A vote is an act of conscience and will. It’s also an act of trust. You’re not just marking a ballot for your candidate of choice, your signifying your belief in the system. Your mark will be counted. Your voice will be heard. However, as we prepare to elect a new U.S. president, the American electorate is faced with the unnerving possibility that the results could be hacked and that sacred trust could be broken. At risk, the election system itself. … According to Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, voting systems are not “not connected to internet and…the diversity of system themselves poses a problem for anyone who wants to hack our elections. To attack them in a way to change votes would be quite difficult.” It’s the systems that support the election process that has them, the U.S. government and cyber-security experts worried. “To me, [our elections] look like a giant bulls eye with a U.S. flag in the center. Russian hackers will take aim. The recent DNC hack is clear evidence that hostile nation states can and will attempt to influence the U.S. presidential contest,” said Steve Morgan, founder of the cyber security research firm CyberSecurity Ventures. Perhaps the scarier question is not if they will try to influence our elections, but how.
Large technology and media companies are among the businesses that have joined the TurboVote Challenge, an effort by nonpartisan nonprofit Democracy Works to boost U.S. voter turnout to 80% by 2020, up from about 60% in recent presidential elections. The TurboVote Challenge, which announced 35 new corporate partners Monday, including tech brands Google, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Tumblr, encourages companies to promote civic engagement among their employees and customers. “We think that a total overhaul of how people vote could increase turnout by up to 20 percentage points,” said Democracy Works co-founder Seth Flaxman, who helped start Democracy Works as a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
State officials are reassuring members of Congress that the integrity of November’s elections is secure amid growing concerns over cyberattacks by foreign actors tied to Russia. In an open letter to Congress, the National Association of Secretaries of State warns against damaging public confidence in the electoral process. The group, made up of bipartisan election administrators across the nation, says security measures currently in place are sufficient to guarantee an accurate vote count.
Vote-counting systems “have their own fail-safes and contingency solutions that would make it highly difficult to leverage them for changing outcomes,” the association said. “Poll books, printed records, back-ups and back-ups of back-ups all provide multiple layers of security around this part of the process.”
Alabama’s policy of stripping convicted felons’ of their right to vote is unconstitutional and steeped in a history of racial injustice, a group of plaintiffs say in federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. The Greater Birmingham Ministries and 10 Alabamians who are not allowed to vote because of a past felony conviction filed the lawsuit Monday in Montgomery federal court. They argue that the blanket ban is an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote, unfairly punishes people long after their sentences are complete and disproportionately impacts minority communities. “It is inextricably tied to Alabama’s long history of denying black citizens voting rights and equal access to the polls, using the criminal justice system to achieve those goals,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the suit. The lawsuit quoted 2014 statistics from the Sentencing Project that estimated more than 260,000 people were blocked from voting in Alabama. Nearly half of those were African-American and equated to 15 percent of the adult black population. Ten individual plaintiffs are named in the suit but they are asking the court to declare it a class action.
California: New voter database clears path for 16-year-old pre-registration, other laws | The Sacramento Bee
After years of technology glitches and vendor problems, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla made it official Monday: the state’s new voter registration database is finally complete. Padilla’s certification of VoteCal as the system of record for voter registration in California clears the way for the state to begin pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds via paper registration forms. Starting in January, people will be able to register to vote on Election Day. Also, Monday’s announcement checks off a requirement of 2015 legislation to offer automatic registration of voters at the DMV when they apply for a new license or file a change of address . That system is scheduled to working by July 2017.
Georgia’s top election official says he has changed a policy that a recent lawsuit said prevented tens of thousands of residents from registering to vote and violated the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit filed in federal court this month said a policy implemented in 2010 rejects people who apply to register to vote if identifying information on their applications doesn’t exactly match information in databases maintained by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. A letter filed on Friday by attorneys representing Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the office has stopped marking people as ineligible to vote if their names don’t exactly match other government databases and won’t resume the practice without a court decision.
