In 2010, the District of Columbia decided to test its online absentee voter system. So officials held a mock election and challenged the public to do their best to hack it. It was an invitation that Alex Halderman, a computer-security expert at the University of Michigan, couldn’t resist. “It’s not every day that you’re invited to hack into government computers without going to jail,” he says. In less than 48 hours, Halderman and his students gained complete control of the system and rigged it to play the Michigan fight song each time a vote was cast. The students were ecstatic, but Halderman, who has a long history of exposing cybersecurity weaknesses, takes a more sober view. “This is the foundation of democracy we’re talking about,” he says.
Editorials: How Automatic Voter Registration Can Transform American Politics | Ari Berman/The Nation
n July 1976, while appearing with civil-rights icon John Lewis, Jimmy Carter proposed automatically registering to vote every eligible American once they turned 18, which he said would “transform, in a beneficial way, the politics of our country.” Carter’s ambitious plan never became law, but 39 years later, states like Oregon and California are embracing automatic voter registration as a bold new voting reform, potentially adding millions of new voters to the rolls. It’s a trend that warrants more attention, especially as the country celebrates National Voter Registration Day today. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and National Voter Registration Act of 1993 enfranchised millions of new voters. After passage of the VRA, for example, the number of black registered voters in the South increased from 31 percent to 73 percent. Despite these landmark laws, 51 million Americans—1 in 4 eligible voters—are still not registered to vote. “Among eligible voters, some 30 percent of African Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans, and 41 percent of young adults (age 18-24), were not registered to vote in the historic 2008 election,” according to Demos.
This Year could serve as a turning point for the strengthening of voting rights in the modern era. And it’s not only because 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which is in need of protection more than ever as some of its key provisions have come under attack. One piece of good news is that Governor Jerry Brown of California is poised to sign into law a measure that automatically registers all eligible residents to vote when they obtain their driver’s licenses. Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state to enact an automatic voter registration law, and New Jersey’s legislature recently passed a similar bill, which now awaits Governor Chris Christie’s signature. This policy has the potential to drive civic participation to higher levels. Other states should follow their lead.
A pair of state senators could be called as witnesses in the congressional redistricting case set to go before a Leon County circuit judge Thursday. According to documents filed late Monday with Judge Terry Lewis, Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, could be called to testify about the pair of Senate proposals now before the court.
With a Leon County circuit judge ready to hear arguments Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected a request that could have shed more light on congressional redistricting maps proposed by groups that have waged a long-running legal battle against the Legislature. The Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Monday, turned down a request from House attorneys to allow additional information-gathering — through a legal process known as discovery — about proposed maps submitted by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and a group of individual plaintiffs.
Indiana: State election report blames humans, not computers for Porter County snafus | Chesterton Tribune
The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office on Friday said Porter County’s new electronic poll books are not to blame for the technical problems reported in this past May’s municipal primary elections. Instead, a report conducted by the Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) attributes the snafus to poll workers, poor internet connection at polling locations, ballot counting machine failures, router failures, “confusing” voter tally sheets and “inadequate” poll worker training. A summary of the report was released Friday along with a statement issued from Secretary of State Connie Lawson. VSTOP is tasked with documenting issues with equipment sold to counties by vendors and making recommendations relevant for the functioning of that equipment.
Kentuckians will be able to register online in time to vote in next year’s presidential elections, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Tuesday. Grimes, the state’s chief election official, also said online registration will allow Kentucky voters to change their information, such as political party affiliation, on their own computers. Now, Kentuckians may register to vote or change voting information by mail or in person using voter registration cards, which can be downloaded and printed, or can be picked up at local county clerks’ offices. The cards can be mailed or returned in person to the address listed on the form.
Maryland voters can expect a change in how they vote for the upcoming 2016 election. The debut of a new voting system is being unveiled in April 2016, when early voting begins. In preparation for the next election, the Washington County Board of Elections spent National Voter Registration Day teaching citizens about the new system. “A lot of people wanted to have a paper ballot that they could review before it was inserted into the scanning unit. So, it gives them that option to be able to review that ballot,” said Kaye Robucci, election director, Washington County. This means that on Election Day, voters can specify whether they want to use the paper ballot or the ballot marking device.
Within the first week of early voting in Memphis, a couple said they had issues with their ballots. Their ballots said they lived in District 7, but they actually live in District 5. Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers said they learned about the issue on Friday and found those voters did in fact get the wrong ballot. “This particular incident I believe that they were very close to the line and so that just didn’t appear as clearly as perhaps we would’ve liked for it to,” Meyers said.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is right. So is the State Board of Elections, which his office represents. And so are Virginia’s Republican congressmen, who are co-defendants in a suit against the state. All of them either have asked federal judges to post redistricting proposals that might replace the state’s current congressional map, or have signified their assent to the request. Three U.S. District judges will redraw the state’s congressional districts after the General Assembly failed to come up with its own plan by a court-imposed deadline. A number of other interested parties, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and various good-government groups, who are not litigants in the suit have submitted their own maps.
West Virginians will soon be able to register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s website. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant made the announcement Tuesday at BridgeValley Community and Technical College in South Charleston as part of National Voter Registration Month. “This is going to add accessibility for eligible voters in West Virginia,” said Tennant, following a news conference. It will be as simple as going to a computer, a smart phone or tablet and logging onto www.wvsos.com, according to Tennant.
Burkina Faso: As president retakes office following coup deal, Burkina Faso now looks to rescue election | AFP
Burkina Faso’s interim President Michel Kafando said Wednesday he has resumed his duties a week after being overthrown in a coup by the west African country’s presidential guard. “Thus the transition has been restored and this very minute I am resuming the exercise of power,” Kafando told reporters. Earlier, the coup’s leaders had agreed to return to their barracks and restore the deposed president to power, signing a deal with the army that apparently defuses a tense standoff sparked by last week’s putsch. The breakthrough came late Tuesday after marathon talks in Nigeria’s Abuja, where west African heads of state had sought to break the impasse fuelled by angry threats on both sides.
Elections Canada has quietly warned staff to be on the lookout for increasingly sophisticated tactics aimed at discouraging — or even stopping — voters from casting a ballot. The advanced voter suppression techniques flourishing in the United States are likely to spill into other countries, employees were advised in a presentation aimed at raising awareness prior to the Oct. 19 federal election. The digital revolution has fuelled intensive data analysis south of the border that allows political parties to zero in on people who support rival candidates and then find ways to prevent them from voting. The development prompted Elections Canada to comb through academic papers and media reports and talk to experts and lawyers about the phenomenon of electoral malpractice.
The longtime president of Republic of Congo said Tuesday he is going ahead with a national referendum on whether to change the country’s constitution, a move that critics say will allow him to prolong his rule by raising the current maximum age limit to serve as president. If the vote goes ahead, it would be the latest test in Africa of whether a president can bend the rules to keep his position without being forced from office.
David Cameron has been told by Conservatives Abroad to hurry up with a bill to restore British expats’ full voting rights. The Government promised in the Queen’s Speech in May to abolish the so-called “15-year rule”. This currently prevents around a million of the five million Britons overseas from voting in UK and European elections if they have lived out of the country for that period of time. However, the Votes for Life Bill to restore their rights has not been tabled for debate in Parliament yet. With the EU referendum looming in 2017 – and potentially as early as next year – expats in Europe are concerned they might not be able to participate. In May, a Downing Street spokesman indicated that the 15-year rule would remain in place for the referendum, causing concern among expats who want to have their say.