Recently a report was released discussing the current state of voting technology across the United States as we head in to the 2016 Election Cycle, which covers elections for many offices, from President to statewide offices to school boards. Pam Fessler of NPR (a reporter who has spent years reporting on election administration issues and talking to state and local election officials) summed up the report, “Voting machines around the United States are coming to the end of their useful lives. Breakdowns are increasingly common. Spare parts are difficult, if not impossible, to find.”
The first-ever professional certification program for registrars of voters, who are in charge of Connecticut’s elections, begins Monday. Classes will be taught through the University of Connecticut School of Business and the state’s 339 registrars will have to be certified within the next two years. The certification process and training for registrars was part of legislation signed into law earlier this year to strengthen Connecticut’s elections. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said there have been discussions about developing a curriculum for registrars for years, but confusion and delays at her polling place in Hartford in 2014 may have created some additional momentum. “Every voter should have the same experience, in every town,” Merrill said.
Arguing that “neither political party holds a monopoly on gerrymandering,” lawyers for the Florida House on Thursday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow them to ask the redistricting challengers questions about the Democrat-leaning firms that drew their proposed congressional map. “Without apparent shame, Plaintiffs have presented to the trial court alternative maps that were drawn, reviewed, discussed, modified, and approved in a closed process, in complete darkness, by national political operatives,” the House lawyers wrote in the motion. “The fact that Plaintiffs’ maps, despite their origins, are pending before the trial court for a possible recommendation to this Court should dismay and disturb all Floridians.”
Eligible voters in Iowa who have a state driver’s license or photo ID will be able to register online to vote by Jan. 1, ahead of the original November goal, Secretary of State Paul Pate said Thursday. The Iowa Voter Registration Commission in January approved a rule allowing qualified voters to visit an Iowa Department of Transportation website where they can type in the numbers from their state-issued driver’s licenses or photo IDs to register to vote. Information from the DOT, including voters’ signatures, will be electronically added to voter registration forms and automatically forwarded to the state’s voter database. Once an online application is completed, the voter is registered. The Iowa system will allow voters to register anytime on their own computers or at an Iowa DOT kiosk or licensing station terminal.
When Republicans and Democrats in New Hampshire cast their presidential primary votes in February, expect some to post photos with their completed ballots to Facebook and Twitter. They’ll be celebrating a newly recognized liberty in the Granite State: the right to post a “ballot selfie.” That’s because New Hampshire lawmakers last year attempted to take that right away, passing a law barring a voter from “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.” They attached a $1,000 fine to the violation. But a federal judge last month struck down the law.
A defiant Michigan lawmaker who was expelled from office for her role in covering up an extramarital affair with another legislator filed Thursday to run for her old House seat, less than a week after her colleagues kicked her out. Cindy Gamrat, who unsuccessfully sought a censure instead of expulsion, was among five Republicans who submitted paperwork a day before the deadline for a special primary election in the district left vacant when she was expelled on a 91-12 vote and immediately escorted out of the House chamber after 4 a.m. on Sept. 11. The primary will be held Nov. 3, with a special general election to follow on March 8 in the GOP-heavy districts. “All along I’ve maintained that I felt like the voters should decide. I’m going to continue to fight for them to have a voice in this,” Gamrat, a 42-year-old tea party leader from Plainwell, north of Kalamazoo, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
While Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon touted the state’s voter turnout during an address in St. Cloud, he said there are still many barriers that need to be removed to make voting more accessible. Simon spoke Thursday night at the Stearns History Museum at the St. Cloud State Social Studies Fall Social and Constitution Day Celebration. While addressing the crowd of 30 people, Simon gave a nod to how active Minnesotans are in going to the polls. “Over the past several decades we have proven to the nation we are one of the leaders in the country when it comes to voting and what I mean by that is we turn out in big numbers,” Simon said. “I like to say, in Olympics terms, we’re always on the medal stand. We’re almost always gold, silver or bronze.”
As the presidential primary race hits full gallop, the country’s constituents are paying a little more attention to politics and, perhaps, thinking about whether they are registered to vote, the process of which varies widely by state. Montana’s election rules made headlines in recent weeks, including when former Republican state lawmaker Corey Stapleton announced his bid for secretary of state and accused the current officeholder, Democrat Linda McCulloch, of “purging” thousands of voter files. “When both the elected officials and the media don’t talk about these things, bad things can happen,” Stapleton told the Associated Press.
