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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.”

Full Article: Why You (Still) Can’t Vote Online.

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.”

Full Article: New state voting laws face first presidential election test.

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.

Full Article: High Court Rejects Alabama County's Appeal Over Legal Fees - ABC News.

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.

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

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.

Full Article: Is North Carolina's Strict Voter-ID Law Constitutional? - The Atlantic.

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.

Full Article: Ohio heads into presidential primary with unresolved ballot problems - Break News - Ohio.

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.

Full Article: Central African court cancels legislative election, orders re-vote | Reuters.

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.

Full Article: After canceling its presidential election, Haiti heads toward chaos - The Washington Post.

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.

Full Article: Internet voting is just too hackable, say security experts.

National: Gerrymandering Is Even More Infuriating When You Can Actually See It | WIRED

President Barack Obama spent the last chunk of his 2016 State of the Union Address talking about how to “fix our politics.” His first solution? Stop gerrymandering, the shaping of congressional districts to guarantee electoral outcomes. “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” he said. At least one geographer has heeded Obama’s call to action. Using data from the US Census Bureau, Alasdair Rae, a geographer and urban planner at Sheffield University, built maps of every congressional district—all 435 of them—to show just how screwed up they really are. When Rae maps them individually, removed from the context of their surrounding districts, you can really see the extent of the problem. “There are some shapes that are quite egregious,” Rae says.

Full Article: Gerrymandering Is Even More Infuriating When You Can Actually See It | WIRED.

National: How Facebook tracks and profits from voters in a $10bn US election | The Guardian

If you lived in north-east Iowa, the evangelical stronghold where the battle for the soul of conservative American politics will play out in person on Monday, and happened to have given Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign your email address sometime in the last few months, you might find something especially appealing this weekend in your Facebook feed. You might see, amid the family photos, a menacing video of Donald Trump talking about how “my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa”. LIKE ON ABORTION, blares the sponsored ad from Cruz’s deep-pocketed, social media-savvy digital team. And you might wonder how this campaign managed, by paying Facebook, to differentiate between Trump’s “New York values” and “OURS”. Facebook, which told investors on Wednesday it was “excited about the targeting”, does not let candidates track individual users. But it does now allow presidential campaigns to upload their massive email lists and voter files – which contain political habits, real names, home addresses and phone numbers – to the company’s advertising network. The company will then match real-life voters with their Facebook accounts, which follow individuals as they move across congressional districts and are filled with insightful data.

Full Article: How Facebook tracks and profits from voters in a $10bn US election | US news | The Guardian.

National: Voting Rights Act: After Supreme Court Ruling, 2016 Election Could Endanger Black, Latino Rights | International Business Times

Decades after many Americans fought, bled and died for the right to vote, millions of voters could be once again be turned away from the polls this year because of a regime of voting laws that disproportionately burden minorities, the elderly, immigrants and the poor. With both presidential and congressional elections in November, advocates warn that the stakes are high. “Basically, all hell is breaking loose,” said Katherine Culliton-González, director of the voter protection program at the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, who spent five years working on voter issues at the U.S. Department of Justice. “Unless you are in the elite — and that doesn’t even mean in the middle class — voter restrictions are going to impact you, one way or another.” This year’s presidential election will be the first one held after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the historic Voting Rights Act in 2013, which required federal pre-clearance of voting law changes for states with a history of voter discrimination. Without those protections in place, pending legal battles over the fairness and constitutionality of recently enacted voting laws will get unprecedented scrutiny this year, advocates on both sides have said. If the courts uphold, for example, a voter ID requirement in North Carolina or allow Texas to redraw districts and reduce political power in heavily immigrant communities, they’d potentially be denying millions the right to vote and be equally represented by their state lawmakers. “Voting laws seem to be changing every day, and that in and of itself is disenfranchising to so many Americans,” González said.

Full Article: Voting Rights Act: After Supreme Court Ruling, 2016 Election Could Endanger Black, Latino Rights.

Editorials: Paper trail is simply prudent | Tim Kalich/The Greenwood Commonwealth

Elmus Stockstill and Edward Course surely have no devious intentions in wanting to get the external printers off Leflore County’s touch-screen voting machines. But the county’s two top election officials are just wrong — and obviously not well-schooled — on how susceptible electronic voting machines are to hacking and why these printers are the only safeguard against it. Just 10 minutes on the Internet will turn up a decade worth of studies and reports showing that all it takes is access, a basic knowledge of electronics and a few minutes to rig voting machines like those used in Leflore County. I recommend the Board of Supervisors spends 30 minutes reading the study summaries or watching the videos produced by university and government researchers demonstrating the vulnerabilities of so-called “direct recording electronic” (DRE) voting equipment made by Diebold or any of the other touch-screen manufacturers. If the supervisors educated themselves the tiniest bit on this subject, they would see how comical it was of Stockstill, the circuit clerk, to talk — in response to a column I wrote last Sunday — of the memory card inserted in the machines as some kind of fail-safe against hacking. The memory card is actually one likely conduit for introducing a vote-stealing virus.

