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 | MiamiHerald.com

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.

National: Emanuel Cleaver, Artur Davis Spar Over Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) criticized former Rep. Artur Davis today for his recent support of voter ID laws, saying that his changed stance has led to speculation that the Alabama Democrat is considering becoming a Republican.

“I don’t know why Artur Davis … wrote what he did,” Cleaver said about an opinion column by Davis that appeared last week in the Montgomery Advertiser. Davis wrote in support of voter ID laws like the one in his native Alabama and alleged that voter fraud is widespread in parts of the black community.

“I saw it and was frustrated by it,” Cleaver said. “I don’t know what that’s all about. There are some people [who] believe he’s getting ready to switch parties. I have no idea. Needless to say, he doesn’t confide in the CBC.”

National: How Voting Equipment Varies in the U.S. | Digital Communities

The following article was posted at Digital Communities on October 24 2011.

Pamela Smith and the Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) are on a mission — in her words — “to safeguard elections in the digital age.” In an earlier time, she said, ballot boxes were inspected the morning before voting began then were padlocked. Voters would insert their paper ballots, and when the polls closed, officials would unlock the boxes and count the ballots. Smith, the foundation’s president, isn’t advocating a return to those simpler days, but she says that some modern electronic voting systems present unique challenges that make democracy vulnerable to tampering.

With some systems, said Smith, the voter marks a paper ballot, which then goes through an electronic scanner for tallying the vote. With that kind of system, she said, there’s a hard-copy record of the vote that can be used to audit accuracy, or in the event of a recount. The foundation’s map of “America’s Voting Systems in 2010” show a broad range of systems, from Oregon’s vote-by-mail to South Carolina’s “DRE without VVPAT,” which signifies a direct recording electronic voting machine that has no voter-verified paper audit trail.

National: Obama Campaign General Counsel Criticizes ‘Anti-Reform’ Movement in Election Politics | Virginia Law

Robert Bauer, general counsel to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and a former White House counsel, said Monday that an anti-reform movement has been dismantling rules that aim to protect confidence and integrity in government.

“I’m very troubled that there is an extremism in the opposition to reform, a sort of reckless and doctrinaire quality that is going to go a long, long way if it is taken to its logical conclusion to further undermine the fragile and critical trust the people have in their government and in the quality and effectiveness of self-governing,” said Bauer, speaking in Caplin Pavilion at the University of Virginia School of Law.

For roughly three decades after the Watergate scandal, Bauer said, there generally was bipartisan support for political reforms. Yet that support has frayed in recent years, particularly since the enactment of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in 2002 that limited soft-money contributions by corporations and unions.

National: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Democrats are warning that stricter voter identification laws sweeping through state legislatures could suppress voters in the 2012 elections. At least 34 states have introduced legislation, with varying degrees of restrictiveness, that would require voters to display identification at the polls before they are given a ballot. Some of these laws require voters to produce photo identification; some do not.

The battleground state of Wisconsin has a new law requiring photo IDs, while proposals at various legislative stages in the perennial presidential swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are also giving Democrats heartburn. The more restrictive voting ID measure in Ohio is pending Senate floor consideration. A bill to introduce ID rules for the first time in Pennsylvania has passed the state House and is currently in a state Senate committee. Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach said Ohio is “one of the states where this has been a big concern.”

National: Military voting jumped last year, report says | The Washington Post

Buoyed by a new law requiring states to make absentee ballots more accessible to military troops serving overseas, troops voted at a higher rate than the general population in last year’s midterm elections, according to a new report.

Overall, 46 percent of the military voted in the 2010 midterm elections, a 21 percent jump from the 2006 midterms and slightly higher than the 45.5 percent of the general population that cast ballots last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Voting Assistance Program. FVAP is a Pentagon office responsible for overseeing the distribution of absentee ballots to troops and their spouses.

