CalTech/MIT released a report on the state of voting technology in the US. Both campaigns are preparing for potential election meltdown scenarios. Spanish language information mailed with Voter ID cards in Maricopa County AZ list the wrong date for November’s election. A ballot printing error in Palm Beach County has led to questions about procedures to copy voter selections on to correct ballots. Researchers at the University of Michigan, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery wrote to Maryland officials late last month urging them to take immediate steps to better protect a new system that allows Marylanders to update their voter registration online. Military veterans have moved front and center in the debate over Minnesota’s proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The US Supreme Court declined to intervene in a lower court ruling that had re-instated early voting the weekend before the election in Ohio and allegations of widespread fraud once again marred elections in Russia.
- National: Gains in voting-machine technologies could be cancelled out by errors introduced through mail and Internet voting | phys.org
- National: Nightmare election scenarios worry both parties | Huffington Post
- Arizona: Spanish Voter ID Cards Give Incorrect Election Date | Fox News
- Florida: Questions raised about legality of Palm Beach County Elections | Palm Beach Post
- Maryland: Online voter registration vulnerable to attack, researchers say | The Washington Post
- Minnesota: Veterans in thick of photo ID struggle | Marine Corps Times
- Ohio: Fight ends over early voting in Ohio as US Supreme Court refuses to step in | CSMonitor.com
- Russia: Reported violations mar Russias first polls since Putins return | AFP
When it comes to the integrity and accuracy of voting systems in the United States, the good news is that widespread technological upgrades have largely eliminated the voting-machine problems that were so evident when Florida’s disputed recount determined the 2000 presidential election. The bad news is that some of those improvements in accuracy could be undermined by increases in early voting through the mail, which is turning out to be a relatively low-accuracy method of voting, according to a new research report released by MIT and the California Institute of Technology. ”A lot of changes over the last decade have made voting in America better,” says Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT, who co-authored the new report with five colleagues at four universities. “The possibility of a [situation like Florida’s 2000 election] is much lower now than it was 12 years ago.” However, Stewart adds, “We have possibly gotten way ahead of ourselves in encouraging people to vote by mail. It’s pretty clear that the improvement we’ve gotten by having better voting machines in the precincts may be given back by having more and more people voting at home.”
The new report was released today by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. It is the latest in a series of reports by the group, which formed in the aftermath of the 2000 election. A major change since 2000 has been the replacement of outdated voting systems—principally punch cards and lever machines—with more reliable optical-scan or electronic voting machines. Today roughly 60 percent of counties across the United States use optical-scan machines, and 40 percent use other forms of electronic equipment. (A small set of counties still hand-count paper ballots.)
The upshot of this change is that the overall residual vote rate—the difference between the number of ballots cast and counted—dropped from 2 percent of ballots cast in 2000 to 1 percent in 2006 and 2008, as the report notes. On the other hand, the report states, “absentee voting is more prone than in-person voting to residual vote rates.” That presents new problems, since the percentage of Americans voting by mail or at early election centers has doubled, the report notes, from 14 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2008. One study by Voter Technology Project researchers, based on two decades of data from California, has shown that the residual vote rate for absentee voters was larger than that for votes cast at polling places—by 2.2 percentage points in presidential races, 3.3 percent in gubernatorial races, 4.9 percent in U.S. Senate races, and 3.0 percent for ballot propositions.
