National: Election commissioner to Trump: Show evidence of voter fraud | The Hill

A commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) called on President Trump to give proof of voter fraud, after he reportedly made further claims in a meeting with senators. Trump reportedly blamed voter fraud for why both he and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) lost in New Hampshire last November during a recent meeting with a bipartisan group of senators. “The scheme the President of the United States alleges would constitute thousands of felony criminal offenses under New Hampshire law,” Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a statement Friday. “The President has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge,” added Weintraub, who is a Democrat but was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2002. “Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored.” “I therefore call upon President Trump to immediately share his evidence with the public and with the appropriate law-enforcement authorities so that his allegations may be investigated promptly and thoroughly.”

National: The Supreme Court will examine partisan gerrymandering in 2017. That could change the voting map. | The Washington Post

In 2017, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering. Depending on how the court rules, its decisions could have far-reaching implications for the partisan balance in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures — and for the future of redistricting across the country. Gerrymandering has helped give the Republican Party a significant advantage in Congress. Because Republicans had unified control of twice as many states as Democrats when the last congressional district maps were drawn, estimates suggest that gerrymandering before the 2012 elections cost Democrats between 20 and 41 seats in the House. Partisan gerrymandering has become the norm in U.S. politics because the Supreme Court has declined to declare it unconstitutional. For three decades, a majority of justices have failed to identify manageable standards to determine when a plan rises to the level of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

National: Veterans in US territories crowd fund the legal case for voting rights | McClatchy DC

A group of military veterans living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are crowd-funding their appeal to challenge federal voting laws that deny U.S. citizens living in the territories the ability to vote in presidential elections. Americans in the U.S. territories follow the same federal laws, pay billions in taxes and have some of the highest rates of enlistment in the U.S. military, but they say their equal protection rights are being violated based on where they live. People born in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are all U.S. citizens. “I don’t feel that I am a complete person as an American,” said Rodney Cruz, a disabled veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq before his injury in 2008. “I went over, I took a bullet, I did everything that was required of me, but when it comes to electing our commander in chief every four years I’m told, ‘You can’t because you’re a nonvoting citizen.’ ” A native of Guam, Cruz is the sixth generation in his family to serve in the U.S. military. The nonprofit he founded to help veterans with mental health issues – Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific – is a plaintiff in the case. Every election year while Cruz was deployed, he said, he felt frustrated watching fellow soldiers cast their absentee ballots.

National: Trump’s voter fraud claims are absurd, yet another analysis shows | VICE News

Just under 3 million Americans are registered to vote in two places, but the overwhelming majority of them don’t vote twice, according to a new analysis by TargetSmart, the data firm used by the Democratic National Committee for its national voter file. These findings, discussed in an interview with VICE News, discredit recent assertions by President Donald Trump that there is an epidemic of double-voting and voter fraud. Since it became clear that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in November’s presidential election, Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that he came up 2.9 million ballots short because 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. (There are 200 million registered voters in the U.S.) Five days into his presidency, Trump called for a “major investigation” into that alleged fraud but then later scaled back his effort to a “commission” led by Vice President Mike Pence to study the problem.

Editorials: Republicans Hold On to a Myth to Hold On to Power | The New York Times

Given the increased political power Republicans won in the last elections, from Washington to red-state legislatures, voters might expect the party to feel that the nation’s voting procedures are working quite well. Yet this is far from the case, as triumphant Republicans are using their enhanced clout to continue their campaign playing up the mythical threat that voter fraud abounds in the nation. The newest and loudest zealot in this cause is, of course, President Trump, with his scurrilous claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him a popular vote majority. His baseless claim only encourages the renewed efforts at voter suppression reported to be underway in a score of Republican-dominated statehouses intent on making it harder for citizens to register or vote. Mr. Trump is trying to sell the false idea that he was fraudulently denied a clear mandate. Republican state legislators, in turn, are no more convincing but just as cynical in insisting that elaborate new ballot protections are needed — protections that effectively target poor people, minorities and students, who tend to favor Democratic candidates.

Editorials: The next GOP assault on voting rights | E.J. Dionne Jr./The Washington Post

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren last week as she was reading Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter denouncing Jeff Sessions, he jogged the memory of another Massachusetts Democrat, Rep. William R. Keating. “I went to bed that evening seeing what was occurring,” Keating said in an interview, “and when I woke up in the morning, my mind immediately went back to the outrage of an amendment that had been passed in the House,” almost entirely with Republican votes. The amendment, introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and approved on May 9, 2012, was aimed at preventing the Justice Department from using its funds “to bring any action against any state for implementation of a state law requiring voter identification.” In other words, even if the Department of Justice thought a voter ID law discriminated against African Americans or Latinos, it could not sue to protect them.

