National: Republicans vote to end Election Assistance Commission | USAToday

Republicans moved a step forward Tuesday in their continuing effort to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which was created to help states run elections. A House committee approved legislation Tuesday to shut down the federal commission set up more than 10 years ago to help states improve their election systems. “This agency needs to go,” said Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper, who introduced the bill to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission. “This agency has outlived its usefulness and to continue to fund it is the definition of irresponsibility.” The House Administration Committee approved the legislation by voice vote. This marks Harper’s third attempt in four years to close the bipartisan independent commission, which he called a “bloated bureaucracy.” It is not clear when the full House will vote on the measure. Harper said he’s working to persuade a senator to introduce a companion measure in that chamber.

National: House Republican Lawmakers See Elections Oversight Committees as Waste of Money | IVN

The community of federal campaign oversight will undergo significant downsizing following announcements from the Federal Election Commission and the House Administration Committee, Wednesday. Tony Herman, General Legal Counsel to the Federal Election Commission, will leave the agency this July and the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) moved one inch closer to being scrapped. In a statement, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub said, “I want to thank Tony for his outstanding service to this agency and to the American public.” He will return to Covington & Burling, LLP where he was a partner before joining the FEC in 2011. The FEC has been understaffed since February when former commissioner, Cynthia Bauerly, left after serving nearly a 5-year term. Now with five out of six commissioners, each serving expired terms, the agency will need to locate a new General Counsel before July 7.

National: House Republicans put Election Assistance Commission in cross hairs | Washington Times

House Republicans are pressing to kill an independent government commission designed to improve state-level voting procedures, arguing the body has run its course, is ineffectual and is a waste of taxpayer money. The House Administration Committee will meet Tuesday to vote on amendments on a bill to repeal the Election Assistance Commission — created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA, that was designed to help modernize state-level voting systems in response to Florida’s ballot-counting troubles during the 2000 presidential election. But the commission has been in limbo since late 2010, when it last had a quorum. All four seats currently are vacant. Democrats, who support the agency, say that’s because Republicans have undermined its authority by holding up nominations and repeatedly trying to abolish it.

National: Obama signs order creating election reform commission |

President Obama signed an executive order Thursday creating the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a panel tasked with formulating suggestions on how to cut down on long lines to vote and other problems that plagued voters in 2012. Obama announced plans to launch the effort — co-chaired by lawyers Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg who represented the Obama and Romney campaigns, respectively, during the 2012 election — during his State of the Union address. But the White House hadn’t offered details on how the commission would work until Thursday. The order directs the nine-member panel to produce a report for Obama within six months of its first public meeting that will “identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to promote the efficient administration of elections in order to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay, and to improve the experience of voters facing other obstacles in casting their ballots, such as members of the military, overseas voters, voters with disabilities, and voters with limited English proficiency.”

South Carolina: Report: Updating electronic voting machines would cost $17.3 million | The State

South Carolina’s electronic voting machines do not produce hard copies of votes, and it would cost taxpayers $17.3 million to add that capability to the state’s existing machines, according to a report by the Legislative Audit Council. “The audit process in South Carolina is limited by the absence of a voter verifiable paper audit trail,” the report said. The report notes that “without paper ballots, the reconstruction of the votes cast is not possible.” But the report does not give a recommendation on whether the state should update its electronic voting machines to produce a hard copy of votes. The report notes the paper ballots “undermines the voting access of people with disabilities” and that hand counting ballots always introduces the possibility of “human error.”

South Carolina: Review: South Carolina voting machines not certified by federal EAC |

A review released by the South Carolina General Assembly Legislative Audit Council says voting machines used in South Carolina are not certified by a federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The 62-page report breaks down where the state stands with current voting machines, evaluates training requirements and looks at alternatives to the current voting machines. The review, which was requested by the former President Pro Tempore of the South Carolina Senate, Glenn McConnell, goes on to say the machines South Carolina uses are not certified by the EAC and do not produce paper audit trails. However, South Carolina’s requirements meet the minimum requirements in the Help America Vote Act. The EAC was established in 2002 after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. According to the review, the EAC is without its four commissioners and has not revised the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The report also says an EAC official claims the lack of commissioners does not affect the testing and certification of voting systems except in accrediting new test laboratories or if a voting system manufactureer wants to appeal a decertification deicision.

