The House Motor Vehicles Committee on Tuesday stripped the “noncitizen” label provision from House Bill 136, which would allow people to keep their old driver’s licenses when they renew them. Later Tuesday, a subcommittee of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee discussed House Bill 324, which also would require the “noncitizen” language. Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, sponsored both “noncitizen” measures. He said stamping driver’s licenses with the term would prevent ineligible people from registering to vote, getting a weapons permit or taking advantage of other services reserved for citizens. “The driver’s license is the standard first form of ID,” Powell said at the public safety subcommittee meeting. “That’s the reason I thought it needed to be stamped.”
A member of the Federal Election Commission was defiant Tuesday after a nonprofit group said her request that President Donald Trump provide proof of voter fraud merited an investigation into whether her comments were inappropriate. Ellen Weintraub’s remarks were in response to a letter sent from the Cause of Action Institute to Lynne A. McFarland, the FEC inspector general, about a statement Weintraub made earlier in February. Weintraub called on the President to substantiate his claim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire, a call she repeated in her statement Tuesday. Cause of Action’s letter said Weintraub, a Democratic member of the six-member commission, may be in violation of government ethics rules for making the statement as an FEC official and called on the agency’s watchdog to look into the matter. The FEC is tasked with regulating campaign finance, and Cause of Action’s letter said Weintraub could have stepped outside of her authority by commenting about voter fraud.
National: Senate Intelligence Committee asks for Russia-related records to be preserved | The Washington Post
The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to ensure that records related to Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections are preserved as it begins investigating that country’s ties to the Trump team. The panel sent more than a dozen letters to “organizations, agencies and officials” on Friday, asking them to preserve materials related to the congressional investigation, according to a Senate aide, who was not authorized to comment publicly. The Senate Intelligence Committee is spearheading the most comprehensive probe on Capitol Hill of Russia’s alleged activities in the elections. The letters went out the same day that FBI Director James B. Comey huddled for almost two hours with the committee’s Senate members in a closed-door briefing in the Capitol. Senators emerged from that meeting especially tight-lipped about what transpired, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) breaking the silence by tweeting the next day that he was “now very confident” the committee “will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence.”
The mystery at the core of the Trump-Russia story is motive. President Trump certainly seems to have a strange case of Russophilia. He has surrounded himself with aides who have Russian ties. Those aides were talking to Russian agents during the campaign, and some are now pushing a dubious peace deal in Ukraine. Trump recently went so far as to equate the United States and Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime. But why? It’s not a simple question. In their Russia-related inquiries, the F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee will need to focus first on what happened — whether Trump’s team broke any laws and whether the president has lied about it. Yet the investigators, as well as the journalists doing such good work reporting this story, should also keep in mind the why of the matter. It will help explain the rest of the story. The United States has never had a situation quite like this. Other countries have tried to intervene in our affairs before, sometimes with modest success. Britain and Nazi Germany, for example, tried to influence the 1940 presidential election, financing bogus polls and efforts to sway the nominating conventions. But never has a president had such murky ties to a foreign government as hostile as Putin’s. I count five possible explanations for Trump’s Russophilia, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
Editorials: Fighting voter ID laws in the courts isn’t enough. We need boots on the ground | Molly J. McGrath/Los Angeles Times
I first met Cinderria, an 18-year-old woman of color, in a library in downtown Madison, Wis. She approached the table marked “Voter ID Assistance” and explained that with the 2016 presidential primary only a few months away, and despite several trips to the DMV, she still didn’t have a valid ID as mandated by Wisconsin’s strict new laws. It turned out she needed a Social Security card but wasn’t sure how to obtain one. Proponents of voter ID laws don’t want to acknowledge that Cinderria’s case is far from unusual. Experts project that in Wisconsin alone, 300,000 eligible voters lack the ID necessary to cast a ballot. Across the country, 32 states have some form of voter ID law, creating a crisis of disenfranchisement not seen since the civil rights era. These ID laws don’t touch all groups equally: Voters of color, like Cinderria, are hit hardest. The elderly, students and low-income voters also are disproportionately affected. (A new study published in the Journal of Politics, for instance, found that strict ID laws lower African American, Latino, Asian American and multiracial American turnout.)
The Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, tasked with addressing last month’s court order that struck down 12 of Alabama’s state legislative districts, adopted what amounted to the same rules used by legislators to redraw the state’s legislative maps in 2012. The committee approved the rules on a 12 to 4 vote, over objections from some Democrats on the committee who wanted more time to review the rules. “Some of the same mistakes that we tried to tell them in 2012 that the Supreme Court would rule against, it happened,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, a member of the committee. “So here we are again, starting the same way we started.”
