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National Issues

Nationwide Study Grades and Ranks Campaign Disclosure in the 50 States PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By California Voter Foundation   
October 17, 2007

36 states pass, 14 fail, 21 earn higher grades
Access to state-level candidate campaign disclosure data continued to improve in states across the country, according to Grading State Disclosure 2007, a comprehensive evaluation of campaign finance disclosure laws and programs in the 50 states.  The 2007 study, released today by the California Voter Foundation, found that Washington State ranks first in the nation in campaign disclosure, while Oregon ranked as the most improved state in 2007. The study is the fourth in a series, which was first conducted in 2003, and is online here.

The assessment was conducted by the Campaign Disclosure Project, which seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics. The project is a collaboration of the California Voter Foundation, the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of Law and is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Access to campaign finance data enables voters to make informed election choices and hold politicians accountable," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.  "This study helps the public determine how their state's disclosure programs compare with others, and provides resources and incentives to help states improve."

Swiss Armored Cars and Voting PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Jeremy Epstein, Virginia Verified Voting   
October 16, 2007

Quantum cryptography is a way to hoodwink companies with too much money into paying $50k or $100k for a box that doesn't solve a problem they don't have.


This article appeared on Jeremy Epstein's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


Gene Spafford has been widely quoted as saying "Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench."

It seems that someone in Switzerland isn't satisfied with an armored car, and is now using an infantry division to deliver the votes from the voting machines to a central voting registry (see, for example, coverage in Computerworld and Network World).

There are three problems with what they've done:

(1) It's solving the wrong problem.


(2) It's solving the wrong problem.


(3) It's solving the wrong problem.

Hearing to be Held on Rep. Susan Davis's No-Excused Absentee Voting Legislation PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Rep. Susan Davis Press Release   
October 15, 2007
House subcommittee will discuss Davis’s bill to expand absentee voting to millions of Americans

A bill by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-Calif.) to expand voting by mail, or absentee voting, to millions of Americans will get a hearing Tuesday, October 16 in the Subcommittee on Elections of the House Administration Committee.

Davis will give testimony on her bill at a hearing on expanding and improving opportunities for voting by mail. The hearing will be the first of its kind at the federal level on absentee voting.

“Millions of Americans are denied the opportunity to vote absentee,” said Davis, a member of the subcommittee. “My bill would make it possible for those Americans to participate in their democracy. For many Americans, every day is a juggling act. A commitment to a job or family should not hinder someone from participating in one of the most hallowed acts of a democracy – voting.”

Currently, there are 21 states, the District of Columbia, and territories that require some sort of an excuse for the right to vote by mail. In many states, excuses such as having to work or serving on a jury are not considered valid reasons to be able to vote absentee.
Fewer Than Half of Eligible Minority and Low-Income Americans Voted in 2006, New Report Shows PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Project Vote Press Release   
October 12, 2007
Project Vote releases a report today, “Representational Bias in the 2006 Electorate,” by Douglas Hess that finds a continuing problem with the U.S. electorate: those who are registered and vote are not representative of the overall U.S. population eligible to vote. The proportion of the U.S. population that registers to vote and that does vote is highly skewed towards Whites, the educated and the wealthy. Furthermore, young eligible Americans, particularly young minority males, and those who have recently moved, are disproportionately represented among those who do not participate in the U.S. electorate.

“This review of the survey data strongly points to the need for civic organizations and government officials (at all levels of government) to continue to expand access to voter registration,” says Hess. “For their part, governments should view bias in the electorate as a call to embrace voter registration as an affirmative responsibility through better implementation of laws relating to the registration of young, low-income and minority voters.”
The Tanner Doctrine—and from the Chief of the Voting Rights Section, No Less PDF  | Print |  Email
Department of Justice - Voting Section
By Bob Bauer   
October 10, 2007

This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


Such a performance by John Tanner, Chief of the Voting Rights Section. It is not that he could not have put together a defense of the Department’s reading of the constitutionality of ID requirements—nothing persuasive, perhaps, but dignified enough to be delivered with what is called a “straight-face.” It is possible to be wrong without being silly; insensitive without being callous; blunt without being flip about the costs of particular policies.  Tanner passed on all those possibilities.


Once Tanner suggested that minorities do not share in the same inconveniences IDs present for the elderly, because minorities do not grow old enough to be elderly, he gave his listeners little reason to hear anything else.  As show-stopping cruelties go, this throw-away line of his would be hard to surpass. And yet it would be too bad if the rest of the presentation, taped and transcribed, were ignored. Tanner made a spectacle of himself, but he also squeezed out of his presentation a revealing glimpse of ID politics and “equal protection” policy in this Administration, and as would be seen in this line:

People who are poor are poor. They're not stupid. They're not helpless.

Mr. Tanner put these propositions one alongside the other to get across a point that he is unwilling to state directly. Each proposition stands on its own, of course, beyond even the tautological limitations of the first one, holding that the poor are poor. Linked as they are here, without the meaning of the link made at all explicit, Tanner is saying something but not saying it. He is hoping for an impression; and yet he is accepting no responsibility for his true meaning, which is never brought out.

Congressional Research Service Publishes Report on Campaign Finance Proposals PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Congressional Research Service   
October 06, 2007

Download the CRS Report on Campaign Finance Proposals in the 110th Congress


From the Executive Summary: Recent events suggest continued congressional interest in campaign finance policy. This report provides an overview and analysis of 110th Congress legislation addressed in hearings or that has passed at least one chamber. The report also discusses two policy developments: Federal Election Commission (FEC) nominations and a recent Supreme Court ruling that could affect future political advertising (Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.)