National: House Dems denounce GOP’s proposed dissolution of Election Assistance Commission | TheHill.com

Democrats on the Committee on House Administration have unanimously denounced a Republican recommendation to reduce spending within the legislative branch. This week lawmakers proposed cost-saving initiatives to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. In a letter Thursday to the joint committee co-chairmen, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Republicans recommended eliminating funding for the Election Assistance Commission.

House Administration Committee Republicans have long advocated the dissolution of the EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission formed by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, saying the commission’s primary purpose had already been achieved. In June, the House rejected a bill to end the commission, which Republicans said would save $33 million over five years.

“The Election Assistance Commission has fulfilled its function and is now a perfect example of unnecessary and wasteful spending,” committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) wrote in Thursday’s letter. Committee Democrats responded swiftly to the recommendation, claiming that terminating the EAC would instead lead to problems.

National: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states | The Washington Post

In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the federal government is ordering that 248 counties and other political jurisdictions provide bilingual ballots to Hispanics and other minorities who speak little or no English. That number is down from a decade ago following the 2000 census, which covered 296 counties in 30 states. In all, more than 1 in 18 jurisdictions must now provide foreign-language assistance in pre-election publicity, voter registration, early voting and absentee applications as well as Election Day balloting.

The latest requirements, mandated under the Voting Rights Act, partly reflect second and third generations of racial and ethnic minorities who are now reporting higher levels of proficiency in English than their parents. Still, analysts cite a greater potential for resistance from localities that face tighter budgets, new laws requiring voter IDs at polls and increased anti-immigration sentiment.

Effective this week, Hispanics who don’t speak English proficiently will be entitled to Spanish-language election material in urban areas of political battleground states including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah, as well as the entire states of California, Florida and Texas. For the first time, people from India will get election material in their native language, in voting precincts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, due to their fast population growth.

National: What it takes to make every vote count | MIT News

Eleven years after the disputed 2000 presidential election thrust the subject of electoral integrity into the spotlight, many of the challenges that jeopardized that election remain unresolved, voting experts said at an MIT-hosted conference held Saturday.

The conference, “Election Integrity: Past, Present, and Future,” convened by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP), brought together election administrators, academics and technology professionals from around the country, and commemorated the 25th anniversary of the First National Symposium on Security and Reliability of Computers in the Electoral Process, held in Boston in 1986. A central theme of Saturday’s conference was election integrity: assuring that votes are both recorded and counted as they were cast.

… Of particular concern, said Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org, is the use of Internet voting systems that cannot be audited. Another issue, which she illustrated with a map identifying the current equipment used by each state, is the inability of DREs to recount ballots in a close election. And many key swing states, she said, continue to use unreliable DREs.

National: Republicans Eye Electoral Vote Changes | Time Magazine

Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska want to change the way their states award Electoral College votes, moves that could hinder President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania are weighing whether to give the presidential nominees one electoral vote for each congressional district they win, rather than giving all its votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote, like Obama did in 2008. In GOP-tilting Nebraska, lawmakers want to go to a winner-take-all system four years after Obama won the 2nd Congressional District and its single electoral college vote.

It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency out of 538 up for grabs. Every vote matters in a close election and every sign points to a competitive 2012 race as an incumbent Democratic president who most people still personally like tries to win a second term in tough economic times.

National: Voter ID Law Proponent Spakovsky Acknowledges There’s No “Massive Fraud In American Elections” | Media Matters for America

Among his other specialties, right-wing commentator Hans von Spakovsky is a strong proponent of laws requiring citizens to present photo identification in order to vote. Conservatives often justify their call for photo ID laws by raising the specter of voter fraud even though instances of voter impersonation are rare and voter identification laws can disenfranchise poor people and racial minorities.

Now, even Spakovsky has acknowledged that nobody is claiming that there is “massive fraud in American elections.”

New York Times article reports that a new study by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice found that voter identification and other laws “could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”

National: New State Laws Are Limiting Access for Voters | NYTimes.com

Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives. Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, at a rally at the United States Capitol in July opposing such laws, which are on the rise.

