Verified Voting Blog: Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams obscured key facts in online-voting commentary

Last week’s guest commentary by Secretary of State Wayne Williams in The Colorado Statesman obscured some important facts. He was responding to criticism of his new rule establishing criteria for the casting of election ballots by email.

Last week’s guest commentary by Secretary of State Wayne Williams in The Colorado Statesman obscured some important facts. He was responding to criticism of his new rule establishing criteria for the casting of election ballots by email.

In it, Secretary Williams implies that the federal government expanded voting by email. He writes, “The federal government, along with the Colorado General Assembly, expanded the electronic ballot transmission for military and overseas voters.” In fact the federal government has neither endorsed nor expanded the return of marked ballots over email. The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment, or MOVE Act of 2009 (a bill we proudly supported) only directs states to send blank ballots to military and overseas voters electronically, not return of voted ballots That’s because voted ballots could be manipulated or deleted in transit — undetectably. Due to such unsolved security issues, last year Congress eliminated a Defense Department online voting project. The federal agency tasked with helping enfranchise military voters has stated that ballot return by postal mail is the “most responsible” method. In no instance does the federal government encourage states to offer electronic ballot return for military and overseas voters.

In 2006 the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation to permit online ballot return for military voters, but only under the most restricted circumstances. And it did so before most of the public was aware of today’s cybersecurity risks and of attacks in which data and sensitive information of millions of Americans had been compromised.

Verified Voting Blog: How not to measure security

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on August 10, 2015. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

A recent paper published by Smartmatic, a vendor of voting systems, caught my attention. The first thing is that it’s published by Springer, which typically publishes peer-reviewed articles – which this is not. This is a marketing piece. It’s disturbing that a respected imprint like Springer would get into the business of publishing vendor white papers. There’s no disclaimer that it’s not a peer-reviewed piece, or any other indication that it doesn’t follow Springer’s historical standards. The second, and more important issue, is that the article could not possibly have passed peer review, given some of its claims. I won’t go into the controversies around voting systems (a nice summary of some of those issues can be found on the OSET blog), but rather focus on some of the security metrics claims.

The article states, “Well-designed, special-purpose [voting] systems reduce the possibility of results tampering and eliminate fraud. Security is increased by 10-1,000 times, depending on the level of automation.”

That would be nice. However, we have no agreed-upon way of measuring security of systems (other than cryptographic algorithms, within limits). So the only way this is meaningful is if it’s qualified and explained – which it isn’t. Other studies, such as one I participated in (Applying a Reusable Election Threat Model at the County Level), have tried to quantify the risk to voting systems – our study measured risk in terms of the number of people required to carry out the attack. So is Smartmatic’s study claiming that they can make an attack require 10 to 1000 more people, 10 to 1000 times more money, 10 to 1000 times more expertise (however that would be measured!), or something entirely different?

Verified Voting Public Commentary: Comments on Colorado Rules Concerning Internet Voting

We are pleased to provide testimony and remarks regarding proposed rule changes to Colorado’s Rules Concerning Elections 8 CCR 1501-5. We appreciate the effort of your office to solicit preliminary comments from the public to inform the draft of the proposed rule changes and were happy to participate in the process. We remain in opposition to Rule 16.2.1(c). However, before addressing Rule 16.2.1(c), we would first like to address proposed new Rule 16.2.8 prohibiting Internet voting because it is inextricably linked to proposed Rule 16.2.1(c).

Public comments voiced significant objection to Internet voting. The Secretary has proposed Rule 16.2.8 which states:

New Rule 16.2.8:
16.2.8 NOTHING IN THIS RULE 16.2 PERMITS INTERNET VOTING. INTERNET VOTING MEANS A SYSTEM THAT INCLUDES REMOTE ACCESS, A VOTE THAT IS CAST DIRECTLY INTO A CENTRAL VOTE SERVER THAT TALLIES THE VOTES, AND DOES NOT REQUIRE THE SUPERVISION OF ELECTION OFFICIALS

