secret ballot

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Australia: Gay marriage vote revealed through envelope by torch | Daily Mail

A photo claiming to show how the supposedly secret same-sex marriage postal vote can be seen through the envelope created controversy online. The image appears to show a gay marriage vote form with the ‘no’ box ticked being illuminated through the envelope with a torch. The photo began circulating on social media after a concerned voter saw the image pop up on his Facebook news feed. ‘So we wasted $122 million on a survey where a torch can reveal the answer through the reply envelope it came with.’ The person who posted the photo said they would ‘be voting yes… if it will even be counted now after this stuff up’.

National: Internet Voting Leaves Out a Cornerstone of Democracy: The Secret Ballot | MIT Technology Review

If the risk of hackers meddling with election results is not enough, here’s another reason voting shouldn’t happen on the Internet: the ballots can’t be kept secret. That’s according to a new report from Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparency and accuracy in elections. A cornerstone of democracy, the secret ballot guards against voter coercion. But “because of current technical challenges and the unique challenge of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain the separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used,” concludes the report, which was written in collaboration with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the anticorruption advocacy group Common Cause. When votes are returned via the Internet, it’s technically difficult to separate the voter’s identity from the vote, says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, since the server has to know that identity in order to authenticate the voter and record the vote. In the systems that states are using now, “the authentication typically happens at the same time as the voting process,” she says. That’s problematic. A previous experiment tested giving voters PIN codes, but hackers working with the researchers were able to find those numbers and associate them with voters, says Smith.

Full Article: Internet Voting Leaves Out a Cornerstone of Democracy: The Secret Ballot.

Norway: Governments should consider the consequences when they decide whether to adopt Internet voting | Democratic Audit

The secret ballot is largely undisputed as a democratic principle. What this principle means in practice, however, may be contested when voting takes place outside the polling station in a so-called uncontrolled environment, i.e., remote voting including Internet voting, postal voting and telephone voting. Remote voting transfers the responsibility for vote secrecy from the authorities to the voters. The popular understanding of the principle of the secret ballot, therefore, becomes crucial, because this may influence whether voters actually keep their vote secret. The secrecy of the vote has two aspects. First, it requires that voters are able to cast their votes in private, unobserved by anyone. Second, it requires that no one is able to break the anonymity of the vote at a later stage. Even though both aspects are important, we focus on the former. Voter attitudes towards the privacy aspect have received little attention in the literature on remote voting. The secrecy of the vote is usually taken for granted, and questions about this issue are therefore rarely asked in surveys.

Full Article: Governments should consider the consequences when they decide whether to adopt Internet voting : Democratic Audit UK.

California: Marin’s assemblyman wants to legalize ‘ballot selfies’ in California | Marin Independent Journal

Assemblyman Marc Levine is proposing turning the secret ballot into the social ballot in California. On election eve, Levine, D-San Rafael, announced he will shortly introduce legislation to legalize the taking of “ballot selfies” — digital images of completed ballots taken in the privacy of the voting booth. “I’ve been taking ballot selfies since I began taking my children to the polls with me,” Levine said. “I and many of my friends share our ballots on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we vote at home or are at a voting booth.” Voters’ motivations for taking ballot selfies can vary, Levine said. “It can be because they’re supporting a specific candidate, or it can be just to share the experience that they voted and that this is an important thing for Californians to do. It can be the social media version of the voting sticker, showing that you voted.”

Missouri: College student would be sole voter in Community Improvement District sales tax decision | Columbia Daily Tribune

A mistake by representatives of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District means a sales tax increase the district needs to thrive will require approval by a single University of Missouri student. On Feb. 28, Jen Henderson, 23, became the sole registered voter living within the community improvement district, or CID, meaning she is the only person who would vote on a half-cent sales tax increase for the district. The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The “qualified voters” in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote. Many homes surrounding the university-owned property where Henderson resides were not included in the district when it was drawn because district organizers wanted a district free of residents.

Full Article: College student would be sole voter in CID sales tax decision | Columbia Daily Tribune.