With a presidential campaign swinging into high gear, the question being asked is how much of an impact all of these new laws will have on the 2012 race. State officials, political parties and voting experts have all said that the impact could be sizable. Now, a new study to be released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has tried to tally just how many voters stand to be affected.

The center, which has studied the new laws and opposed some of them in court and other venues, analyzed 19 laws that passed and 2 executive orders that were issued in 14 states this year, and concluded that they “could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”

National: Report: Voting Law Changes in 2012 | Brennan Center for Justice

Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening restrictions on voting has suddenly swept across the country. More than five million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year — a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections. This report is the first full accounting and analysis of this year’s voting cutbacks. It details both the bills that have been proposed and the legislation that has been passed since the beginning of 2011.

Download the Report (PDF)

Download the Appendix (PDF), a compilation of potentially vote-suppressing legislation proposed in the 2011 legislative sessions.

Download the Overview (PDF), a four-page summary with key findings.

View the Report

National: Researchers hack e-voting system for US presidential elections | Macworld UK

Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory this week showed how an electronic voting machine model that’s expected to be widely used to tally votes in the US 2012 elections can be easily hacked using inexpensive, widely-available electronic components.

Roger Johnston, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at the US Department of Energy’s science and engineering reseaech lab, said the hack, which requires about $25 and very little technical expertise, would let cybercriminals “flip” votes gathered on Diebold Accuvote TS machines and change election results without raising any suspicion.

Johnston and his team have long warned about vulnerabilities in e-voting machines. And two years ago, the team demonstrated how a Sequoia touch screen e-voting machine could be similarly manipulated using cheap components. The latest research was first reported by the Salon news site.

National: Electoral Regulations at Stake in 13 Secretary of State Races | governing.org

With tight contests brewing for president and control of Congress, there’s no shortage of competitive races over the next 14 months. But a number of offices further down the ballot are also up for grabs, such as the low-profile but increasingly contested position of secretary of state.

Currently, Republicans control 30 seats; Democrats control 20. Most of these positions are officially known as secretary of state, but a few states hand equivalent duties to their lieutenant governor instead. All told, 39 are popularly elected, eight are appointed by the governor and three are appointed by the legislature.

Many secretaries of state have portfolios that include fairly neutral duties, such as overseeing the registration of businesses and lobbyists. But the main reason why they have become coveted and competitive offices in recent years is the role they can play in shaping how elections are conducted. Part of this has to do with the perception that secretaries of state can aid their party in narrowly decided elections.

National: E-voting machines vulnerable to remote vote changing | CNET News

U.S. government researchers are warning that someone could sneak an inexpensive piece of electronics into e-voting machines like those to be used in the next national election and then remotely change votes after they have been cast.

The Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne Laboratory, which is a division of the Department of Energy, discovered this summer that Diebold touch-screen e-voting machines could be hijacked remotely, according to team leader Roger Johnston. Salon reported on it today, noting that as many as a quarter of American voters are expected to be using machines that are vulnerable to such attacks in the 2012 election.

Basically, when a voter pushes a button to record his or her votes electronically, the remote hijacker could use a Radio Frequency remote control to intercept that communication, change the votes, and then submit the fraudulent votes for recording.

National: Argonne researchers ‘hack’ Diebold e-voting system | Computerworld

Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory this week showed how an electronic voting machine model that’s expected to be widely used to tally votes in the 2012 elections can be easily hacked using inexpensive, widely-available electronic components.

Roger Johnston, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s science and engineering reseaech lab, said the hack, which requires about $25 and very little technical expertise, would let cybercriminals “flip” votes gathered on Diebold Accuvote TS machines and change election results without raising any suspicion.

Johnston and his team have long warned about vulnerabilities in e-voting machines. And two years ago, the team demonstrated how a Sequoia touch screen e-voting machine could be similarly manipulated using cheap components. The latest research was first reported by the Salon news site.

