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The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 25-31 2016

nc_voter_id_260National Journal and USA Today published articles detailing the serious security concerns surrounding internet voting. USA Today also considered the impact of new voting laws implemented since the 2012 election cycle. The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from lawyers representing Shelby County, Alabama, who tried to recover $2 million in attorney fees from the U.S. government in a case that nullified a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday unveiled a plan that would require counties to perform audits of voting equipment for all elections starting in 2017. After a week of testimony, closing arguments will be presented Monday in a closely watched federal trial challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID law. Ohio election officials have known for nearly two years that the state’s failure to keep pace with modernization at the U.S. Post Office could result in absentee ballots getting tossed, even if voters followed the rules perfectly. Central African Republic’s Constitutional Court has annulled the results of a legislative election and called for a re-vote, while a presidential run-off election was cancelled by Haiti’s electoral council creating a constitutional crises as out-going President Michel Martelly prepares to leave office next week.

National: Why You (Still) Can’t Vote Online | National Journal

When Hur­ricane Sandy hit in 2012, it threw New Jer­sey in­to an ad hoc ex­per­i­ment in on­line vot­ing. … Had New Jer­sey’s ex­per­i­ment gone well, it would have been a ma­jor vic­tory for ad­voc­ates of on­line vot­ing, who’ve long ar­gued that the in­ter­net could be a valu­able tool to pro­tect the right to vote and in­crease dis­mal U.S. vot­ing rates. It did not, however, go well at all: Email serv­ers were over­whelmed, leav­ing voters un­able to re­quest or re­turn their bal­lots. In an at­tempt to fix the situ­ation, one elec­tions of­fi­cial gave out his per­son­al email ad­dress to voters to sub­mit their bal­lot re­quests—and a se­cur­ity re­search­er dis­covered that his pass­word re­cov­ery ques­tion was ap­par­ently his moth­er’s maid­en name after look­ing at Hot­mail’s pass­word-re­set form. The of­fi­cial says he was nev­er hacked. … Se­cur­ity ex­perts cried foul at the elec­tion, which saw an es­tim­ated 50,000 bal­lots cast elec­tron­ic­ally. They were con­cerned that voters’ per­son­al data was po­ten­tially ex­posed, and were wor­ried that there was an op­por­tun­ity for bal­lots to go un­coun­ted. “We don’t know how many of these votes were ac­tu­ally coun­ted or shouldn’t have been coun­ted versus lost, or how many people tried to use this sys­tem but were un­able to get bal­lots,” Ed Fel­ten, who was then the dir­ect­or of Prin­ceton Uni­versity’s Cen­ter for In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy Policy, told Al Jaz­eera in 2014. “We can’t meas­ure it, but cer­tainly there are in­dic­a­tions of over­flow­ing mail­boxes, big back­logs and prob­lems pro­cessing re­quests. So I don’t think you could con­clude at all that this was a suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ment.” Read More

National: New state voting laws face first presidential election test | USA Today

Battles are being waged across the country over new voter ID laws and other election changes that have never before been tested in a presidential election. National and local civil rights groups also have launched grass-roots efforts to fight state laws that they say could suppress voting by minorities and the elderly. President Obama joined the cause in pledging during his Jan. 12 State of the Union Address to travel the country lobbying for steps to make voting easier. “You’re going to see some ramping up of activism,’’ said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “The president is right, but everybody should be joining in that (effort).’’ Barber’s group will lead a voting rights rally Feb. 13 in Raleigh.  … Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Election Project, said voters in some of those states, “are going to be voting in a presidential election with fewer federal protections than they’ve had in the last 50 years.” Read More

Alabama: High Court Rejects Alabama County’s Appeal Over Legal Fees | Associated Press

The Supreme Court said Monday that it won’t hear an appeal from lawyers representing Shelby County, Alabama, who tried to recover $2 million in attorney fees from the U.S. government in a case that nullified a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Shelby County prevailed in 2013 when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to eliminate the Justice Department’s ability to stop potentially discriminatory voting laws before they take effect. The county had challenged the constitutionality of a section of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get preclearance from the federal government before changing local voting protocol. Read More

Kansas: Kris Kobach proposes voting-machine audits, files new voter fraud cases | The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday unveiled a plan that would require counties to perform audits of voting equipment for all elections starting in 2017. The proposal would provide for a percentage of precincts or districts to be manually audited after election day election day and before the vote is certified by county officials. Kobach presented his bill to the House Elections Committee, calling it a “robust” plan that would allow for a broader audit if discrepancies were found. “It goes well beyond what most states do,” Kobach said. Kobach had come under fire when he turned down requests from Beth Clarkson, a Wichita State University statistician, to review Sedgwick County voting machine tapes from 2014. Clarkson said she had identified anomalies in election results. Read More