California: Alameda County settles suit with blind voters | San Francisco Chronicle

Blind voters in Alameda County may soon have an easier time voting in privacy after settling a lawsuit requiring better testing and upkeep of audio equipment that allows them to cast push-button secret ballots. The settlement follows a 2013 federal court ruling that applies disability law to the ballot box. The legal advocacy group Disability Rights Advocates announced the three-year settlement Wednesday after approval by county supervisors earlier this month. Prompted by blind voters’ complaints about equipment breakdowns in the 2012 elections, the agreement includes requirements for pre-election testing of each machine, hands-on training of poll workers, and an election day hotline to quickly repair or replace nonfunctioning equipment.

Full Article: Alameda County settles suit with blind voters - SFGate.

Italy: Parliament approves electoral reform bill | Xinhua

The Italian Lower House on Monday definitively approved a new electoral law, which was seen as a keystone of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reform agenda. The new legislation will grant 55 percent of seats in parliament to the winning party in future elections, thus making it easier to produce a stable political majority. “We have kept our commitment, the promise has been fulfilled,” Renzi wrote on his twitter account, soon after the vote. The final approval from the Lower House came through a secret ballot after a daylong tense debate, and the bill was passed with 334 votes in favor, and 61 votes against.

Full Article: Italy's parliament approves electoral reform bill - Xinhua | English.news.cn.

Editorials: Cubans Demand a Direct and Secret Ballot to Elect Their President | Yoani Sanchez/Huffington Post

A few years ago, I asked a friend why he had voted for a candidate he barely knew during the election of delegates to the municipal assemblies. His response at the time was simple and full of wisdom. “I don’t want to get into trouble, it’s not that the ballots are marked,” he warned me slyly. With my face showing how embarrassed I was for him, he immediately declared, “Fine, in the end, voting or not voting, it isn’t going to change anything.” My friend’s comments highlighted two of the most serious limitations of the current mechanisms for electing the people’s representatives. On the one hand, the little confidence that Cuban voters have in the secrecy of the process, and on the other hand, the inability of the candidates elected to influence the direction of the nation. Two of the aspects most mentioned in a forum about the electoral system just held on the digital site of the government newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth).

Full Article: Cubans Demand a Direct and Secret Ballot to Elect Their President | Yoani Sanchez.

International: Pirate party founder: ‘Online voting? Would you want 4chan to decide your government?’ | The Guardian

In 2012, a contest for US schools to win a gig by Taylor Swift was hijacked by members of the 4chan website, who piled ​on its online vote in an attempt to send the pop star to a school for deaf children. Now, imagine a similar stunt being pulled for a general election, if voting could be done online. Far-fetched? Not according to Rick Falkvinge, founder of Sweden’s Pirate ​party. “Voting over the internet? Would you really want 4chan to decide your next government?” he said, during a debate about democracy and technology in London, organised by the BBC as part of its Democracy Day event. Falkvinge was responding to a question about whether online voting – or even voting from smartphones – would encourage more people to vote. Besides online pranksters, his reservations included the potential ability of governments and security agencies to snoop on people’s online votes.

Full Article: Pirate party founder: 'Online voting? Would you want 4chan to decide your government?' | Technology | The Guardian.

Vermont: Election Is Held on Nov. 4, and Governor Is Chosen on Jan. 8 | New York Times

November came and went, and even until Thursday, Vermonters did not know who would be inaugurated as governor. They seemed to take this uncertainty in stride, much as they ignored the record-breaking low temperature of minus 20 degrees that encased the gray granite statehouse here in a brittle air. But on Thursday, members of the Vermont House and Senate elected the state’s governor — by secret ballot. They chose Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, giving him his third two-year term. That’s right: 179 state legislators had the final say, not the 193,603 voters who cast ballots for governor in the Nov. 4 election. “Thank you all for making it possible for me to be able to give this speech today,” Mr. Shumlin told legislators a few hours later as he delivered his inaugural address in the House chamber. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” He had reason to be grateful.

Full Article: In Vermont, Election Is Held on Nov. 4, and Governor Is Chosen on Jan. 8 - NYTimes.com.

Vermont: Secret ballot will determine governor’s election | Rutland Herald

Lawmakers will cast ballots Thursday morning and elect the state’s next governor, but don’t expect any public airing of how each of Vermont’s 180 legislators voted. It’s pretty widely understood by now that since no candidate received a majority of the popular vote in November, lawmakers must decide the race, according to Vermont’s constitution. They’ll do that Thursday morning when the 30 members of the Senate make the short walk to the House chamber for a joint assembly. They have three choices: incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin, Republican Scott Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano. Shumlin won a plurality of the vote, topping Milne by 2,434 votes, or roughly 46 percent for Shumlin and 45 percent for Milne. Feliciano earned 4 percent of the vote.

