wednesday started taking their own turn at re-mapping the state.By the end of the third day of the 12-day special session on redistricting, at least eight state legislators were working on alternative redistricting plans that, in some cases, would significantly change an initial base map that lawmakers started debating Monday. The result is that who represents millions of Floridians in Congress is far from being resolved.Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, took a different approach to halt the Legislature’s entire redistricting process because of how it portends to change the 5th District she has represented since 1993. Brown said she was filing a lawsuit calling on the federal courts to block the Florida Supreme Court’s directive to change her snaking Jacksonville-to-Orlando district because it would reduce the percentage of black residents who are of voting age.

New Hampshire: Selfies — yes, selfies — just won a big political and legal victory | The Washington Post

Like most good stories, this one starts with a dog. During the 2014 New Hampshire Republican primary, a voter decided he didn’t like his options. So he wrote in the name of his recently deceased dog, snapped a pic of his ballot, and then posted it to social media. Andrew Langlois got a notice a few days later from the New Hampshire secretary of state saying he was being investigated for breaking a law — the ballot selfie law. Up until Tuesday, it was illegal in New Hampshire to take a photo of a ballot in the voting booth. But on Tuesday, a federal judge struck down the state’s 2014 ballot selfie law on the grounds it limited free political speech. “What this law ignored, and what the court recognized, is that displaying a photograph of a marked ballot on the Internet is a powerful form of political speech that conveys various constitutionally protected messages,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of New Hampshire’s ACLU branch, which sued on behalf of the dog’s owner and a few other ballot selfie takers in the state.

Texas: Study: Law Discouraged More Than Those Without Voter ID | The Texas Tribune

Texas’ strict voter identification requirements kept many would-be voters in a Hispanic-majority congressional district from going to the polls last November — including many who had proper IDs — a new survey shows. And the state’s voter ID law – coupled with lackluster voter education efforts – might have shaped the outcome of a congressional race, the research suggests. Released on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act, the joint Rice University and University of Houston study found that 13 percent of those registered in the 23rd Congressional District and did not vote stayed home, at least partly because they thought they lacked proper ID under a state law considered the strictest in the nation. And nearly 6 percent did not vote primarily because of the requirements.

Editorials: How not to measure security | Jeremy Epstein/Freedom to Tinker

A recent paper published by Smartmatic, a vendor of voting systems, caught my attention. The first thing is that it’s published by Springer, which typically publishes peer-reviewed articles – which this is not. This is a marketing piece. It’s disturbing that a respected imprint like Springer would get into the business of publishing vendor white papers. There’s no disclaimer that it’s not a peer-reviewed piece, or any other indication that it doesn’t follow Springer’s historical standards. The second, and more important issue, is that the article could not possibly have passed peer review, given some of its claims. I won’t go into the controversies around voting systems (a nice summary of some of those issues can be found on the OSET blog), but rather focus on some of the security metrics claims.

Editorials: Going Postal: How All-Mail Voting Thwarts Navajo Voters | Stephanie Woodard/In These Times

All-mail-in voting has arrived in the red-rock bluffs and canyons of San Juan County, Utah, which overlaps the Navajo Nation’s reservation. In 2014, the county sent voters mail-in ballots for the general election, while closing local precincts in the shadow of Red Mesa’s ruddy flat-topped butte; in Monument Valley, the fabled location for John Ford Westerns; and in other towns and hamlets. Just one polling place remained open, in the county seat, Monticello, in the predominantly white northern portion of the county. Also gone were 20-some election judges and translators who had provided voting help and federally mandated language assistance to non-English-speaking Navajos. Just one part-time official interpreter was left to cover about 8,000 square miles—an area nearly the size of Massachusetts. As states and counties around the nation increasingly offer voters convenient ways to cast a ballot—early voting, in-person absentee voting, vote-by-mail—Native people find themselves shut out, according to an In These Times story,“The Missing Native Vote.” Since 2012, Natives have sued three times in federal court to obtain in-person absentee voting on reservations, claiming that offering this option only in distant, off-reservation county seats means they do not have voting rights that are equal to that of non-Natives. The Department of Justice has proposed legislation to remedy this problem, according to a Rural America In These Times article.

Alaska: PFD voter registration initiative approved for signature gathering | Alaska Dispatch News

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has certified a ballot petition that would link Alaska Permanent Fund dividend applications with voter registrations, which initiative sponsors say could add tens of thousands of Alaskans to voter rolls. But Mallott’s Elections Division is also warning it would cost nearly $1 million to implement and another $300,000 a year to manage. One of the initiative’s sponsors, Tim Kacillas of Anchorage, said despite the upfront cost, there will be ongoing benefits to the state of having more people registered and voting. “It’s originally $500,000 for initial system setup; that’s where the bulk of the money goes,” he said. “I think the people of Alaska will think it’s worthwhile for that price,” he said.

