• Election Chaos is a Local Issue Too

    Every four years we gear up for a presidential election that consumes our collective attention like no other national event. The amount of energy – positive and negative – devoted to the primaries, the conventions, and the general election often obscures those other elections that take place on November 3.

    The other elections? I’m talking about elections for city councils, school boards, transportation districts, all manner of county and state offices, referenda, and recalls: with over 90,000 (!!) different voting districts across the country, it’s no wonder that the ballots we’ll receive will be many pages long. The voter guides in some states, like my home state, California, tend to look like phone books (Ok, boomer, I’m old), confusing and poorly indexed phone books to be precise.

    As we prepare for what is going to a massively complex election, one that is looking more and more like it will be a largely vote-at-home election, it’s important to remember we’re voting for a huge number of other people and issues than who will be sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the West Wing come January 20.

  • Dispatches: We have the power to hire and fire our government. Let’s Vote!

    This inaugural post in a new series on overseas voting is by Peter Neisuler, a career diplomat who has worked in the U. S. diplomatic service for over 15 years. In addition to his official duties, Peter, his fellow-diplomat wife Mariana Neisuler, and their children are all volunteers for U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and Overseas Vote. Their views are presented in a personal and non-partisan capacity and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of State. In Peter's words: "This is the first in a series of blogs about how our experiences serving the U.S. abroad have shown us how important it is to vote. We''ll be writing about our experiences in Dubai, Macedonia, Russia, and Jordan."

    Diplovoter: Silk Stockings and Powdered Wigs in the Dubai Desert

    Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has a strange climate. Its glimmering skyscrapers and malls rise on the desert sand, their air conditioning a welcome relief from the pitiless heat – which gets well over 100 degrees for much of the year. Worse yet, because it’s next to the sea, it’s humid – but never rains. Probably not a great place for the 18th-century fashion trend of powdered wigs and silk stockings to take hold…Or is it?

    As a junior officer in the U.S. Foreign Service in Dubai about 15 years ago, I got an unusual request from an Emirati friend in the Ministry of Education: could I find and send him a picture of the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia? As Americans, we’ve seen images of the event in our history books with the silly-looking 18th-century clothing adorning the otherwise gravely serious representatives.

  • Much ado about mail voting

    Why we shouldn’t fear an all-mail voting pandemic

    by Gavin Thompson Weise, Election Data Manager, U.S. Foundation

    The Wisconsin primary held earlier this month has shown us that in-person voting right now is impractical, if not downright dangerous. Mail voting, meanwhile, is offering an attractive solution to a very sticky problem – how to complete the 2020 primaries and general election without major health risks. Not surprisingly, academicians, voting advocates, and of course, politicians, have all jumped into the discourse.

    For voting rights advocates, it is an unprecedented moment to push forward an important agenda issue, an opportunity to expand enfranchisement and improve turnout. Opponents of mail voting have been quick to point out the risks of voter fraud, although with underwhelming evidence. Republican candidates, including President Trump, have expressed concerns about the GOP’s chances if the electorate votes predominantly by mail. But there is again little evidence to support such a claim. According to Richard Hasen, law professor at the University of California – Irvine and author of the Election Law Blog, Republicans and Democrats alike benefit from by mail voting “Republicans have long enjoyed the convenience of vote by mail”, says Hasen. “Heavily Republican Utah uses all mail elections and regularly elects Republican legislators. Voters across the political spectrum like the option of vote by mail.”

  • Every Voter Deserves Safe and Secure Ballot Access

    U.S. Vote Foundation Launches Action Campaign - Calls on Voters to Speak Out About Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

    No one is untouched by the current public health crisis. No one knows how long this will go on, or how it might transform itself and us. Each one of us, everyday, is personally faced with our challenge and responsibility to carrry on and to plan ahead.

    But we do know that in the face of this crisis, Election Day 2020 is coming. What might seem eons away for some, is tomorrow for those who must prepare for it. We already know, that to make it safe to vote, we all need the option of a paper ballot that we can complete in our own home and mail back securely.