Full Article: Secret ballot will determine governor’s election  : Rutland Herald Online.

New Hampshire: Is A Ban On ‘Ballot Selfies’ Overkill? | NPR

It started out as a seemingly harmless act: voters posting photos of their completed ballots on the Internet. One wrote in his deceased dog’s name for senator because he didn’t like any of the candidates, then shared his message of frustration on Facebook. A state legislator, and another a candidate for the state House, also publicly published photos of their ballots. Now they’re under investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. The reason? It turns out the act of photographing or sharing a marked ballot is illegal under state law — and in 43 other states.

Full Article: Is A Ban On 'Ballot Selfies' Overkill? : It's All Politics : NPR.

Australia: Risks of e-voting outweigh benefits – for now | Computerworld

An interim report of a parliamentary committee tasked with examining the 2013 Senate ballot in Western Australia has concluded that the nation is not yet ready for the widespread use of e-voting in federal elections. In December last year the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters was given the job of examining the fiasco which saw Western Australian voters return to the poll after ballots were lost in the state’s tightly contested 2013 Senate race. “Ultimately, the committee has concluded that electronic voting can’t be introduced in the near future without high costs and unacceptable security risks,” the chair of committee, Liberal MP Tony Smith, said in a statement. “The Committee believes that it is likely that technology will evolve to the point that it will be possible to vote electronically in federal elections,” the interim report states. “At that stage the question for a future Parliament, and the voting public, will be whether the convenience of electronic voting outweighs the risks to the sanctity of the ballot. “The view of this Committee is that the answer to this question at this time is that no, it does not.”

Full Article: Risks of e-voting outweigh benefits – for now - Computerworld.

Vermont: Why a secret ballot will determine Vermont’s next governor | WCAX

Election results are in, but the race for governor may not be over. Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, declared victory Wednesday, but Republican challenger Scott Milne called that premature Thursday. Unofficial results from The Associated Press, with 100 percent of the vote counted, show Shumlin with 46 percent (89,874) of the vote and  Milne with 45 percent (87,786) — a margin of just 2,088 votes. By historical standards that would be a safe margin for any potential recount, but Milne says he may still ask for one. Milne tells WCAX he has no plans to address the public until he gets more information about the final results, but he did release a statement to the press Thursday afternoon. Click here to read it. As long as neither candidate ultimately secures more than 50 percent of the ballots cast, the power to pick the state’s next Governor will fall to the legislature. When rookie and veteran lawmakers arrive for work at the Statehouse this January, picking a Governor will be one of their first tasks.

Full Article: Why a secret ballot will determine Vermont's next governor - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-.

National: America’s Long, Weird Search for the Perfect Voting Machine | Gizmodo

Millions of Americans will vote today, and for the first time in years, many of them will use paper ballots. For a nation that’s produced some of the most advanced machines in the world, we’ve had a hell of a time figuring out one of the most important. However you vote today, take a second (and make sure your machine isn’t switching your vote) to consider just how massive a project elections are: Over a single day, millions of Americans filter through gyms, fire halls, and community center to vote, creating individual data points in all are analyzed over the course of a few hours. It’s a remarkable project of numbers and engineering, and it helps to explain why voting is still evolving two centuries after the first American election. To get a sense of how many iterations and failures have plagued voting day, look no further than the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which helpfully pulled some of the more notable machines from its archives today, adding, “as Americans embrace their Constitutional right to vote, they’ll have IP all around them.” If you go all the way back in the USPTO’s archives, you’ll find dozens of patents for “improvements to ballot boxes,” to outsmart ballot stuffers. According to Richard Bensel’s The American Ballot Box in the Mid-Nineteenth Centuryintimidation was common in polling places across the country, where Americans would cast their votes amongst their peers.

Full Article: America's Long, Weird Search for the Perfect Voting Machine.

