Republicans and outside groups used anonymous Twitter accounts to share internal polling data ahead of the midterm elections, CNN has learned, a practice that raises questions about whether they violated campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination. The Twitter accounts were hidden in plain sight. The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities. The practice is the latest effort in the quest by political operatives to exploit the murky world of campaign finance laws at a time when limits on spending in politics are eroding and regulators are being defanged. The law says that outside groups, such as super PACs and non-profits, can spend freely on political causes as long as they don’t coordinate their plans with campaigns. Sharing costly internal polls in private, for instance, could signal to the campaign committees where to focus precious time and resources. The groups behind the operation had a sense of humor about what they were doing. One Twitter account was named after Bruno Gianelli, a fictional character in The West Wing who pressed his colleagues to use ethically questionable “soft money” to fund campaigns. A typical tweet read: “CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52–>49/476-10s.” The source said posts like that — which would look like gibberish to most people — represented polling data for various House races. Posting the information on Twitter, which is technically public, could provide a convenient loophole to the law — or could run afoul of it.
It’s Oct. 17, three days before early voting commences in Texas, and about 20 election judges—the folks who oversee polling sites—are spread out around an oblong training room in the Travis County clerk’s building in Austin, listening to an hour-long, rapid-fire lecture by a trainer named Alexa Buxkemper. The walls are lined with paraphernalia that most Americans see just once every two or four years—stacks of ballots, voting machines, old-model laptops that still process voter information. “Pick the correct voter,” Buxkemper says, rattling off the basics. “Collect 100 percent of statements of residence. Fill out all the forms completely, legibly. Give every voter the right ballot style.” And then, more pointedly: “Always follow the steps in the manual—don’t wing it. I hate to say, ‘Don’t think, just follow the manual,’ but we have sat around and done the thinking. So follow these steps.” The election judges nod solemnly and scribble notes. Most are over 60, and they’ve been through similar trainings before. They’ve run the polls during tough elections before, too. But they are nervous. Finally, interrupting the trainer’s staccato marching orders, a woman raises her hand and asks what’s on everyone’s mind: “Can they change the law on us again after we start?” “Don’t even ask that question!” Buxkemper says, only half-joking. “I would just say be ready for anything.” This fall, “be ready for anything” has become the credo of local election offices in Texas and several states like it, where legal challenges to new voting laws have resulted in a steady stream of court rulings that have confused voters and forced elections administrators to invent new procedures on the fly. In recent weeks, as the election judges know, Texas’s voter-ID law was ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional by a federal District judge—and then abruptly reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. With fewer than 72 hours before polls open, the Supreme Court still hasn’t made a final call. The steps the election judges are being instructed to follow still could change by the time voters show up.
Threats to the integrity of Internet voting have been a major factor in keeping the practice to a bare minimum in the United States. On the heels of the recent midterm elections, researchers at Galois, a computer science research and development firm in Portland, Ore., sent another reminder to decision makers and voters that things still aren’t where they should be. Researchers Daniel M. Zimmerman and Joseph R. Kiniry published a paper called “Modifying an Off-the-Shelf Wireless Router for PDF Ballot Tampering” that explains an attack against common home routers that would allow a hacker to intercept a PDF ballot and use another technique to modify a ballot before sending it along to an election authority. PDF ballots have been used in Internet voting trials in Alaska, and in New Jersey as an voting alternative for those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. The ballots are downloaded, filled out and emailed; the email is equivalent to putting a ballot into a ballot box. Election authorities then either print the ballots and count them by hand, or count them with an optical scanner. The Galois attack is by no means the only attack that threatens Internet voting; malware on a voter’s machine could redirect traffic or cause a denial of service condition at the election authority. But the attack described in the paper is certainly a much more quiet attack that the researchers say is undetectable, even in a forensics investigation.
