Here’s a view of the super storm Sandy disruption you may not have heard about — a new step in Garden State voting some think was a big failure. After Sandy, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno in her dual role as secretary of state told county clerks she issued an emergency order granting any registered voter displaced by Sandy to ability to cast votes via email or fax. Journalist Steve Friess writes the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law School-Newark spent the past 18 months following a public document trail to show how that went. The team was led by law professor Penny Venetis. “There was mass confusion among county officials and voters alike,”‘ the 83-page report, called “The Perfect Storm: Voting in New Jersey in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said.
New Jersey: Emergency voting measures during Hurricane Sandy violated State law, inviting fraud, study finds | NJ.com
Emergency measures intended to allow people to vote in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy violated state law, concludes a highly-critical report released today by the Rutgers School of Law in Newark. The study said those measures—which included allowing people to request mail-in ballots by fax and email—led to mass confusion, overwhelming many county clerks on election day. According to Penny Venetis, the co-director of the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law-Newark who authored the report, the internet and fax voting hastily put in play by the state in the wake of the storm was not only was illegal, but also left votes vulnerable to online hacking. “Internet voting should never be permitted, especially in emergencies when governmental infrastructure is already compromised,” she said in her report. A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, however, said the law school’s findings ignored everything the state did in making sure as many people as possible had an opportunity to vote under what were extreme circumstances. “The truth is that as a state, we were dealing with a disaster and catastrophic damage,” said the spokesman, Michael Drewniak. “We should be lauded for what we were able to do.”
The debate over whether Americans should be permitted to vote via the Internet has long pitted voting system manufacturers, who frame it to election officials as inevitable and modern, against top cybersecurity experts who insist it cannot be done without inviting wide-scale fraud. In recent months, however, a powerful new force has joined the fight: people with disabilities, insisting that using electronic ballots from their homes ought to be seen as a right guaranteed by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Most notably, a federal judge in Maryland is scheduled next month to hear arguments as to whether the state board of elections must certify a system that involves the Internet-based delivery and marking of absentee ballots for people with disabilities. The lawsuit’s main plaintiff is the National Federation for the Blind (NFB), joined by a man with cerebral palsy and a woman who is deaf and blind. Separately, the Utah legislature in March passed the Internet Voting Pilot Project Act to permit county election officials to develop systems for people with disabilities to vote online. No actual system has been proposed or adopted yet. … Those systems are worrisome to opponents, but for the most part they represent a relatively small number of voters scattered across the nation. The focus on Maryland is the result of both limited resources and the fear of a federal precedent, said Susan Greenhalgh of Verified Voting, a watchdog group that raises concerns about vulnerabilities in electronic voting systems of all types.
Voting rights lawyers said today some of New Jersey’s digital voting machines must be replaced because they are vulnerable to hackers who could change the outcome of elections. “We are in a state that values and prizes the right to vote,” Penny Venetis, a law professor at Rutgers University-Newark, told a three-judge appeals court panel in Trenton. “We believe that this court should review the record anew and look at the science very carefully.” Continuing a fight that has lasted nearly a decade, Venetis wants the appeals court to overrule a lower court judge who allowed counties across New Jersey to continue using the computerized voting systems. Venetis said the systems leave no paper trail, complicating recounts in any instance where fraud or mistakes happen. She said it would not be difficult for a computer hacker to gain access to a machine and change its software to register votes for one candidate over another. “You can press what you think is candidate A’s button and it registers a vote for candidate B,” she said. But the state argued that there is no perfect system, paperless machines do not present “a severe restriction on the right to vote” and replacing the equipment will simply cost too much.
