National: Libertarians, Greens ready lawsuit against Commission on Presidential Debates | The Washington Post

The Libertarian Party and Green Party and their 2012 candidates for president are readying a legal complaint against the Commission on Presidential Debates, hoping that a new legal argument — an anti-trust argument — will break the “duopoly” that’s dominated the stage. The legal complaint, which was sent early to The Washington Post, argues that a “cognizable political campaign market” is being corrupted by the commission’s rules. The commission, a private entity set up after the League of Women Voters’ 1992 debates allowed third party candidate Ross Perot to participate, has withstood yearly assaults from the likes of Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, and former Congressman Bob Barr. None of them have gotten past a 1999 commission rule: No candidate gets onstage unless he or she is polling at 15 percent or better.

National: Everyone Counts raises funds to push internet voting into the mainstream | San Diego Union-Tribune

Election software firm Everyone Counts has raised $20 million in debt and equity financing to push its electronic voting technology into more county and state governments. The influx of capital comes as the San Diego company awaits federal certification for its secure digital voting system – expected no later than the first quarter of next year, said Chief Executive Lori Steele. Approval by the Election Assistance Commission would pave the way for county and state elections officials to offer digital voting via computers, tablets or smartphones – both in polling places and remotely. “The interesting thing is we will be the only software-based voting system that is hardware agnostic that is (EAC) certified – probably for the next two years,” said Steele on Thursday.

Editorials: Volkswagen and the Era of Cheating Software | The New York Times

For the past six years, Volkswagen has been advertising a lie: “top-notch clean diesel” cars — fuel efficient, powerful and compliant with emissions standards for pollutants. It turns out the cars weren’t so clean. They were cheating. The vehicles used software that cleverly put a lid on emissions during testing, but only then. The rest of the time, the cars spewed up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide emissions. The federal government even paid up to $51 million in tax subsidies to some car owners on the false assumption of environmental friendliness. … Computational devices that are vulnerable to cheating are not limited to cars. Consider, for example, voting machines. Just a few months ago, the Virginia State Board of Elections finally decertified the use of a touch-screen voting machine called “AVS WinVote.” It turned out that the password was hard-wired to “admin” — a default password so common that it would be among the first three terms any hacker would try. There were no controls on changes that could be made to the database tallying the votes. If the software fraudulently altered election results, there would be virtually no way of detecting the fraud since everything, including the evidence of the tampering, could be erased.

Editorials: The Many Sins of ‘Citizens United’ | Sheldon Whitehouse/The Nation

Our politics is awash in cash. Super PACs supporting presidential candidates have banked more than $250 million through June 30—nearly 10 times more than at this point in the 2012 cycle. “Dark money” from anonymous donors is also surging (dark to us, of course; you can bet the candidates know). The political network of Charles and David Koch has said that it plans to spend as much as $900 million in the 2016 election cycle, raised mostly from undisclosed donors. “For that kind of money, you could buy yourself a president,” said Republican strategist Mark McKinnon. “Oh, right,” he added. “That’s the point.” This pollution of our democracy is the product of the Supreme Court’s appalling 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Despite decades of warnings by the elected branches of government about the dangers of corporate political corruption, and despite more than 100 years of settled law, the conservative majority made the fateful finding that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Not stopping there, the justices went on to find that “the appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

Florida: Redistricting court drama resumes; Supremes to review next month | Orlando Sentinel

Lawyers sparred over Florida’s congressional districts in court Thursday, the latest episode of a three-year battle that has left the state without political boundaries for the 2016 election. The case is in court because the Florida Supreme Court threw out the prior maps in July, ruling that GOP operatives had infiltrated the redistricting process and packed Democratic voters in District 5, a skinny district that snaked from Jacksonville to Orlando. Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will now consider as many as seven proposals for the maps submitted by both chambers of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs. The trial will continue into next week, and Lewis will make a final decision and send it to the Supreme Court for review by Oct. 17. Already, litigation and special sessions related to redistricting have cost taxpayers about $11 million.

Florida: 12-County Coalition in Florida Seeks New Voting Machines By Election Season | GovTech

After the Bush-Gore debacle in 2000, Florida became proactive. Punch cards and hanging chads were replaced with optical scanners.
But that was 15 years ago, and those new optical scanners are now old technology. “It’s an area of concern,” said Highlands County Elections Supervisor Penny Ogg. Her office has kept maintenance agreements. “They get a yearly going over by the vendor,” Ogg said.
Nevertheless, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has placed Highlands in a 30-county mix for voting machine replacements. A 12-county coalition with 14-year-old machines has asked for grants from the Department of State, and they’re asking the state with its greater purchasing power to buy the machines.

Guam: Assistive technology coming for island elections | KUAM

We’re less than a year away until the 2016 primary election, and the Guam Election Commission is taking steps to ensure every voter including individuals with disabilities can cast their vote independently with the use of new technology. While they continue to make progress, the GEC is still not fully compliant with federal accessibility requirements. “We have assistive technology packets throughout all the 21 polling places at every precinct, but we still don’t, if a person who cannot see, comes into vote, they still cannot vote independently,” said executive director Maria Pangelinan. She says that may change as the commission is currently looking into using a new ballot marking device to help people cast their vote privately and independently. It’s called the Election Systems & Software’s AutoMark system.

