U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced the Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act (S. 737) to help inform voters and state officials about the election processes in their states. The bill would create a scorecard to rank states on a set of standards designed to measure the ease of exercising the right to vote.
“We are all familiar with the problems of long lines, lost ballots, and voters improperly turned away from the polls during recent elections,” Obama said. “To prevent these problems, we need nonpartisan, objective information about how well election processes around the country are working.”
The concept is based on a proposal that Yale Law School Professor Heather Gerken published this January in the Legal Times. In that article she points out that a “Democracy Index” – a public ranking of election performances around the country – would force states to take concrete steps to make voting easier.
“Without a single, additional federal regulation, this scorecard could provide a powerful incentive for states to improve our democracy,” Obama said.
VoteTrustUSA offers a summary of the bill:
The Democracy Index A new Office of the Voter Advocate within the Election Assistance Commission would develop a Democracy Index requiring the states to report on basic performance metrics such as:
• The amount of time spent by voters waiting in line; • The number of voters incorrectly directed to the wrong polling places; • The rate of voter ballots discarded or not counted along with an explanation; • Provisional voting rates and the percentage of provisional votes cast but not counted; • The number and description of election day complaints; and • The rate of voting system malfunctions and the time required on average to get the systems back online.
Creates an Office of the Voter Advocate The Act would establish an Office of the Voter Advocate that would:
• Collect data from the states to create a Democracy Index; • Make grants to eligible entities to institute programs to improve performance; and • Make recommendations to the states on how to improve their performance in the administration of federal elections.
2008 Pilot Program and Subsequent National Rollout The Act would direct the Office of the Voter Advocate to conduct a pilot program in selected states in 2008 to test the metrics and gauge the value of the information gathered. Lessons learned from the pilot would be applied to the national application of the index and a requirement on all states to report data in subsequent elections.
In Indiana's Marion County, about 175 of 914 precincts turned to paper because poll workers didn't know how to run the machines, said Marion County Clerk Doris Ann Sadler. She said it could take most of the day to fix all of the machine-related issues.
Election officials in Delaware County, Ind., planned to seek a court order to extend voting after an apparent computer error prevented voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts there. County Clerk Karen Wenger said the cards that activate the machines were programmed incorrectly.
"We are working with precincts one-by-one over the telephone to get the problem fixed," Wenger said....
...A precinct in Orange Park, Fla., turned to paper ballots because of machine problems. Voting was delayed for 30 minutes or more at some Broward County precincts, where electronic ballots were mixed up and, in one case, a poll worker unintentionally wiped the electronic ballot activators....
...In one of the worst fiascoes, Maryland election officials forgot to send the cards primary voters needed to activate electronic machines at their polling places, and some voters had to cast provisional ballots on scraps of paper.
Baltimore County election director Jacqueline McDaniel said the poll workers had a few problems on Tuesday — one left part of the equipment in his car; another was looking in the wrong place for the electronic poll books.
Is this to be expected?
But voting equipment companies said they hadn't seen anything beyond the norm and blamed the problems largely on human error.
"Any time there's more exposure to equipment, there are questions about setting up the equipment and things like that," said Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems & Software Inc. "Overall, things are going very well."
Going very well in that he and his company got paid very well by the taxpayers. Thank you, Mr. Fields, for your public service.
Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb said she didn't expect serious problems Tuesday. The Justice Department was deploying poll watchers at dozens of potential trouble spots nationwide.
"History has shown that the machines are far more accurate than paper so we're quite confident in it," Cobb said. "There is absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any security issues, any hacking going on."
Noooo, of course not! Only control of the most powerful government in the world is at stake. No reason why anyone would do to election computers what they have been doing to ATMs, corporate databases, government databases, Social Security computers, and your own computer every day!
If you find this disheartening, it's all the more reason to vote. If you don't vote, it will be that much harder to get these insecure machines running secret code investigated and removed from our elections process.
The drama of Tan Nguyen and how his campaign attempted to scare away Hispanic voters from showing up and voting for his opponent, Loretta Sanchez, has been unfolding for a few days now. I really thought this was just a little scandal, another imploding campaign. I figured Tan Nguyen would withdraw and that would be that.
