Verified Voting Blog: Why Online Voting is a Danger to Democracy

If, like a growing number of people, you’re willing to trust the Internet to safeguard your finances, shepherd your love life, and maybe even steer your car, being able to cast your vote online might seem like a logical, perhaps overdue, step. No more taking time out of your workday to travel to a polling place only to stand in a long line. Instead, as easily as hailing a ride, you could pull out your phone, cast your vote, and go along with your day. Sounds great, right?

Absolutely not, says Stanford computer science professor David Dill. In fact, online voting is such a dangerous idea that computer scientists and security experts are nearly unanimous in opposition to it.

Dill first got involved in the debate around electronic voting in 2003, when he organized a group of computer scientists to voice concerns over the risks associated with the touchscreen voting machines that many districts considered implementing after the 2000 election. Since then, paperless touchscreen voting machines have all but died out, partly as a result of public awareness campaigns by the Verified Voting Foundation, which Dill founded to help safeguard local, state, and federal elections. But a new front has opened around the prospect of Internet voting, as evidenced by recent ballot initiatives proposed in California and other efforts to push toward online voting. Here, Dill discusses the risks of Internet voting, the challenge of educating an increasingly tech-comfortable public, and why paper is still the best way to cast a vote.

Kansas: Former Johnson County election chief Brian Newby rises, then falls into national controversy | The Kansas City Star

The League of Women Voters in 2014 honored Brian D. Newby, then the Johnson County election commissioner, for his work in helping people register to vote. The league this year sued him for allegedly doing the opposite. Yet, as Newby said recently in a brief phone interview, “I’m the same person with the same values” as that award recipient. Recent headlines tell a different story, one of a spectacular fall into unfamiliar controversy. Once regarded as something of a rock star among the nation’s election gurus, Newby has drawn intense fire from more than one direction after becoming executive director of a bipartisan federal elections panel in November. Voting rights groups have asked a federal court to invalidate one of Newby’s first actions taken at the helm of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Some have alleged that a unilateral decision he made was a gift to his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who had offered high praise of Newby to the federal commission considering his appointment.

National: Jury Out on Effectiveness as Some States Make Voting Easier | The New York Times

A parade of Republican-controlled states in recent years has made it more difficult to cast a ballot, imposing strict identification requirements at polling stations, paring back early-voting periods and requiring proof of citizenship to register. Then there is Oregon. It is leading what could become a march in the opposite direction. From January through April, Oregon added nearly 52,000 new voters to its rolls by standing the usual voter-registration process on its head. Under a new law, most citizens no longer need to fill out and turn in a form to become a voter. Instead, everyone who visits a motor-vehicle bureau and meets the requirements is automatically enrolled. Choosing a political party — or opting out entirely — is a matter of checking off preferences on a postcard mailed later to registrants’ homes. With the change, Oregon now boasts perhaps the nation’s most painless electoral process; mail-in ballots long ago did away with polling places’ snaking lines and balky voting machines

National: Voting Rights at the Crossroads | The Atlantic

The November election will be the first presidential contest to take place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strip some of the major protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required states with a history of voter discrimination to get federal clearance before changing their voting laws. Seventeen states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time. Among them, Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina have tightened their photo ID requirements; Kansas now requires proof of citizenship to cast a ballot; and Arizona has made it a felony for people to collect ballots from others and take them to the polls. Some people—mostly Democrats—say these laws disenfranchise poor and minority voters. But others—mostly Republicans—defend the stringent requirements as part of an effort to prevent voter fraud (an occurrence scholars largely consider to be a myth, and in some states, is more rare than a lightning strike). But just as some states are making it more difficult to vote, others are passing legislation to make it easier.

Arizona: Secretary of state being investigated after special election issues | Yuma Sun

Attorney General Mark Brnovich hired a special investigator Thursday to determine if Secretary of State Michele Reagan broke any laws in the just-completed special election. Michael Morrissey, a former federal prosecutor, will review the failure of Reagan’s office to ensure that pamphlets describing the issues on the May 17 ballot were delivered to the homes of all registered voters before the early ballots went out. That should have happened by April 20. Reagan does not dispute that at least 200,000 of the 1.9 million pamphlets were not mailed on time. And each of those was to go to a home with more than one registered voter, meaning at least 400,000 people may not have had the descriptions of the two measures before they mailed back their early ballots. She said, though, the blame lies with others, including a contractor and a consultant.

California: San Francisco funds open source voting | GCN

San Francisco’s open source voting project is quickly becoming a reality. Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed budget includes $300,000 towards planning and development of an open source voting system that would allow the city to own and share the software. Dominion Voting Systems, formerly known as Sequoia Voting, has provided San Francisco’s voting technology for years, but its contract with the city and county expires at the end of the year, according to KQED News. “When you rely on an outside vendor, it’s their technology, which is proprietary and confidential, and the public really doesn’t have access to the code that they’re relying on,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who’s running for state Senate. “It’s very ‘black box,’ so we just have to have faith that their machines are producing accurate results,” he told KQED.

Editorials: California’s Election Calamity | Jonathan Bernstein/Bloomberg View

California voters are set to vote in their primary on Tuesday, and will suffer the consequences of a serious self-imposed mistake in how they run their state. No, it has nothing to do with the presidential race. The disaster is its “top two” system, in which the candidates for state offices — regardless of party — go on to compete in the general election in November if they finish first and second in the primaries. The likely perverse result? Voters in November will probably have a choice between two Democrats for an open U.S. Senate seat. The motivation for the California system was to elevate more moderate politicians than the parties were producing on their own. In practice, at least in the first two election cycles since the change was carried out, the results have not matched reformers’ hopes. Candidates have not been more moderate.

