National: Why Can’t We Just Vote Online? | Pacific Standard

During the 2012 American presidential election, 129 million people cast ballots, while 106 million eligible voters neglected to do so. That’s only a 54.9 percent conversion rate, not to mention the 51 million voters who weren’t registered. Meanwhile, in 2015, there were almost 172 million Americans making purchases online. Those are apples and oranges, admittedly, but the ease with which the shopping occurs only helps its proliferation. If the ultimate goal is maximizing the country’s voting turnout, shouldn’t we develop an Internet voting system? Voting from a computer at home could be far easier than waiting in long lines at polling stations or filling out mail-in forms. But can it ever happen? “For as far into the future as I can see, the answer is no,” says David Jefferson, a computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In May 2015, Jefferson examined the possibility of Internet voting in a paper called “Intractable Security Risks of Internet Voting.” For anyone who has ever owned a personal computer, the first problem is obvious: malware.
“Unless we were to re-design the Internet from the ground up, there’s not likely to be a solution to these problems.” “We’re not even remotely close to guaranteeing that there’s no malware on your computer,” Jefferson says. The malware can do whatever task it’s programmed to accomplish, from erasing votes cast to changing them. And they can do these things without leaving any trace. “The malware might erase itself a half second later, and so there might be no evidence. And that’s one of half a dozen of problems.”

Editorials: Potential Arizona voter data hack gets whimper of an explanation | News-Herald

Arizona voters deserve to know if their personal information on file with the state of Arizona remains safe from identify thieves. If there is any threat to the security of the voter registration database, it deserves not only an investigation but full disclosure of the outcome. Right now, every voter in the state has legitimate reason to at least wonder if their personal information has been compromised. A couple of weeks ago, the FBI investigated a hacking threat against the state’s voter registration database and deemed the threat credible, labeling it an “8 out of 10” on the severity scale. The database contains not only names and addresses but also driver license numbers, partial Social Security numbers and other personal information that identity thieves can match with other partial personal information and commit fraud. As the investigation progressed, the state shut down its voter registration website.

Florida: People vote in churches and synagogues. Why not a mosque? | Associated Press

Palm Beach County voters have been assigned to polling stations in about 80 Christian churches and five synagogues or Jewish centers this year, along with schools, government buildings and other locations. Until last week, a single mosque was part of this mix. County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher had invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host a polling site for the Aug. 30 Florida primary and Nov. 8 general elections. Then she disinvited the mosque after an anti-Islamic backlash. She told the center’s president that she received about 50 complaints, including threats of violence, from people who don’t want to vote in a mosque, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida. But moving the polling station to a nearby library hasn’t saved Bucher from criticism. U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, both Palm Beach Democrats, issued statements Tuesday night opposing religious discrimination. “If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate,” Deutch said.

Kansas: State board approves Kobach’s proposal on suspended voters | The Wichita Eagle

A small group of state officials approved a new rule Tuesday that will enable 17,000 Kansans to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. The policy change is meant to comply with a recent federal court order by ensuring that people who registered at Department of Motor Vehicles offices but did not provide proof of citizenship are allowed to vote in federal elections this year. These voters will receive the same ballot as everyone else, but local election officials will be instructed not to count their votes for state and local races unless they provide proof of citizenship. The ballots will be considered provisional. Opponents say this creates a tiered voting system and question its legality. But Bryan Caskey, state director of elections, said the state will continue to enforce its proof-of-citizenship requirement while it appeals the federal ruling. “That law is still in effect, so they are not considered registered voters under the laws of the state of Kansas,” Caskey said. “They are allowed to vote for federal office and federal office only due to the injunction granted by Judge Robinson.” The federal ruling was based on the 1993 federal “motor-voter” law, which allows people to register to vote when getting their driver’s licenses.

Maryland: Congressional map’s foes receive skeptical hearing | Baltimore Sun

Conservative activists received a frosty reception from a three-judge panel in Baltimore Tuesday as they sought to scrap Maryland’s bitterly disputed congressional district map. The federal judges peppered a lawyer for the challengers with skeptical questions as they considered a motion by the State Board of Elections to dismiss the lawsuit. The panel did not rule on the motion but expressed doubts about the plaintiffs’ constitutional assertions and their legal standing to bring the suit in the first place. The plaintiffs — led by a trio of prominent Republicans — sued last year in the latest of several efforts to throw out the congressional map and force the General Assembly to draw a new one. They are represented by lawyers from the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

Virginia: Judge strikes down primary law challenged by anti-Trump convention delegate | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A federal judge struck down an obscure element of Virginia’s presidential primary laws Monday, handing a symbolic victory to a Republican National Convention delegate who has refused to support Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne permanently barred Virginia from enforcing a law that requires a winner-take-all system in which the first-place finisher of the GOP primary would technically be entitled to all 49 of the state’s delegates. The statute conflicts with the Republican Party’s primary rules, which allocate Virginia’s delegates proportionally based on the primary results. Carroll “Beau” Correll, a Winchester attorney who supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argued that the state law violates his constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of association by requiring him and all other delegates to vote for Trump on the convention’s first ballot.

