Statistics show that votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth. Mashable considered the security concerns associated with internet voting and CBS Miami investigated the state of electronic voting in next month’s election. Alleged voter registration fraud in several States have again focused attention on GOP operative Nathan Sproul. Iowa Secretary of State Schultz was criticized for using Federal funding in his voter fraud investigation. A Federal Court has ruled that a citizenship checkbox must be removed from Michigan ballots, while a court in Ohio has ordered that in person early voting be available to all voters during the weekend before the election. Pennsylvania’s voter ID requirement was put on hold. A decision on a similar law in South Carolina is expected this week and the incumbent suffered an upset defeat in Georgia’s presidential election.
- National: As More Vote by Mail, Faulty Ballots Could Impact Elections | NYTimes.com
- National: How Close Are We to Internet Voting? | Mashable
- National: Does Your Vote Count? | CBS Miami
- National: Voter registration fraud claims singe GOP | CBS News
- Iowa: Secretary of State Schultz criticized for use of federal funds in voter fraud probe | Des Moines Register
- Michigan: Citizenship question ordered off Michigan voter form | The Detroit News
- Ohio: Early voting reinstated in Ohio | The Washington Post
- South Carolina: Voter ID debate shifts to South Carolina as campaigners challenge restrictions | guardian.co.uk
- Pennsylvania: Judge Halts Pennsylvania’s Tough New Voter ID Requirement | Associated Press
- Georgia (Sakartvelo): Georgia’s Election Brings New Hope for Democracy | CFR
On the morning of the primary here in August, the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job. The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of the return envelope. It rejected one that said “see inside” where the signature should have been. And it debated what to do with ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not quite match the one in the county’s files. “This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected. Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor here, disagreed. “This ‘k’ is like that ‘k,’ ” he replied, and he persuaded his colleagues to count the vote. Scenes like this will play out in many elections next month, because Florida and other states are swiftly moving from voting at a polling place toward voting by mail. In the last general election in Florida, in 2010, 23 percent of voters cast absentee ballots, up from 15 percent in the midterm election four years before. Nationwide, the use of absentee ballots and other forms of voting by mail has more than tripled since 1980 and now accounts for almost 20 percent of all votes.
Yet votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show. Election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting. “The more people you force to vote by mail,” Mr. Sancho said, “the more invalid ballots you will generate.”
Election experts say the challenges created by mailed ballots could well affect outcomes this fall and beyond. If the contests next month are close enough to be within what election lawyers call the margin of litigation, the grounds on which they will be fought will not be hanging chads but ballots cast away from the voting booth.
- Absentee ballots gain popularity despite warnings of potential voter fraud | Fox News
- People Thought It Was Junk Mail And Threw It Out! | WTRF 7
- Amid fraud concerns, Florida absentee voting shrouded in secrecy | Tampa Bay Times
- Voters facing a long, long ballot in November | Tampa Bay Times
- Early Voting in 2012: What to Expect | Huffington Post
You can do basically anything online. From booking a flight to securely transmitting medical records to your doctor, from buying groceries to managing your bank account, the web supports all sorts of complex transactions. But one common task has firmly resisted the lure of online convenience: voting. At least mostly. There is actually some online voting already happening in very limited ways. At least 32 states and the District of Columbia will allow military or overseas voters to return absentee ballots via email, fax or an Internet portal, in effect offering a form of remote electronic voting to some segment of the population. But for the majority of voters, a trip to a polling place will be necessary to cast a vote in this year’s election. Why is that? Surely, if engineers can figure out how to safeguard your medical records or transfer large sums of money over the Internet, beaming a vote from your living room should be a piece of cake. That’s a popular refrain among proponents of Internet voting systems, and on the surface, it makes sense. If security-obsessed industries like banking and medicine have embraced the Internet, why is voting still stuck in the relative dark ages? As with most things, the reality is a bit more complicated. According to VerifiedVoting.org…, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the “accuracy, integrity and verifiability” of elections in a digital age, all voting systems should have a few key components. First, there needs to be a fully auditable, preferably voter-verifiable paper trail that maintains the integrity of the secret ballot. Second, voting systems need to have in place strong mechanisms to prevent any undetected changes to votes. Third, systems should not be easily subject to wide-scale service disruptions. Indeed, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002 as a response to the Florida recount debacle of 2000, requires some of these provisions under the law.