Editorials: Arizona voter ID law should be overturned | The Washington Post

Compared with what some Americans have to tolerate on Election Day, registering to vote is relatively painless. That’s partly thanks to the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law at the root of a case the Supreme Court will hear on Monday. The state of Arizona argues that it should be allowed to subvert the law’s obvious purpose. The court shouldn’t let it. In 1993, Congress looked at the “complicated maze” of often confusing and sometimes discriminatory state election rules, and it found that “unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for federal office.” So lawmakers established national standards. Americans could register to vote when getting driver’s licenses, which gave the act its unofficial name: the “motor voter” law. Congress also required every state to accept a simple, common, mail-in registration form drafted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The record indicates that Congress meant these to be among the “procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for federal office.”In 2004, Arizona voters approved a state law requiring evidence of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. As a result, state elections officials no longer accepted standard federal registration forms unless accompanied by copies of passports, birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Native American and Hispanic groups complained, and now the dispute is before the high court.

US Virgin Islands: Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by 5 losing candidates | Virgin Islands Daily News

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which five candidates who ran unsuccessfully were seeking to throw out the territory’s 2012 General Election results. Senior District Court Judge Raymond Finch on Thursday issued a memorandum opinion and order dismissing the case on a number of grounds. He ruled that the plaintiffs – senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras – failed to articulate specific wrongs in their December complaint. “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not distinguish their concerns – about the use of certain voting machines in the election or the election results in general – from concerns of other voters or even other candidates,” Finch wrote.

National: U.S. Election Assistance Commission and NIST trumpet innovation in voting technology | California Forward

Last week, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission hosted a Future of Voting Systems Symposium. The three-day meeting outside of Washington, DC was designed to look at the latest developments in the field of voting technology and assess how such developments mesh with the current federal structure for testing and certification. The takeaway from the meeting was sobering and exciting; while it is increasingly clear that existing testing and certification requirements aren’t working, there is a burst of creativity underway by election officials, technologists and other stakeholders in the effort to design a different and better approach.

Editorials: Oscars put online voting problems back in the spotlight | Rep. Rush Holt/

The announcement of this year’s Best Picture winner on Sunday will culminate an experiment unprecedented in the 85-year history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For the first time, Oscar winners will be determined largely by votes cast online. At a time when New Jersey and other states are considering holding more consequential elections over the internet, we should ask: How did the Oscar experiment go? Unfortunately, it went poorly, for reasons that shed light on the inherent difficulty of conducting secure, accessible, credible elections online. Problems for Oscar voters began at the beginning: logging in. Voters were required to create special, complex passwords, but when they tried to log in to the Oscar website, many found their passwords rejected. After re-entering passwords several times, voters were locked out of the site entirely and forced to call a help line. Many then had to wait for new passwords, delivered by snail-mail. Even relatively young and tech-savvy voters weren’t immune. As 42-year-old documentarian Morgan Spurloch told the Hollywood Reporter, “There’s even some young farts like myself that are having problems.”

National: Internet Voting—Not Ready for Prime Time? | The Canvass

We transmit money, legal documents, medical reports and other sensitive information via the Internet. Shouldn’t we be able to vote over the Internet, too? “No,” say some observers. “Right now, there is no way to meaningfully secure an election by Internet voting, and we’d be inviting serious potential for fraud on a scale that’s never been experienced in election administration before,” says Doug Kelleher, co-chair of New York’s State Board of Elections. “Until methods can be designed to secure the election so that you know that every vote is being counted the way the voter cast it, I am opposed to Internet voting.” “Yes,” say others—including a group of seventeen computer scientists who signed on to a National Defense Committee statement in January, supporting more research on Internet voting specifically for military voters. “The only foreseeable option to allow military members to achieve first class voter status is through remote electronic voting that provides for electronic delivery of military members’ voted ballots,” says the statement. Still others might say “it depends on what you mean by ‘Internet voting.’” That term can be shorthand for at least three options, and we’ll look at each of them separately—and whether experts give them a green, yellow or red light (at least for now).

