National: 38 Reform Groups Oppose Efforts by House Administration Committee to Terminate Presidential Public Financing & EAC | YubaNet

In a letter sent today to members of the House Administration Committee, a group of 38 organizations and individuals with expertise in governance issues strongly opposed bills being considered tomorrow by the committee to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). (See below for a full list of the signers of the letter.) The group of organizations and individuals strongly oppose HR 133, a bill to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and HR 634, a bill to terminate the EAC. In the letter, reform groups urged the committee members to reject both bills. The letter said, “At stake is the survival of the public financing system for presidential elections and a commission that plays a vitally important role in standardizing and modernizing election administration.” Reform groups oppose HR 133 because according to the letter, “It vitiates an important check on special interest money by eliminating public financing for presidential campaigns.”

Voting Blogs: We Still Need the EAC | Election Academy

Tomorrow, the Committee on House Administration (CHA) will convene to markup H.R. 634, the “Election Assistance Commission Termination Act.” The bill is part of CHA Chairman Gregg Harper (MS-3)’s ongoing attempt to eliminate the EAC, a campaign he has waged for several Congresses (and about which I wrote most recently in March 2015). The bill itself is pretty simple: it dissolves the EAC, returns its NVRA (“motor voter”) regulatory authority to the Federal Election Commission (whence it came thanks to the Help America Vote Act of 2002) and directs the federal government to wind up the EAC’s affairs. The bill is silent on other key facets of the EAC’s work, like certification and testing of voting technology and data collection via the Election Administration and Voting Survey. It’s hard to believe such work would simply stop, but the bill says nothing about what would happen post-termination.

Voting Blogs: Church Speech | More Soft Money Hard Law

In a first step out on political reform (setting aside his executive order on lobbying), Donald Trump promised churches he would relieve them of the restrictions of the Johnson amendment on campaign activity. He didn’t go into any detail. But over time there have been different proposals for protecting religious institutions’ political speech. One of them is arguably sensible, while another, more aggressive reform of this nature is best avoided. Attention began to turn more widely to this topic when in the Bush 43 years there was a suggestion that IRS was monitoring sermons and prepared to act against churches where it found campaign content in speech from the pulpit. A notorious case involved a sermon that was critical of the war in Iraq and included favorable comments about Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and critical ones of his opponent George W. Bush. Nothing happened; the IRS backed off. But it remains the case that while the Service seems to have no particular appetite for regulatory action based on this kind of speech, it could, if it wished. And as the Bush/Kerry episode revealed, the issue can cut in either partisan or ideological direction.

Editorials: Here’s How the 2018 Midterm Elections Could Be Fatally Undermined | Natalie Reed/The Nation

If you’ll permit an understatement, these have been frightening and uncertain times. Every day, it seems, we wake up to find a new addition on the list of doomsday scenarios. Facing a dangerously intemperate president, backed by white nationalists, with vast powers at his disposal and a clear willingness to dispense with all conventions of proper conduct, it’s vital that we maintain a sober understanding of what’s at stake, and how much could go wrong. In trying to rally ourselves to prevent these catastrophic possibilities from becoming reality, many of us have found it useful to visualize the opposite: success. Perhaps Senate Republicans will ultimately break away from their own party and vote for impeachment. Maybe a constitutional amendment will be passed providing for some kind of no-confidence vote that would force an early election. Maybe Steve Bannon will be sidelined in a power struggle inside the White House, convinced, somehow, to retire, perhaps to go raise sheep in the countryside. Others are training their hopes on the 2018 midterm elections. Given the mobilization of left-leaning Americans since the election and the unpopularity of Trump—likely only to increase—it’s tempting to imagine a Democratic sweep that would reclaim control of the House of Representatives, providing crucial political leverage to push back against Trump and his policies. The danger that voter-suppression strategies pose to the Democrats’ chances in 2018 must not be underestimated.

Iowa: Election officials say they’ll oppose Iowa voter ID bill | Des Moines Register

A key group of election officials plans to oppose legislation proposed by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate that would require voter identification at the polls and make other changes to the state’s election system. The Iowa State Association of County Auditors confirmed Monday that the group voted Friday to register against Pate’s bill. The group also agreed to form a committee that would suggest changes to the bill.

Kansas: Civil rights panel calls for federal probe of Kansas voting laws; Kobach says review unnecessary | Lawrence Journal World

Kansas’ strict voting laws sometimes act like a poll tax and also disproportionately discourage young voters, a civil rights panel alleges in a draft report that seeks a federal probe into Kansas voting laws. A panel that advises the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is circulating a draft report that would ask that agency to call for a Justice Department review of Kansas’ strict voting rights laws to determine whether the state is in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act and other laws. “Kansas’ proof of citizenship and voter ID requirements under the (Secure and Fair Elections, or) SAFE Act are the strictest in the nation, and may impose a substantially higher burden than that which has been previously challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said in its draft report. “Community groups, local elections officials, and individual citizens all reported struggling to comply with the requirements.”

