Editorials: The Challenges of Digital Voting | David Pogue/Scientific American

In researching my Scientific American column about the dismal prospects for online voting, I interviewed Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, technical director of Johns Hopkins’s Information Security Institute, and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting. He’s been deeply immersed in the research surrounding electronic voting for decades. Since I have more room on the Web than I do on the printed page, I would like to share more of our conversation here.

David Pogue: Are there any steps that would make you, a security researcher, comfortable with electronic voting?

Avi Rubin: In principle, I think that paper ballots are far superior to electronic voting machines. Even if the machines are high quality (and none of the current ones on the market have proven to be that), the inability to manually recount, to audit, and to prevent rigging and the potential for widespread, wholesale fraud are deal breakers for purely electronic voting. Paper ballots are not a panacea, but without them there is an opportunity for fraud that is much more widespread.

Editorials: It’s Time to Honor Dr. King’s Commitment to Voting Rights | Jose Calderon/Huffington Post

Among the many accomplishments in his all-too-short life, perhaps none was as important to Dr. Martin Luther King as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. King understood that the single most important tool that African-Americans could use to unravel the worst elements of state-sanctioned discrimination was the ballot box. Decades before the Civil Rights movement emerged, communities across the nation had contrived a system of electoral exclusion that depended on a witch’s brew of poll taxes, literacy tests and “good character” clauses. When these obstacles failed to dissuade potential voters, violence or threats of violence offered a useful and effective supplement to the campaign of disenfranchisement.

Arizona: Lawmakers introduce bills outlawing early ballot collection | Associated Press

House Republicans have reintroduced a pair of bills that would make it nearly impossible for voter-outreach groups to collect and drop off early ballots as the state prepares for the 2016 election season. The proposals would make it a felony for anyone but a family member, roommate, caregiver, postal worker or candidate to collect early ballots from another person in an act sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” The outcome of the legislation could impact the state’s general and primary elections if the bill is signed into law and enacted before elections take place. Early ballot voting makes up 60 percent of all voting in the state, a Secretary of State spokesman said. Both Republicans and Democrats engage in early ballot collection efforts, though Democrats tend to collect more. There is no evidence that voter-outreach groups have ever tampered with or tossed early ballots.

Colorado: Election equipment debate: bulk discount vs state backed monopoly | KOAA

County clerks and election staffers from across the state are in Fort Collins this week for the Colorado County Clerks Association Winter Conference. Those officials will learn best practices and get updates on new election laws. They can also get demonstration of voting machines in action from multiple vendors. But a proposed rule change by Secretary of State Wayne Williams will soon prevent counties from buying their equipment anyone other than Dominion Voting. “We believe that by working together as a state, we’re able to negotiate a better deal and we’ve actually achieved that, so far,” Williams said. “We’re in the middle of those contract negotiations but I’m optimistic it’s going to be a very good deal for taxpayers across the state.” In addition to the bulk discount, Williams said instituting a Uniform Voting System will make it easier to train election officials. It will also gives voters a more common experience at the polls. “The goal throughout this process has been to ensure the best possible experience for Colorado voters and to ensure the integrity of the process,” Williams said. There’s just one problem: the state isn’t buying the machines. That expense falls to the counties.

Georgia: County rejects call for ballots in Spanish; sets up possible court battle | Fox News Latino

Despite pleas from two Latino rights groups, a Georgia county has rejected a request to provide Spanish-language ballots for the upcoming November elections. Officials in Gwinnett County voted 4-1 against the motion and defended the move by saying they do not have enough information to determine whether the county should provide bilingual ballots and voting materials. The two groups who filed the request – the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and the New York-based LatinoJustice – cited a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that requires local governments to make Spanish-language ballots available to people from Puerto Rico who have difficulty reading English. This law was designed to help Puerto Ricans – who are American citizens – who move to mainland of the U.S.

Illinois: Legislation for automatic voter registration may see tough times | WSIL

An Illinois lawmaker is trying to make it easier and more cost efficient for people to register to vote. The measure, which could end up getting a lot of backlash, was reintroduced at the Capitol in Springfield on Wednesday by State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. When a person goes to get a driver’s license, they can register to vote while they are there, but they have to opt in to register. Manar’s measure aims to change that by making registering to vote automatic, unless a person chooses to opt out. Manar said it could save millions. “First and foremost, it saves the state money. It saves the local government money. We believe that, that number would be in the millions when you put all of the savings together on a state and local basis,” he said. And he said the system in place now is too much of a hassle, and there is no need for the duplicate paperwork.

