The UK Guardian asked computer security experts for their opinion on the Motion Picture Academy’s plans for online voting. Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of voter fraud, perjury and other counts. Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn resigned as part of the fallout from the Iowa caucus meltdown that has brought fresh scrutiny on the caucus process. Negotiations to resolve Texas redistricting maps threatens another delay in the State’s primary. The suspension of the Election Assistance Commission’s Standards and Advisory Boards has met with resistance from election officials. A study by the Wesleyan Media Group shows that over half the ads run thus far in the 2012 Presidential election campaign have been funded by Super PACs and Foreign Policy posted an essay on the turmoil surrounding Senegal’s upcoming election.
- National: Oscars vote vulnerable to cyber-attack under new online system, experts warn | guardian.co.uk
- Indiana: Indiana election chief found guilty of voter fraud | The Associated Press
- Iowa: After Iowa, Reliability is Questioned in Caucus System | NYTimes.com
- Texas: Redistricting settlement on verge of collapse, delaying primaries | The Hill
- National: Summit addresses military and overseas voters – despite progress, challenges remain | electionlineWeekly
- Blogs: Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me: EAC Shutdown of HAVA Boards Provokes Resistance from State Election Officials | Doug Chapin/PEEA
- National: Study: SuperPACs Behind Nearly Half Of 2012 Ads | NPR
- Senegal: The Pop Star and the President | Tim Judah/Foreign Policy
Computer security experts have warned that the 2013 Oscars ballot may be vulnerable to a variety of cyber attacks that could falsify the outcome but remain undetected, if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences follows through on its decision to switch to internet voting for its members. The Academy announced last week that it would be ditching its current vote-by-mail system and allowing its members to fill out electronic ballots from their home or office computers to make their choices for best picture and the other big Hollywood prizes, starting in 2013. It announced a partnership with Everyone Counts, a California-based company which has developed software for internet elections from Australia to Florida, and boasted it would incorporate “multiple layers of security” and “military-grade encryption techniques” to maintain its reputation for scrupulous honesty in respecting its members’ voting preferences.
The change will be a culture shock for an Academy voting community that tends to skew older and more conservative: indeed, concerns are already surfacing whether all of the Academy voters even have email addresses. And the claims have been met with deep scepticism by a computer scientist community which has grappled for years with the problem of making online elections fully verifiable while maintaining ballot secrecy – in other words, being rigorous about auditing the voting process but still making sure nobody knows who voted for what. So far, nobody has demonstrated that such a thing is possible.
“Everybody would like there to be secure internet voting, but some very smart people have looked at the problem and can’t figure out how to do it,” said David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of the election transparency group Verified Voting. “The problem arises as soon as you decouple the voter from the recorded vote. If someone casts a ballot for best actor A and the vote is recorded for best actor B, the voter has no way of knowing the ballot has been altered, and the auditor won’t be able to see it either.”
Dill and many other leading computer scientists have listed multiple potential vulnerabilities to internet systems making vote-tampering possible, including denial-of-service attacks, malware, and penetration of the server’s security wall. He reacted with particular alarm to the notion that the Academy’s more than 5,000 voters would cast their ballots from their own computers. ”The hardest problem is when you have malicious software on the machine where the vote is cast,” he said. “If that’s the user’s home PC, that’s a huge problem, because lots of people have undetected viruses on their machine. A lot of people are under the control of hackers in eastern Europe, or wherever, and don’t even know it.”
- Ballot Secrecy Keeps Voting Technology at Bay | Scientific American
- David Jefferson: If I can shop and bank online, why can’t I vote online?