From a strictly engineering standpoint, none of those problems seem impossible to overcome. So why did VerifiedVoting.org… board member and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer security expert David Jefferson tell attendees at the RSA Security Conference in March that the very concept of Internet elections is “unfixably broken?” Let’s dig into each ofVerifiedVoting.org…’s requirements for a voting system and how they might be achieved via the Internet. Both critics and proponents of online voting agree that it is important for all votes in an election to be counted as cast. Where they disagree is how best to make that happen. The voting system standards laid out in the Help America Vote Act require that all voting systems “produce a record with an audit capacity for such system,” or in other words, votes can be recounted for verification purposes.
For traditional voting systems, that usually means votes are cast by some method that involves making a permanent mark on paper, like punching a hole through a card or marking a box with a pen, and then dropping those ballots into a box to be manually counted, or feeding them into some sort of electronic counting machine. Electronic systems used at polling places often create a printed receipt that details the vote you just cast. Online voting critics argue that this paper record is the most reliable way to ensure votes can be verified in the face of a discrepancy or too-close-for-comfort results.
Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org…, says that audit trails should create an “indelible record, not something that’s ephemeral, like bits and bytes.” And some in the government seem to agree. A 2011 study from the National Institute for Standards and Technologies concluded that online voting systems weren’t ready for prime time, in part because “Internet voting systems cannot currently be audited with a comparable level of confidence in the audit results as those for polling place systems.”
Full Article: How Close Are We to Internet Voting?.
- The Problems with Online Voting | Wall Street Journal
- Electronic voting’s the real threat to elections | USAToday.com…
- E- Voting: Trust but Verify | Scientific American
- Internet voting still faces hurdles in US | The Economic Times
- Cyber Intel: On Cyber Guard At The Voting Booth | AolGovernment
Oct 05, 2012
National: Does Your Vote Count? | CBS Miami
Ion Sancho is a man on a mission. Just weeks from the presidential election, one of the most veteran election supervisors in the state of Florida, thinks there’s plenty for him and his colleagues to lose sleep over. What keeps him awake at night? Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on. “We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. “I think the citizens should be screaming from the rooftops,” he punctuates with the candor and directness he is known for. For many voters Sancho’s words hold weight. He was the first elections supervisor in America to dare a “look under the hood” of a voting machine, to see if the machines were recording votes properly and if they could be hacked. ” I sanctioned the first investigation of a voting system without the vendor’s authorization,” Sancho recalls.
The year was 2005. Sancho’s county was already using an optical scan machine that reads paper ballots, the technology thought by many to be the most secure. He authorized two world renowned computer scientists to attempt to penetrate his system. “I told them I want you to crack my system I want you to steal an election if you can do it,.” he explained to Gillen . The attempts to “hack” were recorded and featured in the HBO documentary “Hacking Democracy.” What he and the team learned, Sancho says, is that if someone had access to a memory card they could potentially manipulate votes and alter the outcome of an election. “And this was shocking to us,” recounts Sancho.
The manufacturer disputed the results and so did the state of Florida which he says wanted to fire him. Meanwhile, as the public’s demand for a paper trail and paper ballots grew, every Florida county ultimately ended up with optical scan machines made by a handful of companies. Sancho says worrisome computer vote tabulation problems appear to be emerging for various manufacturers.
Full Article: CBS4 Investigates: Does Your Vote Count? « CBS Miami.
