National: House committee votes to eliminate Election Assistance Commission | The Guardian

A Republican-led House committee voted on Tuesday to eliminate an independent election commission charged with helping states improve their voting systems as Donald Trump erroneously claims widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. The party-line vote came less than two days after the US president vowed to set up a White House commission helmed by the vice-president, Mike Pence, to pursue his accusations of election fraud. … The bill was opposed by committee Democrats and voting rights groups, who argued that the federal agency played a vital role in protecting elections from hacking and other types of interference. “At a time when the vast majority of the country’s voting machines are outdated and in need of replacement, and after an election in which foreign criminals already tried to hack state voter registration systems, eliminating the EAC poses a risky and irresponsible threat to our election infrastructure,” said Wendy Weiser, the democracy program director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

National: Republicans vote to scrap Election Assistance Commission | International Business Times

In spite of President Donald Trump’s unverified claims that millions of people voted illegally in the US election, a House committee has voted to eliminate an independent election commission. The Republican-led House Administration Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to scrap the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Tuesday (7 February) – the only federal body aimed at ensuring voting machines cannot be hacked. Though Trump’s assertions have been widely discredited, public advocacy groups have raised serious concerns about the decision because of the body’s importance. It was created in the aftermath of the 2000 election and the Florida recount controversy which decided the race between George W Bush and Al Gore. Since then, the EAC has grown to even greater significance as many of the country’s voting machines have become outdated, with the Brennan Center for Justice saying the situation is an “impending crisis”. They were one of 38 bodies to denounce the vote to scrap the EAC, stating it puts America’s democracy at risk.

National: As Trump fears fraud, GOP votes to kill Election Assistance Commission | Associated Press

A House committee voted on Tuesday to eliminate an independent election commission charged with helping states improve their voting systems as President Donald Trump erroneously claims widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. The party-line vote came less than two days after Trump vowed to set up a White House commission helmed by Vice President Mike Pence to pursue his accusations of election fraud. “We’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump said of voter fraud in an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday. “It has to do with the registration, and when you look at the registration and you see dead people that have voted.” Reports that Trump told congressional leaders in a meeting last month that 3 to 5 million ballots were cast illegally during the 2016 race were met with discomfort on Capitol Hill. While top Republicans have refused to disavow his charges of election fraud, they haven’t pushed for action on the issue, which remains a low priority for congressional leadership.

National: Former Democratic Senate candidate launches voting rights group | The Hill

Jason Kander, the Missouri Democrat who narrowly lost a Senate bid last year, is jumping back into national politics with a new organization aimed at protecting voting rights. The former Missouri secretary of state’s new group, “Let America Vote,” aims to win “the public debate over voter suppression” as Democrats continue to coalesce around voting rights in the wake of calls by President Trump for an investigation into his claim, presented without evidence, that millions of illegal votes were cast in 2016. “Voting in our country has never been easy, and unfortunately it’s never been guaranteed for everyone,” Kander said Tuesday in a statement pointing to the progress made by “brave civil rights leaders. Today, that progress is in danger as laws targeting low-income and minority voters continue popping up across the country. Let America Vote will make the case for voting rights by exposing the real motivations of those who favor voter suppression laws.”

Editorials: Sessions tried to jail me for helping people vote | Evelyn Turner/USA Today

While my husband and I were trying to help black people vote in Alabama, Jeff Sessions was trying to put us in jail. Perry County in the 1960s was a hostile place to be black. To register to vote, a black resident needed to have a white “well to do” citizen to vouch for them. To enter the county courthouse, blacks had to use the back door. And to fight for our basic rights as Americans, we had to gather in the woods because so many black residents were afraid to be seen meeting in town. Despite vicious segregation and this climate of fear, civil rights leaders and ordinary black residents organized to seek the right to vote. My husband, Albert Turner, served as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Alabama field director and helped to lead voter registration efforts in Marion and Perry County. The U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy helped to support our voter registration efforts and secure our basic rights. Federal registrars sent by Kennedy worked out of the Marion post office basement and helped to register hundreds of black voters.