- Academy Awards Partners with Everyone Counts for 2013 Internet Oscar Ballots | Thompson on Hollywood
- Internet picks presidential candidate if Ackerman gets his way | The News Journal
- E-voting machine freezes, misreads votes, U.S. agency says | Computerworld
Indiana’s top elections official could lose his job and his freedom after jurors convicted him of multiple voter fraud-related charges on Saturday, leaving in flux the fate of one of the state’s most powerful positions. Republican Secretary of State Charlie White has held on to his office for more than a year despite being accused of lying about his address on voter registration forms. A Hamilton County jury found White guilty of six of seven felony charges, including false registration, voting in another precinct, submitting a false ballot, theft and two counts of perjury. He was acquitted on one fraud charge. White expressed no outward emotion as the verdict was read, and later said outside the courtroom: “‘I’m disappointed for my family and the people who supported me.”
White and his attorneys said the fate of his elected post remains unknown and ultimately may have to be decided by the governor or state supreme court. “We will review our options,” he said.” White’s attorney, Carl Brizzi, said he will ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors because his client has no criminal background and has a long record of public service. The jury verdict came after a weeklong trial in which White, who had vigorously protested the charges in hearings before a state elections panel, presented no defense.
… Republican special prosecutor John Dowd said he’s also unsure about the fate of White’s position, but expressed satisfaction about the verdict. ”We believe it was about someone who violated the law and cheated the system — and gamed the system,” Dowd said. “And, obviously, the jury thought the same way.” State law bars anyone convicted of a felony from remaining in office. It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly White could be replaced or who might succeed him.
A Marion County judge already has ruled that White should be replaced by Democrat Vop Osili, the man he defeated by about 300,000 votes in the November 2010 election, but that ruling is on hold pending an appeal. But state law allows the governor — in the case, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels — to appoint a successor. White has resisted calls to resign from Democrats and Republicans, including Daniels.
- Judge says White ineligible to serve as Secretary of State | Evansville Courier & Press
- Charlie White’s request to investigate Bayh voter fraud claims denied | fox59.com…
- Secretary of State White can stay in office, recount panel rules | The Indianapolis Star
- Easing Secretary of State White’s damage | The Journal Gazette
- Charlie White going to great lengths to avoid answering questions | WISHTV
The errors started to emerge even before Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucus by eight votes. By the time the results were certified two weeks later, mistakes had been found in so many districts that the state Republican Party chairman declared that it would be impossible to determine a winner. Critics responded almost immediately with a seemingly obvious assertion: real elections have winners. But even after the party chairman reversed himself and called the race for Rick Santorum, many state leaders justified the confusion in a way that may appear at odds with the level of attention awarded the first-in-the-nation caucus: This was not, in fact, a real election.
That argument, made by everyone from the state’s governor to the editorial page of its largest newspaper, distinguished between the exacting standards of a professional state-run primary and the assumed informality of a party-run, volunteer-staffed caucus, in which the votes do not even officially count.
Nevertheless it was a startling admission in a state that has fiercely defended the significance of an event that plays an outsize role in shaping nomination contests — and the state’s own sphere of influence — and it highlighted the relative unreliability of a voting process already criticized as being undemocratic.
- Caucus results may threaten first-in-nation status | Des Moines Register
- The Semantics and Statistics of Santorum’s Win in Iowa | 538/NYTimes.com
- Who won the Iowa primary – and does it matter from a technical perspective? | Jeremy Epstein/Freedom to Tinker
- Santorum Didn’t Win Iowa By 34 Votes — He Won By 69 | TPM
- Could Typo Rewrite Caucus History? | KCCI Des Moines
A once-promising settlement for Texas’s convoluted redistricting battle has stalled, leaving the process once again far from an agreement and likely forcing Texas to move its primary back for a second time. Texas’s redistricting maps are tied up in federal court and are unlikely to stand as they were originally drawn. Because of that a San Antonio court drew an interim map, but that was struck down by the Supreme Court. No one is sure how the process will play out, but all sides agree that a settlement that looked possible early this week is all but dead in the water, making it likely that Texas will have to push its primary back from April.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) had approached the various plaintiffs last week, seeking a compromise. Most plaintiffs assumed that he would offer a plan close to what they wanted, since the courts have indicated they will throw out the maps drawn by the Republicans in the Texas Legislature. Abbott offered much less than they’d hoped for, leaving the compromise highly in doubt.
