National: California’s top elections officer finds his critique of Trump’s voter fraud accusations blocked at national meeting | Los Angeles Times

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, one of the most vocal critics of President Trump’s unproved accusations of voter fraud, lost in an effort Friday to convince other elections officials to take a stand on the issue. Padilla, attending a conference of the National Assn. of Secretaries of State, had drafted a resolution calling Trump’s repeated allegations of widespread illegal voting “without merit” and urging the president to “cease his baseless allegations about voter fraud.” But he was blocked at the last minute from introducing the resolution at the Washington gathering, even though the bipartisan organization issued a statement last month disputing Trump’s comments. The president’s assertions, never backed up with any specific information, have included the election results certified in California.

Editorials: Death to the Gerrymander: Paul Smith might defeat unconstitutional redistricting. | Mark Joseph Stern/Salon

It has become painfully clear in recent years that partisan gerrymandering is one of American democracy’s worst illnesses. Although the Supreme Court held decades ago that the purpose of redistricting was to ensure “fair and effective representation for all citizens,” legislators often use the process to lock the minority party out of power. Both Democrats and Republicans deploy partisan gerrymandering to dilute votes for their opponents, creating one-party rule and, arguably, greater polarization. That’s bad for the body politic and a clear contravention of the Constitution. But as long as the courts refuse to step in, gerrymandering will continue to plague the country. Now Paul Smith, one of the greatest legal minds in the country, is asking the Supreme Court to finally put a stop to it. And here’s the exciting part: He might actually succeed.

Alabama: County decision pending on voting machines | Times Daily

Colbert County commissioners must decide if they will pay the price for maintaining Americans With Disabilities Act voting machines, or face a potential lawsuit if they are not available for handicapped voters. Probate Judge Daniel Rosser told commissioners in November the county’s maintenance contract on the 36 Automark ADA compliant machines had to be renewed. He said the contract with an outside vendor would cost $5,785 this year, and $7,714 the following year. Commissioners have delayed acting on the contract. During their Feb. 7 meeting, Rosser said they were trying to determine if the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s self-insurance pool would cover the county if it is sued if the machines are not available. “You can’t answer coverage questions when you don’t know what a lawsuit says,” ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield said Wednesday. “We get those calls all the time.”

California: San Francisco Elections Commission asks mayor to put $4M toward open source voting system | The San Francisco Examiner

While the Elections Commission may be among the least followed city bodies, the seven members are playing a critical role in determining whether San Francisco will begin to use an open-source voting system. For years, open-source voting advocates have called on San Francisco officials to part ways with traditional voting machine companies. Open-source voting is widely considered the best defense to voter fraud with the added benefits of cost savings and flexibility. Much to chagrin of these advocates, The City has continued to sign contracts with nonopen-source voting companies. While no open-source voting system has been deployed elsewhere, other jurisdictions are currently working on it, such as Travis County, Texas. After The City allocated $300,000 in the current fiscal year to move San Francisco toward an open-source voting system, the effort has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start. Advocates worry if funding isn’t committed to building out such a system, the effort will face further delays.

Florida: Bills would resolve mail-in ballot ‘signature mismatch’ | News13

In 2016, a federal judge forced Florida to make sure voters were notified of problems with mail-in ballot signatures. This year lawmakers want to make the change permanent. The measures (HB 105/SB 544) would require county election supervisors to allow voters whose ballots have been flagged for a signature “mismatch” to correct the problem by completing a signed affidavit. During the 2012 election, more than 23,000 mail-in ballots were invalidated because they bore signatures that didn’t match those held on file by supervisors.

Iowa: Senator Mark Chelgren wants political balance among university professors | Des Moines Register

A bill in the Iowa Senate seeks to achieve greater political diversity among professors at the state’s Board of Regents universities. Senate File 288 would institute a hiring freeze until the number of registered Republicans and Democrats on the university faculty fall within 10 percent of each other. “I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa. “They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are.” Asked whether the regents need greater diversity of thought, spokesman Josh Lehman said the board “expects the universities to hire the most qualified faculty to teach our students.” Chelgren would not say whether he believes Iowa’s universities have become too liberal. Rather, he said, he’s concerned about “extreme views on either side.”

