National: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence Before Election | The New York Times

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation. But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

National: The Election Assistance Commission – The Federal Voting Agency Republicans Want to Kill | The Atlantic

Every odd-numbered year since 2011, Republicans in the House have tried to kill the Election Assistance Commission—the tiny federal agency responsible for helping states improve their voting systems. None of their previous efforts made it very far, and with Barack Obama in the White House, the 15-year-old commission had little to fear. This year, the same fight has taken on much greater urgency. Congressional committees are investigating whether a foreign power tried to hack the U.S. election. The new president is convinced that widespread fraud cost him millions of votes. And with an ally in the Oval Office, House Republicans have begun moving faster than ever before to eliminate an agency they say is unnecessary and wastes taxpayer money. “I’m more worried this time,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s a belief that this has more legs than it did in the past.” The House Administration Committee has a new chairman, Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who has led the opposition to the EAC, and last week the panel made his bill ending the agency the first piece of legislation it approved in the new Congress. “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” Harper said shortly before the committee’s six Republicans voted down objections from its three Democrats to approve the legislation.

Verified Voting Blog: Our Voting System Is Hackable by Foreign Powers | David Dill

The FBI, NSA and CIA all agree that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election by hacking candidates and political parties and leaking the documents they gathered. That’s disturbing. But they could have done even worse. It is entirely possible for an adversary to hack American computerized voting systems directly and select the next commander in chief.

A dedicated group of technically sophisticated individuals could steal an election by hacking voting machines in key counties in just a few states. Indeed, University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman says that he and his students could have changed the result of the November election. Halderman et al. have hacked a lot of voting machines, and there are videos to prove it. I believe him.

Halderman isn’t going to steal an election, but a foreign nation might be tempted to do so. It needn’t be a superpower like Russia or China. Even a medium-size country would have the resources to accomplish this, with techniques that could include hacking directly into voting systems over the Internet; bribing employees of election offices and voting-machine vendors; or just buying the companies that make the voting machines outright. It is likely that such an attack would not be detected, given our current election security practices.

Kansas: Kris Kobach’s “voter fraud” meltdown: Someday he’ll have evidence of a problem that doesn’t exist | Salon

As he blatantly lied on a series of Sunday talk shows about the extent to which illegal voting occurs in American elections, White House aide Stephen Miller told George Stephanopoulos to “invite Kris Kobach onto your show, and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud in greater detail.” On Monday, three separate networks gave Kobach the chance to do just that. It did not go well for him. A Kansas secretary of state who is a longtime crusader against immigration, Kobach is often credited with having inspired Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. Kobach has also promoted the ludicrous theory that undocumented immigrants are voting in numbers sufficient to swing elections toward the Democrats. You would think the number of elections that Democrats keep losing might dissuade him from this theory. You would be wrong.

Maine: Bills to tighten voter identification rules in Maine strongly opposed at hearings | The Portland Press Herald

A pair of bills aimed at tightening Maine’s voter identification requirements were broadly panned as unconstitutional and unneeded Wednesday during daylong public hearings before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. The bills, “An Act to Require Photo Identification to Vote” and “An Act to Protect Voting Integrity by Establishing Residency Verification Requirement for Purposes of Voting,” drew criticism from civil rights groups, top election officials, the state’s attorney general and everyday citizens. Also testifying against the bills were at least a dozen students from Bates College. The Lewiston school has been the target of ongoing criticism from conservatives in Maine, including Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has suggested that college students have been improperly or illegally voting in Maine elections.

Massachusetts: Auditor says state should pay cities and towns for early voting costs | The Sun Chronicle

State Auditor Susan Bump has determined that early voting in last year’s presidential election constituted a state mandate on cities and towns, and the state should pay for it. Bump made the determination after Wakefield and Oxford asked for it. The state Unfunded Mandate Law allows cities and towns to petition the auditor for a determination if they believe they are incurring additional costs as a result of state mandates. Bump said about one million voters, or 22 percent of the total, cast ballots during the 12 days leading up to the November election, and staying open those extra days cost cities and towns about $1.1 million. “The early voting law certainly is to be regarded a success. It did, however, mandate new procedures for clerks. Some of these should be paid for by the state, not municipalities, according to the Local Mandate Law,” she said. Most of the cost came from paying for additional hours for poll workers.

