National: Donald Trump’s indefensible claims of rampant voter fraud are now White House policy | The Washington Post

Technically, the proper way to describe claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election is to state that there’s no evidence that it happened. Shortly after the election, we tallied up reports of in-person voter fraud that occurred last year and found a grand total of four examples. There is no evidence that there was fraud at any significant scale at all. Saying this, that there’s no evidence, is a hedge. We say it just in case somehow there emerges evidence that, indeed, hundreds of people registered to vote illegally and went to cast ballots. If we say it didn’t happen and then some evidence emerges, we are stuck. So we say “there’s no evidence” instead of “it didn’t happen.” That’s on the scale of hundreds of votes. On the scale of millions of alleged fraudulent votes, though? It didn’t happen. There’s not only no evidence that it did, it defies logic and it defies statistical analysis to insist that millions of votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election.

National: Sean Spicer just said Trump believes millions voted illegally. Here’s the problem: No one can tell him otherwise. | The Washington Post

As you’ve heard, in a meeting with congressional leaders, President Trump privately repeated the claim that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, and if you discount those votes, Trump actually won the popular vote. In his latest rendition of this tale, which he had previously recited just after the election, Trump claimed that as many as three to five million people voted illegally. Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was grilled on this news, and disconcertingly, Spicer confirmed that Trump really believes this to be the case. That’s bad enough. But this quote from Spicer may be even more worrisome:

“I think there have been studies; there was one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens. There’s other studies that have been presented to him. It’s a belief he maintains.”

Post fact checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee posted a piece Tuesday taking apart Spicer’s assertion. There are no studies that show what Spicer claims. But what’s really problematic here is that there are no indications that any of Trump’s advisers have been able to talk him out of this belief, presuming they even tried, which is not clear, either. After all, Spicer himself said that Trump gathered his conclusion from actual data — the “studies that have been presented to him.” Did any of his advisers try to “present him” with the contrary evidence, which is far more conclusive and persuasive? If they did, why did Trump not find this convincing? If they did not, why didn’t they? Whichever of these is the case, neither is particularly reassuring.

National: Senate committee moving forward with Russia hacking probe | The Hill

The Senate Intelligence Committee is moving forward with its probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top members on the committee, made the announcement after the intelligence panel held its weekly closed-door briefing on Tuesday. “The Committee today agreed to move forward, under terms of reference proposed by Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner, with its inquiry into Russian efforts directed against the 2016 US elections and related efforts abroad,” read a joint statement from the pair. The committee “hopes to expeditiously conduct its review and report its findings,” the two lawmakers added.

National: Election Assistance Commission seeks clarity on DHS election role | FCW

The federal commission that helps state governments develop voting systems and administer elections plans to sit down with officials from the Department of Homeland Security in the coming days to get a clearer understanding of the implications of that agency’s “critical infrastructure” designation of state voting systems. “We still don’t know what it means,” Thomas Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission told FCW after his presentation at a biometric technology security conference in Arlington, Va., on Jan 24. The EAC, Hicks said, plans to meet with DHS officials on Feb. 2 to talk specifics about the agency’s early January designation of voting systems as critical infrastructure. The systems were designated as a subsector the of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector, one of DHS 15 sectors that also cover the energy, communications and chemical sectors. “We’re hoping to have a forum to ask DHS and the Trump administration what the designation means and does it go forward” under the new administration, Hicks said.

Editorials: If 3-5 Million Illegal Votes Were Cast, We Must Have a Precinct by Precinct Recount or a New Election | Richard Greene/The Huffington Post

On January 17 I put forth “The Argument for Donald Trump’s Illegitimacy”. I should have simply waited a few more days. Donald Trump just made an even stronger argument himself and the only thing America can now do to resolve this issue is to either conduct a thorough, precinct by precinct recount or to accept The President at his word, declare the results to be illegitimate and call for a new election. On December 4, 2016, the country of Austria did exactly that. They called for and conducted a whole new election because of relatively minor vote counting issues in some of their precincts, significantly less of an issue that we now have in The United States. But in his press conference Sean Spicer said that these 3 – 5 million illegal votes were irrelevant because “Donald Trump won 306 electoral votes”. But did he? How in the world can we be certain who these “illegal voters” voted for?

Voting Blogs: It’s Time to Investigate ‘Voter Fraud’ | Brennan Center for Justice

The scary part of the still-developing “voter fraud” story isn’t that President Donald Trump evidently buys into a conspiracy theory that supports both his worldview and his ego. The scary part is that a majority of his fellow Republicans, and a significant number of Democrats, also evidently buy into the myth. Those peddling the fiction that 3-5 million people illegally voted in the 2016 election will use the charge to justify additional voter restriction efforts across the country in the coming years. And those who don’t buy into the myth will be faced with the practical dilemma of proving a negative without the sort of sweeping national investigation that would put the allegation to rest at last. So long as the White House is peddling this nonsense, and so long as it can be used for partisan purposes, the story is here to stay, further poisoning what already is a poisoned political atmosphere.

Alabama: Early voting not on Alabama Secretary of State’s agenda | Dothan Eagle

Secretary of State John Merrill said during a Tuesday visit to Dothan that he does not plan to push for an early voting period in Alabama because he does not believe early voting increases voter turnout. “We have early voting. It is called absentee voting,” Merrill said while speaking to the Dothan-Houston County Rotary Club. Merrill also said he would not oppose “excuse free” absentee voting. “I am not aware of a single instance where early voting has increased voter turnout. It just increases costs. You have to pay extra money for people to work the polls and we want to be careful with your money,” Merrill said.