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Albany County to pay $1.7 million in legal costs to the plaintiffs who successfully sued to strike down the county’s 2011 redistricting map that diluted minority voting power. Combined with the county’s own outside legal expenses, the federal voting rights case could cost taxpayers at least $2.2 million — a figure that does not include all the county’s legal work or the expense of redrawing the flawed maps. County Executive Dan McCoy moved swiftly to lay the fault at the feet of the County Legislature, led by fellow Democrats, which in January overwhelmingly rejected a settlement his office negotiated midtrial that would have capped the legal fees at $750,000. But legislative leaders just as quickly pointed the finger back at him for threatening to veto an earlier settlement for up to $850,000.
Support for voter registration was weak Thursday during a meeting of the interim Judiciary Committee, whose members, tasked with studying the issue, were more concerned with verifying residency. North Dakota is the sole state without voter registration, which was eliminated in 1951. If it were implemented, the process would subject the state to a series of federal reporting requirements from which it is now exempt, according to Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum.
Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that part of the ballot wording describing a proposal to legalize marijuana in the state is misleading and ordered a state board to rewrite it. Supporters of the measure, known in the fall election as Issue 3, challenged the phrasing of the ballot language and title, arguing certain descriptions were inaccurate and intentionally misleading to voters. Attorneys for the state’s elections chief, a vocal opponent of the proposal, had said the nearly 500-word ballot language was fair. In a split decision, the high court sided with the pot supporters in singling out four paragraphs of the ballot language it said “inaccurately states pertinent information and omits essential information.”
The Pennsylvania Department of State is very pleased with the initial response to its online voter registration system. The system launched Aug. 27 and more than 11,000 people already have used it to register or to update their registrations, including more than 550 people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortés said Thursday. For state and county election officials, it reduces paperwork, and improves efficiency, he said.
Philippines: Beijing derides 'groundless' warning of election sabotage after Philippines shifts voting machine production from China to Taiwan | South China Morning Post
China has rejected a suggestion from a Philippine election official that China might try to sabotage a presidential election in the Philippines next year, saying it was “sheer fabrication”. The suggestion of Chinese meddling in the May election appeared to stem from a dispute between the neighbours over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea. Elections Commission official Christian Robert Lim told legislators earlier that his agency had transferred production of vote-counting machines from China after intelligence reports that China planned to sabotage the elections because of the South China Sea dispute. The spokesman at China’s embassy in the Philippines denied any such plan.
A decision by rebels in eastern Ukraine to hold elections poses a “great danger” to the peace process, President Petro Poroshenko has warned. He also announced sanctions on over 400 people and 90 legal entities held responsible for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the east. The leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic earlier confirmed the elections would be held on 18 October. The neighbouring Luhansk rebel region wants to stage elections on 1 November. The government in Kiev – backed by the EU and the US – says such votes would be in violation of the peace deal signed in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
If it wasn’t bad enough having 8 million people missing from the electoral register, they will soon be joined by as many as 1.85 million more individuals who look set to drop off from 1 December, as a result of the Government’s decision to bring forward changes to how we register to vote. That near-10 million people equates to 19% of all eligible adults not being on the electoral register. How is this happening? Why isn’t there a public outcry? The reason is probably because the bulk of those not registered or about to drop off are already on the margins of society. They are the young, the poor, those who move regularly from one private rented accommodation to another, and the newcomers for whom English isn’t a first language. In fact, these non-voters are the very people who need a voice most.
As the US presidential election season heats up, the public has focused on the candidates vying for the nation’s top office. But whether Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination is secondary to a more serious quandary: whether the nation’s voting machines will hold up when Americans head to the polls in 2016. Nearly every state is using electronic touchscreen and optical-scan voting systems that are at least a decade old, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law (.pdf). Beyond the fact the machines are technologically antiquated, after years of wear and tear, states are reporting increasing problems with degrading touchscreens, worn-out modems for transmitting election results, and failing motherboards and memory cards. States using machines that are at least 15 years old include Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, which means they are far behind even a casual tech user in keeping pace with technological advancements. The average lifespan of a laptop computer is three to five years, after which most consumers and businesses replace their machines. Computer users also generally upgrade their operating systems every other year or so as Microsoft and Apple release major software overhauls—including security upgrades. But US voting machines, which are responsible for overseeing the most important election in the country, have failed to keep up. “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?,” write Larry Norden and Christopher Famighetti, authors of the Brennan Center report. “[T]he majority of systems in use today are either perilously close to or past their expected lifespans.”