Proposed new Rule 16.2.8 unfortunately fails to recognize that email and fax return of voted ballots (permitted and expanded in Rule 16.2.1(c)) is Internet voting and includes all of the inherent security risk of Internet voting. In fact, email (and digital fax) are considered by voting system experts at both the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to be even less secure, [1. “E-mails are significantly easier to intercept and modify in transit than other forms of communication.” NIST IR 7551 A Threat Analysis of UOCAVA Voting Systems http://www.nist.gov/itl/vote/upload/uocava-threatanalysis-final.pdf], [2. “Email is about the least secure method of ballot delivery,” Brian Hancock The Canvass – “Internet voting, not ready for prime-time?” Feb 2013 http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/legismgt/elect/Canvass_Feb_2013_no_37.pdf] than the type of Internet voting system described in proposed Rule 16.2.8.

Verified Voting Blog: Just Ducky

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.  It is not a seagull.  People will, understandably, refer to it as a duck.  Deciding to call it a seagull does not cause it to cease being a duck and does not transform it into a seagull.  With me so far?  An election held by a California city is an “advisory election” if its purpose is to enable only the city’s registered voters to voice their opinions on substantive issues in a non-binding manner.  City advisory elections are subject to the California Election Code’s general requirements and prohibitions.

Now consider the following scenario.  A small California city’s leaders, and the elections system vendor they hire, plan an election that in all respects is described by California Elections Code section 9603.  The city leaders and vendor publicly and consistently refer to the planned activity as an “advisory vote” and “advisory election.”  The city is notified that the election will be illegal, both because it will use an Internet voting system, prohibited by the Elections Code, and because the system is not state-certified, as required by the Elections Code.   With just two weeks to go, the city’s leaders and vendor respond by re-labeling the planned activity a “poll” or “community poll” but make no other changes.

Verified Voting Blog: Principles for New Voting Systems

Many jurisdictions will need to replace their voting systems in the next few years. Commercial voting systems currently in the marketplace are expensive to acquire and maintain and difficult to audit effectively. Elections may be verifiable in principle–if they generate a voter-verifiable paper trail that is curated well–but current systems make it hard or impractical to verify elections in practice.

Recent experience with open-source tabulation systems in risk-limiting audits in California and Colorado, and voting system projects in Los Angeles County, CA, and Travis County, TX, suggest that the US could have voting systems that are accurate, usable, verifiable, efficiently auditable, reliable, secure, modular, and transparent, for a fraction of the cost of systems currently on the market.

The key to reducing costs is to use commodity off-the-shelf hardware, open-source software, and open data standards.  Usability and auditability need to be designed into new systems from the start. The US could have the best possible voting systems, instead of just the best voting systems money can buy, if new systems adhere to the Principles enunciated below. (Download PDF)

Verified Voting Blog: New Standards for Election Data

Examining election results to confirm winners and losers for very close elections can be problematic for contests that span multiple jurisdictions using different equipment and diverse data formats for reporting those results. Such differences have been a significant barrier to conducting post-election risk-limiting audits in time to change preliminary election results if necessary. To address problems caused by incompatible election reporting formats, the IEEE has developed a new standard for election results reporting (1622-2). This standard marks the culmination of over ten years of efforts by many individuals and organizations (including Verified Voting), with crucial technical staff support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In the recently completed 2014 elections, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office successfully used a draft version of the standard to report and export election results and the Associated Press Election Services used the same draft standard to import Ohio’s election results and incorporate it into their national election reporting for television, radio, and newspaper clients across the country. You are invited to weigh in: to see the proposed reporting standard and submit your comments and suggestions for improvement here.

Verified Voting has been actively working for a number of years to develop and promote adoption of national data standards for to support inter-operability, transparent reporting, and post-election audits comparing hand-eye manual counts of voter-verified records with electronic tabulation results.  In 2008 and 2009, we submitted formal comments on the draft 2007 Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) proposed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). While the draft 2007 VVSG “encourages” adoption of a standard data exchange format to facilitate interoperability between different hardware components, Verified Voting and other groups and experts urged that voting systems be required to input and output data using a common standard format for election data import, export and exchange. As we pointed out, requiring standard data exchange formats can also help facilitate another important VVSG goal — interoperability of election hardware and software components from different vendors. 

