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Minnesota: Provisional balloting, a June primary and ‘I voted’ stickers: How legislators are looking to change Minnesota elections | MinnPost

In St. Paul, there are only a few areas where bipartisanship is not just a lofty goal, it’s a requirement. That includes any changes lawmakers want to make to the state’s election and voting systems. Gov. Mark Dayton, like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has said he’ll only sign election-related bills if the proposals have broad support from legislators in both parties — no matter who’s in power. It’s a tradition that some say has bolstered Minnesota’s strong election system, which has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation and few instances of fraud. The rule has also influenced the measures moving through the Legislature this year, with the Republicans who control both chambers ditching proposals that have been controversial in the past — like voter ID — and advancing a list of changes to the state’s election system that have broad support. Well, mostly. As Secretary of State Steve Simon says: “I would say there is work that has yet to be done to get the bipartisan support necessary for the governor’s signature.” Read More

Missouri: GOP lawmakers reject another push to boost voter photo ID funding in Missouri | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Republicans Tuesday turned back another Democratic attempt to put more money into Missouri’s new voter photo identification law. In a hearing to discuss the state budget, Democratic state Rep. Peter Merideth of St. Louis sought to amend the latest spending blueprint to take $3 million out of the state lottery’s $16 million advertising budget to help finance the implementation of the new voter ID law. “I think $13 million would be sufficient to advertise lottery in Missouri,” Merideth said. The $3 million in lottery money would be added to the current earmark for voter ID of $1.4 million, which would be used to educate voters about the new requirement, as well as help voters without photo ID to attain the documents needed. Read More

National: White House stopped Yates testimony about Russian meddling in presidential election, lawyer says | Los Angeles Times

A lawyer for former deputy Atty. Gen. Sally Yates wrote in letters last week that the Trump administration was trying to limit her testimony at congressional hearings focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The hearing was later canceled by the House intelligence committee chairman. In the letters, attorney David O’Neil said he understood the Justice Department was invoking “further constraints” on testimony Yates could provide at a committee hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday. He said the department’s position was that all actions she took as deputy attorney general were “client confidences” that could not be disclosed without written approval. “We believe that the Department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the Department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former senior officials,” O’Neil wrote in a March 23 letter to Justice Department official Samuel Ramer. Read More

National: House Democrats Ask Devin Nunes to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry | The New York Times

Top House Democrats on Monday called on the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, thrusting the entire inquiry into jeopardy amid what they described as mounting evidence he was too close to President Trump to be impartial. The demands followed revelations that the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, had met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports. The reports, Mr. Nunes said last week, showed that Mr. Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The new revelation that the information actually came from a meeting held on the grounds of the White House intensified questions about what prompted Mr. Nunes to make the claim about the intelligence gathering, and who gave him the information. Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, and Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, suggested that Mr. Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, was simply too close to the White House to run an independent, thorough inquiry. Read More

National: House spat leaves Senate in driver’s seat on Russia probe | Politico

After a week of partisan rancor that threatened to bring down the House’s probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election, the Senate is quickly realizing it may be the only chamber left that can produce findings free of the cloud of White House meddling. “You don’t have the kind of blow-ups [in the Senate] you had at the House,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico. The Senate Intelligence Committee has been able to avoid the partisan fissures that have weakened its House counterpart, and began conducting private interviews with intelligence officials last week. Sources say it also plans to interview Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, who had met in December with the Russian ambassador. Read More

National: The Legislators Working to Thwart the Will of Voters | The Atlantic

… “This isn’t how democracy works,” said Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a nonprofit that works with progressive ballot campaigns. “You don’t get to pick and choose when you like a process and when you don’t.” Sarver sees a trend of legislatures trying to restrict voters’ ability to make laws and amend state constitutions around the country. The popularity of initiatives has ebbed and flowed across the years, and the roles of defender and critic have been fluid. But there are a few factors that make the present moment especially ripe for such conflicts. First, Republicans dominate state legislatures around the country, thanks to favorable redistricting maps drawn after the 2010 Census, even in states with sizable Democratic-leaning voter bases that want more progressive policies. Second, while ballots sometimes function to deal with purely state-level concerns, policy fights are increasingly nationalized. Groups like BISC and the Fairness Project are working to coordinate state-level pushes around the country on liberal reforms like paid sick leave, minimum-wage hikes, or recreational marijuana. Their opponents are working at the national level too. In November, ProPublica and The New York Times reported on how major corporate lobbies, some convened under the auspices of the Koch brothers’ political network, have sought to push back on ballot measures. Read More

Arizona: New Republican Effort to Target Arizona Initiatives Appears | Associated Press

Just days after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law opponents said will make it harder for citizen initiatives to make the ballot, Republican Arizona lawmakers are reviving stripped parts of that legislation that will make it much easier for opponents to challenge initiatives in court. The new proposal changes the legal standard required to keep an initiative off the ballot. It says the language in the proposed measure is subject to a “strict compliance” standard rather than “substantial compliance.” That will allow citizen’s initiative to be thrown out for mere paperwork or language errors, even if the proposed law complies with other respects to the law. The “substantial compliance” standard now in place allows such minor errors if the intent of measure remains clear. Read More

Editorials: Floridians can put a stop to denying ex-felons the vote | Frank Askin/Miami Herald

Can Florida claim to be a democracy when one out of every 10 of adult citizens in the state are denied the right to vote because some time in their lives they were convicted of a felony? And 75 percent of those people are out of prison and otherwise living as free members of the community? Florida is one of a handful of states that impose a lifetime voting ban on convicted felons. Their right to vote can only be restored on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the governor and two members of the Board of Executive Clemency — the cabinet — on a petition filed five years after release from prison. Since Scott’s election in 2010, only 2,487 petitions have been granted. Only a few other states come even close to disenfranchising so many ex-felons. Read More

Indiana: Senate Committee Approves Watered-Down BMV Voter Registration Bill | WBAA

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles would be required to offer Hoosiers the chance to register to vote more often under legislation approved by a Senate committee. But the bill does dramatically less than its original version. Under current law, the BMV is required to offer voter registration to anyone seeking a driver’s license, permit or ID card. Rep. Clyde Kersey’s (D-Terre Haute) bill would require the BMV to offer voter registration during all other customer interactions. But Kersey’s original proposal would have implemented automatic voter registration at the BMV. That language was stripped out in the House Elections Committee. Chair Milo Smith (R-Columbus) says there were issues with the idea, including that, in any given trip to the BMV, people might not have all the documents needed to register. Read More

Minnesota: Ranked-choice opponents push St. Paul to vote on voting, again | Minnesota Public Radio News

Though St. Paul residents approved ranked-choice voting in a 2009 referendum, it may be heading for a vote in St. Paul again. Opponents of ranked-choice voting, also called instant-runoff voting, say it has unnecessarily delayed results and hasn’t delivered on supporters’ promises. They’re going to make their case to put it back before voters as soon as November. “It promises a lot of things and it doesn’t deliver on any of them,” says Chuck Repke, a neighborhood activist, one-time city council staffer and political activist. Read More