A 22-year-old candidate for student council president at California State University San Marcos hoped to guarantee victory by rigging the election through cyber fraud, but he ended up winning a year in prison instead. Matthew Weaver used small electronic devices called keyloggers to steal the passwords and identities of nearly 750 fellow students. Then he cast votes for himself—and some of his friends on the ballot—using the stolen names. He was caught during the final hour of the election in March 2012 when network administrators noticed unusual voting activity associated with a single computer on campus. A Cal State police officer sent to investigate found Weaver working at that machine. He had cast more than 600 votes for himself using the stolen identities. “Some people wanted to paint this as a college prank gone bad, but he took the identities of almost 750 people, and that’s a serious thing,” said Special Agent Charles Chabalko, who worked the investigation out of our San Diego Division after being contacted by Cal State authorities. “He had access to these students’ e-mails, financial information, and their social networks. He had access to everything.”
Want to see every ballot cast in the last election with your own two eyes? The Humboldt County Registrar makes that possible in her home near the Oregon border. Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich responded to controversy and an outcry from residents by creating a system for anyone to request a scanned version of the vote through the Humboldt County Elections Transparency Project. In 2008, to the dismay of Humboldt County voters, 197 votes (or 0.3 percent of the total vote) disappeared due to a software malfunction. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time for this software to simply delete ballots and Crnich was rightly approached by constituents who had grave concerns regarding the voting system soon after the election results. The software is made by Diebold, a name which may conjure up memories of hanging chads in Florida in 2000 and other issues in 2004. Crnich and that same group of constituents did an audit after connecting the dots on Diebold’s spotty history and found the missing ballots. Locals thought the software was too closed off from the public and wanted a better auditing process. After pinpointing the problem, the Secretary of State’s office swiftly initiated an investigation and decertified the faulty software.
A former Cal State San Marcos student who rigged a campus election by stealing nearly 750 student passwords to cast votes for himself and friends was sentenced Monday in federal court to a year in prison. It was Matthew Weaver’s decision to try to cover up the largest student identity theft in the university’s 24-year history that seemed to irritate the judge the most. “That’s the phenomenal misjudgment I can’t get around,” said Judge Larry Burns, who rejected Weaver’s request for probation. Burns said the election rigging was a serious offense but “kind of juvenile.” Developing a scheme to deflect blame after he had been caught made it worse. “He’s on fire for this crime, and then he pours gasoline on it to try to cover it up,” the judge said.
The state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would allow immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to assist voters casting a ballot. The measure from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, would allow for up to five non-citizens to serve at a particular polling site. Those poll workers must be permanent U.S. residents who legally entered the country. Those residents could provide much-needed help to voters with limited English skills, said Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who presented Bonta’s bill. There are 2.6 million eligible California voters who are not fully proficient in English, she said. “These individuals have the absolute right to make fully informed voting decisions on Election Day,” Torres said.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday rejected challenges to Proposition 14, which established the “Top Two” election system used after the 2010 elections, and the measure’s implementing legislation. Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr of the Northern District of Ohio, sitting by designation, said there is no constitutional impediment to requiring candidates to list themselves as preferring a qualified political party, or as having “No Party Preference,” or to be listed without any statement about party preference at all. The Elections Code has since been amended to eliminate the blank-space option, so that all candidates are listed either by party or as “No Party Preference.” Proposition 14 replaced the state’s closed partisan primary election with an open primary in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, qualify for the general election.
For those who still don’t vote by mail in California, going to the polls might become a bit more convenient soon. The state Senate Elections Committee has approved a bill that would increase access to elections by requiring county elections officials to open an early voting location on a Saturday prior to Election Day. “The fact that elections are held on a workday leaves many Californians in a situation where they have to choose between voting and fulfilling personal and professional obligations,” says Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, author of the bill.