New Hampshire: Many In New Hampshire Politics Pan Trump’s Unfounded Voter Fraud Claims | New Hampshire Public Radio

Party leaders on both sides of the aisle are defending New Hampshire’s electoral system in the wake of another unsubstantiated claim by President Donald Trump that there’s massive voter fraud happening in the state. “Let me be as unequivocal as possible: allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless, without any merit-it’s shameful to spread these fantasies,” wrote former N.H. Attorney General Tom Rath, also a longtime Republican strategist, in a tweet Sunday. Trump made the claim again during a meeting last week with Congressional leaders, telling them that he and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte would have won in New Hampshire were it not for the thousands of Massachusetts residents “brought in on buses” to vote illegally in the state.

North Carolina: State Supreme Court halts legislature’s elections board revamp | News & Observer

The state Supreme Court has restored a block on the legislature’s overhaul of the state elections board and ethics commission while Gov. Roy Cooper’s lawsuit awaits resolution. The court sided with Cooper in an order released Monday. It did not explain its reasoning. The decision is the latest legal twist in a power struggle between Cooper, a Democrat, and the Republicans at the helm of both General Assembly chambers. Cooper sued Phil Berger, the leader of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, the state House speaker, earlier this year over a December law that called for the merger of the five-member elections board and the state Ethics Commission, which administers ethics laws governing lobbyists, elected officials and government employees. At issue is whether the General Assembly overstepped its state constitutional authority when it adopted a law that establishes an eight-member board to oversee elections and consider ethics complaints and issues. The governor would appoint four members and legislative leaders would appoint the other four, with the board split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Netherlands: Dutch will count votes on offline PCs to prevent hacking | EU Observer

Dutch municipalities will be allowed to use computers to count the votes cast in the 15 March elections, but only if those are not connected to the Internet, the Dutch government said on Wednesday (15 February). Officials were also banned from using USB-sticks or other devices to bring the results from municipalities to the headquarters of the 20 electoral districts, The measures are part of Plasterk’s attempt to rule out hacking, especially from Russia, and follows a report by Dutch broadcaster RTL at the end of January. RTL said the software that was used to register the votes was vulnerable to hacking because it did not contain any security requirements for computeDutch municipalities will be allowed to use computers to count the votes cast in the 15 March elections, but only if those are not connected to the Internet, the Dutch government said on Wednesday. Officials were also banned from using USB-sticks or other devices to bring the results from municipalities to the headquarters of the 20 electoral districts, The measures are part of Plasterk’s attempt to rule out hacking, especially from Russia, and follows a report by Dutch broadcaster RTL at the end of January. RTL said the software that was used to register the votes was vulnerable to hacking because it did not contain any security requirements for computers it was used on. Plasterk then decided that the registering of votes should be done by hand. Registering votes was the only part of the electoral process that was theoretically open to it was used on.

France: Marine Le Pen rival Macron targeted by hundreds of Russian hack attacks and fake news smears | IBT

The most likely candidate to win France’s May elections Emmanuel Macron has been the target of hundreds if not thousands of Russian hacks and a fake news smear campaign the head of his party has said. Richard Ferrand the chief of Macron’s independent Onwards Party has said Kremlin controlled media including Russia Today and Sputnik have engaged in a fake news campaign against the candidate. “Two big media outlets belonging to the Russian state Russia Today and Sputnik spread fake news on a daily basis, and then they are picked up, quoted and influence the democratic (process),” Ferrand was quoted by Reuters as saying. Macron has been accused by the Russian media as being part of the US global banking elite by both international facing but Kremlin backed outlets. The party official’s comments come on the heels of an interview given by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in which he claimed to have damaging information on the centre-left candidate.

Verified Voting Blog: New Report: Internet Voting Threatens Ballot Secrecy

Casting a secret ballot in the upcoming election might not be so secret or secure depending on where – and how – you vote, according to a new report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy. The report was coauthored by three leading organizations focused on voting technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Verified Voting and Common Cause.

Caitriona Fitzgerald, State Policy Coordinator for EPIC and a co-author of the report, said, “The secret ballot is a core value in all 50 states. Yet states are asking some voters to waive this right. That threatens voting freedom and election integrity. This report will help safeguard voter privacy.”

This year 32 states will allow voting by email, fax and internet portals – mostly for overseas and military voters. In most states, voters using Internet voting must waive their right to a secret ballot.

Giving up the right to a secret ballot threatens the freedom to vote as one chooses, argue the report authors. The report cites several examples of employers making political participation a condition of employment — such as an Ohio coal mining company requiring its workers to attend a Presidential candidate’s rally – and not paying them for their time.

