When Americans head to the polls for next year’s presidential election, 43 states will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to a new study from New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice released Tuesday. And the price tag for replacement machines could top $1 billion. Fifteen years after the term “hanging chad” entered the American political lexicon, and Congress appropriated $2 billion to move to electronic voting systems to avoid a future conundrum, those same electronic systems are still in use in many jurisdictions. “No one expects a laptop to last for 10 years. How can we expect these machines, many of which were designed and engineered in the 1990s, to keep running without increased failures?” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program, and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Old equipment can have serious security flaws, and the longer we delay purchasing new machines, the higher the risk. To avoid a new technology crisis every decade, we must plan for and invest in voting technology for the 21st century.”
In 2014, just 41.9 percent of the voting-age citizen population of the United States voted. But the people who voted are not only in the minority, they form an unrepresentative minority. Millions of Americans are too young to vote. Others are disenfranchised felons, unable to vote for health reasons, missed registration deadlines, stuck at work, dissuaded by voter ID laws. In many salient ways, voters are not like nonvoters: voters are richer, whiter, and older than other Americans. And my new report, Why Voting Matters, shows how their votes produce a government that caters to their interests—and how boosting turnout would lead to a more representative democracy. Political scientists once accepted the idea that voters were a “carbon copy” of the nonvoting population. In 1999, Benjamin Highton and Raymond E. Wolfinger summarized this consensus, writing that, “simply put, voters’ preferences differ minimally from those of all citizens; outcomes would not change if everyone voted.” More recently, though, that view has come under attack. Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler, a pair of political scientists, argue that gaps between voters and nonvoters are real and have widened, and that the divergence in their views is particularly acute on issues related to social class and the size of government. However, measures that examine a one dimensional left-right axis obscure these divides.
In this era of smartphones and the Internet, the way Americans cast their ballots is a bit outdated. Los Angeles County, which is home to the most voters in the country, uses technology that is more than 50 years old. But a campaign of innovation could soon bring change at the ballot box across the United States. In one unorthodox Silicon Valley workspace, a team of developers is trying to change the way we vote, by first determining how we want to vote, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. Blaise Bertrand leads the design team at IDEO, a firm that encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking. IDEO’s human-centered approach is responsible for creating some of the most innovative products in our lifetime, from Apple’s first computer mouse to a talking defibrillator. For the past two years, they have taken on another project — developing a new voting machine for Los Angeles County.
For years, good-government advocates have pushed for a new way to draw Illinois House and Senate district boundaries to curb the influence of partisan politics in deciding who controls the General Assembly, only to fall short due to legal hurdles. Now a new group funded by well-heeled backers is taking another run at the issue as it tries to learn from mistakes of the past by getting an earlier start and drafting a proposal it believes can withstand an inevitable court challenge. The Independent Map Amendment effort says it’s well on its way to getting enough signatures to put the measure on next year’s ballot, aided by voter frustration over the stalemate at the Statehouse. But like last time, the latest drive is drawing opposition from a group led by African-American businessmen who said they fear changes in the process could end up reducing minority representation and influence at the Capitol. Some of them successfully challenged a similar proposal last year, aided by a lawyer with close ties to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, a 44-year veteran who helped write the Illinois Constitution and is opposed to changing how legislative maps are drawn.
Although the devices won’t be ready in time for the Nov. 3 election, Lake and Geauga counties soon will be purchasing e-pollbooks, thanks to state aid. About $12.7 million in funding was appropriated in the state’s biennial budget passed in June to cover up to 85 percent of each county’s purchase cost. Funds will be distributed based on the number of voters in each county, according to a news release from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office. Counties were given the go-ahead to purchase e-pollbooks Sept. 14 from the Secretary of State’s office.
Embattled New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran entered a not guilty plea today to charges of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes for allegedly using campaign contributions to cover personal spending at casinos. Duran was stoic during the 30-minute appearance before District Judge Glenn Ellington. She did not speak to reporters while leaving the courthouse through a side exit, and her husband at one point pushed away a television reporter’s microphone. During the hearing, Duran’s attorney raised several technical complaints about the charges filed against Duran, but the judge rejected motions to dismiss part or all of the case.