National: We probably just saw one of the lowest-turnout elections in American history | The Washington Post
Turnout was low last week. Not “midterm low,” or “unusually low,” but “historically low.” As we noted on Monday, it was probably the lowest since World War II. But it was possibly also one of the four lowest-turnout elections since the election of Thomas Jefferson. You know, before there was such a thing as “Alabama.” The U.S. Election Project, run by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, compiles data on voter turnout over time. It’s tricky to estimate voter turnout in the 1700s and 1800s, and McDonald explains on his site how the numbers are calculated. So comparing 2014 to 1804 (the Jefferson example) should be considered a rough comparison at best. … The figure for 2014, currently 36.3 percent, is not yet final. McDonaldexplains that, too, in his compilation of vote tallies from the states. These numbers are not percentages of registered voters, the common metric for evaluating turnout. Instead, McDonald compares the number of votes with the number of people in the state eligible to vote.
Basic cyberattacks could tamper with electronically submitted ballots, leaving no trace behind, according to research from computer science firm Galois. On the heels of election watchdog groups criticizing Alaska’s use of ballots submitted online, Galois demonstrated that electronic ballots could be modified through simply hacking into home routers, which often have minimal security measures. “An off-the-shelf home Internet router can be easily modified to silently alter election ballots,” said the researchers, Daniel Zimmerman and Joseph Kiniry. A few states now allow voters to receive and return a ballot electronically. Election officials argue it is a way to increase voter participation, while technologists insist heightened turnout isn’t worth the high risk of fraud.
Supreme Court rulings forced last-minute changes in state voting procedures for the midterm elections across the country, but the battle over voting rules is far from over. Courts are still hearing arguments over voter ID and early voting laws, legal challenges that could reshuffle voting rules again before 2016, when a presidential election will probably increase voter turnout and long lines at polls. “The cases are not over,” says Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine and author of the Election Law Blog. “In a number of states, restrictions, which have been on hold or which were scheduled to be phased in, will be in effect. More states will pass new restrictive voting rules. And some states may pass rules making it easier to vote.”
• In Ohio, legislation shortened early voting and eliminated “Golden Week,” a time period in which voters could register and early-vote on the same day. The Supreme Court upheld the changes for the midterm election, but the case challenging the law must go to trial in federal court.
The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over whether Alabama can draw its election map with predominantly black legislative districts that effectively limit racially diverse areas where Democrats can compete. The case could have implications for redistricting across the country, but particularly in the South, where racially polarized voting has produced legislative majorities of white Republicans and significant numbers of black Democrats, but left little room for white Democrats, whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades. It is the court’s first major review of Voting Rights Act requirements since last year’s 5-4 decision scaled back federal enforcement of the 1965 law. Following the 2010 census, the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature resolved to maintain black supermajorities in a handful of districts, over objections from Democrats who believed having racially diverse districts could help white Democrats hold seats.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared unsure how to resolve a challenge to a state legislature redistricting plan in Alabama that packed black voters into certain districts in a way that critics say diminishes their influence at the polls. The nine justices heard an 70-minute oral argument on two cases brought by the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus against the redistricting by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2012. The case centers on the practice known as gerrymandering in which election districts are drawn in a way to provide one party an advantage in as many districts as possible while consolidating the other party’s voters into as few as possible. Democrats say Alabama, a state with a past history of erecting hurdles for black voters, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by concentrating black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, into a small number of districts.
Texas and Georgia struggled the most with glitchy electronic voting machines on Election Day, according to an analysis by watchdog Verified Voting. Some machines simply wouldn’t boot up, and others unexpectedly shut down. Faulty touch screens were another issue — some registered a vote for the wrong candidate, while others just went blank. Pamela Smith, the group’s president, said poor machine management and outdated equipment is likely responsible for the malfunctions, which were seen nationwide. U.S. electronic voting machines are rapidly aging. Just over a decade ago, an influx of federal funds allowed many states to buy up electronic voting machines. Since then, budgets have dried up and more than half of those states have taken steps back toward paper ballots as electronic fallibilities increase. Given those trends, glitches are expected, Smith said. Verified Voting runs call centers around the country on Election Day, fielding reports of voting difficulties. “Some of the problems that we saw in the early voting period, we also saw on Election Day,” Smith said. “Most of the issues we heard about were not enough equipment or equipment breaking down.”
