Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he doesn’t want to spend federal funds to investigate what President Trump claimed was massive voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. While McConnell says there is voter fraud, he doesn’t believe it’s as widespread as Trump claims or requires federal intervention. He says that cleaning up voter rolls is best left to the states. “Election fraud does occur,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” But he added that “there’s no evidence that occurred in such a significant number that it would have changed the presidential election. I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that. I think the states can take a look at this issue. Many of them have tried to tighten their voter rolls, tried to purge people who are dead,” he added.
President Trump may want to “move on” from Russia’s attempted interference in last fall’s presidential election, but two senators announced Thursday that they are launching a bipartisan investigation of Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. election and democratic elections in other nations. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, which they lead, will hold both closed-door and public discussions as they look into Russia’s meddling. “Our goal is simple — to the fullest extent possible we want to shine a light on Russian activities to undermine democracy,” the two senators said in a joint statement. “Our efforts will be guided by the belief that we have an obligation to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”
Over the weekend – a little more than three years after its initial release – the report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), and the rest of its work, was no longer available online after the new Administration decided to remove it from its home at supportthevoter.gov. The removal of the PCEA materials comes at a time when the White House is increasingly signalling that it will take steps to re-examine the 2016 election for evidence of fraud, despite no credible evidence that such fraud existed anywhere other than isolated cases, if at all. That’s unfortunate, because the PCEA is the kind of wide-ranging, bipartisan and thorough effort that any attempt to understand the American voting system needs.
Alabama: Congressman’s unsupported claim that Democrats rigged voting machines in his election | The Washington Post
While expressing support for the Trump administration’s plans to investigate potential voter fraud in the 2016 election, an Alabama congressman offered a stunning claim: Democrats rigged 11 of 45 voting machine in his first election to the state legislature in 1982. That’s a significant charge, especially since it’s pretty tough to rig an election. So we set out to find out whether facts supported Brooks’s claim. Brooks’s comment, made during congressional Republicans’ meeting with Vice President Pence, became public via a leaked audio recording of the private meeting. His office corroborated the statement but did not offer much evidence to support it. His office provided newspaper clippings showing there were complaints about malfunctioning voting machines in Brooks’s legislative district in Huntsville, Ala. During the afternoon on Election Day, Brooks announced that he planned on challenging election results and charged that 11 voting machines “at one time or another during the day would not register Mo Brooks’ votes.” Brooks changed his mind after he won the election. “I’m not going to contest it,” Brooks said at his victory party on election night. “But I hope there’ll be an investigation.”
Counties across the state say they need a major upgrade to voting equipment to prevent system failures in the next election. They fear aging and potentially failing machines could get in the way of a successful electoral process. Officials say providing new machines for nearly the entire state would cost around $34 million. Some want to split the cost in the Governor’s budget over two years which could have the entire state up and running by the next major election. Current problems include the voting machine operating software. “The biggest one I think is they say that they run off Windows XP and that is no longer being supported by Microsoft,” said State Rep. Trevor Drown (R/Dover). “So there’s nothing that’s upgradeable in regards to the equipment.”
New voter identification requirements passed the North Dakota House Thursday. For voters who don’t have a proper ID, the bill does away with the affidavit option that was available during November’s election in favor of a ballot that is set aside and excluded from the count until the voter’s eligibility is confirmed, said Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot. He called it a “voter integrity bill.” House Bill 1369, introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson and other Republican lawmakers, passed on a 74-16 vote Thursday. “Everyone eligible to vote in North Dakota elections shall be able to vote one time, and everyone not eligible to vote in North Dakota elections shall not be able to vote,” Louser said.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Thursday signed House Bill 1069, effectively repealing a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law set into statute as Initiated Measure 22. Because the bill contains an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately. That means the law that calls for establishing an independent state ethics commission, setting strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers, and creating publicly financed campaign credits became history in South Dakota. “The circuit court enjoined Initiated Measure 22, finding it unconstitutional ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ It has not been in effect, and it is extremely unlikely that it would ever come into effect,” Daugaard said in a statement. “For that reason, it makes sense to repeal this unconstitutional measure.”
The Pasadena election system that a judge ruled violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Hispanics cannot be used in the upcoming May council elections, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a lower court judge ordering the city to revert to a 2011 system using all single-member districts for the May 6 elections, when the entire city council and the mayor’s seat are on the ballot. The expedited ruling – which came just two weeks before the deadline for candidates to file for office – is a blow to the city and its longtime mayor in a case being closely watched by voting rights advocates nationwide.
The Public Council to Bulgaria’s electoral body, the Central Electoral Commission, or CIK, on Thursday said the future of electronic voting in Bulgaria must be determined after thorough analyses and public debate. “The drastic increase in the number of the machines [for voting] in use without enough time for preparation could become an obstacle to the organization of the electoral process”, the council, which brings together experts from the civil sector, noted. The statement comes after interim Interior Minister Stefan Yanev, whose ministry is in charge of organizing the vote on March 26 said the state will provide machines for all polling stations in Bulgaria and abroad. The minister said the CIK will be in charge of organizing a public procurement for around 13,000 voting machines, without specifying whether they will be rented or purchased or how much this would cost.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to reform Canada’s electoral system on Wednesday, claiming no consensus has been found on an alternative system. Only two months after recommitting to electoral reform, Trudeau told newly appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould that replacing the first-past-the-post system was no longer on the table. Trudeau’s decision shelves months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.