Kansas: Kobach voting law may disenfranchise voters, report says | The Kansas City Star

A civil rights advisory panel is urging a more thorough review of a Kansas voting law after finding evidence that the law may be disenfranchising voters of color. Kansas passed a law in 2011 that set up requirements that voters must show a photo ID at the polls and must provide proof of citizenship when they register. The policies were adopted at the urging of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a way to prevent voter fraud. But a draft report from the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights details concerns that the law “may have been written and implemented with improper, discriminatory intent.” The report was obtained by The Star. … The report urges the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate whether the Kansas law, which it notes is the strictest in the nation, has violated the federal Voting Rights Act and other voting laws in its implementation.

Kansas: Kansans Caught In Crosscheck System Singled Out For Kobach’s Voter Fraud Campaign | KCUR

Randall Killian thought he was investing in his new retirement property in Colorado when he received a mail-in ballot in 2012 asking if he would like to legalize marijuana in that state. “When I saw that on the ballot, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s something I’ll never get a chance to vote for again. So bam! I vote on it,” Killian says. “Voted in Ellis County (Kansas), just like I’d done for 25 years.” Problem was: Amendment 64 was a Colorado issue, on a Colorado ballot. Killian, who lives in Hays, Kansas, also voted in his home state that year. Four years later, in early 2016, Killian learned of his mistake from a reporter. “All of a sudden,” he says, “I’m indicted.”

Michigan: Democrats preparing a lawsuit over ‘rigged’ redistricting system in Michigan | Michigan Radio

Letters are being sent to some 60 attorneys, legislators and ex-legislators, staffers and ex-staffers, Governor Rick Snyder, and many others, telling them: Anything you have related to the 2011 redistricting process, you better keep it. We’re talking drafts of maps, emails, instructions, and confidential analysis. This is in anticipation of a lawsuit on behalf of Democratic voters in Michigan to challenge Congressional and Legislative district lines. The lawsuit will argue that the maps we have right now are an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment rights. “They are rigged in favor of Republican candidates at both the legislative and congressional levels,” former Michigan Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer told It’s Just Politics. Brewer, a lawyer, is preparing the lawsuit. “Democrats consistently take a majority or a near-majority of the votes in those bodies, but do not take a majority or a near-majority of the seats.” This has been an argument that Democrats in Michigan have been making for awhile.

Missouri: Ashcroft says governor’s offer isn’t enough money for Voter ID | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri’s top election official said Tuesday he’ll need far more money than Gov. Eric Greitens offered in his budget plan last week to effectively implement the state’s new photo ID law before August elections. The law, pushed by Republican legislators and approved by voters last year, requires Missourians to show a photo ID before voting or sign a legal document swearing they are who they say they are. In response to heavy Democratic criticism that it would prevent the elderly, disabled and poor from voting, Republicans also required the state to pay for IDs for those who can’t afford them. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is tasked with letting voters know about those changes, estimated it would take between $1.1 million and $1.5 million to do so in the next fiscal year.

Missouri: State officials’ next step: Deciding how to pay for voter ID law | St. Louis Public Radio

A majority of Missouri residents said they wanted voters to have to show a photo ID at the polls, and lawmakers obliged. Now, state officials must figure out how to pay for the law, which goes into effect June 1. Gov. Eric Greitens has said the budget to implement the law should be $300,000. Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said Tuesday that it’ll cost more like $1.5 million. Both of those are far less than the previous administration’s $4.26 million estimate, which Ashcroft said “included some things that aren’t required under the law, like sending multiple letters to every registered voter in the state of Missouri.” Ashcroft didn’t address the disparity between his and Greitens’ proposed funding.