Despite the uproar over the Conservative government’s new election law, the country’s chief electoral officer said Monday he’s confident those who want to vote on Oct. 19 will get a chance to do so. Marc Mayrand said his agency is going to great lengths to inform people, particularly online and in aboriginal communities. New, legislative requirements for identification should not cause problems, as long as voters prepare themselves, he said. “I think we’ll see a good election,” he said. “We have taken various measures to ensure no one is denied the right to vote.” Mayrand downplayed opposition party warnings, which resounded during the divisive debate over Bill C-23, that thousands will be unable to vote because of the new rules. However, he placed the burden of exercising democratic rights on the shoulders of electors. “If anybody is turned away from the polls, or anybody stays home because of concerns, I think there should be no concerns there,” he said. “I think there is a way (to vote). If you’re concerned about your ability to establish your ID and address, please contact us.”
The United States, Japan and other major powers on Tuesday raised fears that rising religious tensions in Myanmar could spark “division and conflict” as campaigning begins for historic elections. Myanmar goes to the polls on November 8 in what many hope will be its freest vote in generations after decades of army rule, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party widely tipped to make huge gains. But religious tensions are spiking in the Buddhist-majority country, which has seen sporadic outbursts of often deadly religious unrest in recent years, with minority Muslims facing increasing political exclusion as the influence of nationalist monks grows.
An anti-immigration party in Norway’s coalition government headed for its worst election result in 22 years in a local vote on Monday after its opposition to Syrian refugees put it out of step with many voters. The right-wing Progress Party had 9.7 percent with 87 percent of the votes counted, against 16.3 percent in a parliamentary vote in 2013. It was Progress’ worst election since receiving 6.3 percent of the vote in 1993. The election was also a blow to the Conservative Party, the senior partner in the two-party government which came to office in 2013 and has struggled with falling prices of oil, Norway’s main export, and rising unemployment. The Conservatives’ share fell to 22.4 percent, down 5.6 percentage points from four years ago as voters swung left.
Hackers in California attacked several of the Russian government’s websites over the weekend, Russian officials said on Monday, just as the country was trying to conduct elections. “Someone attempted to hack our website and alter the data there, making 50,000 requests per minute,” said Vladimir Churov, chairman of the Central Election Commission of Russia, according to a report in the state-funded Russia Today. Such an attack is known as a distributed denial of service, which is designed to crash a website.
Florida: House and Senate stick to script in congressional redistricting plans sent to court | Palm Beach Post
Because of Rosh Hashanah, proposed maps from a voters’ coalition that has successfully challenged legislative redistricting plans are not expected to be made public until Tuesday. But the House stood by the plan it approved on a 60-38 vote last month. Lawyers for the chamber also submitted to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis a staff-drawn “base” map that had been prepared in cooperation with the Senate, before that chamber made dramatic changes unacceptable to the House. The base map was turned into Lewis “for informational purposes,” a House spokesman said.
Fifteen years after voting problems in Florida left the United States without a clear winner in its presidential election for five traumatizing weeks, a disturbing proportion of voting machines in use across the nation are old and prone to malfunction, according to the findings of a major new study issued Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. From counties still using analog modems, dot-matrix printers and software that works only with Windows 2000 to touchscreen machines with surfaces so degraded that votes can be recorded for the wrong candidates, the the 68-page report raises alarms about the condition of election equipment and the potential for Election Day 2000-style failures. Forty-three states have counties using machines that will be at least 10 years old by Election Day 2016, and counties in 14 states will be using machines that will be more than 15 years old, co-authors Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti found. They put their national estimate for replacement equipment at more than $1 billion, but they believe that using off-the-shelf technology like tablet computers could considerably reduce immediate and long-term expenses.
National: Hanging chad redux? Old voting devices could create new crisis, report finds | The Guardian
The United States is heading for another catastrophe in its voting system equivalent to the notorious “hanging chad” affair that shook the country in 2000 and propelled George W Bush into the White House, experts on electoral procedures are warning. The voting technology deployed by most states around the country is now so antiquated and unreliable that it is in danger of breaking down at any time, the experts say. Some states are having to go on eBay to buy spare parts for machines that are no longer manufactured. The extent of decay in America’s electoral infrastructure is laid bare in a new report from the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan institute at the New York University School of Law specializing in democracy and justice. Having consulted more than 100 voting specialists in all 50 states, the center concludes that the country is facing an impending crisis in the way it conducts elections. As Louisiana’s secretary of state Tom Schedler put it to an official hearing recently: “It’s getting a little scary out there.”