“On Election Day, we all are equal. The Secret Ballot ensures voters that employers’ political opinions stop at the ballot box,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s national Voting Integrity Campaign. “The Secret Ballot was established for a reason. The Secret Ballot ensures that we can all vote our conscience without undue intimidation and coercion.”

Marc Rotenberg, EPIC President, agreed, “The secret ballot is the cornerstone of modern democracy. The states must do more to protect the privacy of voters.”

National: U.S. lawmakers push for answers on Trump team’s Russia ties | Reuters

A crisis over the relationship between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russia deepened on Wednesday as a growing number of Trump’s fellow Republicans demanded expanded congressional inquiries into the matter. Trump sought to focus attention on what he called criminal intelligence leaks about his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Trump forced Flynn out on Monday after disclosures he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office, and that he later misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations. The drama of Flynn’s departure was the latest in a series of White House missteps and controversies since the Republican president was sworn in on Jan. 20. At a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump said Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was a “wonderful man” who had been mistreated by the news media.

National: Trump’s Labor Pick Has a History of Attacking Voting Rights | The Nation

The essential battleground state of the 2004 presidential campaign was Ohio, and as the election approached, supporters of embattled President George W. Bush announced an exceptionally controversial scheme to station citizen “challengers” at polling places. As a Brennan Center for Justice report explained, “Only a few weeks before Election Day, the Ohio Republican Party announced its plan to deploy thousands of citizen challengers across the state, mostly in African-American voting precincts. The announcement led to multiple voting rights lawsuits and sparked a media firestorm.” The firestorm ultimately led Ohio Republicans to abandon their initial plan. But, as the Brennan Center analysts noted, “the ensuing controversy shined a national spotlight on the disruptions that partisan and discriminatory challenge efforts can cause.” It also shined a light on Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s latest nominee to serve as secretary of labor, and the first Latino to be tapped by the president as a cabinet pick. Acosta is an experienced government hand, who has a long history of working the conservative Republican side of the aisle. After finishing Harvard Law School, he clerked for future Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, who was then serving as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and as a senior fellow with the right-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center. Acosta served briefly as a Bush appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, and then was appointed by Bush as the assistant attorney general with responsibility for leading the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Editorials: Russia, Trump and the 2016 election: What’s the best way for Congress to investigate? | Jordan Tama/The Conversation

Exactly how will the U.S. conduct a fair and accurate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links with President Donald Trump’s campaign? U.S. congressional leaders are discussing options. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said that the Senate intelligence committee is best suited to investigate any concerns related to Russia. Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican voice on foreign policy, suggested Congress should establish a select, or special, committee of lawmakers to probe the matter. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, urged the creation of “a bipartisan, independent, outside commission” to investigate it. Each of these alternatives may seem reasonable, but there are key differences between them. My research on more than 50 government investigations reveals that independent commissions, like the one Pelosi is advocating for, are more likely than regular or select congressional committees to achieve consensus about controversial events.

Voting Blogs: H.R. 634 puts EAC on the block, again – Despite bill, bipartisan support remains | electionlineWeekly

Like Sisyphus and his rock, Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper has once again introduced a resolution to dissolve the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Under H.R. 634, the EAC would terminate 60-days after the enactment of the resolution. Some functions of the Commission would transfer to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The bill was introduced on Jan. 24 and approved by a 6-3 party line vote in the House Administration Committee. In a statement, Harper says that the existence of the EAC is not necessary to conduct federal elections is a “waste of taxpayer funds.” Despite Harper’s insistence that the Commission has run its course of usefulness, bipartisan support for the EAC remains. “In the days leading up to the mark-up and in the days since, we’ve receive notes from election officials and voters across the nation thanking us for our work and validating the important role we play,” said EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks. “We’ve also received widespread, bipartisan support from advocacy groups within the beltway and beyond. Anyone with questions about our value should speak directly with the election officials and voters we serve.”

California: Bill would make Election Day a holiday | San Jose Mercury News

Many Californians would no longer have to worry about squeezing a trip to the polls into their working day if a bill proposed by a Silicon Valley lawmaker becomes law. Assembly Bill 674, authored by Evan Low, D-Cupertino, would make November elections on even years a holiday for schools and state workers as a way to boost voter turnout. Private businesses would not be required to close, but Low said he hoped many would choose to give their employees the day off. “I think this will ensure that more people will be able to participate in the electoral process,” Low said in an interview Thursday.

