The Voting News for September 3, 2011
The Voting News for September 3, 2011
Ohio will mail absentee ballot request forms to voters in all counties ahead of the 2012 presidential election, settling a dispute between the state's top election official and the leader of the state's largest county.
As part of the agreement announced Friday, Cuyahoga County officials agreed not to send out unsolicited mailings for absentee ballots for this year's general election.
Cuyahoga County officials in Cleveland had threatened to defy Secretary of State Jon Husted's order barring county elections boards from mailing the unsolicited applications. The county's council earlier in the week authorized mailings to all registered voters. That led to a meeting Thursday in Columbus where Husted, a Republican, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat, worked out the compromise.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will chair a hearing next week examining the rash of voter ID laws passed by state legislatures this year amidst concerns that such laws could suppress Democratic turnout across the country.
Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, announced Friday that the Sept. 8 hearing will feature testimony from Judith Brown Dianis, the co-director of the Advancement Project; Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levittl; and former Bush-era Justice Department official Hans van Spakovsky, who's now with the Heritage Foundation. It's titled "New State Voting Laws - Barriers to the Ballot?"
I visited Estonia in mid-July of this year at the invitation of Edgar Savisaar, the country’s first prime minister and current mayor of Tallinn. Mr. Savisaar is the leader of the Centre Party, which placed second in recent national elections. The Centre Party and Mr. Savisaar have been questioning the outcome of the Internet voting portion of those elections. They invited me to Estonia because of a presentation I made at a European Parliament panel on the risks of Internet voting.
I told my hosts that I was happy to discuss the risks of Internet voting, but I would not comment on internal Estonian politics. When asked whether or not I thought the national election was rigged, I refused to comment, aside from saying that no one could prove that it was or was not rigged, because there is no way to conduct a recount of an Internet election.
The Internet portion of the 2011 election lasted from February 24 to March 2, with paper balloting conducted on March 6. The Internet vote was counted the evening of March 6. Estonian law allows complaints to be submitted only during the 3 days immediately following the procedure being challenged. Since Internet voting is considered separate from paper voting, the final day for submitting complaints about Internet voting was March 5. Graduate student Paavo Pihelgas was the only person who submitted a complaint by the deadline. (The Centre Party and independent candidates tried to file complaints, but they did not do so within the required 72 hour time frame).
Pihelgas asked the National Election Commission (NEC) to cancel the election results, since the possibility of election-rigging malware meant that there was no way to be sure that the voters’ preferences had been correctly recorded. NEC rejected his complaint the following day, saying that they have all the necessary provisions to detect such cases, without specifying what those provisions are. When Pihelgas resubmitted his complaint, it was forwarded to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint on March 21, say that the voter can file a complaint only when his/her rights have been breached.
I have communicated with several Estonians before, during, and after my trip. I have also read a report written by a team from the OSCE/ODIHR (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) who observed the March 2011 election, and I have talked with a member of the OSCE/ODIHR team. Based on the information I have obtained, I have concluded that the Internet voting system used in Estonia is insecure.
Internet voting could make it more convenient to cast a ballot in an election, but it is also riskier than the current in-person voting system, according to a new report from the province's elections agency. While there may be increasing public pressure to modernize B.C.'s voting process with online voting, it's up to provincial politicians to balance the security risks that keep ballots safe and confidential, Elections B.C. said in a discussion paper released this week.
"With the current state of technology, Internet voting is considered to be less effective than traditional, in-person and postal voting methods at protecting ballots against large-scale fraud, ensuring the secrecy of the vote, and providing a fully transparent and observable process that can be effectively audited," the independent elections agency wrote in its paper.
"Because specialized computer skills are required to observe an Internet voting process, voters would have to delegate their trust to 'experts' to confirm that the election is conducted properly."
Many cities have been calling for online voting to be available during elections starting in 2014, but that may be a lofty goal.
A discussion paper from Elections BC says there are still a ton of kinks that need to be worked out. The main issue is still security, and UBC internet security expert Richard Rosenberg agrees: "The widespread use of online voting is a long way off as it has been for several years now. It's very difficult to ensure the systems in use are accurate and haven't been compromised either accidentally... or on purpose."
A sweeping election reform bill the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature recently passed has stirred widespread opposition. Democrats have even called it the Voter Suppression Bill. In that spirit, opponents have initiated an effort to repeal the law, House Bill 194, through a voter referendum.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Warrensville Heights, sent an email to her supporters on Aug. 22 asking for help collecting the 231,147 valid signatures of registered voters required to put the law on the ballot in November 2012. The signatures must be submitted by Sept. 29 or the law will take effect.
In her email, Fudge laid out several changes the bill makes that she opposes. "HB 194, the Voter Suppression Bill, invalidates a vote where a voter properly marks the ballot in support of a particular candidate, but also writes in the name of that same candidate," Fudge wrote. Invalidating a vote, especially when the voter’s intent is clear, definitely is an issue worth examining. So PolitiFact Ohio decided to check Fudge’s claim as she pushes for the law’s repeal.
The Pennsylvania Department of State is touting that only one percent of eligible voters in the commonwealth do not have the government-issued photo identification they would need if there were a law requiring all voters to show such ID at the polls.
That figure may not be above reproach.
