Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Fate of the EAC Discussed in Congressional Hearing, WV Audit finds errors in accounting

CO: Saguache County Clerk Myers responds to Secretary of State Gessler’s suit -

Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers, represented by County Attorney Ben Gibbons issued an answer last week to a suit filed last month by Sec. of State Scott Gessler, seeking voted ballots from the Nov. 2 election. “Defendant specifically denies the allegation contained in paragraph 8 of the Complaint that she or her staff ever altered any ballot...Defendant Myers answers the allegations contained in paragraph 11 of the Complaint by stating that she did initially agree to permit election officials and members of the Plaintiff’s office to review the voted ballots. “Defendant answers the allegations contained in paragraph 12 of the Complaint by stating that she informed the Plaintiff that she would not agree to his revised demands that members of the public be permitted to inspect the voted ballots. Defendant affirmatively states that such practice would violate the confidentiality historically afforded a voted ballot in Colorado.” Read More

FL: Critics lash Florida elections bill as 'voter suppression' - St. Petersburg Times

The latest House makeover of Florida election laws stirred intense controversy Thursday as unions and grass roots political groups complained that it would suppress 2012 voting in a state Barack Obama won in 2008. By a 12-6 party-line vote, the House State Affairs Committee approved the new bill, setting up a vote by the full House. Similar legislation will be taken up Friday by the Senate Rules Committee. The 150-page rewrite surfaced the afternoon before the vote. Two weeks ago, a previous version of the same bill brought criticism from Democrats that it was being rushed. The bill's most controversial provisions would impose new restrictions on groups that register voters, shorten the validity of voter signatures on citizen initiatives from four years to two and require voters to cast provisional ballots if they move to another county. For nearly 40 years, Florida has allowed voters to update their voting address or a name change at the polls when they vote. But Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the sponsor of HB 1355, said that's an invitation to voter fraud. Read More

TN: Attorney General’s Opinion Flags Voter ID Bill - Nashville Public Radio

A proposal to require Tennessee voters to present a photo ID at their polling place ran into a speed bump at the state capitol Wednesday. Tennessee’s attorney general issued an opinion saying that the Voter ID bill would likely be found unconstitutional. Representative Craig Fitzhugh, the House Democratic Leader, was one of the lawmakers who requested the Attorney General’s opinion. “I mean it’s a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution.” It would be a violation – says the attorney general – because requiring a voter to pay for an ID would amount to a “poll tax,” outlawed under the twenty-fourth amendment to the Constitution. Fitzhugh says if the state pays for IDs for all those who don’t have one, the Voter ID bill would create a new cost to the state. So the bill would probably have to go through the committee process all over again. The bill, from Hendersonville Republican Debra Maggart, is set to be taken up by the full House Thursday. Read More

VT: Vermont House Passes National Popular Vote Bill | EON: Enhanced Online News

The National Popular Vote bill passed the Vermont House of Representatives Tuesday, placing the bill before the governor for signature and enactment. If Gov. Shumlin signs, Vermont will join the effort to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes in all 50 states. The bill passed the house by a 84-50 margin. Final passage, considered a mere formality, is slated for tomorrow. “National Popular Vote does so while preserving the Electoral College and the intent of the Founding Fathers. This is a victory for those who believe every person is entitled to have their vote for president count,” said Tom Golisano, national spokesperson for National Popular Vote. “National Popular Vote does so while preserving the Electoral College and the intent of the Founding Fathers.” Hawaii, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have already enacted the bill, which would award a state’s electoral votes to the winner of the overall popular vote in all 50 states. When states totaling 270 electoral votes pass the legislation, National Popular Vote will award a majority of electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all fifty states, guaranteeing the presidency. Vermont would represent the 77th electoral vote, representing 29% of the total needed for the bill to go into effect. “We applaud Vermont legislators for voting to give the residents of Vermont a voice,” said John Koza, Chairman of National Popular Vote. “With other state legislatures considering the bill, and many more already having passed it, we are confident that we have the momentum to bring this effort to all 50 states.” Read More

