National: 13 States Plugged Into Electronic Poll-books | The Canvass

“I’ve been doing elections for 33 years, and I think electronic poll-books have been the best advance in elections I’ve seen since we began computerizing many years ago,” says Wendy Noren, county clerk in Boone County, Mo.

What is an electronic poll-book? In Boone County, it is a system of networked computers in each polling place pre-loaded with data on registered voters. This system has shortened voter check-in time at polling places from 5 to 6 minutes to just 15 to 20 seconds, which everybody likes. That translates into huge savings; in 2012, Noren expects to hire 25 percent fewer poll workers, dramatically reducing one of her two largest expenses.

The other big expense? Training for poll workers. Here, too, electronic poll-books have provided savings. A well-designed, uncomplicated electronic poll-book reduces training needs and associated costs.

National: National Coalition Formed To Confront Tough New Voter ID Laws | South Florida Times

A coalition of nearly 20 organizations, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, announced they have launched a “Stand for Freedom” voting rights campaign and also a major mobilization on Dec. 10 — United Nations Human Rights Day — to protest what they say is an attack on voting rights throughout the country.

The campaign will take aim at election laws which, the coalition says, will suppress the rights of millions of Americans to vote in 2012 and beyond. In dozens of states, new rules will create what the coalition describes as a modern-day poll tax by requiring voters to obtain and present official photo ID in order to cast ballots. In many of those same states, new laws significantly cut early voting and Sunday voting, as well.

National: Advocates Urge Congress to Fight State Voting Changes |

Five million. That’s the number of eligible voters that could find it harder to cast their ballot in the 2012 elections. It’s also the figure that advocates against state voting law changes repeatedly echoed during a Capitol Hill forum on new state voting laws that several House Democrats, including Representatives John Conyers, Steny Hoyer, Robert Brady, Jerrold Nadler, and Keith Ellison called Monday.

The NAACP, ACLU and League of Women Voters, among other research and advocacy organizations asked lawmakers to pass legislation to protect voters’ rights. They also wanted Congress to pressure the Department of Justice to deny approval to the states that need it for their new laws to take effect. So far, this includes Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, which are among the nine states that need federal approval for any changes to voting laws under the Voting Rights Act.

National: Wasserman Schultz accuses GOP of rigging elections with ‘suppression laws’ |

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) on Wednesday night said Republican governors and legislatures are purposefully pressing for the enactment of voter identification laws in order to suppress Democratic voter turnout in the 2012 election. “State legislatures are attempting to impose voting restrictions that are the modern day equivalent of poll taxes and…

National: Democrats see election laws as revival of poll tax and threat to democratic process |

A wave of state election laws poses the single greatest threat to democracy and civil rights in generations, a number of House Democratic leaders charged Monday. The lawmakers said the reform laws — including new voter ID and registration requirements — are politically motivated efforts from Republicans to suppress voter turnout, particularly in minority communities that tend to vote Democratic. They compare the new mandates to the poll taxes adopted by Southern states to discourage African-Americans from voting after the Civil War.

“We know that voter suppression has been taking place, is [taking] place and is planned [to affect the next election],” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Monday during a Capitol Hill hearing on the new laws. “We are witnessing a concerted effort to place new obstacles in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote.

National: Lawmakers and Activists Pledge to Fight Stricter Voting Rights Laws | BET

It’s not a state secret that Democrats want desperately to regain control of the House in 2012, or that both they and President Obama will need every single vote they can get. But Republicans controlling several state legislatures are doing all they can to make the Democrats’ mission as difficult as possible by implementing strict new voter laws that opponents predict coulddisenfranchise millions of voters.

Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on voting rights and new laws Monday during which civil rights advocates testified about their impact on African-Americans and other voters.

National: Voter ID legislation faces opposition in Congress | Post Gazette

Voters’ rights advocates are asking congressional liberals to stymie state voter ID requirements, which they contend are part of a political effort to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, who tend to be Democrats.

Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, urged lawmakers to support a bill introduced last week that would prohibit poll workers from requiring photo identification. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the legislation could prevent enforcement of legislation now under consideration in Pennsylvania and 26 other states. Mr. Shelton’s comments came during a hearing convened Monday by a contingent of congressional Democrats.

National: Under the U.S. Supreme Court: Unveiling secret corporate political money |

The Securities and Exchange Commission is being flooded with support for a proposed regulation that would undo at least some of the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission — which opened the floodgates to often secret corporate political contributions that threaten to swamp American elections.