Kansas: Kobach: No plans to ask lawmakers for dual-registration law | Associated Press

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has no plans to ask lawmakers to ban voters who registered with a federal form from casting ballots in state and local elections. Instead, he said he may appeal or ask a judge to reconsider a state court’s ruling last week that he had no legal right to institute the state’s “dual registration” system, in which those who register using a federal form that doesn’t require proof of U.S. citizenship may only vote in federal races. Under that system, voters may only cast ballots in state and local races if they register using the state form, which requires proof of citizenship.

Maine: Election official, lawmakers question legality of ranked-choice voting proposal | The Portland Press Herald

A ballot question that would swap Maine’s traditional election system for one in which seats in Congress and the State House are filled by ranked-choice voting could violate the Maine Constitution, according to a top state election official. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, the longtime head of the elections office, said the issue involves whether Maine’s governor and legislators can be chosen by majority of votes, rather than a plurality, as the Constitution provides. She said she’s concerned that if voters approve the ranked-choice system in November, candidates elected under the system could be challenged in court. Flynn said her office has discussed the issue with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, and an attorney there who advises the agency “is in agreement with our concerns about constitutionality.”

Mississippi: Early voting among election changes Hosemann would like to see in Mississippi | Sun Herald

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is asking legislators to update Mississippi’s election laws, including allowing online voter registration and early voting at county courthouses. Republican Hosemann unveiled his proposals Tuesday. Voters will be able to change their addresses online as well. “That saves a lot of time and effort and a lot of mad people,” said Hosemann. “The process costs about 83 cents to do it by mail. This will cost us about 3 cents so there’s a big cost savings.” There won’t be online voting, nor voting at shopping centers and the like, which other states have tried. “I’m not going to do that because I can’t tell you it’s secure,” he said of online voting.

Mississippi: House reverses Democrat’s win in race that went to tiebreak | Associated Press

Republicans gained a three-fifths supermajority in the Mississippi House on Wednesday when members unseated a longtime Democratic lawmaker who had won a tied election by drawing straws. The 67-49 vote was mostly along party lines to unseat Rep. Bo Eaton of Taylorsville and replace him with Republican challenger Mark Tullos of Raleigh. Tullos, an attorney, watched the vote from the public gallery of the House. Eaton, a farmer, was on the House floor and participated in the 3½ hour debate because he had been sworn in to begin his sixth term when the legislative session started two weeks ago.

Missouri: Voter ID bill wins initial approval in Missouri House | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Missouri House on Wednesday gave first-round approval to a resolution that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to require voters show photo identification before casting a ballot. If passed by voters, a bill, which also gained initial approval Wednesday, would dictate how the constitutional amendment would be enforced. The House debated the proposals for a tense two hours, during which Republicans argued that the bill was to protect elections against voter impersonation fraud. Democrats spoke against the proposal, saying that many constituents don’t possess IDs or a birth certificate needed to acquire an ID. They said that students and elderly African Americans born in the South would be especially impacted by the bill’s passage.

New York: Officials split on Cuomo’s early-voting proposal | Times Herald-Record

New Yorkers would get 12 extra days to vote under a proposal Gov. Andrew Cuomo stuck in his State of the State address and it is already dividing local state legislators. As part of Cuomo’s State of the State address last Wednesday, he said he wants to allow New Yorkers to vote early at 139 locations throughout the state. The legislation would require every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting polling place and allow residents to vote 12 days before Election Day. The measure would allow voters to cast ballots for at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends. Counties would be required to have one early voting polling site for every 50,000 residents and each county’s boards of elections would determine where to site the polling places.

Oklahoma: Lawmaker wants to clarify state law involving a convict’s voting rights | KTUL

An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to clarify the state law regarding a convict’s voting rights. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa filed House Bill 2277 for the upcoming legislative session. The proposed bill states that anyone convicted of a felony could register to vote after having “fully served” his or her sentence, “including any term of incarceration, parole or supervision,” or after completing a probationary period imposed by a judge.

Utah: New lawsuit adds to confusion about election law | Standard Register

Now engulfed in a second round of litigation from the Utah Republican Party, the 2014 legislative compromise known as Senate Bill 54 could result in mass confusion rather than increased voter participation. During a forum at Weber State University Wednesday, Jan. 13, two experts on Utah’s two paths to the primary election under SB54 — Count My Vote Executive Director Taylor Morgan and Utah Deputy Director of Elections Justin Lee — spoke about how the law has evolved and what that means to candidates and voters. “The only thing that’s more confusing than Utah’s old caucus/convention system is this new SB54 mess,” Morgan told the audience of about three dozen people, many of them candidates or political insiders.