WV: Audit finds counting of federal election money had errors spanning 3 secretaries of state - Greenfield Reporter

An audit shows West Virginia's accounting of federal money it received for replacing voting machines and other election improvements contained several errors. The audit by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's Office of the Inspector General examined the state's use of the funding from April 2003 to August 2009, a period spanning the terms of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and two predecessors, Betty Ireland and Joe Manchin. According to the audit, the Secretary of State's Office didn't put matching money received into a single account with the federal money until 2007. As a result, the election account lost more than $95,000 in interest earnings. Auditors also found discrepancies between the Secretary of State's balance sheets and the Treasurer's Office's balance sheets. Ireland told the Charleston Daily Mail that the balance sheet discrepancies were the only problem she wasn't aware of when she left office. The other problems identified by auditors were corrected. In a response to audit, Tennant attributed the balance sheet discrepancies to data entry errors and differences in accounting procedures. She said her office has made changes to correct the problem. Read More

WI: Democrats Calling for Hearings, Probes into Nickolaus' Election Results - Brookfield, WI Patch

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin today asked state elections officials to review the Waukesha County vote tally in the 2006 state Attorney General election, after a liberal blogger pointed out there were about 17,000 more votes recorded than ballots cast. Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus posted an asterisk on the 2006 results on the county's web site, with a note that said votes that are hand-counted and not electronically cast through machines are not included in the ballots cast figure. In a letter today to the state Government Accountability Board, state Democratic Party chair Mike Tate noted that in the 2006 election, Republican AG candidate J.B. Van Hollen defeated Democrat Kathleen Falk by 8,859 votes out of about 2.1 million votes cast. The Waukesha County results showed 156,804 ballots cast in the Nov. 7, 2006 election but 174,047 votes cast in the AG race. Read More

WI: Paul Malischke: Election methods need improving

Monday’s editorial, “State needs streamlined count,” calls for a website to fix our vote counting situation. Actually, Wisconsin needs to pay more attention to assuring that the vote count is correct. Wisconsin falls well short of having a reliable end-to-end system. We need to improve the method of appointing the members of the boards of canvassers, elect county clerks in nonpartisan elections and evaluate whether recounts should always include partial or full hand counts of the ballots. Technical aspects of counting votes have been neglected. We should update the administrative rules for approval of voting machines and for security of ballots and voting machines, improve the biannual hand-count audits of ballots and improve guidelines for pre-election testing of voting machines. A website for aggregating election night results needs a public discussion of security and spot checking against paper records. For more information, go to and click on “counting.”


Election Assistance Commission May Be Closing : Roll Call Politics

House Republicans may have found a way to trim $14 million from the federal budget: eliminate the Election Assistance Commission. The House Administration Committee is holding a hearing today to discuss closing the agency that is charged with administering federal election requirements and testing voting equipment. A corresponding Republican bill that would transfer most of the agency’s responsibilities to the Federal Election Commission may run into strong Democratic opposition. Getting rid of the EAC would save millions and reduce government redundancy, according the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gregg Harper. The EAC has “clearly served its purpose and is no longer essential to the administration of our elections,” the Mississippi Republican, chairman of the Subcommittee on Elections, said in a statement. “This is why I have introduced legislation to eliminate the Commission and transfer its remaining responsibilities and its authority to more appropriate and competent entities.” But Minority Whip Steny Hoyer may have a thing or two to say about Harper’s plan as the first witness slated to testify at today’s hearing. Excerpts of the Maryland Democrat’s written testimony obtained by Roll Call show he will come out sharply against closing the EAC. Read More

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer to Testify Before House Administration Election Subcommittee | Committee on House Administration

