Campaign finance bill hacked, with risky email and fax voting provision, passed | CTVotersCount.org

Campaign finance bill hacked, with risky email and fax voting provision, passed

Email and fax voting are more dangerous than Internet voting. Has your email been hacked? Would you trust emails allegedly from your bank asking for your social security number and account number? Would you send them over the Internet in an email reply?

H.B. 5556 is about campaign finance, but recently nestled in sections 23 to 25 is a provision for email and fax voting for military and overseas voters. Last night it passed both houses of the Legislature.

Sec. 23. Section 9-153e of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

A member of the armed forces who is an elector or an applicant for admission as an elector, or the member’s spouse or dependent if living where such member is stationed, may apply before a regular election for a blank absentee ballot to vote for all offices being contested at the election. The clerk shall make such ballots available for this purpose beginning not earlier than ninety days before the election. Application shall be made upon a form prescribed by the Secretary of the State or on the federal postcard application form provided pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, 100 Stat. 924, 42 USC 1973ff et seq. , as amended from time to time, or any other applicable law and shall be issued only if the applicant states that due to military contingencies the regular application procedure, as set forth in section 9-140, cannot be followed. Upon receipt of the application, the municipal clerk shall issue the ballot and a cover sheet pursuant to section 25 of this act, either by mail or electronic means, as requested by the elector, which shall be prescribed and provided by the Secretary of the State, and a list of the offices to be voted upon indicating the number of individuals for which each elector may vote. As soon as a complete list of nominated candidates, including the party designations of such candidates, and questions is available, the clerk shall send such list to each applicant. If the list of candidates and questions is not available when the ballot is issued, the clerk shall include a statement indicating that such list shall be mailed as soon as it becomes available. The ballot shall permit the elector to vote by writing in the names of specific candidates and offices for which he is voting. The elector may also vote on the questions in a manner prescribed by the Secretary of the State. If such ballot is issued by electronic means, the clerk shall include a certification prescribed by the Secretary of the State that the elector shall be required to complete, sign and return with the completed ballot in order for such ballot to be counted. If the military contingency no longer exists, application for an additional ballot for all offices may be made pursuant to the provisions of section 9-153b.

Sec. 24. Section 9-153f of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 9-140, any elector who is living, or expects to be living or traveling before and on election day, outside the territorial limits of the several states of the United States and the District of Columbia and any member of the armed forces who is an elector or an applicant for admission as an elector, or the member’s spouse or dependent if living where such member is stationed, may apply for a blank absentee ballot to vote for all offices being contested at an election or primary. Application shall be made upon a form prescribed by the Secretary of the State or on the federal postcard application form provided pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, 100 Stat. 924, 42 USC 1973ff et seq. , as amended from time to time, or any other applicable law. The municipal clerk receiving such an application shall, as soon as a complete list of candidates and questions to be voted upon at such election or primary becomes available, issue the ballot and a cover sheet pursuant to section 25 of this act, either by mail or electronic means, as requested by the elector, which shall be the blank ballot prescribed and provided by the Secretary of the State under section 9-153e, as amended by this act. The clerk shall include with the ballot a complete list of the offices to be voted upon, the number of individuals for which each elector may vote, the candidates, and, in the case of an election, the party designation of each candidate and questions to be voted upon. If such ballot is issued by electronic means, the clerk shall include a certification prescribed by the Secretary of the State that the elector shall be required to complete, sign and return with the completed ballot in order for such ballot to be counted. If application for an absentee ballot is made at the time of availability of regular absentee ballots as provided in section 9-140, the provisions of section 9-140 shall prevail. Except as otherwise provided in this section, the procedures governing the issuance of ballots under this section shall conform as nearly as may be to the procedures provided in section 9-140.

Sec. 25. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 145 of the general statutes, for any election or primary held on or after August 14, 2012, an elector or an applicant for admission as an elector who applies for an absentee ballot pursuant to the provisions of section 9-153e or 9-153f of the general statutes, as amended by this act, may return such ballot, and certification, if required by said section 9-153e or 9-153f, and the cover sheet prescribed by the Secretary of the State pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, by facsimile or electronic mail and such ballot shall be counted with other absentee ballots in accordance with the provisions of section 9-150a of the general statutes, provided (1) the municipal clerk receives such electronically returned ballot, certification and signed cover sheet prior to the closing of the polls on the day of the election or primary, as applicable, and (2) such elector does not also mail the original ballot or a hard copy of the ballot to the municipal clerk.

(b) Not later than June 1, 2012, the Secretary of the State shall prescribe a cover sheet for electronic transmission of absentee ballots. Such sheet shall provide instructions for returning a ballot by electronic means and to include the elector’s name, telephone number, facsimile number or electronic mail address from which the ballot was returned, as applicable. Such cover sheet shall include the following statement: “I understand that by faxing or emailing my voted ballot I am voluntarily waiving my right to a secret ballot only to the extent that the appropriate election official must receive and process my ballot. Signature: …. Date: …. “

There have never been hearings on fax and email voting in Connecticut. Last year there were hearings on Internet voting. Later last year a requirement for Internet voting was hidden in a long bill of technical changes to election law. Several weeks after its discovery, after strong opposition by the Secretary of the State, it was watered down to requiring a report on Internet voting by the Secretary. Subsequently the Secretary held a symposium with national experts exposing the risks of Internet voting, apparently” to no avail. This year the bill hacking occurred later in the process, leaving no time for opponents to discover and react to the provision.

The debate was mostly about the campaign finance disclosure provisions aimed at counteracting Citizens United. The Governor’s staff is questioning the constitutionality of the bill and raising the potential for a veto. We question the constitutionality of the provision for individual voters to waive “their” right of secret voting – our understanding is that the purpose of secret voting includes our right to not have their vote exposed, purchased, or intimidated – they cannot waive our right to a secret vote.

Implementing the bill might be a challenge for many of our election officials, it seems like just last week that a bill was passed requiring towns to provide registrars with email accounts to converse with the Secretary of the State. Perhaps it should have provided for faxes,  fax phone lines, and email to converse with military and overseas voters.

We applaud Secretary Merrill and her office for their stand against the bill <read>

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