News

PROPUBLICA: How super PACS came to have so much influence in our elections

October 17, 2012
Justin Elliott
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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.

BRENNAN CENTER: The hurdles that 1 in 10 eligible voters will have to face to obtain a voter ID

October 17, 2012
Keesha Gaskins and Sundeep Iyer

Originally published on July 17, 2012

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.

View the PDF version here.

BRENNAN CENTER: 2012 voting laws will make it more difficult for 5 million racial minorities, students, renters, seniors, and low income citizens to vote

October 17, 2012
Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden

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:

Voter advocacy groups look at how prepared states are to ensure that our votes are counted

October 17, 2012
Pamela Smith, Michelle Mulder, Susannah Goodman

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.

Democracy Now discusses how the Obama and Romney campaigns control debate questions and exclude third party candidates; Chilean student movement receives award

October 16, 2012

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):

 

GUARDIAN: Corporate-sponsored Commission on Presidential Debates places undemocratic restrictions on debates

October 16, 2012
Glenn Greenwald
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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.

BRENNAN CENTER: Electronic voting machines record higher rates of residual votes among poor and racial minority populations

October 16, 2012
Lawrence Norden, Jeremy M. Creelan, David Kimball, Whitney Quesenbery

Originally published August 28, 2006

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.

PACIFIC COAST BUSINESS TIMES: Computer science professors and students hack California's voting machines

October 16, 2012
Stephen Nellis
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Originally published August 20, 2007

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."

NYT: Voting machine industry plays large role in the Election Assistance Commission

October 16, 2012
Adam Cohen
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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.

LA TIMES: Arizona's voter ID law will go to the Supreme Court

October 15, 2012
David G. Savage
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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.

BRAD BLOG: Germany's highest court rules electronic voting unconstitutional

October 15, 2012
Brad Friedman
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Originally published on March 4, 2009

A finding by the "highest court" in Germany has found electronic voting to be unconstitutional...

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.

SALON: Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control

October 15, 2012
Brad Friedman

Originally published on September 27, 2011

 

 

It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

NYT: An in-depth look at our touch screen voting machines

October 15, 2012
Clive Thompson
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Originally published on January 6, 2008

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.

COMMON DREAMS: Bain Capital owns electronic voting machines that will count many of Ohio's ballots

October 14, 2012
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
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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.

THE REVIEW: 15 states back Ohio in early voting case

October 13, 2012
Associated Press
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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.

ROLL CALL: Ohio votes must be counted if poll workers put provisional ballots in wrong precinct

October 11, 2012
Amanda Becker
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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.

AMERICAN PROSPECT: Third party presidential candidates locked out of debates

October 11, 2012
Cole Stangler
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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.

NATION: Voting Rights Act protects South Carolina and Mississippi citizens that voter ID laws would disenfranchise

October 10, 2012
Brentin Mock
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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:

AMERICAN PROSPECT: True the Vote trains poll watchers to intimidate voters

October 10, 2012
Abby Rapoport
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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.

PIONEER PRESS: County Board in Minnesota votes to oppose voter ID constitutional amendment

October 9, 2012
Frederick Melo
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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.

PROPUBLICA: State voting restriction could make voting more difficult for many citizens

October 9, 2012
Suevon Lee
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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.

COLORLINES: Nevada Disenfranchises Its Poor Citizens

October 9, 2012
Aura Bogado
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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.

NATION: Ohio's Secretary of State Subverts Voting Rights

October 9, 2012
Ari Berman
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Once again, political experts are predicting that the 2012 presidential election could be decided in the battleground state of Ohio, like it was in 2004.

LA TIMES: Judges temporarily block state voter ID laws for 2012 elections

October 8, 2012
David G. Savage
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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.

WSJ: Virginia votes will be tallied on wireless voting machines

September 26, 2012
Joel Schectman
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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.

POLITICO: Voter ID laws may prevent millions from voting

September 23, 2012
Associated Press
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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.

WSJ: Many states still do not require a paper trail for touch screen machines

September 14, 2012
Joel Schectman
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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.’”

BRENNAN CENTER: States put more restrictions on community-based voter registration drives

August 21, 2012
Diana Kasdan

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.

Stealing America: Vote by Vote

July 11, 2012
Concentric Media

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. 

For related reading see the book Brave New Ballot.

COLORLINES: Young and Black Voters Turn Out in Wisconsin Despite Suppression Efforts

June 6, 2012
Brentin Mock
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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. 

MJS: More reports surface from Waukesha that Kathy Nickolaus is still in charge

June 5, 2012

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.

MOTHER JONES: Kathy Nickolaus may remain in charge of Waukesha Co elections on June 5th

May 31, 2012
Andy Kroll
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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.

More Info: 

Take Action to Protect the Recall Elections: www.wisconsinwave.org/nmse

PR WATCH: Right wing front group gins up fears of "voter fraud" during Wisconsin recalls

May 31, 2012
Brendan Fischer
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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.

NEWSWEEK: Serious doubts remain about the 2000 Florida recount's legitimacy

May 13, 2012
Michael Isikoff
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(originally published on November 18th, 2001)

After spending nearly $1 million, a consortium of big news organizations last week rendered what it once thought would be final word on last year's bitterly contested Florida recount.

The decision: a split verdict.

BRAD BLOG: Columbia County, NY uses system of hand-counted paper ballots to verify their votes

March 28, 2012
Brad Friedman
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This is really great. But the subsequent information I've received from the Columbia County, NY commissioners in reply to my query is even better!

For a start, here's the key parts of the story from Debora Gilbert at The Columbia Paper near Albany, New York.

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...

GOP Redistricting Designed to Force Out a Top Progressive Congressmember

February 7, 2012
Sarah Jaffe

Two progressive champions are facing off for one seat in Congress. What's a voter to do?