There is a certain buzz in the air on election nights that gives voters a sense of involvement in a larger process and state elections officials knots in their stomachs. Will state reporting systems keep up with the deluge of access attempts so common in our technology-driven society? As media outlets and the public at large pound on the digital front door for the latest poll numbers, results portals across the country face the strain of hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of hits. Some falter and are overwhelmed by the attention and come crashing down; others come to the game prepared, having learned from past follies. Though 2014 wasn’t exactly what you’d call a big-ticket election — with no presidential candidates on the ballot — states across the country experienced issues with their election reporting websites. Whether the problems were due to overwhelmingly high Web traffic or just technical difficulties, several states had to step back and rethink their online reporting strategies.
This month in Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court heard arguments for altering the long-standing principle of “one person, one vote” by substituting voting-age citizens for total population when drawing legislative districts within states. While much has been said about the implications of eliminating noncitizens from the population on which district lines are based, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case could have an even larger impact: shortchanging the interests of minority children and their families. That’s because nearly half of the nation’s under-18 population is made up of racial minorities, while 70 percent of voting-age citizens are white. The United States is undergoing a boom in demographic diversity, but it’s the younger population that’s being transformed first. Removing the racially diverse youth population from the apportionment calculation would intensify a divisive cultural generation gap that pervades politics and public attitudes in this country. Pew Research polling has shown that the mostly white older population is far less accepting of immigrant minorities and government support for social programs than is the increasingly minority younger population. The rise of immigrant-bashing presidential candidate Donald Trump as a hero among older white Republican primary voters represents an extreme version of the pushback against a demographically changing country.
The Secretary of State’s Office chose a Denver-based company Tuesday to supply future voting machines for the state’s 64 counties, and Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner couldn’t be more pleased. That’s because Reiner used voting machines from that company, Dominion Voting Systems, as part of a three-year pilot project to test various machines for a uniform voting system. Having all counties use the same machines not only will allow each to get them cheaper, but also help save costs in maintenance, supplies and training time for election workers, Reiner said. She said Dominion, more than any of the other companies that were included in the pilot study, had a product that was ready to go. “Dominion … was by far the most developed and appropriate system for our state,” Reiner said. “I say that because from the simplicity of building the ballot definition all the way through the risk-limiting audit that we’re going to be required to do by statute in 2017, everything just fit with Colorado laws and current needs. The other vendors are still developing things to fit our model.”
Kentucky: New governor reverses executive order that restored voting rights for felons | The Washington Post
Kentucky’s new Republican governor has rescinded an executive order that restored voting rights to as many as 140,000 non-violent felons, surprising some observers who had watched him — and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — argue for a more lenient approach to the issue. “While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights,” Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Ky.) said in announcing the order, “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.” The November election, which Bevin won in an upset, did not really turn on felon voting rights. In Bevin’s view, outgoing Democratic governor Steve Beshear forced the issue, granting a mass restoration after eight years of following the usual, slow, individualized standard for voting rights.
A legal dispute over changes to voting rules in swing state Ohio is now in the hands of a federal judge. At issue are a series of Republican-backed revisions that Democrats allege disproportionately burden black voters and those who lean Democratic. The state’s Democratic Party is among the plaintiffs suing the state’s Republican elections chief over the policy changes. Those include the elimination of a week of early voting in which Ohioans could also register to vote, known as the “golden week.” Both sides filed their closing comments with the court Tuesday. They now await a ruling from U.S. District Judge Michael Watson.
Democrats in Virginia claimed a victory on parts of a voting rights lawsuit in the state, with a settlement on the portion related to long waiting times for voters to cast ballots, especially in precincts with large numbers of minorities residents. The settlement, hammered out in a consent decree by the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia in the case, rules that there will be major changes by the state Board of Elections and Department of Elections to lay out guidelines about how to handle paper ballots in the case of machine breakdowns, and finding solutions to help local boards with the issue of long lines. In some cases, there have been reports of voters waiting hours before casting their ballots. The settlement on the long-lines part of the larger suit came less than a year before the presidential election. Virginia is a crucial battleground state, with an electoral composition that is reflective of demographic changes in the rest of the country.
A national election in Central African Republic, designed to replace its transitional government and bring stability to a nation wracked by years of sectarian violence has been postponed to 30 December. The election, delayed several times before, was originally scheduled for 27 December. The National Election Authority proposed a short delay to deal with technical and organizational difficulties, officials from the government and the election authority said on Thursday. Electoral agents need to complete training, said Bernard Kpongaba, vice president of the National Election Authority, adding that he did not have assurances that voting materials would have made it in time for the original date. “We will take the time for the collation and deployment throughout the country,” he said.
