National: Top Republican says special prosecutor should investigate Russian meddling in Trump’s election | The Washington Post

A senior Republican lawmaker on Friday agreed that a special prosecutor should investigate Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation into Russia’s reported election meddling. This comes as Democrats have increasingly pushed for an investigation into President Trump’s associates’ ties to Russia. In an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Issa, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, first told the progressive show host that House and Senate intelligence committees would look into Russia’s activities “within the special areas they oversee.” That was not sufficient for Maher, who pressed Issa — formerly the head of the House Oversight Committee — on whether he would have “let that slide” had similar suspicions arose involving the Democrats. Maher has been a vocal critic of Trump. … Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), echoing other Democrats, has said that “the appearance of bias is unavoidable” if Sessions does not recuse himself in an independent investigation. Sessions indicated during the confirmation process that he would not recuse himself during any investigations involving Trump.

National: FBI Broke Rules Talking to the White House About Russia | Time

FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may have violated multiple existing Justice Department rules controlling contacts between the bureau and White House officials when they spoke earlier this month with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus about their ongoing investigation into Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to several former senior Justice Department officials. The first questionable contact came when McCabe spoke with Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the White House on Feb. 15 on an unrelated intelligence issue. The day before, the New York Times had reported that Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had multiple contacts with known agents of Russian intelligence in the year before the election. At the White House meeting, McCabe told Priebus, ‘I want you to know story in NYT is BS,” according to senior Administration officials who briefed reporters on Feb. 24. Priebus asked McCabe what could be done to push back, saying the White House was “getting crushed” on the story. McCabe demurred, and then later called back to say, “We’d love to help but we can’t get into the position of making statements on every story.”

National: Nunes, Burr comments cast doubt on Russia probes | McClatchy DC

Congressional Democrats are questioning whether recent comments from leading Republicans, made at the request of the White House, have compromised Senate and House investigations into possible Russian influence on the recent election. The comments were from the chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are expected to play pivotal roles in investigation of Russian interference in the election and Russian influence in the administration of President Donald Trump. The comments came last week after the White House admitted contacting Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and asking them to speak to reporters to debunk media reports of “repeated” or “constant” contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

National: Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats | The Hill

Democratic senators are asking a federal agency that helps certify and secure voting systems for a “full account” of its work to secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers. The senators, led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), also want the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to detail cybersecurity challenges facing state and local officials as they look to safeguard future elections. The intelligence community concluded in an unclassified report released in January that Russia engaged in a cyber and disinformation campaign during the election to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Intelligence officials determined that “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” though they found no systems involved in voting tallying were breached.

Editorials: Fight ID laws one voter at a time | Molly J. McGrath/Wisconsin State Journal

I first met Cinderria, an 18-year-old woman of color, in a library in Downtown Madison. 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.)

Minnesota: Debate over ranked-choice voting reignites in St. Paul | Minneapolis Star Tribune

St. Paul mayoral candidate Elizabeth Dickinson discusses ranked-choice voting at a town hall meeting Wednesday. The debate over how St. Paul residents elect city leaders is heating up again. The city started using ranked-choice voting in 2011, forgoing primaries and putting all the candidates on the ballot to be ranked. Supporters say it has been a more inclusive way to elect city leaders and resulted in people with the broadest support winning. Opponents, who are beginning the push to return to the primary system, say it is confusing and has failed to produce the promised growth in voter turnout. The two sides squared off this week at a sparsely attended town hall forum. But behind the scenes, the debate had already begun. On Monday, Charter Commission Member Chuck Repke plans to propose a change to the city’s charter to eliminate the ranked-choice system. The proposal has already met resistance from City Council members.

Montana: Democrats accuse Republicans of voter suppression ahead of special election | The Guardian

Montana’s Republican party leadership is opposing a Republican-sponsored measure to reform the state’s elections, warning that it would “give Democrats an inherent advantage” due to their ability to increase voter turnout door-to-door. In an email titled Emergency Chairman’s Report, the Republican party chairman, Jeff Essmann, set off a furious war of words, with Democrats accusing Republicans of attempting to suppress the vote because it might mean a loss for the party. The dispute focuses on a bipartisan bill before the Montana legislature that would make an upcoming election to replace Representative Ryan Zinke, a Republican nominated by Donald Trump to be interior secretary, an all-mail ballot vote. Essmann warned that if the bill passed, the Democrats would have an advantage “in close elections due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door”. “This a Republican saying, no, let’s not let everybody vote,” said Nancy Keenan, the state’s Democratic party leader. “This is wrong, and it is wrong that he would attempt to suppress votes.”

New Hampshire: Bills seek to tighten New Hampshire’s voter eligibility | Seacoast Online

State legislators are considering a raft of voting-related bills this session, including several aimed at tightening eligibility at the polls. The Senate is considering proposals targeting the definition of a domicile, the standard used to determine if someone can legally vote in New Hampshire. House members have submitted bills to change the definition of residency and require the Secretary of State’s Office to investigate voting irregularities, among others. Another high-profile House bill that would have eliminated same-day voter registration was amended, then later effectively killed. All told, both chambers will review nearly 50 bills related to voting, a notable increase over previous sessions, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

New Mexico: Automatic voter registration bill dies in committee | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Two Democrats joined with Republicans to kill a bill that would have automatically registered all eligible adults as voters when they obtain a New Mexico driver’s license. Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, questioned whether the bill was necessary when the Motor Vehicle Division can already offer eligible adults the chance to register to vote. Republicans on Thursday evening moved to table the bill in the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee. Rodella and a newly elected Democrat, Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales, sided with Republicans to stop the proposal on a 5-2 vote.