New Hampshire: Legislators Mull Changes to Voting Laws | Associated Press

Proposals to change New Hampshire’s voting laws, including narrowing the definition of who is eligible to vote, are facing favorable terrain this year in the Republican-controlled Legislature. At least a dozen pieces of legislation center on ending Election Day registration, voting eligibility and giving the secretary of state more power to enforce election law. Supporters of the legislation, mainly Republicans, say the changes are necessary to ensure a fair voting process. Many of the bills are up for public hearings this week. “I’m trying to do what a lot of my citizens are asking me to do,” said Sen. Regina Birdsell, a Republican co-sponsor of legislation that would require someone to live in the state for at least 13 days before voting. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters, allege the changes will restrict the rights of certain people to vote. The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights called the bills a “ploy to disengage voters from the political system.”

Texas: Citizens United lawyer targets Texas campaign finance laws | Associated Press

A case involving political “dark money” and the founder of an organization tied to President Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud could lead to a crush of anonymous cash infiltrating elections in the country’s second-largest state, a Democratic lawyer warned the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday. The nine Republican justices on Texas’ highest civil court heard arguments involving the legality of the state’s ban on corporate contributions, disclosure requirements for political action committees and the question of when a politically active nonprofit should have to disclose its donors like a traditional PAC. Some believe that the case ultimately could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially reshape campaign finance regulations nationwide.

US Virgin Islands: US territories’ veterans take up the fight for voting rights | Saipan Tribune

Plaintiffs from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are making an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, arguing that where you live shouldn’t impact your right to vote for President. The Segovia v. Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners’ appeal is now receiving extra support after a new crowdfunding platform, CrowdJustice, selected the case as part of its United States launch. CrowdJustice, founded in the United Kingdom in 2015, helps raise funds for individuals, communities and non-profits seeking justice in the legal system. “We are excited to have our case selected by CrowdJustice, which will help bring national attention to the issue of voting rights in U.S. territories while also providing important resources to expand our advocacy,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of We the People Project, a non-profit that advocates for equal rights and representation in U.S. territories. “The message we have for the rest of the country is that where you live should not impact your right to vote for President or have voting representation in Congress.”

Virginia: Caustic debate unfolds in Senate as GOP moves to slow down felon voting restoration | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order in April restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons who had served their sentences.
The Democrat’s move took the Virginia executive’s power to restore civil rights further than any previous governor and led to a court challenge and eventually legislation. That legislation generated a bitter, partisan debate in the Senate on Tuesday over McAuliffe’s actions and Virginia’s history of hindering African-Americans from voting. In the end, the Senate voted 21-19, along party lines, to pass Senate Joint Resolution 223 from Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City. The debate came just as legislators reached crossover, the functional midpoint of this year’s 46-day session. In contrast to McAuliffe’s policy of liberally restoring rights, the Norment proposal would set criteria to curtail such power for any future governor.

International: Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote | The Economist

The life story of Alex Orlyuk does not seem destined to lead to political apathy. Born in the Soviet Union to a family scarred by the Holocaust, he moved at the age of six to Tel Aviv, where he finished school and military service. He follows politics and prizes democracy. He thinks his government should do more to make peace with Palestinians, separate religion and state, and cut inequality. And yet, now 28 and eligible to vote in the past four general elections, he has never cast a ballot. His abstention, he says, is “a political statement” on the sorry state of Israel’s politics. He does not think any of its myriad parties is likely to bring about the change he wants. Many other young Israelis share his disaffection. Just 58% of under-35s, and just 41% of under-25s, voted in the general election of 2013, compared with 88% of over-55s. No other rich country has a bigger gap in turnout between under-25s and over-55s.

Canada: First-past-the-post electoral system advances ‘democratic values,’ says rookie Democratic Institutions Minister Gould | The Hill Times

A week after the Trudeau government scrapped its promise to change Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system in time for the next federal election, the new Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould defended the current voting system before the House Affairs Committee Tuesday, saying it “advances a number of democratic values. The first-past-the-post system may not be perfect, but no electoral system is. But it has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability, and accountability,” said Ms. Gould (Burlington, Ont.) whose new mandate letter states that “changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

France: Facebook, Google join drive against fake news in France | Reuters

Giant Internet firms Facebook and Google joined forces with news organizations on Monday to launch new fact-checking tools designed to root out “fake news” stories in France ahead of the country’s presidential election. Social networks and news aggregators came under fire during the U.S. presidential vote when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports. Facebook , said it would work with eight French news organizations, including news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), news channel BFM TV, and newspapers L’Express and Le Monde to minimize the risk that false news appeared on its platform. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, has 24 million users in France, more than a third of the country’s population. It will rely on users to flag fake news on its network so that the articles can then by fact-checked by its partner organizations. Any news report deemed to be fake by two of its partners would then be tagged with an icon to show that the content is contested, Facebook said.