Florida: Aaron Bean revives bill proposing elected Secretary of State | Florida Politics

There may be one more statewide office for Florida voters to select the occupant of soon. Senate Joint Resolution 882, filed by Aaron Bean, proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution for direct election of Florida’s Secretary of State starting in the 2022 election. The Bean bill also would elevate the Secretary of State to a Cabinet position in June 2019. The language of the legislation denotes a perceived flaw in the current model: “Currently, the secretary is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor and is not a Cabinet member.

New Hampshire: Comments by senior White House adviser that voter fraud in New Hampshire is ‘widely known’ create firestorm | NH1

Three days after President Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that thousands of people bused in from Massachusetts voted illegally in the Granite State in last year’s election, his senior policy adviser repeated the allegations, but didn’t offer any proof. And the new charges, made by White House Policy Adviser Stephen Miller on the Sunday talk shows, once again sparked a massive amount of push back and conversation on social media. In a contentious interview on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, Miller repeated the President’s claim that he would have won New Hampshire if it were not for “thousands” of people being bused there. Trump lost the fight for the Granite State’s four electoral votes by just under 3,000 votes to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “Go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who’s worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody’s aware of the problem in New Hampshire,” Miller responded when asked by Stephanopoulos to produce evidence of the voter fraud. “Having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real, it’s very serious,” Miller added.

New Hampshire: Stephen Miller’s bushels of Pinocchios for false voter-fraud claims | The Washington Post

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller appeared on ABC’s “The Week” on Sunday, spouting a bunch of false talking points on alleged voter fraud. (He also repeated similar claims on other Sunday talk shows.) To his credit, host George Stephanopoulus repeatedly challenged Miller, noting that he had provided no evidence to support his claims. But Miller charged ahead, using the word “fact” three times in a vain effort to bolster his position.

Here’s a guide through the back and forth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on, though, to the question of voter fraud as well. President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and that’s what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte. That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, “I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly.” Do you have that evidence?

North Carolina: Judges hear arguments over restricting governor’s powers | Associated Press

North Carolina’s new Democratic governor and the entrenched Republican-led legislature battled in court on two fronts Friday over efforts to restrict the chief executive’s ability to alter the state’s recent conservative direction. A panel of three state trial court judges spent three hours listening to arguments over whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Cabinet secretaries. The judges did not say when they would decide whether to continue blocking the law. Any order would be in effect until after a full hearing next month. Meanwhile, a revamped state elections board met for the first time Friday, hours after an appeals court temporarily reinstated a law stripping Cooper of his oversight of elections. Cooper’s attorneys are asking the state Supreme Court to step in and again block that law. The General Assembly passed the law requiring Senate consent to Cooper’s top appointees in December. It came in a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race and just before the Democrat took office.

Texas: Voter ID law would have prevented 16,400 from voting in November | Austin American-Statesman

At least 16,400 Texans who voted in the November election wouldn’t have been able to cast ballots if the state’s voter identification law had been in full effect, state voting records show. Adopted in 2011 by a Republican-dominated Legislature, the law requiring voters to show one of seven forms of photo identification has been mired in a years-long legal battle, with opponents arguing that it disenfranchises groups that are less likely to carry identification, such as young people, elderly people and racial minorities. Proponents of the law have argued that the measure is necessary to protect the integrity of the vote. In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the law was discriminatory, and a month later U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the state to soften the ID requirements for the Nov. 8 election, greatly expanding the types of documentation voters could show to prove their identity. Voters using one of the newly approved documents had to sign statements explaining why they couldn’t obtain one of the seven types of ID originally required by the law.

Texas: Trump voter fraud claim was ‘800lb gorilla in jury box’ at Texas trial | The Guardian

A lawyer has said Donald Trump’s debunked claims of election rigging influenced the outcome of his client’s voter fraud trial, calling the US president’s comments “the 800lb gorilla” in the jury box. Rosa María Ortega, 37, a Mexican national, was jailed for eight years in Fort Worth, Texas, after being convicted of two felony counts of illegal voting over allegations that she improperly cast a ballot five times between 2005 and 2014. Her attorney, Clark Birdsall, said on Friday that Ortega was a permanent resident who was brought to the US as a baby and mistakenly thought she was eligible to vote. He said she voted Republican, including for the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, whose office helped prosecute her. Her sentence was tough: voter fraud convictions, which are rare, often result in probation. As a convicted felon, Ortega is likely to be deported after serving her sentence. Tarrant County prosecutors said jurors made clear they valued voting rights, but Birdsall said he believed Ortega would have fared better in a county with fewer “pro-Trump” attitudes.