The proposed SEC regulation requested by a committee of professors on corporate law would require “public companies to disclose to shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities.” In other words, even if corporate executives now earmarking company money for political candidates and parties would not have to reveal the recipients to the public or the media, they would have to disclose the amounts and recipients to stockholders. The SEC has been considering the rule since it was proposed in August.

National: Military, overseas voting tech to get boost from grants | Government Computer News

Technology to make registering to vote and receiving ballots easier for U.S. service members and Americans living abroad will be getting support from federal government grants, Government Technology reports.

The first six Defense Department grants, part of the Electronic Absentee Systems for Elections program, were announced Nov. 3. The states of Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, as well as El Dorado and Santa Cruz counties in California and King County, Wash., are the first six recipients of the grants, worth more than $7 million. Government Technology reports that jurisdictions receiving the initial six grants serve 134,585 military and overseas voters.

National: Millions denied voting rights |

In 52 weeks, we’ll hit the polls in the next national election — but more than 3.2 million may not make it past the check-in table. By then, new laws may go into effect requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID at polling stations in Kansas, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Most other states — including, for the time being, New York — still accept signatures or utility bills, making it easier for would-be voters to verify their identities.

According to data from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, an estimated 3.2 million potential voters don’t have state-issued IDs in Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Add in the other two states, and the number is sure to be higher.

National: NAACP plans nationwide protests on voter ID laws |

The NAACP is joining with minority and labor groups for a series of protests around the country meant to move discussion of voter identification laws out of policy circles and onto street corners, the organization’s president said Tuesday.

Benjamin Todd Jealous appeared on the steps of New York City Hall with the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and community and labor leaders to announce plans for nationwide protests on Dec. 10 and across the South in the following weeks, decrying what they described as a nationwide voter suppression effort.

National: Why don’t Americans vote online? |

Tuesday is Election Day in the United States, and although the mostly state and local races won’t stir the same passions as next year’s presidential contest, millions of people will cast ballots. They’ll do it in much the same way that Americans have for centuries: by showing up at a polling place and ticking off boxes for their candidates of choice.

All of which raises the question: In an era when virtually every daily task can be done on the Internet, why can’t we vote online, too? The answer depends on whom you ask. Advocates say the time is right to seriously consider letting voters cast a ballot from the comfort of their homes or even on the screens of their mobile phones.… But critics, many of them in the cybersecurity world, argue that letting people cast votes from their home computers is a recipe for chaos.

National: Vote-by-mail on rise, if not overall participation | The Desert Sun

The rise in popularity of vote-by-mail ballots means the winners of Tuesday’s elections likely will be determined before the polls even open. In recent years, as many as 70 percent of voters opted to pay for a stamp rather than find time to use a voting booth. Such early voting has been on the rise for several years, made even easier when California eliminated the fiction of the absentee ballot, which required voters to sign an affidavit saying they wouldn’t be present on election day.

The shift to the early voting has transformed the election calendar and prompted savvy campaigns to reconsider the timing of political hit pieces and voter outreach efforts. But despite the convenience, the rise of vote-by-mail doesn’t necessarily improve participation.

National: Voting-rights restrictions are counterproductive |

Republican-dominated state legislatures, in the name of preventing electoral fraud, are cutting back on provisions that make it easier for voters to exercise the franchise. Florida, for example, reduced early voting from two weeks to one week (because Republicans claim it is more susceptible to fraud and errors) and eliminated voting on the Sunday before election day. Ohio, pending a referendum, reduced its early voting by more than half, eliminated early voting on weekends and stopped allowing voters to register on election day. Georgia reduced its early voting period from 45 days to 21 days. Seven states have imposed a requirement that voters show photo identification.

But the Republican war on fraud is a bit of a sham, and cynical to boot. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal think tank at New York University, predicts that as a result of these restrictions, 5 million eligible voters will face obstacles to casting ballots. Even if that estimate is too high, the center makes a persuasive case that the new provisions will discourage large numbers of voters, especially minorities (who, not coincidentally, tend to favor Democratic candidates), from turning out. Twenty-five percent of African American voters, the center estimates, do not possess a valid government-issued photo ID, compared with 11% of voters of other races. Voting on Sundays is said to be particularly attractive to African Americans, and its elimination in several states has been seen by some as explicitly targeting black voters.

