Following up on his false claim that at least 3 million illegal immigrants voted in November’s election, President Donald Trump was all set last Thursday to sign an executive order initiating a federal investigation into voter fraud. But the order never came. A spokesman said Trump got stuck in meetings that ran long. Since then, the White House has moved on to other issues, like banning travel from seven majority Muslim nations and threatening to defund sanctuary cities, without rescheduling the signing. An aide to Trump told NBC News on Friday that there would be no voter inquiry any time soon, although Trump seemed to contradict that in an interview that aired Sunday afternoon. “I’m going to set up a commission to be headed by Mike Pence, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, without offering specifics.
National: Trump vows to ‘totally destroy’ restrictions on churches’ support of candidates | The Washington Post
President Trump vowed Thursday to “totally destroy” a law passed more than 60 years ago that bans tax-exempt churches from supporting political candidates, a nod to the religious right that helped sweep him into office. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Trump said he would seek to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits — including churches and other houses of worship — from “directly or indirectly” participating in a political candidate’s campaign. Repeal of the amendment — which is part of the tax code and would require action by Congress — has been sought primarily by conservative Christian leaders, who argue that it is used selectively to keep them for speaking out freely.
President Donald Trump’s heated rush to launch what he said would be a “major investigation” into voter fraud has cooled, leaving White House staff uncertain when it will come to pass or what shape it will take. An executive action commissioning the probe is still planned but could be several weeks away, two senior administration officials said Friday. Although Trump instructed staff to jump on the project last week, he has not discussed the issue in recent days, according to two other people in close touch with the president. All demanded anonymity to discuss private conservations. Asked about the status of the effort, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “I do not have an update at this time.” The indefinite delay comes as some of Trump’s advisers counseled him to abandon the idea, arguing it was a distraction from more pressing issues. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in last November’s election. Trump won the Electoral College vote but lost the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
National: Trump walks back false voter fraud claim in interview with Bill O’Reilly | The Washington Post
He certainly did not admit to being wrong, but in his own way President Trump walked back his false claim that 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots were cast in the November election when he sat down with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for an interview that aired before the Super Bowl. Asked whether it was irresponsible for the president to undermine public confidence in the integrity of the vote without data to back up his assertion, Trump said, “It doesn’t have to do with the vote.” “It has to do with the registration,” he continued. “And when you look at the registration, and you see dead people that have voted, when you see people that are registered in two states — and that voted in two states — when you see other things, when you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they are on the registration rolls. Look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration. You have illegals, you have dead people, you have this — it’s really a bad situation. It’s really bad.”
Florida: Invalid votes for president spike in Florida, outnumbering Trump’s margin of victory here | Tampa Bay Times
Beyoncé, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida’s more unusual picks for president this past election. And the number of Florida voters who didn’t cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices. A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president. The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.
An obscure problem with Idaho election laws that caused a lawsuit and an abnormally heated election in Teton County may soon be solved by the Legislature. Having already been approved by the House, House Bill 13 was taken up Friday by the Senate State Affairs Committee. The committee unanimously recommended that the bill pass. The issue the bill addresses arose in the race between Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford and challenger Lindsey Moss. Liford was an incumbent Democrat. Moss, an investigator for the prosecutor’s office, had previously challenged Liford as a Republican, coming within a few dozen votes of ousting him. In 2016, Moss again challenged Liford, this time switching to the Democratic party in an effort to decide the race in the primary. But Liford wanted to fight it out in the general election, so he switched his affiliation to Republican the same day he filed his declaration of candidacy, which he filed on the last possible day.
Missouri: Republicans vow to fund photo ID implementation in tough budget year | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Missouri Republicans are committed to funding the rollout of a voter-approved photo ID law taking effect this year, even as declining tax revenue and growing Medicaid costs have led to a budget shortfall of nearly $500 million. The law requires Missourians to show photo identification before voting, or sign a binding legal document that says they are who they say they are. But it also requires the state to foot the bill to provide photo identification to anyone who doesn’t have one and wants one, absorbing the costs of any documents needed along the way, including birth certificates, divorce decrees, marriage licenses, social security cards or naturalization papers to prove citizenship. Without sufficient funding for those costs, the personal identification requirements “shall not be enforced,” the law says.
