A Bern University study concluded that Switzerland’s limited internet voting lacks transparency and is vulnerable to attack by malevolent software. In spite of similar concerns, Elections Canada continues plans to implement internet voting in 2015. In a case arising from a Nevada recount, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that individuals have no private right of action under Section 301 on the Help America Vote Act. Three after an election marred by ballot shortages and chain of custody violations, the Anchorage Assembly has still not certified election results. A District Court has ruled that election records in Jefferson County Colorado are open to public review. Third party voter registration groups are coping with restrictions imposed by a new Florida law. Janai Nelson considers the prominence of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act in cases involving State laws restricting voting in light of a recent court decision regarding Arizona’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship and Myrna Perez writes about the continuing importance of the Voting Rights Act.
- Switzerland: New study critical of e-voting systems being tested in Switzerland | swissinfo
- Canada: Elections Canada may roll out Internet voting in 2015 in spite of security concerns | CottageCountryNow
- National: Ninth Circuit Rejects Effort to Apply Help America Vote Act to Local Recount | metnews.com
- Alaska: Anchorage election: Still not certified | Anchorage Press
- Colorado: Marks prevails in Jefferson County CO case | AspenTimes.com
- Florida: Third-party groups are registering voters – very carefully | Orlando Sentinel
- Blogs: National Voter Registration Act vs. Voter ID and Other Voter Access Challenges | Concurring Opinions
- Editorials: States Shouldn’t Tamper with Voting Rights Act | New America Media
Swiss e-voting systems lack transparency and are vulnerable to attack by malevolent software, a study has found. The authorities are looking for solutions but officials point out that there is no such thing as absolute security, even with the traditional ballot paper vote. With the systems used so far in electronic voting trials “citizens cannot verify if their vote has been registered and counted correctly. They are obliged to trust the administration and authorities completely,” Eric Dubuis, information technology professor at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, told swissinfo.ch. Under the mandate of the Federal Chancellery, Dubuis co-authored a study on verifiable e-voting systems – systems that allow the voter to trace all the steps of his or her vote and to check that there has been no manipulation and that the vote has been duly counted.
The Bern researchers came up with a project system that allows each individual to verify the process from A to Z, without compromising voting secrecy. Thanks to a special autonomous “electoral machine” with an integrated camera as well as a personal voting card with a chip, the system set up by the researchers also eliminates the risk connected to malevolent software – or malware.
The danger currently arises from the fact that the computers used for online voting are outside the control of the authorities supervising the election. And all the users do not have the necessary technical knowledge to notice the intrusion onto their computers of malware which can violate the secrecy of the vote, modify it or even cancel it. The Bern university specialists deem the passage to second generation systems such as those that they have conceived to be “highly desirable”. The need for change is also underlined by canton Zurich which is running a pilot e-voting programme. Last year it decided to take a break to review its system.
- Elections Canada may roll out Internet voting in 2015 in spite of security concerns | CottageCountryNow
While Huntsville council tackles election topics such as ward boundaries, some residents believe the issue of electronic voting should be the primary concern. Grant Hallman, a retired resident who spent a career in software development, has said council’s decision to discuss in 2013 whether electronic voting or traditional paper ballots will be used in the 2014 municipal election will not give the municipality enough time for thorough debate. Hallman said it will likely not give the municipality enough time to switch back to paper ballots if council decides it does not want to use the telephone and Internet voting method used in the previous municipal election. There are several concerns Hallman and others have with the electronic voting method.
These community members were hoping Huntsville would lead the pack in rejecting electronic voting here as an unsafe voting method. Germany has already ruled electronic voting is unconstitutional there. But now Elections Canada is considering an Internet voting pilot project that could be unveiled as early as the 2015 federal election.
In a letter to the chief electoral officer of Canada, Hallman laid out his concerns with online voting. Many are the same concerns he had with Huntsville’s voting method. The concerns include the loss of ballot verifiability and the ability to recount the ballots, the possibility of electronic tampering, loss of privacy when voting, lack of oversight by scrutineers and returning officers, loss of transparency, vote tracking through the use of personal identification numbers, vote buying, multiple votes, and software system bugs. Hallman argued that while commercial software suppliers who run electronic voting systems go to great lengths to guarantee the security of their systems, they cannot know if their systems have been compromised. And such a method intrinsically requires the use of unsecured computers by the voter, he said.