The turnout for Tuesday general election was the lowest recorded level since World War II, according to the United States Election Project. A scant 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots last week, marking the smallest percentage participation since 1942, when less than 34 percent went to the polls. Voter participation has generally been in decline since the early 1960s. Years with presidential elections usually see higher turnout than midterm election cycles — 62 percent voted in the 2008 election, 58 percent in 2012 — but 2014 was down substantially, even when compared with the last two off-year elections (41 percent voted in 2010). Measuring the motivations behind voter turnout is not an exact science. Decisions might be based on convenience or logistics — a voter might not be able to take time off work or lacks adequate transportation to make it to a polling place — or it might be a byproduct of interest-level or alienation — there might not be a competitive, high-profile contest or voters might have just lost faith in their elected officials or the electoral process. Or, as has been the case with increasing frequency in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, the rules may have changed enough to confuse voters or create real barriers to participation.
The explosive issue of racial segregation returns to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 60 years after justices declared separate schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional. This time, it’s all about politics. At issue is the redrawing of political districts that has contributed to an emerging phenomenon in the South: To get elected, you better be a black Democrat or a white Republican. The court will be asked by black and Democratic Alabama residents to strike down the state’s legislative maps drawn by Republicans. They claim the maps pack too many black voters into the districts of black legislators to make surrounding districts more hospitable to the GOP. For an object lesson in such racial-political purity, the justices need only look at the congressional results from Election Day in the Deep South, stretching from South Carolina to Louisiana. Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, the last white Democrat in the House from any of those five states, lost re-election after his district was redrawn. Now every Democrat is black, and every Republican is white.
A federal appeals court on Friday rejected the demands by Arizona and Kansas that federal forms for voter registration used in their states require documentary proof of citizenship. The decision, by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, is the latest step in years of legal conflict between the states and the federal Election Assistance Commission over who has ultimate power over voting procedures. Most experts say there is no evidence that significant numbers of noncitizens have registered, an act that could lead to their arrest and deportation. But the issue has become embroiled in the emotional politics of immigration.
National: Voters encounter faulty machines, website crashes and other sporadic Election Day problems | Associated Press
Voters around the country encountered malfunctioning machines, website crashes and delayed polling place openings, but the problems for the most part appeared sporadic rather than systemic and there was no immediate indication that they factored in the outcome of an election. Beyond routine mechanical problems, the midterm elections Tuesday also represented for some states the first major tests of new voter identification laws that opponents say disenfranchise minorities and the poor. In Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court last month let stand a strict photo ID law, there were reports of “voter confusion about how and whether their votes would be counted,” according to Election Protection, a voter advocacy coalition. The law, which Democrats had said would prevent roughly 650,000 people from casting a ballot, meant voters had to show one of seven approved kinds of photo identification. The law has not previously been used in congressional elections or a high-profile race for governor such as the one Tuesday, won by Republican Greg Abbott.
t may never be possible to calculate exactly how many eligible voters were unable to vote Tuesday due to new voter-ID laws, registration problems, and polling location misinformation. Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, wouldn’t give an estimate of how many people were likely blocked from the polls this year, but she did say that millions of Americans were affected by new changes, particularly laws passed after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last summer. In Texas alone, the implementation of a new voter-ID law meant that 600,000 registered voters lacked the proper identification. You can get a sense, though, of the scale of voter difficulties from the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE). The hotline is a project of the Election Protection Coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The hotline handles calls from voters who need to know if they’re registered, find their assigned polling locations, and report difficulties in their attempts to vote. Yesterday, the national hotline had taken over 16,000 calls by 8 p.m., with 3.5 hours to go until polling ended. (By comparison, the hotline received 12,857 calls all day on Election Day in 2010.)
