National: Dispute erupts over investigation into alleged Trump-Russia contacts | The Guardian

A dispute erupted on Monday between top US lawmakers on the intelligence committees in Congress, as Democrats suggested Republicans were incapable of conducting an independent investigation into alleged contacts between Donald Trump and Russian intelligence sources. Tensions between the two parties escalated when Devin Nunes, the Republican who chairs the House intelligence panel, claimed he had not seen any evidence that associates of Trump had communicated with Russian officials and said calls for a special committee to probe the issue would amount to a “witch hunt”. “As of right now, I don’t have any evidence of any phone calls,” Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I don’t have that. And what I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s nothing there.” He added: “At this time, I want to be very careful that we can’t just go on a witch-hunt against Americans because they appear in news stories.”

Editorials: Want Secure Elections? Then Maybe Don’t Cut Security Funding | Dan S. Wallach and Justin Talbot-Zorn/WIRED

Last Week, the House Administration Committee voted on party lines to defund the Election Administration Commission, the leading federal agency responsible for helping states run smooth elections and preventing hacking. Republicans justified the move as a way to save money and shrink the size and scope of government: “We don’t need fluff,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the committee chairman, explaining his vote. But the move wasn’t just Capitol Hill budget politics as usual. It’s evidence of a radical disconnect between a handful of influential House Republicans and nearly everyone else—including the scientific community, leading cybersecurity experts, and even the White House—who contend that voting vulnerabilities are a serious problem. On the morning of the election, Donald Trump called Fox News to give his views on the state of voting in the United States: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system—you don’t worry about hacking.” Trump wasn’t going rogue. While his “voter fraud” comments have gotten serious attention of late, he has also, like many conservatives, expressed concern about the vulnerability of voting systems.

California: Los Angeles County sues state to block redistricting law | The Sacramento Bee

The next remap of California’s political lines is more than four years away, but some legal fights already have begun. Monday, Los Angeles County asked a judge to block a 2016 California law putting a new commission in charge of redrawing county supervisors’ districts after the 2020 census, contending in a lawsuit that the constitution does not allow a “state-imposed experiment in redistricting by partisan, unaccountable and randomly selected commissioners.”

Guam: Crowdfunding a Century-Old Fight for Voting Rights | The Atlantic

Rodney Cruz was born an American citizen. He did a tour in Iraq during 10 years in the Army, and was wounded on the battlefield three times, eventually suffering a traumatic brain injury. His enlistment followed in the footsteps of many of his relatives, an unbroken line of military service. Five successive generations of his family have put their lives on the line for the country, but like four million other Americans in the U.S. territories, Cruz, as a resident of Guam, is constitutionally barred from voting in federal elections. But with some help from a brand-new legal platform, Cruz intends to change that. As the founder of the Iraq-Afghanistan Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific, Cruz is one of the lead plaintiffs in the Segovia v. Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners’ case, a lawsuit seeking to challenge the prohibition on residents of U.S. territories voting in federal elections. The suit is one of several recent legal challenges around the issue of voting rights, sovereignty, and citizenship in the U.S. territories. After the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled against the plaintiffs and denied a motion for summary judgment last year, the plaintiffs and a nonprofit voting-rights organization called We the People Project turned to crowdfunding to finance an appeal to the U.S. Seventh Circuit court.

Iowa: Proposed changes to voter ID bill would reduce early voting | Associated Press

Early voting in Iowa would be reduced under new proposed changes to a voter identification bill approved Monday by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee. The changes, introduced in an amendment by Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Marion, go beyond the scope of the voter ID bill originally filed and promoted by Secretary of State Paul Pate. The amendment was approved about an hour after it was made public during a subcommittee of the House State Government Committee, which Rizer chairs. It advanced with only Republican support. Among the changes is a plan to reduce early voting in a primary or general election in Iowa from 40 days to 29 days. Iowa has one of the longest early voting periods in the country. Rizer said it’s wrong to assume fewer people will vote early under the proposed new system.

Iowa: Voter ID legislation advances in Iowa House | Des Moines Register

A bill requiring Iowans to show identification at the polls was approved by a panel of legislators Monday amid concerns the requirements could restrict access to voting. House Study Bill 93 would make a number of election-related changes that Secretary of State Paul Pate says are needed to ensure the integrity of Iowa’s election processes and prevent fraud. Among them is provision that would require every voter to present valid government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or military ID. “We don’t have a voter fraud issue in the state of Iowa,” said Connie Ryan, a lobbyist with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund. “And it makes no sense to put in provisions that would actually limit people’s ability to vote.” According to an Associated Press report, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office was notified of 10 potentially improper votes cast out of 1.6 million counted statewide in the most recent elections. But the proposal remains popular. According to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted earlier this month, 69 percent of respondents said they support requiring an ID to vote. And although the plan is most popular among Republicans, with 88 percent saying they support mandatory voter ID, 48 percent of Democrats also said they think voters should have identification.