Australia: Electronic voting may be faster but carries security risks | The Australian

The federal elections have mercifully come to an end, but the prolonged vote count has re-energised calls for online electronic voting. The clamour for a speedy outcome is understandable given the 21st century demand for instant gratification, but there are unintended consequences that bear careful consideration. Not only do we run the risk of introducing a whole new set of problems but also potentially undermine the very fabric of our unique democratic system. Entrepreneurs are quick to make claims that their online voting systems are safe and secure, but are unable to provide iron clad guarantees. The potential reward for the successful supplier of an online electronic voting system would be $50 million to $100m annually so there can be no doubt that pressure will mount on the Australian Electoral Commission and equivalent state bodies. … Writing in The Conversation, Vanessa Teague and Chris Culnane from the University of Melbourne and Rajeev Gore from the Australian National University identified three reasons why we shouldn’t move to an online voting system: it might not be secure, the software might have bugs and, most important, if something goes wrong we might never know.

United Kingdom: Second EU referendum petition to be debated in Parliament after receiving more than 4 million signatures | The Independent

A House of Commons debate on a petition calling for a second EU referendum will take place on Monday, 5 September. The Commons Petitions Committee confirmed the record-breaking online petition, signed by more than four million people, will be put forward for debate. The petition, which was set up by a Brexit supporter before the referendum was held, called for the Government to annul the results if the Remain or Leave vote won by less than 60 per cent on a turnout of less than 75 per cent. A House of Commons spokesman said in a statement: “The Committee has decided that the huge number of people signing this petition means that it should be debated by MPs. “The Petitions Committee would like to make clear that, in scheduling this debate, they are not supporting the call for a second referendum.

National: Election Cases Move Toward U.S. Supreme Court, Risking Deadlocks | Bloomberg

At the shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court, the next deadlock may affect the November election. A group of voting-rights cases is making its way to a court that’s all but guaranteed to have a lingering vacancy through the election. The divisive nature of the issues may leave the eight justices unable to decide who can cast the ballots that will determine control of the White House and Congress. The disputes involve voter-identification requirements in Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin; an early-voting period in Ohio; a variety of restrictions in North Carolina; and proof-of-citizenship laws elsewhere. The cases pit Democrats and civil-rights groups claiming discrimination against Republicans arguing the steps are warranted to prevent voter fraud. “They affect the rights of voters to be able to cast an effective ballot that will be counted accurately,” said Rick Hasen, an election-law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

National: Oregon legislators propose national vote-by-mail bill | The Oregonian

Voting rights across the country are under attack, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. To combat that, Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Thursday to expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is spearheading a related measure in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election. It would also amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide for automatic voter registration through a state’s department of motor vehicles.

National: Appeals court sets September hearing in voting rights case | Associated Press

A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a Sept. 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who without public notice required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states.

Voting Blogs: Working with observers to improve voting system reliability | David Levine/electionlineWeekly

The goals of election observation are enhanced public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the election process, and more efficient election operations. Any voting system — whether an optical scan paper ballot system, a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, or something else — has to function for the duration of the voting process, and election observers are trained to spot situations in which malfunctions, power outages, lengthy-set up times or other problems prevent voters from casting their votes, discourage them from doing do so, or cause votes already cast to be lost. Election observers look at how voting machines protect against malfunctions, whether election officials can easily repair basic problems, and whether officials have been trained to deal with problems that arise during the voting process. This means that one way to improve the reliability of voting systems in the United States is to have election officials work more closely with election observers.

Voting Blogs: Voting by mail and the next election meltdown | Voting by Mail

Polls released this week indicate that the November presidential election could be very close, much closer than previously expected. In most elections, the margin of victory is large enough to avoid questions about how the votes were cast and counted, but when elections are close and contested, things like how the voting machines function and what constitutes a valid ballot can become very significant. With voting by mail becoming increasingly common — according to a recent study by PEW Trusts, more than 20 percent of votes are now cast by mail nationwide — the possibility of a major controversy involving mail ballots is also increasing. Like other voting methods, voting by mail is not perfect. Sometimes ballots are lost in the mail, sometimes they arrive at election centers after the deadline. Mail voting is susceptible to fraud, there can be disagreements over whether a ballot is valid due to a postmark issue, and it may take days or weeks to count all the ballots, which can mean long delays without a clear victor.

Florida: Mosque is removed as a polling site after complaints and threats | Washington Post

For years, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., served as a polling station for Palm Beach County voters. Since at least the year 2010, citizens have cast their votes within the pastel green walls of the mosque, whether it was for a presidential primary, a municipal election or a special primary. Last week, however, the mosque was removed as a polling site. The decision was made by Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County, after she received complaints, and threats, about the use of the mosque in the upcoming Florida primary in August and general election in November. Bucher, a Democrat, is running for re-election for the nonpartisan supervisor post. “We began receiving complaints from voters,” said Bucher in an email to The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. “Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center.” She had received a call “that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day,” Bucher said, and she decided to relocate the polling place to the Spanish River Library about two miles away.