States have abandoned electronic voting machines in droves, ensuring that most voters will be casting their ballots by hand on Election Day. With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace. Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting. “Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,” Smith said. It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over “hanging chads” in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines. States at the time ditched punch cards and levers in favor of touch screens and ballot-scanners, with the perennial battleground state of Ohio spending $115 million alone on upgrades. Smith said the mid-2000s might go down as the “heyday” of electronic voting. Since then, states have failed to maintain the machines, partly due to budget shortfalls.
According to some civil-rights groups, voting on Tuesday was a bit of a mess. Changes to voting laws in more than a dozen states caused confusion, frustration, long lines and turned-away voters. Some people arrived at the polls in Texas without a valid photo-ID, while others in North Carolina were sent packing even though the state’s voter-ID law doesn’t take effect until 2016. Thousands of voters called hotlines complaining about inaccurate voter rolls, malfunctioning machines and bewildering new rules. Some volunteers at polling stations were reportedly just as flustered as everyone else. Such complaints are unsurprising. America wins few awards for administering orderly and streamlined elections. The way citizens register and vote is “still in the dark ages in many ways,” says Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Centre for Justice, a public-policy think-tank. Most states rely on a paper-based registration system, and many close registration weeks before election day. Few allow voters to vote early, which leads to crowding and last-minute hiccups at polling stations. Polling staff tend to be untrained volunteers, and many machines are either incredibly old or new and untested. Different states also have different voter laws, with little integration of voter data, which makes it tricky when people move.
States have abandoned electronic voting machines in droves, ensuring that most voters will be casting their ballots by hand on Election Day. With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace. Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting. “Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,” Smith said. It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over “hanging chads” in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines.
As the United States went to the polls for the first time in 50 years without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, lawyers and voter registration groups around the country reported an unusual level of irregularities and glitches at polling stations. The largest non-partisan voter protection coalition in the US received more than 12,000 calls to its hotline from people struggling to cast their ballot amid a slew of new voter-ID laws. The coalition of 150 groups led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said it has received an unusually high volume of distress calls from would-be voters to its eight call centers across the country. The top three states (in terms of the number of cries for help) were Florida – a state notorious for its long lines and historical voting interference – Georgia, and Texas. In Georgia, almost 1,500 calls had come in over the past two days and long lines were reported in Atlanta and several other urban centers. Many were from people who are among the 40,000 “disappeared” people who were registered to vote but whose details have not been transferred to voting rolls, a problem that was exacerbated on Tuesday by the secretary of state’s own voting website crashing, leaving voters in the dark about the location of their polling stations.
We don’t know final turnout numbers for Tuesday’s elections for the same reason we don’t have official winners in the Senate races in Alaska and Virginia: Ballots remain uncounted. Nonetheless, enough data is in for Michael P. McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, to make preliminary estimates of turnout. And what they show is a steep decline from recent national elections. McDonald estimates that just 36.6 percent of Americans eligible to vote did so for the highest office on their ballot. That’s down from 40.9 percent in the previous midterm elections, in 2010, and a steep falloff from 58 percent in 2012.
Some longtime voters in Texas reported on Tuesday that they were refused a ballot because they lacked newly required photo identification. In North Carolina, voters who showed up at the wrong precinct were unable to vote, reflecting a new policy. And in Georgia, hundreds of frustrated people called a hotline to say they were unsure if their voter registrations had been processed, some of the thousands of would-be new voters who reportedly faced uncertainty. In many cases, the accounts seemed to reflect concerns raised by civic groups and civil rights leaders that new photo identification requirements in several states and cutbacks in early voting and same-day registration in others would deter significant numbers of people from participating in the elections. Most of the new policies were adopted by Republican legislatures in the name of electoral integrity, even though evidence of voter fraud has been negligible. They are opposed by Democrats who say tighter rules are aimed at discouraging minorities, poor people and college students, groups that tend to prefer Democrats, from voting. Many of the changes adopted in recent years “will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate,” said Wendy R. Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “But the problems of disenfranchisement don’t show up in a visible way,” Ms. Weiser added. “It’s people who don’t show up, or someone’s who’s turned away.”