Missouri: True cost of voter ID law still unknown | Missourian

The cost of Missouri’s new voter identification law is still up for debate, as legislators and government officials present wildly different numbers. Cost estimates range from $300,000 to millions of dollars. Those numbers could grow if a plan to enact the federal Real ID Act of 2005 in Missouri moves forward. The voter ID law, which was passed in Missouri last year, requires voters to present photo identification at polling locations, though if one doesn’t have identification, provisional ballots are provided. In order to ensure that low-income voters are not disenfranchised, the law states that the Missouri government must pay for non-drivers licenses and backing documents — paperwork such as birth certificates or divorce papers needed to obtain an ID. Advertisements are also required to ensure Missouri residents are aware of the changes. The changes take effect June 1.

Montana: Lawmaker Puts Brakes On His Own Voter ID Bill | MTPR

After contentious debate over a voter ID proposal, the Republican sponsor has put the brakes on his own legislation. In a move that caught Democrats by surprise, Rep. Derek Skees, a Republican from Kalispell, today asked the House State Administration committee to table his bill. “Thank you so much for hearing the bill, and its discussion,” says Skees. “And I got to say what I wanted to say.” Skees says he will continue to work at changing the problems he sees in the state’s election system but will move those efforts outside of the legislature and to what he calls ‘the folks on the ground, the warriors in the front and the electorate themselves.’ After the committee hearing, Skees said he didn’t want to table the bill and still thinks Montana should have a voter ID law. When asked if his bill was tabled due to lack of support from his own party, he declined to talk about it. Skees also declined to say if the GOP would support future attempts to pass a voter ID bill.

Montana: County officials ask lawmakers to allow all-mail ballots in special election | KTVH

Officials from counties around Montana came to the Capitol Monday, asking lawmakers to let them conduct the election for Rep. Ryan Zinke’s congressional seat by mail ballot. The Senate State Administration Committee held an initial hearing on Senate Bill 305, sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls. The bill would give counties the choice of whether to have traditional polling places or only mail ballots for the upcoming special election. The committee heard from dozens of commissioners and elections officials, from counties ranging from Richland to Ravalli. They argue that counties are already facing an unexpected cost to run the election, and switching to all-mail ballots could save them each tens of thousands of dollars. In larger counties like Missoula, Yellowstone and Gallatin, those savings could be closer to $100,000.

New Mexico: Senate approves popular vote for presidency on 26-16 vote | Albuquerque Journal

Fresh off a divisive election season, the Senate on Monday approved legislation adding New Mexico to an interstate compact aimed at guaranteeing the president – in future elections – would be elected by national popular vote. The measure, Senate Bill 42, passed the chamber on a party-line 26-16 vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, and now moves on to the House. “By doing our part to move toward a national popular vote, we can begin the process of regaining the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure their voices are equal to every voter across the country,” said Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor. However, several Republican critics of the legislation accused Democrats of pushing the change in response to President Donald Trump’s victory. “Just because we didn’t get our way means we pout and change the entire system,” complained Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell.

New Mexico: Bill would OK registration closer to election | Las Cruces Sun-News

Potential voters would be able to register up until three days before an election under legislation that cleared its first committee hurdle last week. Senate Bill 224 would change current law, which cuts off voter registration 28 days before an election. “It is long overdue that New Mexico update its antiquated 28-day cut off period for citizens to register to vote. Clearly, we have the technology to safely enable citizens to register much closer to the election,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is a great step forward to make that happen.”

Editorials: The harmful myth of widespread voter fraud | Christoper Seaman/Roanoke Times

The 2016 election has been thrust back into the headlines with President Trump’s unsupported claim of “massive” voter fraud and promise to conduct a “major investigation.” But academics who have studied this issue, election administrators, and even President Trump’s own lawyers already agree: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. We have been down this road before. During the administration of President George W. Bush, the Justice Department conducted a wide ranging, five-year investigation into claims of voter fraud after the hotly contested 2000 election, but ultimately ended up with little to show for it. This inquiry did not turn up any instances of widespread conspiracies of voter fraud, nor did it find any evidence that fraud impacted congressional or statewide elections. Instead, only a few dozen individuals — out of hundreds of millions of votes cast nationwide — were charged with election-related violations, most of which involved mistakes regarding voter registration forms or voter eligibility rules.

