National: State Republicans Push For More Restrictive Voting Laws | NPR

Vice President Pence has yet to begin a promised investigation into allegations by President Trump that millions of people voted illegally in November. But that hasn’t stopped state lawmakers from taking action they say would limit voter fraud, even though the president’s claims have been widely discredited. Legislation to tighten voter ID and other requirements has already been introduced in about half the states this year. And in statehouse after statehouse, the debate has had a familiar ring. “We do not have a voter fraud problem in North Dakota,” Democratic Rep. Mary Schneider argued last month during a state House floor debate of a measure that would tighten that state’s voter ID requirements and increase penalties for voter fraud. “To say that there’s not a voter fraud problem in North Dakota, I think that’s another inaccurate statement. Maybe there have been no convicted cases but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have an issue,” countered Republican Christopher Olson, shortly before the measure was approved by a vote of 74-16.

National: Democrats seek special prosecutor in Russia election meddling | Associated Press

Democrats pushed Tuesday for a special prosecutor to examine the Trump administration’s potential ties to Russia, using a confirmation hearing to urge the No. 2 pick at the Justice Department to consider handing over any such investigation to an independent overseer. “We need steel spines, not weak knees when it comes to political independence in the Department of Justice,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat. The remarks came during a hearing for Rod Rosenstein, a longtime federal prosecutor tapped for deputy attorney general, which instead became a referendum on Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Arkansas: Senate approves voter ID bill | Times Record

The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to require Arkansas voters to show photo ID at the polls. House Bill 1047 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, passed in a 25-8 vote, reaching with one vote to spare the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage in the 35-member Senate. The bill passed in the House in a 74-21 vote in January and now goes back to that chamber for concurrence in Senate amendments. Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, was the only Senate Democrat to join with Republicans in voting for the bill Wednesday. Democrats cast all the votes against it.

Georgia: FBI investigating alleged breach in Georgia at KSU’s elections center | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged data breach in Georgia at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. The situation is still developing, although the Secretary of State’s Office said Friday that the investigation is not related to its own network and is not a breach of its database containing the personal information on Georgia’s 6.6 million registered voters. The office referred all other questions to both university and federal officials.

Iowa: House approves voter ID bill following 12 hours of debate | Des Moines Register

Iowa would become one of 34 states that have enacted laws requesting or requiring some form of identification on Election Day under a bill approved by the Iowa House Thursday. House File 516 was approved on a party-line vote after nearly 12 hours of debate that spanned two days. It now advances to the Senate where a Republican majority also is expected to advance the legislation. Secretary of State Paul Pate, who submitted the bill, immediately praised its passage. … Democrats took to the floor Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to convince Republicans the legislation is unnecessary, expensive and would have a disproportionate and negative effect on minorities, the elderly, the disabled and others.

New Mexico: Voter registration during early voting shot down in House | Albuquerque Journal

A proposal to allow people to register to vote closer to Election Day was narrowly rejected by a House committee Thursday.
Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, crossed party lines to join with Republicans to table the bill – a procedure that blocks it from moving forward. The proposal, Senate Bill 224, would have allowed people to register at early-voting sites, which operate until the weekend before Election Day. As the law stands now, the registration period ends 28 days before the election.

Texas: Federal panel rules Texas congressional districts illegal | The Texas Tribune

Some of Texas’ 36 congressional districts violate either the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday. In a long-delayed ruling, the judges ruled 2-1 that the Texas Legislature must redraw the political maps it most recently used for the 2016 elections. Specifically, they pointed to Congressional District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, takes in most of the Texas-Mexico border and is represented by Republican Will Hurd of Helotes; Congressional District 27, represented by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi; and Congressional District 35, a Central Texas district represented by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. The 166-page ruling by the San Antonio-based district judges was the latest in a complicated case that dates back to 2011, and comes just two election cycles away from the next U.S. Census — when the state would draw a new map under normal circumstances.

West Virginia: House Judiciary mulls stricter voter ID law | Charleston Gazette-Mail

The House Judiciary Committee worked through a bill Wednesday to require West Virginians to present government-issued photo identification at the polls before casting a ballot. After an hour of discussion, the committee sent the bill (HB 2781) down to a subcommittee for further review. Should it pass, the bill would trump sections of existing legislation (HB 4013), which passed last year and is scheduled to take effect in 2018. That law calls for a lower standard of identification for voters, allowing for bank statements, hunting licenses or having an adult or poll worker vouch for a familiar voter’s identity.

