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The Voting News Weekly: August 15-21 2011

The Voting News Weekly: August 15-21 2011

Electoral Violence Escalates in Guatemala | InSight

Elections Canada announced their support for online voting on Wednesday, leaving others to point out the security vulnerabilities such a plan would introduce. The Jones County Mississippi clerk convinced his county's Board of Supervisors to allow the removal of voter verified paper audit trail printers with the astonishing claim that there is no way to tamper with Diebold TSx touchscreen voting machines. An audit of South Carolina's 2010 elections revealed widespread discrepancies and irregularities with the state's ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines. Also this week, the Department of Justice determined that South Carolina's new voter ID requirement could not be enforced this year at least. The Wake County North Carolina District Attorney noted that none of the nine people charged last week for voting twice in the 2008 elections would have been deterred by a photo ID requirement, though of course all were caught under current law. Though a concealed weapon license can serve as identification for voting under emergency legislation signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Veteran's ID apparently can not. At least 38 people have been killed in election-related violence in the run-up to the Guatemalan elections
and thousands protested in Kabul after an Independent Election Commission recommended the removal of 62 legislators due to irregularities in last year's elections.

Aug 20, 2011 06:10 am

Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post

Elections Canada intends to seek approval to implement a system of online voting, according to a report released Wednesday.

Let me say first that, on the one hand, it’s positive that an organization that is as culturally-conservative and traditional as Elections Canada is even pondering exploring alternate methods of service delivery. Some years back I interviewed their chief information officer a few weeks into the job. He’d come from the private sector and was amazed at the degree of institutional resistance to even minor technological advancement. They had their way of doing things. It was all laid out step-by-step in a big binder.

On the other hand, while voter registration seems like an obvious step, I’d have a very hard time trusting Elections Canada to devise a secure and reliable system for online voting when every time I try to use their online contributions database, I want to cry over how unnecessarily complicated and cumbersome even simplest tasks is.

But online voting is one of those things that sounds great in theory — vote easily and quickly wherever you are, you don’t need to travel or wait in line — but, upon further reflection, loses some of its lustre.

Our current system has the advantage of being direct and personal: You go to your poll, identify yourself, you’re crossed off the list, mark an X on the ballot, then the ballots are counted and a winner is declared. If there’s a recount needs to be done, the physical ballots are there for anyone to see.

If we move to an online system, there are a number of potential problems:

• How do we know who that anonymous person is behind the computer screen is? Online systems usually involve a token or PIN sent to the mailing address of the registered voter. What’s to stop one person from collecting the PINs of past occupants, or other residents, and voting them all?
• How do we know they’re not being coerced by a friend or family member? Many people who have worked the polls will tell you that they’ve had to stop people from going behind the private voting screen with the voter and attempting to influence them. If someone does want assistance, they need to sign a solemn declaration not to attempt to influence the voter. This is a real issue and there’s nothing to prevent coercion using an online system. The sanctity of the voter’s choice must be sacrosanct.
• With a physical ballot, there’s a paper trail. Where’s the paper trail with e-voting? There is none; it’s all digital. What if a server crashes and votes disappear? Thousands could be disenfranchised, their votes disappearing forever into the electronic ether.
• No electronic system is secure. No matter how much security and encryption is built in, it will still be vulnerable. If experienced and dedicated hackers (and today the majority of illegal online activity isn’t rebellious youth; it’s organized crime, corporate espionage and nation states) want to penetrate the system, they will. And the possible motives for wanting to disrupt or influence a federal election are endless.

It could be that concerns such as these could be satisfied. We’ll see. But I think there’s a high bar that will need to be met before we trust something as fundamental as our democracy to computers. Look at the online voting experience for the BC Liberal leadership race — something as simple as delays by Canada Post delivering PIN numbers, threatened to scuttle the whole process.

There are not too many good reasons to scrap the current system and move voting online anyway. Voting is a our civic duty; it’s 15 minutes of our lives every four years or so, to pop into our local church basement or school gymnasium to pick our national representatives. Ask the people of Libya if they’d see that as a burden.

Do we really want voting to be just another app on our phones, next to AngryBirds? Civic engagement is a little more important than that and we should treat it as such.

Source: Jeff Jedras: Canada isn’t ready for online voting | Full Comment | National Post.

See Also:

Porirua New Zealand mayor lobbies for internet voting test | dominion-post
Elections Canada lobbies for test of online voting | CBC News
Maharashtra governor calls for online voting | Mumbai DNA
Governments, IOC and UN hit by massive cyber attack | BBC News
Americans Elect Internet Vote for President? Consider how it worked in DC 2010 | Irregular Times

Aug 19, 2011 08:16 am

‘There is No Way for Them to be Tampered With’: Mississippi Election Clerk Gets Approval to Remove Paper Trail Printers from Diebold Touch-Screens | The Brad Blog

The Jones County, Mississippi slogan is “A Great Place to Live”. While they may or may not be true, I’ve never been there, it’s clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county’s Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County’s Board of Supervisors this week has made that as clear as can be.

