Researchers at Princeton have released a report surveying the potential for election equipment failure in swing States. Voter registration fraud has been linked to Strategic Allied Consulting, which the RNC and state parties have hired in at least five States. With the wave of new Voter ID laws, there is concern that provisional ballots could create legal battles in close elections. The New York Times reported on the potential for voter harrasment in polling places this November and The Los Angeles Times considered the role that voter suppression has played in American history. A software error cancelled the registrations of hundreds of voters in Colorado. During hearings on Pennsylvania’s voter ID, the judge indicated that much of the controversial law will stand. The AVS WINVote voting machine, used only in Virginia, presents unique security issues because of it’s use of wi-fi. A decision to use electronic voting machines in Belgium has re-kindled controversy and tensions have flared on the eve of Gerogia’s parliamentary elections.
- Blogs: Which States have the Highest Risk of an E-Voting Meltdown? | Freedom to Tinker
- National: GOP’s ACORN moment | Salon.com
- National: Provisional ballots could be hanging chads of 2012 | KNOE
- National: Voter Harassment, Circa 2012 | NYTimes.com
- Editorials: Protecting the right to vote – history demonstrates that any effort to deny citizens the ability to vote can’t be ignored | latimes.com
- Colorado: Software glitch nixes voter registration of nearly 800 Coloradans | The Denver Post
- Pennsylvania: Judge may allow most of voter-ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Virginia: AVS WINVote Voting Machines Have Vulnerability to Wireless Sabotage | Wall Street Journal
- Belgium: Decision to Use Smartmatic Voting Machines Reignites E-voting Debate | CIO.com
- Georgia (Sakartvelo): Scandal and intrigue split voters | BBC
Computer scientists, including us, have long been skeptical of electronic voting systems. E-voting systems are computers, with all of the attendant problems. If something goes wrong, can the problem be detected? Can it be fixed? Some e-voting systems are much riskier than others. As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, we decided to evaluate the risk of a “meltdown scenario” in which problems with electronic voting equipment cause a state to cast the deciding electoral college vote that would flip the election winner from one candidate to the other. We’re interested in the risk of these technological problems, weighted by the relative voting power of each voter. So for example, here in New Jersey we use direct-recording electronic voting machines that have been found by a court to be inadequate, but with Obama polling at +14% it’s not likely that a snafu with these machines could change the entire state’s outcome. But in swing states that poll closer to even, like Virginia (where your voting machines can be modified to play Pac-Man), an electronic voting mix-up could have a much bigger impact. So, which states have the greatest risk of an e-voting meltdown affecting the result of the 2012 Presidential election?
A meltdown scenario is very unlikely, of course. A knife-edge election is highly improbable. Still, we can evaluate the relative risk of a worst-case scenario in each state. Here is how we did it: First, we created a model of electronic voting risk, using data from the recent Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Election Preparedness report and the VerifiedVoting.org… Verifier database. Our risk model takes information on every county in the US and combines it into a state-by-state risk score. We took into account which voting technology each county uses, whether paper records are used (and whether those records are marked directly by voters or are machine generated), which procedures are in place if machines fail, how ballots or electronic media are physically protected and accounted for, and what kind of auditing is in place to detect problems after the election. We then weighted our per-state risk calculation by the number of registered voters in the state to estimate the probability, per voter in a given state, that a bad e-voting event will take place.
Next, we combined these risk scores with the meta-polling analysis performed by our Princeton colleague Professor Sam Wang. Professor Wang’s meta-analysis provides a measure of the relative power of a single vote in each state based on the number of electoral votes it affects and the current polls. Professor Wang also provides a prediction of how the election would go were it held today (assuming that the polls are accurate). His predictions are updated four times each day based on the newest polls, so you can follow along. We refresh with his latest vote power data periodically, so the map and top-ten list in this post will update automatically. The most-red states on the map are those most at risk, according to our model. The scores you see are simply a relative measure: the model is normalized so that the highest-risk state scores exactly 100.
Full Article: Which States have the Highest Risk of an E-Voting Meltdown?.
