As this year’s presidential primaries move beyond the First Four states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and into the dozen “Super Tuesday” states voting on March 1, millions of Americans will find themselves exercising their right to vote on computerized machines from the pre-iPhone era running on software like Windows 2000 with hardware like 512 kilobyte memory cards. “It’s concerning because this is the infrastructure for our elections,” said Lawrence Norden, co-author of America’s Voting Machines at Risk, a recent Brennan Center for Justice report found 43 states have counties using voting equipment 10 to 15-years-old. “The most immediate short-term concern is that we get more failures on election days – that machines crash or shut down or have to be taken out of service, because they’re not working like they’re supposed to,” Norden said. “That can create chaos at the polling place and long lines
“What’s the point?” How many times have you asked yourself a question like this? Perhaps at school, when no matter how hard you study, you can’t seem to pass that exam. Maybe at the office, when you spend hours working on a presentation only to have your boss pass you over again. Not seeing any results from our efforts can be frustrating, irritating and can test the patience of the most resolute among us. Not seeing any results can drive us to seek out new paths. A lack of results demands change. So again, I ask: “What’s the point?” This time, however, my question is directed to Congress. What’s the point of a non-voting member on the floor?
Missouri: Partisan divisions are clear as Missouri Senate takes up Voter ID | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
If you drive a car or buy alcohol, you probably need a photo ID. So shouldn’t you have one to vote? It depends on whom you ask. Partisan divisions are clear as the Missouri Senate takes up a proposal to require photo ID at the polls. The bill passed out of the GOP-dominated House in January on a party-line vote. While Republicans say requiring photo identification is necessary to ensure integrity at the ballot box, Democrats characterize the proposals as an attack on minorities, students and poor people — voters less likely to have a valid ID and more likely to support Democrats. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office estimates that 225,000 registered voters in the state lack a photo ID.
A ruling by federal judges on North Carolina’s congressional districts this month has turned the primary election on its head. Now there are two primary dates — June 7 for the congressional elections and the previously scheduled March 15 for all other races. Here’s a look at how the state got to this point, what the changes mean for voters and candidates and the chances for more election complications before November. How did we get here? North Carolina held elections in 2012 and 2014 under congressional and legislative district maps the General Assembly drew in 2011. All the while four lawsuits challenging the maps meandered their way through state and federal courts. All the litigation essentially alleged Republican mapmakers created more majority black districts than legally necessary by splitting counties and precincts. Republicans said the maps were fair and legal.
Virginia: State election official says he’s unaware of any voter impersonation in past 20 years | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, one of the defendants in a lawsuit challenging the state’s photo voter ID law, testified Friday that he was not aware of any case of voter impersonation in Virginia over the past 20 years. Edgardo Cortés also said on cross-examination Friday, the fifth day of the trial before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Richmond, that he believes the only form of voter fraud requiring photo voter identification might prevent would be someone trying to impersonate someone else.
The law took effect in 2014, and Cortés acknowledged there was some confusion and mistakes made by local election officials that year and in 2015. He expects to see more problems this year because it is a presidential election and turnout in the state could be 70 to 80 percent, compared with the 20 percent who might vote in an off-year.
A proposed state Voting Rights Act that has languished for years in Olympia now appears to have bipartisan support in the Senate. For four years Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, has led the effort in the House to pass the law he says would make it easier to avoid costly court battles over local voting rights. Yakima’s expensive years-long case with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is the prime example cited by supporters in the House, where the bill passed earlier this month on a 50-47 vote. No Central Washington lawmakers supported the measure.
Australia: Former Australian Electoral Commission official says Senate voting change is ‘incoherent’ | The Conversation
A former official of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Michael Maley, has attacked the government’s planned reform of Senate voting as internally inconsistent. Maley says the scheme proposed will create an anomaly never previously seen at Senate elections – identical preferences for candidates may produce a formal vote if the elector expresses them “above the line”, but an informal one if they are expressed “below the line” because the ballot paper would be insufficiently completed. Maley had a 30-year career at the AEC and was deeply involved in the 1983 drafting of the current provisions governing Senate elections. He was the recognised in-house expert on the Senate electoral system. He has lodged a submission for the brief inquiry into the government’s legislation, which is being done by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.
Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday’s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces. A coalition of candidates supported by the reformists, dubbed “the list of hope”, is likely to take all of the capital’s 30 parliamentary seats, according to the latest tally released by the interior ministry, in surprising results seen as a strong vote of confidence in Rouhani’s moderate agenda. Mohammad Reza Aref, a committed reformist who has a degree from Stanford University in the US, is at the top of the list. Preliminary results for the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing the next supreme leader, showed Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key Rouhani ally, leading the race. Elections to the assembly are usually a lacklustre event but have attracted huge attention this time because of the age of the current leader, 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei and Rafsanjani, a prominent pragmatist who was not allowed to run for president in 2013, have been at odds in recent years.
Ireland is voting for a new government Friday, but the country might not know the full official results until Monday — and the government won’t take shape until next month, if one can even be formed. The AP explains some of the peculiarities of Ireland’s democracy and its slow dance with election results. In Ireland’s system of proportional representation, voters get one ballot but can vote for as many listed candidates as they like in order of preference. You literally can vote for every single politician with a hand-written No. 1, 2, 3 and so on. The multi-numbered ballots mean they must be counted in multiple rounds. At first the total number of votes cast in a district is calculated. This is divided by the number of seats in that district, which produces a quota, which is the target needed to win a seat. If the winning candidate in the first count gets more votes than the quota, their surplus votes are redistributed to lower-ranking candidates, starting with the No. 2s registered on the winning candidate’s ballot. And if there is no winner in a round, they eliminate a losing candidate at the bottom of the list and the No. 2s on those ballots are transferred to other candidates.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has pleaded for supporters of both major political parties to maintain calm as the recount of ballots continues, following last week’s general election. With reports of tension in some areas across the island, the prime minister has appealed to supporters of both parties to remain calm. Electoral officials yesterday indicated that the recount of ballots for St Thomas Western was relocated to Kingston as a precautionary measure.
Swiss voters have decisively rejected tougher rules on expelling foreign criminals which the country’s political far-right had hoped would win support on the back of a wave of anti-immigration sentiment sweeping across Europe. The “enforcement initiative”, proposed by the powerful Swiss People’s party (SVP), could have seen foreigners ejected for relatively minor offences, such as threatening public officials. But it was defeated in a referendum on Sunday, with 59 per cent voting against, according to final results. Its rejection followed a counter offensive mobilised by business leaders, civil organisations and academics against the SVP’s populist campaign, which included posters showing black sheep representing foreign criminals.
The electoral commission of Uganda is prepared to meet the legal challenges opposition presidential and parliamentary candidates plan to launch this week following the outcome of the February 18 general election, says Jotham Taremwa, spokesman for the electoral commission. Main opposition leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Kizza Besigye and independent candidate Patrick Amama Mbabazi dispute the results of the poll. They have signaled they would be going to court, citing voter irregularities and rigging they said led to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni’s victory. Uganda’s electoral law says challenges can be filed up to 10 days after results are announced.
Civil rights leaders who marched from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery in 1965, who received the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday lamented Congress’s failure to pass a renewed Voting Rights Act after the US Supreme Court’s recent dismantling of landmark legislation. A federal judge has turned down a request to block a federal official’s move allowing three states to enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for people attempting to register as voters. Barbara Simons and David Jefferson looked at three internet voting initiatives that may reach the California ballot this November. In testimony before the D.C. Council, the acting chair of the District’s troubled Board of Elections blamed a lack of professionalism for the board’s weak financial controls, as council members questioned the board about election preparedness and internal bureaucracy. A Missouri bill to require photo ID at the polls passed one last test before heading to the Senate floor — where St. Louis Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat, has vowed to lead a filibuster to stop it. Nevada’s caucuses were marred by volunteer captains who failed to show up, and alleged double-voting lent a circus-like atmosphere to some of the caucus locations. Critics of North Carolina’s congressional redistricting process asked the federal court that ordered the map redrawn to establish an expedited schedule to determine if a new map, approved by the General Assembly, is valid under constitutional considerations. Virginia voter ID law went on trial in federal court, challenged by Democratic Party activists who allege it throws up barriers to voting by minorities and the poor. Preliminary results in Iran indicated that reformist and moderate candidates were set to expand their influence after two important elections, while the general election Ireland is set to produce a hung parliament after the poor performance in the poll of the existing coalition.
