May 14, 2014, 9:52 a.m.
Canada: A series of amendments to Canada’s electoral law passed in the House of Commons on 13 May and is expected to be speedily passed in the Senate as well. The bill, called the Fair Elections Act (or Bill C-23), has come under fire from the opposition, which claims that it does not sufficiently empower the Commission of Canada Elections to investigate voter fraud. The ruling Conservative Party agreed to a new round of electoral reforms after an incident in 2011 when Conservative Party voter lists were used to make misleading automated phone calls. The Party had been in trouble before; in 2006 it was found to have secretly exceeded its spending limits. While the opposition had wanted the new bill to give the Commissioner the right to compel testimony during investigations and to force political parties to submit spending receipts, the government has offered a number of other changes, including a requirement that outreach to existing party donors be included in expense reports and that automated phone call companies keep a record of their calls for three years.
Estonia: A team of experts has performed an analysis of Estonia’s electronic voting system and determined that it is severely vulnerable to manipulation. After a comprehensive study of the system, the team concluded that there are several points at which sophisticated attackers could alter election results without a trace, either in the system’s creation on personal computers or through voters’ computers after the voting has taken place. They point to additional vulnerabilities as well, such as insecure password protections and PIN numbers at several stages in the process. The research team has released a report of its findings in which it recommends that Estonia not use the system for this month’s European Parliament elections. Estonia was chosen because it has the highest rate of electronic voting in the world – 21 percent of voters used the system during last year’s local elections.
Ukraine: The two Ukrainian regions controlled by separatist forces voted on 11 May in referendums on whether or not to declare independence from Ukraine. The two provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, contain 6.6 million people and form the industrial heartland of the country. The referendums were mostly peaceful although clashes with the Ukrainian National Guard reportedly left several dead in the town of Krasnoarmeisk. Although there were no independent monitors present to verify the results, the organizers of the referendum claim that 89 percent of voters in Donetsk and 96 percent of voters in Luhansk supported secession from Ukraine. The election chief of the declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) claims that 75 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote. The DPR rebels now plan to ask the Russian government to consider their accession to the Russian Federation and may hold another referendum on accession. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has declared the referendums a “criminal farce” and the United States and European Union have both refused to recognize the results of the referendums and threatened to increase sanctions on Russia if it interferes further in eastern Ukraine. Although it has been accused of meddling in the region to destabilize Ukraine, Russia has recently called for a dialogue between the Ukrainian government and the eastern separatists and had asked the two separatist governments to delay holding the referendums to avoid escalating the crisis.
(Image Credit: EPA/PHOTOMIG)