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The Voting News Weekly: August 29-September 4, 2011

The Voting News Weekly: August 29-September 4, 2011

Contested Saguache County election gets public scrutiny, vote by vote | The Denver Post
Sep 01, 2011

Barbara Simons posted a report of security vulnerabilities in the Estonian Internet Voting System and the election commission of British Colombia released a discussion paper examining the possibility of internet voting in the province. After two weeks of heated debate a compromise was reached between the Ohio Secretary of State and Cuyahoga County concerning the mailing of absentee ballot applications. A New Jersey Superior Court judge ordered a new election in Fairfield Township as a result of irregularities related to the Sequoia Advantage voting system. Continuing his efforts to disenfranchise student voters, Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster suggested that paying taxes should be a prerequisite for voting for students. A recount of ballots from the last year's controversial election in Saguache County Colorado got underway and South Carolina's Voter ID legislation is on hold pending a review by the Department of Justice.

Sep 03, 2011 12:13 pm

From the Verified Voting Blog: Report on the Estonian Internet Voting System

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.

Read the Full Article at the Verified Voting Blog: Report on the Estonian Internet Voting System | Verified Voting Blog.

See Also:

Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post
Tallinn Calls in Expert to Denounce E-Voting | ERR
Still a lot of challenges with online voting: Elections BC | News1130
Porirua mayor lobbies for internet voting test | dominion-post
Elections Canada lobbies for test of online voting | CBC News

Sep 03, 2011 12:11 pm

Canada: Still a lot of challenges with online voting: Elections BC | News1130

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.“
But there is the argument that other countries are using the system just fine.

“Some of them do not have as strong of a tradition of democracy as we are familiar with,” says Rosenberg. “I’m not criticizing, saying they are dictatorships… but we have strong traditions that have to be taken into account.”

Full Article: Still a lot of challenges with online voting: Elections BC — News1130.

See Also:

Report on the Estonian Internet Voting System
Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post
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
Concern over security of online voting | Times Colonist

Sep 03, 2011 12:10 pm

Ohio: County, state officials reach resolution in Ohio battle over absentee ballot applications | The Republic

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.

“We ended up making voting more convenient for millions of Ohioans,” FitzGerald said in a statement. “This is great news for anyone who believes public officials should try to keep voting simple.”

Husted last month issued the directive stopping county elections boards from mailing applications ahead of Election Day, saying he wanted all counties on the same page. He said the agreement will keep that goal in place.

“Ultimately it will be the voters who benefit from this agreement,” he said in a statement. “This will help reduce the chance of long lines at the polls during the presidential election and voters in smaller counties will have the same conveniences as voters in larger counties.”

The Cuyahoga County Council earlier this week found a way around Husted’s order by voting to have its public works department oversee the mailings because the ban only applied to elections boards.

Husted threatened to block the applications from being processed, and Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said he would look at whether the council had the authority to ignore the ban.

Full Article: County, state officials reach resolution in Ohio battle over absentee ballot applications | The Republic.

See Also:

Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban |…
Cuyahoga County: By-mail ballot battle still brewing |…
Rep. Kucinich asks U.S. Attorney to investigate Ohio over Cuyahoga ballot controversy | WEWS
Ed FitzGerald, Jon Husted spar over mailing voter forms |…
Cuyahoga Dispute Raises Question: Who’s in Charge of Elections? | PEEA

Sep 02, 2011 10:10 am

New Jersey: Electronic voting case prompts new election, investigation in Fairfield New Jersey |

A new election for county Democratic Committee in Fairfield Township in Cumberland County will be held on Sept. 27, Superior Court Judge David Krell ordered Thursday. Further, Krell asked the state Attorney General’s office to turn the case over to their criminal justice division to consider pursuing a full investigation.

“I have my suspicions that something that happened here was improper,” Krell said during the second hearing of a case that involves the reliability of the Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machine. Krell does not, “and may never” know, what exactly took place regarding preparations of the ballot definitions used on Primary Election day here back in June.

The election pitted Cynthia and Ernest Zirkle against Vivian and Mark Henry. At that time, the Zirkles questioned the final tally: 10 for Cynthia and 9 for Ernest compared to 34 for Vivian and 33 for Mark.

The Zirkles expected the exact opposite and approached local voters, about 30 of whom later signed affidavits affirming they voted for the Zirkles. The two wanted another election held without the voting machine, which would be in violation of state laws.

Cumberland County has 120 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines and recently had replacement computer chips installed. The state has thousands of such machines and the upgrades, billed at $700,000, follow a lawsuit filed in 2004.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg published an opinion in 2010 that stated the machines were safe but they should be re-evaluated by a panel of computer experts.

In June, Cumberland County Board of Elections Administrator Lizbeth Hernandez admitted a “human error” when programming the ballot for the Fairfield election.

A review of the ballot prior to the election didn’t catch that the names on the ballot had been swapped, meaning when a person voted for one of the Zirkles, the vote was actually counted toward the tally for the Henrys.

Full Article: Electronic voting case prompts new election, investigation in Fairfield |….

See Also:

County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal
Setback to Election Commission as India paper trail pilot poll reports errors |…
“Human error” found in Fairfield New Jersey election results |…
State Supreme Court dismisses challenge to electronic voting machines in Travis County |…
BNP won’t join polls if e-voting introduced in Bangladesh | The Daily Star

Sep 01, 2011 02:16 pm

Maine: GOP chairman says if students want to vote, they should pay taxes | Bangor Daily News

Charlie Webster sounds a lot like LeRoy Symm. Symm, the registrar of voters in Waller County, Texas, had a special questionnaire he used for college students. It included questions such as: Do you own property in the county? Where did you attend church? What are your job plans?

If Symm and his deputies knew a voter by name and face, they were simply registered. College students had to pass Symm’s test. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 said this violated the Constitution, thereby establishing the practice of allowing college students to list their dormitory as their residence for the purposes of voting.

Three decades later, the ruling has not deterred Webster, the Maine Republican Party chairman, who weeks ago brandished a list of more than 200 college students he said likely engaged in voter fraud.

“I get tired of talking about this because the law is clear,” Webster said this week. “If I want to vote, I need to establish residency. I need to register my car and pay taxes in that community. You can’t just become a student and vote wherever you want.”

The law is fairly clear, but that’s not what it says.

According to Maine’s Secretary of State’s Office, three things are required of registered voters: They must be a U.S. citizen, they must have established and maintained a residence in the municipality where the person intends to register to vote, and they must be at least 17 to register or 18 to vote.

Full Article: GOP chairman says if students want to vote, they should pay taxes — Maine Politics — Bangor Daily News.

See Also:

Turning away college students in Maine | Bangor Daily News
Election Day registration supporters battle opponents’ stagecraft | Sun Journal
Same Day Voter Registration and Charlie Webster’s Infinite Wisdom | Price on Politics
State GOP Chair: Students Who Vote And Pay Out-Of-State Tuition Are Committing Voter Fraud | TPM
Youth Vote Faces Challenges With Voter ID Legislation | The Nation

Sep 01, 2011 02:10 pm

Colorado: Contested Saguache County election gets public scrutiny, vote by vote | The Denver Post

Last fall’s general election in sparsely populated Saguache County already is one of the most scrutinized in Colorado history, having prompted a report by the secretary of state, a statewide grand jury investigation and at least three lawsuits. Yet this week Saguache is setting a new precedent for election transparency in Colorado, playing host to what state officials believe is the first public review of voted ballots and other election materials of its kind.

And when the days-long recount of the approximately 2,500 ballots is complete — possibly late today, maybe Thursday — absolutely none of last fall’s results will change. That’s OK with Steve Carlson, the 2010 Republican candidate for county commissioner who went home on election night thinking he’d won, only to have the results flipped a few days later. While his race is one of the two controversial races being recounted, Carlson insists what’s at play here is something more important than a commissioner’s seat.

“Do I want to be county commissioner? No, I don’t want that,” Carlson said as he stood toward the back of the room, listening to volunteers call out his name over and over as they read from the ballots, while other volunteers tallied the votes with red ink. “What I want is for ‘we the people’ to realize that elections belong to us, not the clerk and recorder or the county commissioners.”

Humble Saguache County, with about two residents per square mile in south-central Colorado, became the center of election controversy in Colorado after the error-riddled 2010 general election.

On election night, preliminary results showed Clerk and Recorder Melinda Myers — who was overseeing the election — and County Commissioner Linda Joseph, both Democrats, losing their re-election bids. But within a few days, Myers said problems with voting equipment had caused those preliminary numbers to be inaccurate. A “retabulation” was

Volunteers count ballots and keep tabs during a hand review Tuesday of last fall’s voted ballots for the clerk and commissioner races of Saguache County. Members of the secretary of state’s office and local volunteers were on hand to recount the ballots in the Saguache Community Center. The November election led to an outcry by some residents who questioned the validity and fairness of results. Regardless of what the hand review finds, the election results will not be overturned. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
conducted, and results of those two races flipped.

Full Article: Contested Saguache County election gets public scrutiny, vote by vote — The Denver Post.

See Also:

Saguache Co. clerk ordered to turn over ballots | The Denver Post
ES&S representatives fail to show for ordered depositions | Center Post Dispatch
Saguache County, Colorado state officials at odds over access to ballots | The Pueblo Chieftain
Judge rules Secretary of State has access to election ballots; recall of Saguache County Clerk initiated | Crestone Eagle
State eyes next week for Saguache review | The Pueblo Chieftain

Aug 30, 2011 04:12 am

South Carolina: Department of Justice seeks info on voter ID law | The Post and Courier

Read the Department of Justice’s request for more information on SC’s Voter ID law.

South Carolina voters will have wait to find out whether the U.S. Department of Justice will authorize the state’s new voter ID law, following an announcement Monday that federal officials need more information from the state.

Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the State Election Commission, said once state officials supply the information to the Justice Department, a 60-day window will begin for the federal agency to render a decision on the law. The law could be in effect for the November elections, but that will depend on how long the state takes to respond and if the Justice Department takes two full months to decide.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law in May the requirement that voters provide a photo ID when they cast a ballot. The state must receive authorization from the Justice Department because of past voting rights abuses. Haley and supporters of the law contend that the new standards are necessary to ensure no fraud is committed during an election. What’s more, they say, photo IDs are a part of life in modern society.

Critics challenge the law on the basis that it will disenfranchise voters, especially black voters. They point to the fact that there is no proven evidence of South Carolina voter fraud in recent times. An estimated 178,000 registered voters in South Carolina don’t currently have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card.

In addition to those IDs issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, voters could use a military ID or a passport to vote, under the new law. Additionally, the State Election Commission will offer new voter registration cards with photos in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties. Like the state ID card, for those 17 and older, the voter registration cards will be free.

Full Article: Justice seeks info on voter ID law | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC — News, Sports, Entertainment.

See Also:

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law |…
DOJ Has More Questions About South Carolina’s Voter ID Law | TPM
State sues over Voting Rights Act | Arizona Republic
Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year |…
State Attorney General says voter ID can be delayed | AP


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