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The Voting News Weekly: 1-7 August 2011

The Voting News Weekly: 1-7 August 2011

Poll workers struggle to obtain results | The Natchez Democrat

Tuesday's primary election in Mississippi was plagued with voting machine malfunctions - candidates' or entire contests missing from screens and machines that failed to boot up - highlighting national concern about the accuracy and reliability of electronic voting heading into next year's Presidential election. The 46th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act was marked by an editorial in Politico and efforts by the Secretary of State of Florida to avoid Department of Justice pre-clearance of the most controversial sections of that state's new election law. Several groups have also asked the DoJ to review South Carolina's voter ID law. Wisconsin is reconsidering its plans to close 16 DMV offices just as new voter ID requirements go into affect. Meanwhile many voters in the state are receiving absentee ballot applications and other campaign material with incorrect filing deadlines and election dates. A Portland Press Herald editorial recommends that Maine voters reinstate same-day registration and massive cyber attacks against the IOC, UN and several governments underscored concerns about plans for the transmittal of voted ballots over the Internet.

Aug 07, 2011 02:11 am

Voting machine problems in Mississippi primary highlight national concern | Verified Voting Blog

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In the August 3 primary in Mississippi voters experienced voting machine problems: candidates’ names and entire contests missing from the voting machine screens and equipment failing to booting up properly. Problems were reported in Hinds County, which uses the Advanced Voting Systems Winvote and in several counties that use the Premier (Diebold) TSx equipped with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail printer. Advanced Voting Systems has been out of business for several years after they failed to meet requirements for certification to Federal voting systems standards but their machines are still used in Hinds County and in several jurisdictions in Virginia. The same type of AVS machine produced still-unexplained anomalies in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2009. The majority of Mississippi counties use the Premier TSx and most are equipped with voter verified paper audit trail printers, though the printers are not required by state law or regulation.

In California, a top to bottom review of voting systems found the TSx to have numerous security vulnerabilities and in 2007 the Secretary of State established conditions of use that severely restrict the machine’s use and required 100% manual audits of the voter-verifiable paper trails. No such routine audit is required in Mississippi. Also in 2007, a team of computer scientists at Princeton demonstrated the ease with which the TSx could be hacked. Many States, including Iowa, Florida, and Virginia, where TSx machines have been used recently or remain in use, have either replaced the TSx or are phasing them out along with other direct-recording electronic voting machines.

Read the entire article: Voting machine problems in 2011 MS primary highlight national concern | Verified Voting Blog.

See Also:

Malfunction of machines puzzling | The Clarion-Ledger
Election certainty needs a put-it-on-paper foundation | Tri-State Defender
Setback to Election Commission as India paper trail pilot poll reports errors |…
Florida Election Servers Hacked Again | InformationWeek
Egypt looking at e-voting | Bikya Masr

Aug 06, 2011 05:16 am

States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/

States’ rights is code for discrimination. A century and a half ago, some states asserted the right to leave the union. We fought the nation’s bloodiest conflict, then admitted the traitors back into the country on generous terms. Though our Confederate brothers and sisters died defending the enslavement of African-Americans, we did this in the name of peace and forgiveness.

Fast forward, to the 1960’s, all Americans were free from legalized slavery — but blacks were still routinely denied the ballot. Some states blocked access to the ballot with the same ferocity, and on the same grounds, that they stood in schoolhouse doors with ax handles — states’ rights. Denial of the ballot was based on the right of states to control all election procedures.

By eradicating widespread disenfranchisement in Dixie and in urban areas outside the Old South, the Voting Rights Act — enacted Aug. 6, 1965 — proved one of the most powerful pieces of federal legislation. It ranks with the 14th Amendment and the Commerce Clause in changing the lives of Americans everywhere — for the better.

It ushered in what we call “King Democracy” as in Martin Luther King Jr., on the way to forging a more perfect union and putting “Jeffersonian Democracy,” where democracy coexisted with slavery and then legal segregation, behind us.

