National: Shrinking The Vote: Using Election Reform To Decrease Turnout | Daily Kos

As the U.S population grows and the number of eligible voters continues to climb with each election cycle, a disturbing trend of limiting voter access to the polls is taking place. With 2012 on the horizon, states are already gearing up to ensure that barriers are installed across the voting process, from restrictions on voter registration to strict requirements at the polls. It’s been called “the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.”

Legislators justify the vast majority of this legislation by claiming they are merely attempting to prevent widespread voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice conducted the most extensive analysis of voter fraud allegations and concluded that proponents of voter ID laws could not find “a proven example of a single vote cast at the polls in someone else’s name that could be stopped by a pollsite photo ID rule.”

National: Outdated and Failing: Modernizing Our Voting System for the Rising Electorate | Rock the Vote Blog

Day after day, from college campuses to high school classrooms, we hear stories about needless bureaucratic barriers that prevent young people from voting. For young Americans, the greatest barrier to participation is the out-dated process itself. Our complicated registration process varies state-by-state, and our country’s antiquated, paper-based electoral system is riddled with restrictive rules and red tape that don’t reflect advances in technology or meet the needs of modern life.

You’d think that the most basic element of our democracy – the very right to participate in our government that is guaranteed to all of us – would be something we would constantly work to improve. Yet somehow voting is an archaic ordeal, inconsistently implemented from place to place, and disturbingly, manipulated by whether people in power want someone like you to show up at the polls.

It doesn’t need to be this hard to vote.

National: Debunking Misinformation on Photo ID | Brennan Center for Justice

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (“The Case for Voter ID”) by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  In the piece, Kobach touts restrictive voter ID bills, including the Kansas “Secure and Fair Elections Act,” which he drafted and Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a few weeks ago.  Kobach argues that (1) voter ID laws will not actually prevent any eligible citizens from voting; and (2) they will prevent in-person voter fraud, which he claims is a substantial problem.

But his arguments are built on inaccuracies, unsupported allegations, and flawed reasoning.  Because Kobach takes direct aim at the Brennan Center in this op-ed, we thought a thorough review of his claims was in order. We sent a letter to the editors at the Journal rebutting some of his claims, but the paper did not publish it.

National: Three More Jurisdictions To ‘Bailout’ From Special Voting Rights Act Supervision | The Blog of Legal Times

A Virginia city, a California irrigation district and a Texas drainage district are the latest places to come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on exiting special supervision under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Today, DOJ announced it had reached agreements with the City of Bedford, Va. (PDF) and the Alta Irrigation District in California (PDF) on approving their “bailout” from special supervision; three-judge panels in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia are expected to approve both petitions.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel approved a bailout (PDF) for Jefferson County Drainage District No. 7 in Texas. The Justice Department had agreed to that petition in April.

National: Organisation appeals for expat Americans to stand up and be counted | Telegraph

The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF), a not-for-profit group dedicated to helping Americans overseas take part in federal elections, began its “Counting Citizens” project in April this year.

Using the power of social media to spread the word, the group is appealing for expats to register on a dedicated website, and help the organisation produce a reliable estimate of the number of Americans currently living abroad

“At the moment, there no is no accurate up-to-date estimate of how many American citizens abroad there are or where they are,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, the president of the OVF. “Expats are not included in the US census, and previous estimates have been very rough, and often non-official.

National: New Research Result: Bubble Forms Not So Anonymous – Princeton researchers deanonymize optical scan ballots| Freedom to Tinker

by Will Clarkson Today, Joe Calandrino, Ed Felten and I are releasing a new result regarding the anonymity of fill-in-the-bubble forms. These forms, popular for their use with standardized tests, require respondents to select answer choices by filling in a corresponding bubble. Contradicting a widespread implicit assumption, we show that individuals create distinctive marks on these forms, allowing use of the marks as a biometric. Using a sample of 92 surveys, we show that an individual’s markings enable unique re-identification within the sample set more than half of the time. The potential impact of this work is as diverse as use of the forms themselves, ranging from cheating detection on standardized tests to identifying the individuals behind “anonymous” surveys or election ballots.