Minnesota: Retooling the state’s voting system | Mesabi Daily News

Minnesota’s voting equipment is aging out, and without legislative help, the burden of about $28 million in replacement costs will fall squarely on cities and counties. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met Monday with the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools to drum up support for a state-funded solution to voting infrastructure now more than a decade old. He’s not asking for the Legislature to foot the bill for the entire cost, rather follow Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal calling for a 50-50 split between the state and local governments. Covering half the cost — about $14 million — would keep the state on pace with efforts in Maryland and Michigan. “We think local government should have some skin in the game,” Simon said during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News.

New Mexico: State Supreme Court upholds closed primaries | The Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday upheld the state’s system of closed primary elections, ruling the practice is constitutional and not overly burdensome. The decision means primary elections can continue to be closed to voters who aren’t registered as members of the political parties with candidates on the ballot. That means other voters, including those who decline to state a party affiliation, can vote in only general elections. The Supreme Court’s ruling, however, may not be the last word on the issue. The state Legislature is considering legislation to open primary elections to all voters. Albuquerque lawyer David Crum, who brought the case before the Supreme Court, had argued closed primaries violate the state constitution’s guarantee of free and open elections.

Editorials: Why the North Carolina voter ID case matters | J. Christian Adams/Washington Times

They may never admit it, but the civil rights industry is tired of spending millions of dollars only to lose most voter ID fights in court. Instead of declaring defeat, the strategy has shifted to changing the rules of engagement, and trying to transform the Voting Rights Act into something it isn’t. The Supreme Court can now stop this transformation of the Voting Rights Act into a partisan political weapon, if it accepts an appeal from North Carolina. The civil rights industry, which includes swarms of career employees in the Justice Department, has been losing voter ID fights for the better part of a decade. They have been foiled by laws which take into account that some voters may not be ID-ready, but provisions are made to service them, like in South Carolina. Judges have also noted where states extended timelines for enforcement so citizens can prepare for the change. Most important, courts have acknowledged that such laws do not target minorities and are equally applied to all. It certainly does not hurt that federal judges are aware that polling shows how voter ID is more popular among poorer minorities than wealthy liberal whites.

South Carolina: Voting machines need maintenance, elections chief says | GoUpstate

The S.C. State Election Commission plan to maintain its more than 12,000 voting machines would cost up to $8.8 million. Refreshing the machines would include installing new touch screens, purchasing new batteries, adding new wheels and replacing communication packs. Optical scans that read ballots would also be replaced under the plan. Spartanburg County Registration and Elections Director Henry Laye told area lawmakers on Monday that poll workers have noticed in the past few elections that people have had to punch the screens particularly hard or particularly lightly to get them to work properly.

Europe: U.S. shares election-hacking intel with Europe | Politico

The U.S. intelligence community is working with governments across Europe to ensure they don’t fall victim to the same digital meddling campaign that rattled the American presidential election. Intelligence agencies have shared with several foreign governments the classified version of their deep-dive report on what they believe was a Russian plot to undermine Hillary Clinton and tilt the election toward Donald Trump, according to a senior intelligence official and intelligence-oriented lawmakers. Such an exchange is vital, insist key U.S. lawmakers who warn Russia is turning its U.S. playbook — hack political enemies, leak salacious information — against Europe in an attempt to remake the international order to its liking.

Canada: Elections Canada studies electronic blank ballot delivery | The Canadian Press

Elections Canada is exploring the potential of an electronic ballot delivery system to speed up the process for absentee voters. The agency is calling it a fact-finding exercise to learn more from potential suppliers on how to design a system that would allow voters unable or unwilling to vote on election day or at advance polls to download and print a ballot — instead of waiting for one to show up in the mail. “Elections Canada is seeking information on tools and technologies currently available in the market that could help improve the special ballot vote-by-mail service we currently offer,” Melanie Wise, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote Monday in an email.

France: Russian media leap on French presidential candidate with rumors and innuendo | The Washington Post

As seen through a Russian television set, the upcoming French elections are the dirtiest in history, a shameful public display of the cronyism and liberal decay that the Kremlin says are tearing Europe apart. “The stakes [of the election] are high, so they’re digging up kompromat on just about everyone,” said Dmitry Kiselyov, the firebrand state television anchor who headlines the country’s premier Sunday night news show. All the main candidates are tainted, he said. At first glance, his assertion makes at least some sense: Financial shenanigans abound. For starters, there is the obvious example of François Fillon, a conservative who had once been the front-runner and is now embroiled in an embarrassing nepotism scandal. His wife and two of his five children are accused of receiving roughly 900,000 euros ($986,000) in public funds for work they did not do.

India: After VVPAT snag, repolling ordered at 48 polling stations | PTI

The Election Commission on Tuesday ordered repolling in 48 polling stations falling in Majitha, Muktsar and Sangrur Assembly segments in Punjab following malfunctioning in the Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail (VVPAT) EVMs on 4 February. The repolling will take place on 9 February. Besides, the repolling will also take place at polling stations in Moga and Sardulgarh segments where EVMs displayed the votes polled during mock polls. “The repolling will take place at 48 polling stations because of the malfunctioning in VVPAT on polling day. The repolling will take place on 9 February,” Punjab Chief Electoral Officer V K Singh said here on Tuesday. He said polling stations where the repolling shall take place are in Majitha, Muktsar and Sangrur assembly segments where VVPAT developed snag. Singh further said that repolling would also be held at polling stations in Moga and Sardulgarh Assembly segments.