What does democracy look like? On Wednesday, a rubber thumb. As a controversial recount of Michigan’s presidential election entered its third day, the rubber thumb — kind of like the finger part of a rubber glove, but with nubs — was in high demand at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Recount workers lucky enough to claim one of those humble accessories could page quickly through stacks of ballots, hastening the painstaking rounds of counting and sorting needed to recount an election. First challenge: Determine whether any given bundle of ballots is recountable. That means counting some ballot boxes, each containing hundreds of the paper slips, two and three times before even beginning to determine for whom each ballot was cast, all under the patient eyes of volunteer observers from three presidential campaigns. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein lost by an insurmountable 2 million votes, but asked for the recount because, she says, she’s concerned about the integrity of Michigan elections. She’s not the only one — University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman has identified vulnerabilities in the system that it’s not currently designed to ward off, and President-elect Donald Trump himself has claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election he won. A federal judge halted Michigan’s presidential recount late Wednesday night, but an appeal is expected.
Editorials: A Post-Election Legal Challenge to the Electoral College | Jacob Gershman/Wall Street Journal
President-elect Donald Trump is weeks away from taking the oath of office, but for two Colorado presidential electors, the 2016 contest remains contested. The electors, who are Democrats vehemently opposed to Mr. Trump in the White House, have filed a lawsuit challenging the winner-takes-all system for casting electoral votes.
Reports the Denver Post: Two Democratic electors who pledged to support Democrat Hillary Clinton — the winner of the state’s nine Electoral College votes — now want to “vote their conscience and do their constitutional duty as intended by the framers,” said Jason Wesoky, the attorney who filed the suit. Polly Baca, a former state lawmaker, and Robert Nemanich are among the “Moral Electors” hoping to persuade Republican electors in other states to vote for a third-party candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes — and offering to shift their Democratic votes to a consensus pick.
We’re one week into the historic Wisconsin recount, prompted in no small part by widespread concerns about the reliability of electronic voting machines and their susceptibility to tampering, fraud, and computer hacking. The difference in Wisconsin is currently about 22,000 votes, or 0.75%. Patriotic, democracy-loving Americans share a common value of wanting to see that every vote is counted fairly, accurately, and honestly, especially in such a close and crucial election as this one. Let’s get to know these machines better. The optical scanning computers used in Wisconsin and other states, especially the infamous ES&S DS-200, too often fail to count votes where voter intent could be discerned by hand. These are officially called “undervotes” or “overvotes,” but in many instances could be called “not counted votes.” A lightly marked ballot filled out by an elderly or handicapped person, a checkmark instead of a filled-in oval, or even a ballot cast using the wrong pen color can be missed or “no votes” in a machine count but real, legal votes in a hand count. In Florida, a shocking 1.67% of the people wearing an “I Voted” sticker didn’t actually. In Michigan, where the margin is only 11,000 votes, there are 75,000 not counted votes in Detroit alone. Hand counts will identify and include legal votes missed by the machine; anyone who says otherwise is simply wrong.
Editorials: The right to vote belongs to every Canadian — everywhere | Jamie Liew and Donald Galloway/iPolitics
Who has the right to vote? Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms appears to give a clear enough answer by stating that “every citizen has the right to vote.” The Canada Elections Act, however, currently provides that citizens who have lived abroad for more than five years are not permitted to vote. This limit was defended by the previous government as demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society, therefore constitutional. The tension between the legislation and the Charter has led to litigation by non-resident citizens going before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Liberal government has pre-empted the need for a judicial decision by tabling legislation that will ensure that the Charter right is not infringed. The proposed legislation will allow any Canadian citizen who is resident outside Canada to vote, no matter how long they have been outside the country. This is a welcome legislative intervention. It reveals a sound appreciation of the depth of the bond between the citizen and the state and augurs well for those concerned about the health of our democracy.