- The state of the U.S. election system | MIT News
- Report sees decline in voting glitches … but vote-by-mail sparks concern | NBC
- Concerns mount over electronic voting; some call for return to paper ballot | Journal and Courier | jconline.com…
- Decision to Use Smartmatic Voting Machines Reignites E-voting Debate | CIO.com…
- Electronic voting’s the real threat to elections | USAToday.com…
Here in a county that knows a thing or two about Election Day meltdowns, both parties are fretting over what might go seriously wrong before, during or just after the Nov. 6 presidential election. ”More than 50 percent of the provisional ballots are thrown in the trash in this state,” Florida state Rep. Mark Pafford told about 80 retirees who gathered for last week’s meeting of the Golden Lakes Democratic Club. That’s only a slight exaggeration – 48 percent of the provisional ballots cast in Florida in 2008 were rejected. And Pafford’s warning underscores anxiety in Florida and other states about legal challenges, ballot problems or bizarre outcomes that could bedevil a race that seems likely to be close – conceivably as close as the 2000 contest that people still quarrel about. The mere mention of that election unsettles people in Palm Beach County. The county’s poorly designed “butterfly ballot” confused thousands of voters, arguably costing Democrat Al Gore the state, and thereby the presidency.
Gore won the national popular vote by more than a half-million ballots. But George W. Bush became president after the Supreme Court decided, 5-4, to halt further Florida recounts, more than a month after Election Day. Bush carried the state by 537 votes, enough for an Electoral College edge. ”Pregnant chad” entered the political lexicon. And Americans got a jolting reminder of the Founding Fathers’ complex recipe for indirectly electing presidents. Even if everything goes smoothly, it’s conceivable the nation will awaken to a major shock in three weeks: an Electoral College tie between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. That would throw the decision to the House of Representatives, currently controlled by Republicans but up for grabs in this election.
A 269-269 Electoral College tie is unlikely but far from impossible. It could result, for instance, if Romney wins all the competitive states except Ohio, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Four U.S. elections, including 2000, saw the presidency go to the person who finished second in the popular vote. There has never been an Electoral College tie. However, the U.S. House handed the 1824 election to John Quincy Adams after he finished second – in both the popular vote and the Electoral College vote – in a four-man race in which no one won a majority in either count.
Full Article: Nightmare election scenarios worry both parties.
- Judge Halts Pennsylvania’s Tough New Voter ID Requirement | Associated Press
- ACLU says Supreme Court should order manual recount in House 58 | Valley Breeze
- Provisional ballots could be hanging chads of 2012 | KNOE
- Judge may allow most of voter-ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer
- Provisional ballots must be counted in Ohio regardless of poll worker error, federal judge rules | cleveland.com…
The Arizona Democratic Party is calling for a meeting with the Maricopa County Recorder following yet another error in connection with the upcoming election. The wrong election date was printed on the mailer that comes with your voter ID that you punch out. The error was only made in Spanish, but some worry it will cause voters to show up on the wrong day. The recorder says it only affects a few dozen cards but others aren’t convinced it’s not more widespread. “We want to make sure no one’s vote is jeopardized in any way,” says Frank Camacho, Arizona State Democratic Party.
The Arizona Democratic Party isn’t happy about the Maricopa County Recorder’s latest blunder. The recorder’s office confirms the paperwork that accompanied some voter ID cards had the wrong election date printed in Spanish. The date is shown as November 8th, though the election is actually on Nov. 6.
The recorder’s office believes the mistake affects less than 50 of the more than 2 million voter ID cards issued. “We want to meet with them to talk about this find out how it happened and what steps taken to rectify the situation to make sure it wasn’t wide spread as we think it potentially could be,” says Camacho.
- Veterans in thick of photo ID struggle | Marine Corps Times
- At polling places, some fear monitors will challenge some legitimate voters, intimidate others | The Washington Post
- Voter ID Foes’ Wins in Pennsylvania, Other States Could be Short Lived | Stateline
- Court Blocks South Carolina Voter ID Law, for Now | NYTimes
- Voter ID debate shifts to South Carolina as campaigners challenge restrictions | guardian.co.uk
Lawyers for rival presidential candidates Mitt Romney and President Obama descended on the Palm Beach County Elections Office today, trying to find out what procedures would be in place next week to assure an estimated 27,000 absentee ballots that contain printing errors would be copied accurately. Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said candidates or their representatives would be allowed to observe what is expected to be dozens of two-person teams duplicating the ballots. But, she said, the exact procedure won’t be announced until Friday. Ballots will begin being opened and copied on Monday at 10 a.m. “It will be first-come, first-served one person per candidate,” Bucher said. Representatives could come from the campaigns of anyone seeking office in the Nov. 6 election, from Obama and Romney to Palm Beach County Port Commissioner Jean Enright. How many will be allowed to watch each team will be a function of how much room is available.