Editorials: The 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act are under attack because it is essential for racial justice | Flavia Jimenez/The Guardian
he 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are two of the most important civil rights protections in our nation. The 14th amendment has been cited in more litigation than any other amendment – including landmark cases such as Brown v Board of Education. But recent racist attacks on these civil rights policies show that they are still vulnerable to erosion even after all these years. After the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision, extremists have now set their sights on policies, such as the 14th Amendment, that offer protection to communities of color. Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and endowed all such citizens with the rights of due process and equal protection of the law. The amendment was passed explicitly to clarify the citizenship of the millions of African-Americans emancipated from slavery through the passage of the 13th Amendment. Overnight, the law redefined who was considered an American c
The nation’s largest state may be about to make it much easier to register and vote. California’s Senate passed a bill Thursday by a 24-15 vote that would automatically register to vote anyone who gets or renews a driver’s license, unless they chose to opt out. The state Assembly already passed a similar bill in June. If the Senate version passes an Assembly vote, as expected, the measure would head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown, a Democrat, hasn’t taken a public position on the bill, and a spokesman for his office declined to comment on pending legislation. But in 2012 he signed legislation allowing Californians to register and vote on the same day.
Only 42 percent of eligible Californians voted in the last federal election. That was above the national turnout, 36.4 percent, but nothing to brag about. So good for California, which is joining Oregon in taking an obvious step toward encouraging turnout: automatic voter registration. This year Oregon lawmakers decided that people getting driver’s licenses or state ID cards will be registered to vote unless they opt out. No one has to go on the voter list, in other words, but the default setting is registration. The law also makes it easier to keep voter rolls updated, as people must keep the information on their driver’s licenses current. State officials expect to automatically register a large fraction of the 800,000 unregistered eligible voters. Next to California, though, Oregon’s numbers seem measly. The Golden State has nearly 7 million unregistered eligible voters and no less of a driving culture. California’s Senate wants to reach many of them with a bill it passed last week adopting Oregon’s basic system.
In a drive that could have sweeping electoral implications, advocates for Florida’s roughly two million convicted felons are working to place an amendment on the 2016 ballot that would reverse the state’s policy against the automatic restoration of felon voting rights. The policy, which was briefly lifted during the administration of former Gov. Charlie Crist, was reinstated in 2011 with a vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet. It requires felons to wait at least five years after the completion of their sentences before they’re allowed to apply for a hearing on reinstatement of their voting rights.
One of New Mexico’s highest-ranking state officials is expected to enter a plea Tuesday to charges that she funneled campaign contributions to her personal bank accounts and withdrew large sums of money at casinos. Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran is due in district court to be arraigned on 64 counts of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and other charges. The charges involve a total of $13,000 in campaign donations. It will mark her first public appearance since the charges were leveled in a complaint more than two weeks ago. She has also been a no-show at her $85,000-a-year elected post with the exception of some conference calls with staff.
The Rhode Island Board of Elections met in executive session for more than two hours Thursday night and may have taken a vote that it does not plan to disclose to the public. Following the rare night session, during which the shouts of board members could be heard beyond the chamber’s closed doors, Raymond Marcaccio, the board’s legal counsel, said the board was not bound to disclose any vote that took place because it involved a personnel matter, and the employee is entitled to privacy. “In my opinion, what occurred in this executive session would not qualify for any of the reasons to disclose a vote at this time,” Marcaccio said. The board has not identified who was the subject of the meeting where, at one point, someone was heard shouting from behind closed doors that people were on a “witch hunt.”
A group of Virginia residents sued state elections officials Monday over 11 legislative districts — including some in Northern Virginia — charging that they violated the state Constitution by enforcing election maps that too easily protect incumbents. The plaintiffs argue that during the last round of redistricting, in 2011, the General Assembly drew the districts to give incumbents the best chance at holding on to their seats at the expense of geographical compactness, which the Constitution requires. If successful, the suit, which is the third recent court challenge to the state’s elections maps, could scrap the maps and send vulnerable lawmakers scrambling to compete in newly drawn districts. The House and Senate districts in question are spread all over Virginia and include parts of Prince William County, Manassas, Manassas Park, Fairfax County and Arlington County.
Wisconsin: Targeting of Government Accountability Board ‘all about raw political power,’ Jay Heck says | The Capital Times
The way Common Cause in Wisconsin executive director Jay Heck sees it, the state’s Government Accountability Board is being punished for doing what it’s supposed to do. Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, have called for the dissolution of Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections and campaign finance agency, whose board voted in 2013 to authorize an investigation than ran alongside a John Doe probe into alleged campaign finance coordination between Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and an outside advocacy group. In an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that aired Sunday, Heck said claims that the GAB hasn’t done its job have proven to be unfounded through audits.
