National: Election Assistance Commission says state’s can use federal election grants to pay for voter fraud investigation | Associated Press

States are free to use federal grant money intended to improve how elections are run in order to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has ruled. The commission’s opinion is a relief to election officials in Iowa, who will not have to pay back $240,000 in federal money that was used for a voter fraud investigation that ended last year. But critics of Iowa’s investigation said they were surprised that the commission found that Help America Vote Act funding could be used for such a purpose, and worried that other states could follow suit. “It seems like a real stretch,” said Tom Courtney, an Iowa Democratic state senator who asked the commission’s inspector general to investigate the spending nearly three years ago. “But now with this ruling in their pocket, Iowa and other states might say, ‘all right.’ ” Months before the 2012 presidential election, then-Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz reached an agreement to pay the salary and expenses of a full-time Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent for two years to look into “instances of potential criminal activity” related to voting and elections. The investigation led to charges against 10 non-U.S. citizens and 16 ex-felons accused of casting ballots despite not having voting rights.

Colorado: The high risk of e-voting | The Denver Post

If we can bank and shop online, why can’t we also vote online? This once-common refrain — I certainly used to ask the question — has been answered in recent years by revelations that hackers have penetrated some of our largest financial institutions, retailers, entertainment studios and, of course, the federal government. We can do our banking and shopping online because, as Lawrence Livermore computer scientist David Jefferson said earlier this year, “Financial losses in e-commerce can be insured or absorbed, but no such amelioration is possible in an election. And, of course, the stakes are generally much higher in a public election than in an e-commerce system.” Jefferson’s view that online voting — and especially e-mail — is extremely vulnerable to being hacked, intercepted or manipulated is shared by many experts, including those at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Kansas: Ruling won’t change Kansas voter registration system | The Legal Record

Kansas residents can register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship under the June 29 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but they won’t be allowed to vote in state and local elections, the state’s top election official said. The high court’s justices rejected an appeal from Republican officials in Kansas and Arizona who have sought force federal elections officials to change a national voter registration form so that it requires new voters in their states to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the two states can not demand that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission help them enforce their laws. Most new Kansas voters use a state voter registration form requiring such documents. The federal form requires only that voters sign a sworn statement saying they are citizens.

National: States Seeking Voter Citizenship Proof Denied by U.S. Supreme Court | Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider letting states require evidence of citizenship when people register to vote for federal elections, rejecting an appeal from Arizona and Kansas. The rebuff is a victory for the Obama administration and voting- and minority-rights groups that battled the two states in court. It leaves intact a decision by a U.S. agency that blocked the states from requiring proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections. It’s the second high court defeat on the issue for Arizona. The state has a law that requires evidence of citizenship, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that it couldn’t be enforced when people use a standard registration document known as the “federal form” to register to vote for Congress and the president. That 7-2 ruling left open the possibility that Arizona could impose its requirements through a different avenue. The court said the state could submit a request to the agency that developed the form, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, asking it to tell Arizona voters they needed to supply proof of citizenship.

National: Court order slips quietly under radar | Boston Herald

It wasn’t the biggest headline-grabber in a week full of pivotal U.S. Supreme Court rulings, but an order issued by the court handed a victory to voting rights advocates who have been battling suppressive state-imposed laws as next year’s presidential election draws near. In an unsigned order, the justices on Monday declined to review a lower court ruling barring Kansas and Arizona from requiring proof of citizenship on federal voter registration forms. The states can still impose the requirement on state-based voting forms, but they can’t force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to do the same on registration forms for presidential and congressional elections in those states.

Editorials: Kobach lost but voting hurdles remain | The Wichita Eagle

When the U.S. Supreme Court opted Monday not to decide whether the federal voter-registration form must account for Kansas and Arizona laws requiring proof of citizenship, it was another major legal defeat for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Too bad the move, though welcome, won’t do much for voter participation in Kansas. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled last November that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission need not require would-be Kansas and Arizona voters using the federal registration form to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, as per the two states’ laws. The federal form only asks applicants to swear they are citizens. Ruling that the states “have not provided substantial evidence of noncitizens registering to vote using the federal form,” the appeals court had overturned a decision by Wichita-based U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren siding with Kansas and Arizona.