National: When Voter Registration is a Crime |

Dawn Quarles, a high school teacher, is facing a $1,000 fine for doing something Florida has been cracking down on lately: registering students to vote. The state’s leaders want to stop registration drives that add more qualified voters to the rolls – and they are having a disturbing level of success.

Florida’s crackdown on voter registration is part of a larger national campaign against voting, which includes tough new voter ID laws in many states, rollbacks on early voting and other anti-democratic measures. Supporters of these laws argue that they are concerned with deterring fraud. But the real driving force is keeping down the number of voters – especially young, old, poor, and minority voters.

Quarles is a government teacher at Pace High School in the Florida Panhandle. Along with teaching her students about democracy, she has tried to get them to participate, by helping them register to vote. This should be a good thing. Our nation’s founders insisted that government should operate with the consent of the governed. Ideally, everyone who is eligible should be registered and vote.

National: Watchdogs accuse FEC of lax oversight | The Boston Globe

Transparency advocates yesterday excoriated the Federal Election Commission for what they called increasingly lax oversight of campaign finance as the country barrels toward what are expected to be the most expensive elections in history next year. The advocates – including nonpartisan watchdogs Democracy 21, Public Citizen, and the Campaign Legal Center – said the FEC has repeatedly failed to issue new regulations clarifying aspects of a Supreme Court ruling last year allowing companies and other organizations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.

Among the questions still unanswered: Can foreign companies with some US operations legally contribute to US elections? In the past, foreign citizens and companies have been barred from spending money in the American political system. Also unanswered: Should American organizations that spend money to influence elections have to disclose the source of the money?

National: Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis: Voter ID Laws ‘Are A Poll Tax,’ ‘I Know What I Saw During The 60s’ | ThinkProgress

Republican lawmakers across the country have been waging an successful campaign to restrict the right to vote. States are cracking down on non-profit organizations’ registration drives, reducing early voting periods, and repealing laws allowing citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election day, leaving as many as 5 million voters facing disenfranchisement in the 2012 election. Perhaps the most radical restriction is the GOP’s push for voter ID laws that require citizens to obtain and present state-approved photo identification to vote. These laws disproportionately (and perhaps purposefully) affect minorities, seniors, and low-income people who typically make up the Democratic base.


National: Congressional Democrats seek to curb tough state voter-screening laws |

Democrats on Thursday ratcheted up efforts to combat new voting laws adopted by 13 states that Democrats contend are deliberate efforts to keep its core voting blocs from casting ballots next year. “Election legislation and administration appear to be increasingly the product of partisan plays,” says a letter to election officials in all 50 states signed by 196 Democrats in the House of Representatives. “Election officials are seen as partisan combatants, rather than stewards of democracy. … We are asking you, as front line participants, to put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for enfranchisement.”

Thirteen states last year approved changes to their election laws and another 24 states are weighing measures that proponents say are needed to protect against voter fraud and to prevent illegal immigrants from casting ballots. Members of the House Democratic leadership, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus unveiled the letter they’re sending to election officials urging them to oppose new voting measures that a recent study said would adversely impact the ability of more than 5 million people to register or vote.

National: Democrats ask all 50 states to oppose new voter identification laws | The Washington Post

House Democrats asked secretaries of state in all 50 states to oppose new voter identification laws because they threaten the right to vote for many Americans. “Today we are witnessing a concerted effort by Republican lawmakers across several states to place a new obstacle in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote,” said Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said in a news conference Thursday.

The Democrats made the plea in a letter in which they ask the secretaries of state to put aside partisan considerations and be vigilant against fraud and protect access to the polls for all citizens. The letter had 196 House supporters Thursday, including delegates to U.S. territories.

National: Democrats target voter ID laws in 13 states | The Tennessean

A retired couple from Murfreesboro will testify before a House subcommittee later this month about their experience with Tennessee’s new law requiring a photo ID to vote. Democrats on Thursday ratcheted up efforts to combat new voting laws adopted by 13 states that Democrats say are deliberate efforts to keep its core voting blocs from casting ballots next year.

“Election legislation and administration appear to be increasingly the product of partisan plays,” says a letter to election officials in all 50 states signed by 196 Democrats in the House of Representatives. “Election officials are seen as partisan combatants, rather than stewards of democracy.” In a hearing scheduled for Nov. 14, Lee Campbell and his wife, Phyllis, will talk about their experience securing a photo ID for her in Rutherford County. She is one of the estimated 126,000 registered voters in Tennessee over age 60 who do not have a photo on their driver’s license.