West Virginia: Stricter voter ID bill proposed despite lack of in-person fraud | Charleston Gazette-Mail

A voter identification bill going through the state Legislature would limit the types of government-issued photo identification voters could present at the polls. House Bill 2781 is being reviewed by a House Judiciary subcommittee. If passed, voters would be required to show a valid driver’s license, a West Virginia identification card, a U.S. passport or passport card, an employee photo identification card issued by a government agency, or a military photo ID.

Australia: Western Australia’s Web votes have security worries, say ‘white hat’ security experts | The Register

The Western Australian government is pushing back against concerns about the security of its implementation of the iVote electoral system. iVote is an electronic system already used in another Australian State, New South Wales, primarily as an accessibility tool because it lets the vision-impaired and others with disabilities vote without assistance. Perhaps in response to last year’s Census debacle, Western Australia has decided to put in place denial-of-service (DoS) protection, and that’s attracted the attention of a group of veteran electronic vote-watchers. Writing at the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit publication, the group notes that the DoS proxy is not in Australia: it’s provided by Imperva’s Incapsula DoS protection service. That raises several issues, the academics (Dr Chris Culnane and Dr Vanessa Teague of the University of Melbourne, Dr Yuval Yarom and Mark Eldridge of the University of Adelaide, and Dr Aleksander Essex of Western University in Canada) note. First: the TLS certificate iVote uses to secure its communications is signed not by the WA government, but by Incapsula; and second, that means Incapsula is decrypting votes on their way from a voter to the State’s Electoral Commission.

Europe: Western Democracies Facing Cyberattack Threats Return to Election Basics | Bloomberg

Elections in western democracies are going back to pad and paper, abandoning the conveniences of modern technology as they hope to reduce the risk of cyberattacks by outside actors such as Russian-backed hackers. In a year where the European Union possibly hangs in the balance there are three national elections in three EU countries. The Netherlands and France have concluded that the easiest and most reliable solution is to go back to the basics. French citizens living overseas will have to travel back to France to cast a ballot June’s parliamentary election as a precaution against an “extremely high-level threat of cyber attacks,” according to the government ministry that oversees voting, Bloomberg News reported. French voters will also be required to cast a paper ballot for the April and May presidential election.

South Korea: Court upholds Park’s impeachment, triggering election | Bloomberg & AP

In a historic, unanimous ruling Friday, South Korea’s constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil, worsened an already-serious national divide and prompted calls for sweeping reforms. It was a stunning fall for Park, the country’s first female leader and the daughter of a dictator who rode a lingering conservative nostalgia for her father to victory in 2012, only to see her presidency descend into scandal. The ruling by the eight-member panel opens her up to possible criminal proceedings, and makes her South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office since democracy came in the country in the late 1980s.

National: FBI investigation continues into ‘odd’ computer link between Russian bank and Trump Organization | CNN

Federal investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. Questions about the possible connection were widely dismissed four months ago. But the FBI’s investigation remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI’s counterintelligence team — the same one looking into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election. One U.S. official said investigators find the server relationship “odd” and are not ignoring it. But the official said there is still more work for the FBI to do. Investigators have not yet determined whether a connection would be significant.

National: Intel agencies, House panel near agreement on Russia election probe | McClatchy

The House Intelligence Committee is nearing an agreement with the nation’s intelligence agencies for full access to the information that underlay the recent classified report on Russian efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential election. Among the information the committee hopes to gain access to is any evidence that implicates Russian President Vladimir Putin in ordering the hacks of Democratic National Committee computers and the email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. In a report delivered Jan. 6 to then-President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency said Putin had personally ordered the hacks as part of an effort to damage Clinton’s presidential campaign. During the course of the campaign, the agencies concluded, Putin’s emphasis changed to helping Trump win election.

Voting Blogs: The FEC and the Draining of Swamps | More Soft Money Hard Law

Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel left a lengthy note as she left town to explain how bad things had gotten at the FEC. Her agency would not help drain the swamp; a bloc of Commissioners had scuttled the agency’s mission to enforce campaign finance disclosure and limits. Republicans promptly disagreed. So the Democrats and Republicans, at odds over enforcement policy, also disagree about the extent and seriousness of their disagreements. With the agency down to 5, and most of the Commissioners’ terms having expired, the question is what happens post-Ravel. There has been talk that the Trump Administration may make a full round of nominations and look to reshape the agency. Speculations have included the possibility that the Administration would end the long-standing deference to the other party in the nomination of half of the Commission and perhaps stack the deck, maybe by putting Independents in place of the Democrats. The law limits parties to half the seats; it does not guarantee a party any of the seats.