Dutch authorities will count by hand all the votes cast in next month’s general elections, ditching “vulnerable” computer software to thwart any cyber hacking bid, a senior minister has said. “I cannot rule out that state actors may try to benefit from influencing political decisions and public opinion in the Netherlands,” interior minister Ronald Plasterk said in a letter to parliament on Wednesday. On 15 March, the Netherlands kicks off a year of crucial elections in Europe which will be closely watched amid the rise of far-right and populist parties on the continent. Dutch officials are already on alert for signs of possible cyber hacking following allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia may have meddled in November’s US presidential polls to help secure Donald Trump’s victory.
A full week has passed since President Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order opening a Justice Department investigation into his unsubstantiated claim that millions of people voted illegally in November. The Oval Office signing was abruptly canceled last Thursday and never rescheduled. The White House hasn’t talked about it since. The President has moved on to other subjects. A senior administration official told CNN that the voter fraud investigation is no longer a top priority for the President, insisting it’s not off the table, but not expected anytime soon.
National: Trump Loosens Sanctions on Russian Spy Agency Linked to Election Hack | Washington Free Beacon
The Treasury Department on Thursday announced the loosening of sanctions on Russia’s spy service that were imposed by former President Obama for Moscow’s intelligence operations targeting the 2016 presidential election. A notice posted on the website of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the department’s sanctions enforcement unit, stated the sanctions on Russia’s Federal Security Service, the security and intelligence agency known as FSB, were eased. The FSB was slapped with sanctions Dec. 29 by the Obama administration following an intelligence assessment that concluded the agency, along with the Russian GRU military spy service and senior Russian leaders, engaged in cyber attacks to influence the outcome of the election.
In Alaska it’s illegal to “exhibit” a picture of a marked ballot. Sharing a ballot selfie isn’t a criminal offense as in some states, but it is technically grounds for invalidating that vote. Now, Alaska may be joining 22 other states who have legalized ballot selfies as a form of political speech. On Oct. 27, 2016, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed her support for presidential candidate Donald Trump by posting a picture of her ballot on Facebook. The picture got 17,000 reactions, 560 shares and 616 comments. It also generated news articles questioning whether Palin had violated state law.
Republicans, concerned that enacting a law will not be enough to require voters to provide photo identifications before casting ballots, are working to refer a constitutional amendment to the voters that would impose the requirements. Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, filed Senate Joint Resolution 6 late Wednesday. It followed the House passage Tuesday of a voter-identification bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle. “I don’t think there’s any question that voter fraud’s been going on — despite what the Democrats have denied,” King said. “They’ve stopped, actually, investigations into voter fraud. The system that the Democrats set up in Arkansas was for years, was a rigged system.” H.L. Moody, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said election commissions are now generally controlled by Republicans.
Maine: Senate Asks High Court for Opinion on Voter-Approved Ranked-Choice Initiative | Maine Public Radio
Maine voters approved a measure this past fall to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for statewide elections. Now lawmakers who are trying to implement the new law are asking the Maine Supreme Court to weigh in on whether it’s constitutional. Last year Maine Attorney General Janet Mills raised questions about the proposal because it appeared to clash with language in the state constitution. For decades, the candidate that got the most votes in a contest has been declared the winner. But under the new system, voters will indicate their top multiple choices in order of preference, and the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated until someone has a majority. Democratic state Sen. Shenna Bellows of Manchester, former director of the ACLU in Maine, says the voters have spoken and the Legislature should follow their will. “We do not want to set a precedent of a Legislature turning to the courts every time a law is passed to seek an advisory opinion as to the constitutionality of our legislation,” she says.
In a blog post and a Slate Magazine column Thursday, election law expert Richard Hasen suggests Gov. Roy Cooper could score a victory for opponents of North Carolina’s voter ID law by scuttling the state’s appeal of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down the law. That 4th Circuit ruling did away with voter ID rules that were in place for last year’s primary during the November election and forced elections officials to expand early voting times across the state. Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory appealed the 4th Circuit decision, which struck down much of the 2013 law, including a provision that eliminated same-day registration. Cooper, a Democrat, refused to make the appeal himself when serving as attorney general and took over as governor on Jan. 1. Josh Stein, a Democrat and former state senator, took over as attorney general the same day.
Texas: Trump could change Texas voter-ID law by reshaping 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals | McClatchy
During Barack Obama’s second term as president, Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn allowed vacancies on Texas’ federal appeals court to fester, but now that President Donald Trump is in charge they might move quickly to morph the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals into a breeding ground for conservative-leaning decisions. “The one thing Trump said he wanted Ted Cruz’s advice on was judges,” said Kelly Shackleford of the First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal defense organization that talked with Trump about judicial appointments. “You’ve got Cornyn, who was a (Texas state) Supreme Court justice, so you’ve got people who are really known for their expertise.” The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which comprises all of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, is generally considered one of the more conservative federal courts in the country, but it struck down Texas’ controversial voter-ID law last July. That might soon change with Trump in office.