U.S. voters in 14 states are navigating new laws that critics say make it harder for lower-income and minority voters, who typically back Democrats, to cast ballots in the midterm elections. Advocacy groups across the country are gearing up to help voters contend with cutbacks in early voting and new state requirements for voter identification, which the mostly Republican sponsors say are necessary to combat voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups counter there is scant evidence of fraud, and say the measures are a Republican effort to depress turnout by Democratic-leaning demographic groups such as the young, poor and minorities. The laws are the latest in a wave of voting restrictions instituted by Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors since the party’s big election gains in 2010. Many are being used for the first time in a national election on Tuesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act that required areas with a history of racial discrimination, mainly in the U.S. South, to get federal approval for changes to voting laws.
Voting machine and voter identification problems emerged in some U.S. states on Tuesday when Americans went to the polls in midterm elections that will shape the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Although a full picture of the problems was not yet clear, officials and voting rights advocates reported machine failures in North Carolina and Texas, polling breakdowns in a key Florida county and an overall increase in the number of people reporting they were turned away for lack of proper identification. “It all points to problems we need to solve,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the non-partisan Brennan Center Democracy Program. In North Carolina, where a strict election law barring provisional voting outside a voter’s normal precinct was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting was briefly halted at one precinct after officers responded to an altercation between voters and election officials, according to the state’s Democratic Party. There were also reports of voting machines in Columbus County that were down but later fixed, said Election Protection, a non-partisan voting rights group.
Poll monitors and voting rights groups reported thousands of questions and complaints during the early hours of voting in the first major national election since the Supreme Court overturned key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. The Election Protection Coalition, composed of civil society activists and lawyers, reported receiving more than 14,000 calls to its election day hotline from voters asking for registration information and to report complaints about mistreatment at the polls. That tally, through 5 p.m. EST, was higher than the total number of calls they received during the last midterm election in 2010, the group said. “Today and for the past several weeks during early voting, we have been witnessing the most unfair, discriminatory and confusing election landscape in almost 50 years,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a member of the coalition. The most complaints came from Georgia, Florida and Texas, the group said. All three states have some form of voter identification law.
Open Facebook today and you’ll see a public service announcement of sorts. “It’s Election Day,” proclaims the text. “Share that you’re voting in the U.S. Election and find out where to vote.” Then Facebook offers you a button to do that sharing: “I’m a Voter.” To entice you to Vote (or, at least, click that button), Facebook listed a couple friends’s names and some profile pictures, and told me that 1.8 million other people had already done the same. (Which is a little staggering, since polls hadn’t even opened on the West Coast yet.) This civic-minded setup has become an election-day tradition on the website. Some form of the “I Voted!” button has appeared on the page for every major U.S. election since 2008. You vote, then you tell Facebook about it, exhorting your friends to engage in their civic duty. These buttons, though, have also always been part of experiments. The voting button in 2010, for instance, was part of a study later published as “a 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization.” That study found that the voting button could shape who actually voted to a significant degree: If you’re told your friends have voted, you’re 0.39 percent more likely to vote than someone who hasn’t. Facebook believes that in 2010, its election-day module was responsible for more than 600,000 additional votes.
Millions of Americans will vote today, and for the first time in years, many of them will use paper ballots. For a nation that’s produced some of the most advanced machines in the world, we’ve had a hell of a time figuring out one of the most important. However you vote today, take a second (and make sure your machine isn’t switching your vote) to consider just how massive a project elections are: Over a single day, millions of Americans filter through gyms, fire halls, and community center to vote, creating individual data points in all are analyzed over the course of a few hours. It’s a remarkable project of numbers and engineering, and it helps to explain why voting is still evolving two centuries after the first American election. To get a sense of how many iterations and failures have plagued voting day, look no further than the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which helpfully pulled some of the more notable machines from its archives today, adding, “as Americans embrace their Constitutional right to vote, they’ll have IP all around them.” If you go all the way back in the USPTO’s archives, you’ll find dozens of patents for “improvements to ballot boxes,” to outsmart ballot stuffers. According to Richard Bensel’s The American Ballot Box in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, intimidation was common in polling places across the country, where Americans would cast their votes amongst their peers.