Verified Voting Blog: Security not yet available for online voting

California’s record low turnout for November’s elections is indeed worrisome, and incoming Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s promises to increase the voter rolls are laudable. However, the editorial board’s desire to see online voting as the natural evolution of our voting systems is misplaced.  Yes, we do bank, shop and communicate online, but a quick review of the latest headlines proves these transactions aren’t secure. Cybercrime is estimated to cost businesses billions every year. Elections are unlike financial transactions because they’re extremely vulnerable to undetectable hacking. Because we vote by secret ballot, there is no way to reconcile the votes recorded and the marks the voter actually makes with technology currently available.

Verified Voting Blog: Online voting rife with hazards

Today Americans are voting in an election that could shift control of the U.S. Senate and significantly impact the direction our nation will take in the next few years. Yet, 31 states will allow over 3 million voters to cast ballots over the Internet in this election, a practice that computer security experts in both the federal government and the private sector have warned is neither secure nor trustworthy.

Most states’ online voting is limited to military and overseas voters, but Alaska now permits all voters to vote over the Internet. With a hotly contested Senate seat in Alaska, the use of an online voting system raises serious concerns about the integrity of Alaska’s election results. Alaska’s State Election Division has even acknowledged that its “secure online voting solution” may not be all that secure by posting this disclaimer on its website: “When returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are [sic] voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

Unfortunately, faulty transmission is only one of the risks of Internet voting. There are countless ways ballots cast over the Internet can be hacked and modified by cyber criminals. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, at the direction of Congress, has conducted extensive research into Internet voting in the last decade and published several reports that outline all the ways votes sent over the Internet can be manipulated without detection. After warning that there are many possible attacks that could have an undiscovered large-scale impact, the institute concluded that secure Internet voting is not yet achievable.

Verified Voting Blog: Mail Your Ballot Back: Why Voting Online Puts Your Vote and Privacy at Risk

Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia allow military and overseas voters (not domestic voters) to return voted ballots by email, facsimile and/or other Internet transmission; six allow  internet return in  military in zones of “hostile fire.” Alaska allows it for all absentee voters. But these methods of casting ballots over the Internet are very insecure; ballots returned this way are at risk for manipulation, loss or deletion.

According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the agency charged with reviewing the security of internet voting systems, even the most sophisticated cyber security protections cannot secure voted ballots sent over the Internet and that secure Internet voting is not feasible at this time.[1] Even if ballots are returned electronically over online balloting systems that employ security tools such as encryption or virtual private networks, the privacy, integrity or the reliable delivery of the ballot can’t be guaranteed.[2]

Just as important, ballots sent by electronic transmission cannot be kept private.[3]  Most States which accept electronically transmitted ballots require voters to sign a waiver forfeiting the right to a secret ballot.  In some cases this waiver conflicts with State law or constitution which guarantees the right to a secret ballot.

Verified Voting Blog: New Voting Systems Standards Committee Steps into Election Data Void

What does the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have to do with elections? Glad you asked. IEEE, or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. Along with its major educational and publishing activities, IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world. IEEE standards affect a wide range of industries including: power and energy, biomedical and healthcare, Information Technology (IT), telecommunications, transportation, nanotechnology, information assurance, and many more. In 2013, IEEE had over 900 active standards, with over 500 standards under development.

IEEE has many subgroups that establish standards for various industry areas. and one of these is IEEE Project 1622 (or P1622). This group has been active lately working on setting common standards for important election related practices, including things like distributing blank ballots (for voters who are overseas, e.g.). With Congress’ stalemate on appointing new members to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), development and adoption of U.S. election data standards seems to be shifting from the EAC’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VSSG) Technical Development Committee to the IEEE VSSC. Brian Hancock, EAC Director of Voting System Testing and Certification, spoke positively about this development at the recent conference of the Election Verification Network (EVN) in San Diego.