- Voting Technology: Current and Future Choices | The Canvass
- County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal
- Electronic voting’s the real threat to elections | USAToday.com…
- Decade-Old E-Voting ‘Wars’ Continue into Presidential Election | Wall Street Journal
- Credibility of democracy put at risk by online voting | Vancouver Sun
Revelations that the Republican National Committee urged several states to hire a consulting firm that submitted potentially fraudulent voter registration forms in Florida are continuing to cause embarrassment to the Republican Party. RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday his group had cut ties to the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, citing “zero tolerance” for voter fraud. “This is an issue we take extremely seriously,” he told CBS News. “When allegations were brought to our attention we severed all ties to the firm.” The Los Angeles Times reported that the RNC urged the state GOP in seven swing states to hire the firm, despite the fact that the man who runs it, Nathan Sproul, has been accused of running firms that have destroyed Democratic registrations. Sproul told the newspaper that RNC officials asked him to set up a new firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, so that his efforts would not be linked to those allegations. The RNC has reportedly paid the firm at least $3.1 million via state parties. Sproul blamed the suspicious forms on a single employee in Palm Beach County. But Florida election officials tell CBS News they have found a “couple hundred” voter registrations in eight Florida counties with “irregularities” that deserve further scrutiny. They are currently reviewing the registrations and if they find them to be “legally significant” they will turn them over to law enforcement. This could happen by the end of the day.
ACORN, the Democratic-affiliated community organizing group, was accused of a similar type of voter registration fraud in the 2008 campaign cycle. It also responded by blaming bad apples within the organization. Republicans rejected that argument and harshly attacked the group, casting it as having attempted to steal the election on behalf of then-candidate Barack Obama. Republicans have made combating voter fraud a top priority in this election cycle, with GOP-led state legislatures in numerous states championing legislation mandating that voters show photo identification. Critics say such fraud is not a serious issue and that Republicans are simply trying to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democrat.
It’s not clear whether the suspicious registrations in Florida could have led to voter fraud. According to the Times, they could have caused problems for voters if, for example, they falsely changed someone’s address, potentially prompting them to have to cast a provisional ballot. The issue is particularly charged in Florida, the site of a bitter recount fight in the 2000 presidential election. Florida election officials told CBS News that the irregularities have to do with false information and voter signatures – for example, the name on the application doesn’t match the signature, or some information wasn’t filled out completely, or multiple signatures look like they were signed by the same person. All reported irregularities were submitted using the Republican Party of Florida’s third party organization registration number, which has registered 46,000 voters with the state according to Florida election officials.
Full Article: Voter registration fraud claims singe GOP – CBS News.
- Potential voter registration fraud in Florida: GOP’s own ‘ACORN’ scandal? | CSMonitor.com…
- GOP’s ACORN moment | Salon.com…
- Elections supervisors wonder how to deal with GOP voter registrations | Tampa Bay Times
- Voter-fraud shocker?! On behalf of … the GOP? | latimes.com…
- Election supervisor refutes Strategic Allied Consulting claim | ABC-7.com…
Secretary of State Matt Schultz and a key state lawmaker are at odds over the use of federal money to investigate alleged voter fraud in Iowa. Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, chairman of the Iowa Senate’s Government Oversight Committee, sent formal letters on the matter Tuesday to State Auditor David Vaudt and a federal inspector general for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Courtney asked the officials for audits of Schultz’s use of federal funds from the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, to hire a state Division of Criminal Investigation agent to investigate alleged voter fraud. Courtney said the federal money is supposed to be used to help educate voters about procedures, voting rights and voting technology. Hiring a law enforcement officer isn’t an allowable expense, he said.
Schultz, a Republican, said it’s clear Courtney’s motives are political, and he accused the lawmaker of grandstanding. He said the use of the federal money was carefully studied by lawyers in his office who approved it. He added the DCI hasn’t sent a bill yet for the probe. “Sen. Courtney is saying he agrees that non-citizens shouldn’t vote, yet his actions speaker louder than his words,” Schultz said. “Everything he is doing is trying to stop these investigations.” Federal Inspector General Curtis Crider confirmed Tuesday that he received Courtney’s request, but he declined to comment further. Vaudt said he will consult with the federal inspector general before proceeding to ensure they are not duplicating efforts.