Michigan: Senate panel debates changes to presidential election system, Electoral College votes | MLive

Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is again debating prospective election law changes that could benefit a second-place finisher in the state, which has gone Democratic since 1992. The Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee on Thursday took testimony on proposals that would divide Michigan’s Electoral College votes, but chairman Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, told reporters that he does not expect any changes for the 2016 election cycle. “The perception has been that clearly there must be a desire on the part of Republicans… to move away from winner-take-all and others saying ‘no, no we shouldn’t,'” Robertson said. “I can assure you there is no uniformity of opinion on the Republican side.”

Canada: Online voting gets tepid thumbs up at UBCM | Oak Bay News

B.C. municipal leaders voted by a slim margin Wednesday to urge the province to enable online voting in time for the 2018 local elections. The resolution from Osoyoos was passed by 51 per cent of delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in an electronic vote after it had initially been declared defeated in a show of hands. … Saanich Coun. Vic Derman warned there’s no way to guarantee an online voter is casting their ballot in privacy, without someone else directing or manipulating them, possibly buying their vote. “It does affect one’s privacy of vote that should take place behind a screen at a ballot box,” said Lorne Lewis, a Sunshine Coast Regional District director. He said it’s wrong “to put people in a situation where they can be badgered about their vote.” The close vote suggests the issue is having increasing trouble gaining traction.

Malaysia: Election Commission chief gives e-voting the thumbs down | The Star

Malaysia may be one of the leaders among nations that embraced the digital revolution but it is likely to say a resounding “no” to electronic voting or e-voting. Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (pic) said it was better for the country to stick to the conventional method of voters having to physically cast paper ballots at polling stations nationwide. He said the system used in Malaysia had been time tested and there was no reason for the country to follow in the steps of nations that had introduced e-voting. “There is no concrete evidence as yet to suggest that e-voting is a fool-proof system and cannot be manipulated. “The current system is still the best. There is no need for us to go e-voting because it is not only unnecessary but highly risky in terms of security,” he told The Star.

Myanmar: UN expects ‘disruptions’ during Myanmar election | Bangkok Post

The United Nations has issued a directive to its staff restricting travel to Burma during the election period, citing possible disruptions. The Democratic Voice of Burma has received a copy of a letter circulated by the New York-based UN Department of Safety and Security dated Sept 22, 2015. It states: “Myanmar [Burma] will hold general elections on 8 November 2015 with an official campaign running from 8 September till 6 November 2015. There are high expectations in the country that the elections will be carried out peacefully; however electoral-related disruptions are expected around the Polling Day until the final results are announced on 22 November 2015. The Designated Official, in consultation with the Security Management Team, has recommended that temporary travel restrictions should be in place for non-critical, external visits to Myanmar between 6- 24 November 2015.

New Zealand: Councils peel away from online voting trial | ZDNet

Three local and district councils have opted out of a broad trial of online voting in New Zealand, citing concern over security and costs. Marlborough District Council this week joined Dunedin City Council and Christchurch city Council in voting down the proposed trial, while New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, has already been deemed to large to take part. Last year, a working party nixed plans for a broad roll-out of online voting and instead recommended trials of the “relatively untested” technology be conducted in the 2016 local body elections. Thirteen councils, including the ones that are now backing out, expressed initial support for taking part in the trail. However, South Island councils in particular appear to be expressing increased concern about the proposal. Christchurch rejected the trial after a phalanx of IT security experts fronted council with overseas examples of online voting system failures.

Philippines: Poll panel seeks out overseas voters, but shuns internet voting | Gulf News

The Philippine government is aiming for a higher voter turnout among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), but it has shunned internet and mobile phone voting in the 2016 presidential polls. The situation is likely to result in low participation among the one million registered overseas voters who represent 10 per cent of the country’s 10 million OFWs worldwide. “There is no explicit law that allows internet voting in 2016,” said Arthur Lim, head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office for overseas voting. The use of the internet and mobile phones is “being explored for future elections,” Lim said. He did not give details of what process was being carried out to make this modern approach a reality.

National: From Carter To California: Automatic Registration Is The New Endgame For Elections | Huffington Post

President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 with the conviction that it should be easier for citizens to register to vote. To accomplish that goal, he wrote to Democratic secretaries of state that year urging them to support legislation that would allow voters to register on Election Day. “The continuing decline in American voter participation is a serious problem which calls for the attention of all of us in public life,” Carter wrote. Advisers to Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale had concluded that Election Day registration, which they called “universal registration,” would boost low turnout rates. They cited laws passed in Minnesota and Wisconsin after the 1972 election that allowed citizens to register at the polls, which placed both states in the top five for highest turnout in 1976. But tucked away in their correspondence about the election reform proposals was an acknowledgment that the United States’ neighbor to the north had made it even easier for citizens to vote, by registering them automatically with government data.

Verified Voting Blog: What if Volkswagen made Voting Machines?