Delaware: Department of Elections pursues voting machine modernization | Delaware State News | Delaware State News

On Thursday morning, the Kent County Department of Elections completed its inspection of all 32 voting machines that will be used in the upcoming Kent County Levy Court special election. … In addition to routine inspection, the department recently has been pursuing modernization of voting equipment. Last year, state election commissioner Elaine Manlove requested a task force to review existing equipment (House Bill 342). On Tuesday the resulting task force met for the first time to discuss a strategy.

Florida: Vote-by-mail ballots fix clears last committee | Florida Politics

A bill that would let voters fix mismatching signatures on their vote-by-mail ballots so they can be counted has cleared its second committee. The House Government Accountability Committee OK’d the bill (HB 105), carried by House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, by a unanimous vote on Thursday. It would require supervisors of elections and their staff to allow voters to turn in an affidavit to cure any signature discrepancies until 5 p.m. the day before an election. They would need to present a driver’s license or other state ID. The legislation is now ready for consideration by the full House. A Senate companion has not yet had a hearing.

Iowa: Auditors question cost of state voter ID bill | Associated Press

Legislation that would require Iowa voters to show identification at the polls doesn’t have enough money committed to it and will burden local governments, according to top Iowa elections officials. The concern from some members of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors came as the Republican-controlled House had formal debate yesterday over Secretary of State Paul Pate’s voter ID bill. Some Democrats argued the proposal would suppress voter turnout, while one GOP lawmaker compared future voting under the proposed bill to checking out from an express lane at the grocery store. As lawmakers argued over the legislation, county auditors at the Capitol earlier in the day questioned the available funding. The bill doesn’t have a formal price tag, though the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, using details provided by Pate’s staff, estimated the measure has a one-time fiscal impact of roughly $200,000 for the secretary of state’s office. That includes $85,000 for state-issued IDs for people without Iowa driver’s licenses.

Kansas: Kobach Gets Plea Bargain In Seventh Voter Fraud Case | KCUR

A western Kansas man accused of voting in two states has agreed to a plea bargain, saying he “simply made a mistake.” Lincoln Wilson, a 65-year-old Republican from Sherman County, will plead guilty to three misdemeanor counts of voting without being qualified and two misdemeanor counts of false swearing to an affidavit, according to his lawyer, Jerry Fairbanks. The lone African-American charged in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voter fraud crusade, Wilson faced the most charges, including three felonies and six misdemeanors. In return for the plea, Kobach’s office will drop three felony charges of election perjury and one misdemeanor count of an unlawful advanced voting, Fairbanks says. Wilson will pay a $6,000 fine, Fairbanks says.

National: Classified documents show troubling efforts by Russia to influence election, Sen. King says | Portland Press Herald

Maine’s U.S. Sen. Angus King expressed heightened concerns Thursday about Russian attempts to infiltrate state election systems after he reviewed a trove of classified documents on Moscow’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential race. King said he spent “a couple of hours” Wednesday reviewing the classified documents at CIA headquarters as part of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. While King said he could not provide any specifics, he said the documents provided “substantial backup” to the declassified Jan. 6 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that concluded Russian government officials “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”

Nebraska: Election, DMV officials testify against bill that would make voter registration automatic | Omaha World Herald

A measure to implement automatic voter registration in Nebraska faced opposition Thursday from the state’s chief election official and head of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. Allowing automatic voter registration would flood the voter registration system with people who are ineligible or already registered, said Colleen Byelick, general counsel and chief deputy for the Secretary of State’s Office. DMV Director Rhonda Lahm argued that not everyone who qualifies for a driver’s license or state ID card is eligible to vote, including people under 18 and those who are not U.S. citizens.

New Hampshire: State Senate passes bill to allow electronic poll book trial program | Union Leader

The Senate passed a bill to allow towns and cities to participate in an electronic poll book trial program, but rejected a proposal for New Hampshire to join 38 other states with online voter registration. The votes Thursday followed continued debate on election law changes, with legislators taking measured steps to modernize state statutes. A number of communities, including Manchester, have expressed interest in use of an electronic poll book and devices for voter registration rolls and check-in. The trial program must be compliant with existing law, from voter checklists to delivery of data to the Secretary of State in a way that is compatible with the statewide centralized voter registration database.

