National: Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassador during Trump campaign | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions twice spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign. The Washington Post, citing justice department officials, first reported that Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak once in September 2016, when US intelligence officials were investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, and once in the summer of that year. It was communications with Kislyak that led to the firing of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in February. A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed that the meetings took place, but provided a statement from the attorney general saying they were not related to the election campaign. “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Sessions’ statement said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Alaska: Ballot selfies in Alaska closer to becoming reality | CBS

It soon could be legal to post selfies of marked ballots in Alaska. The state House on Wednesday passed legislation, 32-8, that would allow voters to share photos, videos or other images of their marked ballots with the public. They could not, however, show videos or images of their or another person’s marked ballot while in a polling place or within 200 feet of one in an attempt to get someone to vote a certain way. “People have new forms of digital expression whether it’s through social media, Facebook and Twitter or texting photos and Snapchat,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, who co-sponsored the bill, CBS affiliate KTVA reports. Kreiss-Tompkins said that the Division of Elections receives a multitude of phone calls after each election cycle from Alaskans who fear they will be prosecuted for breaking state law because of a picture posted.

Arkansas: Senate rejects election board’s shift to secretary of state | Arkansas Online

The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would transfer the state Board of Election Commissioners into the secretary of state’s office. With a dozen senators not voting, Senate Bill 368 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, failed 7-15. The vote came after King made a pitch for the bill and no senator spoke against it. The Senate later expunged the initial vote on the bill to open the door for King to ask for another.

Montana: County administrators gear up for special election after Zinke confirmed | NBC

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Wednesday the special election to fill Ryan Zinke’s U.S. House seat will be held May 25. The U.S. Senate confirmed Zinke as the Secretary of Interior in President Donald Trump’s cabinet Wednesday. Zinke submitted his resignation as a Montana representative hours later. Elections offices across the state are preparing to hold a special election to replace Zinke. Missoula County Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors says the process could be extensive. “A special election like this is fairly unprecedented for Montana, so a lot of the elections administrators are all in the same boat of trying to coordinate on such short notice and make sure that we’re ready for a federal election,” Connors said. She says elections take at minimum five months to coordinate, but as of March 1 they only have about three.

Nebraska: Bill would restore felons’ voting rights sooner | York News Times

A Nebraska legislative committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would give people convicted of crimes the right to vote when they complete their sentences. Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha told the committee the state’s 2005 law that allows felons to vote two years after they finish their sentences doesn’t do enough. A bill he sponsored and intends to designate as his priority, increasing the odds lawmakers will vote on it, would restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their sentences, including any parole or probation. It would affect about 7,800 felons in Nebraska, including Shakur Abdullah, who was released from prison last year. Abdullah, who served 41 years for shooting two men and killing one when he was 16, told the committee he’s never been able to vote. He now helps others involved in the criminal justice system.

New Hampshire: Dartmouth researchers find no evidence of bused-in voters | Concord Monitor

If crowds of Massachusetts residents came into New Hampshire on Election Day as part of widespread voter fraud – a claim made by President Donald Trump’s administration and others – they managed to do so without creating any spikes in voter turnout and without creating any unusual changes in town-by-town support for Kelly Ayotte. That’s the conclusion of a study from a trio of Dartmouth researchers, whose work follows their previous studies that failed to find evidence of any voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election in six states. “Because of these results and a total lack of photographic evidence of buses infiltrating New Hampshire on Election Day 2016, we believe that Trump’s claims about a tainted election in New Hampshire are at best unsupported and at worst an intentional mistruth,” says the report from two professors and a postdoctoral fellow.

Voting Blogs: A Closer Look at Husted’s Allegations of Non-Citizen Voting in Ohio | Project Vote

Yesterday, Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted, issued a press release congratulating himself for finding 385 non-citizens who were registered to vote in 2016, 82 of whom allegedly voted. Husted then goes on to claim there may be more illegally registered non-citizens on the Ohio voting rolls, but the federal government won’t give him access to their non-citizens database to search. If you’ve been following this issue at all, you can probably guess what we have to say about it.

Scale Matters. Three hundred and eighty-five may sound like a large number in some contexts—bank fees, for example—but not when we’re talking about a state voter file. As Carrie Davis, Executive Director of the Ohio League of Women Voters, noted in a press release yesterday:

“In November 2016, Ohio had 7,861,025 registered voters and, of those, 5,607,641 cast ballots in the November election. Husted’s 385 registered amounts to 0.004898% of total registered voters, and his alleged 82 votes cast amount to 0.001462% of the 5,607,641 total votes cast in November 2016.”

So, while the tone of Husted’s announcement is troubling, the findings of the investigation seem to bear out his own saner words from just one month ago: “While we should always continue to work to improve our election system, we don’t need to perpetuate the myth that voter fraud is in the millions,” he said. “It exists, but only in isolated cases.”

Pennsylvania: State senator wants independent voters in state primaries | WFMZ

Pennsylvania Sen. Lisa Boscola said state Senate leaders are drafting a voters bill of rights, a collection of bipartisan proposals that would make it easier to vote with things like no-excuse required absentee ballots, same-day registration and pre-registration of younger voters when they get their first drivers license. Boscola said the package also addresses gerrymandering. “Take it out of the hands of the elected officials and put it into the hands of the citizenry, like some other states have done, that promotes better government,” said Boscola. Boscola said she is working on a bill that would build that better government by allowing independent voters to participate in primary elections.