Idaho: Bill limiting early voting in Idaho headed to House floor | Associated Press

A measure limiting early voting in Idaho is on its way to the House floor after squeaking through a skeptical legislative panel. Freshman Republican Rep. Dustin Manwaring, of Pocatello, says his bill creates a standardized system for early voting that’s lacking in Idaho. “This is a new layer of consistency that we’re adding. We’ll actually increase voter access to the polls and fairness because we’ll have that consistency statewide in our counties when early voting will be open to the public,” Manwaring said. If passed, Idaho’s early voting window could take place any time from three weeks prior to the election to one week before. Currently, county clerks have the choice to begin early voting on or before the third week from the election. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of early voting start dates across the state, with the majority of smaller counties choosing not to open the polls early to save on costs.

Illinois: Biss introduces ranked-choice voting bill | The Daily Northwestern

A bill introduced by State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) earlier this month would set up a ranked-choice voting system for state elections. The bill, which Biss introduced Feb. 1, would amend the state election code to have ranked-choice voting in elections for the following positions: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, secretary of state, treasurer and General Assembly member. According to the bill, voting would proceed in rounds, with voters ranking candidates and the last-place candidate being eliminated after each round. When two candidates remain, the candidate with the higher vote total would win.

Kentucky: Voting Fraud vs. Election Fraud And Claims Of Chicanery In Kentucky | WFPL

In a national television appearance on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell knocked down claims of wide-scale voting fraud in the presidential election. While tossing cold water on President Trump’s repeated (and unsubstantiated) claims of fraud impacting the election, McConnell did say that vote fraud is real, it happens, and Kentucky has a history of it. “… the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true,” McConnell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.” Our reporting pals at WAVE-3 in Louisville asked McConnell’s office for details. His office responded with a link to our newsroom’s August 2016 article on Kentucky’s history of vote buying. So, is McConnell right? Is fraud rampant in Kentucky? No, not really. The answer is complicated, though, and it boils down to semantics.

Massachusetts: No quick way for cities, towns to recoup early-vote costs | Sentinel & Enterprise

Despite a determination by state Auditor Suzanne Bump that certain early-voting costs incurred by local city and town clerks, totaling nearly $720,000, should be paid for by the state, there is little chance of that happening unless the municipalities seek relief from the courts or the Legislature. “This sounds like there will need to be a lot of work done at the state and local level to work all this out,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell about how municipalities, including Fitchburg’s nearly $11,500 in mandated expenses, might go about getting reimbursed for the state-mandated early voting during the 2016 election. The determination by Bump’s Division of Local Mandates about whether the early-election expenses could be recouped was requested by the city of Woburn and the town of Oxford.

Nevada: Will Automatic Voter Registration Come To Nevada? | Nevada Public Radio

Should Nevadans be automatically registered to vote when they get their drivers’ licenses? That’s a question before the state Legislature this session. Right now, people can already register to vote while at the DMV, but proposals would make this process opt-out instead of opt-in. In other words, Nevadans would get their voter registrations at the same time as their licenses automatically. Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria testified before the Assembly’s Legislative Operations committee about the proposals this week. Question: Will everyone who gets a Nevada driver’s license be automatically registered to vote? What about those people who are already licensed but not registered to vote?

Utah: Statewide Election Day registration bill halted in House committee | Deseret News

A bill that would have required all counties to provide same-day Election Day registration stalled in a House committee Thursday. HB285 would have enacted a five-year pilot program to expand on a test program that eight counties participated in over the past three years, but a majority of the House Government Operations Committee voted against giving the bill a favorable recommendation to the full House floor. “My concern is local control,” Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, said, arguing individual county clerks should be able to opt into the program, not be required by the state. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said data collected over the past three years shows same-day Election Day registration does not cause problems with voting and helps more voters cast a ballot, even if they forgot to register ahead of time.

Wyoming: Party switching on Wyoming primary day lives on; bill dies | Associated Press

The commonplace Wyoming voter tradition of changing party affiliation at the polls on primary day will live on after a legislative committee killed a bill Thursday that would have made it more difficult for Democrats to vote in Republican primaries and vice versa. Wyoming doesn’t allow cross-party voting on primary day, but voters may switch parties moments before voting. Under the proposal, voters would have been allowed to switch no fewer than 30 days before primary day. The bill made it through the Wyoming House before dying on a 3-0 vote in the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. Political parties are private organizations and members only should decide which candidates will represent the parties in the general election, Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Matt Micheli, told the committee in support of the bill.