Kansas: A Primer On The New Kansas Regulation Limiting Voting Rights | KMUW

On Tuesday, a state board adopted a regulation proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office allowing thousands of Kansas voters whose registrations were suspended to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. By presenting it as a temporary rather than permanent regulation, the office was able to submit it to the State Rules and Regulations Board, which exists only to approve temporary regulations. Such regulations don’t have to go through the typically elaborate process for permanent regulations, which require a 60-day public comment period before being adopted. Here’s an explanation of what happened Tuesday, what the State Rules and Regulations Board is, and how Kobach’s proposal came to be adopted with virtually no advance notice and no public input.

Massachusetts: Baker vetoes $1.2m of funding for new early-voting program | The Boston Globe

Governor Charlie Baker has vetoed $1.2 million in state spending that election officials argue is critical for a new statewide early-voting program, a move advocates say could cripple efforts to expand residents’ ability to participate in the presidential race this fall. The early-voting law, set to begin with the November general election, is intended to allow Massachusetts residents to vote up to 11 business days before Election Day, joining 36 other states that already have such provisions. Barring a legislative override of gubernatorial vetoes, state election officials said they cannot fully put in place a key element of an election reform signed by then-governor Deval Patrick in 2014. “I am very disturbed. This is very irresponsible,’’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who oversees state elections and is a strong supporter of the early-voting system.

Michigan: Judge urged to stop Michigan ban on straight-party voting | Associated Press

Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting will affect turnout in the fall election, especially among minorities who will be turned off by standing in long lines and combing through a long ballot, an attorney said Thursday as she urged a judge to stop a law that was passed by Republicans. “This is an election of great consequence. … Disruption would be very damaging,” Mary Ellen Gurewitz said. Gurewitz and co-counsel Mark Brewer, the former head of the state Democratic Party, represent three people and a union-affiliated group in a lawsuit that claims the ban on straight-party voting violates the rights of minorities and the disabled. Voters no longer can choose candidates of one political party with a single mark, bringing Michigan in line with 40 other states.

Ohio: Group eyes signature drive if congressional redistricting fizzles | The Columbus Dispatch

Supporters of congressional redistricting reform are getting antsy and may start getting serious about a citizen-led ballot issue if lawmakers don’t act by the end of the year. As it celebrated the 272nd birthday of Elbridge Gerry, the former Massachusetts governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence whose district drawing led to the term “gerrymandering,” the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition on Thursday again urged state lawmakers to act. Lawmakers placed legislative redistricting on the 2015 ballot and it passed overwhelmingly, but GOP leaders have shown no enthusiasm to bring more bipartisanship and rules to how congressional seats are drawn.

Gabon: Opposition Disputes Bongo’s Candidacy for Re-Election | Bloomberg

Gabonese opposition parties submitted more than 2,500 complaints over President Ali Bongo’s decision to run for re-election next month, including allegations that he was adopted and born abroad, and therefore not eligible to lead the oil-producing nation. Bongo, 57, won a first term in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon from 1967. His application for re-election was among about 20 other bids for candidacy submitted before the midnight deadline on July 12, Rene Aboghe Ella, head of the electoral commission, told reporters in Libreville, the capital.

Ireland: Call to give blind people right to secret vote | Irish Examiner

The Government has been asked to “rectify its failure” to provide blind and vision impaired voters with their constitutional right to a secret ballot. The call has come from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) as a High Court challenge begins against the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government by Robert Sinnott of the Blind Legal Alliance. The action claims people who are blind or vision-impaired cannot vote in secret. People with sight loss are entitled to enlist the assistance of a ‘trusted friend’ or the presiding officer when casting their ballot.

Nauru: Government Wins Increased Majority in Elections; Opposition Cries Foul | Hawaii Public Radio

Final results are in from last weekend’s election in Nauru. The ruling party won 16 of 18 seats in voting described by outside observers as free and fair, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific New Minute, opposition leaders disagree. President Baron Waqa was re-elected as parliament met yesterday for the first time since Saturday’s vote. His increased majority, the government said, promises more continuity and further stability. Nauru is one of the smallest countries on earth, with just eight thousand registered voters…but one of the more controversial. Once wealthy from mining the deposits left by seabirds, the impoverished island nation now relies heavily on income from Australian run camps that house asylum seekers intercepted at sea.

Zambia: Opposition Party Challenges Campaign Suspensions in 2 Cities | VoA News

A Zambian opposition party has challenged the electoral commission’s decision to suspend campaigns in Namwala and Lusaka following a surge in politically related violence in the two cities. The Forum for Democracy and Development petitioned the Constitutional Court, which by law must handle all election-related disputes in Zambia within seven days after they are filed. The Electoral Commission of Zambia said it has the constitutional authority to change campaign timetables, and that it therefore could suspend the campaigning after the violence, which allegedly was carried out by supporters of the main opposition United Party for National Development. The violence in Namwala left FDD parliamentary candidate Charity Kabongomana injured and hospitalized.