Virginia: Attempts to expand voting rights are thwarted in General Assembly | The Virginian Pilot

Five days into the 2016 session of the General Assembly, a variety of proposals to expand Virginians’ voting rights are dead on arrival. The ax began falling Tuesday at an early-morning meeting of a House of Delegates subcommittee, where the Republican majority dispatched four voting measures sponsored by Democrats in 35 minutes. Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington County, told the panel his bill, HB68, would “bring Virginia into the 21st century” by allowing universal early voting up to 21 days before a general election. Similar laws are on the books in 32 states, he said. Early voting in Virginia is possible now only by applying for an absentee ballot and stating a specific reason, such as illness or out-of-town travel on Election Day.

Bolivia: Electoral Tribunal Announces 6.5 Million Will Vote in Referendum | teleSUR

Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal says 6.5 million people are registered to vote in February’s national referendum. The data shows that there has been a 3 percent increase in the number of new voters since the last referendum in September 2015. It’s compulsory to vote in Bolivian elections. The referendum on Feb. 21 will ask voters whether they want to amend the constitution and abolish the two-term limit for the head of state. If it’s approved, President Evo Morales will be able to seek re-election in the next elections scheduled for 2019.

Canada: Manitoba in full election mode as blackout kicks in before spring provincial election | CBC

Manitobans may notice fewer government announcements over the next three months and it’s all about ensuring a fair election, says Elections Manitoba. On Wednesday restrictions on government announcements go into effect which ban government agencies, Crown corporations, or elected officials from using public funds or a public office to promote political parties. “There are no government ads or notices allowed in this 90-day period with a few exceptions,” said Alison Mitchell, manager of communications with Elections Manitoba. Exceptions include emergency announcements in cases where the public’s safety or health is at risk or if government is required to publicize information at a particular time during the 90-day period for things like requests for tenders or employment, she said.

Haiti: Senate calls for a halt to Sunday presidential runoff | Miami Herald

Haiti’s Senate on Wednesday called on the country’s Provisional Electoral Council to cease all operations for Sunday’s presidential and partial legislative runoffs. The recommendation came after three hours of debate and as concern and uncertainty continue to dog the electoral process four days before the critical vote. A coalition of local observers have announced that they won’t participate, and the private sector has signaled its strong misgivings about the holding of the second round on Sunday. Before the Senate meeting, a group of business leaders from the Haitian-American Chamber met with senators, and soon went to meet with opposition presidential candidate Jude Celestin. Joined by other business leaders, they asked Celestin whether he was willing to sign an agreement negotiated by Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Chibly Langlois that would postpone the vote until next month and a new president’s swearing-in by March 29. President Michel Martely and his hand-picked successor, candidate Jovenel Moïse, have also been presented with the same question, sources familiar with the agreement said.

Iran: Guardian Council rejects plan for electronic voting | Tasnim News Agency

Iran has called off plans to hold the two upcoming elections using electronic voting machines, Spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council (GC) Nejatollah Ebrahimian announced. Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency on Wednesday, Ebrahimian pointed to a meeting of the GC earlier in the day and said the issue of using electronic ballot boxes in the upcoming elections was raised in the session and the majority of the GC members voiced their opposition to the plan.

Japan: Government to take innovative steps to get out the vote for summer elections | The Asahi Shimbun

The government is going all-out to increase voter turnout for this summer’s Upper House election, and is even considering setting up polling stations at shopping centers or other retail outlets in front of major train stations. Under the Public Offices Election Law, just one polling booth is set up in each neighborhood. Normally, elementary schools serve as polling locations. Given that elections are usually held on Sundays in Japan, setting up polling booths at shopping centers would allow people to cast their votes in-between weekend shopping. According to the internal affairs ministry, which is in charge of elections, the joint polling booths would be set up in addition to the normal polling stations. All polling stations would be connected online to prevent individuals from voting more than once.

Kazakhstan: Snap poll called as President Nursultan Nazarbayev bids to extend his 27-year rule | The Independent

In an attempt to cling on to power amid discontent at falling oil prices in the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called a snap election. Mr Nazarbayev, whose rule has been marked by allegations of human rights abuses and corruption, dissolved the lower house of parliament, urging the nation to consolidate at a time of economic hardship caused by the crash in oil prices. The election, originally expected at the end of this year or early 2017, will be held on 20 March. Political analysts say the early poll will allow the veteran leader to reaffirm his grip on power before discontent over a slowing economy reaches a peak.

Vanuatu: After half of government MPs jailed for corruption, Vanuatu votes in snap election | ABC

Voters in Vanuatu go to the polls on Friday for a snap general election called after 14 government MPs were jailed for corruption. A total of 264 candidates, standing in 52 seats, have had little more than seven weeks to campaign. Most are members of 36 political parties, many of which have formed in the lead-up to the election. There are still more than 50 independents in the mix. Observers have said one of the issues with the snap poll was that there were thousands of dead people still eligible to vote — some reports claiming as many as 55,000 registered voters were no longer alive.