New Jersey: Rutgers–Newark Law Professor to Argue Case Against Flawed Electronic Voting Machines | Rutgers Today
On Tuesday March 5, 2013, Professor Penny Venetis of the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic will argue before the New Jersey Appellate Division and ask the court to decertify New Jersey’s insecure computerized voting machines. The case, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Stephanie Harris, Coalition for Peace Action, etc. vs. Gov. Chris Christie, will be heard in Trenton beginning at 11:30 am. The clinic filed a lawsuit in 2004 charging that the voting machines violated the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, as well as voting rights statutes. New Jersey passed “gold standard” legislation in 2005 and 2008 to require computerized voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper ballot. However, the State has yet to implement these statutes, leaving more than 5.5 million voters unprotected each Election Day. New Jersey is one of only six states that use computerized voting machines which cannot be audited.
The Rutgers School of Law–Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic has served Open Public Records (OPRA) requests to New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s office and to all 21 New Jersey counties for information about the processing of ballots of voters displaced by Superstorm Sandy. The clinic seeks to determine whether any voters were disenfranchised on Election Day because of Internet voting and the confusion caused by emergency voting directives. Candidates are concerned as well. At least 75 elections still hinge on votes cast by displaced voters. In the wake of the storm, Lt. Gov. Guadagno issued a directive allowing displaced voters to vote by fax, email, and through the Internet. “Although emergency action was warranted, Internet and email voting was not the solution,” said Clinical Professor Penny Venetis, co-director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “New Jersey law does not permit Internet voting.”
A group of constitutional experts at Rutgers University want to know how fax and e-mail ballots were processed after Hurricane Sandy, and if any voters were disenfranchised as a result of widespread confusion. The Rutgers School of Law-Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic said today it has sent public records requests to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s office and all 21 counties for information on how the ballots were handled. The clinic claims 75 elections in New Jersey still hinge on votes cast by displaced voters.
A decade after Dana Debeauvoir helped change Travis County, Texas to an all-electronic voting system she still expects to be falsely accused of fixing the coming election, just as she had in the last two presidential races. The clerk, who has administered voting for 25 years in the county that includes Austin, says the public has remained mistrustful of the ballot system, where voters pick candidates directly from a computer screen, without marking a piece of paper. “There have been so many hard feelings,” says Debeauvoir. “You get people saying ‘I know you have been flipping votes.’” In the wake of the hanging chad controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential elections, the federal government encouraged election administrators across the country to switch to electronic systems and mandated upgrades to many election procedures. As they prepare for the presidential elections, those officials now find themselves at the center of a continuing debate over whether paperless direct-record electronic (DRE) balloting can be trusted – what Debeauvoir calls the “DRE wars.”
When the returns came in for the Cumberland County Democratic Committee last summer, Cynthia Zirkle couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Only 86 votes were cast in the race to represent her district in Fairfield Township, and despite assurances from dozens of friends, Zirkle and her husband, Ernest, had managed to win just 19 votes between them. “I can’t believe that’s correct,” Zirkle told her husband, a retired veterinarian and the town’s deputy mayor.
The couple sued the Cumberland County Board of Elections and discovered that due to a programming error, their results had been switched with those of their opponents. In a rare turn of events, a new election was ordered, which the Zirkles handily won.
The case caught the eye of a Rutgers law professor who has spent years arguing that the touch-screen voting machines in use across New Jersey are prone to malfunction and hacking and need a paper backup that would allow for manual recounts. Provided with that real-life example of the machines’ fallibility, Penny Venetis, codirector of the constitutional litigation clinic at Rutgers-Newark Law School, is fighting to get the state Appellate Court to reopen her 2004 lawsuit and rewrite the rules on how elections are conducted in New Jersey. “The issues involved extend way beyond Cumberland County,” Venetis said. “It’s only because it was such a small election we know about this. If it was Newark, forget it. But that’s our point, stuff like this happens. Computers can be told to do whatever you want. They can play Jeopardy!; they can cheat in elections.”
It has been nothing short of astonishing that, within a few weeks, the brave people of Tunisia and Egypt toppled corrupt dictators who ruled for decades. One of the protesters’ key demands was for democratic elections — the right to choose a government that is responsive to the people’s needs. That is also what protesters in…