This recent tweet from Professor Larry Tribe caught my eye: “Call it what you like, but the # of voters turned away for not having required forms of ID exceeded margin of T’s victory in MI, Pa & Wis” As soon as I read it, I said to myself, “That can’t be right.” First of all, no voter ever should be “turned away” for lack of ID. Instead, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that voters lacking required ID receive a provisional ballot. To be sure, some poll workers may fail to enforce the mandates of HAVA, but in volumes exceeding Trump’s margins of victory in Michigan (about 11,000), Wisconsin (about 23,000), and Pennsylvania (about 44,000)??? If there had been a massive failure of election administration on that scale, which could have accounted for the outcome of the presidential election, presumably we would have heard news reports of it by now. Just because voters cast provisional ballots does not mean, of course, that those provisional ballots will be counted. In some states, a voter who casts a provisional ballot because the voter lacked a required form of ID is not permitted simply to sign an affidavit to get the ballot counted, but instead within a limited period of time must find a way to get the required ID and show it to local election officials.
Editorials: Trump’s Lies About Voter Fraud Are Already Leading to New GOP Voter-Suppression Efforts | Ari Berman/The Nation
Less than a month after Donald Trump unexpectedly carried Michigan by 10,000 votes, Republicans in the state legislature are already pushing to make it harder to vote. The presidential recount hasn’t even finished yet and Michigan Republicans are trying to pass a strict voter-ID law through the lame-duck legislative session before the end of this year. Under current Michigan law, a voter who does not present photo ID at the polls can sign an affidavit confirming their identify, under penalty of perjury, and cast a regular ballot. Under the new bill, which passed the House Elections Commission on a 5-3 party-line vote on December 1, voters without strict ID would have to cast a provisional ballot and then return to their local clerk’s office within 10 days of the election with photo ID to have their votes counted. This change to Michigan’s election laws could make a big difference in future elections: 18,339 people without strict photo ID used the affidavit option to vote in 2016—8,000 votes greater than Trump’s margin of victory. One-third of the affidavits came from Detroit, where Hillary Clinton won 67 percent of the vote in Wayne County. Already, Trump’s discredited lie that “millions” voted illegally in 2016 seems to be impacting Republican actions. “A multitude of candidates have raised the concerns about the integrity of elections,” said GOP Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. “We need to respond to those questions. We are going to make sure that we’re protecting you—all voters—and the integrity of the election.”
Election officials might not want to hear this, but the way we vote isn’t scientific. If they were conducted using the scientific method, recounts would be expected, maybe even mandatory. People would want to re-examine the raw data — as former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has been pushing to do in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Why? There’s no reason to assume elections are any more immune to errors than scientific studies, where replication is often a requirement for acceptance. And that means not just rechecking final results but either running an experiment again or re-evaluating the raw data — akin to the hand recounts that Stein, as well as a number of computer scientists, have advocated for. Stein succeeded in Michigan, where a hand recount is expected to begin Friday, and lodged a partial victory in Wisconsin, where both hand and machine recounts started Thursday. This isn’t just an exercise in sore losing. Vote counts, after all, aren’t any more sacred than any other kind of measurement. It’s a key tenet of science that measurements, from weight to temperature to cholesterol counts, are imperfect reflections of reality. Scientists acknowledge this uncertainty with error bars — if the error bars overlap, they can’t definitively declare one value bigger than the other.
The long-running Republican war against the right to vote has now gone national at the instigation of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promoted the lie that millions of illegal votes were cast in the presidential election. There is not a scintilla of evidence for this claim, and Mr. Trump’s own lawyers have admitted as much, stating in a court filing opposing a recount in Michigan that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.” Yet one after the next, leading Republicans are spreading this slander of American democracy, smoothing the way to restrict voting rights across the country. On Sunday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that it was Mr. Trump’s “right to express his opinion as president-elect.” When pushed to admit that the illegal-voting claim was not true, Mr. Pence shifted the burden of proof away from Mr. Trump, even though Mr. Trump has accused millions of Americans of committing a crime. “Look,” Mr. Pence said, “I don’t know that that’s a false statement, George, and neither do you.”
Editorials: Back to the future: Paper ballots still the best fraud prevention | Theresa Payton/The Hill
It’s hard to believe the moment we all learned the presidential election would be recounted in Wisconsin. Thank goodness Wisconsin has paper ballots that can be physically counted again. Did you know that many of the voting machines in New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina produce a report of how the voting machines recorded the votes but there is no paper trail to allow you to count the ballots again if needed. The same is true for key counties in Pennsylvania, a consistent battleground state that uses the same system in the majority of its counties, and that is true for other states as well. Today, there are entire countries totally relying on electronic voting: Brazil, since 2000, has employed electronic voting machines and, in 2010, had 135 million electronic voters. India had 380 million electronic voters, for its Parliament election in 2004.