“The chances for a settlement [are] remote right now, not impossible, but remote,” said one of the plaintiffs. “It doesn’t appear as though the state attorney general was really serious about trying to reach a settlement. They’ve resisted talking to all the parties and the proposals haven’t been made in good faith.” Without the compromise the multiple-court process will drag on — one of the courts said no decision will be made for at least another 30 days. This will force Texas to either move all of its primaries back or split the presidential race off to keep its date on April 3 and hold two primaries. That will only happen if the state agrees to pay for two primaries, which is unlikely.
- Messin’ with Texas (Redistricting) | Samuel Issacharoff/Boston Review
- State again facing possibility of two primaries | San Antonio Express-News
- Supreme Court Rejects Judge-Drawn Maps in Texas Redistricting Case | NYTimes.com…
- Voting Rights Clash Puts U.S. High Court in Election Fray | Businessweek
- Redistricting maps take spotlight in Supreme Court | Houston Chronicle
The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) hosted its Sixth Annual UOCAVA Summit last week, where participants highlighted progress made and noted the challenges that still remain in ensuring that military and overseas voters can successfully cast their absentee ballots.
A new report from the Pew Center on the States noted in the past two years, 47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens. This year’s election will be the first presidential election since many of these changes went into effect. The report, Democracy from Afar, found that many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes.
… The summit also saw OVF announce the creation of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a new domestic voter engagement initiative which will provide U.S. citizens with access to innovative voter registration tools and services. “It’s time to provide U.S.-based voters with the same breadth and quality of online voter services that we have been providing to overseas and military voters for more than five years,” said OVF President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat in a press release. And in an attempt to establish a reliable count of Americans living outside the United States, initial research was presented by the Federal Voting Assistance Program about its Overseas Citizens Count Project.
Other participants focused on the difficulties faced in increasing military voter participation and what data can best be used to monitor how states serve military and overseas voters. And Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation (CVF) presented new data showing room for improvement when it comes to the information state election websites provide military and overseas voters.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.
- Military, overseas voting easier, report finds | Politico.com…
- New Pew Report Details Progress on Military, Overseas Voting | Doug Chapin/PEEA
- Crowd-Geeking the New Military Voting Report | Doug Chapin/PEEA
- Let the MOVE Act have a chance to work before considering electronic return of ballots
- Contests in battleground states could hinge on ‘invisible’ overseas voters | NBC
Last week, the Acting Executive Director and General Counsel of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a memo directing the EAC’s 37-member Board of Advisors and 110-member Standards Board to cease all official activities. The two boards, created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, have wide-ranging responsibilities and – in the wake of the resignations of the remaining Commissioners due in part to the growing partisan battle over the EAC’s future in Congress – had been the most active in carrying out the duties of the agency.
The March 25 memo, however, suggests that the lack of EAC Commssioners has a direct impact on the status of the Boards in that there is no longer a “Designated Federal Official” (DFO) for such boards as required under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. EAC policy is to require that the Chair appoint such DFOs – and without Commissioners there is no chair. Consequently, the memo asks the Boards to cease all activity until DFOs can be appointed – but noting that “it appears unlikely that the Senate will confirm new Commissioners in 2012.”
In response, the National Association of State Election Directors – with the subsequent, albeit separate, endorsement of the National Association of Secretaries of State – approved a resolution (2012-1) disagreeing with the memo’s analysis and asking the EAC to reconsider its suspension of the two Boards.