Civil rights leaders who marched from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery in 1965 received the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, the highest civilian honor awarded by the US Congress. The honor was accepted by Reverend Frederick D Reese, one of the march’s organizers. It was a triumphant, if frustrated, ceremony, as some of the same congressional leaders who awarded the medal had also failed to pass a renewed voting rights act, after the US supreme court’s recent dismantling of key legislation from 1965. “I am certainly honored to be able to stand here and look into such beautiful faces and recall how good God has been, because he is a good God,” said Reese, when he took the podium. “He brought us from nowhere to somewhere, allowed us to receive the great blessing that this great nation has to offer, and to stand here today to say, ‘Thank you!’” But not at everyone was jubilant. The award was prefaced with a press conference, which called for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
A federal judge has turned down a request to block a federal official’s move allowing three states to enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for people attempting to register as voters. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon declined to issue the temporary restraining order civil rights and voting rights groups sought to block approval of changes the states of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia obtained recently to a federal form that can be used in lieu of state voter registration applications. “Given that the registration deadlines for the Alabama and Georgia primaries and for the Kansas Republican Caucus had already passed at the time this TRO motion was filed…and that the effects of [the federal] actions on the ongoing registration process for the Kansas Democratic Caucus and plaintiffs’ rights and efforts thereto are uncertain at best, plaintiffs have not demonstrated they will suffer irreparable harm before the hearing on their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction,” Leon wrote in a four-page order issued Tuesday afternoon.
This article was originally published in Communications of the ACM on February 24, 2016.
California, home of an underabundance of rain and an overabundance of ballot initiatives, may be confronted with one or two initiatives on this November’s ballot that, if passed by the voters, will mandate the establishment of Internet voting in the state.
A total of three such initiatives are under consideration so far. The first, poorly written and probably a long shot, represents one of the hazards of the initiative process: anyone can pay the fees and submit any crazy idea for a new law. But the other two are closely related, with the same sponsor and largely identical content. We expect only one of those two will go forward. Since they represent the most significant concern, for the rest of this blog we discuss only them.
The two initiatives, numbered 15-0117 and 15-0118, can be found at the CA Attorney General’s site. They are carefully drafted to avoid ever using the terms “Internet voting” or “online voting” or “email” or “web,” etc. Instead, they refer throughout to “secure electronic submission of vote by mail ballots.” Presumably, this is in part because the computer and elections security communities have managed to give “Internet voting” a bad name.
District of Columbia: Why D.C.’s troubled election board couldn’t get a grip on its finances | The Washington Post
The acting chair of the District’s troubled Board of Elections told the D.C. Council that she had no idea her agency had federal funds to spend on new voting equipment — even as it sought city money for that purpose — because board members are only “volunteers.” In fact, the federal government gave the District $18 million to upgrade its election process, and the board spent nearly $15 million of it, according to expenditure reports filed with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But acting chair Deborah Nichols told the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee that board members asked for city funds for voting machines at the same time her agency spent millions of federal dollars on other election-related needs because they were in the dark about finances. She said board members “are not even considered part-time” and rely on the agency’s executive director for information.
A bill to require photo ID at the polls passed one last test Wednesday before heading to the Senate floor — where St. Louis Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat, has vowed to lead a filibuster to stop it. The Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee unanimously approved the bill, though its two Democratic members were absent. It would cost an estimated $16.6 million to advertise the new law and pay for the IDs and underlying source documents needed to acquire them. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office estimates that about 225,000 Missourians are registered to vote but don’t have a photo ID. This year’s proposal comes in two parts. The first would put the question on the ballot in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment. If passed, another bill that needs to win passage of its own would dictate how the law would be enforced.