On Thursday, April 14th, at 10:30am, the Elections Subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on H.R. 672, proposed legislation to abolish the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, one of the main architects of the Help America Vote Act which created the EAC, is scheduled to testify about the ongoing importance of the EAC. “The EAC arose out of the fiasco we witnessed during the 2000 federal election,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert A. Brady. “The legislation currently being considered to terminate the EAC has been developed with minimal stakeholder involvement and with no real foundation in the historical context within which the agency was founded. I look forward to Mr. Hoyer’s expert testimony on why the support and resources of the EAC are more important than ever,” Brady added. “We all agree that we have a responsibility to preserve taxpayer resources and to find ways to make government function more effectively,” said Brady. “But by eliminating resources and support to the state and local elections officials that serve as the front line of our voting infrastructure, we potentially undermine this cornerstone of our representative Democracy. The EAC is by no means perfect. But I believe that our efforts should be focused on improving the agency and enhancing its capabilities, rather than eliminating it and relegating its important functions to second tier status within other agencies that have voiced concern over their ability to execute them. I will be introducing legislation designed to overhaul the EAC and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, during its consideration.”

House committee aims to step up election oversight - The Hill's Ballot Box

The House Administration Committee will step up election oversight, as it increases hearings to twice a month and sets its sights on terminating the Election Assistance Commission. “There are a number of things that need to be addressed in the coming months,” said Elections subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). “Oversight certainly has been lacking in a number of areas.” Among the issues the subcommittee plans to examine are the EAC, the Federal Election Commission, overseas voting and cleaning up state voter roles. “This will give us an opportunity to go back and look and make sure that everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do,” Harper said. “And if they’re not, why are they not doing it, and is there something we can do to make it easier for them to do their job.” Square in the subcommittee’s crosshairs is the EAC, an independent commission established in the wake of the contested 2000 presidential election to improve how elections are conducted nationwide. Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the EAC has disbursed more than $3 billion in “requirements” payments to states to update voting machines and enhance election administration. But the commission has seen that funding significantly decline in recent years, and lawmakers are questioning the viability of the commission moving forward. In February, House Administration Committee members Harper, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) submitted a resolution recommending the EAC’s termination and transfer of commission operations to other agencies. Read More

Newly empowered GOP pushes voter ID -

Fresh off commanding electoral victories in November, Republican majorities in many state legislatures want to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, a move Democrats say is cynically designed to help the GOP during the next election cycle. Voter identification laws have been a demarcation line between Democrats and Republicans for years. Democrats claim the measures disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic but may not have appropriate photo ID. Republicans say the laws are necessary to prevent fraud, particularly when important statewide contests — such as the 2008 election for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota — can be decided by just hundreds of votes. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008, providing a legal framework for other states to pass their own versions. But while only a few states followed Indiana’s lead after the ruling, the movement is gaining much more momentum now that Republicans have taken control or consolidated their power in dozens of statehouses. Read More

Voters’ guides go digital…sometimes - Electionline Weekly

Across the nation, elections offices are moving further and further away from a paper society and allowing residents to do everything electronically, whether it’s registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, or in some recent experiments, even voting online. One stronghold remains though: the printed and mailed voters’ guide. Moving to online-only voter guides is seen by many as the obvious response to budget cuts for an electorate living with 21st century technologies. Printed voter guides are a tradition that voters across the nation have come to expect in the weeks leading up to an election, yet they are costly to compile, print, and mail, and their information is often duplicated online at lower costs. A recent case study in California by the Pew Center on the States’ found that ―by disseminating voter information through e-mail or the Web, counties could save up to nine percent of their election expenses if a portion of their voters agreed to cancel paper mailings. While cost savings depend on the number of voters who opt out, research estimates that counties in California could cut back up to 9 percent of their election expenses if a portion of voters agreed to cancel paper mailings. Election offices are one provider of voter guides in a sea of nongovernmental organizations that provide voter guides online, through civic groups and mailings. Most prominent amongst this group are the League of Women Voters, Project Vote Smart, the Voter Guide,eVoter and Imagine Election. These groups, in addition to dozens of others, provide supplements to official information from election offices. Read More