The Voting Rights Act did not come, top-down, from Pennsylvania Avenue.

It came bottom up — on the road from Selma to Montgomery. Through Freedom Summer and the work of young men like Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney – two whites and one black — murdered while registering black voters in the Deep South. Through the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. From the sacrifices of so many unknown martyrs and marchers the Voting Rights Act was won.

Like any new piece of transformative legislation, it took time for blacks and progressive whites to fully use the Voting Rights Act.

Section 5 is a powerful tool — and a near-anomaly in the law. It requires prior federal review before states or other covered jurisdictions can make changes to voting processes and procedures.

But its power derives from the circumstances surrounding enforcement. Some jurisdictions were so determined to deny minority groups the right to vote that federal review was needed to protect against potential discriminatory changes — intentional or non-intentional — during the electoral process.

Eventually, the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988 helped usher in a new era of minority political participation. In addition, thousands of blacks, Latinos, Asians and progressives were elected in districts where minority voting strength could be felt — often after suing to break down the barriers that diluted the minority power.

Motor Voter was also an important milestone in the march to full enfranchisement. Potential voters could now register at the public library, in school, at public agency offices and in door-to-door campaigns mounted by activists. They could establish their eligibility in dozens of ways: Utility bills, passports, birth certificates and student I.D. cards were all acceptable forms of identification.

Full Article: Opinion: States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 — Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Barbara Arnwine and Janice L. Mathis —….

See Also:

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…
Sen. Finney: Voter ID law needless ploy to disenfranchise voters | The Daily News Journal
Rep. Marcia Fudge seeks Justice Department oversight over voter ID laws |…
States Dispute Criticism of New Voter Laws, Move to Offer Photo ID Free of Charge |…
House Dems say state voter-ID laws a GOP plan to suppress minority votes | The Hill

Aug 06, 2011 05:15 am

Making an end run around Justice |

If Gov. Rick Scott and his administration are so convinced that major changes to election laws indeed will eliminate voter fraud (or the potential of it) — not merely make voting difficult for minority and poor people — he’d seek an imprimatur of fairness from the federal Department of Justice.

What could be better proof than an OK from an agency perceived by his administration to be in thrall to the political opposition?

Instead, Gov. Scott’s appointed secretary of state, Kurt Browning, is making an end run around Justice and seeking “preclearance” on those changes from the federal district court in Washington. The 1965 Voting Rights Act provides for preclearance from Justice or from the federal court for changes in states and counties with a history of discrimination. Justice usually is the venue for preclearance, and Mr. Browning first applied to Justice.

Now, Mr. Browning says, rather snidely, that he wanted to move preclearance to the court to eliminate “the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence” from Justice and to be “assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.”

In other words, a Department of Justice headed by an Obama appointee would be less “neutral” than a federal court with many appointees from Republican presidents.

This is odd because Justice, under either party, has rarely rejected changes in election laws, according to a 40-year review by the Commission on Civil Rights in 2006. Under President Obama, Justice has precleared laws deemed restrictive by opponents. Further, challengers to voting laws have found little joy at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents of Florida’s new law say the real motive is to make voting more difficult, especially for people new to voting, those who move frequently and those who have difficulty getting to the polls — people who are younger or poorer or likely to be minority. People suspected of being (gasp) Democrats.

The new provisions include a shortening of the time to two days from 10 that volunteer groups have to turn in voter registration applications, a shortening of time for validity of signatures on constitutional-amendment petition drives to two years from four, a decrease in days for early voting to eight days from 14 but with longer hours, and a provision requiring voters who change their addresses at the polls to cast only provisional ballots.

Full Article: Making an end run around Justice — Editorials —….