Seven members of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote to President Obama this week asking him to declassify and make public “additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election” that committee members apparently have learned about in confidential briefings. The president should take their advice. Cynics might be tempted to view their letter — which was signed only by Democrats and an independent senator who caucuses with them — as a partisan ploy designed to buttress the argument that Donald Trump’s victory was rendered illegitimate by Russian meddling on his behalf. But seeking information about possible Russian meddling in the election shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
Next week, Ghana, a relatively stable West African democracy, heads once again to the polls to elect a president. How have things been going in the lead up to the election? Not well. This week, Nana Akufo-Addo, leader of the New Patriotic Party and President John Mahama’s main opposition, skipped the only presidential debate (aides apparently said that this was because he decided to keep campaign commitments; he was not, apparently, committed to the debate.) On Thursday, early voting took place, and some names seemed to be missing from the voter register. On Friday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace flaggedjust what to watch for in elections in Ghana. High on the list: Ghana’s Electoral Commission, which was criticized in 2012 for failing to protect the elections from irregularities such as “over voting,” is still a politicized entity, and has been unable to quell concern over the clearly problematic voter register. The New Patriotic Party wants the register overhauled entirely.
How might a foreign government hack America’s voting machines? Here’s one possible scenario. First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker’s work might leave no visible signs — though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.
Editorials: The US election recount is a long shot – but the alternative is catastrophe | Rebecca Solnit/The Guardian
When big changes and dangers arise, you have to think big. You don’t put out a forest fire with a glass of water. Thinking small can prevent you from even recognizing trouble, let alone your options for overcoming it. There’s never been a time when thinking big matters more than now. Many across the United States are now trying to figure out how to survive Trump, but it may still be possible to stop him. His regime is not yet inevitable. It’s a long shot, but one worth trying, the way someone diagnosed with a disease with a 3% survival rate might want to do what it takes to try to be part of the 3%. You don’t get there if you give up at the outset. Trump represents a catastrophe on a scale many seem to have trouble grasping, an attack on what remains democratic and uncorrupted in our old and messy system of government, a threat to international stability, to efforts to address climate change, and to human rights at home and around the world. Is it possible to prevent him from taking power? Why not explore the wildest possibilities, when the alternative is surrendering to the worst? It may be very possible – but only if we imagine it is possible and work to make the possible the actual.
Editorials: Why I Support An Election Audit, Even Though It’s Unlikely To Change The Outcome | Nate Silver/FiveThirtyEight
Here at FiveThirtyEight, we’ve been skeptical of claims of irregularities in the presidential election. As we pointed out last week, there are no obvious statistical anomalies in the results in swing states based on the type of voting technology that each county employed. Instead, demographic differences, particularly the education levels of voters, explain the shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016 fairly well. But that doesn’t mean I take some sort of philosophical stance against a recount or an audit of elections returns, or that other people at FiveThirtyEight do. Such efforts might make sense, with a couple of provisos. The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.
Editorials: U.S. elections are a mess, even though there’s no evidence this one was hacked | Bruce Schneier/The Washington Post
Was the 2016 presidential election hacked? It’s hard to tell. There were no obvious hacks on Election Day, but new reports have raised the question of whether voting machines were tampered with in three states that Donald Trump won this month: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The researchers behind these reports include voting rights lawyer John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, both respected in the community. They have been talking with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but their analysis is not yet public. … Further investigation of the claims raised by the researchers would help settle this particular question. Unfortunately, time is of the essence — underscoring another problem with how we conduct elections. For anything to happen, Clinton has to call for a recount and investigation. She has until Friday to do it in Wisconsin, until Monday in Pennsylvania and until next Wednesday in Michigan. I don’t expect the research team to have any better data before then. Without changes to the system, we’re telling future hackers that they can be successful as long as they’re able to hide their attacks for a few weeks until after the recount deadlines pass.
