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.

National: Devin Nunes rejects Democrats’ calls to quit Trump-Russia investigation | The Guardian

The embattled House intelligence committee chairman, Devin Nunes, has refused to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, despite calls from Democrats. “Why would I?” asked Nunes, who has lost the confidence of the Democrats on the intelligence committee after a series of allegations that they consider a cover-up for the White House. “It’s the same thing as always around this place: a lot of politics, people get heated, but I’m not going to involve myself with that.” The speaker of the House gave Nunes his full confidence on Tuesday. Asked at a press conference whether he should step down, Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, responded simply: “No.” With the Republicans generally united in defense of the inquiry, chances are diminishing for its work to be accepted as definitive. The Republicans are also blocking the establishment of an independent commission into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Arizona: Senators to debate another bill limiting initiative process | Arizona Daily Star

Republican lawmakers are considering another measure aimed at the initiative process through which Arizonans can propose their own laws. The proposal up for debate Wednesday, March 29, would subject initiative organizers to $1,000-an-incident fines for violations of law committed by anyone they hire, or any workers of firms they hire, to collect signatures. Legislation signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey banned paying petition circulators by the signature. Circulators can still be paid by the hour or some other basis. Not a single measure has qualified for the ballot in at least three decades without some use of paid circulators.

Connecticut: “Dark money” targeted in partisan committee vote | Connecticut Post

In a partisan committee vote Monday night, a bill was approved that would shine light on so-called dark money, the anonymous political contributions usually bundled by out-of-state interests to influence statewide and legislative elections. Republicans think the majority should start campaign finance reforms in their own caucus, where a proliferation of individual PACs spread money throughout the recent state-election process. The Government Administration & Elections Committee, with a one-vote Democratic majority, pushed through legislation that would require corporations to disclose the votes of their boards of directors when they make political contributions and limit so-called independent expenditures to $70,000 a year. The bill passed 9-8, during the committee’s last meeting before its deadline. The legislation, which passed with no discussion after five-and-a-half hours of closed door caucusing by Republicans and Democrats, heads to the House.

Delaware: Early voting bill hits Legislative Hall | Delaware First Media

The bill from Rep. David Bentz (D-Christiana) would require the Department of Elections to allow voters to cast ballots for at least 10 days prior to any election – including local races. At least one polling place would be open for eight hours in all three counties and Wilmington Bentz says access to the ballot should be as open as possible for all eligible citizens. “It just makes it easy as possible for people to get to the polls on their own time that fits their schedule – their busy schedule. The culture is one that’s more on demand,” he said.

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.”

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.

Nevada: Assembly bill could clear way for presidential primary instead of caucus in Nevada | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada’s political parties may have the option of offering voters a presidential primary in 2020 instead of a caucus system. Assembly Bill 293 would allow each political party to have a presidential preference primary instead of a caucus. The move could reshape how Nevada voters help pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for president. “This just adds another option on the menu,” Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, told the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Tuesday. “If both parties still opt into the caucus system that they are using today, they are more than welcome to do so.”

Ohio: Cuyahoga County picks electronic polling vendor that had previous election snafu |

An elections vendor recently got a contract to operate electronic poll books in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County beginning this November despite major issues in another Ohio county in 2015 that caused a judge to keep the polls open later. Cuyahoga County’s elections director tells, however, that his county plans a gradual ramp-up and has safeguards in place to avoid previous electronic polling pitfalls. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections agreed in February to contract with Tampa, Florida-based Tenex Software Solutions for electronic poll books beginning with the 2017 general election. The board will pay $1.7 million for the 1,450 books, with the state picking up 85 percent of the cost. This will allow the county to replace those bulky paper rosters of registered voters at each polling location as election officials phase in the software during upcoming elections prior to November. But, as Hamilton County discovered, new technology can sometimes have detrimental effects on elections.

China: Hong Kong democracy activists charged hours after election of new city leader | The Guardian

Hong Kong police have started a crackdown on pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, informing at least nine people they will be charged for their involvement in a series of street protests more than two years ago. The charges come a day after Carrie Lam was elected to be the city’s chief executive. Heavily backed by the Chinese government, she has promised to heal divisions in an increasingly polarised political climate; pro-Beijing elites and businesses have repeatedly clashed with grassroots movements demanding more democracy. For nearly three months in 2014, protesters surrounded the main government offices and blocked roads in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district. While several high-profile cases were brought in the months after, the vast majority of protesters were not charged.

Ecuador: Lasso Raises Eyebrows with Campaign Brand Milk, Bread | teleSUR

Less than a week ahead of the second round of presidential elections in Ecuador, conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso’s campaign continues to raise eyebrows after giving out free Lasso-branded basic food products to voters in a move that some have likened to vote-buying. After images of milk and bread with Lasso’s image and campaign slogans circulated on social media, the governing Alianza Pais party — whose candidate Lenin Moreno led the presidential race in recent polls — has announced that that it will file a complaint with the National Electoral Council, known as CNE, slamming the action as “immoral and illegal campaign(ing)”. “We reject such practices,” said Alianza Pais in a statement. “They undermine the values of democracy, participation and respect for people.”

Germany: ‘Schulz effect’ fails to deliver in first election test | Reuters

It was the German Social Democrats’ first electoral test under their new leader, Martin Schulz. They failed. Instead, voters in the state of Saarland flocked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Sunday for fear of a new left-wing alliance. “A damper for Schulzomania,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily wrote in a Monday editorial as politicians in Berlin sought to evaluate the implications of the vote for the Sept. 24 national election in Germany, the European Union’s pivotal member state. Schulz has led a revival in his Social Democrats’ (SPD) poll ratings since winning the nomination as their leader in January. But the prospect of his center-left party ruling with the far-left Linke in Saarland turned off voters there.

Indonesia: Pre-election risks, spiked by extremism, rise in Indonesia | Asia Times

When Islamic hardliners attacked a church under construction in Jakarta’s eastern suburb of Bekasi a few days ago, police arrived in force and were eventually forced to fire teargas to disperse the mob. Not long ago, they would have stood idly by and done nothing. Police links to groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which have been used in the past as a proxy stand-over force to extract protection money from businesses, go back to the pre-democracy period under former dictator Suharto when Islam was otherwise repressed. The difference now is police chief General Tito Karnavian, former head of the elite Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit and widely viewed as an incorruptible professional. Hand-picked by President Joko Widodo last July, Karnavian will serve until 2023, a longer period in the job than any of his predecessors.

Paraguay: Congress wrestles again with presidential re-election law | Reuters

Security forces surrounded Paraguay’s Congress on Tuesday while lawmakers argued over a possible change in law that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election, a move that the opposition says would weaken democratic institutions. Hundreds took to the streets of the capital in opposition-led protests of the proposed change, though no incidents of violence were reported. Police remained outside the building well into the evening, and streets surrounding the Congress and presidential palace remained closed off. A bill allowing presidents to run for a second five-year term was defeated in the legislature last year.

United Kingdom: Scottish Parliament passes motion in favor of referendum on independence | The Washington Post

The Scottish Parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of seeking another referendum on independence, setting the stage for a clash between the British prime minister and the first minister of Scotland. The motion in the semiautonomous Scottish Parliament had been widely expected to pass, with the minority Scottish National Party government and the Scottish Greens supporting it. Advocates for Scottish independence now have parliamentary authority for a referendum. But holding a binding referendum still requires approval from the British government. Prime Minister Theresa May has not ruled out a second referendum, but she has rejected the proposed timetable. The Scottish motion calls for a vote by spring 2019.