This election year we’ve seen foreign hackers infiltrate the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system as well as voter databases in Arizona and Illinois. These attacks have reinforced what political scientists and technical experts alike have been saying for more than a decade: public elections should stay offline. It’s not yet feasible to build a secure and truly democratic Internet-connected voting system.Researchers from government agencies and leading academic institutions studied the issue extensively following the debacle of the 2000 Presidential race, and the consensus emerged that it should not occur. That’s still the case, and today’s rampant cybercrime should be reason enough to keep voting systems disconnected. We have no good defense against malware on voters’ computers or denial of service attacks, and sophisticated adversaries like those behind the attacks on big corporations we’ve seen in recent years will find ways to get into connected voting systems, says Ron Rivest, a leading cryptographer and MIT professor. “It’s a war zone out there,” he says.
A series of high-profile breaches and warnings from national intelligence leaders has elections directors in critical battleground states seeking federal help against possible cyberattacks. Officials in Pennsylvania and Ohio tell CNN they are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to protect their elections systems from cyberattacks and breaches. Ohio is going one step further. “We even asked the National Guard to attempt to penetrate our databases,” said Joshua Eck, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. “We’ve had a number of really positive tests. It has gone well and we’ve been able to find vulnerabilities and fix them.” A pair of cyberattacks on Illinois’ and Arizona’s voter registration databases over the summer spurred the Obama administration to ring the alarm bells for states as they prepare for what has already been a chaotic campaign. And top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees publicly accused the Russian government of seeking to alter the election. “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, said Thursday.
National: Ruling against the Federal Election Commission is a win for political money transparency | Facing South
A good-government group has won its case against the Federal Election Commission for negligence in enforcing campaign finance laws against two conservative political groups that have ties to billionaire industrialists and conservative juggernauts Charles and David Koch and that were active in several Southern states. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the FEC in 2012 against Americans for Job Security and the American Action Network for failing to register as political committees while financing $27.6 million worth of political ads during the 2010 elections. AJS is an anti-union 501(c)6 nonprofit trade association based in Virginia, while AAN is a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. After the FEC dismissed the suit, CREW sued the regulatory body itself.
Apparently, Facebook is using its popularity for a good cause. The flagship social network is launching its first nationwide voter registration drive. This is an attempt to urge all the citizens of U.S to participate in the voting process. This is a special feature which will appear on the homepage of the people of U.S to encourage them to vote. Facebook hopes that through this feature, the number of voters might improve. This is because majority of the people check their Facebook newsfeed regularly and hence such a reminder will be useful.
The electoral dirty work done by dozens of state legislatures in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder is the focus of determined legal challenges by voting-rights advocates, and decisions are coming down at a dizzying pace. Not every court involved has come down in favor of voters, but there’s encouraging evidence that judges, including conservatives, recognize state laws purportedly passed to ensure “voting integrity” for what they really are: suppressive tactics. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County, state legislators representing nearly half the country rolled back effective reforms and erected new barriers to voting. It was a throwback to the era before the 1960s, when Jim Crow laws finally triggered passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Alaska: Nageak’s lawsuit against state election officials to proceed | The Alaska Journal of Commerce
The case of Rep. Ben Nageak, D-Barrow, vs. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Director of Elections Josie Bahnke will start on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi has ruled that the trial must begin next week and end no later than Oct. 3 so that the Division of Elections will have proper time to mail ballots ahead of the general election. Attorney Stacey Stone, representing Nageak, requested additional time to put together a comprehensive witness list, as rural witnesses must be both properly vetted and logistically organized, continue the discovery process, and issue the necessary subpoenas. “The reality is that absentee voting starts on Oct. 24,” countered Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh. “That means ballots need to be mailed out by Oct. 17 which means we probably need a decision by the Supreme Court by Oct. 14.” In order for that to happen however, Guidi would need to make a decision by Oct. 7.
Democrats are taking their fight to block a controversial voting law to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a federal judge Friday denied their request for an injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected a request from state and national Democrats to suspend Arizona’s law that bans ballot collection. He found the Democrats did not demonstrate that the new law would hurt minority voters more so than others, and said it would have a minimal effect, if any, on broader voting rights. That means that in the Nov. 8 election, as it was in the Aug. 30 primary, people who attempt to take another person’s mail-in ballot to elections officials will be subject to penalties.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is investigating reports that votes have been cast for people months or years after their deaths. A review of databases by KCNC-TV of voting histories in Colorado compared with federal death records turned up dozens of discrepancies. The discrepancies involve mail ballot votes that were cast and possible errors by election judges. Williams says Colorado’s election system is not perfect and there are gaps that allow situations like this to occur. “We do believe there were several instances of potential vote fraud that occurred,” Williams said.
If a couple ballot measures pass on Nov. 8, Colorado could move a bit closer to the goal of becoming an actual democracy, 140 years after it achieved statehood. Propositions 107 and 108 would restore the presidential primary election to the state and allow all registered voters, including those who are unaffiliated, to participate. So, if these measures pass, in 2020 Coloradans won’t have to depend on folks in places like Iowa and New Hampshire to select presidential candidates. It’s a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. Why, in 2016, with all our whiz-bang technology, is it still so hard to vote? (Let’s pause here while we contemplate the obvious cynical reasons.)