See Also:

Florida seeks Justice Department preclearance for new elections law | Post on Politics
ACLU, voting rights group sue to stop implementation of new Florida elections law | Palm Beach Post
More details of lawsuit challenging Scott, Browning on election rules overhaul | Florida Independent
States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/
Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…

Aug 06, 2011 05:14 am

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |

A coalition of six S.C. groups moved Friday to halt a new state law that requires voters to present a picture ID to cast a ballot at the polls. About 178,000 S.C. voters do not have photo IDs, such as a valid S.C. driver’s license, and would be affected by the change, according to 2010 State Election Commission data. Previously voters could present their voter registration cards, which do not include a photo, at the polls.

The coalition, including the ACLU and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, arguing the new law should be blocked because it is discriminatory. The groups said African-Americans are less likely than whites to have a driver’s license or other state-issued identification, as required by the law.

“We’re rolling back a basic right,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “Voting is not a privilege in a democracy.” Advocates of the new law, approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley this year, tout it as a way to curb voter fraud and safeguard state elections.

Because of the state’s history of discrimination against minorities, any changes to S.C. voting laws must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. The period when the public can comment on the new law ends Aug. 29. Sometime afterward, the Justice Department will decide whether the new law can go into effect.

Thirty states have passed laws that require voters to show an ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 14 states, the ID must include a photo of the voter.

Under the S.C. law, South Carolinians who already are registered to vote will be able to go to their local voter registration office, present a pay stub, utility bill or other non-photographic proof of identification and get a new voter registration card that includes a photo, free of charge, according to the Election Commission.

Full Article: Groups ask Justice Department to block S.C. voter ID law — S.C. Politics —….

See Also:

States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/
State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites | JSOnline
The new Jim Crow? – Democrats in Congress urge the Justice Department to look into new, GOP-authored voter ID laws |…
Floridians Protest New Voting Law | BET
Controversial Voter Registration Law Raises DOJ Investigation | Land O Lakes, FL Patch

Aug 06, 2011 05:13 am

State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites | JSOnline

Two weeks after announcing it would potentially close 16 Division of Motor Vehicles centers, the state reversed course Thursday and said it will maintain all of its licensing centers and will open four new locations. The Legislature required the DMV this year to develop the most cost-effective program possible to implement a new law requiring people to show photo ID to vote and to ensure that voters will be able to obtain the state-issued photo IDs. The IDs will be required for voting starting in the spring.

Under an original proposal released July 22, the division said it may close 16 locations and open nine new ones, for a net loss of seven centers. The plan called for expanding hours at others. DMV Operations Manager Patrick Fernan said pressure from state lawmakers and citizens to keep the DMV accessible led to the decision not to close any branches. “It became clear that there was a strong desire to maintain service in all current locations,” Fernan said.

The Legislature also required each county to have a DMV that is open at least 20 hours a week, meaning 40 counties had to expand their hours. The additional hours will create 55 new positions across the state and will bring the total number of DMV centers statewide to 92.

Fernan said it is too early to determine how much it will cost to open and maintain the four new centers, but the Legislature budgeted $6 million for the expanded hours in the centers’ first year and $4 million for the second year.

All of the expanded hours will be during the week, said Fernan, meaning Wisconsin will still have only one DMV location that is open during the weekend, on Madison’s west side. By comparison, Indiana has 124 DMV centers that are open during the weekend.

The new DMV locations will be in Viroqua (Vernon County), Alma (Buffalo County), south Eau Claire/Fall Creek (Eau Claire County) and Keshena (Menominee County).

Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) was a vocal opponent of the original proposal to close 16 DMV locations, including one in his district, and applauded the move to keep all the existing locations open.

“I didn’t know what to I pushed hard for...expect this in the past two weeks tirelessly, and they finally listened,” Jorgensen said. “It certainly is a switch-around.”

Had the original plan gone through, Jorgensen said Fort Atkinson residents would have had to make a half-hour drive to the remaining center in Watertown and that no public transportation exists between the two communities.

The 16 centers that were originally set to close were mostly in rural areas, but included one in Oconomowoc. The nine centers that were proposed to open were largely in other rural counties.

Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said he thought the DMV’s original plan was acceptable but praised the agency for coming up with a way to expand hours without closing any facilities.

“I think it’s important as we roll out photo ID to make sure that, as much as possible, we have access to photo IDs,” Vos said.

Still, opponents of the voter ID law say the measure still is not enough to keep the polls accessible to all voters.

“This is a move in the right direction, but there is still a lot to do,” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. “This is an extra cost that was not in what was considered the estimated cost of the bill.”

The original bill estimated the new voter ID system would cost the state $7 million over the next two years. The expanded hours and new DMV centers, passed separately under the state budget, would cost an additional $10 million over two years.

Full Article: State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites — JSOnline.

See Also:

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…
States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/
The myth of Florida voter fraud |…
Voters astute enough to reinstate same-day registration | The Portland Press Herald
Bank Account Activity New Voting Requirement in Wisconsin? | Rock the Vote Blog

Aug 04, 2011 11:11 am

Political groups get recall election date wrong | The Oshkosh Northwestern

Some voters in the 18th Senate District are getting misleading information in the mail about the deadline for absentee voting in the recall election between Republican incumbent Sen. Randy Hopper and Democrat Jessica King.

Absentee voter applications sent by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity tell voters to return the mailing by Aug. 11, two days after Aug. 9 recall election. Oshkosh Deputy Clerk Angela Joeckel said ballots that arrive after Aug. 9 would not be counted in any way. She said Thursday, Aug. 4, is the last day the clerk’s office can send an absentee ballot out by mail.

Mailings from AFP with incorrect election dates were also sent out in at least two of the other five districts in which recall electionswill be held on Tuesday, those represented by Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Rob Cowles of Allouez.

And the Democratic National Committee has been placing calls giving the wrong date for the recall election against Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse.

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney says DNC officials were contacted about the calls with the wrong date and they told election officials the calls would stop.

The GAB is also urging voters who want to cast absentee ballots to not rely on mailings but instead to contact their local election official.

“They can receive and apply for an absentee ballot via other parties, but they do need to send (the applications for ballots) to us,” Joeckel said. “Eventually, those groups will forward the applications to us, but it’s quicker to send it directly to us. But either way, the actual ballot has to be received at the clerk’s office on Aug. 9.”

Full Article: Political groups get recall election date wrong | The Oshkosh Northwestern |….

See Also:

Democrats cry foul over recall ballot mailing | Associated Press
Expense of fake Democrats in primaries will top $400,000 | JSOnline
Dirty Tricks in Wisconsin: Deceptive Absentee Ballot Mailers Appear to be Coordinated Hoaxes | The Brad Blog
Americans for Prosperity ballot applications have late return date |…
An election that isn’t about the candidates, primary signals strange times | LaCrosse Tribune

Aug 04, 2011 11:09 am

Voters astute enough to reinstate same-day registration | The Portland Press Herald

Maine has taken a step backward on voters’ rights. Along with five other concerned Mainers, I filed paperwork with the secretary of state to overturn legislation that eliminated Election Day voter registration.

For 38 years, Maine has allowed voters to show up on Election Day, register and then cast their ballots. It’s a system that has worked remarkably well, helping Maine to become a national leader in voter participation.

The legislation changing that was developed and passed, based largely on myth. But I am convinced that Maine voters can discern fact from fiction and will support our efforts to restore Election Day voter registration. The League of Women Voters of Maine, which I represent, is a nonpartisan organization committed to protecting voting rights and the integrity of elections at the local, state and federal levels.

Around the country, we have seen a concerted effort to unnecessarily make it harder to vote. Supporters of that movement wrap their arguments in the American flag and make outrageous claims about election fraud. They’ve made the ridiculous claims in Maine already, trying to scare people into believing that people are trying to steal elections.