Kansas: Supreme Court declines to hear Kobach appeal on proof of citizenship | Lawrence Journal World

People in Kansas can still register to vote in federal elections without showing proof of citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. But whether those people will be allowed to vote in state and local elections remains an open question. The court on Monday refused to hear Kansas Secretary of State Kobach’s appeal in a case in which he asked that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission provide a federal voter registration form that comports with state law, which requires voters to show proof of citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kobach, saying the EAC did not have to provide a revised federal form for use in Kansas. The Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear Kobach’s appeal means the 10th Circuit’s ruling will stand.

National: Hack the vote: Cyber experts say ballot machines easy targets | Fox News

The recent cyber theft of millions of personnel records from the federal government was sophisticated and potentially crippling, but hackers with just rudimentary skills could easily do even more damage by targeting voting machines, according to security experts. Voter fraud is nearly as old as elections themselves, and different states and precincts use different voting systems and machines. But in many cases, even the electronic ballots could be manipulated remotely, according to a new report by the Commonwealth Security and Risk Management for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. That report found that the AVS WINVote machines Virginia has used since 2002 have such flimsy security that an amateur hacker could change votes from outside a polling location.

Voting Blogs: Meet the new elections commissioners: US EAC has quorum for first time in several years |electionlineWeekly

Late in 2014, the U.S. Congress finally — and unanimously — approved the appointment of three new commissioners to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The commission had been without a quorum for four years with new appointments getting hung up on things the way most things on Capitol Hill get hung up — partisanship. And even with a quorum finally in place, some on Capitol Hill aren’t all that happy. Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper has introduced legislation to eliminate the EAC. H.R. 195 calls for the termination of the commission and assigns remaining duties to the Office of Personnel Management and the Federal Elections Commission. The legislation has been referred to the House Administration Committee.

Guam: Election Commission looking at upgrading voting experience | KUAM

Just as the Guam Election Commission prepares for a special election next month, they’re also preparing for future elections and ways to improve the voting system on Guam. GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan says her goal has always been to provide fair and honest elections locally. And next week, she’ll be attending a national conference to help do just that. “One of the other things I want to do while I’m there is to see how other states conduct the election, and with all the research and all the people that will be there, it’s a great way to network and learn what everyone else is doing,” she said.

Editorials: Decertifying the worst voting machine in the US | Jeremy Epstein/Freedom to Tinker

On Apr 14 2015, the Virginia State Board of Elections immediately decertified use of the AVS WinVote touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine. This seems pretty minor, but it received a tremendous amount of pushback from some local election officials. In this post, I’ll explain how we got to that point, and what the problems were. As one of my colleagues taught me, BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front. If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. They didn’t need to be in the polling place – within a few hundred feet (e.g., in the parking lot) is easy, and within a half mile with a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.

Voting Blogs: We are Listening | Christy McCormick/EAC Blog

The Commissioners have had a very busy couple of weeks hosting and visiting important members of the election community and listening to ideas, priorities and the appropriate role of the EAC now that it is reconstituted. At our recent Next Steps roundtable, we solicited opinions from a range of stakeholders: local and state election administrators, officials, legislative representatives, vendors, technology advisors, the accessibility community, advocacy and interest groups, and commissioners from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA). The Co-Chairs of the PCEA kicked off our event with some encouraging, and, frankly, sobering, words on how the EAC is now positioned to follow up on the PCEA’s work. Bob Bauer set a very high standard for the EAC by saying, “The newly invigorated Election Assistance Commission will provide for a new beginning here in the United States about how to improve the voting experience for millions of voters.” Ben Ginsburg told us that he believes “the work the EAC does is tremendously important; the EAC will play a major role in finding solutions to impending crises in voting technology” in addition to its clearinghouse and research functions. Both Co-Chairs stressed that a bipartisan approach to election administration is critical. All the EAC Commissioners agree and we are committed to operating in a friendly, bipartisan manner.