If you’re a registered voter, are you aware that what you write on your registration form is publicly available? “Commercial” interests are barred from that data. But all sorts of other people have legal access to it. A lot of people think only government agencies can access voter registration information – the courts, for instance, to summon you for jury duty. But it can be purchased for purposes such as scholarly and journalistic research, and for use in “elections” and “politics”. Buyers are only a phone call away from you. “So I received a phone call and was invited to be paid to share my political opinions,” says Jennifer Armour, a voter registered in the city of San Diego. “And I was told the reason I was being called was because of information that was tied to my voter registration.”
The Napa County grand jury issued a new report this week calling for the county’s registrar of voters to be appointed — not elected — and for a new independent board that would have oversight of the elections process. The grand jury also wants interim ballot counts to be released between Election Night and the final certified results, as the three-week wait to know the results of the 2012 elections led some residents and candidates to express frustration with Registrar of Voters John Tuteur. The grand jury monitored the Elections Division’s performance last fall. Its report criticizes aspects of how the division handled citizen complaints, how precincts with polling places were switched to vote-by-mail without public input, and how some residents were delayed in receiving ballot pamphlet. It found no problems with the accuracy of the polling machines, the handling and counting of ballots, or security measures for maintaining and storing ballots, according to the report.
The new state budget is here, and once again it leaves the state’s election system holding an increasingly empty bag. For years counties have relied on the state to help fund state laws that change the voting process and in turn, make extra work and cost extra money for counties. The last time election mandates were funded was 2009, when they accounted for about $30 million paid to all 58 counties. The largest in terms of dollars and impact is the permanent absentee voter program, which allows Californians to sign up to vote by mail in every election rather than reapplying each time. Since then, the money has been withheld by the state and counties have had to make do with less. At the same time, counties no longer get reimbursed for the cost of special legislative elections, despite their growing frequency. In Sacramento County, the amount of election funding withheld by the state amounts to approximately $1 million annually. The last time it was paid, in 2008-09, it amounted to 9 percent of the county’s total elections budget.
California: Bill to Modernize California’s Election System Approved by State Senate | California Newswire
The California State Senate today approved SB 361 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) on a bipartisan vote of 29 to 9. The bill would modernize California’s voter registration system and increase online access to elections information. The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration. “While many states provide online tools that allow citizens to register to vote, verify their registration, determine their polling place location and even determine the status of their ballot, California has fallen behind,” said Padilla. A report released earlier this year by the Pew Center on the States, ranked California 48th out of 50 states in election administration. The report utilizes 17 indicators that include the adoption of voting technology, the accuracy of voter rolls, reported problems with registration and absentee ballots, the voter registration rate and election turnout.
Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens could serve as poll workers in California under one of several election-related bills that passed the state Assembly on Thursday. As many as five noncitizens could volunteer in a precinct under AB817 from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. Those poll workers must be legal permanent U.S. residents. Bonta said allowing immigrants to serve as poll workers would increase the number of bilingual volunteers who could assist voters.
The races for mayor and other top city offices so underwhelmed Angelenos, fewer than one-fifth of registered voters bothered to cast ballots. So, why don’t we have another election in a couple of months? Say, July 23? I’m not kidding. Because no candidate for the 6th Council District seat earned more than 50% of the votes Tuesday, residents in the district will have to trudge back to the polls for the fourth time in nine months to choose a replacement for former Councilman Tony Cardenas. The office became vacant when Cardenas won a seat in Congress last November. The runoff will pit Cindy Montañez, who collected 43.5% of the votes, against Nury Martinez, who received 23.9%.
It’s been an expensive few months for counties holding special elections to fill legislative and congressional seats. And it’s not over yet. San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties have had two special ballots already to replace former state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, after her election to Congress in November. Now both counties will have to hold at least one, and probably two, special elections to replace Assemblywoman Norma Torres, who will be sworn in today as Negrete McLeod’s successor, in the 52nd Assembly District. Riverside, San Diego and Imperial counties had to put on a special election to replace former state Sen. Juan Vargas in the 40th Senate District. Fortunately for the counties’ coffers, then-Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, won the March 12 ballot outright, avoiding the need for a runoff. There are more special elections in the offing in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Central Valley. With each ballot costing around $1 million, counties are rallying around legislation sponsored by San Bernardino County that calls for state reimbursement of special election costs in 2012 and 2013.