A Republican lawmaker is proposing yet another change to how citizens can enact laws in Arizona on top of others already working their way through the Legislature. Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, wants to require backers to gather signatures from 10 percent of voters in each of the state’s 30 legislative districts before an initiative makes the ballot and 15 percent to qualify a Constitutional amendment. That’s a change from requiring a percentage of all eligible voters to sign. Shooter said Monday that the change is needed to protect minority rights and prevent liberal out-of-state interests from pushing voter initiatives in Arizona.
A Senate committee voted Tuesday to advance a bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. In a voice vote with no audible dissent, the all-Republican Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle. The bill, which passed in the House last month in a 74-21 vote, goes next to the full Senate. Lowery told the committee the bill has been amended since it passed the House. Previously, the bill stated that a voter who did not show photo ID could cast a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot would be counted if the voter showed photo ID to the county clerk or county election board by noon on the Monday after the election.
An elections bill up for consideration in the state House Wednesday has raised the ire of voter advocacy groups, who say it could disproportionately hurt minority Georgians trying to join the state’s voter rolls. House Bill 268, which is scheduled to be considered by the state House, would create a 26-month deadline for voting applicants to correct discrepancies in what they submit to the state when they register. It is being opposed by the same groups who sued Secretary of State Brian Kemp last year, alleging the system disenfranchised minority voters because the requirement blocked tens of thousands of them from voter rolls. That suit was settled two weeks ago.
Maine: Republican lawmakers want to remove gubernatorial candidates from Clean Elections Act | The Portland Press Herald
An effort by a pair of Republican state lawmakers to remove gubernatorial candidates from Maine’s publicly financed political campaign system is being met with mixed reactions at the State House. Reps. Joel Stetkis and Paula Sutton have co-sponsored a bill removing candidates for governor from the list of those who can become eligible for taxpayer support for an election campaign. Stetkis, R-Canaan, told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Friday that the program was a failure as it stands even though he supports the underlying goal of the state’s Clean Election Act, which was to remove special interest money from political campaigns. Stetkis said providing up to $3 million in taxpayer funds for every gubernatorial candidate who becomes eligible for public finances puts a financial burden on the state at the expense of other priorities.
Despite a determination by state Auditor Suzanne M. 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. Lowell spent more than $16,700 on early voting according to Director of Elections Eda Matchak. “We have submitted our cost to the state Auditor’s Office through the form of the municipal survey that they did following the election,” Matchak said. 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.
Montana: Lawmaker argues special elections request is unfair to Native Americans | Great Falls Tribune
A Senate Bill that would let counties hold a presumptive special election by mail ballot came under criticism Monday by a lawmaker who feared it would not be fair to people who live on reservations who vote at satellite offices. Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, D-Crow Agency, told members of the Senate State Administration Committee that the proposal known as Senate Bill 305 at the behest of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders was another example of suppressing the Native American vote. She said tribes have undergone litigation with counties in order to get equal access to the polls through satellite offices. “I highly oppose it as it is a form of suppression in my district,” Stewart-Peregoy said, adding “this is another example of the government being forked-tongued.”
The way Rep. Norman Silber sees it, a party primary is supposed to select the best person who represents the values and platform of that particular political party — and allowing undeclared voters to weigh in allows for too much electoral mischief. “It’s not unheard of that some true members of a party who happen to be registered as undeclared choose to vote in the other party’s primary to try to get the worst candidate or at least the one notionally easiest to beat for the general election,” Silber, a Republican from Gilford, told his colleagues at a House Election Law Committee hearing Tuesday morning. “And this applies irrespective of what party you’re registered as.”
North Carolina: Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Stein withdrawing from appeal to U.S. Supreme Court on Voter ID case | Winston-Salem Journal
Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced Tuesday that they will no longer appeal a federal appeals court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s sweeping and controversial elections law. In a news release, Cooper and Stein said they were taking steps to withdraw a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had joined in a petition for the high court to hear the case late last year. The Republican-led State Board of Elections, its individual members and its executive director will remain in the case, according to the news release from the Governor’s Office. But Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said no decision has been made. The board will meet Wednesday and will likely take up the issue. “We need to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, not harder, and I will not continue to waste time and money appealing this unconstitutional law,” Cooper said in a statement. “It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters.”
A federal judge has ordered sanctions against the state of Texas for blowing past deadlines and ignoring a court order to hand over thousands of pages of documents in a lawsuit challenging its voter registration practices. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office’s “months-long delay” in producing the documents “has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming” and has burdened plaintiffs in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio wrote in an order signed Thursday. Garcia ordered the state to pay some of the plaintiffs’ legal fees, including those tied to the sanctions request. The Texas Civil Rights Project last March sued on behalf of four Texans who allege the Department of Public Safety denied them the opportunity to cast a ballot — and violated federal law — by failing to update their voter registration records online.