National: What is the Justice Department doing about Southern voting rights? | The Institute for Southern Studies

It’s no secret: Over the last year, state legislatures — largely those run by Republicans — have taken up and in many cases passed a series of laws that create new obstacles for voters, especially historically disenfranchised voters and Democrats. The “war on voting” includes measures requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, restrictions on voter registration, shortening of the early voting period and in Florida, a rule making it more difficult for ex-felons to vote. And as Facing South has shown, in a tight battleground state like Florida, the GOP laws could make all the difference in 2012.

In the face of the voting-restriction juggernaut, voting rights advocates in the South have one tool for fighting back that most other states don’t: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires covered states to gain approval from the Department of Justice before carrying out major changes to voting laws. With the 2012 elections just a year away, what has the Justice Department done so far? While DOJ’s response to state redistricting plans has been largely muted, so far justice officials have taken an active interest in scrutinizing and challenging Southern state laws that affect voting rights.

National: Microsoft Research Proposes E-Voting Attack Mitigation | threatpost

Microsoft Research has proposed a mitigation for a known potential attack against verifiable electronic voting machines that could help prevent insiders from being able to alter votes after the fact. The countermeasure to the “trash attack” involves adding a cryptographic hash to the receipts that voters receive.

Many verifiable voting systems already include hashes on the receipts, but that hash typically is of the ballot data for each specific voter. The idea proposed by Microsoft Research involves using a running hash that would add a hash of the previous voter’s receipt to each person’s receipt, ideally preventing a privileged insider from using discarded receipts to alter votes. The trash attack that the mitigation is designed to address involves election workers or others who might be motivated to change votes gathering discarded receipts and then altering those votes.

“The provision of receipts to voters who may not want them, however, suggests a very simple means by which election workers could find votes that are good candidates for alteration: poll workers could simply collect the contents of the nearest trash receptacles. Any receipts that have been discarded by voters would be strongly correlated with votes that could be altered without detection.3 Active collection of receipts may also be viable through social engineering,” Josh Benaloh of Microsoft Research and Eric Lazarus of DecisionSmith wrote in a research paper, “The Trash Attack”.

National: Dems, GOP spar over voter ID laws | The Hill

The two parties sparred late Tuesday night over the proliferation of voter identification laws across the country, as several House Democrats said these laws would make it harder to minorities to vote, and a lone Republican said the evidence of voter fraud demands a solution such as ensuring all voters are legal U.S. citizens via a picture ID.

“They have only one true purpose, which is to disenfranchise eligible voters,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said on the floor of various state laws. Several Democrats joined her to add that Republican claims of voter fraud are baseless. “There is no threat of voter fraud,” Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) said. “Are there rampant cases of impersonation, voting as someone else? No. Voter fraud is not rampant, there are not numerous cases of impersonation.”

National: Election law becomes partisan battlefield | BostonHerald

Barack Obama may have won this crucial state three years ago on the Sunday before Election Day when “souls to the polls” drives brought a surge of blacks and Latinos to cast ballots after church. Florida had opened the polls two weeks early, and even so, long lines across the state prompted the governor to issue an emergency order extending the hours for early voting. Propelled by waves of new voters including college students, Obama eked out a win with 51 percent.

It will be different next year, thanks to changes in the voting laws adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Early voting was reduced from two weeks to one week. Voting on the Sunday before Election Day was eliminated. College students face new hurdles if they want to vote away from home. And those who register new voters face the threat of fines for procedural errors, prompting the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to suspend voter-registration drives and accuse the Legislature of “reverting to Jim Crow-like tactics.”

National: Congressional hearing sought over voter ID laws sweeping states | McClatchy

Does requiring a photo ID to vote return America to the days when poll taxes and literacy tests made it hard for minorities to cast ballots? Are state lawmakers trying to make it harder for people to vote? Two top House Judiciary Committee Democrats want to know, and on Monday they asked Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to hold hearings on those laws, which have been adopted or are pending in 37 states. The chairman is reviewing the request, and he had no immediate comment.

“As voting rights experts have noted, the recent stream of laws passed at the state level are a reversal of policies, both federal and state, that were intended to combat voter disenfranchisement and boost voter participation,” said Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Conyers is the committee’s top Democrat. Nadler is the top Democrat on its Constitution subcommittee.

National: E-voting remains insecure, despite paper trail | InfoWorld

Microsoft Research has revealed a potential flaw in verifiable e-voting machines through which fraudsters could easily use discarded ballot receipts as a guide for altering votes. Fortunately, the researchers also offered a solution — linking new receipts to previous ones with cryptographic hashes — but that alone won’t make e-voting entirely secure, they cautioned.

