A report released this week by Common Cause, Verified Voting and Rutgers University concluded that “voters in jurisdictions without paper ballots or records for every vote cast, including military and overseas votes, do not have the same protections as states that use paper ballot systems.” The report is also critical of State’s that allow the transmission of voted ballots through fax and email. The US Postal Service’s fiscal crisis could effect States that rely largely or entirely on mail ballots. Changes in election rules proposed by Colorado Secretary of State have raised objections from voters and advocacy groups. Florida is once again in the spotlight heading into this November’s election, while Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law faced a legal challenge in the State Supreme Court. Ars Technica considered risk limiting election audits and tens of thousands protested the election results in Mexico.
- National: Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says | CSMonitor.com
- National: State systems for overseas voters vulnerable | USAToday.com
- National: Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day | NBC
- Colorado: Gessler’s proposed changes to election rules draw heated objections | The Colorado Independent
- Florida: Florida at the forefront as states plan fresh assault on voting rights | guardian.co.uk
- Pennsylvania: Tough, new voter ID law tackles first legal challenge amid debate over voting rights | The Washington Post
- Blogs: Saving throw: securing democracy with stats, spreadsheets, and 10-sided dice | Ars Technica
- Mexico: Tens Of Thousands Protest Against New President | Eurasia Review
In elections this March in Palm Beach County, Fla., an election management software glitch gave votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. But paper ballots were available, and a recount was done. The mistake was corrected. Such failures are hardly unique. And often they are worse. In every national election in the past decade, computer voting systems have failed with memory-card glitches and other errors that resulted in votes lost or miscounted, according to a new national study, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness.” More than 300 voting-machine problems were reported in the 2010 midterm elections and more than 1,800 in the 2008 general election, according to the study by Common Cause, Rutgers School of Law, and the Verified Voting Foundation. ”Voting systems frequently fail,” the study concludes. “And when they fail, votes are lost. Voters in jurisdictions without paper ballots or records for every vote cast, including military and overseas votes, do not have the same protections as states that use paper ballot systems. This is not acceptable.”
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Despite glitches and lost votes, America has survived. However, with the November elections just months away, danger lurks in the surprising number of states with computerized voting systems that lack any paper backup system – potentially opening the door to fraud or altered election outcomes, the study found. Computerized voting systems in 16 states – including some swing states – have no paper backup ballots or other paper trails “in some or all counties” and so could not reconstitute an accurate vote count from those machines if software or hardware fails, the report says.
Lack of audits – 25 states don’t do them – was another key problem, since paper ballots as a backup aren’t enough to ensure vote integrity. ”The problem is not just fraud and the threat that these systems can be manipulated, but that they are aging, complex systems where things go wrong,” says Pamela Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation. “What matters most is: Can you recover from problems? Can you recover votes that are counted accurately? There are still way too many systems nationwide that can’t do that.”
- State systems for overseas voters vulnerable | USAToday.com…
- Voting Machine Report: States Ranked Based On Use Of Paper Ballots | Huffington Post
- Voting Technology: Current and Future Choices | The Canvass
- Only 5 states very well-prepared to handle voting machine errors, study finds | ABC News
- Overseas voting in 24 states vulnerable to hackers | Fox News
States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report to be released today. The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can’t be independently audited. ”They’re trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they’re putting those votes at,” says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns. The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting — which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute — has been halted by the lagging economy.
That’s a concern as the nation heads for what is likely to be a very close presidential election in November. The report, an update of a 2008 study, says the least-prepared states to handle voting system problems are Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Top marks for preparedness go to Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin. A 2009 federal law aimed at improving voting rates among military personnel required states to begin providing election materials such as registration forms and blank ballots electronically to citizens overseas. The law didn’t specify how the ballots would be returned once they were marked.
Thirty-one states allow servicemembers and other overseas voters to return their ballots electronically: via fax, e-mail, by voting on a secure website, or some combination. Only one state that permits electronic ballot return, New Jersey, also requires voters to mail in a paper version. Overseas military can use free express mail to return their marked ballots, a provision of the 2009 law. ”Internet voting is not ready for prime time. The security environment is not what it needs to be to cast ballots over the Internet,” says Susannah Goodman of Common Cause’s Voting Integrity Campaign, one of the report’s authors. When Washington, D.C., set up a pilot Internet voting program in 2010 and invited hackers to try to corrupt it, a University of Michigan team hacked the system to change votes and even play the school fight song.
Full Article: State systems for overseas voters vulnerable – USATODAY.com….