Editorials: The Impending Crisis of Outdated Voting Technology | Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti/ The Atlantic
The 2016 campaign is already underway, with nearly two dozen candidates vying to be the next president. Americans may have no idea who they will vote for next year, but they are likely confident that when they show up at the polls, their votes will count. And for the vast majority, of course, they will. But with rapidly aging voting technology, the risk of machines failing is greater than it has been in many years. In a close election, the performance of that old equipment will come under a microscope. Fifteen years after a national election trauma in Florida that was caused in significant measure by obsolete voting equipment—including hanging chads and butterfly ballots—it may be hard for many Americans to believe that the U.S. could face such a crisis again. But unless the right precautions are taken today and in the coming months and years, there is a significant risk that the story on Election Day will be less about who won or lost, and more about how voting systems failed. The looming crisis in America’s voting technology was first brought to national attention last year by President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), which offered a stern warning about the “widespread wearing out of voting machines purchased a decade ago.” Over the past 10 months, the Brennan Center, where we work, surveyed more than 100 specialists familiar with voting technology, including machine vendors, independent technology experts, and election officials in all 50 states, to study how widespread this looming crisis really was.
Lawmakers on Monday filed three potential maps of the state’s 27 congressional districts for a Leon County judge to consider, as the deadline for turning plans into the court approached. The state House wants Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve the last map that House members voted out during a special redistricting session that collapsed last month, while the Senate is floating two alternative proposals for the judge to consider. After the session collapsed, the Florida Supreme Court gave Lewis the task of coming up with a map for justices to review. The Supreme Court struck down the current congressional map in July for violating the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach issued a rule Thursday that incomplete voter registrations will be canceled after 90 days. The decision came after voting rights groups lodged vigorous objections to the time limit. The rule takes effect Oct. 2. More than 35,000 voter registrations applications are currently “in suspense,” and about 30,000 are incomplete because registrants have yet to provide a passport or birth certificate. Such proof-of-citizenship documents have been required since January 2013, but no limit had been placed on how long county election officials had to keep the incomplete registrations. “It really violates the spirit of what our nation, our Constitution, was built on — the participation of all,” Marge Ahrens, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said about Kobach’s decision. “It feels so disrespectful of Kansans,” she said.
Republicans used their majority in 2011 to muscle through the Legislature a controversial voter ID law and new redistricting maps – and ever since Texas taxpayers have been picking up the bill for the state to defend those measures in courts. Texas’ total legal tab to date: more than $8 million, according to data obtained under…
A lawsuit filed Monday in Richmond Circuit Court challenges 11 of Virginia’s legislative districts, arguing that they violate the state constitution’s requirement of compactness. The suit, backed by the nonpartisan redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021, challenges six Republican-held districts and five Democrat-held districts. The plaintiffs in the districts include members of both major parties, a tea party activist and members of nonpartisan organizations such as the League of Women Voters. The defendants are the Virginia State Board of Elections; chairman James B. Alcorn; vice chair Clara Belle Wheeler; board secretary Singleton B. McAllister; the state Department of Elections; and Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of the state Department of Elections.
Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday brushed off election polls suggesting his leftist Syriza party might lose to its conservative rival in Greece’s election, saying he had a large group of supporters not reflected by pollsters. He was speaking on the last day of formal campaigning for Sunday’s general election with polls showing a cliffhanger vote expected and some pointing to a win by the conservative New Democracy party. Neither party, however, is expected to get the proportion of the vote needed – roughly 38 percent – to gain a majority in the 300-seat parliament, meaning a coalition is a near certainty. “There is a voting body that is below the radar, it is not being traced,” Tsipras, who was to stage a final rally later in the day, told Greece’s ANT 1 television.
After watching the local and gubernatorial elections in Russia on Sunday, one cannot help wondering: Why bother? Why does the Kremlin need to push the illusion of democracy when the results are predetermined? The only region where an opposition force worthy of the name was allowed to participate — in Kostroma oblast east of Moscow — saw voting marred by bullying and the arrests of anti-Kremlin candidates. No one could figure out why the Democratic Coalition, the only grouping of parties openly critical of President Vladimir Putin, was even allowed to run. All municipal, regional and gubernatorial elections in Russia are held on the same day, and in nearly all of them United Russia, the main pro-Kremlin party, was victorious. How could it lose when its candidates enjoyed access to unlimited resources and dominated the airwaves while their challengers were vilified as traitors?