Florida: Brown offers fiery rhetoric, but no data, for claims on new district | Politico

Fighting to save her congressional district, Rep. Corrine Brown publicly addressed two state legislative committees on Thursday and predicted the new seat drawn by legislators will disenfranchise minorities. But Brown, an African-American Democrat elected in 1992 to a heavily Democratic seat, offered no data to back up her claims and instead spoke of racial injustice — from Trayvon Martin’s shooting to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s current district, which zigs and zags from heavily black areas in Jacksonville to Orlando, has been held up as a poster-child for gerrymandering. Because so many African Americans vote Democrat, her current district helps “bleach” adjacent districts, making them more white and more Republican, giving the edge to the GOP, which also controls the Legislature, where the maps are drawn.

Hawaii: Lawsuit: Native Hawaiian election would be unconstitutional | Associated Press

A lawsuit filed Thursday is challenging an election solely for Native Hawaiians, saying it’s unconstitutional to restrict voting to those who have Native Hawaiian ancestry. The lawsuit filed in federal court wants to stop a vote planned for November to elect delegates for a convention to determine self-governance for Native Hawaiians. There are a wide range of opinions and options for Hawaiian self-determination, and next year’s convention will allow Native Hawaiians to participate in that process, according to Nai Aupuni, the organization guiding the election, convention and ratification process. The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission was launched in 2012 as part of a state law recognizing Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous people of the islands. The roll is a list of Native Hawaiians interested in participating in their own government.

Montana: Voting rights case inspires national legislation | Great Falls Tribune

A 120-mile round trip separates voters in Lame Deer from voting early and registering late, and Lame Deer is among the closest places on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to Forsyth, the seat of Rosebud County. But the asphalt on Montana Highway 39 is just one way to measure the distance. “This journey has geographical and historical distances,” said Tom Rodgers, a tribal issues activist, member of the Blackfeet Nation and Jack Abramoff whistleblower. As South Carolina debates Confederate symbols, Rodgers thinks of symbols in Montana that also tell a story. “Names matter. History matters,” he said. “We have a county seat named after a man who was horribly anti-Native American, a man who killed 300 men, women and children at Wounded Knee. The fact that it hasn’t been remedied is wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Virginia: Voter registration changes that worried GOP are delayed in Virginia | The Washington Post

The head of Virginia’s elections board on Tuesday postponed action on a plan that would let people registering to vote skip questions about their citizenship and criminal history, saying it needs to be reworked. James , chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said in an email to fellow elections officials that he was pulling the proposal from the board’s September agenda. At the same time, he asserted there was still a need to revamp existing voter registration forms, which seem to routinely trip up would-be voters. The move puts off action on a seemingly arcane administrative matter that hit a nerve with Republicans on the hot-button issues of illegal immigration, voter fraud and the restoration of felons’ right to vote. Hundreds of people flocked to a board meeting two weeks ago to oppose making questions about citizenship and felony convictions optional on voter registration forms. They said the change would make it easier for felons and illegal immigrants to vote fraudulently and suggested that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was seeking to pump up Democratic voter rolls in the crucial swing state ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

Texas: Road Ahead Murky After Voter ID Ruling | The Austin Chronicle

Two weeks ago, Texas’ voter ID law was discriminatory. This week, it’s still discriminatory, just for slightly different reasons. On Aug. 5 – the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act – the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the latest ruling in the seemingly endless cycle of appeals against Texas’ 2011 voter ID law. The state of Texas was appealing a 2014 ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos (see “Judge Throws Out Texas Voter ID Law,” Oct. 10, 2014) throwing the law out on three grounds: 1) that it discriminated against minority voters; 2) that it was purposefully discriminatory; and 3) that a costly photo ID made it a de facto poll tax. But in an opinion authored by Judge Catharina Haynes, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit took a different tack.

Editorials: Texas Voter ID law is discriminatory, un-American and needs to be amended | Raúl A. Reyes/Fox News Latino

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a panel of federal appeals court judges in Texas last week ruled against the state’s Voter ID law. They agreed that the law violated the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, because it disproportionately impacted Latino and African-American voters. In response, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement, “Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State.” Texas’ Voter ID law is a solution in search of a problem. While in theory it fights voter fraud, in reality it has disenfranchised thousands of minority voters. Texas’ Voter ID law deserves to be amended or dismantled so that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot box. True, these days a valid ID is necessary to board a plane or to buy alcohol. But travelling or buying beer is not a constitutional right; voting is.