As of this writing, approximately 50 bills devoted largely to campaign finance have been introduced in the 110th Congress, but none have become law. The House has passed two bills containing campaign finance provisions. H.R. 2630 would restrict campaign and leadership political action committee (PAC) payments to candidate spouses. A provision in H.R. 3093 would prohibit spending Justice Department funds on criminal enforcement of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) “electioneering communication” provision. In the Senate, an electronic disclosure bill (S. 223) was reported from the Rules and Administration Committee but has not received floor consideration.


The committee also held hearings on coordinated party expenditures (S. 1091) and congressional public financing (S. 1285) legislation. Most significantly, lobbying and ethics bill S. 1, which became law in September 2007 (P.L. 110-81), contains some campaign finance provisions. This report will be updated as events warrant throughout the 110th Congress.

Paperless Voting is an Accident Waiting to Happen PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
October 05, 2007
As they prepare to spend millions of dollars in re-election campaigns, members of Congress should be asking themselves “Do I want to be Christine Jennings?”

The certified results of last year’s election for Florida’s 13th District left Jennings 369 votes short of defeating Vern Buchanan. But the announced results in the lthe District's largest county, Sarasota, showed an inexplicably large number of undervotes in the Congressional race– over 15,000, or more than 16%. Unfortunately, the votes had been cast on ES&S iVotronics - touch screen voting machines that provide no independent means of auditing the electronically tabulated votes. While a "recount" was conducted, it was in fact little more than a "reprint".

With the combined candidate expenditures topping $12 million, the Florida 13th District race was the most expensive of the mid-term elections.

While various explanations have been offered for the extraordinarily high undervote rate (the undervote rate in other counties in the District, where voters marked paper ballots, was around 2%), none of these explanations can be proven and Ms. Jennings filed a formal election contest with the U.S. House. The task force of the Committee on House Administration investigating the election contest heard yesterday from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that a further investigation of the machines will take place in November – a full year after the election.

In a Roll Call article, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who serves on the task force, noted that he hopes that the findings of the GAO will eventually allow the task force to finish its review of the 2006 race before Congress gets too much further into the 2008 election cycle, “and finally put to rest for the people of the 13th district of Florida the challenge against Congressman Vern Buchanan.”

Perhaps the question that members of Congress should ask is “Do I want to be Vern Buchanan?” The election results showed that he won, but he is forced to occupy his seat under the cloud of an election contest.
Data on Overseas Absentee Ballots Raise Questions PDF  | Print |  Email
Overseas/Military Voting
By Brian Knowlton, International Herald Tribune   
October 02, 2007

This article was published in the International Herald Tribune and is reposted here with permission of the author.


A new federal survey has found that a scant one-third of the nearly one million absentee ballots requested for the U.S. general election last year by overseas American civilians or active-duty service members were actually cast or counted, a result that one overseas voting advocate said felt like "a dagger in the heart."


The assessment raised questions about enormous disparities in how ballots are being issued and processed.


The report, issued this week by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, cites serious deficiencies in the collection and reporting of election data by both state and local offices, despite federal requirements imposed in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. One result is that "it is impossible to calculate accurate turnout figures."

A few states, like Alabama and Tennessee, provided almost no data. Ed Packard, Alabama supervisor of voter registration, said the responsible official under a previous state administration "basically didn't collect that information, or did limited amounts of it."


He said the state was working to rectify the problem.

Dutch Government Abandons E-Voting for Red Pencil PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Thomas Ricker   
September 27, 2007

This article was posted at engadget.


About a year after the Dutch government began seriously worrying about the integrity of e-voting machines, they've literally pulled the plug on the venture. The biggest flaw was the lack of a paper trail according to a special committee which reported its finding this morning. As such, Nederlanders will return to the "red pencil method" in upcoming elections until an automated paper-counting solution can be deployed... and then hacked.

Update: To be perfectly clear, the regulation allowing e-voting machines has been withdrawn -- i.e., effective immediately, there is no more e-voting in the Netherlands. However, the Dutch government will make an overarching decision in the next two months "to regain the trust of the public in our voting system." Given that the government commissioned this study themselves, the decision is expected to be a simple rubber stamp approval.

The Court Decides to Consider Voter ID: Good Grounds to Worry on the Morning After PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Bob Bauer   
September 26, 2007

This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


It is simply not gratifying to observe the Supreme Court grabbing the reins and riding off to settle the voter identification quarrel in a hurry. The Seventh Circuit decision authored by Richard Posner that it will review is unfortunate in a number of respects: a correction from the Supreme Court, affirming the importance of the right to vote, would be welcome. But to assume that Posner will be corrected on this point, but that nothing unexpected and harmful will come of the rest of the Court’s review, is to assume a great deal. 


Let's assume that the Court—the same Court that decided Purcell v. Gonzalez — decides that Posner's reasoning went too far and that it should be clear that a) voting matters, and b) states must develop more rigorous rationales for imposing ID requirements in the name of voting security. The first should be easy; the second will turn heads, but on second look, the Court could ask for a little more care but not much, effectively giving voting rights advocates opposed to ID requirements the rhetorical victory but no chance of winning the war. The Court could explain what is needed, which is not to say that it will come to grips meaningfully with the issue on the spare record before it, or show much solicitude for the voters most disadvantaged by ID requirements like those enacted in Georgia or Indiana.

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