Ghana: Electoral Commission Hopes To Use E-Voting In 2012 -

The Electoral Commission (EC) has expressed the wish to adopt the electronic voting system in the next general election because it will solve many problems in the election process. “It is our wish because it will solve a lot of our problems”, the Deputy Chairman of the EC (Operations), Mr Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, responded to a question posed by the Daily Graphic as to whether electronic voting would be used in Election 2012. He, however, indicated that electronic voting would be applied only if the system was ready by the time of holding the next general elections. Mr Kantanka made the submissions after an interaction with two delegations from The Netherlands Institute of Multiparty Democracy and the Parliament of Mozambique. Read More

India: Electronic Voting Machines on the blink, voters made to wait - The Times of India

Voters might have turned out in full force across the city but electronic voting machines (EVMs) at many polling booths failed to match up to the electorate's eagerness. Many EVMs failed to work in the morning leading to confusion and anger among voters. At Shri Krishnaswamy College for Women in Anna Nagar, several voters, who had turned up early in the morning, returned without voting because the machines were not working. "We waited for more than 45 minutes and then left," said 58-year-old Kala T, who was accompanied by her husband and daughter-in-law. Kala said the problem occurred in AB and AC Block. "There were around 200 to 300 people waiting there and many of them were shouting at the officials," she said. Read More

India: Re-poll ordered in five Tamil Nadu constituencies

The Election Commission Thursday ordered a re-poll Saturday at seven polling booths in five assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu. The re-polling was ordered in polling booths falling under Neyveli in Cuddalore district, Killiyoor in Kanyakumari district, Thiruvidaimarudur in Thanjavur district, Arni in Thiruvannamalai district and Bodinaicknaur in Theni district, said a statement from poll panel. The re-poll in Kanyakumari, Thiruvannamali and Theni districts was due to defective display of total number of votes in the electronic voting machines (EVM), it said. Read More

India: Hack state’s e-voting system, get Rs 10 lakh - Hindustan Times

If you are an ethical hacker, then the state Election Commission is looking for you. As it aims to introduce e-voting in the upcoming civic elections in Mumbai next year, officials wary of independent agencies embarrassing them have now decided to offer Rs 10 lakh to anyone who can hack their e-voting system. The SEC is all set to float tenders to invite consultants, and one of the conditions is that hackers be ethical and have a demo to hack the software. This comes after the Election Commission of India (ECI)’s decision to introduce EVMs drew a lot of flak. Experts and activists had publicly highlighted how EVMs could be tampered with, in a way that could affect the final result. SEC officials now admit there is serious concern on the security and confidentiality aspect in e-voting as well. “The security aspect remains a key concern. Hence, we have ensured there are enough checks to ensure secrecy of the voter and confidentiality,” said Neela Satyanarayan, state election commissioner. Accordingly, once the software is created, ethical hackers will be invited to test it. Read More

Nigeria's successful elections: Democracy 1, vote-rigging 0 - The Economist

Anyone who has received a Nigerian scam e-mail—offering to share vast wealth in exchange for just a teensy bit of advance capital—will instantly grasp how rife corruption is in Africa’s most populous and entrepreneurial country. This is true of politics as well as commerce. Cheating has become so brazen that few Nigerians expect fair elections. Politicians have for years larded voter lists with the names of foreign musicians, including deceased ones like Marvin Gaye, and have stuffed ballot boxes with abandon. At parliamentary elections on April 9th, allegations of rigging were once again in the air. Violence also flared up. And the late delivery of ballot papers, which were securely printed abroad, delayed the voting by a week. Nonetheless, the poll marked the first credible election in Nigeria since the end of military rule 12 years ago (see article). What made it different is that officials fought back hard for the first time. They introduced a new voting system that severely limits fraud, using a clever mix of high-tech and low-tech. All 73.5m voters were fingerprinted and screened to stop duplication. Most polling booths opened for only an hour to prevent multiple voting. Electoral officials tallied the results in front of the voters. Independent monitors collected the numbers instantaneously using mobile phones in an exercise called “crowd tabulation”. Read More

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