Feds shut-down overseas voting for Americans.
September 22, 2004 2:33 AM   Subscribe

Feds shut-down overseas voting for Americans. And according to this Salon article, American's living abroad are particularly progresssive and likely to vote Democrat.
posted by Espoo2 (25 comments total)
Is it required to do this over the web, or is there not a standard paper form set or phone number that can be called instead?

If so, then I'm happy to see someone who has the balls to block irresponsible ISPs. It's about time. If it weren't for the wholesaler in China I deal with, I'd block out all of Asia from our mail servers, too (it'd cut out about 70% of our SPAM).

If not, then Houston, we have a problem...
posted by shepd at 2:53 AM on September 22, 2004

posted by weston at 2:55 AM on September 22, 2004

> Is it required to do this over the web, or is there not a standard paper
> form set or phone number that can be called instead?

It wasn't required before the web existed. It's just a convenient government service, and convenient government services come and go (mostly go.) So if there really are no sites other than this pentagon site from which you can download the forms, how about somebody stepping up to the plate and mirroring the site? Or just providing these public forms for download? How hard is that?
posted by jfuller at 3:04 AM on September 22, 2004

Oh, and that post headline "Feds shut down overseas voting" is just a tad alarmist. Strictly for people who're dying to be alarmed.
posted by jfuller at 3:08 AM on September 22, 2004

Doesn't the article say there is an alternate site at overseasvote2004.com?
posted by paladin at 3:09 AM on September 22, 2004

There are a lot of sites and lots of ways to get registered overseas. Overseas Vote 2004 was I think the most commonly used one among expats this year. I speak in the past tense because the deadline was Sept. 15 to get your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA SF-76) to have a ballot mailed to you in time for the federal election, except for soldiers, I think, and they don't have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a ballot. Cutting off access to one site, even if it's the federal government's, is no big deal. Anyone who wanted to vote in the presidetial election should have already mailed in the one-page registration.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:15 AM on September 22, 2004

Just as a point of comparison South Africa does not allow it's citizens overseas (and there are MANY, 200 000+ in London alone on two year working visas by some estimates) to vote in it's national elections.
posted by PenDevil at 3:15 AM on September 22, 2004

Paladin beat me. You're right, jfuller, it's unnecessarily alarmist. We're not actually voting from our computers, and we can just pick up the phone and call an embassy or consulate anyway.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:20 AM on September 22, 2004

Sounds like the solution to this little hacker problem was about as well-advised as most solutions to the spam problem.
posted by reklaw at 4:01 AM on September 22, 2004

"Annalee Newitz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit San Francisco group for protecting people's digital rights, said: "It's extremely ironic that the government is doing nothing to address the security of electronic voting machines" in the United States, "which have been proven to be vulnerable to hacking, yet they block Web sites for expatriate Americans?"

This is a hamfisted measure guaranteed to reinforce a growing sense among Americans that the Republican Party has it's gun sights trained on voting rights and, hence, Democracy.
posted by troutfishing at 4:20 AM on September 22, 2004

The Pentagon has shut down access to http://www.fvap.gov (The Federal Voting Assistance Program) from some ISPs in some countries because of what they're describing as a lot of hacking attempts via those channels.

If this is a nefarious move to disenfranchise us liberal overseas voters it's too little too late given the amount of assistance available via other sites.

Key among those alternate sites is OverseasVote2004.com which is the first application that automates the complex business of adhering to the widely differing State rules for filling out the Federal Post Card Application that Americans overseas have to fill in to register to vote and request their absentee ballots.

Other organizations offering more personal voter assistance are Democrats Abroad with chapters in more than 37 countries (Find the chapter in your country here) as well as the other guys.

While it's true that deadlines for registration and absentee ballot request are approaching, they are not here yet! (I'd be tempted to use the blink tag here)

Each state has its own deadlines for registration and absentee ballot request. See the appropriate link on this page (something of a self-link) for an Excel file with all the state-by-state deadlines registration and ballot return as well as the dates where they purport to begin sending out their ballots.

Now, even if you don't get a ballot from your state in time to return it by their stated deadline, you can request an emergency Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). You can contact your local Democrats Abroad chapter to find out how to get an FWAB in your own country. If there is no DA chapter in your area you might try you local US consulate or embassy.

Note that, despite the fact that each state specifies its own deadlines for voter registration and absentee ballot request, the FWAB regulations specify that your local voting offical should have received your FPCA no later than 30 days before the election in question.

So, basically, if you are an American living overseas, go to OverseasVote2004.com or contact your local chapter of DA or RA to find out how to get personalized voter assistance. Fill out your FPCA now and express it back to your local voting official. Also, find out how to get the FWAB in case your state or postal system fail to get the ballot to you on time.
posted by rocketpup at 4:24 AM on September 22, 2004

> This is a hamfisted measure guaranteed to reinforce a growing
> sense among Americans that the Republican Party has it's gun sights
> trained on voting rights and, hence, Democracy.