Kansas: Kris Kobach asks U.S. Supreme Court to restore his proof-of-citizenship law | The Wichita Eagle

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision and restore a state law he wrote requiring proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote. Kobach wants the Supreme Court to undo the November decision by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeal, in a case pitting Kansas and Arizona against the federal Election Assistance Commission and a bevy of voting rights groups. The appeals court ruled that the states could not require document citizenship proof from prospective voters who register using a federal form that doesn’t demand it – and that the commission doesn’t have to alter the federal registration form to comply with the states’ demands.

Voting Blogs: Commissioner Masterson’s Notes from the Road 3.13.15 | EAC Blog

As my fellow Commissioners and I begin our work at the Election Assistance Commission we have embarked on a “listening tour” across the country to figure out where to start after several years without a quorum at the EAC. One message is clear at every stop. As Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said recently: Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”

National: Election panel GOP wants to eliminate is back in action | Jackson Clarion-Ledger

The federal agency that helps states improve their election systems is warning that aging voting machines could create problems in next year’s presidential election. Many of the machines were purchased more than a decade ago, according to the Election Assistance Commission. “It’s a big concern not just for us, but (for) state and local officials who are running these elections,” said Christy McCormick, new chairwoman of the independent, bipartisan commission. “Hopefully, they can prevent any major problems in 2016, but it’s going to be a challenge.” It’s one of several issues the EAC plans to highlight as it ramps up operations after four years without enough commissioners for a quorum. The commission held a public hearing Tuesday to discuss its plans, and recently kicked off a listening tour to hear from local election officials and advocates. Commissioners will visit New Orleans next week. “It’s like our moment to be able to reinvigorate the commission and figure out what our stakeholders need from us going forward,” McCormick said.

Voting Blogs: Restaffed EAC Advances Voting Systems in First Meeting | Adam Ambrogi/Democracy Fund

At its first meeting on Tuesday, the new quorum of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) took an important, much-awaited step toward making the work of election officials easier and improving the voter experience around the country. For four years, the lack of a quorum of Commissioners blocked the accreditation of new voting system test laboratories, which meant only two facilities in the country were able to review the quality and accessibility of voting systems. Yesterday’s accreditation of a third test laboratory promises to help alleviate the looming risk of major voting machine problems that have worried many smart observers. Federally accredited labs commonly test products we use everyday, from toasters to children’s toys, to ensure they are safe. Similarly, to protect the legitimacy of our elections, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires the EAC to put voting machines through rigorous testing and certification.

National: EAC Selects Officers & Accredits Voting System Test Lab | EAC

Members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) met Tuesday. This meeting marked the first time the Commission was able to meet with a quorum of Commissioners in four years. The Commission addressed a variety of pressing issues at the meeting. These issues included the accreditation of a new voting system test laboratory; consideration of possible updates to the standards used to test voting systems; and updates to the EAC’s voting system testing program manuals. Additionally, Commissioner Christy McCormick was selected to chair the Commission and Commissioner Thomas Hicks was selected as vice-chair. “After four years without Commissioners, the EAC has a great deal of work to do,” said Chair McCormick. “Today we took important steps in helping support state and local election officials as they continue to cope with aging voting equipment and limited funds. All three Commissioners recognize that we must operate with a sense of urgency,” Vice-Chair Hicks added.“The Commission does not have the luxury of time; we have already heard from our stakeholders that they expect us to act quickly to address many of the outstanding issues from over the last four years.”

National: Around The U.S., Voting Technology Is All Over The Place | NPR Berlin

Remember all that new voting equipment purchased after the 2000 presidential election, when those discredited punch card machines were tossed out? Now, the newer machines are starting to wear out. Election officials are trying to figure out what to do before there’s another big voting disaster and vendors have lined up to help. During their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, state election officials previewed the latest voting equipment from one of the industry’s big vendors, Election Systems and Software. ES&S expects a huge surge in buying very soon. It hopes its new ExpressVote machine will appeal to those who want convenient voting as well as the security of a paper ballot that’s counted separately. “We’re seeing a buying cycle that’s starting now, and will probably go for the next maybe four or five years,” said Kathy Rogers, a senior vice president at ES&S who used to run elections for the state of Georgia. Rogers says companies have to be more flexible than they were 10 or so years ago. Both the technology and how people vote is changing rapidly. “Some are moving to all vote by mail; some are increasingly becoming early vote sites,” she said. “We have some that have moved as far away from direct record electronics as they possibly can, and then we have others who love that technology.”