Utah: After caucus chaos, lawmaker wants Utah to pay for primaries | Associated Press

To vote in Utah’s Democratic primary caucus last year, Kellie Henderson of Salt Lake City had to walk at least a mile and wait in line for three hours.
Henderson told Utah lawmakers on Tuesday that she had to trek from her home to the elementary school where her caucus was held because there was no parking nearby. At the school, she had to wait in a line for three hours before overwhelmed party volunteers running the caucus were able to help her cast a ballot. “It was just chaos,” Henderson said Tuesday. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, wants to avoid a similar mess and has sponsored a bill requiring the state to pay for and run a presidential primary every four years. “Political parties should be in the business of trying to win elections, not run them,” Arent said.

Utah: Committee approves bill aimed at stopping ballot alphabet games | The Salt Lake Tribune

A rose by any other name smells as sweet, but a political candidate by another name could have an advantage on the ballot. That’s the premise behind SB269, which would have the state elections office wait until after the candidate filing deadline to generate its randomized alphabetical order for ballot listing. “The order a person appears on a ballot, especially in a nonpartisan race or in a primary, can affect the outcome of an election,” said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, the bill’s sponsor. Because the current practice sees the ballot alphabet released ahead of the filing deadline, Stephenson said, candidates are able to tweak their names for better positioning in the voting booth.

Virginia: Supreme Court says Virginia redistricting must be reexamined for racial bias | The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told a lower court to reexamine the redistricting efforts of Virginia’s Republican-led legislature for signs of racial bias and gerrymandered legislative districts that dilute the impact of African American voters. The justices declined to take a position on that issue. But they said a lower court had not applied the right standards when it concluded that the legislature’s work was constitutional. The decision was a win for black voters and Democrats who have challenged the General Assembly’s actions in drawing legislative as well as congressional lines. A win at the Supreme Court last term resulted in redrawing the congressional map in a way that favored the election of a second African American congressman last fall.

East Timor: Timorese Australians given chance to vote in Timor-Leste elections | ABC

Timor-Leste’s electoral commission is giving some Timorese Australians the chance to vote in the country’s upcoming elections for the first time since independence. Citizens living in Darwin and Sydney will be part of the trial, which allows them to vote without flying back to Timor-Leste. In 1975, Darwin resident Dulcie Munn fled Timor-Leste and has not voted since the country’s independence referendum in August 1999. “That’s 18 years ago,” she said. “To be able to participate again this time, casting our vote for the future of our nation Timor-Leste, is quite important.”

Editorials: France’s Election Is Giving the World Deja Vu | Therese Raphael/Bloomberg

Nobody has seriously suggested that Russian hackers are behind the troubles facing French presidential candidate Francois Fillon. But apart from that, if you were anywhere on the planet during the recent U.S. election then you might be wondering if you’ve seen this movie before. Formerly a front-runner in the French presidential race, Fillon has apologized for errors of judgement but denied acting illegally in employing his wife and kids while in office. He has vowed to fight on, very much as Hillary Clinton did last year. We think we know where this is going — it doesn’t look good for Fillon — but in the La La Land of French politics, there are probably more twists and turns to go. Fillon was nearly Filloff on Wednesday. A French news outlet reported wrongly that his wife Penelope had been taken into custody over allegations that he paid her with public funds for work she didn’t do. Fillon cancelled a key campaign appearance — the annual farm fair in Paris is a mandatory campaign stop for candidates wanting to show their support for rural France — and hastily scheduled a news conference.

Netherlands: A Party for Animals Is Winning Voters In the Netherlands | Bloomberg

The animals are on the march. When traditional politics fractures, new parties come to the fore. And in the Netherlands, the Party for the Animals is in the running before the March 15 national election. While Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals fight it out for first place, the need for coalition partners means the Animal party could play a role in creating a working majority needed to form a government. The rise in nationalist sentiment, which has bolstered groups such as the U.K. Independence Party and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, threatens to disrupt the conventional order in the Netherlands, one of the core founding members of the European Union. A new governing coalition that successfully excludes the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party — as the mainstream groups have promised — could require as many as six separate alliance members to reach a 76-seat majority in the Dutch lower house of Parliament. That’s where Marianne Thieme comes in.

United Kingdom: Scorpions in a bottle: the fight between Northern Ireland’s two main parties defines another election | The Conversation

Northern Ireland witnessed the seemingly unthinkable in 2007. The Protestant fundamentalist and hardline DUP leader, Ian Paisley sat down alongside alleged former IRA chief Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin, to announce that their parties had agreed to share power. Though this unlikely alliance has now survived for 10 years, it remains inherently unstable. Sinn Féin and the DUP are, to invert a famous phrase from George W Bush, a “coalition of the unwilling”. Now, less than a year since the last election, Northern Ireland is again voting for a new assembly. The likely result? Sinn Féin and the DUP will once more be elected the leading parties in their respective communities. And given that the reason for the premature vote was that Sinn Féin and the DUP could not agree on a way forward in the last assembly, stalemate and instability loom again. The trigger for the most recent breakdown was the so-called “cash-for-ash” scandal, relating to a renewable heat incentive scheme established under Arlene Foster, the then minister for enterprise, now DUP leader and – until recently – Northern Ireland’s first minister. The scheme was woefully planned, leading to a likely overspend of £490m for taxpayers to cover.

Zimbabwe: Biometric voter registration system hangs in balance | ITWeb Africa

The Zimbabwe biometric voter registration (BVR) system is expected to be fully functional in March 2017 as part of a broader plan to utilise ICT in the running of the country’s general elections, scheduled for July 2018. The BVR system will be used during registration and voting. Amid allegations of fraudulent voter registration and ballot stuffing, the local opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has expressed concern over the security of the infrastructure and the sluggish pace of the implementation of the BVR system.