National: Computer security experts and advocates: Internet voting poses risk |

Just because online voting is possible, doesn’t mean the U.S. government should try it for national elections any time soon. That’s the message computer security experts and advocates for voting rights are trying to get across to American voters. David Jefferson, a Lawrence Livermore computer scientist, said Thursday that hosting a national election online poses a national security threat. Jefferson was part of a press conference hosted by Common Cause, a transparency advocacy organization. He pointed out three fundamental areas of attack by hackers or viruses, with no immediate solutions for online voting. “Client side” attacks would trigger malicious software in a voter’s computer or smartphone itself. “Server side” attacks could bring down the servers that would collect and count the votes and the “denial of service” attacks could actually prevent people from voting and take the server down. “There is no fundamental solution to any of these categories of problems, and at least for the client or server side, anyone in the world can initiate such an attack. It can be completely undetectable so the outcome would be wrong and no one would know about it,” said Jefferson, who serves on the board of the Verified Voting Foundation and California Voter Foundation. Even if a faulty outcome is discovered, he added, there would be no way to correct it as there would be no audit trail to “recount.”

National: Obama’s proposed voting commission under partisan fire from both sides | The Washington Post

President Obama’s proposed commission on electoral reform, which seeks to improve voting efficiency and reduce long wait times for voters, is producing heated criticism from advocates on both the right and the left. Some conservatives view the initiative as federal overreaching on an issue that is rightly the province of states, while some voting rights advocates say that the president’s proposed commission is a too-timid response to what they see as a huge problem. “Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual,” said Elisabeth Mac­Namara, president of the League of Women Voters. Critics of the commission say it doesn’t match the severity of the problem. “The president could have done much better by pointing to real solutions, like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration.” Conservatives said the commission infringes on local control of the voting process. “I do not support the president’s proposal to appoint yet another national commission to study solutions to the problem of long lines at polling places that seems to be confined to very few states,” Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.) said in a statement, adding that she is opposed to national mandates.

Florida: Federal election commission may take back seat to Florida reforms |

Voting problems are nothing new. But as President Barack Obama showed Tuesday night, so are proposed solutions. In announcing his plan to create a new commission to “fix” long voting lines, Obama was mirroring similar efforts that followed the razor-thin — and infamously controversial — 2000 election. But unlike that response – Congress created the Election Assistance Commission that over the next decade doled out more than $3.2 billion to help states buy voting equipment, recruit poll workers and improve record keeping – the Obama White House has yet to say much about who’ll be named to the new commission or what they’ll be asked to do. Meanwhile, the 2002 commission is foundering, virtually inactive and unfunded. “There is nothing they are doing that is sufficient enough to justify their existence,” said U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., a longtime critic. “It’s the perfect example of what [former president] Ronald Reagan said — that the closest thing to eternal life on this Earth was a government program.” That may leave Florida voters, tens of thousands of whom waited up to seven hours to vote on Nov. 6, waiting to see if the lines they faced will become a serious federal issue or just more political fodder. At this point, it seems far more likely that the first response will come from the Florida Legislature.

National: Senator Boxer Introduces Bill on Day One of the 113th Congress to Fight Long Election Lines | IVN

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on the first day of the 113th Congress, reintroduced her election reform bill – the LINE Act – which would help ensure that all American voters can cast a ballot in federal elections without enduring hours-long delays at their polling places. President Obama signaled his commitment to this important election reform yesterday in his Second Inaugural Address when he said, “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

“Forcing American voters to stand in line for hours is tantamount to denying their fundamental right to vote,” Senator Boxer said. “President Obama is right to make election reform a priority, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that no voter has to face hours-long delays to cast a ballot.”

