The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 6-12 2017

As they have in the last three Congresses Republicans on the House Administration Committee voted in favor of legislation that would shut down the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency set up in 2002 to help states improve their election systems. This legislation is considerably stronger than previous versions in that rather than transferring responsibilities for voting system testing and certification to other Federal agencies, this bill would simply eliminate federal involvement in voting systems entirely. Previous versions of this legislation have not been brought to the floor, in part because they faced a certain veto, but this time, who knows? Speaker Paul Ryan has given no indication of whether or when the bill may come to the House floor.

In response to the House Committee action, Matthew Weil of the Bipartisan Policy Center noted that “If this seems like a strange response to an election marked by allegations of voter fraud, voter suppression, and election rigging—from both sides of the political aisle—you’re not wrong.” Weil joined the many voices raised in support of the EAC, noting, among other significant factors, the role of the EAC in gathering election data through it’s Election Administration and Voting Survey, an important resource for researchers and advocates and, not incidentally Verified Voting in maintaining the Verifier.

In spite of hyperventilating in some quarters about a “federal takeover of elections”, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has confirmed that he supports the Obama administration’s decision to designate elections systems as critical infrastructure. While not accepting the merits of the plaintiff’s arguments, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has settled a federal lawsuit that accused him of disenfranchising minority voters through a requirement on registration forms “to avoid the expense of further litigation.” The advocacy groups that filed the suit in September, maintained that the “exact match” language followed by the Secretary of State disproportionately affected black, Latino and Asian-American voters across the state and violated the Voting Rights Act.

The Iowa ACLU legal director argued that House Study Bill 93, labeled the “Election Integrity Act,” would not only make voting more difficult and more confusing for voters, but it would also be more expensive for taxpayers. The contentious legislation, sponsored by Republican Secretary of State Pete Pate, was promoted as an effort to “enhance integrity and boosting Iowans’ confidence in the process” though the state already enjoys some of the highest rates of voter participation and no indication of any voter impersonation fraud.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach continued his push for a two ballot system for state and federal voting in the face of impassioned opposition from civic groups and advocates. The prospect for new state legislative districts this spring and elections this fall in North Carolina are looking slim despite a court order. A Texas mother of four has sentenced to eight years in prison – and almost certainly deportation later — after she voted illegally in elections in 2012 and 2014.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has accused the Kremlin of trying to block him from running in next year’s presidential election after a court found him guilty of embezzlement and celebrations erupted on the streets of Somalia after the election of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a 55-year-old former prime minister and dual US-Somali national with a reputation for independence and competence.

Montenegro: Russia plotted to overthrow Montenegro’s government by assassinating Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic last year, according to senior Whitehall sources | Sunday Telegraph

Russia plotted to assassinate the prime minister of a European nation and overthrow its government last year, according to senior Whitehall sources. An election-day coup plot to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill the pro-Western leader was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, to sabotage the country’s plan to join Nato. The plot was foiled only hours before it was due to be carried out, but would have caused heavy bloodshed and plunged the tiny country into turmoil on the eve of becoming Nato’s 29th member. The allegation came as Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, criticised Nato as a “Cold War institution” whose expansion had led to unprecedented tensions in Europe over the past thirty years. The planned Montenegro coup scheduled for October 16 last year was one of the most blatant recent examples of an increasingly aggressive campaign of interference in Western affairs, Whitehall sources told The Telegraph.