You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures — such as, as e-voting machines that wouldn’t start up at all, and votes that were counted twice — led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi’s state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: “At this point there is no election…Everyone is baffled.”

Against that back drop then, behold what Jones County, MS Circuit Clerk Bart Gavinis now calling for — and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) — as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline “Improving the voting process” [emphasis added].

The Jones County Board of Supervisors approved the removal of printers from the county’s voting machines at the request of Jones County Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin at Monday’s board meeting in Laurel. Gavin told supervisors the printers are defective and have often slowed up the voting process.

“Removing the printers will make it easy for the precinct and poll workers to open up at 7 a.m.,” said Gavin. “At 7 a.m. on voting day, all machines need to be up and running. “The poll worker, bless their hearts,” he added. “We can go over things with them and they still mess up. This way they won’t have to go in and put in paper to print out results. They will only use what’s recorded in the computer.

Before the vote, District Five Supervisor Jerome Wyatt questioned whether it was lawful to remove the printers. He said, as he recalled, the printers were authorized by the U.S. Justice Department compelled the state to use them to make sure votes and results could not be comprised [sic].

According to Gavin, the printed ballots were not a stipulation now. He said the voting machines record every vote and there is no way for them to be tampered with.

Gavin also told supervisors he has correspondence from state officials saying it is OK to do away with the printers. He added that other counties have removed them and are saving money as a result.

Full Article: The BRAD BLOG : ‘There is No Way for Them to be Tampered With’: Mississippi Election Clerk Gets Approval to Remove Paper Trail Printers from Diebold Touch-Screens.

See Also:

Setback to Election Commission as India paper trail pilot poll reports errors |…
Indian Voting Machines With Paper Trails to Be Field-tested | PCWorld
Samyabadi Dal says yes, Janata League no to electronic voting in Bangladesh | The Daily Star
Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post
Audit of 2010 South Carolina Elections Shows Widespread Problems | Free Times

Aug 18, 2011 09:11 am

Audit of 2010 South Carolina Elections Shows Widespread Problems | Free Times

The State Election Commission is auditing voting data from the 2010 statewide elections, and as it does, critics of the state’s iVotronic touch screen voting machines say the government audit is proving there are problems with the system — problems the agency doesn’t dispute.

“They’re admitting that there’s holes in the data,” says Frank Heindel of Mount Pleasant, who runs the watchdog website SCvotinginfo. He adds that the elections agency also admits that there are counties where auditors haven’t been able to obtain proper election data. Emails and comments from agency officials back that up.

“We never received complete data from Charleston … No data is available for Lancaster and Orangeburg,” wrote Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire in one email to Heindel about the ongoing audit. The reason no information was available for Orangeburg was because a computer with the audit data on it there crashed, Whitmire said.

Election officials in each county tabulate voting data from precincts after an election and then send it to the Election Commission for certification. But Whitmire tells Free Times that in the course of the agency’s audit, it found that some county election commissions were failing to follow proper procedure. That’s led the agency to certify inaccurate election results. And once those votes are certified, there is nothing in state law allowing the agency to correct them.

Colleton County, for instance, reported 13,045 votes for statewide offices in the November elections, but it turned that out only 11,656 ballots had been cast that day — meaning 1,389 extra votes had been counted. An investigation concluded that the skewed results were human error and not the fault of the machines.

The agency had also failed to count more than 1,100 votes in Richland County alone — with 1,000 of them missing from a single Bluff Road precinct.

Election watchdogs, including University of South Carolina computer scientist Duncan Buell, initially uncovered the discrepancies by reviewing replies to Freedom of Information Act requests for voter data from the counties. It was after that information came to light that the agency decided a complete audit of the election data was needed. In the process, more problems have been found.

“Federal and state law require the retention of election records for 22 months or 24 months,” agency spokesman Whitmire tells Free Times. “There are cases where they were not saved properly.”

The Election Commission is publishing the data it’s been able to retrieve on its website, but even some of that information isn’t accurate, says Buell. “It is sufficiently incomplete, and part of the concern should be that even the state cannot ask the counties for data and get a good record of what happened last November,” he says.

South Carolina uses a statewide system of iVotronic touch screens the state purchased from an Omaha-based company called ES&S in 2004. The machines do not provide a voter-verified paper trail. The machines are about halfway through their life cycle.

Full Article: Free Times: Government — Audit of 2010 State Elections Shows Widespread Problems.

See Also:

Local Governments wants an audit of State’s ES&S iVotronics | The Post and Courier
Vote count glitch probed in Sussex County – ES&S iVotronic | New Jersey Herald
Still Clueless About Touch-Screens in South Carolina | The Brad Blog
Vote count bug found; county blames software – ES&S iVotronic | New Jersey Herald
“Human error” found in Fairfield New Jersey election results |…

Aug 17, 2011 09:17 am

Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year |

A recently-passed state law requiring voters to present photo IDs could be delayed. Passed in May, the new law directly affects 178,000 registered voters in South Carolina who are without, or with expired, state-issued photo identification cards.

The problem with the new law is the length of time it could take that high number of residents to receive new IDs. As a result, it can’t be enforced in elections this year, the U.S. Dept. of Justice said on Tuesday. Robert Cook, deputy attorney general with DOJ, declared “such short time period is beyond the voter’s control.”

South Carolina’s new law is yet to be formally approved by DOJ, which is required under the Voting Rights Act. A final ruling on its future use should be issued by the end of the month.

The state Election Commission agrees with Cook. Marci Andino, SEC exec. director, says there isn’t enough time to inform those particular voters before for the next elections in the state.

Full Article: Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year, DOJ says — Charleston Charleston Democrat |….

See Also:

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…
State Attorney General says voter ID can be delayed | AP
Comparing Texas’ Voter ID Law to Other States | Texas Tribune
New election law approved – except for most controversial portions |…
States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/

Aug 16, 2011 09:13 am

Two-timers in North Carolina |

The arrest warrants for nine people in Wake County charged with felonies for voting twice in the 2008 election were barely dry when the state Republican Party came to its fanciful conclusion that its stymied campaign for requiring photo identification of all voters would have thwarted these people. The problem is, it wouldn’t have.

Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby (yes, a Democrat) says voter IDs would have made no difference in these cases. This was about people voting twice, perhaps by absentee and then at the polls. And it should be noted that nine people were charged, and that’s out of a huge 2008 turnout. There were more voter fraud cases statewide than usual in that year, more than 200, out of over 4 million votes cast.

Which is to say, nine is not many, and there probably would have been nine with or without voter ID.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed voter ID after it cleared the Republican-controlled General Assembly. An attempt to override the veto fell short in the state House, but the issue remains alive. Republicans know that a voter ID requirement would inconvenience the elderly and others who may not drive, many of them lower-income people who might be inclined to vote Democratic. Their motivation is the same as their attempts to curb early voting and straight-ticket voting, both of which have proved popular with Democrats.

Requiring a voter ID may not be up there with the poll taxes that once were used to intimidate and impede minority voters, but it would be in the same philosophical hemisphere.

Republican reasoning is transparent, and despite occasional arrests that show authorities are on the ball and that methods are in place to catch cheaters and to prevent duplicate votes from being counted, voter fraud is not a significant problem. This matter should drop.

Source: Two-timers — Editorials —….

See Also:

North Carolina House falls short of canceling governor’s veto of photo identification mandate for voters | The Republic
Gov. Perdue vetoes voter ID bill pushed by Republicans |…
Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year |…
Vet ID holders cannot vote? | San Antonio Express-News
Voter ID Bill would not have stopped Wake Co. voters attempting to vote twice but current law did | Progressive Pulse

Aug 15, 2011 09:10 am

Vet ID holders cannot vote? | San Antonio Express-News

Local Democrats are up in arms about a controversial voter ID bill that would exclude veterans’ identification cards from the short list of photo IDs required to cast a vote in Texas. Ann McGeehan, director of the Secretary of State’s elections division, said last week at a seminar in Austin that photo ID cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are not acceptable forms of military ID to vote, according to a recording provided by the Texas Democratic Party. Jordy Keith, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, backpedaled Friday on that determination.

“It was an informal Q&A, and (McGeehan) was answering based on what was expressly called out in Senate Bill 14,” Keith said. “Right now our office has not issued a final determination on that.”

Passed after Gov. Rick Perry declared voter ID an emergency issue in the last session, the strict bill is touted by Republicans as a way to reduce voter fraud but decried by Democrats as an effort to lower voter turnout among minorities and the elderly, disabled and poor.

Texas voters, beginning next year, cannot cast a ballot without one of the following forms of photo identification: a Texas driver’s license; a Texas concealed handgun license; a U.S. passport; citizenship papers; or a military identification card.

Veterans eligible for VA medical benefits receive the VA cards, which include photos.

Not allowing holders of the VA card to vote would largely affect veterans who are young, homeless and traumatized by war, said Charlie Jones, head of Texas Democratic Veterans.