An Election Day-eve accusation by a Republican organization of massive, sweeping voter fraud in the 16th Senate District race fizzled Monday after Kern County elections officials reviewed vote-by-mail ballots cast in the race. None of the 26 vote-by-mail ballots alleged to have been hijacked were used to cast a vote. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service had simply returned them, untouched, to the Kern County elections office as undeliverable. Luis Alvarado, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Los Angeles, had bombarded the media over the weekend with claims that his group had uncovered about 30 verified examples of voter fraud in Bakersfield. That, he said, meant that “hundreds, if not thousands, of votes were cast illegally” in the 16th District. The group’s attorney, Ashlee N. Titus, wrote in a statement to the Kern County elections office that the group was “working on a ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign” to fill the state Senate seat when it discovered what it believed was voter fraud. Titus works for the Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk firm, which also represents the California Republican Party.
Independent voters now account for approximately 40 percent of all voters in the United States. Following the national trend, California voters are increasingly leaving the two major parties, with almost 3.7 million voters now registered under “No Party Preference” in the state. Overall voter turnout, however, decreased in 2012 election, with one million fewer Californians casting a ballot in the general election than in previous presidential elections. With independent voters now accounting for 21 percent of the electorate in California, how can the state ensure their voices are heard in Sacramento? Assemblymember Philip Ting proposes exploring online voting with Assembly Bill 19, or the “Internet Voting Pilot Program.” Passed on April 23 by the California Assembly Elections Committee, AB 19 proposes to change the legal definition of “voting system” to include the use of systems connected to the Internet in future California elections. This would authorize the creation of an Internet Voting Pilot Program, under which counties could offer voters the choice to vote online.
California: Misplaced ballots were likely due to human error, elections official says | San Francisco Examiner
An ongoing investigation into 65 ballots that were not found or counted for months after the November election points to human error as the cause, Chief Elections Officer Mark Church has indicated. On April 12, San Mateo County election officials discovered a vault containing uncounted provisional ballots and announced the discovery the next week. Of the 65 ballot envelopes, only 35 were eligible votes, and they did not affect the election results. The investigation launched by Church uncovered that employees placed the ballots inside a covered container within the security vault. As a result, Church said in a statement, the election staff did not see the ballots, which should have been sent to the main elections office for processing, Church said. Although the uncounted votes did not alter the results, they remain a source of concern, according to officials and election observers.
Prosecutors are investigating allegations of voter fraud in Little Armenia, part of a Los Angeles City Council district where two candidates are waging a bitter battle for an open seat. According to a spokeswoman for L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, prosecutors are trying to determine whether backers of one candidate illegally filled out mail-in ballots for dozens of voters in the Armenian enclave in East Hollywood. The May 21 election will decide who succeeds Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor. In a complaint sent to Lacey’s office, an attorney for candidate John Choi accused backers of Choi’s opponent, Mitch O’Farrell, of “widespread voter fraud and illegal electioneering activities.”
California: Canada backs off from Internet voting, for now, while California legislature pushes it forward | FierceGovernmentIT
The Canadian agency charged with conducting national elections has decided against a planned pilot of Internet electoral voting before the 2015 general election due to budget cuts, Canadian media has reported. A report from the agency, Elections Canada, says that it hasn’t ruled out Internet voting, however, and that it “will continue to monitor such trials and developments in other jurisdictions to evaluate the feasibility of undertaking an I-voting project.” The California Assembly, meanwhile, is pressing forward with the possibility of Internet voting, with the Elections Committee approving on April 30 in a 4-3 vote a bill (AB 19) sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) that would establish an Internet voting pilot program.