National: Sandy storm exposes need for voting contingency plans | USAToday

Holding a presidential election one week after a major storm has destroyed homes and knocked out power to much of your state may seem like a worst-case scenario, but the problems New Jersey experienced after Superstorm Sandy could have been much worse, a state elections official said Wednesday. “If the storm was a week later, we would not have been able to have a presidential election in New Jersey and parts of New York,” Robert Giles, director of New Jersey’s Division of Elections, said at a hearing before the Election Assistance Commission. “There’s nothing in place to address that. It’s always been, ‘Well, we’ll deal with it if it happens.’ Well, it almost did.”

Iowa: Funding of Iowa’s voting probe is under scrutiny |

State and federal auditors said Thursday that they’re reviewing whether it is appropriate for Iowa elections officials to use federal money meant to improve elections to fund a two-year criminal investigation into potential voter fraud. The inspector general of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Iowa’s state auditor said they’re gathering information from Secretary of State Matt Schultz about his agreement to hire an agent to investigate and prosecute illegal voters such as felons and noncitizens.

Arizona: Attorney General to pitch Supreme Court on voter proof of citizenship | East Valley Tribune

Attorney General Tom Horne will argue to the nation’s high court on March 18 that Arizona should be allowed to enforce a 2004 voter-approved law requiring people to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote. The justices are reviewing a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Arizona cannot refuse to register voters who do not provide proof of citizenship if they instead fill out a special registration form prepared by the federal Election Assistance Commission. That form requires only that the person avows, under oath and penalty of perjury, that he or she is eligible to vote. A 2004 voter-approved measure requires both proof of citizenship to register and identification to cast a ballot at the polls. Foes challenged both. The courts sided with the state on the ID at polling places requirement. While that remains a legal issue in some states, opponents of the Arizona law never appealed that decision and it will not be an issue when the U.S. Supreme Court looks at the law in March. But the appellate court had a different view on the citizenship-proof requirement.

National: Obama facing pressure on election reform |

President Barack Obama is already taking heat over the first promise he made after winning reelection — and he may not be able to deliver on it at all. Obama’s thank yous on election night included a special nod to the voters who “waited in line for a very long time” — some as many as seven hours in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Then he stopped his speech to make a point: “By the way, we have to fix that.” “Fix that” has become a rallying cry for lawmakers and election reform advocates who’ve long been looking to tackle problems with voting machines, long ballots and under-prepared poll workers. And though Obama has almost no direct power to bring about changes — the mechanics of elections are largely determined by state and local governments — they’re frustrated that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit to force a conversation past election night.

Editorials: Why Voting Reform May Never Happen | The New Yorker

When President Obama claimed victory in last month’s election, he observed that many voters had waited on long lines to cast their ballots, adding, “By the way, we have to fix that.” That was a promise he won’t be able to keep. There’s no fix in the works—and there probably never will be. It was a pretty terrible election, as far as access to the polls goes. As usual, the worst situation was in Florida, where waits of four hours were common both in early voting and on Election Day. But, of course, 2012 wasn’t even the worst election in Florida in the last dozen years. Observers of American politics may recall certain difficulties with the 2000 race in the Sunshine State. But even that fiasco—which arguably (that is, probably, or rather definitely) changed the outcome in the state and nation—led to no significant reform. Because the problems in 2012 did not even arguably change the results, even in Florida, the urgency for reform is commensurably smaller.

US Virgin Islands: Federal audit of Elections System delayed by John Abramson’s absence | Virgin Islands Daily News

A federal audit of the V.I. Elections System scheduled to begin last week is being delayed because of the absence of V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. Curtis Crider, the inspector general for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said Thursday that two factors contributed to the delay. “One, we wanted to make sure it was after the election was over,” Crider said.