National: Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control | Salon.com

It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

“We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines,” said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team “We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine.”

National: Voters May Face Slower Lines In 2012 Elections | NPR

Elections are expensive. And with money tight, election offices across the country are facing cutbacks. This means voters could be in for some surprises — such as longer lines and fewer voting options — when they turn out for next year’s primary and general elections.

A lot of decisions about the 2012 elections are being made today. How many voting machines are needed? Where should polling places be located? How many poll workers have to be hired?

Gail Pellerin, the county clerk in Santa Cruz, Calif., says she’s considering trimming the number of voting sites in her county by about 20 percent next year because her budget keeps shrinking. “Each year, they come back and say, ‘Do more with less, you know, we’re going to end up having to give you less again,'” she says, adding that her budget for extra workers at election time has also been reduced.

National: Proposals would strengthen troops’ legal rights | Army Times

Justice Department officials are proposing to strengthen troops’ voting rights, re-employment rights, and housing and lending protections, under a package of legislative proposals sent to Congress Sept. 20.

Among other things, Justice officials are requesting a doubling of civil penalties for anyone violating troops’ rights under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. The government would be able to assess a penalty of up to $110,000 for a first violation, and up to $220,000 for any subsequent violation.

Also proposed is an SCRA change clarifying that for voting purposes, a family member does not have to accompany his or her service member who is out of state because of military requirements in order for the family member to retain legal residence or domicile in that state.

National: Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud | AP/Fox News

Several states adopted new laws last year requiring that people show a photo ID when they come to vote even though the kind of election fraud that the laws are intended to stamp out is rare. Even supporters of the new laws are hard pressed to come up with large numbers of cases in which someone tried to vote under a false identify.

“I’ve compared this to the snake oil salesman. You got a cold? I got snake oil. Your foot aches? I got snake oil,” said election law expert Justin Levitt, who wrote “The Truth About Voter Fraud” for The Brennan Center for Justice. “It doesn’t seem to matter what the problem is, (voter) ID is being sold as the solution to a whole bunch of things it can’t possibly solve.”

Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws this year that allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count.

National: Officials warn of fraudulent voter registration website | The News Star

A fraudulent registration website, www.registertovote.org, offers a false voter registration form which claims to register citizens to vote in any state.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler and the staff of the Elections Compliance Unit are warning citizens who want to register to vote to do so by visiting www.GeauxVote.com.

The Louisiana voter registration form provided on the website is not the approved Louisiana registration form and requests information from the citizen that the official form does not such as height, weight and employment information. The official online registration system at www.GeauxVote.com is secure and protects the personal information for all citizens who register to vote.

National: Judge Rejects Challenge to Voting Rights Law by County in Alabama | NYTimes.com

Ruling that the intentional voter discrimination that led to the passage and multiple extensions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still exists, a federal judge in Washington on Wednesday dismissed an Alabama county’s claim that portions of the act were unconstitutional.

The challenge to the law was brought last year by Shelby County, a mostly suburban county south of Birmingham, and concerned sections of the act that set apart certain jurisdictions that have shown past patterns of discrimination. These jurisdictions — which include the entirety of most Southern states but also Alaska, Arizona and isolated towns and counties around the country — are required to obtain “preclearance” from the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges before making any changes to voting procedures. In 2006, Congress found enough evidence of continuing discrimination to warrant an extension of the act for 25 years.

In its suit, Shelby County argued that the widespread discrimination of the Jim Crow era had ended, and that “it is no longer constitutionally justifiable for Congress to arbitrarily impose” on the county and other covered jurisdictions the “disfavored treatment” of having to obtain preclearance from Washington.

National: Judge upholds key part of voting rights law | Reuters

A federal judge on Wednesday upheld a key provision of the landmark U.S. voting rights law aimed at protecting minorities in states and local governments with a history of racial discrimination.