California: CGI to implement new centralized statewide voter registration system, VoteCal | Santa Barbara Independent
CGI Group Inc. today announced it will implement California’s new centralized statewide voter registration database system, VoteCal, providing a single official source of voter registration information. The contract is valued at US$38.75 million over four years. VoteCal will connect to multiple state agencies and all 58 county election official offices to improve the efficiency of the voter registration process. Currently, information about new and existing registered voters is separately maintained in county election management systems with the current statewide voter registration database (CalVoter) storing a copy of each county’s voter registration data and refreshing that data based on daily updates.
California: San Francisco goes for the Guinness — 500-page ballot book blockbuster | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco voters this fall will be treated to some extra reading in the form of a 400- to 500-page ballot guide, thanks mostly to a referendum on the height of the 8 Washington waterfront luxury condo development. “It’s going to look like a phone book,” said Department of Elections head John Arntz. That’s because under city law, the Nov. 5 ballot book, which is mailed to 500,000 voters, must include the “full text” of the referendum as it was presented during the signature drive that put it on the ballot. In this case, that means the city must include more than 500 pages of documents, including those from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ hearings and even copies of studies on shadows that the condos may cast. And it is not going to come cheap.
Strict limits on campaign contributions imposed by voters nearly three decades ago are crumbling in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, with big donors using loosely regulated “super PACs” to help candidates like never before in a citywide election, a Times analysis has found. Of the $17.5 million collected so far to support mayoral hopefuls Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, roughly one-third — a record $6.1 million — has gone into independent political action committees that can accept contributions of any size. The rise of the parallel campaign finance system, awash in five- and six-figure donations that dwarf the limits approved by voters, has watchdogs of political influence sounding alarms.
As more and more data is analyzed from last November’s election, the impact of the recently-enacted Online Voter Registration (OVR) in California continues to crystallize. Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc. (PDI) is one of the most respected number crunchers in the state. He’s a bit like our own Nate Silver, except he specializes in reading the tea leaves after the fact instead of making predictions beforehand. In a recent blog post tied to the annual convening of California Democrats last weekend, Mitchell breaks down the OVR data that likely helped secure Dems their current supermajority.
In use for the first time last year, California’s online voter registration system proved so popular that lawmakers want to build on its success this year. Wider promotion of the system and a push toward online voting are among several election-related bills under consideration as the Legislature approaches a midyear bill deadline. Other changes under consideration would shine more light on campaign financing and update how elections are run. About 800,000 Californians used the online registration system to join the state’s voter rolls, according to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored the original bill. An analysis of turnout figures by Political Data Inc. indicated that those who registered online were significantly more likely than other voters to cast a ballot last November. This year, Yee’s SB44 is proposing that all state websites link to the secretary of state’s voter registration page in an effort to publicize the system. Others want the state to move even further online and are pushing for a pilot program to test the casting of ballots over the Internet. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has put forward AB19 to review the security of online voting software and eventually create a pilot program for counties.
Fresh off their 2012 wins at the polls, California Democrats are looking to broaden their reach by advancing a new batch of bills aimed at expanding voter access and increasing turnout. Achieving that result would likely benefit Democrats, who historically fare worse in the lower-turnout nonpresidential elections, as they defend supermajorities in the state Legislature and competitive congressional seats won last year in the 2014 election. “We have work to do,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told delegates at the state party’s convention over the weekend in Sacramento. “We just got started.”
More Glendale voters used the postal service to cast their votes than a polling center ballot box for the election on Tuesday, a trend that’s been on the rise in the city — and across the state — now for years. The shift, candidates and elections experts say, has meant harder and longer campaigns that must capture voters over a much longer period of time. “You have to make sure you get your message out there in time for the earlier voters,” said Lori Cox Han, professor of political science at Chapman University. City Council incumbent Laura Friedman’s campaign was a case in point. She timed her television ads, which ran on both cable and broadcast channels, to air around the time the sample ballots arrived. “The polls were open as soon as those absentee ballot were in their hands,” said Friedman, who, according to unofficial results released this week, recaptured her seat. About 62% of voters in Tuesday’s municipal election voted by mail, roughly the same as 2011, but up 5% since 2007.