Following adoption of its initial proposed standard for electronic distribution of blank ballot information (1622-2011, published in January 2012), the IEEE Project 1622 for Voting Systems Electronic Data Interchange has been authorized to become the IEEE Voting Systems Standards Committee (VSSC).

Verified Voting Blog: Hack the Vote: The Perils of the Online Ballot Box

While most voters will cast their ballots at polling stations in November, online voting has been quietly and rapidly expanding in the United States over the last decade. Over 30 states and territories allow some form of Internet voting (such as by email or through a direct portal) for some classes of voters, including members of the military or absentees.

Utah just passed a law allowing disabled voters to vote online; and Alaska allows anyone to cast their ballots online. And there were recent news reports that Democratic and Republican national committees are contemplating holding primaries and caucuses online. We estimate that over three million voters now are eligible to vote online in the U.S.

But online voting is fraught with danger. Hackers could manipulate enough votes to change the results of local and national elections. And a skilled hacker can do so without leaving any evidence.

Verified Voting Blog: Hot State Update! What’s happening in Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut and more… and what Verified Voting is doing to help.

At Verified Voting we work to establish relationships in the states with policy makers and elections officials, in order to ensure they are educated on how to keep our votes secure. We’ve started 2014 with lots of activity around the country, building on a very strong and determined energy around voting issues, much of it unfolding on the state level. We have a great network of people in place and continue to work to make our voices heard. The following is a quick look at some of the Hot States on which we are focusing.

Virginia: This session, House and Senate bills sought to initiate electronic return of voted ballots over the Internet by overseas military voters. Amendments made to the bills called for security protocols to be examined and review of the feasibility and costs involved prior to initiating actual ballot return, thanks to intense outreach with our allies Virginians for Verified Voting, a lot of letters from VA supporters (thank you!), and an op-ed penned by Justin Moore (who is on VV’s advisory board) in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  The amended version of HB 759/SB 11 was conferenced and passed, with these crucial stop-gaps and a clause requiring that the provision be re-approved in 2016 before any ballots are sent over the Internet. As the review process takes place over the coming 18 months, we will be participating actively.  Ensuring that technologists are at the table as the conversation moves forward is critical, as is feedback from Virginia voters.  See the Bill summary here.

National: A Valuable Resource for Election Recounts | Verified Voting Blog

Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practicesa document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their searchable database of state audit and recount laws.

In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics.  “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”

Verified Voting Blog: A Valuable Resource for Election Recounts

Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practices, a document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their database of state audit and recount laws.

In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics.  “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Applauds Findings in Presidential Commission Report on Elections

Today’s landmark report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, recognizes many of the obstacles and opportunities in today’s election administration universe, and proposes several excellent approaches to solving some of those challenges. “We applaud the bi-partisan Commission’s substantial work, balancing the need for secure elections with positive ways to improve voting for all,” said Pamela Smith, President of Verified Voting.  “We strongly agree that military and overseas voters can be supported by providing access to online registration and distribution of information including blank ballots online, and appreciate that the Commission also notes that ‘the internet is not yet secure enough for voting.’” (p. 60)

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Recommendations to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration

On Election Day, long lines were produced in many cases due to voting systems that malfunctioned in multiple locations across the country. As stated in a joint letter we signed sent to President Obama last November, “While insufficient voting equipment was not the only cause for long wait times, it no doubt contributed to the problems we saw on Election Day. The need to improve our voting systems is urgent. Much of the voting equipment in use today is nearing the end of its life cycle, making equipment attrition and obsolescence a serious and growing threat.”[1. http://www.calvoter.org/issues/votingtech/pub/Election_verification_letter_to_Obama_11-20-]

In our “Counting Votes 2012: A State By State Look At Election Preparedness” report[2. http://countingvotes.org], about the 50 states’ preparedness for this major election cycle, we identified key areas of concern. We predicted many states could have problems due to:

• aging voting systems,
• dependence on machine interface for voting for the majority of voters, and
• thoroughness of policies and regulations for emergency back-up provisions in case polling place problems occur and lines start to form.

