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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Century, intimidation was common in polling places across the country, where Americans would cast their votes amongst their peers.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The UK may be taking its first, tentative steps towards introducing online voting with the establishment of a Commission on Digital Democracy. As so many of our routine tasks are going digital, the shift towards virtual polls seems like a natural progression. However, there are many technical issues that need to be ironed out and the stakes are very high. John Bercow, Speaker in the UK House of Commons, established the commission with a view to looking at how technology can be used to aid the democratic working of parliament, including online voting. This team would do well to take a look at what has, and has not, worked elsewhere around the world. Electronic voting can take a number of forms, including tallying votes by computer, using electronic equipment in polling stations and voting over the internet from the voter’s own computer or mobile device. Voting by phone is already used in entertainment shows, though multiple voting is possible and result-fixing has been known to happen. Internet voting is also carried out for professional societies, student unions and other forms of election. It works well when cost and desire to increase turnout are important factors and where the likelihood of an attack on the election is considered to be low. If we were to start using e-voting systems for electing political representatives, we’d need to be absolutely sure of their trustworthiness. Computer systems, including e-voting systems, can go wrong accidentally through software bugs, they can be hacked, and they can be subverted by corrupt insiders. Systems used in elections have been the subject of criticism for all these reasons, resulting in some cases from their withdrawal.
Secretary of State William Galvin won’t say if he is ordering changes at the city’s 24 polling places on Tuesday to prevent a repeat of the “overall chaos” witnessed by an observer he sent to the Sept. 17 preliminary election. Among them, observer Ramon Trinidad reported seeing city poll workers pencil in the names of unregistered people to the voting list and then hand them ballots. Trinidad also said poll workers examined completed ballots and allowed candidates to walk around freely inside polling places. He said poll workers were sometimes hard to find while campaign workers were prolific, polling places were organized in a way that confused voters, machines that assist disabled voters were shut down and documents describing voters’ rights were not posted as required. “I believe that when a poll worker looks at a voter’s ballot for any reason, the voter loses trust in their expectation of the right to a secret ballot,” Trinidad said in his report, describing how poll workers took ballots from voters and examined them if scanners spit them back. “It can be considered a type of voter intimidation.”
It’s a scramble to make sure the recall elections of state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron are fair after a judge ruled that candidates can join the race up until 15 days before the election. Some are concerned about the more than 900 military and overseas voters who’ve already received ballots that will likely be outdated by the time the Sept. 10 election day arrives. “Military service members overseas are going to have a difficult time voting and, if they do vote, many are going to lose the right to a secret ballot,” said Garrett Reppenhagen, a veteran and member of the nonprofit Vet Voice Foundation. For all elections, military members can vote through email, fax or a secure website, but they waive their right to a secret ballot when voting this way. One person in the county elections office sees their name and vote. “I think just trusting the fact that one person is going to see your ballot, and it’s not necessarily secret isn’t comforting to every service member and every voter,” said Reppenhagen.
After winding up testimony from Town Clerk Christian Samora and hearing closing arguments from both sides Thursday, District Judge Martin Gonzales rendered a timely decision Friday morning on the March 19 Center recall election. Gonzales based his decision strictly on the ruling handed down in the 1964 Colorado Supreme Court decision Taylor v. Pile: “If any absentee ballots are “numbered in such a manner that the vote of any person thereafter may be determined by comparison with the number on the ballot and the poll registration book is contrary to the state of Colorado’s constitutional and statutory guarantee of a secret ballot and, therefore, void ab initio [from the beginning].”
Images of the ballots cast in the 2009 municipal election are available for public inspection now that a four-year legal battle between City Hall and an Aspen resident has come to a close. The city of Aspen made 2,415 ballot images available Thursday on its website, and released them to the attorney for Marilyn Marks, who sued the city for access to the ballots. There were a total of 2,544 ballots cast in the 2009 election; 129 of them have been withheld due to identifying markers that could be traced back to a voter. Marks, who on Thursday said she has not spent much time examining the images posted online, wondered why the city withheld 129 ballots and if officials plan to attempt to make contact with voters who cast them since it’s illegal to make distinguishing marks on a ballot.
Voting Blogs: Lt. Governor invites voters to submit invalid ballots | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker
On November 3rd, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey issued a directive, well covered in the media, permitting storm-displaced New Jersey voters to vote by e-mail. The voter is to call or e-mail the county clerk to request an absentee ballot by e-mail or fax, then the voter returns the ballot by e-mail or fax:
“The voter must transmit the signed waiver of secrecy along with the voted ballot by fax or e-mail for receipt by the applicable county board of election no later than November 6, 2012 at 8 p.m.”
We see already one problem: The loss of the secret ballot. At many times in the 20th century, NJ political machines put such intense pressure on voters that the secret ballot was an important protection. In 2012 it’s in the news that some corporations are pressuring their employees to vote in certain ways. The secret ballot is still critical to the functioning of democracy. But there’s a much bigger problem with the Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s directive: If voters and county clerks follow her instructions, their votes will be invalid.
Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the state of Colorado does include a provision for a secret ballot, Colorado legal experts recently said. “The Colorado Constitution … provides for a secret ballot,” said Richard B. Collins, professor of law at the University of Colorado and director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. “Article VII, Section 8 of the Colorado Constitution says ‘secrecy in voting is preserved,’” he said. With that provision and the section saying that “no ballot can be marked whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it,” he said, it seems clear that the state Constitution provides for a secret ballot. “No one is contradicting that,” he said.
Colorado: It’s no secret: Judge tosses ballot privacy lawsuit against Larimer County CO | The Coloradoan
A federal judge in Denver ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to a secret ballot. U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello dismissed a lawsuit brought by voting-rights activists with the Aspen-based Citizen Center that accused Colorado election officials including the Larimer County clerk’s office and Secretary of State Scott Gessler of managing voted ballots in a way that is traceable to individual voters. “Coloradans until today have believed they are entitled to a secret ballot,” said Citizen Center founder Marilyn Marks. “Now we’re being told we are mistaken.”
Colorado: Scott Gessler adopts emergency rule to prevent ballots from being traced to voters | Westword
After a voter advocacy group offered proof that county clerks and other election officials could identify how specific people voted — which would violate a citizen’s basic right to a secret ballot — Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced an “emergency rule” effective immediately that will prevent officials from linking ballots to voters. It’s a big win for activist Marilyn Marks, who has been criticizing the system for more than a year. But at least one county clerk thinks the rule change will only create a whole host of headaches come Election Day. The rule announced late yesterday afternoon is a noteworthy move for Gessler, who has faced numerous lawsuits and considerable criticism from government watchdog groups and other political organizations as the November election nears.
A Colorado voter advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State and six county clerks, arguing that ballots in the current system are traceable — violating voters’ right to secret, anonymous ballots. This flaw, the group says, exposes Coloradans to voter intimidation and could discourage people from casting their ballots. But the county clerks deny there are threats to voter privacy and say the allegations put forward by activist Marilyn Marks are not true. “It’s an absolutely fundamental right that we have to a secret ballot,” says Marks, the founder and president of Citizen Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that focuses on accountability and transparency in elections. “If we start thinking about what happens if we lose that right…voters can be intimidated. Voters may stay away from polls. Voters can’t vote their conscience. That’s such an undemocratic proposition. We just cannot let that happen.” Here’s the problem, according to Marks: Election staff can trace specific ballots right back to voters through unique barcodes assigned to each ballot.