Massachusetts: Suit tests 20-day voter registration cutoff in Massachusetts | Associated Press

A lawsuit challenging the state’s 20-day voter registration cutoff deadline is working its way through the courts with a goal of finding a final resolution ahead of next year’s elections. Defenders of the 20-day cutoff say it’s an important tool for the orderly management of the election process in Massachusetts. Critics say ending the voter registration period 20 days before Election Day is arbitrary. They point to the state’s adoption of early voting last year that allowed voters to begin casting ballots on Oct. 24, just five days after the Oct. 19 registration cutoff. “So as a practical matter you had to be able to let people vote five days after the registration cutoff,” said Kirsten Mayer, a lawyer with the firm Ropes & Gray arguing against the existing registration deadline. “So under those circumstances how can you say you need 20 days?”

New Hampshire: State legislation prohibiting out-of-state voting pending | The New Hampshire

The New Hampshire State House is currently considering several bills that would impact voting and election laws in the state. Students, along with many others, would be highly affected by these new bills if they were to be passed. A Republican-led state house has put forward more than 40 new election bills that will be voted upon in the upcoming months. David Bates, a Republican state representative from Windham, has been the guiding force behind most of these bills that oppose such voting. Election officials in New Hampshire have repeatedly said that there is no widespread voter fraud in the state, according to NHPR. The definition of domicile would be changed under these laws, meaning that those who do not plan to stay in the state on a relatively permanent-basis would no longer be allowed to vote. With these laws in place, out-of-state students would no longer be allowed to vote.

New Mexico: Open primary bill moves forward in Senate | Albuquerque Journal

A proposal to open New Mexico’s primary elections to independent voters survived – just barely – its first challenge in the state Senate.
The bill made it out of the Senate Rules Committee on Monday without a recommendation and now heads to the Judiciary Committee, potentially its last stop before reaching the Senate floor. But that was only after a motion to recommend passage of the bill failed on a tie vote. A similar proposal, meanwhile, is also advancing through the House, though it has not yet reached the floor. Monday’s action centered on Senate Bill 205, sponsored by Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales.

North Carolina: Republican lawmakers want Supreme Court review of voting law continued | News & Observer

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders want the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the new Democratic state attorney general’s bid to dismiss their appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a voting law based on racial bias. Lawyers the General Assembly hired to defend the 2013 law approved by the GOP objected Monday to Attorney General Josh Stein’s petition last week and want the justices to continue considering their previously filed appeal. They say Stein lacks authority to step in because previous Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped defending the law last summer after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found the law targeted minority voters. The legislature’s private lawyers continued the appeal.

Ohio: Non-citizens are voting illegally in Ohio, but the number is tiny | Columbus Dispatch

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office has found 82 additional non-U.S. citizens who registered and voted in at least one election in Ohio. Husted announced today that his office discovered a total of 385 non-citizens improperly registered in 2015, including those who voted. Coupled with similar findings in 2013 and 2015, Husted reported a total of 821 non-citizens have been identified, with 126 of them having voted in the period. While the numbers may look significant, a tiny percentage of those discovered in two previous inquiries were pursued and prosecuted for voter fraud. Of 44 people referred for prosecution in two previous elections, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said eight were prosecuted and five were convicted. one was reported to a diversion program, and the records were sealed in two cases so the disposition is not known.

Texas: Justice Dept. Drops a Key Objection to a Texas Voter ID Law | The New York Times

The Justice Department on Monday dropped a crucial objection to Texas’ strict voter-identification law, signaling a significant change from the Obama administration on voting-rights issues. The Republican-led Texas Legislature passed one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country in 2011, requiring voters to show a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. The Obama administration’s Justice Department sued Texas to block the law in 2013 and scored a major victory last year after a federal appeals court ruled that the law needed to be softened because it discriminated against minority voters who lacked the required IDs. Opponents of the law said Republican lawmakers selected IDs that were most advantageous for Republican-leaning white voters and discarded IDs that were beneficial to Democratic-leaning minority voters. For example, legislators included licenses to carry concealed handguns, which are predominantly carried by whites, and excluded government employee IDs and public university IDs, which are more likely to be used by blacks, Hispanics and Democratic-leaning younger voters. But the Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a judge on Monday that it was withdrawing its claim that Texas enacted the law with a discriminatory intent.