A Republican congressional candidate whose campaign is being investigated for sending intimidating letters to Hispanic voters lashed out at his Democratic rival, saying she was fueling the uproar over the mailings.
Tan Nguyen on Sunday rejected calls to drop out of the race to unseat longtime Rep. Loretta Sanchez (news, bio, voting record), and implied the popular congresswoman was behind the probes into the letters warning immigrants they could be deported or jailed for voting in next month's election.
"There has been no crime committed so why is there a criminal investigation three weeks prior to a very important election?" Nguyen asked. "What is going on? Who is fueling this investigation?"
Here's a little background:
Nguyen said Sunday he did not authorize or approve the letters, which warn in Spanish: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."
In reality, immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens are eligible to vote.
California Department of Justice investigators searched Nguyen's campaign headquarters on Friday, as well as his residence and a home listed as belonging to one of his staffers. Investigators are looking into possible voting rights violations.
So who sent these mailings? His campaign office manager! And get this: He fired her last week, but now wants her back.
In other words, he's endorsing intimidating voters, and complaining that criminal investigations into this are the problem.
Nguyen said Sanchez was "fueling this hysteria" and investigators were "terrorizing my family and volunteers" and violating his right to free speech.
If he wants to put this behind him, he should own up and take responsibility for his own campaign. He should apologize. Of course, taking responsibility and apologizing aren't things Republican politicians do these days. But if he can't find it in himself to do this, then he should withraw altogether.
House Republicans abandoned their small government ideals by passing a law requiring national ID cards -- or that's the net effect of this bill:
The House voted Wednesday to require Americans to show proof of citizenship in order to vote....
...The bill would require everyone to present a photo ID before voting in federal elections by 2008. By 2010 voters would have to have photo IDs that certified they were citizens.
The National ID Card was something Republicans fought vigorously against for decades. Apparently that changed once it became their National ID Card.
Republican sponsors of the voter identification bill said it was a commonsense way to stop fraud at the polls. People need photo IDs to board planes, buy alcohol or cash checks, said Rep. Vernon Ehlers (news, bio, voting record), R-Mich., chairman of the House Administration Committee. "This is not a new concept."
"This is what Americans want," said Rep. John Mica (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., "They want safe borders and they want safe ballots."
Big Brother is watching you. Questions I have:
Will these new National ID Cards contain the RFID chips that already are compromising privacy and security of new recipients of passports?
Will these National ID Cards be scanned and tied into the voters' electronic voting trail?
What happened to the Goldwater Republicans? Why does the GOP sound more like Stalin's party these days?
ACLU Letter to the House of Representatives Urging Opposition to Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (HR 4844) (9/19/2006)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Re: Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (HR 4844)
Dear Member of Congress:
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (HR 4844) on Wednesday, September 20th. On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and its hundreds of thousands of members, activists, and fifty–three affiliates nationwide, we write to urge you to oppose this legislation. HR 4844 would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in federal elections. In addition, beginning in 2010 voters would be required to present a photo ID that was issued based on proof of citizenship in order to vote. These requirements impose an unnecessary and undue burden on the exercise of the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans who are eligible, registered, and qualified to vote.
Photo Identification Requirements Amounts to a Poll Tax
As with the other methods of disenfranchisement in American history, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, the photo identification requirement would present significant barriers to voting and have a chilling effect on voter participation. There are voters who simply do not have identification and requiring them to purchase photo identification would be tantamount to requiring them to pay a poll tax. As a significant number of racial and ethnic minority voters, elderly, voters with disabilities, and certain religious objectors do not have photo identification nor the financial means to acquire it, the burden of this requirement would fall disproportionately and unfairly upon them, calling into question its lawfulness under the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. No citizen should have to pay to vote.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has consistently raised objections to imposing photo identification as a prerequisite for voting because such requirements are likely to have an adverse impact on black voters and will lessen their political participation opportunities. In 1994, DOJ found that African-American persons in Louisiana were four to five times less likely than white persons to have driver’s licenses or other picture identification cards. In addition, the Federal Elections Commission noted in its 1997 report to Congress that photo identification entails major expenses, both initially and in maintenance, and presents an undue and potentially discriminatory burden on citizens in exercising their basic right to vote.