Election security experts concerned about voting machines are calling for an audit of ballots in the three states where the presidential election was very close: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We agree. This is an important election safety measure and should happen in all elections, not just those that have a razor-thin margin. Voting machines, especially those that have digital components, are intrinsically susceptible to being hacked. The main protection against hacking is for voting machines to provide an auditable paper trail. However, if that paper trail is never audited, it’s useless. EFF worked hard, alongside many others, to ensure that paper trails were available in many places across the nation. While there are still places without them, we have made great strides. Yet this election was a forceful reminder of how vulnerable all computer systems are. We not only need elections to be auditable, we need them to be audited. We should use this opportunity to set a precedent of auditing electronic voting results to strengthen confidence—not only in this election, but in future ones.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that states with a long history of racial discrimination no longer needed to approve any proposed changes to their voting procedures with the federal government, as had long been required under the Voting Rights Act. That meant this year’s presidential election was the first in 50 years without the full protections of the act. What was the result? Fourteen states had new voting restrictions in effect in 2016, including strict voter ID laws, fewer opportunities for early voting and reductions in the number of polling places. These restrictions depressed turnout in key states like Wisconsin, particularly among black voters. Among advocates for voting rights, there was hope that a Hillary Clinton presidency and Democratic control of Congress would help reverse this situation. But with Republicans now in control of the presidency, Congress and two-thirds of state legislative chambers, the attack on voting rights is almost certainly going to get much worse.
The presidential election is over, but the multiple threats to the trustworthiness of our election system and thus our entire democracy exposed during the recent, contentious presidential campaign must be addressed for democracy to survive. The threat is real and it is multifaceted. Disinformation was rampant throughout social media and even, in some instances, through more conventional media sources, such as the false reporting by Fox News Channel of the likelihood of an indictment of Hillary Clinton by the FBI on charges related to misconduct tied to the Clinton Foundation. Social media was a sewer of misinformation during the campaign. According to the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation, more than 40% of people turn to social media for their news. Twitter was particularly active on Election Day. It is a simple thing for someone or some country trying to influence an election to set up phony Twitter accounts to sow deliberate misinformation. Fake stories, such as Pope Francis’ endorsement of Donald Trump and reports that Clinton adviser John Podesta was a Satanist, spread through phony news links on Facebook and other social media.
Editorials: Now is the time to fix our old voting machines. | Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti/Slate
Athough more than half the country may be unhappy with the results, America dodged a bullet on Election Day. That is, our voting machines generally held up. The tabulations they produced were not so close as to throw the election results in doubt, and there’s no legitimate indication that any were hacked. In the next presidential election, we may not be so lucky. With antiquated voting devices at the end of their projected lifespans still in widespread use across the country, the U.S. is facing an impending crisis in which our most basic election infrastructure is unacceptably vulnerable to breakdown, malfunction, and hacking. It’s not just an inconvenience. If the machinery of democracy is called into question, so are its foundations. Those of us who can recall the presidential election of 2000 know exactly what can happen when faulty technology meets a razor-close election. The Bush-Gore contest came down to just a few hundred votes in Florida, and butterfly ballots and faulty punch card machines left us arguing about hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads. It left wounds that still afflict the country. In today’s hyperpartisan environment, such a scenario—or even unfounded accusations of a “rigged” election that gained postelection traction—would be far more contentious. Just imagine what it might be like in 2020.
Editorials: A new era: our elections now will be decided by hackers and leaked data | Steven Hill/The Guardian
A new and disturbing factor emerged during this presidential election, and one that may change elections forever: democracies are now at the mercy of hacking and surveillance technology – and those who control it. WikiLeaks and a network of anonymous hackers have become a major influence, turning the rituals of democracy into sleaze-fests for the tabloids and the sensationalist press. And foreign governments have a hand, too – allegedly Russia, in the case of the US election. Technology has advanced rapidly from election to election, becoming more powerful and ubiquitous. Skilled hackers have the ability to access and release private conversations, communications and information, whether from two hours ago or 20 years ago. And now in the US, that technology has played the role of kingmaker: WikiLeaks’ firepower was directed only at one of the presidential candidates, and the topic of missing emails was controversially revived by the FBI nine days before the election. Hillary Clinton blamed that intervention as one reason she lost the election. Both set a troubling precedent, but this emerging “leakocracy” is not just a threat to the US.
Last week, we were highly critical of Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and his elections staff, blaming the significant delays in vote counting on poor preparation, specifically a poor decision to purchase software inadequate to the task of counting Pueblo’s numerous ballot styles. It appears we were a bit premature. As it turns out, there were all sorts of factors leading up to the election vote count problems. As reported in Wednesday’s Chieftain, state election officials essentially said Ortiz and his team had no way of knowing that the computer system would bog down on the morning of Election Day. They said they had approved the number of ballots, the way issues were presented on them, and the purchase of the Dominion Express System by the county. Significant tests — more than actually required — were conducted prior to the election, and there were no indications that a disaster lie ahead.