“That’s not a procedure, that’s chaos,” said Miami attorney Raquel Rodriquez. While she is statewide co-chair of Lawyers for Romney, she said she was only speaking for herself, not the group. Further, Rodriguez said, she doesn’t believe the process Bucher outlined conforms with state election law. “She’s inventing a procedure,” she said. Bucher disagreed with Rodriguez’s assessment, insisting the system she is proposing was plucked from state law. In an email, the Florida Division of Elections said it has signed off in principle on Bucher’s plans.
- Florida elections officials to oversee duplication of flawed Palm Beach County absentee ballots | Palm Beach Post
- Absentee ballot delays worry some voters | Palm Beach Post
- Palm Beach County’s 2012 Ballot Debacle | CBS Miami
- Citizenship question ordered off Michigan voter form | The Detroit News
- Amid court challenges, early voting begins in U.S. election | Reuters
A voting rights group and some of the nation’s leading researchers on election technology are urging Maryland voters to check the accuracy of their online voter registration files after warning that the data had been left vulnerable to tampering. Researchers at the University of Michigan, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery wrote to Maryland officials late last month urging them to take immediate steps to better protect a new system that allows Marylanders to update their voter registration online. The letter warned that anyone with access to a Maryland voter’s full name and birth date could exploit a simple online tool to change the voter’s address, party affiliation or other information. Such changes, especially a change of address, could lead to a voter’s ballot not being counted normally on Election Day.
According to the researchers, the crux of the problem is that Maryland linked its voter registration files to the state’s database of driver’s license numbers. That move was designed to add a layer of security and to weed out suspicious voter files. But in Maryland, driver’s license numbers are derived from a resident’s name and birth date. Several Web sites can decode a driver’s license number using the latter two pieces of information. The researchers discovered Maryland’s problem after finding a similar vulnerability in Washington state’s new online voter registration system. “It means if you know someone’s full legal name and birth date, you know their driver’s license number and you have all the information needed to tamper with their voter registration,” said Rebecca Wilson, a chief elections judge in Prince George’s County and co-director of the nonprofit Save Our Votes. Wilson said that could be done easily in Maryland because the state sells voter rolls to campaigns seeking to canvass for votes.
Researchers said that with a relatively simple code, a computer attack could change the voter registration files of thousands of Maryland residents, and probably do so in a way that could avoid detection. “These problems leave the system open to large-scale, automated fraud, and make the Maryland system among the most vulnerable of all the states’ new online voter registration systems,” wrote Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman, Lawrence Livermore cybersecurity expert David R. Jefferson and former IBM researcher Barbara Simons.
- Cracks in Maryland and Washington Voter Databases | NYTimes.com…
- Internet voting way too risky, say experts | Marketplace
- In Theory And Practice, Why Internet-Based Voting Is a Bad Idea | Slashdot
- Internet voting systems too insecure, researcher warns | Computerworld
- The perils of online voter registration | Washington Post
Military veterans have moved front and center in the debate over Minnesota’s proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. For voter ID supporters, veterans are a symbol to sell their message of election integrity. Opponents have turned to veterans to point out the potential problems that soldiers could face when they try to vote. The pro-amendment campaign organization Protect My Vote started airing its first television ad last month. The 30-second spot features Robert McWhite of Minneapolis, a 91-year-old World War II veteran and former prisoner of war in Europe, who talks about defending the nation and its ideals. ”Nothing is more central to America’s success than the right to vote,” McWhite says in the ad. “That’s why I’m supporting the effort to protect that right by showing photo ID.” Dan McGrath, chairman of Protect My Vote, told Minnesota Public Radio that the ad is certain to appeal to voters who respect the military.