Afghanistan: Parliament elections timetable likely to be announced in March | Khaama Press

The timetable for the parliament election of Afghanistan is likely to be announced by early March of this year. Deputy presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazvi said the Independent Election Commission should present the timetable for the parliamentary election by early March. He said a meeting was also organized with the international donors to discuss the arrangement of funds for the elections. Murtazvi further added that the United Nations will also support the government and is working on technical team to cooperate with the electoral bodies.

Congo: Elections in 2017 Are Too Expensive, Says Budget Minister | Newsweek

Congo’s government has said it will be too expensive to hold national elections in 2017, suggesting that an already-delayed vote will be pushed back even further. The country’s budget minister, Pierre Kangudia, said at a press conference in Kinshasa on Wednesday that it would be difficult to raise the funds purportedly needed to hold the vote. “Even if the outlook appears to be improving, it will be difficult to think that we can mobilize $1.8 billion this year,” said Kangudi, according to Radio Okapi, a U.N.-backed Congolese news source.

France: Foreign Minister Warns Russia Over ‘Interference’ In Presidential Election | RFERL

France says it will not accept meddling by Russia or any other country in its upcoming presidential election, and that it could respond to such interference with “retaliatory measures.” The remarks by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on February 15 come in the wake of what U.S. intelligence officials have described a Kremlin-directed campaign of hacking and public-opinion manipulation that aimed to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “We will not accept any interference whatsoever in our electoral process, no more from Russia, by the way, than from any other state,” Ayrault told parliament. Ayrault said France could respond to such meddling with “retaliatory measures when that is necessary.”

Indonesia: Jakarta Election Commission to Improve Voters’ Data | Jakarta Globe

Jakarta’s Regional Election Commission, the KPUD, will update its list of voters, known as DPT, ahead of the expected run-off election in Jakarta in April, the commission’s chairman has said. “We’ve had a meeting with the KPU [General Election Commission]. We will use the list of voters in the first round as a reference for the voters’ list in the run-off election,” KPUD Chairman Sumarno said in Jakarta on Thursday (17/02). The new list will include voters who were listed in the additional list, known as DPTb, as they went to polling stations and submitted their credentials despite not being listed in the initial voters’ list there. Sumarno said they will also include Jakarta residents who were listed in the DPT during the first round but failed to turn up at polling stations.

Kenya: Opposition warns of protests if elections ‘rigged’ | Reuters

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday mass protests were possible if August elections were rigged, comments likely to scare Kenyans fearful of a repeat of the widespread violence that erupted after a disputed poll in 2007. Then, more than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of fighting after political protests turned into ethnic clashes, but 2013 polls, when Odinga accepted the result after a court ruling, passed relatively peacefully. “This country is not ready for another rigged election. Kenyans will not accept it,” Odinga said, noting that multiple people had been registered to vote with the same identity card in a registration period that has just ended.

Netherlands: Fake News, Fake Ukrainians: How a Group of Russians Tilted a Dutch Vote | The New York Times

Harry van Bommel, a left-wing member of the Dutch Parliament, had persuasive allies in convincing voters that they should reject a trade pact with Ukraine — his special “Ukrainian team,” a gleefully contrarian group of émigrés whose sympathies lay with Russia. They attended public meetings, appeared on television and used social media to denounce Ukraine’s pro-Western government as a bloodthirsty kleptocracy, unworthy of Dutch support. As Mr. Van Bommel recalled, it “was very handy to show that not all Ukrainians were in favor.” Handy but also misleading: The most active members of the Ukrainian team were actually from Russia, or from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, and parroted the Kremlin line. The Dutch referendum, held last April, became a battering ram aimed at the European Union. With turnout low, Dutch voters rejected the trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, delighting Moscow, emboldening pro-Russia populists around Europe and leaving political elites aghast.

Turkey: Fears Grow Over Fairness of Upcoming Election in Turkey | VoA News

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed into law constitutional amendments aimed at giving him sweeping new powers under an executive presidency. The reforms are deeply divisive, with supporters saying they will strengthen democracy, while critics warn of dictatorship. Turks will decide in a referendum set for April 16. Doubts over its fairness are growing among opponents of the reforms, who claim a crackdown against them already has started. Leading right-wing politician Meral Aksener recently spoke at a rally to oppose the presidential constitutional reforms. The meeting ended up being held in darkness after the electricity to the venue was mysteriously cut. Aksener said she had little doubt the blackout was deliberate, shouting to the audience, “President, what you are afraid of, me as a woman opposing you and your powerful state. We look for democracy in darkness and hopefully on April 16th we will find democracy coming out of the ballots,” she later said to reporters.