Texas: Judge denies request to delay lawsuit against Texas voter ID | Associated Press

A long-running lawsuit over Texas’ contentious voter ID law will move forward in federal court, even as the Republican-controlled Legislature considers how best to modify it. A federal judge on Friday denied a request from the U.S. Justice Department and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to delay the case. The Trump administration joined with Texas to ask that next week’s hearing be postponed until June when the Texas Legislature’s session finishes.

Texas: One-man votes form districts that give developers millions in taxing power | Dallas Morning News

One man, said to be living in a trailer on 600 acres of Collin County farm land, cast the single vote this month to give a developer taxing power. The developer, who needed $63 million to build a subdivision, put the trailer there. The voter, who has a home miles away in McKinney, began renting the trailer shortly before the election. Meanwhile in Dallas, another one-man election this month decided whether a developer would get taxing power to finance a $700 million office-retail project. The person casting the ballot was the 24-year-old son of a vice president at the developer’s company. The company owned the home where he was, at least on paper, living. You can probably guess how that turned out. The two elections, if you can really call them that, remind me of a 2001 News investigation that I wrote with Brooks Egerton called “Government by Developer.” We found that developers across North Texas were quietly winning hundreds of millions of dollars in taxing power from voters and elected officials to whom they provided homes, jobs or other benefits. The power came through governmental taxing districts created in elections required by Texas law. Developers bought raw land for their projects, drew proposed district boundaries to exclude existing residents and then moved the only voters into rent-free mobile homes. The elections had as few as one voter and no more than 10. The voters were sometimes employees of the developer.

Texas: Flawed voting in Texas likely the result of confusion — not fraud, official says | San Antonio Express-News

After confusion over whether several hundred Texans voted improperly in the November election, local election officials say that the ballots in question likely were cast by eligible voters who got caught up in the chaotic scramble to implement a court order loosening the state’s strict voter identification law. The law, adopted in 2011 by the GOP-controlled Legislature and mired in a yearslong court battle, requires voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued photo ID. After federal courts found the law to be discriminatory, a judge in August ordered Texas officials to soften its requirements for the Nov. 8 election by allowing registered voters without one of the required photo IDs to cast ballots if they signed affidavits swearing that they had a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining ID and showed other documentation, such as a birth certificate, utility bill, bank statement or government pay stub.

Virginia: Gov. McAuliffe vetoes bill to investigate possible voter fraud | WRIC

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill Friday that he said would require local election officials to investigate Virginia voters without a clear standard for how and when such investigations should be undertaken. The bill itself, available here, said that, if passed, it would have required local electoral boards to investigate the list of registered voters when the number of registered voters in a county or city exceeds the population of people old enough to vote. Once the investigation was concluded, the bill would have required the local electoral board to make a report of the findings to the State Board of Elections, which then would make it public.

Bulgaria: Election Officials Play Down Machine Voting Failure | Novinite

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has fended off claims that the vote might be contested due to the lack of electronic voting. CEC spokesperson Aleksandar Andreev has told the Bulgarian National Radio that the development is far from being the most substantial claim one could lodge over the election. The comments follow a CEC decision to cancel a tender that would have secured voting machines less than a month ahead of the election. Electronic voting has been made mandatory as an option alongside paper ballots under the latest amendments to legislation adopted last year. In the interview, however, Andreev has enumerated other possible reasons that could turn into “more serious” occasions to dispute the election results. These include the electoral rolls which have not been cleared for 27 years, giving ground to manipulate the vote.

Germany: A far-right grouping may become the biggest opposition party in Germany | The Washington Post

Frauke Petry, the head of Germany’s new AfD party, just spent a few days in Moscow to build connections with Russian politicians. The AfD party is one of a number of right-wing populist parties that have sprung up in Europe over the last few years. While it is not as well established as France’s National Front party — which is leading in some polls for the forthcoming French presidential election — it has representatives in 10 of 16 German states (this is tough under Germany’s electoral law, which discriminates against small parties through imposing electoral thresholds). Its influence on political debates in Germany is far bigger than its number of elected politicians would suggest. So what is the AfD, and how is it changing German politics?

Editorials: Why Dutch voters are about to set the stage for Europe’s elections | Cas Mudde/The Guardian

The Dutch will vote in parliamentary elections on 15 March and, whatever the outcome, will set the stage for key elections across Europe this year – starting with the first round of the French presidential election on 23 April. Seldom has Europe followed Dutch elections so closely, and seldom have they been so unpredictable. So what can Europe expect from the Netherlands and what can we learn? For decades Dutch elections were the most boring in western Europe, with the vast majority of people voting for the same party their whole life, creating only small electoral shifts. This changed in 2002, because of the shock effect of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the rise of the populist Pim Fortuyn, cut short by his murder nine days before the 2002 general election. Although the political party that Fortuyn founded, the LPF, existed for less than six years, it fundamentally changed the political system. Dutch elections are now more volatile, the tone is harsher, and the issues broader – with immigration and Islam now dominating most campaigns.