A school district in southeastern Los Angeles County is illegally diluting the voting clout of Latinos and barring them from elective office by using an at-large electoral system for school board races, according to a lawsuit filed this week. No Latino has been elected to the seven-member board in the ABC Unified School District since 1997, although the ethnic group makes up nearly one-fourth of adults of voting age, according to the lawsuit filed by MALDEF, a leading Latino legal civil rights organization, and the Los Angeles law firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. The district encompasses 30 schools in Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens and portions of Lakewood, Long Beach and Norwalk. Its students are 42% Latino, 26% Asian, 11% Filipino, 10% African American, 7% white and 1% native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest voting system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is to build a more flexible, user-friendly system that could be licensed for use in other cities and counties around California. … The architect of all this is Dean Logan, registrar-recorder for Los Angeles County. He oversees a system that dates from the 1960s. The county uses ink-marked ballots and old IBM card-counting machines. The 50-year-old system is nearing the end of its useful life. After the presidential election in 2000, when voters complained they mismarked the controversial butterfly ballots used in a Florida county, Congress and state governments gave counties millions of dollars to replace old punch-card ballot systems with digital voting machines. Across California, counties adopted those systems, some of which now need updating. Los Angeles County resisted buying the machines, and still has $60 million of federal and state money to spend on a new system. Only five brands of voting machines are certified for use in California. Logan said the county doesn’t want them. They are too expensive and bulky to put in some 5,000 polling places. “There really is no existing voting system out on the market,” he said. “It’s a very limited market in the first place.”
Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest electoral system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is a more flexible, user-friendly system that county officials hope will increase turnout. To design the system from scratch, county officials started in 2010 by surveying voters and stakeholder groups. They added observations from poll workers. The county registrar of voters also co-sponsored a design challenge on a crowdsourcing website that drew responses from all over. Cansu Akarsu, a designer from Turkey, suggested a computer tablet that helps poll workers interact with disabled people to select the right voting method. A person could use the system to select polling place accommodations days in advance. Tina Lee, a U.S.-based designer, suggests a tablet app that lets the voter decide the pace of the ballot display or the order in which contests would appear. Some other suggestions included a van that travels to voters, voting kiosks at grocery stores, and a two-week voting period.
Former Mayor Virginia Madueño’s supporters said the Stanislaus County election office shouldn’t charge them for staff salaries for the week before ballots were recounted in the November mayoral race. Madueño is contesting an itemized bill showing that Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan charged almost $4,000 for her time spent on the December recount. A Madueño supporter who asked for the recount was billed $10,217 by Lundrigan’s office for an effort that lasted 5½ hours before it was called off. In addition to a required $2,400 deposit to start the Dec. 10 recount, county elections sent a bill six weeks later seeking payment of an extra $7,817, based on staff time to prepare for the tally. According to the invoice, Lundrigan worked 30 hours preparing for and conducting the recount, at a rate of $131.42 per hour. Time sheets show a total of 108 hours worked by 11 other employees on Dec. 10 and the previous week.
California’s new online voter-registration system, which premiered last fall, generated some striking results, including that more registrants come from low- and middle-income neighborhoods than expected, says a new University of California, Berkeley, study. Researchers Lisa García Bedolla, a UC Berkeley associate professor of education and of political science, and researcher Véronica N. Velez, a postdoctoral research fellow at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research, just released their report for the center about California’s entry into online voter registration. California opened up its voter registration process last fall, and UC Berkeley researchers have found some interesting results. “Given voters in California are, on average, significantly more affluent than the general population, this study suggests that online voter registration opened up the … process to a wider range of voters in terms of their socioeconomic status,” García Bedolla and Velez reported.