- Decision to Use Smartmatic Voting Machines Reignites E-voting Debate | CIO.com…
- Decade-Old E-Voting ‘Wars’ Continue into Presidential Election | Wall Street Journal
- E-Voting machines finally put to use | TheJournal.ie
- Book review: Broken Ballots | ZDNet UK
- E-voting machines scrapped for €70,000 | The Irish Times
Sep 28, 2012
National: GOP’s ACORN moment | Salon.com
There are still plenty of conservatives who think ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama and will do it again this year. ACORN was everywhere four years ago. Even John McCain, late in his campaign and desperate to land a blow on Obama, ran an ad tying his challenger to the community-organizing group before saying in the final debate that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” How did ACORN steal the election? A number of the group’s paid canvassers had been caught submitting false voter registration forms in a handful of states, using the names of dead people or false addresses, in order to avoid working. Four years later, ACORN is dead, and a Republican firm contracted by the Republican National Committee has adopted its shady tactics. But, so far at least, there’s been hardly a peep from the same conservatives who seized on ACORN about one of their own engaging in almost identical fraudulent tactics. Prosecutors in Florida are looking into alleged voter registration fraud conducted by employees of Strategic Allied Consulting, which the RNC and state parties hired in at least five states. The RNC has now cut ties with the firm after news broke that its employees had registered dead people and listed the addresses of a Land Rover dealership and other non-residences on registration forms. Paul Lux, the Republican supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County, Fla., who first brought the suspect registration forms to the attention of prosecutors, said as many as one in three were questionable. “It’s kind of ironic that the dead people they accused ACORN of registering are now being done by the RPOF [Republican Party of Florida],” Lux said.
Of the myriad conspiracy theories about Obama, the ACORN one had perhaps the most truth to it, though that’s a low bar. Some ACORN canvassers did, in fact, submit fraudulent voter registration forms, but there’s no evidence that anyone committed actual voter fraud nor that it was part of any kind of concerted effort to sway the election. ACORN noted it had 13,000 paid canvassers and that it was only a tiny handful who submitted phony forms. As the Republican prosecuting attorney said in King County, Wash., where the largest ACORN registration fraud suit took place, “[A] joint federal and state investigation has determined that this scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting. Instead, the defendants cheated their employer … to get paid for work they did not actually perform.”
For this, the group was killed. Tea Party groups organized rallies, local authorities squeezed the group, and Congress even introduced and passed a bill in 2009 called the “Defund ACORN Act.” The group, which suffered from other significant legal and financial issues, is now defunct. But in that time, ACORN became a top-tier villain of the right, mentioned hundreds of times in 2008 and 2009 by conservative media figures tracked by Media Matters. In later 2009, the pollster PPP asked respondents, “Do you think that Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election last year, or do you think that ACORN stole it for him?” Among Republicans, only 27 percent said Obama actually won the race — 52 percent said that ACORN stole it. Even some GOP congressional candidates blamed their losses on ACORN.
Full Article: Acorn – Salon.com….
- Suspicious voter registration forms found in 10 Florida counties | latimes.com…
- RNC cuts ties to firm after voter fraud allegations | latimes.com…
- GOP fires consulting firm after 108 questionable voter registrations in Palm Beach County | The Washington Post
- Voter registration problems widening in Florida | Yahoo! News
- The Ballot Cops | The Atlantic
New voting laws in key states could force a lot more voters to cast provisional ballots this election, delaying results in close races for days while election officials scrutinize ballots and campaigns wage legal battles over which ones should get counted. New laws in competitive states like Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could leave the outcome of the presidential election in doubt – if the vote is close – while new laws in Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee could delay results in state or local elections. Some new laws requiring voters to show identification at the polls are still being challenged in court, adding to the uncertainty as the Nov. 6 election nears. ”It’s a possibility of a complete meltdown for the election,” said Daniel Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida. Voters cast provisional ballots for a variety of reasons: They don’t bring proper ID to the polls; they fail to update their voter registration after moving; they try to vote at the wrong precinct; or their right to vote is challenged by someone.
These voters may have their votes counted, but only if election officials can verify that they were eligible to vote, a process that can take days or weeks. Adding to the potential for chaos: Many states won’t even know how many provisional ballots have been cast until sometime after Election Day. Voters cast nearly 2.1 million provisional ballots in the 2008 presidential election. About 69 percent were eventually counted, according to election results compiled by The Associated Press. Provisional ballots don’t get much attention if an election is a landslide. But what if the vote is close, as the polls suggest in the race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney?
- Campaigns prepare for post-election court fights on voting laws | Reuters
- Civil Rights Groups Release New Voter Protection App | Huffington Post
- Partisan Rifts Hinder Efforts to Improve U.S. Voting System | NYTimes.com…
- Minnesota Election Law Ballot Measure – So Much More than Just Voter ID | Brennan Center for Justice
- Citizens Dis-United: Justices May Take Another Look at Campaign Finance Case | ABA Journal
Sep 28, 2012
National: Voter Harassment, Circa 2012 | NYTimes.com
This is how voter intimidation worked in 1966: White teenagers in Americus, Ga., harassed black citizens in line to vote, and the police refused to intervene. Black plantation workers in Mississippi had to vote in plantation stores, overseen by their bosses. Black voters in Choctaw County, Ala., had to hand their ballots directly to white election officials for inspection. This is how it works today: In an ostensible hunt for voter fraud, a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout. The thing that’s different from the days of overt discrimination is the phony pretext of combating voter fraud. Voter identity fraud is all but nonexistent, but the assertion that it might exist is used as an excuse to reduce the political rights of minorities, the poor, students, older Americans and other groups that tend to vote Democratic.