Nevada: Hijinks, Confusion and Allegations of Voter Fraud Dominate Republican Caucuses in Nevada | VICE News
Donald Trump has won the Nevada caucuses, but not without a lot of headaches for voters and overwhelmed caucus chairs. Massive crowds, volunteer captains who failed to show up, and alleged double-voting lent a circus-like atmosphere to some of the caucus locations Tuesday night and will potentially undermine Nevada’s results. Richard Schlueter, who balloted for Trump on Tuesday, said that when he arrived at Palo Verde High School in east Las Vegas to vote the crowd was still so dense he had trouble finding the table that had been set up to accept and count ballots. Once he finally located it, Schlueter discovered that the precinct captain who was supposed to be in charge hadn’t turned up and that “some lady” had assumed the seat instead and began checking the IDs of voters who crowded around the table. “This caucus is a chaotic thing,” said Schlueter, a retired nuclear submarine engineer. “We don’t know who’s who, who’s voting for what. Some precinct captains are very good and very serious about their precincts, but mine didn’t even bother to show.”
Critics of the congressional redistricting process that took place in 2011, and who successfully sued to overturn it on the basis of racial gerrymandering, on Monday filed a brief in federal court saying they don’t like the new map, either. The plaintiffs asked the three-judge panel of the federal court that ordered the map redrawn to establish an expedited schedule to determine if the new map, approved by the General Assembly on Friday, is valid under constitutional considerations. They ask that the court make that determination by March 18. “The map adopted by the General Assembly has been subject to considerable criticism, and plaintiffs share those deep concerns,” the brief they filed Monday says. “Their preliminary analysis of the new plan suggests that it is no more appropriate than the version struck down by the court. It is critical that the citizens of North Carolina vote in constitutional districts in the upcoming primary, now scheduled for June, and every election thereafter.”
A Virginia law requiring voters to show photo identification went on trial in federal court on Monday, challenged by Democratic Party activists who allege it throws up barriers to voting by minorities and the poor. Lawyers defending the 2013 Virginia law said it prevented voter fraud. The trial in U.S. District Court is one of several voting rights legal battles as Democrats and Republicans square off before November’s presidential and congressional elections. The Democratic Party of Virginia and two party activists are suing the Virginia State Board of Elections and want Judge Henry Hudson to strike down the law.
Iran: Early Results Show Reformists and Moderates Drawing Votes in Iran Elections | The New York Times
Preliminary results released Saturday in Iran indicated that reformist and moderate candidates were set to expand their influence after two important elections, state news media quoted the Interior Ministry as saying. More than 30 million Iranians voted Friday in the two elections, one for a new Parliament and the other for an influential clerical council. The elections were the first since the completion of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program that included the lifting of economic sanctions against the country, a deal supported by the reformist camp and opposed by hard-liners. Voter turnout for the two contests exceeded 60 percent, according to the Interior Ministry. The reformist and moderate list of candidates for the 290-member Parliament appeared to be headed for victory in the Tehran area, according to preliminary results announced by election officials and reported by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. Representatives from Tehran, the capital, control 30 seats in Parliament and generally determine the political direction of the body.
A government in Ireland is unlikely to be formed in time for the annual St Patrick’s Day meeting of Irish premier and US president in Washington DC, with the Republic’s election on course to produce a hung parliament. Fine Gael, the main party in the outgoing coalition, is set to lose up to 20 seats as voters wreaked revenge on its coalition government with Labour that brought in austerity measures. Ireland has been fighting to plug the gap in the nation’s finances and meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund, which had bailed it out from bankruptcy. Its economy has the current highest growth rate in the EU (7%) and falling unemployment. Former Labour leader and ex-deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, said his party’s disastrous performance – down from 33 seats in the 2011 election to under 10 – was a result of it being prepared to take hard decisions during its time in office.