Unlike the first generation of controversial e-voting machines, which lacked printing capabilities and suffered other back-endinsecurities, new models from such companies as Scantegrity, Prêt à Voter, VeriScan, Helios, and MarkPledge can print out receipts. Not only can voters check the printouts to confirm their votes were cast correctly, they can also later compare their receipts against published election data.

The problem with the new generation of verifiable voting machines, according to the report (PDF), is that most people are highly unlikely to retain their receipts for future vote verification. However, ill-intentioned individuals could get their hands on those receipts — by rummaging through garbage cans at voting centers, for example, or through social engineering techniques — then use insider connections to change votes to their preferred candidate.

Using the discarded receipts as a guide for changing votes would be ideal, as they would represent voters with no intention of verifying their votes later. “Suppose that it is known that 5 percent of voters are expected to verify their receipts in an election,” the report says. “With a standard design, an insider that randomly alters 10 ballots would escape detection about 60 percent of the time.”

National: DoD personnel miss out on absentee ballots |

A Defense Department report has found more than a quarter of military voters who requested absentee ballots for the 2010 election never got them. DoD is trying to figure out why and what to do about it. The findings cover what was an otherwise upbeat year for military voting statistics: Uniformed voter participation was up 21 percent in 2010, compared with the last midterm election in 2006. And while voter registration rates among the general population tend to experience a noticeable drop-off between presidential election years and midterm cycles, DoD’s figures were relatively stable between 2008 and 2010.

But based on post-election surveys, the number of troops who requested military absentee ballots but never got them increased dramatically. The Pentagon’s Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) estimates 29 percent of active duty military voters — roughly 120,000 troops — never got their ballots. FVAP’s report offers one possible reason for that: 44 percent of local election officials missed the federal deadline, which requires them to send out military absentee ballots at least 45 days prior to election day.

National: Online Voting: Just A Dream Until Security Issues Can Be Fully Addressed, Experts Say |

Allowing citizens to cast ballots online would increase participation in elections and make democracy more accessible. But don’t expect to vote on your iPhone in Connecticut anytime soon; the technology just isn’t there to ensure secure elections, said several experts who participated in a panel discussion at Central Connecticut State University Thursday night hosted by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

“The biggest concern I have about Internet voting is that we don’t know how to do it securely,” said Ron Rivest, an expert in cryptology and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It sounds wonderful but it’s an oxymoron. … We don’t have Internet experts who know how to secure big pieces of the Internet from attack. Rivest called online voting a fantasy and said it’s at least two decades from replacing the methods currently in use.

Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, is another skeptic. He led a team of students from the university who successfully penetrated a test-run of Internet voting in Washington, D.C., in 2010. “We began … role playing — how would a hacker, a real malicious attacker, attempt to break in and compromise the vote and, within 48 hours of the start of the test, we had gained virtually complete control of the voting server and changed all of the votes,” he said.

National: FVAP report shows continued trends in military voting Report highlights successes and future challenges | electionlineWeekly

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recently released its 2010 Post Election Report, which included a wealth of information on the participation of military voters and their spouses. This release follows the recent publication of data and a report on military and overseas voting by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

While the report includes numerous details focusing on the specifics of members of this community, the general trend is clear: members of the military and their spouses are highly engaged in the elections process and continue to register and vote at higher rates than the general electorate.

Unlike the EAC, which simply reports data provided by states as part of the Election Administration and Voting Survey, the FVAP adjusted military participation data to account for the age and gender of the generally younger and male population of uniformed voters. FVAP also surveyed a number of populations to ascertain their level of participation in 2010.

National: Congressional Black Caucus targets state voter laws as hostile |

Minority voters have long had problems simply exercising their right to vote in certain parts of the country – and minority lawmakers fear the situation will become worse in 2012. Their worries are heightened by new laws in 13 states that they say will restrict access to the ballot box. Some of the changes would require voters to show government-approved identification, restrict voter registration drives by third-party groups, curtail early voting, do away with same-day registration, and reverse rules allowing convicted felons who’ve served their time the right to vote.

In addition to the states that have passed such laws, 24 other states are weighing similar measures, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Proponents of the measures say they are needed to protect the integrity of the vote, prevent illegal immigrants from casting ballots, and clamp down on voter fraud, although several studies indicate that voter fraud is negligible.