- Internet voting still faces hurdles in US | The Economic Times
- Let the MOVE Act have a chance to work before considering electronic return of ballots
- Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says | CSMonitor.com…
- Voting Machine Report: States Ranked Based On Use Of Paper Ballots | Huffington Post
- Only 5 states very well-prepared to handle voting machine errors, study finds | ABC News
In states that rely largely or entirely on vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, a pre-Nov. 6 disruption of mail delivery caused by the U.S. Postal Service’s fiscal crisis would be a fiasco for voters and election officials. With partisan battles already under way on voter eligibility across the nation over fears of voter fraud and charges of vote suppression, the last thing the upcoming election needs is another procedural snafu. Washington and Oregon voters cast their ballots entirely by mail or at local drop boxes, and in California’s June primary, nearly two out of three voters cast their ballots by mail. Even in states where voters still show up in person to vote at their local precinct, absentee voting by mail is common. In order for the election to take place, the mail must get delivered promptly – no matter how dire the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis is – and it’s dire indeed. In the second quarter of its fiscal year (January to March) the Postal Service lost $3.2 billion. Congressional postal experts will be scrutinizing its third-quarter financial statement on Aug. 9 to see if the distress has worsened. While the Senate has passed a reform bill to keep the Postal Service afloat, the House hasn’t yet acted. Urging the House to move, one of the Senate reform leaders, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday “Only one week from now, the Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion payment to Treasury – further eroding the confidence of the millions of customers and businesses” that rely on mail to get delivered.
USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said Thursday, “Default on the retiree health benefits prepayment due August 1 will have no effect on mail operations, including election mail. The Postal Service will continue to meet its obligation to provide universal service to the American people. Our priority is to continue to pay employees and suppliers on a timely basis and avoid any disruption in mail processing or delivery.” While carrying out a plan to shrink its workforce by 13,000 and shut down some processing facilities, the Postal Service did say in May that “Due to the volume of high-priority mail predicted for the election and holiday mailing seasons, no consolidating activities will be conducted from September through December of 2012.” Partenheimer confirmed Thursday this is still the case. He said the Postal Service will continue to provide information on its consolidations to election officials and “explain why they will not adversely affect delivery of election-related mail.” He added that the Postal Service has created an Election Mail Task Force that will facilitate the timely processing and delivery of election mail. Nonetheless, state election officials are keeping a wary eye on the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis.
- Postal Service to suspend closures during election season | The Washington Post
- States praised, others faulted, for policies toward military voters | KansasCity.com…
- Wyden Joins Call for USPS to Hold Off Closures | KTVZ
- Postal center closures threaten integrity of upcoming election | San Jose Mercury News
- State systems for overseas voters vulnerable | USAToday.com…
Over the course of a five-hour rulemaking hearing Monday, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler probably got the message that a lot of people are unhappy with proposed rules that would stop county clerks from mailing ballots to inactive voters in some elections, change the way canvass boards are selected and give county clerks more power to determine how much access election watchers have. About 40 people signed up to testify at this week’s hearing; nearly all of them spoke in opposition to one or more of Gessler’s proposed rule changes, which covered three general areas. “It was pretty much all opposition,” commented Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, who did not speak. “I don’t think it (the opposition) will change anything, though,” he said. The rules, (pdf) either as presented by Gessler or as revised by his office as a result of the hearing and written testimony, could go into effect as early as Monday, at Gessler’s discretion.
In addition to objections raised about the proposed rules, many speakers also questioned the timing–saying that no election rules should be changed this close to an election–and challenged Gessler’s authority to implement rules that many said went beyond rulemaking and actually subvert the legislative process. Other than timing and authority, among the changes that drew the most opposition were rule 8.6, which would give county clerks considerable discretion over where election watchers are allowed at any given time; a rule that may allow county clerks, in some cases, to appoint canvass board members; and a rule that would prohibit county clerks from automatically mailing ballots to inactive voters in some elections.
Election watchers and canvass board members are currently appointed by major parties and by candidates to observe election processes. Canvass boards in each county are charged with certifying elections among other duties. While the major parties select their own canvass board members, rules proposed by Gessler would give county clerks the right to appoint canvass board members from minor parties or issue committees. Speakers argued that the clerks should never be allowed to make appointments to the board that essentially oversees their own work.