Editorials: Kansas Secretary Of State Says His Voter Suppression Crusade Is Meant To ‘Protect Immigrants’ | ThinkProgress

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to tell lawmakers he fears the President’s action protecting millions of young immigrants and their parents from deportation will lead to a spike in voter fraud. “It’s a very real problem of aliens registering to vote, sometimes unwittingly,” Kobach told ThinkProgress earlier this week. “They go to get a drivers’ license, and the person at the DMV says, ‘Hey, would you like to register to be an organ donor and register to vote?’ So some are given the misimpression by the clerk that they are entitled to register to vote. We have plenty of cases like this. And if you increase the population of people who are not US citizens getting drivers licenses, it necessarily follows that these errors that keep happening would increase as well.” Citing what he calls President’s Obama’s “recent controversial en-mass deferred action,” Kobach is pushing a policy he has advocated since long before the President’s executive order: requiring proof of citizenship for everyone registering to vote, even though Kansas’ and Arizona’s attempts to do this have been ruled illegal. Continuing his argument that undocumented people are “unwittingly” committing felony-level voter fraud, Kobach told ThinkProgress that his policy is really about keeping immigrants safe.

US Virgin Islands: EAC sees ‘no reason for concern’ about Elections System’s corrective action plan progress | Virgin Islands Daily News

Elections officials said they got good news after a teleconference with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on Thursday. The commission representatives were calling to check in with the boards and the V.I. Elections System and provide a status update on the corrective action plan the Elections System implemented following a scathing 2013 audit. In November 2013, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released an audit that looked at the Elections System’s compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. In the audit report, completed by the Office of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General, Inspector General Curtis Crider said his office found that the V.I. Elections System’s lax posture on internal controls put $3.3 million in Help America Vote Act funds and other funding at risk of fraud, waste or mismanagement.

National: Court won’t reconsider Arizona, Kansas citizenship lawsuit | Associated Press

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a decision allowing residents of Kansas and Arizona to register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued a one-sentence ruling denying a request from the two states. The appeals court ruled in November that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand help from federal officials in enforcing state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship.

National: States seek rehearing of voter citizenship lawsuit | Lawrence Journal-World

Kansas and Arizona have asked a federal appeals court panel to revisit its decision allowing residents of those states to register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship. The states submitted a petition late Monday asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel to rehear the case, saying they believe the court overlooked certain legal issues when it ruled against them in November. The appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand federal election officials help them enforce their state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. The panel overturned a March ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren that required the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tailor its federal voter registration form for those states to require those proof-of-citizenship documents.

Alabama: One of last vestiges of gutted immigration law, Alabama pushes voters for citizenship proof |

One of Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett’s last acts will be to try to implement one of the last provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law that has not already been resolved – a requirement that voters show proof of citizenship to register. Under that provision of the 2011 law, known as HB 56, people must show a driver’s license or some other valid form of identification in order to register to vote. But the state never implemented it while lawyers fought over the legality of the law’s broader measures, which sought to crack down on illegal immigration. The federal courts invalidated most of that law, and the state last year reached a permanent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, agreeing to permanently black enforcement of seven provisions. Bennett announced last week, though, that the state will press ahead with the citizenship requirement now that the U.S. Senate has confirmed nominees to fill long-vacant seats on the Election Assistance Commission. That is the organization that must agree to change the federal voter registration form to comply with the state requirements.

Voting Blogs: Habemus EAC! | Election Academy

Whenever the Roman Catholic Church chooses a new Pope, one essential element of the drama is the watch over the chimney in the building where the voting takes place. As cardinals’ ballots are burned after each round (to preserve anonymity), chemicals are added to make the smoke either black (signifying an unsuccessful vote) or white (signalling selection of a new Pope). After the white smoke appears, church members and the media await the announcement “Habemus Papam” (“We have a pope”)! That announcement usually sets off celebration as well as seemingly endless speculation about what the new pontiff will mean for the Church and the world at large. I had a similar feeling earlier this week when I heard the news that the Senate had confirmed three members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. There, the white smoke came in the form of an announcement that the nominations had been approved by unanimous consent. Now, for the first time in years, the EAC has a quorum of three Commissioners (if not yet a full complement of four) and can get back to work on a wide range of issues.

