Governor vetoes bill with email/fax voting “rat”

CTVotersCount readers know that we have a long history of opposing Internet voting of any type, and a recent history of opposing H.B. 5556 in Connecticut, because it contains a provision for email/fax voting, added in late to an “emergency certified bill”. In Connecticut such provisions are know as “rats”.

Today Governor Malloy vetoed that bill with an extensive message. One paragraph, echoing our recent letter published in the Hartford Courant, articulately summarized the good reasons to avoid such voting <read veto message>

Upon close examination, however, I find that some portions of this bill likely violate the United States Constitution…I cannot support the bill before me given its many legal and practical problems…

HB 5556 also contains a provision allowing deployed service members to return an absentee ballot by email or fax if the service member waives his or her constitutional right to a secret ballot. I agree with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill that this provision raises a number of serious concerns. First, as a matter of policy, I do not support any mechanism of voting that would require an individual to waive his or her constitutional rights in order to cast a timely, secret ballot, even if such waiver is voluntary. Second, as the Secretary of the State has pointed out, allowing an individual to email or fax an absentee ballot has not been proven to be secure. In 2011, the United States Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, issued a report on remote electronic voting. The report concluded that remote electronic voting is fraught with problems associated with software bugs and potential attacks through malicious software, difficulties with voter authentication, and lack of protocol for ballot accountability. None of these issues are addressed in this bill. To be clear, I am not opposed to the use of technology to make the voting process easier and more accessible to our citizens. However, I believe that these legitimate problems have to be carefully studied and considered before enacting such a provision.

Contrary to the Governor’s message, my reading of the bill indicates it would have provided for email/fax voting for the military AND overseas voters, including voters on vacation abroad. See sections 23, 24, and 25.

Others have differing opinions on the rest of the bill, and claim that the Governer would not negotiate. However, we do know that the email voting provision likely was never offered for negotiation with the governor, never had a public hearing, and was opposed by the Secretary of the State prior to placement in the bill. Still it was put in the bill shortly before the final votes by the full House and Senate, deserving of the title of “rat”.

Such rats risk bills being vetoed on occasion, yet more often rats and emergency certifications fuel criticism of the the Legislature and serve to make citizens disgusted with the Legislature, legislators, and Government in general.

Secretary of the State Merrill issued the following statement:

HB 5556 was a good faith effort to respond strongly to court decisions like Citizens United that have allowed an avalanche of private special interest money into our election system. Connecticut is a national leader in enacting clean election laws, and there can be no turning back. This bill would have strengthened our existing law in a number of ways, and I strongly support the concept. However, it is unfortunate that such important legislation included a section enacting voting by fax or email. As election technology, email or fax voting is not secure and could expose the electronically submitted ballots to hacking or other interference, calling into question the integrity of votes from our brave military serving overseas. These are citizens who put their lives on the line every day to protect our right to vote, and we should do everything we can to make sure their votes are actually counted with some assurance of accuracy and integrity. The technology that would make electronically submitted ballots secure has not yet been developed, and I am grateful that Governor Malloy concurs with this view. Therefore, I urge our Governor and General Assembly to work out a compromise on improvements to our Citizens Election Program and our response to Citizens United, and to do it soon. Our voters need to know if money or the public good drives our political system.

************** Update 06/23/2012

We have not taken a position on the campaign finance provisions of H.B.  5556. We are in favor of public funding of elections and the limitation of corporate money in elections. Today the Courant published an op-ed by the Executive Director of the CT ACLU articulating their position against the details within the bill: Veto Thwarts Bad Campaign Finance Bill <read>. We have referenced the arguments of those in favor of the bill in several of our posts.  To the ACLU we would add that the threat is real in Connecticut: Two years ago protests by the Catholic Church against a bill before the Legislature resulted in threats to the lives of two legislators – we can easily see threats and intimidation directed at funders of the groups listed in the op-ed.

************** Update 06/25/2012

Governor and Legislature would have different goals in crafting a compromise bill: Malloy, legislature make last stab at campaign reform <read>


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