US Virgin Islands: St. Croix Elections Board Plans for Election Reform | St. Croix Source

The St. Croix District Elections Board discussed plans for election reform and ways to deal with a perceived violation of a contract from the supplier of the territory’s voting machines, which, according to some, did not perform as expected, adding expense and delays to the 2014 general election. … In the past, the board has discussed some of the changes they feel are needed, including revising the general elections ballot, the timing of primary elections to include military voters serving overseas, early voting, deadlines for filing candidacy and retaining independent legal counsel. … The other issue that drew heated discussion was dealing with the company, ES&S, which sold the territory voting machines that were used in the 2014 election. According to Elections, the machines did not perform as promised. After the primary election, board members determined the machines read some votes incorrectly and did not tally cross-voting correctly. As a result, during the general election, voters were not allowed to scan their own ballots but handed them to poll watchers for processing. That procedure did not sit well with residents.

Virginia: House GOP lays out plan for redistricting session | Richmond Times-Dispatch

House Republicans on Wednesday laid out their agenda for Monday’s upcoming congressional redistricting special session in Richmond, setting times for a committee meeting and public hearing. GOP leaders said the process — an 8:30 a.m. meeting of the Joint Reapportionment Committee and a public hearing at 3 p.m. — will provide an overview, input and criteria needed to produce a redrawn map. A federal panel has ordered legislators to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries because the current map unconstitutionally packs too many black voters into the 3rd District, diluting their voting strength elsewhere.

Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan Set to Use Biometric Registration in Next Election | The Diplomat

A date for Kyrgyzstan parliamentary election has been set (October 4) and parties are gearing up for the campaign (which starts September 4). The election is much anticipated by regional observers because it should be, unlike most other regional elections, an actual race. The world will also be watching because the country plans to debut the use of a controversial biometric registration program in the election–specifically the use of fingerprints to verify identity before voting. The program is controversial due to concerns about the right to privacy of Kyrgyz citizens and the possible de facto disenfranchisement of any who refuse to submit fingerprints.

Myanmar: President Thein Sein Ousts Ruling Party Chairman Ahead of Elections | RFA

Myanmar President Thein Sein has moved to consolidate his power in the country’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) by forcing out his chief rival Shwe Mann as party chairman, months ahead of a November general election. Shwe Mann was removed from his position as “acting” chairman of the ruling party because he was too busy with his other role as the country’s influential parliamentary speaker, the USDP said in a statement Thursday. The shakeup follows reports that security forces had surrounded USDP headquarters in the capital Naypyidaw late on Wednesday, preventing some members from leaving, and possibly taking Shwe Mann into custody.

Russia: United Russia will not use Putin’s image in next elections | RT

Russia’s ruling parliamentary party, which has always based its policies on supporting Vladimir Putin, will not ask the president to allow them use his image in the 2016 elections campaign, a business daily reports. Kommersant newspaper quoted unnamed sources in United Russia as saying that its presidium has already chosen five people who will top the party’s lists in the forthcoming primaries, and the president was not among them. The sources did not disclose the names of these politicians. They also said that most of the places in the lists would be reserved for regional party leaders, as this would make the primaries “democratic to the maximum.” United Russia officials also told Kommersant that the party did not want to involve Putin in its election campaign in order to protect the president from possible damage to his political rating, because it was difficult to forecast how many voters would lend their support to the party this time around.

Haiti: Observers criticize unruly Haiti elections | AFP

International observers and Haitian human rights groups on Tuesday sharply criticized the country’s violence-marred legislative elections as poorly policed and organized. At least two people were killed during voting Sunday that was disrupted by attacks and other problems that forced the early closure of at least 26 polling centers. Pierre Esperance, executive director of a national network of human rights groups, said the disruptions were a blow to democracy in the impoverished Caribbean nation. “The rights of the Haitian people have been trampled,” he said. The elections, which were four-and-a-half years overdue in a country still struggling from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, were to choose the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate.

Switzerland: Government puts the brakes on e-voting | SWI

The Swiss cabinet has given the green light for the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Basel City and Lucerne to offer electronic voting to registered citizens abroad. But proposals by nine other cantons were rejected due to security concerns. Around 34,000 Swiss citizens living abroad who are registered with the four cantons will be able to vote electronically in the federal elections scheduled for October 18. The voting systems in place will allow individual verification of votes and a personalised code provided to voters will help them verify if their vote has been recorded correctly or not.

Philippines: Will Smartmatic bag 2016 voting machine deals? | CNN

With less than a year left before the 2016 elections, it’s more likely that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will turn to Smartmatic for most voting machine deals. It was the very company that supplied precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the government during the 2010 and 2013 elections. A forum held at the Luneta Hotel on Wednesday (August 12) aimed to address two issues: why the company keeps landing supply deals with Comelec, and whether or not automation is the way to go next year. Smartmatic Asia-Pacific President Cesar Flores said that the reason the company has won practically every bidding to supply vote counting machines is because it has offered the best price. Flores presented data from Smartmatic’s operations in different countries. He pointed out that the sizeable production capacity enables the company to lease or sell the machines at a lower price than most companies. There were questions about alleged failures and glitches in the 2010 and 2013 polls — but Flores said those were mostly untrue, and are marginal.