In The Times on Monday, Stephanie Saul described how the plan works. True the Vote grew out of a Tea Party group in Texas, the King Street Patriots, with the assistance of Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the Koch brothers that works to elect conservative Republicans. It has developed its own software to check voter registration lists against driver’s license and property records. Those kinds of database matches are notoriously unreliable because names and addresses are often slightly different in various databases, but the group uses this technique to challenge more voters.
In 2009 and 2010, for example, the group focused on the Houston Congressional district represented by Sheila Jackson Lee, a black Democrat. After poring over the records for five months, True the Vote came up with a list of 500 names it considered suspicious and challenged them with election authorities. Officials put these voters on “suspense,” requiring additional proof of address, but in most cases voters had simply changed addresses. That didn’t stop the group from sending dozens of white “poll watchers” to precincts in the district during the 2010 elections, deliberately creating friction with black voters. On the day of the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the group used inaccurate lists to slow down student voting at Lawrence University in Appleton with intrusive identity checks. Three election “observers,” including one from True the Vote, were so disruptive that a clerk gave them two warnings, but the ploy was effective: many students gave up waiting in line and didn’t vote.
Full Article: Voter Harassment, Circa 2012 – NYTimes.com….
- Senate passes Wisconsin voter ID bill, sends to Walker | Wisconsin Law Journal
- Conservative Groups Focus on Registration in Swing States | NYTimes.com…
- Think Voter ID is Bad? Meet the Poll-Watchers | Care2 Causes
- State Supreme Court rejects challenge, leaves voter ID on ballot | Post Bulletin
- Rejected voter ID law, maps ruled discriminatory not deterring Texas Republicans | The Washington Post
Since their historic victories in the 2010 midterm elections,Republicans across the country have passed an array of voting laws — to require photo identification, to make it more difficult to register, to reduce periods of early voting or to purge voter rolls — and they are considering others. The Justice Department, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, theAmerican Civil Liberties Union and other groups have challenged many of these laws in court. A federal court recently rejected Texas’ voter ID law, and similar cases from Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin await final judicial action. Sound-bite analogies between these new laws and the fully mature Jim Crow system have been properly condemned as simplistic and misleading. But more careful study of the experience of a century ago may offer a cautionary lesson about today’s changes in election laws. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Southern Democrats used statutory and state constitutional restrictions — as well as violence, intimidation and ballot-box stuffing — to discourage and, ultimately, to disfranchise many poor whites and the vast majority of African Americans. Several popular misunderstandings about that “first disfranchisement” cloud the public’s view of recent legislation.
One is that many people believe it was violence, not laws, that disfranchised African Americans, and that few Southern blacks continued to vote after the Compromise of 1877, which resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the collapse of the last Reconstruction Republican state governments. But, in fact, large proportions of African Americans somehow managed to vote in the next election in two-thirds of the counties where the most horrific Reconstruction violence took place. Black turnout in the South in the 1880s was actually higher than it often is today, and many African Americans continued to win elections for local and state offices and Congress through the 1890s.
Full Article: Protecting the right to vote – latimes.com….
- In-Person Voter Fraud: Not Really a Matter of Opinion | Mother Jones
- Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled | NPR
- Justice Department OKs Florida early voting plan for 5 counties | www.wdbo.com…
- Voter ID and early voting cases heat up in courts across the country | CSMonitor.com…
- Voter ID trial phase closes with questions on how parts of law will work | The Washington Post
A software glitch on the Colorado Secretary of State’s mobile-optimized website prevented nearly 800 people using tablets and mobile phones from registering to vote. Secretary of State Scott Gessler said the problem occurred between Sept. 14 and Monday because of a software update to the site. The update indavertently caused a problem that prevented 779 people from registering, said Gessler, a Republican. ”Frankly, our office did not engage in enough user testing before we rolled out a software fix,” he said, placing the blame squarely on his office. The office now has fixed the problem, having discovered it Monday, but it doesn’t know who the people are who tried to register. That’s why Gessler is asking people who think they registered during the days in question to check their registrations at govotecolorado.com….
Mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, Android devices and other tablets can now be used again to register to vote. Gessler said Colorado is the only state in the country that has a mobile-optimized site, which the state launched Aug. 28. Phil Hayes, political director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said as many as 200 of his union’s members could be among those whose registrations didn’t take. That’s because union representiatives have been out on worksites for months registering members to vote – using iPads.
- Provisional ballots could be hanging chads of 2012 | KNOE
- Voter Harassment, Circa 2012 | NYTimes.com…
- AVS WINVote Voting Machines Have Vulnerability to Wireless Sabotage | Wall Street Journal
- Election officials in Iowa, other states finding little evidence of voter fraud | TheGazette
- Election Officials Who Vowed War on Voter Fraud Find Little Proof of It | Fox News
A Commonwealth Court judge said Thursday that he was considering allowing most of the state’s controversial voter-identification law to remain intact for the November election and was contemplating only a very narrow injunction. Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. said at the end of the second and last day of a hearing on whether to halt voter-ID requirements for the Nov. 6 election that he was considering an injunction that would target the portion of the law that deals with provisional ballots. As written, the law says voters who do not bring proper photo ID on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot. They would then have six days to bring in the required photo ID for their votes to count.
Simpson told attorneys in the case that he was trying to figure out how to address what he called the “offending” parts of the law without throwing the measure out. He said the law does not disenfranchise voters simply because it requires poll workers to ask for photo ID. Rather, the risk comes when a voter casts a provisional ballot but then cannot obtain the necessary identification in time. ”What I’m thinking is blocking implementation of one specific section that contains disenfranchisement language,” Simpson said from the bench. ”The provisional ballot seems to be the sticking point,” he said. “It’s not the smoothest part of” the voter-ID law. He did not offer further detail about what else an injunction might include – such as what other requirements, if any, voters casting provisional ballots would have to meet.
Full Article: Pa. judge may allow most of voter-ID law.
- Judge crafting a way to keep Pennsylvania voter ID law and allow people to vote | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Voter ID Law In Jeopardy As Next Court Case Opens | Huffington Post
- State Supreme Court Vacates Lower Court Voter ID Ruling | NYTimes.com…
- High court wants review of voter ID access | The Associated Press
- Pennsylvania’s Bad Election Law | NYTimes.com…
In this November’s presidential election, Virginia voters will cast ballots on machines that use wireless technology state lawmakers barred five years ago to protect voting machines from hackers. Continued reliability and security concerns over electronic voting are not unique to Virginia, or to machines that use wireless technology, but the case illustrates the credibility issues that have plagued electronic voting machines in use across the country in the aftermath of the messy 2000 presidential election, when the federal government mandated changes to election systems and processes. Virginia’s election workers in some precincts use the wireless technology to upload ballots and tally vote totals from multiple machines at a polling station. The wireless electronic tallying is an effort to avoid the human error possible in a manual count. Fears that wireless transmission capabilities could present an opening to hackers led Virginia lawmakers to ban the use of the technology in voting machines in 2007. “It makes it easier to hack systems when you have an open interface that can be accessed remotely from outside the polling place, like in a parking lot,” said Jeremy Epstein, a computer researcher who helped draft the state’s legislation to bar wireless from polling stations. “It magnifies any other vulnerability in the voting system.”
A polling place worker assists a voter with a digital voting machine April 3, 2012 in Potomac, Maryland. But the ban was modified one year later to allow the use of wireless on machines the state already purchased. The reversal came as the 2008 presidential election neared, after local officials said the ballot machines wouldn’t work without wireless connections, and there was no money to replace them. The wireless technology is part of the AVS WinVote system, a touch screen voting machine used at 32 of Virginia’s polling localities, where more than a third of the swing state will cast ballots in November. To date, there have been no verified instances of hackers using wireless capabilities to influence the outcome of an election, but advocates – and many lawmakers – believe the potential for such malfeasance combined with the difficulty of verifying vote totals could undermine public confidence in elections.
The state board of elections maintains that the WinVote has “strict security protocols” and its local officials “are confident that with their internal security procedures and logic and accuracy testing, the system has performed as designed,” Nikki Sheridan, a spokeswoman, said in an email. The continued use of the AVS WinVote in Virginia this year illustrates the trouble facing states that purchased electronic voting machines with federal funds made available by the 2002 Help America Vote Act. The law was intended to encourage states to purchase electronic voting systems and prevent the ambiguity of hanging chads that dogged the Florida results in the 2000 election. But many states like Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey now have buyer’s remorse over security and reliability concerns.
