One in four registered voters in the United States live in areas that will use electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper backup in the November presidential election despite concerns that they are vulnerable to tampering and malfunctions, according to a Reuters analysis. The lack of a paper trail makes it impossible to independently verify that the aging touch-screen systems are accurate, security experts say, in a year when suspected Russian hackers have penetrated political groups and state voting systems and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said the election may be “rigged.” Election officials insist the machines are reliable, but security experts say they are riddled with bugs and security holes that can result in votes being recorded incorrectly. A Reuters analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Election Assistance Commission and the Verified Voting Foundation watchdog group found that 44 million registered voters, accounting for 25 percent of the total, live in jurisdictions that rely on paperless systems, including millions in contested states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
National: States Ask Feds for Cybersecurity Scans Following Election Hacking Threats | Government Technology
A spate of hacking attacks has put U.S. states on edge ahead of November’s presidential vote as election officials rush to plug cybersecurity gaps with help from the federal government. Nine states have asked for “cyber hygiene” scans in which the Department of Homeland Security looks for vulnerabilities in election authorities’ networks that are connected to the internet, according to a DHS official who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. With less than two months before the election, DHS wants more states to sign up. The threat — primarily from foreign hackers or intelligence agencies — affects states that are reliably Democratic or Republican as well as key battlegrounds including Pennsylvania and Ohio, officials and cybersecurity experts said. While hackers may not be able to change the actual outcome from afar, they could sow doubts by manipulating voter registration websites, voter databases and systems used to track results on election night. “We’re certainly on high alert,” said Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder and county clerk in Los Angeles County, the nation’s biggest electoral district. “Across the whole network of services and online applications for the county there are frequent indications of attempts to get into those systems.”
In a world where we can program our refrigerators to order more milk or conjure images of distant galaxies with a few swipes on a smartphone, it’s significant that the best, most reliable technology available on Election Day 2016 is good, old-fashioned paper. “It seems counterintuitive, but paper is a technology that just happens to work really well for elections,” says Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for accurate and transparent elections. “You can’t hack a piece of paper. Voters can mark it and see their vote, and then the ballots can be collected and double-checked.” … The real problem, said Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program, lies with the nearly 40 million Americans who won’t be voting on paper, again based on 2012 figures. Those voters will instead be saddled with electronic voting machines (the yellow and red-colored counties on the map), many of which are more than a decade old, lack basic cybersecurity protections, and utilize hardware no more sophisticated than a stripped down, Bush-era laptop. In 42 states, electronic voting machines are more than a decade old, according to Norden’s research. (Many states still use such machines for voters who require special assistance.)
Inside the wide, sunlit foyer of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library, Eric Sheptock points to an expansive mural of the late civil rights activist. “I wish that the poor people of today were as willing to fight for justice as those who marched with Martin Luther King,” he says. “It seems that the poor have lost heart and are less willing to stand up for themselves.” Sheptock, who has been intermittently homeless since 1994, has become an activist for Washington DC’s homeless community, which he hopes will vote in the forthcoming elections when Americans head to the polls to choose their 45th president. “There is no reason for a homeless person not to vote,” he tells Al Jazeera. “You can’t be denied the right to vote because you’re homeless.”
The California state Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last month that would allow felons serving time in county jails the right to vote. Current California law only allows felons the right to vote after they have completed parole. The California constitution states that “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.” The legislation addresses this language in the state’s constitution by defining imprisoned as “currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.”
Florida: Experts say Scott administration decision blocking McMullin from presidential ballot ‘unfair’ | Politico
The decision by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to block Evan McMullin’s presidential campaign from the general election ballot seems contrary to past decisions made by his own election officials, and is deemed “unfair” and unenforceable by some ballot access experts. On Aug. 31, the Independent Party of Florida formally filed nominating papers to make McMullin its presidential candidate in Florida. McMullin is a former CIA operative and Republican staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives who was recruited by a group of GOP consultants, including Florida’s Rick Wilson, looking for an alternative to Donald Trump. In a Sept. 7 letter, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews informed Ernest Bach, chair of the Independent Party of Florida, that its nominee for president could not be on the general election ballot. The department, which is overseen by Scott, said the Independent Party of Florida could not get its nominee placed on the general election because it is not recognized as a “national party” by the Federal Election Commission.
A Democratic representative is asking the legislature to formally undo its recent ban on straight-ticket voting, he said in a press release on Tuesday. Lawmakers passed a ban on straight ticket voting — where voters can select a single option to vote for all Republican or all Democratic candidates — late last year. Gov. Snyder signed the bill in January. But the new law has been embroiled in a lawsuit, and a federal court issued an injunction that blocks it from going into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court last week elected not to stay that order, meaning straight-ticket voting will be an option for Michiganders on November’s ballot. But long-term a full trial, expected to take place within the next year, will determine the law’s fate. In the meantime Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, is urging the legislature to undo the law it just did.
The North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office plans to offer affidavits to voters who don’t bring a valid identification to the polls in November, although a legal battle over the state’s voter ID laws is still ongoing. The move follows a ruling from a federal judge that prevented the state from implementing its current voter ID laws without also using some kind of “fail-safe” provision, such as an affidavit. The Aug. 1 order granting a preliminary injunction stemmed from a lawsuit brought against Secretary of State Al Jaeger by seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa who argued the North Dakota’s laws disproportionately burden Native Americans. The lawsuit focused on changes made by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013 and 2015. The 2013 change eliminated the option for voters who didn’t provide an ID to use an affidavit to swear, under penalty of perjury, that he or she was a qualified elector in a particular precinct.