Full Article: Paper trail is simply prudent - The Greenwood Commonwealth: Columns.

Voting Blogs: Five steps to getting online voter registration right | electionlineWeekly

Online voter registration has become a “thing” in the last couple of years. When implemented properly, it makes it easier for voters — especially military and overseas voters — to register. It also helps maintain the accuracy of voter rolls; reduces the cost of list maintenance; reduces the inherent potential for error in paper-based systems; saves significant amounts of money; reduces delays and congestion at polling places; and improves the voter experience because voters get immediate feedback when they are registered or when their information has been updated. There are complications and subtleties, but as online voter registration becomes widespread, more ways are emerging to refine the process to better serve voters and election officials.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Illinois: Early primary voting delayed by candidate ballot challenges | Chicago Tribune

Early voting in the DuPage County primary election will be delayed nearly two weeks due to pending petition objections in a judicial race in the county, in one at the state level, and to presidential candidates. Early voting was to begin Thursday at the offices of the DuPage County Election Commission, with early-voting satellite offices planned to open Feb. 29. Due to the challenges, voters will not be able to cast early ballots at the commission’s office in Wheaton until Feb. 17. By that date, the commission anticipates the ballot challenges will have been determined, said Robert Saar, executive director of the county election commission. The postponed early voting period also will mean a delay in ballots being mailed out, he said. However, at this point it does not appear there will be any delay in the start of early voting at the satellite sites, he said.

Full Article: Early primary voting delayed by candidate ballot challenges - Naperville Sun.

Iowa: Sanders camp suspicious of Microsoft’s influence in Iowa Caucus | MSNBC

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is raising questions about the involvement of Microsoft in the Iowa Caucuses, now just days away, and has built an independent system to check the official results. For the first time this year, Microsoft partnered with the Iowa Democratic and Republican Parties to provide a technology platform with which the parties will run their caucuses. The software giant created separate mobile apps for each party, which officials at hundreds of caucuses across the state will use to report out results from individual precincts to party headquarters for tabulation. The arrangement has aroused the suspicions of aides to Sanders, who regularly warn that corporate power and the billionaire class are trying to hijack democracy. Pete D’Alessandro, who is running the Iowa portion of Sanders’ campaign, questioned the motives of the major multinational corporation in an interview with MSNBC: “You’d have to ask yourself why they’d want to give something like that away for free.” The Sanders campaign has built their own reporting system to check the results from the official Microsoft-backed app. It has trained its precinct captain on using the app, which is designed to be as user friendly as possible, and the campaign will also staff a hotline system as further redundancy.

Full Article: Sanders camp suspicious of Microsoft's influence in Iowa Caucus | MSNBC.

Louisiana: State high court overturns bar to felons running for office | Associated Press

The Louisiana Supreme Court has overturned a constitutional amendment barring felons from running for office because voters approved a version without a last-minute legislative change. “Simply stated, what the citizens voted on was not what the legislature enacted,” Justice John L. Weimer wrote for the 6-1 majority in a lawsuit brought by former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd. Voters had approved an amendment in 1997 forbidding convicted felons from running for office for 15 years after the end of their sentences. However, the version on the ballot omitted an amendment exempting those sentenced only to probation.

Full Article: State high court overturns bar to felons running for office.

Nebraska: Ballot selfies opposed by secretary of state | Licoln Journal Star

Sen. Adam Morfeld’s proposal to allow voters to take selfie photos at their voting precincts that display their ballots and how they voted and show the photos on social media bumped into opposition Thursday from the secretary of state’s office. Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson told the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee that it would be “bad public policy” to share photos online that “may well influence how others vote” and cautioned that the practice “could be used by partisan activists.” The broader concern is “preventing fraud at the voting booth,” Erickson said. In response, both Morfeld, a Lincoln senator, and Committee Chairman John Murante of Gretna said people have a constitutional right to express themselves and to attempt to influence how others may vote. “It’s no different than orally encouraging people to vote for candidates you support,” Morfeld said. “Freedom of expression is a protected fundamental constitutional right.”

Full Article: Ballot selfies opposed by secretary of state : Politics.

North Carolina: NAACP lawyers grill elections director in trial over photo IDs | Winston-Salem Journal

After four days of testimony, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice rested their case Thursday in a federal trial challenging North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voting. Their last witness was Kim Strach, the state’s elections director. It was through sharp questioning of Strach that plaintiffs argued that state elections officials had failed to educate the public about a recent amendment to the photo ID requirement that state Republican legislators passed last June. The amendment allows voters who don’t have photo ID to fill out and sign a “reasonable impediment” declaration form. That form has examples of reasons why voters weren’t able to get one of six acceptable photo IDs, including lack of transportation, work schedule or not having the necessary underlying documents, such as a birth certificate. After filling out the form, voters will get to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted later after their reasons are verified.

Full Article: NAACP lawyers grill elections director in trial over photo IDs - Winston-Salem Journal: Elections.