While in the northern province of Tucumán, election results remains in the news due to a contentious vote for governor, currently led by the Victory Front’s Juan Manzur in the final recount, opposition politicians are scheduled to meet in the afternoon with Court authorities. … “Proposals for Electoral Transparency 2015” was presented in document form last week during a press conference in the Argentine Congress, according to a statement released by UCR caucus chief Negri.
Australia: Malcolm Turnbull to be Australia’s new PM after ousting Tony Abbott in Liberal party vote | The Guardian
Malcolm Turnbull is set to become Australia’s new prime minister after beating Tony Abbott by 54 votes to 44 in a snap Liberal party ballot and promising the country a new, respectful, slogan-free leadership style. The Liberal party whip Scott Buchholz announced the results to waiting journalists about 30 minutes after the meeting of parliamentarians began. There was one informal vote. Julie Bishop remains deputy Liberal leader and a ministerial shakeup looms after the leadership upheaval. Liberal party votes 54-44 in favour of Malcolm Turnbull taking over from current prime minister Tony Abbott. Long-simmering leadership tensions exploded on Monday when Turnbull declared a challenge, arguing Abbott had shown himself unable to make the case for policy change or turn around the Coalition’s political fortunes.
After almost having its chief electoral officer “muzzled,” Elections Canada is launching a new advertising campaign this week, and will target youth, seniors and aboriginals, in a pilot project to help Canadians cast ballots Oct. 19. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was expected Monday to lay out what voters need to know to register and vote. The agency will also launch the first phase of its ad campaign. The Conservatives have been criticized for changes to Canada’s election laws that some say will make it more difficult for students, seniors and indigenous people to vote – and also make it tougher for Elections Canada to communicate with Canadians. The original version of the Conservative government’s Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, would have significantly limited the chief electoral officer’s ability to talk to Canadians about their right to vote — something opposition parties and other groups called an affront to democracy that would have “muzzled” the elections boss.
Introduced in February 2014, the Conservative-backed Fair Elections Act (Bill C-25), which aims to crack down on voter fraud, is now a fully enacted bill that raises major red flags for its disenfranchising effects. With the federal elections coming up in October of this year, many Canadians are questioning if this is actually the most effective method to ensure secure voting. The motivation behind the act seems fair enough, at face value. However, the implementation methods detailed in the bill have many damaging side effects, including the disenfranchisement of multiple vulnerable voting blocks, potentially giving the Conservative Party an unfair advantage in the upcoming federal election. The objective of this act, according to the Canadian government, is to crack down on voter fraud. One of the central tactics it employs is changing the documents required to demonstrate voter eligibility. In April 2014, Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre claimed that “in a 21st century democracy, where people are required to produce ID to drive a car […] it is common sense to expect people to show ID to demonstrate who they are when they vote.”
Every Tuesday, the moss-covered redbrick courthouse in Tharrawaddy erupts into activity for a weekly ritual: the mass trial of student protesters. Under heavy guard at a session in late August, 81 students faced charges related to protests that were crushed by baton-wielding police in March. They are among a growing number of people caught in a crackdown on dissent as Myanmar heads towards a historic election in November, when the military-backed ruling party will compete with the ascendant National League for Democracy (NLD) party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the first free national vote in 25 years.
Norway’s anti-immigration Progress Party may be facing its worst election result in 20 years in municipal voting on Monday as its hostility to Syrian refugees leaves it out of step with a more welcoming mood in the Nordic nation in the last month or so. Progress has sought to turn the municipal election into a vote on a plan it opposes to take in 8,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017, arguing that locally elected politicians could simply refuse to accept refugees. The two parties in the right-wing minority government, the Conservatives and Progress, have also lost ground since 2013 parliamentary elections after tax cuts that have mainly benefited the rich.
Russia: ‘Cruise’ Voting, Mirror Parties, And A Missing Corpse: Spotting Russian Election Abuses | RFE
Russia’s political opposition dispatched a small army of volunteer election observers to keep lookout for voter fraud in Kostroma Oblast, where, having been barred from the ballot everywhere else in the country, the opposition was vying for a small victory in regional elections on September 13. Russian officials quickly touted the Kostroma voting and thousands of other contests across the country as models of “clean elections.” By 11 p.m. on election night, however, independent election-monitoring NGO Golos had clocked 1,736 allegations of election violations, compared to 901 on Russia’s nationwide voting day in 2014 and 747 in 2013. The opposition’s version of events differed sharply from the official version in Kostroma, 350 kilometers northeast of Moscow, where the opposition party Parnas was vying for seats in the regional legislature with activist Ilya Yashin atop its candidate list.