The United Nations Security Council urged Haiti on Wednesday to quickly reschedule its postponed presidential election ahead off further civil unrest. The second round of voting to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly had been due to go ahead on December 27 but was cancelled after fraud allegations. The first-round of voting and the subsequent lengthy and delayed vote count was marked by street protests alleging official corruption. An “election evaluation committee” has been set up to determine a way forward, but no new date has been set for the run-off, leaving the western hemisphere’s poorest country once more in political limbo.
Verified Voting is pleased to welcome Andrew W. Appel, PhD. to our Advisory Board. Dr. Appel is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, where he has been on the faculty since 1986. He served as Department Chair from 2009-2015. His research is in software verification, computer security, programming languages and compilers, and technology policy. He received his A.B. summa cum laude in physics from Princeton in 1981, and his PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985.
Dr. Appel has been Editor in Chief of ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems and is a Fellow of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). He has worked on fast N-body algorithms (1980s), Standard ML of New Jersey (1990s), Foundational Proof-Carrying Code (2000s), and the Verified Software Toolchain (2010s).
Alaska: Native groups, unions put cash behind effort to link PFD, voter registration | Alaska Dispatch News
The group behind the initiative to merge voter registration with Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividend applications has pulled in another $45,000 from unions, Alaska Native groups and the campaign committee of Forrest Dunbar — a former candidate for U.S. Congress. In a report filed Monday, the campaign reported donations of $5,000 from Doyon, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Get Out the Native Vote; $10,000 from the National Education Association; and $5,000 from a political action committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Retired Alaska Supreme Court justice Walt Carpeneti gave $250. And Dunbar, who recently announced he was running for Anchorage Assembly, gave $4,500 in funds left over from his federal campaign committee.
Hidden behind the government district in downtown Phoenix sits a cluster of homeless shelters, food banks and clinics. Run by both religious groups and the City of Phoenix, each provides men and women basic living necessities and assistance with the transition out of homelessness, a period averaging about three months, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Of the services offered, few help those participate in one of the most basic civil rights of American citizens — the right to vote. Both local and national election processes present the difficult tasks of finding a ballot, getting to a voting place, accessing election information and acquiring the necessary identification to register and cast a vote.
Florida: Elections supervisors to court: Decide Senate redistricting by March 15, please | Florida Politics
Florida’s election supervisors are asking the courts to resolve the state Senate redistricting saga by March 15 to protect the “quality and integrity of the (voting) process.” The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections filed its notice Wednesday with Circuit Judge George Reynolds, who is in the process of deciding how to redraw the state’s 40 senatorial districts. Reynolds, who sits in Tallahassee, held a trial on the matter last week. His recommendation goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which has the final say on a new map. With Florida’s primary election on Aug. 30, the supervisors need lead time “to remap and re-precinct their counties following approval of new Florida Senate districts by this Court.” Absentee ballots must go out 45 days before the primary, and new polling locations will have to determined.
Iowa: Advocates: Iowa’s online voter registration could violate Americans with Disabilities Act | Des Moines Register
Iowa will launch a statewide online voter registration system on Jan. 1, but advocates for the disabled, minorities and others are worried the plans will ignore the civil rights of thousands of Iowans, making it more difficult for them to vote. The America Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says it is commending Secretary of State Paul Pate for modernizing Iowa’s voter registration system. But the organization says administrative rules aimed at implementing the system will exclude 7 percent of Iowans who lack Iowa driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. “We believe there is a strong likelihood that the rules as proposed would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act,” which prohibits discrimination against disabled people in governmental activities, said Pete McRoberts, legislative counsel for ACLU-Iowa “To mitigate this danger, we need online voter registration, open to all people, on an ADA-compliant web site.”
Editorials: Michigan should do away with the straight-ticket option | Peter Lucido/Detroit Free Press
Of all the things that make our country great, nothing is more universally cherished than our right to vote. Americans choose their own destiny, and they exercise that choice through the democratic process. We are born and raised into thinking of our system as generally idyllic, or close to it. Considering how far we’ve come, it’s no surprise that many people are resistant to change or hesitant to move in any direction out of fear that we are undermining a fundamental element of our American rights. However, who can vote and how are factors that have undergone both societal and constitutional change over the course of our nation’s history. A brief look at our past will confirm that the willingness to revisit or redefine our voting process is generally for the better, when the goal is a more representative democracy. Michigan is one of only 10 states that still uses straight-ticket voting. Why should we settle for less?