Citizenship Requirements Pose A Substantial Hardship for Some Citizens
Because the overwhelming majority of states do not include citizenship on the driver’s license, most voters will need to get new identification if they choose to vote. Many of the documents needed in order to prove citizenship are not readily available for some citizens. It was not uncommon in many parts of the country for children to born at home without an official birth certificate. In such instances, these citizens would be unable to vote because they would be unable to produce the requisite documentation for a photo ID. While HR 4844 makes a feeble attempt to cover the costs for the photo ID there are many practical considerations that are overlooked that pose a significant hardship for voters -- such as time, locations of photo ID facilities, hours of operation, costs for documentation necessary to receive a photo ID, etc.
No Record Exists to Justify the Need for Photo ID Legislation
Unlike the 14,000-page record of widespread voting discrimination documented during the debate of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendment Act of 2006, there is little or no evidence of election misconduct based on voter impersonation. In fact, Secretary of State for Georgia, Cathy Cox informed members of the General Assembly that her office had received many complaints of election misconduct involving absentee ballots but no documented complaints of misconduct involving ballots that were cast in-person at the polls. Yet, despite evidence of election misconduct involving absentee ballots, photo identification requirements apply only to in-person voting. This proposed federal legislation is overreaching and amounts to a solution in search of a problem. While election misconduct exists, including improper purges, dissemination of false information about elections and vote tampering, none of these issues are addressed in this legislation.
Effective federal legislation should not erect new obstacles or weaken existing voting rights laws. We recognize that reform of our nation’s electoral systems is critical. But it cannot be done in a manner that unduly prevents legitimate voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote. For the reasons indicated above, we urge you to vote “no” on final passage.
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Laughlin McDonald, Director
ACLU Voting Rights Project
LaShawn Warren, Legislative Counsel
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Neil Bradley, Associate Director
ACLU Voting Rights Project
1 Letter from Deval L. Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, to Sheri Morris, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Louisiana (Nov. 21, 1994).
2 Letter from L. Anthony Sutin, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice to Congress on amendments to the Bi-partisan Campaign Integrity Act of 1997.
How would you feel if your bank refused to issue a bank statement detailing all transactions? How would you feel if your bank's ATMs did not issue receipts? How would you feel if your bank, doing all these things, just said, "Trust us!"
How would you feel if your bank's president was on the record saying that taking away all your money was his personal goal?
Diebold insists that their machines are secure, and that they don't need voter-verified paper audit-tapes that keep a real-time log of the votes cast -- but this latest attack, which requires only a few minutes to execute, shows that America's votes should not be run on Diebold hardware.
--Er, make that "less than a minute to execute...."
Already this year, glitches have occurred in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Maryland became the latest on Tuesday, when technical problems, human errors and staff shortages led officials to keep some polls open an extra hour.
The fall elections shape up as the most technologically perilous since 2000, election officials say, because 30% of the nation’s voting jurisdictions will be using new equipment. They include large parts of Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, scenes of key Senate races. “If you’re ever going to have a problem, it’s going to be that first election,” says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services.
Diebold, Inc., manufacturer of electronic voting machines, has been sending out many cease-and-desist letters to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), after internal documents indicating flaws in their systems were published on the Internet. The company cited copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and demanded that the documents be taken down.
Now EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School are fighting back, seeking a court order on behalf of nonprofit ISP Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore College students to prevent Diebold’s abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting, the very foundation of our democratic process.
Nothing like a technology company addressing security flaws in its products by deploying lawyers instead of engineers.
Diebold spokesman David Bear did not return Salon's calls for comment on the Princeton study. In the past, he has denied that such security concerns are notable.
"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," Bear told Newsweek after the March Emery County study. "For there to be a problem here," he further explained to the New York Times, "you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software … I don't believe these evil elections people exist."
Yes, of course. Noooooobody would ever want to change election results! Right. I suppose all the security on ATMs is pointless, too. Let's just leave people's money in pidgeon-hole boxes. People will take only what's theirs, right?
About 80 percent of American voters are expected to use some form of electronic voting in the upcoming election, in which the makeup of the U.S. House will be decided, as well as 33 Senate seats and 36 governorships.