Kansas: ACLU seeks copy of Kobach’s proposed changes to U.S. election law | Lawrence Journal World

The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to force Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to turn over proposed changes to the nation’s voter registration law that the conservative Republican was photographed bringing to a meeting in November with Donald Trump. That draft document — which is partially obscured by Kobach’s left arm and hand in the photograph taken by The Associated Press — is being sought as part of the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Kansas’ restrictive voter registration law. The ALCU filed its request for the proposed amendments late Monday.

Kansas: Governor sets April 11 election to fill Pompeo’s seat | Associated Press

Gov. Sam Brownback called a special election for April 11 to fill the south-central Kansas congressional seat previously held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, with an already crowded field that includes Pompeo’s predecessor, the state treasurer and a former state treasurer. Brownback signed the necessary document Tuesday — called a writ of election — a day after the U.S. Senate confirmed Pompeo’s appointment by President Donald Trump. It will be the state’s first special congressional election since 1950. Democrats and Republicans in the 17-county district that includes Wichita must have special conventions by Feb. 18 to pick their nominees. For the election, Brownback picked the first Tuesday allowed under a 6-day-old state law aimed at giving military personnel an additional month to receive and return their ballots. “The people of the 4th District needed a representative as soon as possible,” Brownback told reporters. “You’re looking at a very active Congress.”

Michigan: State chief: Nothing ‘fraudulent’ in Detroit election | The Detroit News

An ongoing but largely completed state audit of the Nov. 8 presidential election in Detroit has yet to produce any evidence of fraud, Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Chris Thomas said Tuesday. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office launched the audit in mid-December after voting irregularities were discovered during a partial recount of the election, including mismatches between ballot boxes and recorded vote totals in nearly 60 percent of the city’s precincts. While state auditors continue to review data in Lansing, they have finished on-the-ground work in Detroit. A report is expected in early February. “We essentially are finding so far — it’s certainly not final — but we’ve not run into anything we’d call fraudulent,” Thomas said. “We’ve seen a lot of performance issues, and that’s primarily what we’ve run into.”

Texas: Did Texas Lawmakers Deliberately Pass a Racist Voter ID Law? | San Antonio Current

This week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Texas’ appeal to save its embattled voter ID law, which lower courts have said carries an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African Americans” and blocked from going into effect last year. That means the battle over voter ID in Texas now heads back to a federal court in Corpus Christi, where lawyers for the state, civil rights groups, and the U.S. Department of Justice will argue whether or not Texas lawmakers knew they were passing a racist law. On that point (lawmakers’ so-called “legislative intent”), U.S. District Judge Nelva Ramos was surprisingly blunt in her October 2014 ruling following a trial over the law, known as SB 14. The bill, which established strict requirements for what ID you must have to vote in Texas, included things like a driver’s license or a passport or a concealed handgun license but it left out things like student IDs.

Utah: Some ‘spoiled’ ballots would be counted under proposal | Deseret News

A Utah lawmaker wants to make sure voters have a chance to recast their mail-in ballots in the event of common mistakes. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said mail-in ballots can be “spoiled” by a variety of errors, including mismatched signatures or one spouse signing the other’s ballot. “In Salt Lake County, there were 16,683 ballots that were not counted,” said Eliason, the sponsor of HB12. Statewide, tens of thousands of ballots were rejected in November, he said, possibly changing the outcomes in close races. “This bill seeks to make sure that those voters who had their ballots rejected are given an opportunity to, No. 1, be told, ‘You’re ballot was not counted,’ and two, if there’s still time, to ‘come and fix the problem,'” Eliason said.

Europe: Russia is targeting French, Dutch and German elections with fake news, EU task force warns | The Telegraph

Russia is seeking to influence the outcome of several key elections in European countries this year with fake news, a special task force set up by the European Union has warned. The EU is reportedly allocating more funds to its East StratCom task force to counter the disinformation, amid fears Russia will target elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. “There is an enormous, far-reaching, at least partly organized, disinformation campaign against the EU, its politicians and its principles,” a source close to the task force told Germany’s Spiegel magazine. It is “highly likely” Russia will try to influence European elections “as it did in the US”, the source said.

Germany: Social democrat leader pulls out of Merkel challenge | Financial Times

Sigmar Gabriel, the German social democrat leader, has turned down the chance to run against Angela Merkel in this year’s parliamentary election, in a shock decision that throws his party into confusion and adds to the uncertainty overshadowing European politics Mr Gabriel, who is also Ms Merkel’s deputy chancellor, is standing aside in favour of former European Parliament chief Martin Schulz, who will also take Mr Gabriel’s post as SPD chairman. Mr Gabriel revealed his surprise decision on Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the weekly magazine Stern, which was widely followed by German media and confirmed to the Financial Times by two senior SPD representatives.

Papua New Guinea: Pressure grows over PNG election preparations | Radio New Zealand

Papua New Guinea’s Electoral Commission is under pressure from opposition MPs over preparation for general elections. PNG is due for its five-yearly general elections in mid-2017, with the two-week polling period expected to take place around mid to late June. But late changes to election rules and PNG’s error-ridden common roll have sparked concern, as Johnny Blades reports. The Electoral Commissioner admits that the roll he inherited, which was used in the 2012 general elections, was inflated. Patilius Gamato says Australia’s Electoral Commission has helped cleanse the roll of about 109-thousand so-called “ghost names” out of a total of more than 4 million. He hopes to print the final roll by the end of March. An intending candidate in Hela province, George Tagobe, says getting the roll right is important in his province, given the potential for unrest.

Nepal: House endorses two bills on voters’ list, Election Commission | The Himalayan

The Parliament on Wednesday endorsed the Voters’ List Bill and the Election Commission Bill unanimously. With the endorsement, the House prepared a legal foundation to hold elections as per the new Constitution. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs had tabled proposals to endorse the bills. The State Affairs Committee of the Parliament had forwarded the draft laws to the full House on Monday.