There were few surprises. As one of our technology expert recruits for the OurVoteLive (OVL) Election Protection hotline indicated:

What’s most interesting is that if you divide things into “easy to solve” and “hard to solve”, the “easy to solve” ones tend to be in places using optical scan [ballots], and the “hard to solve” in places using machines [DREs].

Verified Voting Blog: The California College Vote Hack

I just read Doug Chapin’s article on the vote rigging at Cal State San Marcos, and I would add several observations. Had this been a public election conducted via Internet voting, it would have been much more difficult to identify any problem or to capture the perpetrator, Matthew Weaver. Mr. Weaver was captured because he was voting from school-owned computers. This was networked voting but not really Internet voting. The IT staff was able to notice “unusual activity” on those computers, and via remote access they were able to “watch the user cast vote after vote”. But in a public online election people would vote from their own private PCs, and through the Internet, not on a network controlled by the IT staff of election officials. There will likely be no “unusual activity” to notice in real time, and no possibility of “remote access” to allow them to monitor activity on a voter’s computer.  Note also that university IT staff were able to monitor him while he was voting, showing that they were able to completely violate voting privacy, something we cannot tolerate in a public election.

In the Cal State San Marcos election votes apparently had to be cast from computers on the university’s own network, and not from just anywhere on the Internet. I infer this because it makes good security sense, and because I cannot think of any other reason Mr. Weaver would cast his phony votes from a university computer rather than from an anonymous place like a public library. If this is correct, it is a huge security advantage not possible in public elections, where the perpetrator could be anywhere in the world. Even if public officials somehow did notice an unusual voting pattern that made them suspicious after the fact that phony votes were cast, there would be no evidence to indicate who it was, and no police on the spot to pick him up red handed.

Verified Voting Blog: Leave Election Integrity to Chance

How do we know whether the reported winners of an election really won?

There’s no perfect way to count votes. To paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant and Richard M. Nixon, “Mistakes will be made.” Voters don’t always follow instructions. Voting systems can be mis-programmed, as they were last year in Palm Beach, Florida. Ballots can be misplaced, as they were last year in Palm Beach, Florida, and in Sacramento, California. And election fraud is not entirely unknown in the U.S.

Computers can increase the efficiency of elections and make voting easier for people who cannot read English or who have disabilities. But the more elections depend on technology, the more vulnerable they are to failures, bugs, and hacking. Foreign attacks on elections also may be a real threat.

Even if we count votes by hand, there will be mistakes. How can we have confidence in the results?

South Carolina: Richland County Council agrees to pay $100K in election-related lawyers’ fees | The State

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Richland County Council finally agreed Tuesday to pay more than $100,000 in bills for the lawyers who cleaned up the county’s November election mess. But not until after some unusual procedural moves, a change of heart by two members and the chairman’s threat to enforce a time limit for Councilman Bill Malinowski as he questioned charges for travel and telephone conversations. The council, which had put off the decision twice before, agreed to pay $72,423.10 for lawyer Steve Hamm to investigate Election Day problems and recommend how to fix them; $9,348.75 for lawyer John Nichols, who represented demoted elections director Lillian McBride; and $17,924.20 for Helen McFadden, who kept the election results from being overturned in court. “Who didn’t have a lawyer?” Councilman Greg Pearce muttered at one point.

Verified Voting Public Commentary: Developing a Framework to Improve Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Under Executive Order 13636 [2] (“Executive Order”), the Secretary of Commerce is tasked to direct the Director of NIST to develop a framework for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure (the “Cybersecurity Framework” or “Framework”). The Framework will consist of standards, methodologies, procedures and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with sector-specific agencies, will then establish a voluntary program to support the adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework by owners and operators of critical infrastructure and any other interested entities.

NIST has issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register. It is to this RFI that our response pertains. The undersigned persons and organizations include experts on matters relating to election technology, election practices, encryption, Internet security, and/or privacy. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input on this RFI entitled “Developing a Framework to Improve Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity”.