A federal appeals court ruled Friday against Ohio’s procedure for removing voters from state rolls, dealing a blow to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and handing a victory to voting rights advocates in a key presidential swing state. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overruled a U.S. district court judge’s decision that Husted was not violating any laws with the process he was using to take inactive voters off the rolls if they did not confirm their status. By a 2-to-1 vote, the court of appeals sent the case back to the district court. The dispute centers on Ohio’s removal of possibly tens of thousands of voters from registration lists because they did not respond to letters seeking to confirm their addresses and have not cast a ballot since 2008, in what is being criticized as a “use it or lose it” rule for voting.
Republican lawmakers are poised to pass a bill allowing election monitors to be bused around the state to watch, and potentially challenge, voters at the polls. It’s an effort that echoes themes raised by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In an Aug. 12 campaign visit in Altoona, Trump suggested that people “go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” But Democrats argue those poll-watchers could be intimidating voters – instead of preventing intimidation. That’s not so far-fetched, said Adam Gitlin, counsel for the Democracy Program of New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s actually a risk that, in a more disorganized way, people are going to be showing up to the polls, they won’t know the law, and they’ll be engaging in discriminatory challenges,” Gitlin told the news site ProPublica for a Sept. 14 story.
After years of trying to get South Dakota legislators to surrender control of redistricting to an independent commission, supporters of the idea are trying to do it instead through a constitutional amendment. Backers say the measure before voters this November would eliminate lawmakers’ conflict of interest and make people feel elections are fair to all parties. “It’s time for fair representation. Period,” said Democratic Rep. Peggy Gibson, who has backed at least nine independent redistricting measures since 2009. “I’m not saying it’ll be perfect, but I’m certainly thinking it will be better than the method that we have now.” Opponents — including majority Republicans — say the current system is working fine. “The idea, I think, is to elect people that are more in line with liberal ideas as far as spending money and a whole host of issues,” said GOP Rep. Jim Bolin, who served on the commission that oversaw the last redistricting plan in 2011.
A federal Judge in Texas has ruled the state violated an agreement it made in July to soften its voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country and as a result, will have to reprint their voter education materials. In July, a court ruled that the Texas voter ID law discriminated against Blacks and Hispanics who were less likely than Whites to have government-issued photo ID’s. Texas officials agreed to ease the photo ID restrictions allowing other forms of identification to be used, but the phrasing in their voting guidelines did not make that clear. According to the agreement made in July voters would be allowed to cast their ballots with a signed affidavit and a paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document that included their name.
Editorials: Automatic voter registration would boost Utah democracy | Chase Thomas and Judi Hilman/The Salt Lake Tribune
The “right to vote” is mentioned five times in the Constitution — more than the right to free speech, the right to bear arms or the right to privacy (which most of us believe is a fundamental right but is not even mentioned in the Constitution). It is then shocking to learn that many do not consider voting to be a “right” and that millions of people every year are denied this basic democratic function. The Constitution protects a citizen’s right to vote regardless of race, gender and age, while prohibiting states from making it more difficult to vote through devices such as poll taxes. Despite these protections, there is no Constitutional provision that guarantees every United States citizen the right to vote. As a consequence, states have, for years, used a variety of “creative” means to limit some citizens’ ability to vote.
Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country’s constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous region and criminal charges against their leaders. The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state,…
Libreville’s nearly empty streets were under the watch of a heavy police and military presence Saturday after Gabon’s top court upheld President Ali Bongo’s re-election in bitterly disputed polls. Security force checkpoints dotted routes into the capital’s centre, helicopters hovered overhead and elite troops protected the presidential palace, but no violence had been reported. The Constitutional Court, while partially changing the results of the close Aug. 27 vote, said Bongo maintained a lead over his former ally-turned-opponent Jean Ping, at a televised public hearing overnight Friday-Saturday.
Palestine: Next month’s Palestinian local elections aren’t happening. Here’s why. | The Washington Post
Voting in the Palestinian territories rarely occurs when it is supposed to, and this year is no exception. One month before local elections were scheduled across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Supreme Court in Ramallah postponed the vote until it rules on two complaints regarding the authority of Gaza’s court system to disqualify candidates and the exclusion of voters in East Jerusalem. Though nominally independent, the court’s judges were appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and the decision provides a convenient pretext for the ruling party, Fatah, to avoid an embarrassing defeat at the polls. But with an extensive security apparatus — and with Israel, the United States and neighboring Arab states dependent on Fatah’s continued control of the central Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions — what does Abbas have to fear from Palestinians electing their village, town and city councils? A look back at the recent history of municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza sheds light on why opportunities to elect new leadership at the local level can be so important in this context of frozen conflict.
Somalia’s electoral team failed to meet the September 24 deadline for the start of the elections of members of the Lower House, raising concerns the delay could affect the election of the president slated for October 30. By Saturday, the day polling stations were set to open in the regional capitals, the Federal Indirect Elections Implementing Team, FIEIT and its state level equivalent were still held up in a meeting to iron out contentious issues. The polls body said in a statement on September 21 that elders tasked with choosing the delegates who will elect members of the Lower House were yet to submit their lists to the electoral body even as it emerged clans were not willing to reserve seats to women in line with the poll procedures.