July 2017

Getting Under The Hood: DefCon Highlights Growing Role of Friendly Hackers

This past weekend’s DefCon meeting in Las Vegas produced numerous headlines thanks to a “hacking village” set up to, essentially, get under the hood of various voting machines. Federal law now permits such “white hat” hacking efforts – and they can be a key weapon for the election community in keeping “black hats” from compromising the nation’s voting systems.

Match Game: MIT Researchers Look at PACEI’s Voter Roll Matching Plans

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, having fought off an injunction in federal court, is once again asking states for voter roll data to assist in its efforts. But a new piece in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog by two researchers at MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab  suggests that the Commission’s plans for that data may result in vastly-over inflated numbers of duplicate registrations.

A Little Less Conversation: Texas Bill Could Criminalize Family Conversations About VBM Ballots

As the number of vote-by-mail ballots grows across the country, there is growing concern about what that might mean in terms of protecting the integrity of the voting process. Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed a bill that would make it a crime to influence someone’s VBM ballot – even despite objections the bill could make it a crime for family members to have a discussion in the presence of such a ballot.

ELECTricity Spotlights Minneapolis’ New Election “Business Plan”

The Center for Technology and Civic Life’s latest ELECTricity newsletter has a spotlight on an initiative in Minneapolis that’s helping the city’s election office keep its focus on what’s important in carrying out its mission. By building and following a “business plan” for elections, the office is keeping its eye on what’s most important and focusing its efforts (and data collection) on achieving those goals.

Judge Voids Massachusetts’ 20-Day Registration Cutoff as Unconstitutional

Yesterday, a Suffolk County (Boston) court ruled that Massachusetts’ 20-day cutoff for voter registration is unconstitutional. While the court did not order a specific remedy – and the State has said it will appeal – the case could end up making big changes in advance of next year’s statewide general election. In addition, the opinion itself is a fascinating look at the nuts and bolts of local election administration.

VAO Positions in Jeopardy as Navy, Senate Bill Consider Cuts

Late last week, the election community got the latest in what feels like a series of unpleasant surprises: voting assistance officers (VAOs) – the individuals in each military unit with responsibility for helping fellow servicemembers with registering and casting a ballot – are facing extinction due to recent Navy action and a new federal bill.

UMN Election Academy to Add Undergraduate Certificate

Starting this fall, the Certificate in Election Administration program has received University approval to launch an undergraduate certificate (alongside our existing graduate program) for anyone seeking to deepen and broaden their understanding of election administration.

Colorado to Become First State to Require Regular Risk-Limiting Audits

Yesterday, Colorado announced that it would implement regular risk-limiting audits for its elections, starting this November. The plan could offer a more cost-effective and straightforward way to assess election outcomes – and the state plans to make its tools available to other states who wish to follow suit.