If you’ve taken a standardized test or voted in a recent election, you’ve likely used a bubble form. Filling in a bubble doesn’t provide much room for inadvertent variation. As a result, the marks on these forms superficially appear to be largely identical, and minor differences may look random and not replicable. Nevertheless, our work suggests that individuals may complete bubbles in a sufficiently distinctive and consistent manner to allow re-identification.

National: Clemson University research team to lead accessible voting technology project | Clemson Newsroom

A Clemson University research team has been chosen by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to lead a national effort to make voting systems more accessible.

Juan Gilbert, a professor and chairman of the Human-Centered Computing Division in Clemson’s School of Computing, will direct a three-year, $4.5 million project funded by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to increase the accessibility of “new, existing and emerging technological solutions” in the design of voting systems.

Editorials: They Want to Make Voting Harder? | NYTimes.com

One of the most promising recent trends in expanding political participation has been allowing people to vote in the weeks before Election Day, either in person or by mail. Early voting, which enables people to skip long lines and vote at more convenient times, has been increasingly popular over the last 15 years. It skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, rising particularly in the South and among black voters supporting Barack Obama.

And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the South are trying desperately to cut it back. Two states in the region have already reduced early-voting periods, and lawmakers in others are considering doing so. It is the latest element of a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators across the country to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people.

The biggest part of that effort, imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID, has been painted as a response to voter fraud, an essentially nonexistent problem. But Republican lawmakers also have taken a good look at voting patterns, realized that early voting might have played a role in Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory, and now want to reduce that possibility in 2012.

National: Students in Crossfire in Battles Over Voting Rights | Brennan Center for Justice

Voting is a fundamental right for all American citizens over 18.  Some states — including Arizona and New York — have prioritized voting rights, with student engagement policies that should serve as models for other states.  Yet even as we should be encouraging the next generation to be civically engaged, in many states students are being targeted by bills that make it harder to register and to vote.

In the current legislative cycle, a majority of state legislatures have explored increasingly restrictive voter ID legislation.  College students are particularly impacted by many of these voter identification proposals, especially when student IDs do not qualify as photo identification for voting.  But even more disturbing is a new trend of bills that seek to explicitly make voting more difficult for college students.  The most notable recent example was New Hampshire House Bill 176, which would have created a special voter residency standard for students and members of the military who lived elsewhere—including elsewhere in the state—prior to matriculating or being stationed in New Hampshire, thereby preventing students from voting in state or local elections.  The Brennan Center forcefully opposed this bill, and argued that it would likely be unconstitutional.  Fortunately, after college students of all political stripes banded together to voice their opposition, the bill died on the House floor.

National: How state legislatures could affect the 2012 elections | POLITICO.com

The push to rig the 2012 presidential election is under way.

There’s nothing illegal about it: Across the country, state legislatures are embroiled in partisan battles over election-law changes that, by design or effect, could play a significant role in determining the outcome of the presidency.

So far this year, there’s been legislation aimed at overhauling the awarding of electoral votes, requiring that candidates present a birth certificate, not to mention a wide assortment of other voting rights and administration-related measures that could easily affect enough ballots to deliver a state to one candidate or another. Experts say the explosion of such efforts in the run-up to 2012 is unprecedented — and can be traced back to a familiar wellspring.

“Florida in 2000 taught people that election administration really can make a difference in the outcome of an election,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the liberal Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

National: Most Security Measures Easy to Breach, Expert Says | NBC Chicago

When things go really, really wrong, Roger Johnston has a really, really good day. After all, he’s usually the man who made them go wrong.

Johnston has a PhD, 10 patents to his name, and what every 10 year old kid would think is a dream job. As chief of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago, he has made it is his mission to crack into every security system labeled as foolproof by their creators.