Top Texas Republicans unveiled legislation Tuesday that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, an effort to comply with court rulings that have found that the current law discriminates against minority groups. Filed by Sen. Joan Huffman, Senate Bill 5 would add options for Texans who say they cannot “reasonably” obtain one of seven forms of ID currently required at the polls. It would also create harsh criminal penalties for those who falsely claim they need to choose from the expanded list of options. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has granted the bill “priority” status, carving it a faster route through the Legislature. Nineteen other senators have signed onto the bill, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who is still defending the current ID law in court — applauded the legislation Tuesday.
Texas: Woman fights harsh voter fraud sentence: ‘I just wanted them to hear my voice’ | The Guardian
Rosa Ortega does not deny she made a mistake. What she finds hard to accept is that her error should merit eight years in prison, almost certain deportation to a country she barely knows, separation from her children and notoriety in rightwing circles. “Send me back to Mexico. Get it over with,” she said in an interview with the Guardian on Friday, sitting behind a glass partition in the Tarrant County corrections centre in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. “I’m done, this is already too much, it’s too much and I’m just sitting there, sitting there, sitting there, and I don’t even sleep, I don’t sleep, I don’t do nothing here. On my mind, from day to night, is my kids.” Ortega was brought to the US from Mexico as a baby and lived legally in Texas as a permanent resident. While her green card entitled her to many of the same privileges as an American citizen, it did not confer the right to vote – yet vote she did, repeatedly, in elections in the Dallas area.
Virginia: Appeals court dismisses case seeking party ID in local elections | Richmond Times-Dispatch
A federal appeals court has dismissed a challenge to a Virginia law prohibiting partisan labels on ballots in local elections. In an opinion published Tuesday, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case brought by a group of Powhatan County Republicans and found the state has a legitimate interest in minimizing political partisanship in local races. “While party identifiers do not appear on the official ballot for Virginia’s local candidates, the candidates still have every other avenue by which to inform voters of this information,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in the three-judge panel’s unanimous opinion affirming a lower court’s earlier ruling. “Political parties and their nominees are entirely free to publicize their association with each other.”
The city of Seattle is trying out a campaign finance experiment in city elections using a voucher system to give money to candidates. In January, residents received four $25 vouchers, paid for with taxpayer funds, that they can give to their candidates of choice for offices such as city council. “It was like getting a little check from your grandma,” Seattle resident Dakota Solberg said of the dark blue slips of paper that arrived in his mailbox recently. Unlike a check from Grandma, the vouchers, totaling $100, can only be spent on candidates for Seattle offices. Solberg said he has never contributed to local races before. “This feels like just extra money that I can use to start participating more,” he said.
Large-scale goof-ups in electoral rolls and voter applications denied several hundreds an opportunity to cast their vote in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) elections on Tuesday. At many centres, presiding officers informed that 10-20% people who turned up to vote returned disappointed. While names of many voters were missing on the electoral rolls, many others got confused with the different information provided by voter applications and websites. Many became victims of the new ward system and could not find their polling booths. Unlike previous elections, most of them didn’t receive the voting slips. After struggling for hours to find his booth, Prakash Khandelwal gave up. “First, I went to a school in Ramdaspeth where I had voted during the last Vidhan Sabha elections. The officials couldn’t find my name and gave me a handwritten chit, asking me to go to Gandhi Nagar Hindi Prathmik Shala where too my name was still missing,” he said.
The websites of the Montenegrin government and several state institutions, as well as some pro-government media, have been targeted with increasing numbers of cyberattacks in recent days, the government in Podgorica told BIRN. “The scope and diversity of the attacks and the fact that they are being undertaken on a professional level indicates that this was a synchronised action,” the government said in a statement. Official websites and network infrastructure came under serious attack for the first time on the day of the parliamentary elections in Montenegro on October 16, amid speculation that Russian hackers had a role in it. The major new attack, which the government describes as more intense than the one in October, started on February 15 and peaked the following day, but continued over the weekend, the statement said.
United Kingdom: Clear evidence Russia interfered in 2015 election, says former Labour minister | The Independent
There is “clear evidence” that Russia interfered directly in UK elections, a Labour former minister has said. Chris Bryant told Parliament some of the top-level decisions affecting security in Britain had also been “compromised by Russian infiltration”. The former Europe minister’s comments came after it emerged that political parties in the UK have approached the security agencies for help following a cyber attack during the 2015 British general election. “There is now clear evidence of Russian direct, corrupt involvement in elections in France, in Germany, in the United States of America, and I would argue also in this country,” said Mr Bryant. “Many believe that some of the highest level decisions affecting security in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France and in the United States of America are now compromised by Russian infiltration.”