This is an acorn landing pok on the noggins of a certain kind of American to reinforce a growing sense that the sky is falling the sky is falling! Cluck cluck squwaak!
posted by jfuller at 4:30 AM on September 22, 2004

The post is misleading to the point where it must have been deliberate.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:58 AM on September 22, 2004

It's not blocked from where I am in Germany. This must be a very selective conspiracy.
posted by moonbiter at 5:17 AM on September 22, 2004

According to this Salon Article, the Illuminati control all the world governments and enslave our minds.
posted by angry modem at 5:23 AM on September 22, 2004

Blocking an entire ISP is a bloody hamfisted way to thwart hackers, IMO. Especially when some of the ISP's named in the article have substantial market shares.(Wanadoo FR? Holy Crap.)

Asked whether any other government Web sites had been blocked, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment.

I'd be interested in further details here - are the ISPs being uniformly blocked on all government sites or just the Federal Voting Assistance Program site? If you're going to block an entire ISP in a lame kneejerk reaction to hacking attempts, it would make sense to block *all* .gov sites. If this isn't the case, something (else) is rotten in DenmarkD.C.
posted by romakimmy at 6:03 AM on September 22, 2004

Alarmist is as alarmist does. A single vote blocked because an eligible citizen tried to use a previously available site is one vote too many.

Let's see....537 votes...how quickly could that be made up?

The point being, through other sites, I have been registered for months, but then I have kept myself locally informed. Someone who hadn't or waited a little long, could find it trouble.

Perhaps the problem with "conspiracy" theories is that generally that kernel of doubt required to really get one cooking, often is still present.

Remember: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are not out ot get you!
posted by charms55 at 6:19 AM on September 22, 2004

This strikes me as indicative of a rather low skill-level among Gov't IT folks. Don't want to get hacked? OK, let's just block access to the server from a bunch of different ISPs. Nevermind that someone with the skills and determination to actually hack a decently secure site would just use a different ISP...

But low skill levels aren't surprising, given that they can't seem to set up an approval sandbox on Whitehouse.gov. (Link is to their robots.txt; note the long list of excluded directories, then try to browse to a few. Seems to me someone is an advocate of security through obscurity...)

Now, all *that* said, and assuming a low skill-level, we could guess that some tyro web geek might think up something like this as a way to inconvenience a community of overseas workers. We all "know" that military "usually skew conservative"; but if I had to guess, I'd guess that non-military expats skew "liberal" (or at least, internationalist). So if you leave the military conduits to overseas absentee voting open (which they effectively are, through service channels), and obscure the civilian ones, you make it that tiny bit more difficult for the civilian expat community to vote.

Given the demonstrated alternate avenues, not a very clever (or effective) plan. But again, we're not necessarily talking about very clever people, here.

On prev: What charms said. Just because they're not too bright, doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Or that they can't win.
posted by lodurr at 7:04 AM on September 22, 2004

This strikes me as indicative of a rather low skill-level among Gov't IT folks.

I think you're getting to the core of the issue here. Government jobs just don't pay amounts which are competitive with private industry, and the application process is a lot more personally intrusive than in the private sector. As such the government tends to end up with less than optimal personnel.

Then again it could be something which has to do with the consultant-heavy Office of Special Projects -- the people who brought you Iraq.

Would anyone like a used tin-foil hat? :-)
posted by clevershark at 8:51 AM on September 22, 2004

Would anyone like a used tin-foil hat?

I would tend to think that tinfoil hats, like bicycle helmets, only work once. Or something like that. Anyway, anybody who can read my thoughts is welcome to them...
posted by lodurr at 10:33 AM on September 22, 2004

I apologize for the alarmist tone to the post. I read the Salon article first, and it was very late last night and my judgement may have been a bit off.

I misread the article, apparently, and did not know that there were other avenues of voting absentee and thought getting the word out was the right thing to do.

That said, it still seems fishy.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:51 AM on September 22, 2004

its not deliberate, its the way the Ghoul works, man
posted by Satapher at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2004

I wonder how overseas voting involving missionaries will be handled in comparison to more secular Americans living abroad. It was definitely at issue in a federal court case when Utah claimed it unfairly lost a congressional seat to North Carolina, because the Census bureau didn't count Mormon missionaries abroad (only those abroad working for the gov't).
posted by jonp72 at 4:37 PM on September 22, 2004

I'm in Canada and it's not blocked. Good thing, as I used the site to register to vote on Monday.
posted by deborah at 11:28 PM on September 22, 2004

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