Pennsylvania: In wake of lawsuit, voter registrations up at Pennsylvania’s county assistance sites | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Since 2012, when a lawsuit was settled over voter registration issues, county assistance offices have submitted voter registration applications or change of address updates for more than 160,000 Pennsylvanians, according to a tally of statistics from the state. The lawsuit alleged that spot-checks and interviews with those who sought benefits at county assistance offices and through the Women, Infants & Children nutrition program showed that the state was not properly offering clients voter registration applications. Additionally, the state’s own statistics showed that it was failing to do what the law required, the complaint said. From 1995 to 1996, the state’s public assistance offices registered 59,462 voters, but during 2009 and 2010, only 4,179 voters were registered. The state settled the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.
A federal judge sided again today with plaintiffs in the long legal battle over Texas’ voter ID law. This time, the U.S. Department of Justice joined the group of Texas voters challenging the state’s law, arguing Texas election officials were misleading voters about court-ordered changes to the law. According to lawyers in the case, during a hearing for that motion today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered state officials to do a better job of communicating the changes she ordered several weeks ago. Chad Dunn, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the voter ID case, says he doesn’t understand why the state deviated from language both sides had previously agreed upon. “But, the communications going forward are going to accurately reflect what the court ordered as an interim remedy, and voters are going to have the correct information,” he says.
Until the day she was arrested, 53-year-old Vicenta Verino spent years canvassing poor, elderly and mostly Latino neighborhoods, harvesting mail-in ballots for candidates who paid her to bring in votes. Her crime: unlawful assistance of a voter, an offense that would not have been prevented by the state’s voter ID law. Texas officials claim that the law is needed to prevent fraud, but only 15 cases have been prosecuted by the Texas attorney general’s office between the 2012 primary election and July of this year, according to a News21 review of more than 360 allegations the office received in that time. Eleven of those 15 are cases are similar to Verino’s, in which “politiqueras” — people hired by local candidates in predominantly Latino communities — collect and mail ballots for mostly elderly local voters. Texas election laws restrict who can have assistance while voting by mail and require a signature on the ballot from the person who assisted the voter. “We used to work street by street seeing people, talking about the candidates, and those times, it kind of used to help the people,” Verino said, now two years after her arrest for voter fraud.
Editorials: Scott Walker Is Proof That Campaign Finance Law Is Broken | Dan I. Weiner and Brent Ferguson/US News
On Wednesday, the Guardian broke an explosive story about how Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker sidestepped campaign finance laws to raise huge donations from corporations and wealthy individuals for his 2012 recall election. Of course, it’s not at all surprising to see a politician go after big money contributors. The way he did so, however, undermines key assumptions in the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United case, and is certainly the single strongest piece of evidence yet that the logic of that ruling is unsustainable and will have to be revisited by the court. The documents published by the Guardian indicate that Walker’s campaign committee worked closely with a group called Wisconsin Club for Growth, which was operated by one of his campaign consultants. Walker apparently held a series of meetings with wealthy businessmen just before his recall election, and emails show his fundraising team instructing him to ask for money – not for his campaign, but for the group. In March 2012, for example, Walker’s finance director sent him an email to prepare him for a meeting with the business mogul Carl Icahn, and noted that “[t]his meeting is for [Wisconsin Club for Growth] Funds.” And after a 2011 meeting with the owner of a home improvement chain, Walker emailed his campaign team to tell them “I got $1 [million] from John Menard today.” Menard’s corporation later sent a million dollar check to the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
Gabon’s Constitutional Court will recount the ballots cast in presidential elections last month following days of violent protests against the outcome that showed President Ali Bongo won by fewer than 10,000 votes, according to the nation’s ambassador to the U.S. “A recount of the vote will be completed by the Constitutional Court and the winner confirmed,” Michael Moussa-Adamo said in a letter late Monday to the New York Times. “The State Department and the African Union stated that any challenge to the election results conform to Gabonese election law. The Constitutional Court’s review will also conform to the law.” He didn’t say when the recount will take place.
Throughout Jordan, street signs have been replaced by beaming campaign posters and car parks filled with rows of seats for rallies. Campaigning reached its peak on Sunday night before lapsing into an enforced silence in preparation for Tuesday’s polls, which will be different from other elections in the kingdom’s recent past. Jordan made significant changes to its electoral law this year, replacing a controversial one-person-one-vote system with a list-based system designed to encourage political parties. As a result, key opposition groups that previously boycotted the election, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are back.
Tensions have erupted between Morocco’s royal establishment and the Islamist ruling party, with the Islamist justice minister complaining of “weird” goings-on in the run-up to a parliamentary election next month. Mustapha Ramid accused his government colleague Mohammed Hassad, a technocrat appointed by the royal palace as interior minister, of monopolizing decisions on organizing the election and failing to consult with the justice ministry. Unlike rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya who were overthrown in Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, Morocco’s King Mohamed rode out popular protests while ceding some authority to the government, which has been led for the past five years by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). But the coming election is straining the delicate political balance in the country of 34 million people by exacerbating divisions between the palace and the PJD.
Russia’s parliamentary election was marred by over 3,600 violations the country’s top independent monitor Golos reported after a decisive win for the government. Ruling party United Russia won a record number of seats, in an expected victory by unexpected margins. Its new electoral chief hailed the vote as the cleanest in Russia’s history and, despite monitors noting violations were fewer than in previous occasions, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stressed the vote was still hampered by challenges to “fundamental freedoms and political rights” and “numerous procedural irregularities” during counting. Golos head Grigory Melkonyants told news site Rus2Web that the group had “spotted the full spectrum of violations” on polling day. Golos reported several incidents involving suspected mass transportation of voters to constituencies in coaches and announced that the group had received reports of “ballot stuffing” from 16 regions of Russia.