“We did focus group testing on a number of different concepts, and one of them was around the idea of defending democracy,” he said. “We tied the idea of defending democracy in war, military veterans, with voter ID, and it focus-group-tested very well. So that’s how our ad came together.” Additionally, McGrath said, the ad tries to address accusations from amendment opponents that a photo ID requirement could make it harder for soldiers, veterans and the elderly to vote. He insists that everyone who is eligible to vote will be able to obtain an ID and cast a ballot. As for current military personnel, McGrath insisted nothing will get in their way. ”Soldiers overseas are protected by federal laws, and their vote can’t be threatened by a constitutional amendment or a state statute,” McGrath said. Voter ID opponents said the amendment would threaten the ability of soldiers to vote. Greta Bergstrom, a spokeswoman for the anti-amendment campaign organization Our Vote Our Future, said the pro-amendment ad uses “powerful imagery” to mislead voters.
- State Supreme Court rejects challenge, leaves voter ID on ballot | Post Bulletin
- State Supreme Court vigorously questions Photo ID supporters and opponents — but doesn’t tip hand | MinnPost
- Voter ID amendment is now up to voters | StarTribune.com…
- Court strikes down proposed voter ID amendment | KansasCity.com…
- Vet ID holders cannot vote? | San Antonio Express-News
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined an invitation to enter a raging election-year legal dispute in Ohio over the state legislature’s decision to eliminate one form of early voting for most voters in the three days prior to the Nov. 6 election. The action lets stand earlier decisions clearing the way for all Ohio voters to engage in early voting on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Election Day. The high court action comes less than three weeks before Election Day and more than two weeks after voters in Ohio began casting early ballots on Oct 2.
Ohio is considered a crucial swing state in the coming presidential election. President Obama maintains a razor-thin lead over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the Buckeye State. At issue in the case was a law that closed one form of early voting in Ohio on the three days before Election Day, for all voters except military personnel and overseas residents. Critics saw the move as an attempt by the Republican-controlled legislature to undercut the ability of minority voters to cast ballots by restricting early voting on the weekend before the election.
- Supreme Court won’t block early voting in Ohio | The Associated Press
- Early voting reinstated in Ohio | The Washington Post
- As Election Day looms, voter ID law critics seek out the unregistered | The Sun Herald
- Early voting: Why Justice dropped its challenge of Florida plan | CSMonitor.com…
- Clay County Republicans, other GOP groups, oppose Corrine Brown’s early voting lawsuit | jacksonville.com…
Russians on Sunday voted to elect governors and mayors in the first such polls since President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin, as observers complained of numerous and egregious violations. The government was quick to dismiss claims of voting irregularities, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev late Sunday saying the polls had been carried out in a “civilised manner”. ”As far as I know, nobody found any serious irregularities,” Medvedev said. ”This gives hope that in the future, elections will be held in the same civilised and democratic manner.”
Voters went to the polls to elect different layers of local and regional government in almost all the country’s regions, with the largest cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg among the few not to vote. Most local and regional governments in Russia are dominated by the ruling United Russia party, a situation that appeared unlikely to change in the polls.
Observers and opposition politicians standing for election reported numerous violations including groups of people voting multiple times and the stuffing of ballot boxes. Russia’s Golos vote monitor on Sunday evening showed more than 800 reported violations on its map of complaints submitted online.
- Ballot stuffing suspected in Russian election | tvnz.co.nz
- Russian elections underscore problems faced by Putin foes | Reuters
- Putin allies keep hold on power in local Russian elections | LA Times
- Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party wins regional elections | The Washington Post
- Country Votes in Putin’s First Election Test Since Kremlin Return | Bloomberg