Texas: Trump administration drops Texas voter ID claim | Houston Chronicle

The Trump administration is abandoning the government’s six-year-old claim that Texas’ voter ID law was intended to discriminate against Hispanics and other minorities, signaling a new course in one of the signature voting rights cases brought by former President Barack Obama. The about-face came on the eve of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi. It also came a week after the U.S. Justice Department and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had asked for a delay in the case because the state legislature is considering changes to the law, which the federal courts already have found to have a discriminatory impact. In court filings Monday, the Justice Department again cited new efforts in the Texas Legislature to “rectify any alleged infirmities” with the 2011 voter identification law, including a “reasonable impediment or indigency exception.” A U.S. Justice Department spokesman said the government would remain a party to a broader discrimination lawsuit brought by a number of legal and civil rights groups.

Wisconsin: Attorney General appeals redistricting ruling | Associated Press

Wisconsin’s Republican attorney general filed an appeal Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a ruling striking down GOP-drawn legislative boundaries as unconstitutional. Brad Schimel had said he would appeal since a panel of judges last month struck down the maps and ordered the Republican-controlled Legislature to draw new boundaries. The judges ordered that new maps be drawn by November so they would be in place for the 2018 election. Democrats who challenged the maps are calling on the Legislature to move quickly to draw new ones. But Schimel and Republicans don’t want to do that unless the Supreme Court requires it.

Bulgaria: Could the lack of voting machines sink Bulgaria’s March parliamentary elections? | The Sofia Globe

The fact that there will not be voting machines at all polling stations in Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 early parliamentary elections could open the way for a challenge in the Constitutional Court challenge – but there is no certainty that such a challenge would succeed. This emerges from the view taken by some members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and specialists in Bulgarian constitutional law. The CEC decided on February 25 not to accept the sole bid to supply the machines, saying that the bidder did not meet the technical and timeframe criteria to supply the 12 500 machines needed to comply with a Supreme Administrative Court ruling handed down on February 1. The court ruled that to comply with an amendment to electoral law approved in 2015, there should be voting machines at all polling stations, in Bulgaria and abroad, as an alternative to using a ballot paper.

France: Thousands Sign Petition to Put Obama on French Presidential Ballot | VoA News

Hurrying home from work, Noellie Benison paused to take in the grinning poster of the former U.S. president, flanking a busy meridian in northern Paris. “Obama 2017,” she read out. Below: the French translation of his famous tagline, “Oui, on peut” — “Yes we can.” “If Obama runs, I’ll vote for him, that’s for sure,” said 55-year-old Benison, who is planning to cast a blank ballot in this spring’s presidential vote. “We’ve lost our confidence,” she added, dismissing the current crop of candidates. “They’re all the same.” What started as a joke over beers by a quartet of Parisians in their 30s has made international news in less than a week. Today, – an online petition to put Barack Obama on the French ballot, has received 50,000 signatures, its organizers say.

Editorials: The Dutch Election Is About More Than Nationalism | Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg

It’s almost 10 p.m. on a Monday night but the 100 or so people assembled in a hotel conference room in North Holland are in no hurry to go home. They’re asking a dapper, young politician pointed and thoughtful questions that reveal a hunger for political debate. It would be an idyllic picture of one of the world’s most accomplished democracies if the content of the discussion weren’t evidence of a democratic process gone badly wrong. The March 15 election in the Netherlands is expected to deliver a further strong signal to global political elites that many Western voters no longer accept the way in which they are governed. And that signal won’t be limited to the expected strong showing for Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV).

United Kingdom: Acrimonious Election Campaign Deepens Northern Ireland Deadlock | Reuters

Acrimonious campaigning ahead of Thursday snap elections in Northern Ireland has increased antagonism between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists and exacerbated fears devolved power may revert to London for the first time in a decade. The power-sharing government collapsed in January after Sinn Fein nationalists withdrew support for Democratic Unionist Party First Minister Arlene Foster after she refused to step aside during an inquiry into a scandal around heating subsidies. Many see the rift as a symptom of a deeper split in the British province between nationalists, balking at the prospect of border posts going up with Ireland after Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Unionists who fear a new push for a united Ireland.