U.S. District Judge John Bates concluded that Congress acted appropriately when it reauthorized the provision in 2006. Congress initially adopted the voting rights act, a historic piece of U.S. civil rights legislation, in 1965.

The judge ruled extensive evidence of recent voting discrimination in the legislative record justified the law’s reauthorization into the 21st century and that the protections still were needed to safeguard the rights of minority voters.

National: Federal District Court Upholds Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act | Election Law Blog

In a comprehensive and careful 151-page opinion, a federal district court in Shelby County v. Holder has upheld the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act against constitutional challenge.  Though there are other cases pending raising the same issues (the Kinston case and the newly-filed challenge brought by Arizona), this opinion tees up the issue very well for eventual Supreme Court review.

I have not yet had a chance to read the entire opinion, but from my cursory review it appears that this case makes the strongest case possible from the congressional record against the argument that the requirement that certain jurisdictions (mainly, but not only, in the South) seek preclearance from the federal government before making changes in their voting practices and procedures exceeds congress’s power.

National: Do New Voting Laws Suppress Fraud? Or Democrats? | NPR

While campaigning to become Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach held a press conference to make the case for a photo ID requirement at the polls. In his argument, he noted that a man named Alfred K. Brewer, who died in 1996, had voted in the 2010 primary. There was just one problem with that: Brewer wasn’t dead.

Shortly after the press conference, Brewer’s wife received a call regarding her husband’s “passing.” And she says, ‘Well, why do you want to talk to me? He’s out raking leaves,'” Brewer says.

It turned out the voter rolls Kobach referenced had the birth date for Brewer’s father, who had the same name. Despite the mistake, Kobach was trying to make a serious point. He’s part of a growing number of Republican lawmakers trying to crack down on voter fraud.

National: Election Assistance Commission Releases Survey of Internet Voting | EAC

The EAC Certification Division has released the technical report “A Survey of Internet Voting,” a comprehensive review of Internet voting systems used in elections worldwide between 2000 and 2011. EAC staff conducted the study to assist in the development of electronic absentee voting guidelines, specifically to assist the Commission’s efforts to identify technologies that could improve services for military and overseas voters and voters with disabilities.

[From the report]

… Risk is a difficult concept to express, understand and measure. This is apparent in the means used to address risk from one project to the next. The EAC has knowledge of 13 formal risk assessments, and seven of these risk assessments are publicly available. Nearly every project used a different assessment methodology to measure risk.

National: Republicans rewriting state election laws in ways that could hurt Democrats | The Washington Post

Looking to capitalize on their historic gains last year, Republican lawmakers in several states are rewriting their election laws in ways that could make it more difficult for Democrats to win.

They have curbed early voting, rolled back voting rights for ex-felons and passed stricter voter ID laws. Taken together, the measures could have a significant and negative effect on President Obama’s reelection efforts if they keep young people and minorities away from the polls. As the primary season kicks into gear, Republican presidential hopefuls are hitting the road and meeting voters in Iowa , New Hampshire and other early primary states.

“It all hits at the groups that had higher turnout and higher registration in 2008,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights lawyer who co-directs the Advancement Project, which has been tracking the new regulations.

National: Congress Investigates GOP War on Voting | Rolling Stone

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, I examine how Republican officials in a dozen states have passed new laws this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process. It’s a widespread, deliberate effort that could prevent millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012. Congress is, belatedly, starting to pay attention, and yesterday afternoon Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, held a hearing on “New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?”

“I am deeply concerned by this coordinated, well-funded effort to pass laws that could have the impact of suppressing votes in some states,” said Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate.

“Rather than protecting right to vote,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a witness at the hearing, “we’re seeing a brazen attempt around the country to undermine it.” He pointed to legislation that would make it more difficult for citizens to register to vote or for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters, cut back on early voting, require government-issued IDs that specifically target young and minority voters, and disenfranchise ex-felons.