- Electronic voting’s the real threat to elections | USAToday.com…
- Credibility of democracy put at risk by online voting | Vancouver Sun
- E- Voting: Trust but Verify | Scientific American
- Software glitch nixes voter registration of nearly 800 Coloradans | The Denver Post
- Decision to Use Smartmatic Voting Machines Reignites E-voting Debate | CIO.com…
Despite vocal mistrust of e-voting, 151 Flemish municipalities in Belgium will use new electronic voting machines in October 14 elections. More than 60 percent of the country’s Flemish citizens as well as voters in the Brussels region will choose their local and provincial leaders using a newly developed Linux-based e-voting system made by Venezuelan company Smartmatic. Belgium has been experimenting with e-voting systems since 1991 and is one of the few European countries that is still using a form of electronic voting. The Netherlands, for instance, banned the use of electronic voting machines in 2008 after a group of activists successfully demonstrated that both types of electronic voting machines then in use could be tampered with. The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany decided in 2009 to stop using electronic voting machines because results from the machines were not verifiable. There were some experiments with e-voting in the U.K., but bigger projects never got a foothold, said a Belgian government report detailing the history of e-voting in Europe. Meanwhile, while a wide variety of voting machines are used in the U.S. and about 20 percent of the population of Estonia votes via the Internet, Belgium is one of the few European countries that still invests in new e-voting technology.
Belgians themselves are divided about the usefulness of e-voting. In Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, only 39 of the 262 of the municipalities have voted electronically. They have been allowed by the regional government to continue the practice at their own expense, using machines put in place before the adoption of the Smartmatic machines in the Flemish municipalities. The rest of Wallonia will vote using paper and pencil because that system is cheaper, local newspapers reported. A crucial issue involved in voting-machine usage is the ability to verify votes, said Kerstin Goos, a junior researcher at the Competence Center Emerging Technologies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in Germany, who studies e-voting in Europe. Paper trails are used quite often for verification, using printed voting records that can be recounted manually if necessary. Those paper trails were not used in Germany and the Netherlands, making it impossible to verify the elections manually.
Security issues arise even when paper trails are used, according to Goos. ”Critics argue that systems still can be manipulated in a way that the printed version is different from the cast vote,” said Goos. “One main concern about possible fraud enabled by electronic means is that its scale could be much larger and possibly undetected compared to traditional voting methods,” she said, adding that the combination of improved accuracy and speed of the tallying process is typically given as a primary reason to use e-voting. The Smartmatic system being used by the Flemish municipalities print ballots on paper that resemble supermarket receipts. The voters’ choices are displayed in normal printed text and in machine-readable bar code. The voter has to fold the paper, scan the receipt and put the ballot in a box.
- South Jersey voting-machine incident makes waves | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Which States have the Highest Risk of an E-Voting Meltdown? | Freedom to Tinker
- Electronic voting’s the real threat to elections | USAToday.com…
- Supreme Court to examine plea on electronic voting machines printers | The Economic Times
- Partisan Rifts Hinder Efforts to Improve U.S. Voting System | NYTimes.com…
The former Soviet state of Georgia will hold fiercely contested parliamentary elections on Monday. For the first time since coming to power in 2004, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s fervently pro-Western government risks being ousted – by a billionaire tycoon, suspected of having close links to the Kremlin, who wants to re-establish relations with Russia. Two elderly women selling fruit at one of Tbilisi’s many outdoor markets shout loudly at each other, arguing about who should lead the country. A man carrying his shopping yells over his opinion as he walks past. This is political debate, Georgian-style. Apathy is certainly not a problem in these elections. Both sides regard this vote as an all-or-nothing fight for power. Most of the people standing behind the stalls here scrape by on a few dollars a day, selling fruit and vegetables. They see Georgia’s richest man – the billionaire opposition leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, as their saviour – and the possibility of renewed trade links with Russia as an economic lifeline.
“He’s a good man,” says Ilia Makharadze, a 47-year-old market trader. “He will open borders with Russia, and Georgians will be able to travel there again. We don’t need America. No-one in my family has work,” says 57-year-old Tamar Jandgashvili. “I buy a basket of plums. And then come here to this market to try and sell some. Is this a life?”
More than half of the country’s population has no proper job. Older and poorer Georgians, in particular, are struggling in a neo-liberal economy seen as cut-throat and Americanised. Some say life was better as part of the Soviet Union. Many of them will vote for Mr Ivanishvili, who has promised to use his own fortune to eradicate poverty.
- EU foreign ministers in Georgia to oversee election build-up as political tension rises | The Irish Times
- Cyber attack underscores political rivals in Georgia | OregonLive.com…
- Georgian government warns of Russian build up as election nears | The Cable
- Ignore the Georgian Elections at Your Own Risk | Bloomberg
- Georgia’s rowdy election campaign | The Washington Post