Europe: Far-Right Enjoys Backing from Russia’s Putin | NBC

While U.S. intelligence agencies investigate claims that Russia secretly hacked emails to help tip last year’s elections in favor of Donald Trump, Russia’s push to bolster far-right populist politicians in Europe has been far more blatant. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is working to empower Europe’s far-right and Eurosceptic parties with offers of cooperation, loans, political cover and propaganda. Such love has not gone unrequited: European populists are answering back with fulsome praise for Russia, its foreign policy and its strongman leader. The love affair comes as euroskeptic candidates prepare to face mainstream politicians in crucial elections looming on the horizon: Dutch elections next month, French elections in spring, German elections sometime in autumn and Italian elections at a still undetermined date.

China: ‘Unfair’ Hong Kong election sparks fresh democracy calls | AFP

The vote for Hong Kong’s new leader kicks off this week, but most of its 3.8 million-strong electorate will have no say in choosing the winner, prompting calls for an overhaul of a system skewed towards Beijing. It is the first leadership vote since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 failed to win political reform and comes as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong. As the first round of voting begins, the four candidates are wooing the public — dropping in to no-frills cafes to eat local dishes with ordinary folk. But to little avail. The winner will be chosen by a committee of 1,200 representatives of special interest groups, weighted towards Beijing. According to a count by local media, only around a quarter are in the pro-democracy camp.

Indonesia: Indonesians abroad return to vote, but only if it’s not too far | The Jakarta Post

Risyad Tri Setiaputra, 27, is registered as a Jakarta resident. Currently residing in Glasgow, in the United Kingdom, he has kept a close eye on every development in the heated Jakarta gubernatorial race through the internet. For Risyad, casting his vote in the Feb. 15 election is important because it will determine the future of the Indonesian capital. “Jakarta is developing now. It would be a pity if the ongoing development faced challenges because of the election result,” Risyad told The Jakarta Post via instant messaging service on Saturday. Going home only to vote, however, is certainly not an option for him. Risyad is originally from Kalimalang, East Jakarta, thousands of kilometers away from the biggest city in Scotland where he has been pursuing his master’s degree. Risyad said he would stay in Glasgow until he finished his course in October.

Russia: Putin opponent Navalny determined to run for presidency of Russia | Financial Times

Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most dogged political opponent, has vowed to force the Kremlin to allow him to run in next year’s presidential elections, in a move that will test the Russian leader’s confidence in his ability to hold on to power. The lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner said his latest criminal conviction, which under Russian law bars him from running for public office, could not prevent his presidential bid. “We will try to grow support in society until the Kremlin understands that it is necessary to admit me to the elections and the consequences of not admitting me will be even worse,” Mr Navalny said in his first interview since he was convicted of embezzlement last week. “This is a political campaign for a change of power.” Even Mr Putin’s critics think it unlikely Mr Navalny would pose a serious threat, given the president’s support ratings of about 80 per cent. But observers believe the way the Kremlin deals with the opposition politician will reflect how safe the Russian leader feels.

Turkmenistan: President wins elections with nearly 98 percent of vote | Daily Sabah

Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov bagged a fresh seven-year term with nearly 98 percent of a weakly contested vote, electoral officials announced Monday following a preliminary count. The election commission claimed at a press conference in the capital Ashgabat a massive turnout for the Sunday poll in which eight other candidates, viewed as token opponents for Berdymukhamedov, also competed. The former dentist and health minister took power in 2006 after the death of Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov. Casting his vote at a school in Ashgabat on Sunday, the president said the vote would decide “the fate of the people for the coming seven years”.

Turkmenistan: President Extends Rule In Tightly Controlled Vote | RFERL

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the authoritarian president of gas-rich Turkmenistan, has secured a third term in office by winning 97.69 percent of the vote in the February 12 election, according to the Central Election Commission. The election commission announced the result on February 13, a day after an election whose outcome seemed certain in advance because of Berdymukhammedov’s domination of the Central Asian country and the tightly controlled campaign. The commission put the turnout at more than 97 percent of eligible voters. But RFE/RL correspondents saw only a trickle of voters at several polling stations in the capital, Ashgabat. The election hands Berdymukhammedov, 59, a new seven-year term. He maintains strict control over all aspects of society and was all but guaranteed to defeat the other eight candidates, who were widely seen as window dressing for the vote.

Turkey: Referendum on stronger presidency to be held on April 16 | Reuters

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on replacing its parliamentary system with the stronger presidency long sought by incumbent Tayyip Erdogan, electoral authorities announced on Saturday. The proposed constitutional reform would mark one of the biggest changes in the European Union candidate country’s system of governance since the modern republic was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman empire almost a century ago. It would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, and appoint ministers and top state officials. It could also see Erdogan remain in power in the NATO member state until 2029. Erdogan’s supporters see the plans as a guarantee of stability at a time of turmoil, with Turkey’s security threatened by the wars in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and by a spate of Islamic State and Kurdish militant attacks.