    The amount of money allocated in the Phase III Stimulus Package to election preparednes in the face of this crisis was a fraction of what is needed. Tremendous time and effort is required to bolster the absentee vote-by-mail ballot processes around the country for what may be the largest General Election of our time. Preparations include defining new policies, purchasing equipment, printing, and increasing human resources, among other things. In a normal situation, what our election administrators are being asked to do this year would be done over five years.

    This means - It's Time for Action.

  • Socially Distant Elections

    As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increase across the country, lawmakers are scrambling to provide voters safe and effective means to cast their ballots in the 2020 primaries

    by Gavin Thompson Weise, Election Data Manager, U.S. Vote Foundation

    A quick internet search for “safety and elections” yields page after page of articles on cybersecurity, foreign agents and congressional investigations. The past weeks have, however, brought to light a new vulnerability of our election infrastructure – something far less sinister but more terrifying, and in many ways more difficult to defeat.

    Coronavirus, or COVID-19 has already affected state and local elections, as well as the 2020 presidential preference primary contests. It has changed and will continue to change, in some ways maybe forever, our approach to voting in the US. In response, election officials and lawmakers across states have resorted to a number of policy options and practices to try and ensure a safe environment for voters and the workers who make elections happen.

    This article looks at what these options currently are, and what steps are likely yet to come.

  • U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Include Urgent Contingency Funds in Phase III Supplemental to Assure Safe Voting


    March 21, 2020

    To the Honorable Chairman Roy Blunt and Senate Rules Committee Members:

    As Chairman of U.S. Vote Foundation, I urge you to personally support, and to call for all Senators to embrace the role and responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all states can provide the necessary voting methods for every eligible American to safely cast a ballot in the November 2020 General Election. Ensuring the security of U.S. campaigns and elections is essential to our democratic process.

    We implore you to allocate $2-4 Billion of funding in the final Phase III Supplemental for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to direct to the states to help them to execute on the programs needed to guarantee safe access to ballots for every eligible voter. Effective state action is only possible with a timely call to action and adequate funding.

    Faced with the Coronavirus Pandemic and its unknown scope and length, election administrators in all states must begin preparation to implement the full range of safe methods for voters to cast their ballots, including no-excuse absentee balloting/vote by mail, early voting and in-person voting.

    A sufficient response will require immediate action and funds to implement and scale up these procedures in time to assure a smooth-running general election.

    Bipartisan support for expeditious action by Congress on legislation that will ensure all voters have access to their ballots for the November 2020 General Election is warranted.

    On behalf of the Board of Directors of U.S. Vote Foundation,

    Michael Steele, Chairman
    U.S. Vote Foundation

  • Senate Introduces No-Excuse Vote-by-Mail Bill to Address Pandemics and Disasters

    On March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Wyden (D-OR) introduced Senate Bill 3529, the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020. [US Vote Bill Summary] [View/Download SB 3529]

    The bill intends to provide a timely and "commonsense solution" to our ability to conduct the 2020 and future elections in the face of pandemics, emergencies and increasing natural disasters. U.S. Vote Foundation is pleased to see this action as a response to what our Foundation has called in our recent statement calling for broadened vote-by-mail services to ensure voters the ability to vote safely, without threat of disease or danger of any kind.

    NDEBA calls for expanded no-excuse vote-by-mail absentee balloting and early voting. It outlines a comprehensive set of actions including, ballot tracking, signature verification and "curing", as well as emergency ballot procedures for voters whose requested ballots do not arrive in time. 

  • Take Nothing for Granted

    2020 Primary Election / Caucus Voting Checklist

    Being an active voter means never taking your rights or your current status on the voter roll for granted. Choosing which candidate is your party's nominee is the most crucial decision of the 2020 election. Make sure you weigh-in with your vote.

    Make this a "no surprises" voting year and take the following steps on the U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) or Overseas Vote site - whichever suits you best:

    1. Check your Primary Election or Caucus Dates and Deadlines.

    2. Check your Registration Status on your state's voter registration rolls: go to the State Voting Requirements / State Lookup Tools and click "Am I Registered?" to get to your state's voter registration status lookup.

    3. Overseas Voters: Are you living, serving, studying abroad? Then you must refile your Registration/Ballot Request - one form does both! Overseas ballot requests expire annually - so make sure you apply in 2020.