The good news is that voting, as an American tradition, is alive and well. The bad news is that the disenfranchisement of people with disabilities — also a tradition in this country — is, too. I experienced it firsthand last Tuesday in Augusta, Maine, when I attempted to exercise my constitutional right to vote. I am a disability rights attorney who happens to be blind. Neither blindness nor accessible voting systems are new to me: I have been blind since childhood, and I was a driving force in the implementation of the accessible voting system component of the Help America Vote Act in Maine and New Hampshire. On Tuesday, when I went to vote, the problems were immediate: It took two people from the city clerk’s office a half hour to get the accessible voting machine working. Once it was ostensibly functioning, it would not accept my selections on the first try — or the second, third or fourth. In fact, not until my fifth attempt. Did nondisabled voters need to wrestle their paper ballots into compliance like this? Roughly 35 minutes after I had begun voting, my ballot was complete — or so I thought.
From Iran to Chile, covert CIA-backed operations were responsible for installing leaders friendly to the U.S. in countries around the world in an attempt to gain supremacy over the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War. Russia seems to have taken a page from the U.S. playbook and one upped it, as it may have significantly contributed to the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. The U.S. intelligence community has publicly accused the Russian government of being behind the hacking and leaking of emails involving Hillary Clinton’s election campaign by cyber espionage groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear on WikiLeaks and other sites this summer. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, issued a joint statement with Department of Homeland Security on October 7 declaring that they were “confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” and that “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been vocal in his support of Trump, calling him the “absolute leader in the presidential race” in a December 2015 news conference. Many of Trump’s positions—including his expressions of admiration for Putin and his July 2016 comments that he “would be looking at” recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting sanctions—have curried the favor of the Russian leader.
It’s over. The voting went smoothly. As of the time of writing, there are no serious fraud allegations, nor credible evidence that anyone hacked the voting rolls or voting machines. And most important, the results are not in doubt. While we may breathe a collective sigh of relief about that, we can’t ignore the issue until the next election. The risks remain. As computer security experts have been saying for years, our newly computerized voting systems are vulnerable to attack by both individual hackers and government-sponsored cyberwarriors. It is only a matter of time before such an attack happens. Electronic voting machines can be hacked, and those machines that do not include a paper ballot that can verify each voter’s choice can be hacked undetectably. Voting rolls are also vulnerable; they are all computerized databases whose entries can be deleted or changed to sow chaos on Election Day.
On Tuesday, for the first time in more than 50 years, Americans went to the polls to elect a president without a fully functioning Voting Rights Act — thanks to an insidious decision by the Supreme Court in 2013. Consider what has been happening in North Carolina, a battleground state with a history of racial discrimination in voting. Republican lawmakers and officials have gone to remarkable lengths to drive down turnout among black voters, who disproportionately favor Democrats. Among other things, they cut early voting hours and Sunday voting, and closed polling places in minority communities, despite significant public opposition. Even after a federal appeals court struck down the state’s outrageous voter-suppression law in July, saying that it targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision,” officials were scheming to work around it. On Monday, the state’s Republican Party issued a news release boasting that cutbacks in early voting hours reduced black turnout by 8.5 percent below 2012 levels, even as the number of white early voters increased by 22.5 percent.
Donald Trump clinched the presidency by securing victories in two critical swing states: Wisconsin and North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump won by about 3 percentage points; in North Carolina, 4. It is, of course, impossible to know what factors contributed to Trump’s victories in these states. But it is certainly worth noting that each engaged in extensive and carefully coordinated voter suppression in the years preceding the election. In Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a series of “reforms” designed to suppress the votes of minorities and college students. The Legislature slashed early voting, especially in minority communities, and passed draconian new voter ID requirements that effectively disenfranchised many underprivileged black voters. One federal judge found that the Legislature had explicitly targeted certain black people on the basis of race and attempted to suppress their votes. But an appeals court pushed back against several district court rulings softening the law, leaving much of it in place for the 2016 election. As a result, many people were unable to obtain necessary identification documents and cast ballots in Wisconsin this year.