Nepal: E-voting this time? | Nepali Times

It is still not sure whether there will be local elections in May. But if that happens, it might not just be the first local polls in 20 years but also be the first opportunity to introduce electronic voting across the country. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal visited the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday and learnt about the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in upcoming elections (pic, above). “Local polls are possible in May,” he said, “and Nepalis have already become smart enough to vote electronically. If they can use mobile phones in rural villages, why can they not use voting machines?” The EC has approached Smartmatic, a UK-based company, to buy EVMs. On Tuesday, a representative of Smartmatic showed PM Dahal how its voting machines can be used.

Netherlands: Data leak raises security concerns over Dutch voter help website | Reuters

A website used by millions of Dutch voters to test their political preferences was quietly keeping a tally of how many were matched with each party, a security researcher who penetrated the site said on Tuesday. The discovery by researcher Loran Kloeze raised potential privacy concerns and sparked a debate over whether the site was biased. The leaked results showed the Labour Party, a junior party in the governing coalition, received the second most matches even though it is running sixth in opinion polls. Kloeze said he had also found a rogue data field on the site in which someone had posted an insult, suggesting he was not the only person to have discovered a flaw in its security. The leak comes at a time of heightened concern over cyber security after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyberattacks last year to try to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election in favor of Donald Trump.

Somalia: Somalia Finally Set For Unique Presidential Election | International Business Times

After a series of delays, allegations of rampant corruption and the abandonment of a promise to return to true democratic elections, Somalia was expected to finally elect its president Wednesday. It will not be an election as the rest of the world knows it, however. Having been elected to lead the country’s first federal government since the toppling of its military dictatorship and onset of civil war in 1991, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud promised one-person, one-vote elections by 2016. They would have been the first of their kind in the country for nearly 50 years. But he announced he was abandoning the proposal in 2015 due to ongoing security concerns. Instead, the next presidential vote would be conducted via a complicated system decided by clan elders, he said. Last year, 135 clan elders began selecting the 14,025 delegates to comprise the 275 electoral colleges, each of whom began voting in October for an MP for the lower house of parliament. Together, with the 54 members of the newly created upper house chosen by Somalia’s new federal states, they will elect a speaker and a president.

Somalia: Mogadishu On Lockdown Ahead Of Presidential Vote | AFP

Somalia’s capital Mogadishu was under security lockdown Tuesday, with roads and schools closed and residents urged to remain indoors a day before the country holds a long-delayed presidential election. Fears are high that the Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab group will seek to disrupt the election by carrying out an attack on the capital. Twin car bombs at a popular hotel left at least 28 dead two weeks ago. Heavily armed security personnel patrolled the streets of the capital, while several main roads were blocked off with sand berms and residents of the capital were urged by Mayor Yusuf Hussein Jimale to stay indoors. “My children did not go to school because of the election and my husband who works as a policeman had to stay on duty for the last three days. This thing is taking too long and people would be relieved if they could see an end to this drama,” mother-of-four Samiya Abdulkadir said.

Spain: Ex-Catalan leader on trial for holding vote on independence | Associated Press

The former head of Catalonia’s regional government and two of his aides went on trial Monday in Barcelona for ignoring a Constitutional ban and going ahead with a vote on the region’s independence from Spain. The five-day trial is likely to inflame longstanding tensions between the central government and the supporters of separatism in the wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people. Artur Mas, who stepped down as president of the regional government last year, faces a 10-year ban from holding public office for disobedience and wrongdoing.