Editorials: There’s a Simple Step North Carolina’s New Governor Could Take to Strengthen Voting Rights | Richard Hasen/Slate
he future of voting rights in the medium to long term is not rosy. President Donald Trump is making false claims that millions of voters fraudulently cast ballots in the 2016 election, perhaps as a predicate to a round of federal laws making it harder to register and vote. His administration seems poised to do a 180 in a case challenging Texas’ strict voter identification law, abandoning the Obama administration’s position that the law was discriminatory. Judge Neil Gorsuch, if confirmed, is likely to restore the Supreme Court to a Scalia-era status quo, a 5–4 court skeptical of broad protection for voting rights. But in the short term, there’s one simple action that could make voting rights a bit more secure: Roy Cooper, the new Democratic governor of North Carolina, and the state’s new Attorney General Josh Stein should withdraw a petition for writ of certiorari pending at the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s decision striking down North Carolina’s strict voting law.
About 7,500 voters who were purged from Ohio voter registration rolls from 2011-2014 but were then reinstated at the order of a federal judge last year showed up and voted in the 2016 presidential election. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted made that admission today in announcing his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of a lower court case that threw out the state’s voter registration maintenance process. “While partisan activists have asserted that up to 2 million voters had been wrongfully removed from the voter rolls, data from the 2016 Presidential Election returned only 7,500 ballots cast by those removed after election officials were not able to contact them,” Mr. Husted said in a news release from his office. Mr. Husted said he filed the appeal to justify the state’s ”accurate and up-to-date voter rolls.”
South Dakota: After ethics law repeal, lawmakers try to channel voter intent | Sioux Falls Argus Leader
It took eight legislative days to eliminate a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law in South Dakota. The fast-tracked effort to gut the law that would have established an independent state ethics commission, set strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers and create publicly financed campaign credits drew scorn from some of the nearly 52 percent of voters who supported the proposal. It also thrust the state in the national spotlight as Republican lawmakers rejected and rolled back the will of the voters. At the Capitol, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard were the subject of protests this week as they took the final steps to strike the law set in statute as Initiated Measure 22. Opponents of the repeal efforts chanted “shame on you” and “respect our vote” as lawmakers approved House Bill 1069, which instantly erased the law from state statute when Daugaard signed it Thursday.
A law intended to boost Vermont’s voter rolls by automatically registering residents who are renewing their drivers’ licenses has resulted in some anxious moments for green card holders and others who are not able to vote, but were registered anyway. Michael Smith, director of operations for the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, said Friday he knows of only four people who were affected in this way, but he said the automatic registration system was shut down on Jan. 20 anyway to find and correct the problem. Smith hopes to again transmit voter data from the DMV to the state Secretary of State’s office next week.
Washington state voters overseas can email their ballots to a county auditor. A bill in the legislature would expand that privilege to the rest of the state. But at a hearing Friday, lawmakers heard strong opposition to the proposed legislation. Josh Benaloh, a cryptology expert, believes there is a future for voting online. But he called this bill dangerous. “Things do go bad on the internet. And the real issue is about the ability to review and correct problems,” Benaloh said. “If my vote is altered on the way to an election office, I will likely never know about it.”
The Central Election Commission (CEC) amended late on Friday night its decision on electronic voting machines by writing that during the elections on March 26 there will be electronic voting in all voting sections. CEC will organise, manage and control this type of voting and the processing of data from electronic voting. There is still no announcement for a public procurement order for voting machines on CEC’s website. Electronic voting will take place via specialised machines and electronic means, while the commission will determine the requirements for these. There will be mandatory instructions for the implementation of technical and IT support.
India: Paper-trail voting machines a ‘nightmare’, says Punjab chief electoral officer after glitches | assembly-elections | Hindustan Times
A large number of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, installed for the first time in the ongoing Punjab assembly polls, have developed snags. Reports of a large number of machines developing technical snags have come in from Majitha and Sangrur constituencies. “It’s a logistical nightmare — we have fewer engineers and more complaints,” said Punjab chief electoral officer VK Singh.
Malta: Labour Party still unsure on whether to extend general election voting rights to 16-year-olds | The Malta Independent
The Labour Party is still unsure on whether 16-year-olds will be granted the right to vote at the next general election, a statement issued by the National Youth Council (KNZ) said. The council asked all parties to say what their intentions are when the matter is brought to the vote. The Nationalist parliamentary group, as well as independent MP Giovanna Debono, informed the council that they shall be supporting the motion once it is tabled and a vote is a taken.
Alexei Navalny has recorded another success. On Sunday, in several proceedings, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg condemned Russia for the arbitrary arrest of the Russian opposition politician. The judges ruled that Navalny had been arrested without sufficient justification at peaceful demonstrations and rallies in Moscow seven times between 2012 and 2014, and in some instances held for many hours. Navalny’s rights to the freedom of protest and expression as well as his right to freedom had been repeatedly violated, they said. The judges also ruled that there had been a violation of his right to a fair trial, as the Russian courts had dismissed all Navalny’s objections to the arrests. The court awarded the complainant damages of 64,000 euros.