    4. Domestic Voters: Did you move? Do you want to change or declare your political party for the Primaries? Did you miss a recent election? Best to refile your Voter Registration form if you have any doubts at all that your registration is not up to date.

    5. Vote-by-Mail/Vote from Home: If you are a registered voter, and will you be working, traveling, unable, or too busy to go to the polls - Apply for an Absentee Vote-by-Mail ballot! Vote-by-Mail ballot requests are usually valid for just one election - so make sure you apply in 2020.

    Questions? Contact your Local Election Official who is ready to serve you: look up contact details in the Election Official Directory. Or, you can also send your questions to our Voter Help Desk.

  • The Ballot is Busted Before the Blockchain

    As faithful blog readers, you've figured out that we are concerned about online voting apps, particularly unverified systems being pushed with the smokescreen of "blockchain" as the miracle cure to the security issues around internet voting. The Blockchain Papers series was created with the aim of collecting expert statements on this topic.

    Here is the latest contribution to the series - no less than an actual security analysis of a certain blockchain system, Voatz, executed by a group of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You will find this analysis fascinating; in particular, the exposure of the use of third parties for voter authentication and the potential privacy violations that may ensue. The privacy risk to the voter, compared to other voting methods, is exponentially higher. Such risk, coupled with the lack of transparency, is enough to put an "Iowa chill" into anyone's bones. I invite you to read the report from Specter, Koppel and Wietzner; and the insightful articles published at the time of its release.

    The Ballot is Busted Before the Blockchain: A Security Analysis of Voatz, the First Internet Voting Application Used in U.S.Federal Elections
    By Michael A. Specter, MIT; James Koppel, MIT; and Daniel Weitzner, MIT; February 13, 2020

    MIT researchers identify security vulnerabilities in voting app
    Mobile voting application could allow hackers to alter individual votes and may pose privacy issues for users.
    By Abby Abazorius | MIT News Office, February 13, 2020

    Voting on Your Phone: New Elections App Ignites Security Debate
    Excerpt: "...researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the app is so riddled with security issues that no one should be using it."
    By Matthew Rosenberg | New York Times, February 13, 2020

  • If You Ever Read An Article on Online Voting: Make It This One

    Introductory note from Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote: I've been reading voting and elections articles every day for 16 years straight. If I add up an average of 2 - 3 per day, that gets me near to 17,000 of these articles. That's why all I need to tell you about this one is that out of those approximately 17,000 articles, I profoundly enjoyed and learned from this one, written by Alex Berke, MIT Media Lab, more than any other. She has figured out a genius-level creative way to explain and convey a large chunk of what those 17K articles conveyed, but with such an imaginative and compelling approach that for the first time, I am really excited about the impact of words on a page when it comes to this subject of online voting. And in full disclosure, I was interviewed by Alex, but the depth of work, the brilliant thinking and refreshing ingenuity here are all her own. She cracked it, and you, dear reader, will love it.

    Do NOT get frightened by this title - you can get this. Start in and you will be hooked!

    Crypto Voting & U.S. Elections: (Science Fiction) Short Stories From Potential Futures
    by Alex Berke, MIT Media Lab

    These stories are from a two-part project. While this part is science fiction, the other part is about reality. Both parts are about mobile, blockchain, and cryptographically secure voting in the context of the U.S. election system. (Reality Piece: link)

    These stories consider two potential futures for U.S. democracy, branching from our present. One is dystopian, the other utopian.

    Mobile Voting, Lost Choices, and Plutocracy

    From Crypto Voting & U.S. Elections: Short Stories From Potential Futures (Dystopia)

    The year is 2040 and today is election day. Alice is on her way to where she will vote, but it’s not the polls. The polls are open, but more out of adherence to a national tradition and heritage rather than utility. Alice still hears about people going to the polls in some places, mostly to protest what has come to be, but the media always portrays those folks as “tinfoil hat wearers.” These days, almost everyone votes remotely from the devices installed within their hands. Although history may see it as a small technical change, remote voting brought about radical changes to U.S. democracy. [Read the full article]

    Note to the reader: after you read they dystopian version, continue to the utopian version entitled, What our Voting Systems Should Provide. Like a lot of things, these two are better together.