Blog

  • 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.

  • U.S. Vote Foundation Inside: How US Vote’s Civic Data Powers Get-Out-the-Vote and Voter Registration Efforts

    By Joshua Greenbaum, US Vote Social Media Program Manager

    35 million. 70 million. 140 million. 250 million.

    What do all these numbers have in common? If your first thought was that they have something to do with voting, you’re on the right track. And if you think these numbers have something to do with U.S. Vote Foundation’s (US Vote) role in getting out the vote, you’re even closer.

    But for a perfect score, you’d need to add one more element: these numbers highlight the role US Vote plays in providing data and technology to the valuable, and highly valued, licensing partners that share US Votes’ mission to make sure Every Citizen is a Voter.

  • Knocking on the Door: How Canvassing Takes Down Barriers and Builds Bridges to Increased Voter Turnout

    By Ryan Ockenden, US Vote Volunteer

    I’ve always been interested in national politics, but my knowledge of local politics was lacking. Although local politics often doesn’t make the news, it certainly impacts us with equal weight as does national politics. As a way to offer a tangible contribution to local political efforts, I volunteered to work on local campaigns for county-level and town-level candidates. In national politics, messaging seems to happen through social media, national news, and news articles. On the local level, the success of messaging relies on meeting voters in person.

    This was one of my concerns entering this process. I feared that people would be unreceptive at the door which would make the canvassing door-to-door a frightening feat – this ultimately was not the case. Many people were so thankful for the candidates taking the time to meet them, and even just meeting a representative of the campaigns to personally pass the information was welcomed with a general sense of appreciation.

  • A Potential Disaster for Overseas and Military Voting is Looming: Withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union

    How to Decimate the Overseas and Military Vote

    A tremendous investment and many improvements have been made to overseas and military voting processes since the 2004 General Election and the ensuing military ballot counting fiasco. The federal law that governs the rights of overseas and military voters, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was reformed through the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 and as a result, the last decade has seen enormous efforts to improve the processes for overseas voters across all states and territories.

    What would be a great way to send overseas and military voting hurtling backwards toward widespread confusion and disenfranchisement? And what would be more counterproductive to the UOCAVA investments of election administrations across the country? All it would take is to pull out of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) so that the most frequently used and affordable method of returning secure (as in non-hackable), verifiable, and auditable ballots is cut off at the knees. Which is exactly what our current administration is considering.

  • Blockchain: A Lesson in Obfuscation

    By Jim Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science

    One can hardly throw a brick in Silicon Valley these days without hitting the CEO of a new blockchain startup. Whether it be cyber security, supply chain management, voting, or most anything else, it doesn’t matter what the question is. The answer is blockchain.

    As the characters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy discovered, knowing the ultimate answer isn’t much good without knowing the question. But there is no question associated with blockchain. Instead, the enthusiasm and hype around a hopelessly flawed technology leads us to another Theranos moment, when hope, enthusiasm, and vision bring us to the point of committing fraud on the non-technical public. We should know better.

    Let me be clear that I’m not talking about some of the individual ideas behind blockchain. Having a public ledger that can’t be changed by using cryptographic hashing functions may be useful; it has been well known (under the name of a Merkel chain) for a considerable period of time.

  • New book about positive voting reforms: Vote for US - the People

    This blog originally appeared on Rick Hasen's, Election Law Blog [https://electionlawblog.org/?p=104599] on April 9, 2019.
     
    By Joshua Douglas

    The following is the first of three guest posts by University of Kentucky Law Professor Josh Douglas about his new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting:

    ....

    The book is called Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting. It tells some truly inspiring stories of everyday Americans who are working in communities all over the country to fix our election system. In the process, the book advocates for various reforms to our democracy that are already seeing success in numerous local and state elections. And it highlights lot of amazing organizations that are taking on these efforts.

    Today I’ll focus on a few of the people I profile in the book – the Democracy Champions in communities all over who are at the forefront of improvements to state and local democracy.

  • Blockchain Voting: Unwelcome Disruption or Senseless Distraction?

    By Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote

    It really gets old being a guinea pig. Not because of the cagey confines, but for the insistence of those who try their ideas out on you. Overseas and military voters continue to be the guinea pigs for unvetted online voting ideas, the new one being “blockchain voting”. We have been here before.

    Overseas and military voters do need continued meaningful reforms across all states, and it is good when people truly care enough to examine and invest in solutions. What we do not need is a distraction that introduces new threats to overseas and military ballot integrity. The cliché “disruption model” doesn’t belong in our elections. Particularly in light of Russia’s cyber-interference in elections in Ukraine in 2014 and the US in 2016, we should consider with extra caution the idea of putting the entire voting process online. Russia itself is pushing to use this same technology for voting. Maybe it is worth a deeper look at it before we rush to its implementation? Perhaps investment in a threat detection system, which most state election offices cannot yet afford, would, at minimum, be a wise first course of action.