- New study critical of e-voting systems being tested in Switzerland | swissinfo
- Why Online Voting Isn’t So Safe – FBI investigating student who hacked college election | Mobiledia
- Cyber-attack holds up cross-Canada voting for next leader of NDP | Medicine Hat News
- Victorians to vote online next year | SC Magazine Australia
- Yarmouth Nova Scotia opts for October e-vote | The Chronicle Herald
Federal law does not require states and localities to use a particular method of recounting ballots in elections for non-federal offices, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday. The court affirmed a district judge’s ruling dismissing a suit by Martin Crowley against the state of Nevada and the Churchill County clerk. Crowley sought declaratory relief and damages after a recount of a 2006 election for justice of the peace, which he lost by 26 votes, failed to change the results. Crowley brought suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and Sec. 301 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. HAVA was enacted in response to problems in Florida and elsewhere during the 2002 elections, and established standards for the conduct of federal elections and authorized payments to state and local governments to replace antiquated voting systems.
Sec. 301 establishes standards for systems used in federal elections, including that the system “permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted,” “produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity,” and “provide the voter with an opportunity to change the ballot or correct any error before the permanent paper record is produced, “ and that such paper record be made public. Crowley argued that HAVA applied because Nevada law provides for use of the same voting system in state and local elections as that used in federal elections, and that the recount in his race was not conducted in accordance with HAVA because there was no “voter-verified paper audit trail.” But U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of the District of Nevada said that HAVA does not confer a private right of action for individuals to seek declaratory relief, nor does federal law allow a Sec. 1983 claim based on a HAVA violation. Judge Richard Tallman, writing for the Ninth Circuit, agreed.
It is not clear that Sec. 301 of HAVA was intended to establish standards for recounts, the judge said. But even if it applies to recounts for federal office, it certainly does not apply to state and local offices, he said, even when federal offices are on the same ballot. “Assuming arguendo that § 301 confers a federal right, Crowley is not a member of the class intended to benefit from the enactment of HAVA § 301,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, he cannot enforce violations of HAVA § 301 through a § 1983 cause of action,” and cannot obtain declaratory relief for the same reason, Tallman said.
- New Florida Data Suggests HAVA’s Approach to Disabled Voters Isn’t Working | Election Academy
- Errors reported in vote count | Tulsa World
- Meet our election experts: Douglas Jones | fyi
- The truth about voter suppression – 2012 Elections | Salon.com…
- Irresistible Force Meets ImMOVEable Object: DOJ vs. New York on Military and Overseas Voting | Doug Chapin/PEEA
Three weeks after an election marred by ballot shortages at precincts all over town, and a report that at least one ballot machine with a broken security seal was in use, the Anchorage Assembly has not hired an outside investigator to sort through the election mess. New Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall made a sobering announcement about the situation at the opening of Tuesday, April 24, Anchorage Assembly meeting. Hall had planned to—and he said, “hoped to”—announce two names that night. One would lead an investigation of election procedures and the other would provide a second legal opinion on whether election results can be certified. (Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler has previously advised the assembly to certify the results. Wheeler is a mayoral appointee whose boss just won re-election—just one of the sticky wickets assembly must navigate.)
“All I can do is ask for your continued patience and assure you that every effort is being made to get these individuals started absolutely as fast as we can,” Hall said. His announcement include a goal, to certify the election at a special assembly meeting Thursday, May 3, which he said also sets a deadline for an outside lawyer’s opinion on certification. “That is one [hire] I am particularly focused on,” Hall said.
Hall also said he had met with some retired judges. Hall’s speech was politic and indicated he had sought advice about the two tasks. He said he wouldn’t make premature announcements about who he had spoken with about the election investigation. “I have had some incredible conversations with some retired judges and I have actually been able to get a better understanding of specifically how we should work this investigations, procedures for it. However, I have not been able to come up with a final name on either one of those yet. The individuals that I am interviewing are the kind of people who are every busy and are very prominent in this community,” Hall said.