Editorials: The redistricting formulas in Ohio that serve the parties, not the people | Thomas Suddes/Cleveland Plain Dealer

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan carried Ohio, he drew about 51.5 percent of the state’s vote, and Ohioans sent 23 people to the U.S. House of Representatives. Thirteen (or 57 percent) were Republicans, 10 (or 43 percent), Democrats. A few months ago, Donald Trump carried Ohio. He drew about 51.7 percent of the state’s vote, and Ohioans sent 16 people to the House. Of those 16 House members, 12 (or 75 percent) are Republicans, four (or 25 percent) are Democrats. Anyone wonder why most General Assembly Republicans (i.e., 66 of 99 state House members, 24 of 33 state Senate members) aren’t in any rush to reform how Ohio draws congressional districts? The legislature draws districts now. And it appears that Republicans don’t want good-government busybodies gumming things up. (In fairness, though, Sen. Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican, has called for districting reform. So has state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Kent Democrat. Clyde and LaRose are considered likely 2018 candidates for secretary of state, Ohio’s chief election officer.)

Ecuador: Transgender people vote for first time according to chosen gender | Reuters

Ecuadorean transgender people on Sunday voted for the first time according to their chosen gender, in what activists say are signs of progress in the socially conservative and Catholic Andean nation. In Ecuador, men and women wait in separate lines to cast their ballots, which for years created uncomfortable moments for transgender voters who had to queue up according to their biological sex. “The rumors would start, and the looks,” said LGBT activist Mariasol Mite, 32, who changed her ID description from “sex: male” to “gender: female” last year. Fears of harassment were such that voters would sometimes send their brothers or husbands to wait in line until they got close to the booth, according to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists. “This year, everything was different,” said Mite, adding that public officials and fellow voters were much more aware of the issue.

France: Police raid Marine Le Pen’s Front National party HQ in EU fake jobs probe | Telegraph

French police raided the headquarters of Marine Le Pen’s Front National party on Monday as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants. The European parliament has accused Ms Le Pen, a French presidential candidate and MEP, of paying FN party staff with EU funds which it says should only be spent on European parliamentary assistants. It has demanded Ms Le Pen pay back nearly €340,000 (£290,000) and, faced with her refusal to repay the money, has said it will start docking her salary in order to recover the funds. The search at the far-Right party’s headquarters in Nanterre, west of Paris, was confirmed by FN officials, who said it was the second time the offices had been raided. They accused the French judiciary of conducting a political smear campaign.

Germany: Preparing for Election Year Hacks | Handelsblatt

Allegations that the Russian government launched an organized campaign to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election have unsettled Europe. With national elections approaching in Germany in September, policymakers in Berlin are concerned that Europe’s largest economy could be the next target. “We of course have to assume that in the German campaign there will be attempts to influence the outcome of the federal elections,” said Daniela Schwarzer, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent podium discussion on cyber security. The discussion, which took place during the Munich Security Conference, was attended by interior and defense ministers from a host of nations. They listened as security experts Klaus Schweinsberg and Marco Gercke ran simulations in which a fictional European nation faces a cyber attack aimed at its elections.

Netherlands: The far right party is leading election polls in the Netherlands: Will Geert Wilders be prime minister? | Los Angeles Times

One late-winter evening three years ago, Lt. Col. Mostafa Hilali switched off the light at his office in the Dutch defense department, drove home to his townhouse near the banks of the North Sea, and flipped on the TV. On the news was footage of a political rally where the leader of Holland’s far-right Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, stepped up to the microphone and asked his supporters: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this country?” The mostly white, Christian crowd chanted with fervor: “Fewer, fewer, fewer!” “Well I’ll arrange for that then,” Wilders retorted with a smirk. The crowd cheered. Hilali’s heart sank. “That’s when it hit home for me,” Hilali, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent who immigrated to the Netherlands with his parents when he was a toddler, said at his home in The Hague. “I mean, a politician, somebody in our House of Representatives, is actually on television saying out loud there need to be less people of your kind. It’s pretty brutal to say, and pretty brutal to hear.” Hilali and his native Dutch wife were among more than 5,000 plaintiffs who brought a class-action lawsuit against Wilders for discrimination, for his comments at that March 2014 rally. Last December, they won. A Dutch court found Wilders guilty of inciting discrimination and insulting an ethnic group, but issued no punishment.