North Carolina: Is North Carolina’s Strict Voter-ID Law Constitutional? | The Atlantic

Lawyers and advocates were back in a courtroom in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Monday, for a second challenge to the state’s strict new voting laws. A group of plaintiffs, led by the NAACP and the Department of Justice, is seeking to overturn a new rule, which is set to take effect in March’s primaries, requiring voters to present a photo ID before voting. The voter-ID law was one of several major changes made by Republicans who control the Old North State’s government, in a 2013 law passed shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a clause in the Voting Rights Act that required some states to seek approval of changes to voting laws from the Justice Department. In addition to requiring a photo ID to vote, the new rules reduced early voting; ended same-day voter registration; banned the practice of casting ballots out of precinct; and ended pre-registration for teens. Proponents said the laws were essential to guarantee the integrity of the state’s elections. A group of plaintiffs sued the state, alleging that the changes would suppress minority votes and that they represented the return of Jim Crow to the South. In July, federal district-court Judge Thomas Schroeder heard a challenge to some of those provisions, but not to the voter-ID law. Read More

Ohio: State heads into presidential primary with unresolved ballot problems | Akron Beacon Journal

For nearly two years, election officials in Northeast Ohio have known that the state’s failure to keep pace with modernization at the U.S. Post Office could result in absentee ballots getting tossed, even if voters followed the rules perfectly. Beacon Journal interviews last week revealed that officials in at least Summit, Stark and Portage counties were aware in 2014 that a problem loomed as the U.S. Postal Service increasingly used bar codes to process mail and did not print the time and date across the postage stamp. State law continues to require an old-fashioned postmark, and as a result last year, nearly 1,800 absentee ballots were rejected in Summit and Cuyahoga counties alone. Now, with Ohioans only weeks away from voting in a highly charged presidential primary — and their governor among the contenders — the issue remains unresolved and there is no guarantee that ballots dropped in the mailbox will get counted. Read More

Central African Republic: Court cancels legislative election, orders re-vote | Reuters

Central African Republic’s Constitutional Court has annulled the results of a legislative election, setting back a transition to democracy after years of conflict. Observers had praised the peaceful nature of the polls, meant to end a rocky transition punctuated by violence between militias drawn from the Christian majority and a mostly Muslim alliance of Seleka rebels. Although France and other international partners urged transitional authorities to hold the election, Some analysts had questioned whether Central African Republic was prepared for one. The Constitutional Court’s decision cited irregularities in the vote. Read More

Haiti: After canceling its presidential election, Haiti heads toward chaos | The Washington Post

Before he went into politics, Haitian President Michel Martelly was a nationally renowned pop star whose stage antics included mooning his adoring fans. As president, Mr. Martelly, whose five years in office are drawing to a close, has treated his constituents, Haiti’s 10 million citizens, with no more dignity or respect. Mr. Martelly is largely to blame for having led the country into electoral and political chaos, with no prospect of electing a successor to replace him by Feb. 7, as the Haitian constitution requires. Having governed as a virtual autocrat for much of his term, as a consequence of failing to hold timely elections to replace term-limited local officials and members of parliament, Mr. Martelly was instrumental in creating the conditions for a shambolic first round of presidential elections, in October. Read More

National: Internet voting is just too hackable, say security experts | USA Today

Three ballot initiatives have been proposed in California to require the state to allow online voting, but security experts and some voting officials say the technology is nowhere near secure enough for something so crucial as the democratic process. “When people stop me in the supermarket and ask, ‘When am I going to be able to vote on my cell phone?’ I say ‘Pretty soon—in about 20 years,’” said Dana DeBeauvoir, the county clerk for Travis County, Texas. She was one of three speakers Wednesday in a session on online voting and security issues at Enigma 2016, a computer security conference held in San Francisco. So much of daily life now happens online, including shopping, banking, communication, that voters naturally wonder why voting can’t too, said J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. who researches voting and security. However, the ongoing litany of breaches, hacks and crashes in those realms are an object lesson in why voting shouldn’t happen there. It’s just too important, he said. “Imagine the incentives of a rival country to come in and change the outcome of a vote for national leadership. Elections require correct outcomes and true ballot secrecy,” Halderman said. Read More