Despite the wild claims, there no evidence whatsoever that voting fraud is anything more than an exaggerated myth. In fact, in Maine there have been only two cases of voter fraud in the last 38 years associated with Election Day voting. In October 2007, Michael Slater, then the deputy director of Project Vote, wrote an important report about the mythology that has developed around voter fraud.

“Americans can be forgiven for believing that voter fraud is threatening the integrity of our elections,” Slater wrote. “They’ve the victims of an organized effort to persuade them just of that.” He also put the numbers to the lie: “At the federal level, only 24 people were convicted of illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, and all the evidence suggests that state-level rates were no higher. Put another way, Americans are twice as likely to be hit by lightning than to have their vote canceled out by fraudulently cast ballots.”

Voting is fundamental to our democracy and our government. And in Maine, we have a proud tradition of participating. Mainers vote, and until this year, state law has encouraged them to do so.

Every election year, candidates for high office face a gauntlet of voter-attended forums and events. They are put through the paces, and their ideas are tested. Voters pay attention, and come Election Day, they let their voices be heard. But there is a national movement that wants to erect unnecessary barriers to voting.

Based on Maine’s tradition of participation and high political awareness, we are convinced that voters will not allow this attack on their rights to stand. On the same day that Gov. Paul LePage signed the bill killing Election Day registration, we filed the paperwork to launch a people’s veto.

Same-day registration helps young voters, who move more often than other people. It helps voters with limited access to transportation and people who might have trouble getting around. Its elimination will hurt low-income Mainers, the disabled and the elderly by making it more difficult for them to vote.

The people who want to make it harder to vote claim Maine’s clerks are with them, but, in fact, most are not. Most of the people on the front lines don’t oppose Election Day registration and don’t consider it a burden. But recognizing that voting is a difficult business, we are not proposing to repeal other parts of this law, which make some technical amendments to the voting process. We’re focusing solely on Election Day registration.

Full Article: Maine Voices: Maine voters astute enough to reinstate same-day registration | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

See Also:

LePage signs bill banning same-day voter registration, but critics vow to fight | Bangor Daily News
Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…
State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites | JSOnline
Petition drive seeks return of same-day registration | The Kennebec Journal
Bill Clinton: GOP War on Voting Is Most Determined Disenfranchisement Effort Since Jim Crow | ThinkProgress

Aug 03, 2011 10:12 am

Governments, IOC and UN hit by massive cyber attack | BBC News

IT security firm McAfee claims to have uncovered one of the largest ever series of cyber attacks. It lists 72 different organisations that were targeted over five years, including the International Olympic Committee, the UN and security firms.

McAfee will not say who it thinks is responsible, but there is speculation that China may be behind the attacks. Beijing has always denied any state involvement in cyber-attacks, calling such accusations “groundless”.

Speaking to BBC News, McAfee’s chief European technology officer, Raj Samani, said the attacks were still going on. “This is a whole different level to the Night Dragon attacks that occurred earlier this year. Those were attacks on a specific sector. This one is very, very broad.”

Dubbed Operation Shady RAT — after the remote access tool that security experts and hackers use to remotely access computer networks — the five-year investigation examined information from a number of different organisations which thought they may have been hit.

“From the logs we were able to see where the traffic flow was coming from,” said Mr Samani.

“In some cases, we were permitted to delve a bit deeper and see what, if anything, had been taken, and in many cases we found evidence that intellectual property (IP) had been stolen.

“The United Nations, the Indian government, the International Olympic Committee, the steel industry, defence firms, even computer security companies were hit,” he added.

Full Article: BBC News — Governments, IOC and UN hit by massive cyber attack.

See Also:

Americans Elect Internet Vote for President? Consider how it worked in DC 2010 | Irregular Times
Security company infects client’s network with ‘Trojan mouse’ | InfoWorld
Tallinn Calls in Expert to Denounce E-Voting | ERR
Internet Voting In California? | California Progress Report
24,000 Pentagon files stolen in major cyber breach, official says | The Washington Post

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