Massachusetts: Reid reviews scenarios for filling Senate seat if Warren is VP pick | The Boston Globe

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has been actively reviewing Massachusetts rules for filling a US Senate vacancy, another indication of the seriousness with which Democrats are gaming out the possibility of Elizabeth Warren joining likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s ticket. The upshot of Reid’s review is that Senate Democrats may have found an avenue to block or at least narrow GOP Governor Charlie Baker’s ability to name a temporary replacement and prevent the Senate from flipping to a Democratic majority if Warren were to leave the chamber. That suggests the issue is not as significant an obstacle as Reid previously feared. Pieces of the legal guidance given to Reid were shared with the Globe by a person close to Reid who is familiar with the guidance. “Reid sees a number of promising paths to making sure that Democrats keep Warren’s seat and is very open to her being selected,” said this person, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Ohio: Inside the Purge of Tens of Thousands of Ohio Voters | WTVQ

Chad McCullough, 44, was born in Ohio and has lived in Butler County for about nine or 10 years, he says. Last November, McCullough and his wife made their way to the local polling station in southwest Ohio to cast their ballots. But as he attempted to exercise his right to participate in the democratic process, a poll worker told him that he couldn’t find his name on the voter registration list — McCullough was no longer registered. “I had no idea that my voter registration could be cancelled, even if I did not move,” McCullough said. McCullough is among tens of thousands of voters in Ohio, many from low-income neighborhoods and who typically vote for Democratic candidates, who have been deemed ineligible to vote by Ohio election officials last year simply because they haven’t voted enough — a move that disenfranchises voters and is illegal, voting rights advocates say. McCullough’s comments are now part of a federal lawsuit against Ohio’s Secretary of State — a legal action that has spurred heavy debate among voting rights activists and elected officials during the 2016 election cycle.

Utah: GOP to continue legal fight against SB54 | Deseret News

The Utah Republican Party voted on Saturday to continue its fight against a state election law that the party believes circumvents its caucus and convention system. Giving up “is not an option,” said state party Chairman James Evans. “At the end of the day, the Republican brand is greater than the skirmish of the day.” Evans counseled county chairpersons at Saturday’s State Central Committee meeting to make strategic decisions that will “lift the party” long-term, even though at least one person voiced concern about declining morale in their county due to a lack of support for candidates who went the signature-gathering route provided by SB54. “We have no guarantee they buy into any aspect of our platforms,” said Utah County Republican Party Chairman Craig Frank. “We call them the small r’s, by the way.”

Italy: Voters go to the polls in mayoral elections for largest cities | The Guardian

Italians have begun voting to choose mayors for the country’s largest cities in elections that will test the popularity of the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and could produce a big breakthrough for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Five Star’s Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer, hopes to become Rome’s first woman mayor and was ahead in opinion polls before their publication stopped 15 days before the vote on Sunday, as required by Italian law. Only in Turin is the candidate of Renzi’s Democratic party, incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a clear favourite. Renzi has said the elections would have no repercussions for his left-right coalition government.

Malta: Parties remain cautious about e-voting | The Times of Malta

The Nationalist Party is taking a cautious approach when it comes to electronic voting following revelations last month that people who bought Maltese citizenship made it onto the electoral register without satisfying the minimum residency requirements. PN sources told the Times of Malta the party would only agree to use ID cards for voting, instead of the traditional voting document, if political parties were allowed to carry out audits on Identity Malta’s ID card processes. Last week this paper revealed that after reviewing the complaints filed by the PN, the Electoral Commission had conceded that 39 out of the 91 complaints were justified. The use of ID cards to vote would be the first step in a host of new technological measures in the local voting system.

Romania: Graft concerns cast shadow over local elections in Romania | Reuters

Dozens of candidates standing for office in Romania’s local elections on Sunday are either already subject to graft investigations or have not been sufficiently screened for any past abuses of power, anti-corruption groups say. Data compiled by Reuters showed around a third of the some 350 local officials under investigation or sent to trial since 2012 are running — with many confident of securing office. Sunday’s voting stakes are high, with local administrations having an overall budget of 67 billion lei (11.5 billion pounds) this year — roughly a third of the country’s consolidated budget revenue — and access to European Union development funds.

Switzerland: Guaranteed Income for All? Switzerland’s Voters Say No Thanks | The New York Times

Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to guarantee an income to Switzerland’s residents, whether or not they are employed, an idea that has also been raised in other countries amid an intensifying debate over wealth disparities and dwindling employment opportunities. About 77 percent of voters rejected a plan to give a basic monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, or about $2,560, to each adult, and 625 francs for each child under 18, regardless of employment status, to fight poverty and social inequality and guarantee a “dignified” life to everyone. Switzerland was the first country to vote on such a universal basic income plan, but other countries and cities either have been considering the idea or have started trial programs. Finland is set to introduce a pilot program for a random sample of about 10,000 adults who will each receive a monthly handout of 550 euros, about $625. The intent is to turn the two-year trial into a national plan if it proves successful. In the Netherlands, Utrecht is leading a group of municipalities that are experimenting with similar pilot projects.

United Kingdom: EU referendum polling cards wrongly sent to 3,462 people | The Guardian

Polling cards were sent to 3,462 people who are not eligible to vote in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, according to the Electoral Commission. The figure could rise further because six local authorities are yet to confirm if they have been affected by the blunder. Any postal votes that have been wrongly issued will be cancelled and names will be removed from electoral registers used at polling stations on 23 June, the watchdog said. A problem with elections software used by a number of local authorities in England and Wales meant some non-eligible EU citizens were wrongly sent poll cards. Senior leave campaigners Iain Duncan Smith and Bernard Jenkin wrote to the commission on Thursday expressing “serious concerns about the conduct of the European Union referendum and its franchise”.