Civil rights lawyers monitoring polls across the country on Tuesday reported some confusion in states where contested voter identification laws were in effect. In Texas, where the state’s voter ID law faces a court challenge, voters reported receiving contradictory information about what types of identification they could show at the polls, according to Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Texas officials could enforce the law while a court challenge was pending. In Virginia, there were inconsistencies in how poll workers implemented the state’s voter ID law, according to Hope Amezquita of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia; this was the first statewide election with the law in effect. Amezquita said her team fielded reports from two counties about voters showing up without identification who weren’t provided with provisional ballots, which should have happened. “There are people out there who did not vote and should have been offered the opportunity,” Amezquita said. “If it’s happening and we’re hearing about it, it’s probably happening elsewhere and we’re not hearing about it.” Vicky McPherson, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig who was coordinating lawyers monitoring polls through the National Bar Association, reported situations in which Virginia voters were asked to provide supplemental identification when they weren’t legally required to do so. She said her team was in touch with state officials to make sure they were giving poll workers proper instructions.
With several key elections potentially hinging on razor-thin margins, Americans went to the polls Tuesday in 34 states with new voting laws that critics fear will adversely impact minority turnout and proponents say are needed to protect against voter fraud. The new laws – ranging from photo identification requirements to restrictions on same-day registration – brought increased scrutiny Tuesday from the two major political parties, civic groups, voting rights advocates and the Justice Department, almost all deploying monitors and lawyers to polling stations to look out for voting problems. “It’s the new normal since 2000,” said Richard Hasen, a law and politics professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “Some of this is legitimate fear, some of it is a way of getting the base wound up and (to) raise funds.” From the moment polls opened ‑ and in some cases before ‑ reports of voting irregularities began. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s election protection program reported more than 12,000 calls to its hotline – the bulk of them from Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York and North Carolina.
On Election Day, laws restricting the right to vote remain controversial, prompting voting rights advocates to scrutinize the polls in four states.
The 2014 midterms are boiling down to a battle over control of the deeply partisan Senate, though numerous state and local races are also on ballots across the country. Restrictions involving voter ID, voter registration, early voting and others have become symbolic of such political divisiveness. Yet voting rights advocates are primarily concerned about people having equal, unfettered access to the polls — in Tuesday’s elections and beyond. “The integrity of our elections is sacred,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “There are cynical hucksters out there who have decided this is the way to win elections. But if you look at the evidence, you see they’re not necessary.”
Americans across the country will participate Tuesday in one of the most basic civic duties: voting. For many, that means taking time off work, driving to a designated polling place and casting their ballot through standalone voting machines. But what if the process of voting could be vastly different? Today we can do almost anything on the Internet from banking to ordering take-out, so it only feels natural that we should be able to vote that way too. … Not all elections experts think going online is a great idea. But Thad Hall, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, is ready. You know it’s kind of the ultimate easy, convenient way to vote. And I don’t have to have a piece of paper, I don’t have to mail it back, I can send my ballot instantaneously. If Hurricane Sandy comes, I don’t have to worry about voting because I can just vote from my phone or I can vote from a computer somewhere.” But then there are the naysayers, many of them statisticians and engineers who think the Internet is too insecure for such a sacred thing as voting.
Voting machines are so 20th century. Shouldn’t we able to vote on our smart phones by now? Here’s where a cornerstone of American democracy runs smack dab into the limits of computer science, say experts. Internet voting is “completely not ready for prime time. The security and reliability issues are significant,” says Marc Rotenberg, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit in Washington D.C. Despite that, about 3 million Americans will be eligible to vote online this election, according to Verified Voting, a non-profit that promotes election accuracy, transparency and verifiability. Most are members of the armed services who are deployed overseas. According to Dan Wallach, an expert on electronic voting system and professor of computer science at Rice University, no Internet voting systems are secure. “It turns out to be really hard to build a network system that’s hard to break into.” JPMorgan, Target and Home Depot have learned that lesson, and they have far more money and expertise available to them than local election officials, Wallach says.