Voting can be as easy as a click of the mouse – but is it secure? Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of online voting, from casting your vote online to sending an email. But after high-profile hacks like those at the Democratic National Committee, the Obama administration is looking at ways to protect online voting amid growing concerns about whether these systems are vulnerable. “There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
National: Election Assistance Commission Advisory Board Disagrees With Director Over Citizenship Rule | NPR
It looks like more bad news for the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Brian Newby is already being sued by the League of Women Voters for his decision earlier this year to allow Kansas and two other states to require residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote using a federal form. The move effectively reversed a long-standing EAC policy. Now, the EAC’s advisory board — composed of election officials from around the country — has approved a resolution saying that such changes should be made by the commissioners themselves. The resolution, passed by a 13-7 vote during a two-day board meeting in Chicago, is only advisory, but clearly shows dissatisfaction with Newby’s actions. Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks says it’s now up to the commission to take the recommendation “under advisement” and decide what to do.
We send emails instead of hand-written letters, we buy Kindles instead of books, we use iPads instead of pen and paper—and yet, voting is still mostly left to good old-fashioned paper. Voting technology has essentially remained at a standstill for decades. Still, some things have stayed the same even longer: the same concerns for security and secrecy that have kept paper dominant were also the driving forces behind voting policy in the early years of the United States. … Most states use a combination of electronic and paper technology. Only five states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina) have paper-free voting and some states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) send all constituents a paper ballot in the mail. Even more states use a combination of electronic and paper at polling places. Given how much technology has advanced in recent years, it’s fair to wonder why we continue to vote with paper. However, there are good reasons why the U.S. is hanging on to paper ballots.
Inside a federal courtroom in Washington earlier this year, the presiding judge peered down in disbelief as a Justice Department official told him that the Obama administration would not defend a tiny elections agency but was instead siding with civil rights groups suing the government. “Unprecedented,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said from the bench. “I’ve never heard of it in all my years as a lawyer.” From the back of the packed courtroom emerged someone else to argue for the federal agency: a tall, clean-cut figure in a dark suit, carrying a sheaf of papers, who had traveled more than 1,000 miles that day to make his case. “Your honor, Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state,” he told the judge. He went on to defend the actions of the director of the elections agency who had single-handedly rewritten voter registration rules, prompting an immediate challenge from civil rights groups.
National: Want honest elections? Meet America’s new election integrity watchdog | Public Radio International
With the 2000 presidential election’s voting debacle still raw, President George W. Bush in 2002, signed into law the “Help America Vote Act,” which he promised would help “ensure the integrity and efficiency of voting processes in federal elections.” A key component: the Election Assistance Commission, a new, bipartisan federal agency tasked with adopting voting system guidelines, distributing grants and otherwise aiding states in improving their election processes. But the little commission soon hit downdrafts. Congress routinely cut its already modest budget. The federal government moved its headquarters from prime digs in downtown Washington, DC, to a nondescript office tower in suburban Maryland. Then in 2010, the Election Assistance Commission began a nearly five-year stretch where it lacked enough appointed commissioners to conduct meetings, and, therefore, conduct its most important business. Some members of Congress tried, and failed, to kill what had effectively become a zombie agency.
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.”
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: U.S. Election Assistance Commission May Be Back with Commissioners Soon | Election Law Blog
President Obama just announced two nominations for the U.S. Assistance Commission. Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick are Republican-chosen nominees to join the two nominees from the Democrats, Thomas Hicks and Myrna Perez. The EAC was created as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act as a way of providing best practices and doling out voting machine money in the wake of the Florida 2000 debacle. The commission functions with two Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees. As I explain in The Voting Wars, the EAC started out with some independent commissioners who looked like they were going to transcend partisan politics and get some stuff done. But then there was controversy over a voter id report, and pressure on Republican commissioners.
President Obama warned recently that the “gridlock [which] reigns” in Washington could become “a self-fulfilling prophesy” of cynicism and dysfunction if voters fail to hold politicians accountable at the polls. That same gridlock could make it harder for Americans to vote and have their ballots counted as cast. In a study released last week, Common Cause found that a record number of pending executive and independent agency nominations are stalled on the Senate floor, despite filibuster reform that ended the 60-vote rule for most nominations. The person waiting the longest for a vote is Thomas Hicks, an Obama nominee for the Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”). His nomination has been pending for over four years – since April 2010. Waiting the third longest (over three years) is Myrna Pérez, also to serve on the EAC. This is no accident. It’s part of a larger strategy of obstructing action on the president’s executive nominations. When the report went to print last week, 115 executive and independent agency nominees were pending on the floor. At this point in President George W. Bush’s administration, only 34 were pending on the Senate floor. Under President Clinton, there were just 12. To the Senate’s shame, the EAC has not had a single commissioner since 2011. It should have four, with no more than two from any one political party.
National: Kill the Election Assistance Commission? Two commissioner nominees languish as Congress mulls axing bedraggled body | Center for Public Integrity
Myrna Perez and Thomas Hicks again sat before a pair of U.S. senators Wednesday for a hearing on their presidential nominations to the Election Assistance Commission. Their session, however, morphed into a debate on whether this little-known and decidedly bedraggled commission — created by Congress in 2002 to help prevent voting meltdowns like those experienced during the 2000 presidential election — should exist at all. “The Election Assistance Commission has fulfilled its purpose and should be eliminated,” declared Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the ranking member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which conducted the hearing. He quickly added: “None of my comments are a reflection of the nominees.” Reflection or not, the nominees find themselves in a political purgatory and legislative limbo soupy as any Congress is stirring.