- Anchorage Assembly Doesn’t Certify Election; Ballots Still to be Counted | KTVA CBS
- Assembly Appoints New Leaders Amid Ballot Scandal | alaskapublic.org…
- Assembly postpones certifying election | adn.com…
- Anchorage Election Precinct Chair Gathers Signatures for Investigation | Alaska Dispatch
- Assembly Appears Swayed Toward Anchorage Election Independent Review | Alaska Dispatch
A District Court judge has deemed election records in Jefferson County open to public review and has awarded attorney’s fees to Aspen election activist Marilyn Marks, who was denied access to the information. Judge Randall Arp, in a ruling issued Monday, directed Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pamela Anderson to provide the records requested by Marks and rejected the clerk’s claim that release of the information could violate voter rights to an anonymous ballot. Any information that could potentially lead to identification of an individual voter who cast a ballot could be redacted, Arp concluded. Marks said Tuesday that her legal expenses in the case total about $100,000. Jefferson is among several counties in Colorado where Marks has asked to view ballots or other election data under the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, helping fuel statewide debate about whether ballots cast by voters should be subject to the open-records law.
Marks sued the city of Aspen and City Clerk Kathryn Koch after her request to view ballots or ballot images from the 2009 city election was denied. She ran unsuccessfully for the mayor’s post in that election. The Colorado Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case after the city appealed a Court of Appeals ruling that sided with Marks.
In Jefferson County, it was the clerk who petitioned the court for direction, arguing that the requested reports don’t constitute public records under CORA. She also said some of the requested records had never actually been generated and that her office shouldn’t have to produce them to respond to a CORA request. The judge disagreed and noted that some of the requested information was provided to Marks. A three-day hearing on the matter took place in March. Marks said her interest in auditing Jefferson County’s election data was related to her interest in voting irregularities in Saguache County, which used the same touch-screen voting machines and software as does Jefferson County. However, the former Saguache clerk and recorder has since been recalled, and, Marks said, that county may change its voting equipment. Her need to see the records is less pressing, she said.
Full Article: Marks prevails in Jefferson County case | AspenTimes.com….
- Colorado’s besieged clerks | Vincent Carroll/The Denver Post
- ES&S representatives fail to show for ordered depositions | Center Post Dispatch
- Ballot bill passes Colorado Senate committee | The Pueblo Chieftain
- Voting rights and wrongs | Colorado Springs Independent
- Scott Gessler targeted by activist over voting in Saguache county and beyond | Denver News
In light rain outside a south Orlando pizza shop last week, Yohan Fonseca worked the trenches in one of Florida’s most contentious political battlefields. He was registering voters. ”I love this work,” Fonseca, said after convincing Ramon Morales, 26, of Orlando, to fill out a registration form. “It’s really good to help the community. We need to vote.” Fonseca, 22, of Davenport, is a paid organizer for the non-profit Hispanic group National Council of La Raza. He and others are going where some long-time voter registration organizations say they are afraid to go: anywhere in Florida. Since passage last year of a new Republican-sponsored election-law rewrite, fierce debate has raged over whether new rules make it tougher for people to register and vote this election year. Among other changes, new law requires groups and individuals to turn in voter forms within 48 hours – they previously had 10 days – or face fines of $50 per late application, up to a maximum of $1,000 per organization per year.
The debate has a partisan tone. Republicans say the changes, which include other new regulations such as using tracking numbers to tie voter applications to the organizations responsible for generating them, are reasonable attempts to curb fraud. Democrats call them “voter suppression,” contending they are intended to curb registration and voting, especially by traditionally Democratic minority, disabled and poor residents.
The changes are also opposed by several nonprofit groups that conduct high-profile voter-registration drives. The League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and others sued in federal court in Tallahassee to overturn the new law, which took effect last July 1; a ruling is expected soon. Meanwhile, they halted their registration drives. ”We’ve made such important and remarkable progress since the year 2000 which helped restore voter confidence,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “So to see the Legislature take these backward, regressive steps … is appalling.”