National: The election commission with no commissioners |

Despite rampant concerns on both the right and left about the integrity of the election, we seem to have dodged a bullet on Nov. 7, at least on the presidential level. There were no serious problems reported — no hanging chads, endless recounts or credible evidence of widespread dirty tricks — and 97 percent of voters said they had no problems voting this year, aside from waiting in lines. It’s lucky that was the case, because the federal commission tasked with making elections function better has been stymied by partisan infighting that has left it with zero commissioners, with Republicans refusing to appoint new ones and blocking Democrats from doing the same.

National: Senator Urges Republicans to Fill Election Commission Vacancies | Roll Call

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today called on Republican leaders to recommend nominees for a federal election agency that sat without a single commissioner, executive director or general counsel as voters encountered long lines, machine malfunctions and other problems on Election Day.
Boxer urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to take “immediate action” to fill the vacancies at the Election Assistance Commission by recommending names for the two open Republican commissioner positions after not doing so for nearly a year. “I believe the dysfunction we witnessed may have been reduced had this commission been fully staffed and operational,” Boxer wrote in a letter.

National: Federal Election Assistance Commission under scrutiny | Hattiesburg American

Republican lawmakers say it’s time to do away with the federal commission that has given states election-related advice for the past years. The lawmakers say the Election Assistance Commission has outlived its usefulness. “We do not need a separate federal agency for the small number of useful functions it performs,’’ said Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who introduced a bill last year to shut down the commission. “They can be accomplished more efficiently within another agency.” The EAC drew new attention after the Nov. 6 election.

Editorials: Five ways to make long elections lines shorter | Washington Post

“I want to thank every American who participated in this election,” President Obama said in his acceptance speech Tuesday, “whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.” At the mention of long waits, Obama paused. “By the way, we have to fix that.” Election Day saw news story after news story about interminable lines at polling stations. In some areas, people waited for two hours, three hours, or more. To many observers, it seemed ludicrous that a country as advanced and as wealthy as the United States can’t figure out how to hold a decent election. So what was the problem? Why do long lines persist? And is there anything Obama and Congress can do to make our voting system more efficient? I put this question to a couple of experts, and got back five broad suggestions for ways that both the states and even the federal government could improve our voting infrastructure and reduce long waits.

National: EAC: The Phantom Commission – Agency Formed to Restore Confidence in Elections Is in Disarray | Roll Call

A federal agency created to restore confidence in the election process in the wake of Bush v. Gore sits all but leaderless as the country approaches Election Day. As local election officials scramble to sort out last-minute issues — Palm Beach County, Fla., for example, recently hired dozens of workers to hand copy about 27,000 misprinted absentee ballots — the U.S. Election Assistance Commission operates, on its 10th anniversary, as a shell of what Congress designed it to be. Its four commissioner spots are vacant. The executive director resigned last year. Its general counsel left in May. It has lacked a quorum to conduct official business for almost two years. Congressional gamesmanship has hamstrung the commission by neither giving it necessary resources nor eliminating it outright. “It’s a national embarrassment that this agency, whose only mission is to provide information, doesn’t have a single commissioner,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine.

National: Absentee ballots gain popularity despite warnings of potential voter fraud | Fox News

On Election Day, millions of votes will be counted from people who do not vote in person. Instead, they will make their voices heard through mail-in, absentee ballots. Election officials insist absentee ballots are a secure way to vote, and they have become increasingly popular. Others brand absentee ballots as the weak link in the electoral system, charging that they are susceptible to voter fraud. “We have a very thorough verification process so that anyone who should be able to vote, and chooses to vote by mail, their right will be preserved,” insists John Hogan, the county clerk in Bergen County, N.J. “We have very, very little voter fraud, and if there is any indication of voter fraud, it is investigated immediately.” The United States Election Assistance Commission says that in the last federal election, the 2010 mid-terms, 90.8 million Americans cast ballots, and of that total, 14.2 million, or 15.6 percent, used absentee ballots.