Switzerland votes in a referendum Sunday on whether foreigner citizens who commit two minor offences, like traffic violations, in the space of 10 years should be automatically deported. Switzerland faces ‘difficult talks’ with EU after immigration referendum. The referendum asks whether any foreign national found guilty of two lower-level infractions, including fighting, money laundering, giving false testimony and indecent exposure, should be expelled. The vote comes at a time when many European countries are hardening their attitudes to migrants after more than a million arrived on the continent last year. A quarter of the people living in Switzerland have a foreign passport, the majority of them from European countries.
National: It’s a Presidential Election Year: Do You Know Where Your Voter Records Are? | The Canvass
One of the secrets of the election world is how readily available voter data can be—and it’s been making headlines lately. In late 2015, information such as name, address, party, and voting history relating to approximately 191 million voters was published online. And recently, the presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz came under fire for a mailer in Iowa that used voter data to assign grades to voters and compared them to neighbors to motivate turnout. Voter records have always been public information, but now it’s being used in new ways. Here are some key facts you need to know about the privacy (or lack of privacy) of voter information. All 50 states and the District of Columbia provide access to voter information, according to the U.S. Elections Projectrun by Dr. Michael McDonald at the University of Florida; but as with everything related to elections there are 51 different variations on what information is provided, who can access it, and how much it costs to get it.
Republican congressional leaders joined with their Democratic colleagues this week in a rare show of bipartisan unity to present the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation’s highest civilian honor — to the “foot soldiers” who took part in historic marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965 demanding voting rights for black Americans. Those nonviolent protests and the official violence that met them helped secure passage of the federal Voting Rights Act, a landmark law banning racial discrimination in elections. But that law was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling in a case out of Alabama, a decision that effectively ended the requirement that states with a history of voter discrimination — mostly in the South — get Department of Justice preclearance for changes to election laws. Now two bills have been introduced in Congress to restore that provision of the Voting Rights Act — but they’re being blocked by some of the same Republican leaders who helped honor the voting rights marchers.
National: Civil rights groups concerned restrictive laws will keep minorities from casting votes | Associated Press
With less than a week to go before “Super Tuesday,” a coalition of civil rights groups is working to make sure that everyone eligible can cast a vote. Election Protection, which represents more than 100 civil rights organizations across the U.S., is concerned with the recent surge of restrictive voting laws in some states following the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a Voting Rights Act provision. “We’ve come to see a lot of stress when it comes to accessing the ballot box,” Kristen Clarke, the executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a conference call Wednesday. “This is the first election in 40 years without the Voting Rights Act.”
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would give some Hawaii felons and prisoners the right to vote. Supporters say the loss of voting rights disproportionately affects minorities, who often experience higher rates of incarceration. They say losing the right to vote undermines the democratic process. “It makes a lot of sense when you think why people commit crimes in the first place,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing, who introduced the bill. “They feel like they’re not a part of the system.”
Opponents say people who commit serious crimes may not be trustworthy, and losing the right to vote is an added punishment.
A Maryland Senate committee recently heard testimony on automatic voter registration, a reform that would register eligible citizens to vote when they do business with the Motor Vehicle Administration and certain social services agencies. Proponents say Maryland could dramatically boost its registration rate by half a million people. If Maryland enacts automatic registration, it would become the first state to extend the reform beyond offices that issue driver’s licenses. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Roger Manno (SB 350) and Del. Eric Luedtke (HB 1007), would put the responsibility on the government to sign up eligible individuals unless they opt out. A hearing on the House bill is set for March 3 in the Ways and Means Committee. Maryland would be at the forefront of a growing trend: overall, legislators in 25 states as well as the District of Columbia have similar legislation pending. Last year, Oregon and California became the first two states in the country to enact this reform.
Mississippi’s top elections official said Thursday that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a state court order telling him to add another candidate to the March 8 Democratic presidential primary ballot. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he intends to file his appeal with the nation’s highest court Friday and he did not know whether it would receive rapid consideration. The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Hosemann to list Chicago businessman Willie Wilson as a Democratic presidential primary candidate. Justices overturned the state Democratic Party’s rejection of Wilson’s petition to run. They also overturned a trial court judge’s decision that had supported the party’s decision.