National 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.