National: State election officials blast ‘unprecedented’ DHS move to secure electoral system | Politico

State election officials on Monday denounced the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to label the country’s electoral system as “critical infrastructure.” The move, which DHS announced on Friday, puts the electoral system on par with the energy or financial sector, industries considered vital to national security and economic stability. On Monday, the National Association of Secretaries of State lashed out at the decision, saying it is “is legally and historically unprecedented, raising many questions and concerns for states and localities with authority over the administration of our voting process.” Secretaries of state oversee elections in most states. Several of these officials have expressed concerns that the “critical infrastructure” tag could presage a federal takeover of local elections.

National: Perez, candidate for DNC chair, calls for expanded voter protection | Baltimore Sun

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, one of several candidates running to lead the Democratic National Committee, said Monday he would use the position to expand the party’s efforts to protect voters in the wake of ballot laws cropping up across the country. The Takoma Park resident, a former Montgomery County and Maryland state official, said the national party needs to take a more active role to ensure voters can cast a ballot, coordinating responses from state and national leaders and “playing offense” by expanding voter registration in every state. “We are going to establish a very robust protection and empowerment effort,” Perez told The Baltimore Sun on Monday, a day before he was to address the Maryland Democratic Party. “The DNC needs to play a very important role in combating [suppression] and ensuring all eligible voters can vote.”

Editorials: Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence | Masha Gessen/The New York Review of Books

After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.” A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports. But the real problems come with the findings themselves.

California: The only thing ‘special’ about California special elections is the cost to taxpayers | Los Angeles Times

Democracy won’t come cheap in Los Angeles in 2017. Voters from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock will likely vote twice — after two earlier elections last year — to fill a single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, with the final ballots costing county taxpayers more than $1.3 million to cast and count. This episode begins with former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s decision to retire in 2016, leading to the election of Sen. Kamala Harris. When she gave up her post as state attorney general, Gov. Jerry Brown chose Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra as her replacement. And to fill Becerra’s seat, Brown must call a special election in the 34th Congressional District. We’ll get to the timing of that election in a moment. The common sense meaning of the word “special” is to describe something that, at the very least, is unusual. But there have been 50 special legislative or congressional elections in California in the last decade, according to state records. Thirteen contests were held in 2013 — more than any single year for almost the last quarter-century.

Iowa: UI, ISU, UNI student leaders challenge Voter ID proposal | Iowa City Press Citizen

The student government presidents at Iowa’s three public universities are speaking out against a new proposal to require Iowa voters to show their IDs at the polls. “We know firsthand how difficult it is to get students registered to vote already — with frequent address changes and being introduced to the electoral process for the first time — the last thing students need is another barrier to their participation,” student government leaders at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa said in a statement released Sunday. The joint statement came in response to a plan released last week by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, which calls for requiring voters to present an ID, which could include an Iowa driver’s license, passport or military ID card. College IDs would not be accepted, but Pate’s plan calls for issuing a new free ID to all existing active voters. Signatures would be verified at polling sites.

Nebraska: LB 163 would require more early voting locations in Nebraska | Omaha World Herald

Civic engagement in elections could get a boost under a bill introduced Monday by a freshman lawmaker from Omaha. Legislative Bill 163, introduced by State Sen. Tony Vargas, would require the state’s three largest counties each to provide at least three early voting locations with extended hours. Vargas said the bill originated from talking to Nebraskans who said the distance and travel time to Douglas County’s only early voting location were barriers to casting their ballot.

Editorials: North Carolina GOP should drop effort to block 2017 election | News & Observer

A three-judge federal panel has delivered, to no one’s surprise, an expected order that North Carolina must push ahead with a special election in 2017. The election comes as a result of an earlier ruling ordering new legislative maps to be drawn by March 28 for new districts. Any districts that have to be altered to correct unconstitutional gerrymandering will have to hold special elections this year.

Ohio: Justices turn down appeal from Libertarians tossed from 2014 Ohio ballot | The Columbus Dispatch

Rejecting an appeal from the Ohio Libertarian Party, the U.S. Supreme Court appears to have put an end to a three-year legal battle over whether elected officials in the state conspired to keep two Libertarian candidates off the 2014 statewide ballot. Without comment Monday, the justices upheld a decision last year by both a federal appeals court in Cincinnati and a federal judge in Columbus that Gov. John Kasich and Secretary of State Jon Husted did not violate the U.S. Constitution when they removed Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl and attorney-general candidate Steven Linnabary from the ballot. Joshua Eck, a Husted spokesman, said “once again, the court has clearly stated that the secretary is properly enforcing Ohio law. There is a clear path for establishing a political party in this state, which has been endorsed by the courts multiple times and even successfully utilized by other political groups.”

Vermont: Election day voter registration now in effect in Vermont | Vermont Business Magazine

Secretary of State Jim Condos announced today that eligible Vermont voters are now able to register to vote on any day up to and including Election Day. As of January 1, 2017 Act No. 44 (S 29) An act relating to election day registration officially went into effect, and will be implemented immediately for all local and state elections going forward, including any special elections and Town Meeting Day, which is Tuesday, March 7. Vermont became the 14th state to enact Election Day Registration, eliminating Vermont’s voter registration deadline. This means a person can register at their polling place on the day of an election, and can then vote in that election. Registration will still be available at a person’s Town or City Clerk’s office on any day prior to the election during normal business hours.

The Gambia: Election court ruling delayed for several months | AFP

Gambia’s Supreme Court cannot rule for several months on President Yahya Jammeh’s challenge against his electoral defeat last month due to a lack of judges, the court’s chief justice said Tuesday. “We can only hear this matter when we have a full bench of the Supreme Court,” Emmanuel Fagbenle said, pointing out that the extra judges needed to hear the case were not available. The Gambia relies on foreign judges, notably from Nigeria, to staff its courts due to a lack of trained professionals in the tiny west African state.

Russia: Kremlin slates ‘baseless, amateurish’ US election hacking report | The Guardian

The Kremlin has hit back at a US intelligence report blaming Russia for interference in the presidential election, describing the claims as part of a political witch-hunt. “These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists on Monday. “We still don’t know what data is really being used by those who present such unfounded accusations.” US intelligence agencies released the joint report on Friday, a day after a Senate armed forces committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats, convened over fears of Moscow’s interference in the election. The report assessed that the Russian president had ordered a multifaceted campaign to influence the election, with a clear preference for a Donald Trump victory. “We are growing rather tired of these accusations. It is becoming a full-on witch-hunt,” Peskov said, in an echo of Trump’s own assessment and disparagement of the US intelligence agencies.