- Groups sue to block Iowa voter purge, fraud rules | Quad City Times
- Voter fraud isn’t a problem, county auditor says | TheGazette
- Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis: Voter ID Laws ‘Are A Poll Tax,’ ‘I Know What I Saw During The 60s’ | ThinkProgress
- How Close Are We to Internet Voting? | Mashable
- Secretary of State Schultz blasts audit request | KMA Radio
A federal judge late Friday ordered Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove a U.S. citizenship question from ballot applications for the Nov. 6 election, citing inconsistent enforcement and potential “confusion” at the polls. ”It really is a burden on the right to vote in terms of slowing things down, in terms of confusion,” U.S. District Court Paul Borman said in ruling from the bench after a six-hour hearing. Johnson, a Republican, said she was disappointed by the judge’s ruling. She questioned why she was hauled into court Friday and defended the citizenship question as a tool to root out noncitizens on the voter rolls. ”This is an education tool that we found that works,” Johnson told reporters.
Johnson said the ruling could increase election costs for municipalities that have to reprint voter application forms. Clerks also may be able to black out the question on existing forms. Borman said he would issue a written injunction order by Tuesday. A coalition of voting rights advocates who questioned Johnson’s authority to impose the question after Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed authorizing legislation was elated by the judge’s decision. ”There is no question that, without the court’s intervention, the chaos that persisted during the August primary election will be replayed on a greater scale during the November general election,” said Dan Korobkin, staff attorney for ACLU of Michigan, one of the plaintiffs.
During the hearing, testimony revealed Johnson had ordered the removal of the citizenship question from absentee voter applications for the Nov. 6 election one week after being sued over the issue. The judge said imposing the citizenship question on voters at the polls and not requiring absentee voters to answer creates an unconstitutional lack of equal protection. If it’s so important, then why isn’t it on the absentee ballots?” Borman asked.
- Rights groups sue over citizenship checkboxes for voters | Detroit Free Press
- County clerks defy ballot citizenship rule | The Detroit News
- Secretary of State keeping citizen check-off box | The Detroit News
- Voter Suppression Returns: Voting rights and partisan practices | Alexandar Keyssar/Harvard Magazine
- Voting rights coalition argues against citizenship check box on Michigan ballots | Detroit Free Press
A federal appeals court on Friday sided with President Obama’s reelection campaign and said that if Ohio allows military voters to cast ballots in the three days leading to Election Day, it must extend the same opportunity to all voters. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the state had not shown why voting during the Saturday-Sunday-Monday period should be offered to only one group of voters. “While there is a compelling reason to provide more opportunities for military voters to cast their ballots, there is no corresponding satisfactory reason to prevent non-military voters from casting their ballots as well,” wrote Circuit Judge Eric L. Clay. “The public interest . . . favors permitting as many qualified voters to vote as possible,” he added.
But the appeals court ruling could create some confusion. While all must to be allowed if the three-day period is offered, the opinion said that decision could be up to individual Ohio counties. In-person early voting has started in Ohio and was scheduled to end for all but military voters on the Friday before the election. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) said the state would announce Monday whether it intended to appeal the decision. It could ask the full appeals court to reverse the decision, with the Supreme Court as the last resort.
Full Article: Early voting reinstated in Ohio – The Washington Post.
- Republican Voter Laws Face Scrutiny As Obama Wins Mount | Bloomberg
- Secretary Of State Talks About Need To ‘Streamline’ Voter ID Requirements | Huffington Post
- Obama Campaign Asks Court to Uphold Ohio Vote Ruling | Bloomberg
- Early voting boon to voters but can lead to problems, officials say | Coshocton Tribune
- Democrats, Husted Still At Odds Over Ohio Weekend Voting | WBNS
The battle over voting rights in the November presidential election now swings to South Carolina, following the decision by the Pennsylvania courts on Tuesday to delay implementation of a voter ID requirement in that state. All eyes are now on the legal tussle between the department of justice and South Carolina, where probably the last voter ID law will be decided before election day on 6 November. Last year South Carolina became one of at least 34 states to introduce strict laws that require voters to present photo identification at polling stations – one of a swathe of measures attacking voting rights that swept across the US this election cycle. South Carolina’s law was blocked, however, by the Obama administration last June.