National: Lengthy vacancy ends for election commissioners | USA Today

The last-minute flurry of action by the Senate Tuesday included filling three of four seats on the federal Election Assistance Commission, which had languished without commissioners since 2010 — or two election cycles, to put it in Washington terms. The Senate confirmed Thomas Hicks, a former election law counsel on Capitol Hill, Matthew Masterson of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, and Christy McCormick, a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, to the commission. A fourth nominee, Matthew Butler, former CEO of liberal media watchdog Media Matters, has yet to be confirmed. House Republicans have tried to shut down the EAC, and Senate Republicans resisted nominating commissioners. But reviving the commission was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan panel formed by Obama to look into long voting lines during the 2012 election. For one thing, the Election Assistance Commission is in charge of setting federal standards for voting systems, which  haven’t been updated since 2005.

Voting Blogs: Senate Confirms 3 Commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission | Election Law Blog

After years of the United States Election Assistance Commission having NO commissioners, tonight in a flurry of activity the Senate confirmed the following three members of the EAC: Thomas Hicks, Matthew Masterson, and Christy McCormick. These are two Republican-chosen commissioners and one Democrat. It takes three votes for any significant action on the commission. People in the know have high hopes for these three commissioners (a fourth nominee, Matthew Butler, has not yet had a chance for a hearing, after Myrna Perez withdrew). We will see.

Voting Blogs: Meet the New Nominee (Same as the Old Nominee?): Matthew Butler Tapped as New Dem EAC Pick | Election Academy

Recently, I mused about the future of the Election Assistance Commission in the wake of the 2014 election and related litigation – and it would appear that all of a sudden the future is now. On one side of the aisle, there are signs of progress: the Senate Rules Committee will be holding a hearing at 2pm today on the two Republican nominees, Christy McCormick and Matthew Masterson. On the other side of the aisle, however, we have continued intrigue. As was rumored late last week, Democratic nominee Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center has withdrawn her name from consideration. No reason for the withdrawal was given, but a good guess is the combination of an incoming GOP Senate majority and the Brennan Center’s high-profile (if not well-sourced) claims that new voting laws supported by the GOP affected outcomes in 2014. I have learned from a source close to the process that Perez withdrew her candidacy BEFORE Election Day. The confirmation challenges with a GOP Senate may still have been considerable but her withdrawal had nothing to do with what happened in the 2014 election – or afterwards. The White House has designated Matthew Butler (pictured above) as the new second Democratic nominee alongside Thomas Hicks. Butler is a former CEO of Media Matters and now is part of aconsulting group that offers “planning and production experience.”

Voting Blogs: Back to Two-Track? Tenth Circuit Reverses on Arizona, Kansas Proof-of-Citizenship | Election Academy

Back in August, I blogged about the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals’ apparent skepticism about the case involving proof-of-citizenship requirements and the federal registration form in Kansas and Arizona. Two-and-a-half months later, the judges handed down a unanimous decision reversing a lower court and prohibiting the two states from imposing proof-of-citizenship on the federal form. … This decision reignites a series of conflicts:

1. The ruling doesn’t invalidate the imposition of proof-of-citizenship on state forms (the court specifically notes that it is not ruling on that issue) so, for the time being, two-track registration could be back on the table in Kansas and Arizona – perhaps with those states’ courts being asked to rule on its constitutionality;

National: Federal Form for Voting Is Ruled Valid | New York Times

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.

Kansas: Federal appeals court rejects citizenship proof rule for Kansas voters | The Kansas City Star

A federal appeals court on Friday handed a significant setback to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s efforts to require all new and re-registering voters to provide a document proving citizenship. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that Kansas cannot require proof-of-citizenship documents — almost always a birth certificate or passport — from prospective voters who register using a federal voter registration form. The court also said that a federal agency doesn’t have to alter the form to fit Kansas requirements. Arizona has a similar proof-of-citzenship requirement, and Kobach argued the case on behalf of both states in conjunction with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. The Kansas requirement is separate from a section of state law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.