… One of the most frightening examples Johnston has turned up is in one of the nation’s most treasured franchises: the right to vote. He said he’s found that most voting machines have almost no security to reveal tampering. Thus, he said, it’s a fairly simple matter to tinker with the electronics while machines are in storage or being transported by the truckload. He has even demonstrated how he can turn cheating mechanisms in voting machines on and off by remote control.

“It’s much easier to steal the election, right at the electronic voting machine,” said Johnston. “In many cases, we see security devices or electronic voting machines where we really have to wonder, ‘Did anybody spend 60 seconds figuring out the security issues?”

National: Savvis lands $10M contract from Federal Election Commission | St. Louis Business Journal

Savvis Federal Systems, a subsidiary of Savvis Inc. in St. Louis, said Thursday it has been awarded a $9.8 million, five-year contract to provide information technology services for the U.S. Federal Election Commission.

Under the terms of the agreement, Savvis will provide managed hosting, security and network services to the FEC in two Savvis data centers. Savvis also will host the fec.gov website.

Editorials: Identification: More troubling than you might think | Michael Casiano/The Diamondback

In February 2010, one of my roommates had the misfortune of hearing that his basement had flooded. In it, his parents had stored many of his personal legal documents, including his birth certificate and Social Security card. After successfully getting a job, he was required to present his employer with multiple forms of identification.

Possessing only a driver’s license, he had to send away for the other supporting documentation. It’s easy enough for an American citizen to do so, not factoring in the time, money and hassle of getting the documents. In the time being, however, we all joked, “You’re illegal!”

National: Republican States Push Revisions to Voting Laws | NYTimes.com

Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.

Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.

California: Transparency Project nabs federal grant; money to be used to augment post-election audit project, allow for duplication elsewhere | Times-Standard Online

A local project that uncovered a fatal flaw in Humboldt County’s old elections system just got some national recognition that may ultimately lead to its becoming the standard rather than the exception. The federal Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) officially notified the Humboldt County Elections Office this week that it was receiving a $25,000 grant to…

National: Republicans vote to end Election Assistance Commission, set up after Bush v. Gore – TheHill.com

Republicans on the Committee on House Administration have voted to eliminate the independent commission that was established to address election problems after the contested 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, has disbursed more than $3 billion in…

National: GOP Seeks Savings in Phasing Out Election Assistance Commission | Roll Call News

An effort by House Republicans to close the Election Assistance Commission cleared its first obstacle Wednesday. After some limited Democratic opposition, the House Administration Committee approved a bill that would remove funding from the EAC and transfer much of its responsibilities to the Federal Election Commission. The bill, which was approved by voice vote, is expected…

Editorials: Carl Bialik: The Mathematical Debate Over Instant Runoff and Other Alternative Voting Systems | Wall Street Journal

My print column this week examines the debate over voting systems that theorists and reformers have backed to replace the system prevalent in the U.S. and many other places, in which each voter gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. Among possible alternative systems include some where voters rank candidates and…

National: Congressman Gregg Harper seeks to eliminate Election Assitance Commission | The Daily Caller

With America facing a debt crisis, legislatures have gone spelunking for areas of government to cut. Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper has surfaced with a proposal to eliminate what Ronald Reagan once quipped was the nearest thing to eternal life: a government agency. Harper’s bill would terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which Congress created…

National: ES&S and Scytl Announce Strategic Alliance to Provide a Military and Overseas Electronic Voting Solution (ES&S Press Release) | MarketWatch

Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) and Scytl today announced a strategic alliance that will provide for BALLOTsafe, a fully integrated online ballot delivery and marking system that will afford military, overseas, absentee and disabled voters the opportunity to cast ballots in a timely, secure and reliable manner. By combining the market proven election leadership…

Editorials: GOP legislatures legalize voting barriers to Democrats | Idaho Mountain Express

Today’s Republicans would never try to reinvent something so crude as the outlawed “poll tax,” which mostly Southern states used, along with literacy tests, well into the 20th century to block voting by blacks, poor whites and Native Americans. Removal of these barriers firmly established every citizen’s right under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause…