When news broke that California's electronic voting machines were vulnerable to cyber-attack, it was a team of computer scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who hacked one of the systems, eventually leading California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to bar use of the machine in state elections.
"We tried to violate their security any way we could," Giovanni Vigna said of the machines, manufactured by Sequoia and until recently in use in Ventura County. "We successfully compromised the system."
The much-delayed work of setting federal standards for electronic voting machines is speeding up, and there is reason for concern. Voting machine companies and their supporters have been given a large say in the process, while advocates for voters, including those who insist on the use of voter-verified paper receipts, have been pushed to the margins. Election officials and machine makers may be betting that after the presidential election, ordinary Americans have lost interest in the mechanics of the ballot. But Americans do care, and it is unlikely that they will be satisfied by a process in which special interests dominate, or by a result that does not ensure vote totals that can be trusted.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will weigh in on the controversy over voter fraud and decide early next year whether Arizona can require residents to show proof of their citizenship before they register to vote.
The justices agreed to hear Arizona's appeal of an anti-fraud provision that was adopted as a ballot initiative in 2004, but was struck down by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Germany's highest court has ruled that the use of electronic voting in the last general election was unconstitutional.
September's upcoming elections looks set to see a return to the more traditional pencil and paper countrywide.
Jane Platten gestured, bleary-eyed, into the secure room filled with voting machines. It was 3 a.m. on Nov. 7, and she had been working for 22 hours straight. “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election,” she said. The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were causing trouble again.
Electronic voting machines owned by Mitt Romney's business buddies and set to count the votes in Cincinnati could decide the 2012 election.
The narrative is already being hyped by the corporate media. As Kelly O'Donnell reported for NBC's Today Show on Monday, October 8, Ohio's Hamilton County is "ground zero" for deciding who holds the White House come January, 2013.
O'Donnell pointed out that no candidate has won the White House without carrying Ohio since John Kennedy did it in 1960. No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio's electoral votes.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Fifteen states and several military organizations announced their support for Ohio's elections chief on Friday in a dispute over early voting in the presidential battleground, which is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has appealed a lower court ruling that reinstates early voting on the three days before Election Day and returns discretion to local boards of elections. The Republican also has asked the Supreme Court to delay the lower court's decision while it decides whether to take the case.
A federal appeals court in Cincinnati today decided two cases related to Ohio’s provisional voting procedures, ruling that it is unconstitutional to toss out ballots that are cast in the incorrect voting precinct due to poll-worker error.
Ohio law “effectively requires voters to have a greater knowledge of their precinct, precinct ballot, and polling place than poll workers,” the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said.
The 2012 election is the fifth straight presidential election to feature no third-party candidates in the debates—and as a result, there's also a lack of engagement with issues that the two major-party candidates don’t want to discuss.
The debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a 501(c)(3) organization created by the Democratic and Republican national committees and funded by corporate sponsors. This year, as usual, the commission extended invitations to only the Democratic and Republican candidates—much to the chagrin of third-party candidates and the handful of nonprofit organizations committed to including more voices in the debates.
Today, a federal court blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law for the 2012 elections, though it will be allowed to commence in 2013. According to the judges’ ruling, it is too close to the November election for effective implementation of South Carolina’s Act R54, which required voters to show a driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, passport, federal military photo ID or a photo voter registration card to vote. Before this law was passed, voters could show their voter registration card without a photo. The ruling states:
Two years ago, the week before Election Day, I drove to Harris County, Texas. More specifically, I drove to the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, a polling location for early voting in one of Houston’s poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. After alleging that Harris County had a widespread problem with voter fraud, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots had launched a project called True the Vote, which had trained hundreds of volunteer poll watchers. As the early-voting period began, reports had begun to trickle out about white poll watchers arriving at minority precincts and intimidating voters. In Texas, poll watchers, appointed by a political party to watch the proceedings, aren’t allowed to do much; they’re barred from communicating with voters.
Fearing that Minnesota's same-day voter-registration system could be replaced by provisional balloting, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted to oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that would require voters to show state-issued IDs at the polls.
County officials said they could not afford more unfunded state regulations, and they said the state has already forced counties to absorb the full cost of human service programs such as Meals on Wheels and intervention programs for teen run-aways.
Voter ID laws have received plenty of attention recently, but they're not the only controversial changes to election rules this year. Some states have made changes that critics say could impact individuals' ability to vote. Here are four.
Ohio won't count provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct.
As we noted on Thursday, the issue of poverty was conspicuously missing from the first presidential candidates’ debate. While the term “middle class” was traded more than thirty times between Obama and Romney, neither candidate made any substantive claims about poverty. In a debate dominated by the topic of the economy, Obama couldn’t bring himself to say the words “poor” or “poverty” one time. Middle class, meanwhile, remains the term that is supposed to blanket everyone living in the US—despite their income or wealth.
WASHINGTON — Earlier this year, voting rights advocates foresaw a cloud over this year's election because new voting laws in Republican-led states tightened the rules for casting ballots and reduced the time for early voting.
But with the election less than a month away, it's now clear those laws will have little impact. A series of rulings has blocked or weakened the laws as judges — both Republicans and Democrats — stopped measures that threatened to bar legally registered voters from polling places in the November election.
"Courts see their role as the protectors of the core right to vote," said Ned Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University.
In this November’s presidential election, Virginia voters will cast ballots on machines that use wireless technology state lawmakers barred five years ago to protect voting machines from hackers. Continued reliability and security concerns over electronic voting are not unique to Virginia, or to machines that use wireless technology, but the case illustrates the credibility issues that have plagued electronic voting machines in use across the country in the aftermath of the messy 2000 presidential election, when the federal government mandated changes to election systems and processes.
The combined effects of voter roll purges, demands for proof of citizenship and photo identification requirements in several states may hinder at least 10 million Hispanic citizens who seek to vote this fall, civil rights advocates warn in a new report.
Hispanic voters are considered pivotal to the presidential election this November, and are being heavily courted by both Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. If they turn out in large numbers, Hispanics could sway the outcome in several swing states.
A decade after Dana Debeauvoir helped change Travis County, Texas to an all-electronic voting system she still expects to be falsely accused of fixing the coming election, just as she had in the last two presidential races. The clerk, who has administered voting for 25 years in the county that includes Austin, says the public has remained mistrustful of the ballot system, where voters pick candidates directly from a computer screen, without marking a piece of paper. “There have been so many hard feelings,” says Debeauvoir. “You get people saying ‘I know you have been flipping votes.’”
At a time when political operatives are trying to make it harder for some Americans to participate in the democratic process, community voter registration drives continue to increase the numbers of eligible Americans registered to vote. But, in recent years, state legislatures have attempted to make it harder for voter registration drives to operate. More than half of the states have some laws governing community-based voter registration drives. State Restrictions on Voter Registration Drives is the first comprehensive review of those laws.
One of the most notorious election officials in the nation may be mercifully retiring at the end of this year, but that hasn't stopped her from attempting to block citizens hoping to oversee the accuracy of their own elections in one of the most right-leaning counties in Wisconsin, following one of the most contentious elections of the year and certainly in state history.
In a few weeks, a group of volunteers will don latex gloves, huddle around a table in downtown Madison under the watchful eyes of election clerks and start counting — by hand — a select group of ballots cast in the June 5 recall elections.
Mary Magnuson, an electoral reform activist, submitted an open records request to the Madison city clerk on June 14 asking to inspect "any and all ballots," including optical scanned ballots and absentee ballots, that were cast in Wards 16, 19, 39, 40 and 100 in the recall election against Gov. Scott Walker. She also asked to inspect the tapes used in the scanners and any inspectors' reports prepared by poll workers.
A handful of volunteers spent hours Tuesday secluded in a small room near the Rock County clerk’s office, going through ballots from the June 5th gubernatorial recall election one by one. They were not looking for voter fraud though. Attorney James Mueller with the group Election Fairness says their concern is possible tampering with voting machines.
A groundbreaking feature-length documentary made after the 2004 election about the enormous security flaws present in the machines that count our votes, and why only hand-counted paper ballots can protect our democracy.
It may not feel like there’s anything positive to make out of the unsuccessful bid to recall Gov. Scott Walker in yesterday’s Wisconsin elections, but there were hints of optimism. Young voters and African-American voters did more than their part to show up, according to exit polls and early reports, despite significant efforts to confuse and challenge them from groups that profess to be fighting voter fraud.
While Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and his chief of staff insisted both Monday and Tuesday that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is not the one in charge of election duties this recall election, her actions say otherwise.
While Nickolaus has refused to respond to this reporter's questions in her office, turning her back and closing her office door while the reporter waited at a service counter, her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, hasn't responded, either.
Nickolaus has been observed passing out election supplies to local clerks leading up to Tuesday's election, and she's the one who's fielded questions Tuesday from the field, said Gina Kozlik, Waukesha's deputy clerk-treasurer.
Republican Kathy Nickolaus may be the only county clerk known by name across Wisconsin—and not for a good reason.
Last year, Nickolaus, the top election official in Waukesha County, a solidly Republican suburb outside of Milwaukee, blamed "human error" for the late discovery of more than 14,000 missing votes in a bruising state Supreme Court race. Those votes erased liberal favorite JoAnne Kloppenburg's lead in the race, handed victory to conservative incumbent David Prosser, and later led to an expensive recount. This April, Nickolaus resorted to posting election results on strips of grocery-receipt-like paper after the county's reporting system failed on election night.
An out-of-state Tea Party organization recently called a "GOP front group" by a Texas judge is again intervening in Wisconsin's recall election and perpetuating unfounded fears of "voter fraud," a spectre also raised by right-wing media, Governor Scott Walker, and most recently, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Reince Priebus.
With polls showing the recall election between Walker and his challenger Tom Barrett tightening to a dead heat (49-49 in a recent survey by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake), Republicans have been invoking fears of "voter fraud" to cast doubt on a potential Barrett victory, despite repeated investigations finding no evidence of in-person electoral wrongdoing.
Note, in particular, how both the Republican and Democratic commissioners concur on what should not be a partisan issue. They are doing a great service to their voters. Read the story and then I'll share the even better news with you below that...
Today, Iowans will kick off the Republican nominating process for president of the United States with the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But why a Tuesday?
The short answer: We vote on Tuesday for absolutely no good reason. This is true especially when you consider the United States, arguably the world's most famous democracy, has ranked near the bottom of all nations in voter participation for more than half a century. And that's not because, as Mitt Romney suggested to me last month, we need great candidates to increase voter turnout. Heard of JFK? Reagan?
All eyes are on Iowa this week, as the hodgepodge field of Republican contenders gallivants across that farm state seeking a win, or at least “momentum,” in the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. But behind the scenes, a battle is being waged by Republicans—not against each other, but against American voters. Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth, laws that will disproportionately harm people of color, low-income people, and young and elderly voters.
Rapid advances in the development of cyberweapons and malicious software mean that electronic-voting machines used in the 2012 election could be hacked, potentially tipping the presidential election or a number of other races.
Since the machines are not connected to the Internet, any hack would not be a matter of someone sneaking through cyberspace to change ballots. Rather, the concern is that an individual hacker, a partisan group, or even a nation state could infect voting machines by gaining physical access to them or by targeting the companies that service them.
CINCINNATI — All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state’s top elections official has found.
Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours.
Wisconsin residents may know that the photo ID provision of the 2011 election reform law has been struck down, but flying under the radar are other parts of the law that remain in force.
Thousands of new voters and others who vote only in presidential elections may be surprised to find out that the pre-Election Day voting period has been shortened, that they are required to sign a poll book and they must live in a ward 28 days to vote there.
But the lesser-known change that could have the greatest effect voters is a ban on "corroboration" — the practice of allowing new or recently relocated voters to establish residency in a ward and register to vote by having someone vouch for them if they lack an acceptable document that shows their address.
Democracy Now and Rep. John Lewis discuss the movemement to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and his experiences as a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Lewis reflects on the restrictive voting laws that target people of color. "It is so important for people to understand, to know that people suffered, struggled," Lewis says. "Some people bled, and some died, for the right to participate. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have in a democratic society. It’s precious. It’s almost sacred. We have to use it. If not, we will lose it."
Democracy Now discusses how voter suppression in the 2012 elections will prevent millions of eligible voters from being able to cast a ballot or have their ballot counted. Greg Palast is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."
Despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms, about 500 African-Americans are gathered in Rowlett Park for an end-of-summer day of barbecuing, dancing and playing cards. It’s the fifth annual Old School Picnic, a community park jam that brings together two black neighborhoods that were torn apart when the College Hill and Ponce de Leon public housing projects were razed in 2000. Earlier that morning, President Barack Obama held a massive campaign rally in nearby St. Petersburg, trying to turn out every last vote in this key swing state. The week before, Republicans had made their big bid for Florida at their national convention.
Ten states now have unprecedented restrictive voter ID laws. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all require citizens to produce specific types of government-issued photo identification before they can cast a vote that will count. Legal precedent requires these states to provide free photo ID to eligible voters who do not have one. Unfortunately, these free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters. This report is the first comprehensive assessment of the difficulties that eligible voters face in obtaining free photo ID.
In a forthcoming law review article, Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School argues that the rise of super PACs and unfettered contributions and spending this election cycle are “effectively ending the post-Watergate era of campaign finance laws.”
To help understand what is shaping up as a watershed election cycle, I asked Briffault to explain the path that took the country from stringent post-Watergate contribution limits through Citizens United to today’s multi-billion-dollar free-for-all.
This report reviews how prepared each state is to ensure that every eligible voter can vote, and that every
vote is counted as cast. Because we cannot predict where machines will fail during the upcoming national
election, every state should be as prepared as possible for system failures.
The Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic and
Common Cause surveyed states’ voting equipment and ranked the states according to their preparedness.
The rankings are based on how states laws and practices compare to a set of best practices already being
used in some places.
On Wednesday, October 10, eight lawyers from five different law firms in northern Virginia assembled in a DLA Piper conference room here for voter protection training from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It was the first of fifteen training sessions before election day in this crucial battleground state.
The Election Protection coalition plans to recruit 10,000 volunteers to assist at the polls during early voting and on election day in twenty states, particularly in high-turnout minority voting areas and historically disenfranchised communities. It will staff thirty-two call centers in English and Spanish through its 866-Our-Vote hotline. This conference room will be one of them.
In the past two years, states across the country passed a wave of laws that could make it harder to vote. The Brennan Center chronicled these laws in our report, Voting Law Changes in 2012(originally published on October 3, 2011)
UPDATED 10/16/2012: Voting Laws in effect for the 2012 election
Fourteen states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that have the potential to impact the 2012 election, representing 185 electoral votes, or 68 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
A breakdown of laws and executive actions in effect in 2012:
The way the two major parties control the presidential debates is a perfect microcosm of how political debates are restricted in general. Though typically shrouded in secrecy, several facts about this process have recently come to light and they are quite instructive.
Democracy Now interviews author George Farah and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald about how the Commission on Presidential Debates restricts the ability of the presidential debates to be fair and open. The broadcast ends with an interview with two of the leaders in the Chilean student movement, which recieved an award for organizing Chile's largest protests for free higher education. (skip past headlines to get to interviews):
On August 28, 2006, the Brennan Center released a report and policy proposals regarding the performance of various voting systems and their ability to allow voters to cast valid ballots that reflect their intended choices without undue delay or burdens. This system quality is known as usability. Following several high-profile controversies in the last few elections including most notoriously, the 2000 controversy over the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach voting system usability is a subject of utmost concern to voters and election officials.