First federal election with online voting boosted turnout
Turnout was boosted between 3 and 5 percentage points last year by mobile voting in West Virginia, the first state in the country to permit such balloting in a federal election.
Members of the armed forces and other overseas voters from 24 of the state's 55 counties were allowed to vote online in the midterm. The limited experiment was orchestrated by the Republican secretary of state, Mac Warner, who cited his own frustration in trying to vote while stationed overseas in the Army.
"The effects of voting online could potentially be even greater if it were implemented in a more convenient way," the University of Chicago's Anthony Fowler, who conducted the research, told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. "Mobile voting could have a profound impact on increasing voter turnout and potentially reduce inequalities in participation."
Those who wanted to vote online had to ask permission on a written form, download a special mobile app and then use two forms of biometric identity verification before casting their ballots.
Fowler said the mobile voting boosted turnout — and was cheaper to administer — than the most widely used alternative methods for increasing participation: early voting and voting by mail.
But he said he agreed with cybersecurity experts, and West Virginians he polled as part of his study, who expressed concern the system could be hacked and some votes might not counted accurately. "There is no verifiable paper trail. You can always go back and audit a paper ballot, where here, if someone hacks into the votes network, you don't know if it happened or how many votes were changed," Fowler said.
The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.
FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."
Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.
Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.
The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.
A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.
Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.