Volkswagen stock plummeted today, because of accusations by the Environmental Protection Agency that VW uses software that turns on its emission control device when the software detects that one of its diesel cars is undergoing emission testing. When not being tested, the software disables the device, thereby causing the car to spew as much as 40 times the pollution limit of the Clean Air Act.

Like VW cars, modern voting machines contain software that is tested before use in elections. It would not be difficult to write voting machine software that would, like the VW software, know when it is being tested, and thus behave correctly during testing but not during an actual election. If such behavior were detected after an election, the vendor stock would plummet, but so would voter confidence in the outcome of the election. Furthermore, in the case of some voting systems that cannot be legitimately recounted, such as paperless voting machines or online votes, there would be no way to determine after the election if the declared winners were the actual winners.

Florida: Redistricting hearing focuses on dispute over Miami districts | Miami Herald

The latest chapter in Florida’s redistricting saga played out Thursday in a Leon County courtroom as two Miami congressional districts emerged as the heart of the differences over which of seven maps should be the one chosen by the court. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis must decide which map, or pieces of maps, he will recommend to the Florida Supreme Court by the Oct. 17 deadline. The court invalidated the map drawn by the Legislature in 2012 because it violated the constitutional ban on protecting incumbents and political parties. After the Legislature reached a stalemate in a special session, the high court ordered Lewis to choose from proposals from the House, Senate and the group of voters who successfully challenged the original map.

North Carolina: Voter ID lawsuit can proceed in state court, judge rules | News & Observer

A Wake County judge has refused a request from state lawmakers to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Voter ID requirement. Judge Mike Morgan issued his ruling on Wednesday, almost four weeks after a hearing on the matter. Lawmakers amended the state’s Voter ID requirement this legislative session on the eve of a trial in federal court. Attorneys for state lawmakers and the governor contended at the August hearing in state court that the legislative amendment to the requirement – offering voters without an approved ID the option of using a provisional ballot – made the lawsuit moot. Attorneys for the challengers disagreed and Morgan found in their favor. In the lawsuit before Morgan, the League of Women Voters, Randolph Institute and several voters argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state constitution in 2013 when they added the ID requirement as part of an elections law overhaul.

Pennsylvania: Democratic lawmakers advance voting-reform bills | The Philadelphia Tribune

A bloc of state Representatives — Scott Conklin, Tina Davis and Brian Sims — have introduced bills that would automate voter registration, form an independent redistricting commission and allow in–person absentee ballot voting. Conklin and Sims have partnered on a bill that would automatically register eligible individuals when that person obtains a Pennsylvania driver’s license; Davis and Sims introduced a bill that acts on the precedent set in Arizona, which ended gerrymandering there. “Any serious discussion about reforming government begins with redistricting and establishing a fairer system for drawing our state’s voting maps,” said Davis, D–Bucks. “The independent commission that our measure would create would put voters — and not political advantage — at the forefront when electoral districts are revised.

Virginia: State pushes to dismiss voter ID suit | Daily Press

Private attorneys defending the state against a lawsuit that targets Virginia’s voter ID laws and long election-day waiting times have asked a federal judge to dismiss the case. In filings this week they argued that the plaintiffs, including the Democratic Party of Virginia, don’t have standing to file the case, and that some arguments against the state amount to “speculative hypothetical.” The suit – one of several in swing states that target voting procedures ahead of the 2016 presidential elections – describes Virginia’s 2013 photo ID law and other state regulations as race-based efforts to curtail voting. Attorneys with Perkins Coie, which has brought challenges in other states as well as two separate redistricting suits here in Virginia, filed the case in June.

New Zealand: E-voting no silver bullet for low turnout | Andy Asquith/NZ Herald News

Much has been made of the proposal to use local body elections to trial e-voting in 2016. Just this week, Dunedin City Council became the latest local authority to vote not to participate in the experiment. Its withdrawal has reduced the original pool of 13 councils interested in the trial to just eight. The small remaining number has raised questions over the financial viability of the experiment, with calls for the Department of Internal Affairs to finance the project, rather than the local councils themselves. The decision by Dunedin Council to withdraw was based around three main themes – cost (put at $165,000 on top of the price of running a ‘standard’ postal vote election), security and access. Whatever online solution is used, there are remaining fears that security cannot be guaranteed. Indeed, the recent scandal involving Ashley Madison highlights such risks and, internationally, there are a number of countries where e-voting has been banned because of such fears.

Spain: A guide to Catalonia’s most important election ever | The Guardian

Catalonia heads to the polls on Sunday to elect the 135 members who will sit in the region’s 11th parliament. Billed as a plebiscite on independence, the vote will be the most important Catalan election since its parliament was first elected in 1980. Before the previous election (in 2012), the Catalan parliament adopted a resolution asserting “the right of the people of Catalonia to be able to freely and democratically determine their collective future through a referendum”. In the elections that followed later that year, the mostly pro-referendum parties – Convergence and Union (CiU), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Initiative for Catalonia Greens-United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA) and the the Popular Unity Candidature (CUP) – won the most votes and seats.