Virginia: Three bills arise from Lynchburg ballot shortage; registrars to retain choice when ordering ballots | The News & Advance
Local registrars will retain autonomy to order the number of ballots they choose for each election after legislators cut language from twin bills arising from the Lynchburg special election ballot shortage. The pair proposed by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford County, and Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg, are two of three pieces of legislation arising from the Jan. 10 special election in which several Hill City precincts ran out of pre-printed ballots in the morning. The resulting confusion led to angry and confused voters, some of whom left without casting a ballot.
Wisconsin: GOP lawmakers to write blank check to hire lawyers in redistricting battle | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Republican lawmakers voted behind closed doors Thursday to give a blank check to hire two law firms — one of which routinely bills more than $800 an hour — in a legal battle over redrawing legislative maps. The move will add to a bill that has already topped $2 million. One of the firms the lawmakers hired is a high-powered legal operation where former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement is a partner. Clement, who has Wisconsin roots, charges more than $1,300 an hour, according to published reports. Legislative aides would not say if Clement will be on the legal team they are assembling.
Bulgarian government officials are at pains to issue assurances that the March 2017 parliamentary elections will succeed in spite of the new and costly complication about having to supply voting machines to all polling stations. But the Central Election Commission has admitted the process could face the possibility of no one meeting the conditions to provide the machines or the procurement process facing a court challenge – though the commission is insisting that if this happened, it would not call into question the legitimacy of the elections. Months after the now-departed National Assembly voted the latest rewrite of electoral laws, and months after Boiko Borissov’s government resigned and set the country on the path to early elections, the election process faces an unforeseen complication. Or one that could have been foreseen.
Bulgaria: Government and Electoral Officials Looking at Ecuador, Philippines for Solution to Machine Voting Crisis | Novinite
Government and electoral officials will meet on Thursday to discuss ways to procure 12 000 voting machines, with options including an order to Ecuador or the Philippines. Talks have been scheduled between Stefan Yanev, the interim Defense Minister and Deputy PM on elections, and members of the Central Election Commission (CEC). These come less than two months ahead of the early election scheduled for March 26. On Wednesday, a supreme court ruled authorities should provide voting machines for all 12 500 polling stations. Currently, there are only 500 in stock. The announcement followed a move by CEC to warn machines would only be available for 500 polling stations, despite new legislation stipulating all stations should be equipped with them.
Ahead of the presidential elections, Ecuador is rolling out a plan to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. For the upcoming presidential elections in Ecuador people with a disability will have preferential or home-assisted voting thanks to a plan promoted by the current leftist government of Rafael Correa. Ecuadoreans will elect their new president on Feb.19, and one of the candidates is disabled. Lenin Moreno served as Correa’s vice president from 2007 to 2013 and has been in a wheelchair since being shot in 1998. He has since served as special envoy on disability and accessibility at the United Nations.
Blockchain technology can safely be used to authenticate e-voting by shareholders at a company’s annual general meeting, Nasdaq said this week, following a pilot project in Estonia. … Voting security experts in the U.S. were skeptical about the pilot project’s wider applicability, especially with regard to national elections. “Blockchain solves a small part of the overall set of problems [with e-voting], but nowhere near all,” said Pamela Smith, president of election integrity advocacy group Verified Voting. “If you have a boat with many leaks, plugging one of them should not make you assume the others won’t swamp you,” she told CyberScoop via email.
The government has decided to officially communicate to the Election Commission to make necessary preparations for conducting local bodies’ elections in the third or fourth week of May. A Cabinet meeting held this evening took a decision to formally write tomorrow to the Election Commission to do the groundwork for conducting elections for village councils and municipalities between May 14 and 24, according to Cabinet Spokesperson and Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Karki. “With this decision, uncertainty about elections has been put to rest,” Karki added.
Mark it in your diary – New Zealand will go to the polls on 23 September. That Saturday has been the most widely-picked date, and will take place almost three years to the day since the 2014 election. Before he resigned as Prime Minister, John Key dropped hints about a September election. Bill English has stuck to that timetable. To go much earlier would have opened the party up to criticism it was panicking, and that it feared Mr English could not hold, or attract, the attention of voters for that many months. He will want to give himself as much time as possible to settle in as Prime Minister, and have as many photo opportunities as possible with world leaders at international events, all of which helps build the “prime ministerial” image.
Russia violated the rights of opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny by breaking up demonstrations and detaining him on seven occasions between 2012 and 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday. Navalny, who has said he plans to run as a challenger to the Kremlin candidate in a presidential election next year, rose to prominence in 2012 as one of the leaders of the biggest protest movement of President Vladimir Putin’s 17-year rule. The protests, sparked by allegations of vote-rigging, prompted a crackdown by law enforcement. The court in Strasbourg said the treatment of Navalny had been meant to sent a message to other Russians.