Editorials: Donald’s trumped-up Nevada lawsuit is a fitting end to a hateful campaign. | Richard Hasen/Slate
Donald Trump’s campaign filed a complaint on Tuesday alleging that election officials in Nevada broke the law by allowing up to 300 people to vote who were not in line at closing time on Friday at Cardenas market, a Latino-oriented restaurant in Clark County serving as a temporary early polling place. His campaign also made similar charges about a few other locations. Trump was trying to use this complaint to stop ballots cast there from being counted. This seems likely to be a ploy to try to deprive Hillary Clinton of having Nevada declared for her Tuesday night in the event of a close race with her ahead. Judge Gloria Sturman denied the campaign any preliminary relief to sequester ballots or get information on poll workers, but the suit may continue. It will take a while to sort out everything, but my initial impression is that—even if it is true that people were allowed to vote late on the Friday night before Election Day at a handful of locations—Trump’s claim is weak on the law. The suit also misunderstands the point of early voting and the lack of harm done when early voting times are extended.
Editorials: What an election law expert worries about on election day | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times
For those of us who follow elections and election law professionally, election day itself is pretty uneventful—unless of course you work for a campaign. There often are reports of “flipped votes” for one candidate or another thanks to a miscalibrated machine, problems of long lines here or there and various little hiccups, but generally nothing major. This time around, though, I am more nervous than usual. Here are the three things I am most worried about, from least to most concerning. Bureaucratic shenanigans. In recent years, Republican legislatures have passed a slew of laws making it harder to register and vote, especially if you’re poor, a person of color or a student (all populations likely to vote Democratic). In response, Democrats and voting rights groups have sued, claiming the laws violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Although federal courts in some states, such as Wisconsin and Texas, have imposed interim remedies to assist those who, for example, do not have one of the narrow forms of photographic identification required to cast a ballot, reports from the early voting period suggest that misinformation is widespread. (That’s often because recalcitrant state governments are unwilling to clarify requirements or to fully and fairly implement court orders.)
Editorials: The Supreme Court Ruled That Voting Restrictions Were a Bygone Problem. Early Voting Results Suggest Otherwise. | Emily Bazelon/The New York Times
Tomorrow, and the early voting leading up to it, mark the first presidential election since the Supreme Court clipped the protective wings of the Voting Rights Act. In 2013, speaking for a conservative majority of five, Chief Justice John Roberts effectively eliminated the safeguards created by a provision of the law called Section 5, saying that Congress could no longer require states and counties with a history of racial discrimination to get the approval of the Department of Justice before changing local voting rules and practices. Roberts said things had “changed dramatically” since the 1960s, and these jurisdictions, which are mostly in the South, didn’t need oversight from the D.O.J. anymore. They could be trusted to treat minority voters fairly on their own. As evidence of change, Roberts pointed to the end of the literacy test and other methods of barring voter registration, which included the poll tax. But his conservative majority didn’t account for the hassle tax — the new price that minority voters disproportionately pay. In North Carolina over the weekend, people stood in line for hours in counties with large black and student populations. In a study of 381 counties covered by Section 5, about half the total number, the Leadership Conference Education Fund found 868 fewer places to vote than existed in 2012.
Editorials: Peace of Mind for a Tumultuous Election: Paper Trails and Risk-Limiting Audits | Arlene Ash and Mary Batcher/Huffington Post
With increasingly heated allegations of “rigged elections,” things have probably not gotten better since a September 29 poll concluded that “more than 15 million voters may stay home on Election Day” over concerns about cyber-security. Equally problematic would be doubts about who won following November 8. A vibrant democracy requires trusted elections. Paper validation of ballots cast and meaningful audits of those ballots are important – and neglected – tools for bolstering trust. As statisticians working in healthcare and business, we frequently help researchers, patients, and business executives think about the probability and severity of potential risks. Based on the news coverage it receives, you might think that the problem of people who are not entitled to vote showing up at polling places is rampant. It is not. A comprehensive study of all American elections between 2000 and 2014 identified only 31 possible cases out of a billion votes cast. That is, only 0.000003 percent of votes might have been due to the kind of fraud that Voter ID laws could possibly prevent! In contrast, electoral malpractice, intentional or not – including confusing ballot designs, computer security breaches and malfunctions, long lines, partisan administration, misleading information about where and how to vote, poorly maintained voting lists, and overly aggressive voter list purges – plague every American election.