North Carolina: Local agencies say they’re complying with federal law in advocating voter registration | Gaston Gazette
A new lawsuit alleges North Carolina leaders are breaking a federal mandate in failing to get people registered to vote. But local officials who work under the oversight of those state agencies say they aren’t contributing to any problems. The litigation is aimed mainly at the state’s Board of Elections, Division of Motor Vehicles and Department of Health and Human Services. By law, anyone visiting a DMV office or applying for public assistance is supposed to be guided through a specific process for registering to vote, if they wish to. The federal “motor voter” law, enacted in 1993, aims to cast a wider net and keep potential voters from falling through the cracks. Critics say that Medicaid and food stamp applicants are often not even asked if they’re registered to vote, and that there is evidence of similar breaches at DMV offices across the state.
Editorials: Trudeau must turf first-past-the-post system once and for all | Kelly Carmichael/National Observer
In the 2015 election, the Liberal Party committed to a platform they called “Make Every Vote Count.” Now, they are poised to embark on a process that could make Canada fairer and more inclusive for all voters. The stakes couldn’t be higher for democracy. So what’s the problem we’re trying to fix? On October 19, over 9,000,000 voters (51.8 per cent) were unable to make their vote count and elect a representative to bring their voices to Ottawa. The country elected a majority Liberal government, but as usual did so with less than a majority of the vote (39.5 per cent). Most Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Democrats and Conservatives in Toronto and Atlantic Canada— and Greens nearly everywhere— elected no representation to Parliament. That’s a big problem. When your vote means nothing, it disempowers citizens and breeds disdain for democracy— and widespread apathy.
Central African Republic: As transitional authority steps aside, Central African Republic goes to the polls | Deutsche Welle
Residents of the Central African Republic (CAR)have witnessed more coups than elections since their country gained independence from France in 1960. Sylvestre, a civil servant from the capital Bangui, hopes that change for the better is just around the corner. “It’s always the same here, the situation in the country has deteriorated badly. Right now we really do need progress, to elect somebody who can do some good for our country,” he said. But with 30 candidates running for the presidency in Sunday’s (27.12.2015) elections, it is difficult to see who that somebody could be. The contents of their manifestoes are virtually unknown and this dearth of information is similar to that which beset the referendum earlier in the month. The electorate had to vote on a new constitution about which they knew very little. They voted for it nonetheless. In spite of all the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the next president, there is one political figure who will not be taking the helm: ex-President Francois Bozize, who was ousted in a coup in 2013. The Constitutional Court has banned him from participating. Bozize, who grabbed power himself in a coup in 2003, believes the ruling was unfair. “It was a shabby thing to do to somebody of my caliber,” Bozize told DW. He was president of the country for ten years. “These days nobody wants to have anything to do with me. I was simply dropped,” he said.
Senator Grace Poe has crawled back to the top of the heap in the race to become the Philippines’ next president, but she may not even be on the ballot come election time next May. In a decision that risks creating “electoral mayhem”, the seven- man election commission yesterday ruled that Ms Poe is not qualified to run for president. It affirmed earlier decisions by two of its divisions that Ms Poe, as a foundling, is not a natural-born Filipino. The 47-year-old senator, long rumoured to be an illegitimate child of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has been unsuccessful in trying to locate her biological parents. She was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church in Iloilo city 620km south of the capital Manila. She was later raised by Philippine movie icons Fernando Poe Jr and Susan Roces.
A group of Chinese hackers have targeted a Taiwanese news organizations and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in order to get the information on upcoming presidential and legislative election like the policies and speeches from the leaders participating in the elections. This report is the second part of the one revealed by FireEye last week which exposed China spying on the Japanese government using Dropbox. China was also blamed for spying on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong with an Android spyware disguised as an OccupyCentral app to keep an eye on the protesters. FireEye in August 2015 caught Chinese hackers spying on Tibetan activists and as well as dozens of organizations in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The hackers attacked their targets through phishing emails; one of the emails had this subject line: “DPP’s Contact Information Update,” which indicated this to be a state-sponsored attack from a group known as “APT16” according to the security research team “FireEye”.