Our response focuses on the discussion of specific practices as they pertain to elections practices and systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. (Download the Full Response as a PDF)

Washington: Superior Court Judge rules ballot tracking software part of “election system” | San Juan Islander

San Juan Superior Court Judge Don Eaton issued a letter March 27 ruling VoteHere  MiBT (Mail-in Ballot Tracker) is an integral part of the voting system, and required to undergo certification by the Secretary of State. State law prohibits voting systems not certified under the legislature’s program of public examination and expert testing. The court did not say that the county must discontinue use of the ballot tracker software during the pendency of the case, though that may come up at a later date.
The letter is in response to a citizen suit originally brought by Orcas Island residents Tim White and Allan Rosato in 2006. The two seek to remove the unique ballot bar codes. The VoteHere MiBT, is a paperless election tracking, processing and auditing software package. A series of processing station time stamps are used to track each ballot from the time it was sent to the voter to the time it was counted.

Verified Voting Blog: Helping LA County Build a Voting System

This past week I was at the kick-off meeting of the LA County Voting System Assessment Project’s (VSAP) Technical Advisory Committee. The VSAP is Registrar/ClerkDean Logan’s intense and groundbreaking effort to design, develop, procure and implement a publicly owned voting system. I am honored to be asked to serve on such an important body.

LA County is the largest election jurisdiction in the US, with 5 million registered voters, 10 languages, 5,000 precincts and a very large physical area. The county currently uses the InkaVote Plus voting system (with Audio Ballot Booth for accessibility), which is essentially an overhaul of former punchcard equipment to use inked styluses for marking and to provide in-precint checks for the voter in case they make mistakes.

Verified Voting Blog: Internet voting for overseas military puts election security at risk

Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation to allow military voters to cast ballots over the Internet. The intention of this legislation is well-meaning — Connecticut does need to improve the voting process for military voters — but Internet voting is not the answer. Every day, headlines reveal just how vulnerable and insecure any online network really is, and how sophisticated, tenacious and skilled today’s attackers are. Just last week, we learned that the U.S. has already experienced our first-ever documented attack on an election system, when a grand jury report revealed that someone hacked into the Miami-Dade primary elections system in August 2012. A chilling account in The Washington Post recently reported that most government entities in Washington, including congressional offices, federal agencies, government contractors, embassies, news organizations, think tanks and law firms, have been penetrated by Chinese hackers. They join a long list that includes the CIAFBIDepartment of DefenseBank of America, and on and on. These organizations have huge cybersecurity budgets and the most robust security tools available, and they have been unable to prevent hacking. Contrary to popular belief, online voting systems would not be any more secure.

California: New Bill Would Allow Counties to Create Own Voting Systems | Central Coast News

A new bill would allow California counties to create their own public voting systems across the state. The idea is an effort to modernize the voting process and make it more efficient. Some California counties have voting equipment that’s more than 30 years old. Currently, most California counties purchase their voting systems from one of 5 private vendors. Those companies have trademarked their technology and limit public access to operating the systems. If the equipment malfunctions, the companies have no legal obligation to notify election officials and the public. The legislation would give counties the power to develop, own and operate voting systems. Los Angeles County is spearheading the idea and could one of the first counties to create such a system.

Rhode Island: Bill would allow three-week window to cast ballots | Jamestown Press

Saying it would eliminate long lines like those many voters stood in for hours in November, state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has proposed a bill that would allow Rhode Islanders to cast their votes over the course of about three weeks before Election Day. Ruggiero has introduced legislatio n that would allow early voting in Rhode Island beginning the third Thursday before a primary, general or special election. Registered voters would be able to cast their ballot in person at designated locations from that Thursday until the Friday before the scheduled election. Early voting would take place on weekdays, with hours that begin no later than 9 a.m. and end no earlier than 4:30 p.m. The bill has the backing of Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Editorials: Another attempt to rig presidential elections | Philadelphia Inquirer

The latest attempt to manipulate Pennsylvania’s presidential vote provided another opportunity for Democrats to howl about cheating Republicans. And they had a point. But if state legislators from both parties want to do something more useful – and, yes, that’s a big if – they should back a politically neutral proposal to end all such attempts to rig presidential elections. State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Chester) recently introduced a long-threatened bill to award most of Pennsylvania’s presidential electors in proportion to the state’s popular vote. Sounds reasonable enough. But because Pennsylvania and most other states currently award all their electoral votes to the statewide popular-vote winner, and because the Keystone State has gone Democratic for half a dozen elections, the effect would likely be to steal a chunk of the commonwealth’s electoral votes for the GOP.