- Wisconsin’s Walker echoes Colorado’s Gessler on voter fraud | The Colorado Independent
- Election watchers see officials chipping away at public oversight | The Colorado Independent
- Fighting over voters who don’t always vote | 9news.com…
- Inactive voters playing major role in Pueblo County election | The Colorado Independent
- Vets press Gessler to drop voter ballot case | The Colorado Independent
Voting rights groups are struggling to hold back a tide of new laws that are likely to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote in the presidential election in November and could distort the outcome of the race for the White House. Since January 2011, 19 states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. Some states are newly requiring people to show government-issued photo cards at polling stations. Others have whittled down early voting hours, imposed restrictions on registration of new voters, banned people with criminal records from voting or attempted to purge eligible voters from the electoral roll. The assault on voter rights is particularly acute in key swing states where the presidential race is likely to be settled. Five of the nine key battleground states identified by the Republican strategist Karl Rove have introduced laws that could suppress turnout – Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. Between them, the states that have imposed restrictions account for the lion’s share of the 270 electoral college votes that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney must win to take the presidency. Sixteen of the states that have passed new voter restrictions between them hold 214 electoral votes. ”We are seeing a dramatic assault on voting rights, the most significant pushback on democratic participation that we’ve seen in decades,” said Wendy Weiser of the non-partisan thinktank the Brennan Center for Justice, and the co-author of the definitive study of US voter suppression in the 2012 election cycle. “These laws could make it harder for millions of eligible American citizens to participate, particularly in swing states.”
The epicentre of the attack sweeping across America is Florida, which has a long history of voter suppression. With a famously evenly balanced population that in 2000 elected George Bush by an official majority of only 537 out of almost 6 million votes cast, even relatively minor distortion of electoral turnout could have huge implications not just for the result in Florida but, given the state’s prominent role in determining the outcome of recent presidential elections, the whole of the US, and – by extension – the world.
Florida Republicans have made several blatant attempts to suppress turnout this election cycle. One of the first acts of governor Rick Scott when he took office in 2011 was to reimpose what is in effect a lifelong voting ban on anyone convicted of a felony – including 1.3 million Floridians who have fully completed their sentences. ”There are over a million people in Florida who no longer have the full rights of citizenship and right to vote,” said Baylor Johnson of Florida ACLU. “One million people – that’s the White House for a generation, which gives you an idea of why they are trying so hard to stop people voting.”
- Florida GOP Takes Voter Suppression to a Brazen New Extreme | Rolling Stone
- Voter ID Laws Take Center Stage at House Judiciary Hearing | Main Justice
- Statement from Howard Simon on Voter Suppression Act of 2011 Being Signed into Law by Governor Scott | ACLU
- Protests grow as Governor considers Florida elections bill | Orlando Sentinel
- Minnesota Election Law Ballot Measure – So Much More than Just Voter ID | Brennan Center for Justice
The first legal test for Pennsylvania’s tough new voter identification law began Wednesday, with state lawyers calling the measure a completely rational step, while opponents attacked it as an unnecessary, unjustified and partisan scheme that will deprive countless people of their right to vote. The law is the subject of a furious debate over voting rights as Pennsylvania is poised to play a key role in deciding the Nov. 6 presidential election. Republicans say if GOP candidate Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania, then President Barack Obama, a Democrat, will lose the national election. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who presided over a packed courtroom, must decide whether to block the law from taking effect in this year’s election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality. The original rationale in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature for the law — to prevent election fraud — will play little role in the legal case since the state’s lawyers have decided not to make that argument and acknowledged that they are “not aware of any incidents of in person voter fraud.” Instead, they are trying to show that lawmakers properly exercised their latitude to make election-related laws when they chose to require voters to show widely available forms of photo identification.
David Gersch, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Simpson that the law could make it difficult for more than a million people to exercise their right to vote and that justification — to prevent election fraud — is a pretext. The real purpose is for partisan advantage, Gersch said. “That is not under any circumstances a compelling state interest,” Gersch told Simpson.
The first three plaintiffs to testify Wednesday were all older women, minorities and Philadelphia residents who said they vote regularly. But they have no valid identification under the new law, and they apparently don’t have the required documents — a birth certificate, a Social Security card and two proofs of residency — necessary to get the most common kind, a state photo ID.