- Restrictions on Voter Registration in Florida Have Groups Opting Out | NYTimes.com…
- DOJ Opposes Florida Laws On Voter Registration Groups, Early Voting | TPM
- Federal is the latest challenge to Florida’s politically motivated voting law | HeraldTribune.com…
- Voter registration groups sue over new Florida election law | Tampa Bay Times
- League of Women voters response to Florida Election Bill | Lehigh Acres Citizen
In the ongoing battle to improve access to elections and expand the electorate, civil rights groups have often used the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and its amendments) as the preeminent weapon. The most transformative legislation to come out of the civil rights movement, the VRA changed the complexion of this country’s elected bodies and increased access to political power for minorities through muscular remedies. However, it is the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act), the VRA’s lesser known, younger cousin of sorts, that has been stealing headlines this week Sandwiched between the VRA and the more recent Help American Vote Act (HAVA) passed in 2002, the 1993 NVRA is sometimes overlooked as a significant linchpin of voter access. Indeed, the NVRA has played an important role in securing expanded registration opportunities for marginalized populations. And, in the face of stringent voter ID laws that suppress voter turnout and shrink the electorate, both offensive strategies and defensive tools are needed. The NVRA continues to prove that it can be effective on both fronts.
Also known as the “Motor Voter” law, the NVRA was enacted in 1993 to help standardize the voter registration process for federal elections which varied widely throughout the states. In an effort to decrease this disparity, the NVRA requires state agencies to give a voter registration application to all individuals applying for or renewing a driver’s license, or applying for (or receiving) services at certain other public offices, such as public assistance benefits. The NVRA also requires states to “accept and use” registration by mail for federal elections. Both of these important aspects of the law were the subject of the NVRA’s prominence this week.
On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a fractured, en banc opinion in Gonzalez v. Arizona in a challenge to Arizona’s Proposition 200 that requires prospective voters in Arizona to show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. The NVRA requires states to “accept and use” federal voter registration applications where applicants affirm that they are citizens of the United States and that they meet other voting prerequisites. Although states retain the right to reject deficient applications under the NVRA, the Ninth Circuit held that the NVRA does not permit states to independently verify citizenship status by requiring proof of citizenship for registration for federal elections. The court also addressed important claims under the VRA which others have analyzed here and here. However, it was the NVRA that ultimately yielded a coup.
- Arizona Case is a Vivid Reminder of Lasting Power of Motor Voter | Election Academy
- Ruling on voter requirement mixed – will be appealed to Supreme Court | azcentral.com…
- Court Upholds Voter ID Law, Strikes Down Proof of Citizenship Requirement | Fox News
- Appeals court upholds Arizona’s requirement that people show identification before they can vote | AP/The Republic
- Voter ID laws spark heated debate before U.S. election | Reuters
Since the beginning of 2011, states across the country have passed new laws restricting the right to vote. From voter ID to curbs on early voting and registration drives, these controversial measures could make it harder for millions of Americans to vote this year, including a disproportionate number of minority, young, and elderly voters. The photo ID law passed by Texas, for example, could prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, including a disproportionate number of minorities, as the data shows. Voting rights advocates are fighting these laws in the courts, but in addition to these direct attacks on the franchise, opponents are now threatening a cornerstone of American civil rights law — the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Decades ago, our nation passed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to combat discrimination in voting. It has successfully protected voters against decades of discriminatory measures that had disenfranchised African Americans, Latinos, and many other Americans. The VRA was even reauthorized in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, and it was signed by President George W. Bush. Elected officials in both parties recognized the VRA is still needed because discrimination against minority voters continues to this day. For example, in recent years, the Justice Department forced Texas to stop discriminatory actions against voters at historically black colleges and universities.
Under Section 5 of the VRA, changes to election laws in certain states with a demonstrated history of discrimination, like Texas, must be “pre-cleared” (reviewed and approved) by the Department of Justice or a D.C. federal court before they can be implemented. To obtain pre-clearance of its photo ID law, all Texas needed to do was demonstrate that this law does not make minority voters worse off. The state could not do it.
“Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card,” wrote Justice Department official Thomas Perez in a letter denying pre-clearance. Because the state wants to implement this discriminatory law, and because the Voting Rights Act prevents them from doing so, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has claimed in federal court that Section 5 of the VRA is unconstitutional.
- The GOP Assault on the Voting Rights Act | Ben Adler/The Nation
- Could Texas Voter I.D. Case Dismantle U.S. Civil Rights Law? | Public News Service
- Filing Targets Texas Lawmakers’ Voter ID Communications | The Texas Tribune
- Voting Rights Act: Is Obama letting the civil rights law die before the Supreme Court kills it? | Slate
- Corporations Donate to Groups on Both Sides of Voter-ID | Businessweek