“We have a lot of young vets,” Jones said. “We have a lot of vets who are homeless. The only way they interchange with the community is through the (Veteran’s Administration).”

Full Article: Vet ID holders cannot vote? — San Antonio Express-News.

See Also:

John Tanner: Why voter ID won’t fly in Texas |…
Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year |…
Two-timers in North Carolina |…
Voter ID Bill would not have stopped Wake Co. voters attempting to vote twice but current law did | Progressive Pulse
Voter ID battle: Getting Married Can Make it Difficult to Vote in South Carolina | The Post and Courier

Aug 15, 2011 09:08 am

Electoral Violence Escalates in Guatemala | InSight

It is estimated that 38 people have died so far in the run-up to the Guatemalan 2011 general elections, an even higher number than was recorded during 2007 contest. The head of Guatemalan Civil Rights Office (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) has described the current level of violence as “alarming,” and likely to worsen over the coming month, prior to the September 11 vote. An advisor to the presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina, who is currently tipped as the favourite to win, was also gunned down recently, along with his son.

According to Guatemalan NGO, Mirador Electoral, the pre-election period presents “high levels of danger” in at least 24 of the country’s 333 municipalities, due to the presence of criminal groups. As reported by Insight Crime, Mexican criminal gangs such as the Zetas have been stepping up their presence in Guatemala, which could explain the higher level of pre-election violence this year.

During a state visit to Mexico last month, Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom described drug trafficking groups as posing a major concern to the electoral process, and in an interview with La Jornada, voiced worries about drug traffickers attempting to recuperate influence “on every level” during the election period.

Guatemala currently has one of the highest levels of violence in the world, with 42 percent all crimes attributed to drug trafficking.

Full Article: Electoral Violence Escalates in Guatemala.

See Also:

Malaysian authorities crack down on protesters demanding free and fair elections |…
Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post
‘There is No Way for Them to be Tampered With’: Mississippi Election Clerk Gets Approval to Remove Paper Trail Printers from Diebold Touch-Screens | The Brad Blog
Audit of 2010 South Carolina Elections Shows Widespread Problems | Free Times
Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year |…

Aug 15, 2011 09:05 am

U.N. pushes risky plan to resolve Afghan election impasse |

The United Nations is quietly pushing a plan aimed at healing a rupture between President Hamid Karzai and the opposition-dominated parliament that threatens to ignite a full-blown constitutional crisis, two international officials said. The proposal, however, risks inflaming the feud and triggering charges of foreign interference with the country’s electoral commission, which is supposed to be independent but has had its credibility battered by two successive fraud-marred national elections.

The U.N. is pressing the commission to overturn for alleged fraud the results of 17 of last year’s 249 races for parliament’s lower house, the officials said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The number is far fewer than the 62 contests that Karzai wanted reversed, but stops short of granting opposition lawmakers’ calls for no changes at all.

“Once the IEC (Independent Election Commission) makes its announcement, the entire international community will be in lockstep supporting the IEC decision,” one official said. The United States will support whatever the IEC rules, but isn’t backing the U.N. plan, said a senior U.S. official also requested anonymity to discuss the issue.

The results of the elections, held last Aug.18, have been a point of contention since they were announced in December, weeks after the vote amid evidence of widespread fraud. Karzai opponents did well, defeating several of the president’s allies, but Karzai supporters quickly went on the attack, accusing the opposition of fraud.

In December, Karzai ordered the creation of a special tribunal to sort out the fraud allegations, a step the IEC, opposition lawmakers and the international community dismissed as illegal and an attempt by Karzai to insert more of his supporters into the lower house. During the impasse, parliament has refused to pass legislation or approve Cabinet appointments, has brought impeachment proceedings against six Supreme Court justices and threatened to impeach Karzai, who has been forced to rule by decree.

In June, the tribunal ruled that 62 contests should be reversed, but IEC chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi refused to recognize the tribunal’s authority and last week Karzai dissolved it.

The U.N. plan is intended to resolve the crisis once and for all for fear it will fuel instability as the U.S. draws down forces and security responsibilities gradually are shifted to Karzai’s government, a process due to be completed by the end of 2014.

Full Article: U.N. pushes risky plan to resolve Afghan election iimpasse — World Wires —….

See Also:

Some lawmakers to lose seats after IEC election review | AlertNet/Reuters
Thousands protest over Afghan vote rigging row |
Karzai Annuls Afghan Court Reviewing 2010 Polls |…
How easy is it to rig the outcome of a New South Wales Australia Electronic Election? | Poll Blogger
Malaysia braces for pro-democracy street protests in Kuala Lumpur | The Guardian


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