National: Senate Republicans Open To Gutting Voting Rights Act, Despite Scalia’s Analysis | Huffington Post

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued last week that the court may need to reject the key element of the Voting Rights Act because political pressures would prevent Congress itself from doing so. “I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act,” Scalia said during a Supreme Court hearing. “And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. That’s the concern that those of us who have some questions about this statute have. It’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.” Whatever Scalia’s talents as a jurist, those skills do not include vote-counting in the United States Senate. The Huffington Post asked a sampling of Senate Republicans and found that, contrary to Scalia’s presumption, some of his legislative branch colleagues across the street are just as ready as he is to toss out the heart of the Voting Rights Act, its Section 5, which prevents states with a history of racial discrimination from altering their voting laws without federal approval. It is, to be fair, a horribly difficult question for a Southern senator. Agreeing that Section 5 needs to remain in place, as the overwhelming majority of them did when the law was reauthorized in 2006, is an implicit admission that the state apparatus is still tilted against African Americans. But rejecting Section 5 is an insult to that same community, suggesting, in the face of everyday evidence, that the legacy of slavery and discrimination is ancient history.

Kenya: Uhuru Kenyatta takes early lead as Kenyan election results trickle in | CNN.com

Uhuru Kenyatta, indicted for alleged crimes against humanity and the son of Kenya’s founding father, had an early lead Wednesday in the presidential election. With a little more than 40% of the vote counted, Kenyatta was ahead at 53% to 42% over his main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to the election commission website. If Kenyatta wins, he will find himself in an unusual quandary. He has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting a local militia to conduct reprisal attacks in the last election. His running mate, William Ruto, also faces ICC charges at The Hague. Both have denied the charges.

Kenya: Can Kenya’s judiciary and electoral commission pull it off? | Africa Report

The judiciary and electoral commission say they are prepared for the 4 March vote and will not repeat the mistakes of the contested December 2007 polls. What happens in Kenya’s 4 March election stretches far beyond the fortunes of the rival parties to the fate of the new institutions and political order established during the last four years. “The judiciary – not just the Supreme Court – faces a very, very serious test in these elections,” the chief justice Willy Mutunga tells The Africa Report. “Because in 2007 we were rejected, we were seen to be partisan. We’ve been building confidence in the institutions, the entire judiciary.” Mutunga explains that there are clear legal rules that will have to be followed on any of the electoral disputes. One of the rival presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, has already said that he regards the reformed judiciary as reliably impartial. In the 2007 elections Odinga told his party not to bother contesting the result because of the pervasive political bias of the judiciary. On the coming elections, Mutunga takes a fairly apocalyptic view: “We all realise that if our judiciary is rejected yet again then the institution will never survive.” But he is optimistic that the political reforms and the new constitution have changed the climate.

National: In Voting Rights, Scalia Sees a “Racial Entitlement” | The New Yorker

Justice Antonin Scalia, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, said that the Court had to rescue Congress from the trap of being afraid to vote against a “racial entitlement”—the “entitlement” in question being the Voting Rights Act. (“Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”) Scalia said that not alone but, it appears, with four other votes for overturning a key part of the act: Section Five, which relies on a combination of history and recent bad behavior to designate certain states and jurisdictions as having to get “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice or from a federal court before they, say, abruptly change voting hours or redraw districts or change their voter-I.D. requirements. Most of them are in the South, but not all of them are. The Court’s conservatives seem to think this is terribly unfair. “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked. “But if — if Alabama wants to have monuments to the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, asked, would it be “better off doing that if it’s an own independent sovereign or if it’s under the trusteeship of the United States Government?” Is the idea that statues are only going up now because people are looking, or that the Voting Rights Act is nothing but a monument?