Kansas: Federal judge orders Kris Kobach to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt | Topeka Capital-Journal
A federal judge on Monday ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to appear at a hearing later this week to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson issued the order in an ongoing voting rights lawsuit. The plaintiffs contend Kobach has failed to register individuals applying at Division of Motor Vehicle offices who haven’t shown proof of citizenship — despite a federal order. Robinson directs Kobach to appear at the Friday hearing, and says he may file a written reply by the end of business Thursday. Late last week, the plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, asked Robinson to order Kobach to comply.
North Carolina: Court bars college dorm students from voting in Greenville County, director says | Greenville Online
If a college student who lives on campus at Clemson University wants to register to vote in Pickens County, they can just fill out a voter registration form and list their campus housing as their legal residence. Same with students at the University of South Carolina or the College of Charleston or any number of colleges in South Carolina. But not in Greenville County. If a college student who lives on campus at Furman University or Greenville Technical College or Bob Jones University or North Greenville University wants to register to vote in Greenville County, they’re more than likely out of luck. That’s because those students must complete an 11-question form with answers that satisfy the county’s Board of Voter Registration and Elections. If they don’t return the form within 10 days, the board will reject their registration. If they don’t answer every question correctly with enough information to establish their residence in Greenville, the board will reject their registration.
Liberty County commissioners met in a workshop Sept. 20 to ask questions and to listen to the public regarding a new electronic voting system and tackle the issue of voting centers. They received an earful from both sides of the issue, but resolved nothing. While no voting or decisions could be made by the commissioners during the meeting, there wasn’t even a consensus with one exception — the county doesn’t have the money in its current financial situation to purchase the equipment anyway. So why consider equipment the county can’t afford? The wave to refresh aging voting systems is crossing the state and the country since most are reaching the 11-year-old mark. For Liberty County to wait until it is possibly mandated by the state to convert to all electronic could be costly as current pricing would be elevated because of supply and demand in the market.
Azerbaijanis have started voting in a controversial referendum on boosting presidential powers, with opposition and rights groups denouncing the proposed amendments as a move to expand President Ilham Aliyev’s grip on power. If passed, the referendum would extend the president’s term in office from five to seven years, would introduce a new position of first vice president – who would become the country’s second most powerful leader, instead of the prime minister as is the case now. The proposed constitutional changes also allow the president to call snap leadership elections at will, and easily dissolve parliament. … Opposition groups staged mass protests in the run-up to the referendum, accusing Aliyev of trying to extend his family’s control over the oil-rich former Soviet republic.
Hackers working for foreign governments or terror groups could threaten next year’s German elections, according to a Munich-based security expert. Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference, claimed in an op-ed published in the Bild newspaper on Sunday that powers like Russia and the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) were waging an “information war, which is aimed directly into the Achilles heel of our democracies.”
Hungary: Hungarians Caught Between National Referendum And European Union Migrant Quotas | Eurasia Review
Europeans have not talked so much about European affairs as they have since the summer of 2016. After the clap of thunder generated by Brexit, another storm is building up and heading towards Brussels. Indeed, another European Union (EU) member state is speaking out against EU politicians, leading to a situation seen equally as the EU attempting to defy the sovereignty of its member states and vice versa. In just a matter of weeks Hungary will hold a referendum on October 2, with ruling fight-wing Fidesz asking Hungarians if they accept the migrants relocation mechanism created by the European Commission under the head of Jean-Claude Juncker. It is no surprise that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is generally described as a populist and constantly on the outlook for scapegoats, uses the tool of referendum to legitimize its decisions rather epically. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, also announced that she would be consulting the French volk more often if she would be elected in the 2017 presidential election.
Pakistan: Voting machine: ‘Conventional’ ballot papers likely to be used in 2018 polls | The Express Tribune
In a sign that it has virtually abandoned the proposal of using electronic voting machines, the Election Commission of Pakistan has begun preparations for ballot paper procurement well ahead of the 2018 general election. On Monday, the poll supervisory body convened a meeting of all stakeholders to review arrangements for printing ballot papers. Following the 2013 general elections, the ECP had proposed the use of EVMs in the next general elections. However, the proposal is still at a nascent stage and unlikely to be enforced by 2018 due to technical and legal hitches.