The department of justice wielded its powers under section 5 of the 1965 voting rights act – a safeguard introduced after desegregation in the deep south to prevent designated areas from changing voting procedures without federal government approval in advance. The blocking power was designed consciously to counter the old Jim Crow laws of the south, where African Americans were routinely denied the right to vote on spurious technical grounds.
The justice department’s final decision over the South Carolina’s voter ID law is now pending and could be announced as early as this week. It is also possible, though, that a final ruling will be postponed until after the presidential election. The assault on voting rights has been one of the epic themes of the 2012 election cycle, with states moving on an unprecedented scale to erect barriers to easy access to the polling booth. A tally by the Brennan Center for Justice in New York itemised at least 180 restrictive bills in 41 states
over the past two years, of which 15 laws were actually passed in 19 states.
- Texas Voter ID Misstep | Alberto Gonzales/Fox News
- Voter ID law on trial as federal court considers impact on minority voters, state’s history | The Washington Post
- Obama Voting Fight on Photo ID Targets South Carolina | Bloomberg
- Judges Will Rule on Voter ID | Roll Call
- Texas case puts voter ID laws to test | The Washington Post
A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania’s divisive voter identification requirement from going into effect on Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting. The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. However, Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him days ago by the high court justices, and it could easily be the final word on the law just five weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the photo ID requirement in this year’s presidential election but will allow it to go into full effect next year.
One lawyer for the plaintiffs said it appeared to be a “win.” Election workers will still be allowed to ask voters for a valid photo ID, but people without it can vote on a regular voting machine in the polling place and would not have to cast a provisional ballot or prove their identity to election officials after the election. His ruling came after listening to two days of testimony about the state’s eleventh-hour efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID. He also heard about long lines and ill-informed clerks at driver’s license centers and identification requirements that made it hard for some registered voters to get a state-issued photo ID.
The 6-month-old law — now among the nation’s toughest — has sparked a divisive debate over voting rights and become a high-profile political issue in the contest between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, for Pennsylvania’s prized 20 electoral votes.
Full Article: Pa. voter ID law ruling could mean political swing.
- Judge Bars Voter-ID Law for 2012 Election | Businessweek
- Judge crafting a way to keep Pennsylvania voter ID law and allow people to vote | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Pennsylvania Photo ID May Be Headed Back to Supreme Court | Brad Blog
- Judge may allow most of voter-ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Pennsylvania’s Bad Election Law | NYTimes.com…
More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Georgia passed an important democratic milestone this week when the opposition party won the parliamentary elections and the incumbent president, Mikheil Saakashvili, conceded defeat. The door is now open for the first peaceful transition of power in modern Georgia’s history. The development is also a landmark for the Eurasian region of former Soviet Republics, where most elections have been rigged and often violent. … Since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty-one years ago, the fifteen former Soviet Republics have followed mostly bumpy paths toward and away from democracy. On Monday, Georgians stunned the world when an opposition coalition led by eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili won the parliamentary election there. President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat on Tuesday, paving the way for Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream bloc to form a new government. When Ivanishvili becomes prime minister, as expected, it will be the first time in Georgia’s history that the government will have changed at the ballot box rather than through revolution.
To be sure, challenges remain. Saakashvili, who was swept to power in 2003’s Rose Revolution, will remain in power until presidential elections next year. Relations between the two men are frosty, to say the least. Due to recent reforms, the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers after the presidential election. But the six-party Georgian Dream coalition is fragile, its majority is thin, and its tycoon leader is a political novice.
The campaign was bitter. The opposition accused Saakashvili of monopolizing power, curtailing democracy and suppressing dissent. Indeed, Saakashvili used all the tools at his disposal, including state-run media, to secure a win, but his efforts to block his opponents ultimately failed. For his part, Saakashvili, who waged a war with Russia in 2008 and has aggressively courted the West, warned that Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, would move Georgia away from the West and back into Moscow’s sphere of influence.
- Scandal and intrigue split voters | BBC
- Cyber attack underscores political rivals in Georgia | OregonLive.com…
- Georgia President Saakashvili concedes election defeat | latimes.com…
- Billionaire tycoon claims surprise victory as key US ally Georgia votes | World News
- Georgian government warns of Russian build up as election nears | The Cable