Massachusetts: Military Ballots No Longer Secret | The Valley Patriot

We ask the men and women serving overseas to make the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the rights you and I take for granted. And how do we thank them? – by asking them to waive their right to a secret ballot. Under MA General Laws: Chapter 54, Section 95: “… Email or facsimile transmissions of a federal write-in absentee ballot shall include a completed form approved by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, or any successor program, declaring that the voter voluntarily waives the right to a secret ballot….” Allowing overseas citizens the option of electronic voting, assuming they have access to it, was the state’s solution to our September primary being too close to the November election (see May 2014 Massachusetts Military: The REAL Disenfranchised). Nine other states and the District of Columbia, that had similar conflicts, have changed the dates of their primaries. But despite repeated opportunities, politicians on Beacon Hill refuse to do so, seemingly because they oppose extending their campaign season. State Senator Jamie Eldridge, disagrees with those colleagues, and supports moving the primary to late spring or early summer. “As it is now, whoever wins the primary has only 6 weeks before the general election.”

Full Article: MA Military: Ballots No Longer Secret | The Valley Patriot.

National: Technology Makes Voting Less Private | Government Technology

Where is the line between technology and voter privacy? Secret ballots are one of the tenets of voting, and as technology moves forward there’s a push to keep voting secret, with Monroe County poll sites banning cellphones and photos of the ballots themselves. But what happens once a vote is cast, and it becomes one point in a data set about voting trends throughout the region? Voting data can reveal various trends, from where Democrats and Republicans are voting, to where the most voters live, to the ages of most voters. Data like this was always available in some form, but it was usually buried in hundreds of sheets of paper and information was rarely gathered, given the large time commitment necessary to do so. Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins said in a particularly busy election, it might take a year to get a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of votes. This election, it took one day due to the first-time use of the electronic poll books. Voter data information is now available with the click of a button, and that information can be pretty revealing for trying to determine how someone voted.

Full Article: Technology Makes Voting Less Private.

Ireland: Case taken over voting rights of visually impaired | The Irish Times

A campaigner for the visually impaired has brought a High Court action alleging the State has failed to provide a suitable mechanism enabling those with sight difficulties to vote by secret ballot. Robert Sinnott, a representative of the Blind Legal Alliance, argues there is no mechanism allowing him or other visually impaired people to cast their vote in a manner respecting the secrecy of their votes.

Full Article: Case taken over voting rights of visually impaired - The Irish Times - Fri, Mar 28, 2014.

Netherlands: Polling booth selfies sweep the Netherlands | AFP

Dutch citizens and politicians united on Wednesday in posting voting booth selfie photos, an increasingly popular phenomenon that could threaten the principle of the secret ballot but also encourages people to vote. Alexander Pechtold, who heads the centrist D66 party, was among the many Dutch voting in Wednesday’s local elections who tweeted a #stemfie, a combination of “stemmen”, the Dutch word for voting, and selfie. The photos, often of voters posing with the red pencil used to make their democratic choice or the candidate list, spread over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with the #stemfie hashtag trending. Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk tweeted: “I’m not calling on people to take a #stemfie, but it is allowed.”

Full Article: Polling booth selfies sweep the Netherlands - Yahoo News UK.

Voting Blogs: Targeted Attacks Hijacked ‘Vast Amounts of Data’ to Foreign Countries Earlier This Year | BradBlog

We’ve discussed, many times over the years, the madness of Internet Voting schemes. Today we’ve got yet another piece of disturbing evidence that underscores why such a scheme for American democracy would be nothing short of insane. … Now, Kim Zetter at Wired’s “Threat Level” blog offers yet another reason why the Internet, as it currently exists, is simply unfit to serve as a means for secure online voting. Her recently published article, which doesn’t focus on voting, is alarmingly headlined “Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet”. And no, in this case, it’s not the NSA. At least as far as we know. Zetter details a “huge security hole” indeed, one which, as she documents, was found to have been used earlier this year to re-route “vast amounts” of U.S. Internet data all the way out to Belarus and Iceland, where it was intercepted in a classic “man-in-the-middle” fashion, before being sent on to its intended receiver. During the hijack attack, the senders and receivers of the Internet data were none the wiser, just as would likely be the case if the same gaping security hole in the Internet’s existing architecture was used to hijack votes cast over the Internet, change them, and then send them on to the server of the intended election official recipient.

Full Article: The BRAD BLOG : Yet Another Reason Internet Voting is a Terrible Idea: Targeted Attacks Hijacked 'Vast Amounts of Data' to Foreign Countries Earlier This Year.