Nevada: Tribal voting rights case settled, Washoe County pays the most | Reno Gazette-Journal

The parties involved in a voter discrimination lawsuit between two Native American tribes and state and county officials was settled for almost half of what the tribes’ lawyers requested, with Washoe County paying the most. The Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes won a case in federal court against Washoe and Mineral counties and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office on Oct. 7 for early polling and Election Day voting sites on the reservations. The tribes’ lawyers initially requested $117,000 in costs, but the suit was eventually settled for $60,000. Washoe County is on the hook for $25,000 with the state’s split at $20,000 and Mineral County at $15,000.

Texas: Conclusion of Pasadena voting rights case could be anticlimactic | Houston Chronicle

The biggest upheaval in Pasadena politics in years has been driven largely by the decisions and actions of one man: Mayor Johnny Isbell. It was Isbell who, immediately after a U.S. Supreme Court decision made it possible, proposed the 2013 charter change creating a City Council election system of six district seats and two at-large seats, replacing an all-district seat system. Isbell said adding at-large positions would provide residents with better representation. It was Isbell who emptied his political account to fund a campaign urging support for the charter change and to oppose a council candidate seen as a potential threat. Isbell was the second named defendant, after the city itself, in a 2014 lawsuit claiming the new council structure intentionally diluted Latino voting strength.

Virginia: McAuliffe vetoes bill on photo ID for absentee ballots | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would require voters to submit photo ID when requesting a physical absentee ballot, calling it an “unnecessary and impractical barrier” to absentee voting. House Bill 1428, sponsored by Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler Jr., R-Hanover, would require any voter submitting an application for an absentee ballot by mail or by fax to submit with the application a copy of one of the forms of ID acceptable under current law. The bill would exempt from the requirement military and overseas voters and people with disabilities.

West Virginia: House Voter ID bill in subcommittee | Fayette Tribune

Legislative efforts to prevent in-person voter fraud generated discussion Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 2781, sponsored by Del. Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, would require voters to present government-issued photo identification at a polling place to verify their identity before casting their ballot. The bill would additionally eliminate the Automatic Voter Registration initiative found on a driver’s license application. If passed, West Virginia would be the eighth state to pass photo ID laws. Exemptions to the bill include nursing home residents and those who have religious objections to being photographed. Student IDs were also removed as legitimate forms of government photo IDs.

France: Insurgents Thrust Establishment Aside in Crucial Vote | Bloomberg

The old order is fading in France. Every election since Charles de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic more than half a century ago has seen at least one of the major parties in the presidential runoff and most have featured both. With Republicans and Socialists consumed by infighting and voters thoroughly fed up, polls suggest that neither will make it this year. For the past month, survey after survey has projected a decider between Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old rookie who doesn’t even have a party behind him, and Marine Le Pen, who’s been ostracized throughout her career because of her party’s history of racism.

Netherlands: Russian hackers use Dutch polls as practice | Deutsche Welle

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but the audacity remains breathtaking: In the past six months, foreign countries, in particular Russia, have tried hacking email accounts of Dutch government employees in at least 100 cases. That figure was recently revealed by Rob Bertholee, head of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). He said the hackers had attempted to gather sensitive information about government positions. One of their targets was the Ministry of General Affairs, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s office is also located. Back in December, Rutte had already said his government was aware of potential foreign interference in next Wednesday’s election. “It would be naïve to think it doesn’t happen here,” the Director Cyber Security at Northwave and former AIVD employee, Pim Takkenberg, told DW. “Russia has the right specialists, and it’s quite easy to do.”

Russia: Putin Aims to Undermine Western Democracies With Election Meddling, Experts Say | VoA News

Russian President Vladimir Putin is single-handedly trying to undermine democracy in the United States and Europe and rupture their decades-old NATO alliance by meddling in their elections, foreign affairs analysts and Estonia’s former president told a congressional hearing Thursday in Washington. One of the experts, Peter Doran, executive vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a group promoting closer ties between central and eastern European countries and the United States, said U.S. lawmakers “should have no doubt, Russia is a rival to the United States.” Doran declared, “The Russian government is sharpening its use of state-sponsored propaganda against Western democracies. This puts democratic states and NATO at risk. The strategic aims of the Russian government are fundamentally incompatible with American interests in Europe.”