- The fraud of voter ID | NewsObserver.com…
- Voter ID Issues Could Be Worst In Pennsylvania | US News and Word Report
- Wisconsin Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeals of Both Injunctions on GOP Polling Place Photo ID Law | BradBlog
- Voter ID law could backfire on GOP | Emily Bazelon/Newsday
- Pennsylvania’s voter ID law: Bad for both parties? | Slate Magazine
Armed with a set of 10-sided dice (we’ll get to those in a moment), an online Web tool, and a stack of hundreds of ballots, University of California-Berkeley statistics professor Philip Stark spent last Friday unleashing both science and technology upon a recent California election. He wanted to answer a very simple question—had the vote counting produced the proper result?—and he had developed a stats-based system to find out. On June 2, 6,573 citizens went to the polls in Napa County and cast primary ballots for supervisor of the 2nd District in one of California’s most famous wine-producing regions, on the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. The three candidates—Juliana Inman, Mark van Gorder, and Mark Luce—would all have liked to come in first, but they really didn’t want to be third. That’s because only the two top vote-getters in the primary would proceed to the runoff election in November; number three was out. Napa County officials announced the official results a few days later: Luce, the incumbent, took in 2,806 votes, van Gorder got 1,911 votes, and Inman received 1,856 votes—a difference between second and third place of just 55 votes. Given the close result, even a small number of counting errors could have swung the election. Vote counting can go wrong in any number of ways, and even the auditing processes designed to ensure the integrity of close races can be a mess (did someone say “hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chads”?). Measuring human intent at the ballot box can be tricky. To take just one example, in California, many ballots are cast by completing an arrow, which is then optically read. While voters are instructed to fully complete the thickness of the arrow, in practice some only draw a line. The vote tabulation system used by counties sometimes do not always count those as votes. So Napa County invited Philip Stark to look more closely at their results. Stark has been on a four-year mission to encourage more elections officials to use statistical tools to ensure that the announced victor is indeed correct. He first described his method back in 2008, in a paper called “Conservative statistical post-election audits,” but he generally uses a catchier name for the process: “risk-limiting auditing.”
Napa County had no reason to believe that the results in this particular election were wrong, explained John Tuteur, the County Assessor, when I showed up to watch. But, anticipating that the election would be close, Tuteur had asked that Napa County be the latest participant in a state-sponsored pilot project to audit various elections across the Golden State. While American public policy, particularly since the 2000 Bush v. Gore debacle, has focused on voting technology, not as much attention has been paid to vote audits. If things continue to move forward, Stark could have an outsized effect on how election audits are conducted in California, and perhaps the country, for years to come.
“What this new auditing method does is count enough to have high confidence that [a full recount] wouldn’t change the answer,” Stark explained to me. “You can think of this as an intelligent recount. It stops as soon as it becomes clear that it’s pointless to continue. It gives stronger evidence that the outcome is right.” The process has been endorsed by numerous academics and voting officials, and by the American Statistical Association (PDF), the League of Women Voters (PDF), the Brennan Center for Justice (PDF) and many others in recent years. And it begins with those 10-sided dice.
- Independent vote audit needed in South Carolina | The Post and Courier
- Vote fraud: Nationwide effort | The Charleston Gazette
- Fight back against restrictive voting laws | Lawrence Norden/CNN.com
- Proposed election law could simplify voter registration | Queens Chronicle
- Voting rights gains of ‘60s in jeopardy, Attorney General Eric Holder says | The Sacramento Bee
At least 32,000 protesters marched through Mexico City on Sunday to protest the “imposition” of the new president. They accuse president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the old ruling party, of electoral fraud. Protesters have dubbed the country’s TV giant Televisa a “factory of lies.” Demonstrators marching through to capital claimed that Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won the election by vote-buying and an aggressive PR campaign through major media outlets such as Televisa, which they claim was well paid for positive coverage of Nieto’s presidential campaign. Enrique Pena Nieto, 46, won the election with 38.2 per cent of the vote against 31.6 per cent for the leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Nieto’s victory brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party back to power after being in the opposition for 12 years. The ruling President Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party came in third. Opponents of the victorious candidate demanded urgent domestic reforms.
The PRI in turn accuses the losing leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of “disqualifying the entire electoral process with lies.” Televisa has also denied all allegations. The last presidential election in Mexico in 2006 also ended with the defeat of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost to the ruling conservative president. In 2006 Obrador organized hundreds of thousands of his supporters to rally in downtown Mexico City for weeks. This time, however, Obrador announced that his victory is evident and he has no intention of calling his supporters to the streets.
- Elections certain to face challenges in courts | The Washington Post
- Old guard wins Mexico election recount | Deutsche Welle
- Final results confirming Pena Nieto win | chicagotribune.com…
- Mexican vote recount confirms Pena Nieto win | Reuters
- PRI Party Says Runner-up Used Illegal Funds | Latinos Post