- Forgotten But Not Yet Gone: Is This the End of the EAC? | Doug Chapin/PEEA
- Cuyahoga County elections board leads pack in testing, auditing | cleveland.com…
- Agency finds defects in ballot scanners – ES&S DS200 | USAToday.com…
- Elections reform bill passed | Virgin Islands Daily News
- EAC: Zombie Agency – Two Remaining Commissioners Resign One Year After Agency Loses Quorum | Rep. Gregg Harper Press Release
A new analysis shows that in the deluge of TV ads in the early voting states for the Republican presidential primaries, nearly half of the ads are coming not from the candidates but from superPACs — the new breed of political committees that raise unregulated money. Political scientists at Wesleyan University in Connecticut found that so far, there have been about the same number of GOP primary ads as there were four years ago. An analysis by the Wesleyan Media Group shows that while the overall number of ads in the 2012 Republican presidential primary is similar to four years ago, the source of the ads has changed. What’s different — and different in a big way — is the role of outside money groups, mostly superPACs, says Erika Franklin Fowler, a director of the Wesleyan Media Project. ”They went from about 3 percent of total ad airings in the 2008 race to almost half, about 44 percent, in 2012,” she says.
SuperPACs are creations of several recent legal rulings, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. A superPAC can raise unlimited money from corporations, unions and the wealthy. The candidate can help raise that money, but the candidate and the superPAC cannot coordinate their messages.
Fowler says that once superPACs became possible, they changed the game in the 2010 congressional races. ”2010 was a record-breaking year in terms of political advertising, and we expect 2012 to shatter those records,” Fowler says.
Full Article: Study: SuperPACs Behind Nearly Half Of 2012 Ads : NPR.
- FEC Chair Hunter: Sizing up the superPACs | Washington Times
- The Uphill Battle Against Citizens United: Tricky Legal Terrain and No Easy Fixes | AlterNet
- Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC: Testing the Limits of Citizens United | TIME.com…
- Where Did They Get the Money For That? | NYTimes.com…
- Citizen Bopp | The American Prospect
There are multiple levels to politics in Senegal, one of the oldest — and until recently, most successful — African democracies. There are the power plays and massive government projects reported on by the international media, but also a parallel system of religious affiliations, cultural networks, and tribal ties, little seen by outsiders. To understand the headlines, you need to delve into the latter. The big news this week is that Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s geriatric president, is breathing a sigh of relief. The constitution says he can only run for two consecutive terms, but on Friday the constitutional court of this West African country ruled that this did not apply to him. It also decided that Youssou N’Dour, the global pop superstar and the country’s greatest export, who had thrown his hat into the ring, was not eligible to run. Violent protests have flared, in Dakar and elsewhere, in response to the decision and at least three people have been reported dead. Once regarded as one of the most progressive and democratic of African countries, Senegal’s stability is under threat with opposition leaders calling for “popular resistance.”
Wade has dismissed protests as “temper tantrums.” It is an attitude which verges on the pharaonic, which in the wake of the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and among calls by Senegalese opposition groups to turn a square in Dakar into the Senegalese Tahrir, might seem risky. But then, perhaps Wade’s tastes and outlook had already long since turned pharaonic.
Imagine, for example, a woman so big that if her breasts were turned into huts, a couple of families could live inside them. When Senegalese go to the polls on Feb. 26, and think of how Wade has spent their taxes, maybe they will be thinking of her too. The woman, of course, is not just statuesque but, along with her musclebound man and child, part of the colossal Monument de la Renaissance Africaine statue, which at 160 feet tall tops a steep hill that looks out over the Atlantic Ocean and can be seen for miles across the capital.
Whether Wade wins or loses the presidential election, they will say this of him: He was the man who gave Dakar this monument. Not health care, never mind schools, forget this that or the other: This monument, designed by a Senegalese, built by North Koreans, will be his legacy. (It cost at least $27 million. The way it was paid for led many to query its apparently convoluted financing, as aWikiLeaked U.S. diplomatic cable reveals.)
- Does Youssou N’Dour change the stakes in Senegal’s election? | Reuters
- Oscars vote vulnerable to cyber-attack under new online system, experts warn | guardian.co.uk
- Indiana election chief found guilty of voter fraud | The Associated Press
- After Iowa, Reliability is Questioned in Caucus System | NYTimes.com…
- Redistricting settlement on verge of collapse, delaying primaries | The Hill