The Department of State came to its conclusion by using data from PennDOT, which issues driver’s licenses and non-driver photo ID. PennDOT provided the number of IDs it has for all Pennsylvanians who are 18 or older. Checked against a national survey of eligible voters, it would appear that only one percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania don’t have ID. But Jan McKnight, of PennDOT’s Safety Administration, said the number it reported to the Department of State does not pertain only to eligible voters.
Mary-Jane Foster is back in the running for mayor after a Superior Court judge Friday overturned the rejection of her slate for the primary, the latest twist in what has been a tumultuous Democratic primary campaign. In a 34-page decision, Judge Barbara Bellis threw out Foster's candidates for the Board of Education based on the state's takeover of the city's school system.
The judge then ordered that the Sept. 13 Democratic primary be postponed to Sept. 27 so that Foster can restart her campaign against Mayor Bill Finch.
Bellis found that the interplay of state and city statutes that Democratic Registrar of Voters Santa Ayala had relied on to deny Foster a ballot spot was confusing and ambiguous and that the Foster campaign had made every reasonable effort to follow the law.
Local political leaders are hoping for a quick legal decision in their efforts to stop the Wayne County clerk from dropping unopposed candidates from the ballot this fall. County Clerk Jo Ann Stewart is following amended Indiana Code 3-10-6-7.5 in striking the names of unopposed candidates for Richmond Common Council in the Nov. 8 election.
The code reads in part, "An election may not be held for a municipal office if: There is only one nominee for the office or only one person has filed a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate under IC 3-8-2-2.5." The law took effect July 1.
Wayne County Democrats and Republicans filed an injunction Thursday to stop the names of unopposed candidates -- Democrat Kelley Cruse-Nicholson in District 2, Republican Clay Miller in District 4 and Republican Larry Parker in District 6 -- from being eliminated from the ballot.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission held a special meeting on Aug. 30, and due to pending lawsuits, it’s still undetermined whether Cherokee Freedmen will be eligible to vote in the Sept. 24 principal chief election.
CN Attorney General Diane Hammons was in attendance at the meeting, and she said a hearing in the Freedmen matter is slated for Sept. 20 in federal court. The filing period for the plaintiffs of the Freedmen lawsuit is Sept. 2, and the CN has 10 days to respond and five days for a reply, Hammons said.
Cherokee Freedman William Austin of Muskogee attended the EC meeting and asked how he and other Freedmen would be notified whether they will be allowed to vote or not. “When you get your ballot, if you get one,” EC attorney Lloyd Cole replied.
The speaker of Parliament on Saturday swore in eight of nine new members reinstated last month by the country’s election commission, as hundreds of police armed with riot gear and machine guns blocked the entrance to the building to keep out members who had been replaced by the commission’s ruling.
The sedate swearing-in ceremony was witnessed by only a few dozen Parliament members. Dozens more, however, stood outside in solidarity with the ousted members, in a sign of a widening rift within Parliament, which up to now had appeared mostly unified against President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to reshape the legislature.
A spokesman for the president denied that he had ordered extra police officers to block the ousted members, saying that police officials had decided on their own that the extra force was necessary to prevent irate lawmakers from entering the building with guns. But supporters of the nine disqualified members took it as a signal of the president’s willingness to use force to impose the panel’s decision.
With the general election just a few weeks away now, Seychelles politics are set to change as a new political party, the Popular Democratic Party, is entering the main arena of an election fight for the first time. Long-time opposition leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, following his significant defeat in the May presidential elections, virtually threw in the towel soon afterwards, and in an act of defiance, seems to have propelled his own party, the SNP, into the abyss, too.
First refusing to take part in the declaration of election results, he then went on to stop attending parliamentary proceedings and compelling his party’s assembly members to follow his example, culminating in his declaration that the SNP, as if a piece of personal property, would not participate in the next round of parliamentary elections at all. This resulted in taking the one major opposition to the ruling party, LEPEP, out of the equation, this did not go down well with many of his followers who now doubt not only his wisdom but his rationale and motive.
Liberia’s National Elections Commission says voters rejected all four proposed changes to the constitution in a recent referendum in the West African nation.
Commission co-chairwoman Elizabeth Nelson said Wednesday that none of the four propositions got the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The commission says 600,000 people voted. The main opposition party boycotted last week’s poll.
During the Council session, held at OAS headquarters, the Organization’s Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, remarked that “the electoral process in all of our countries is increasingly more normal and increasingly more transparent,” making special reference to the elections in Peru and Ecuador, and added that the OAS is “very proud to be a part of this process, in which more and more people want to participate.”
According to the report, the EOM that followed the second round of general elections in Peru was composed of 73 observers, 21 from Member States and 7 from Observer States, deployed throughout the Peruvian territory. The report indicates that the observation work was based on a sample designed to collect significant data about voter behavior.
In his presentation, the Chief of Mission, Ambassador Dante Caputo, asserted that “it is very difficult to write the account of this second round because things went very well in Peru,” while highlighting the normalcy of the conditions during the elections. “I cannot tell you about any incidents or violent acts or abnormalities because, simply, they did not happen,” he said, concluding that “electoral democracy is evolving and Peru is a good example of what Latin America is doing in this field."
Police in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, have fired tear gas to disperse several hundred opposition supporters who accuse the electoral commission of fraud in the run up to elections later this year.
The protest is the latest sign of growing tension in Congo before presidential and parliamentary polls in November, the second set of elections since the last war ended in 2003. The demonstrators accuse President Joseph Kabila's party of rigging polls in his favour by allowing for the multiple registrations of voters ahead of the elections.