National: FBI Director Comey sought to reveal Russian election meddling last summer: report | The Hill

FBI Director James Comey sought to publish an op-ed as early as last summer about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, but was barred from doing so by the Obama White House, Newsweek reported Wednesday. In a White House meeting in June or July, Comey reportedly brought with him a draft of the proposed op-ed and presented it to top administration officials, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “He had a draft of it or an outline,” a source with knowledge of the meeting told Newsweek. “He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?'”

National: Senate Intelligence Committee to start Russia probe interviews next week | The Washington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee will begin as soon as Monday privately interviewing 20 people in its ongoing investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election as well as potential ties to the Trump campaign, its leaders said Wednesday. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that “if there’s relevance” to those and other interviews that he and Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) anticipate scheduling, “they will eventually be part of a public hearing.” The two leaders stood side by side to update reporters about their investigation in a rare joint news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill, called just as the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation appeared to be grinding to a halt. #url#

California: Santa Clara County: Election error audit in the works | San Jose Mercury News

Santa Clara County’s gaffe-plagued elections office has made one mistake too many for state officials. An Assembly committee Wednesday approved an audit of Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters office requested by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, who cited a litany of errors since 2010 from erroneous ballots to counting mishaps that could raise doubts about the validity of election results. “It’s not uncommon for administrative mistakes to be made, but the frequency of these mistakes is of particular concern,” said Low, chair of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. “And I don’t know of any other county having such issues.”

Nebraska: Bill sparks debate over felon voting rights | KIIT

Nebraska lawmakers are considering a measure this session to help felons re-enter society after prison. A legislative committee has advanced a bill that would restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their sentence, including prison time and parole. … Now, a bill prioritized by senator Justin Wayne of Omaha would restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their sentence, including prison time and parole. “People don’t get surprised and think ‘oh no, I lost my voting rights’. they know they were committing a felony, and they know there is penalties for committing a felony” Sheriff Kramer said.

New Hampshire: Offices ask Gov. Sununu to investigate voter fraud claims, preserve state reputation | Concord Monitor

Several New Hampshire towns are asking Gov. Chris Sununu to investigate claims of voter fraud made by President Donald Trump. Webster’s select board signed its letter at a meeting Monday evening. “All municipalities, including Webster, take great pride in the integrity of our elections and the way in which they are managed by municipal employees and dedicated volunteers,” the letter reads. Referencing Trump’s claims that both he and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost in New Hampshire because “thousands” of voters were illegally bused in from Massachusetts, the Webster select board said these allegations reflect poorly on New Hampshire and “deserve serious attention.”

New Hampshire: GOP election reform bill expected to pass NH Senate on party line vote | WMUR

Expect an impassioned, and probably lengthy, debate Thursday morning when the Republican-backed voting reform bill, Senate Bill 3, comes to the state Senate floor for a vote. The bill tightens the requirements for new voters to show that they are domiciled in the state. It doesn’t stop anyone who goes to the polls without an ID from voting, but requires proof of residency be provided afterwards. But by all accounts, the bill -– dubbed a “voter suppression” bill -– by its opponents, is fully expected to pass the Senate on a 14-9 party-line vote. Read two of our earlier reports on the bill here and here.

Pennsylvania: Attorney General Joins Investigation Into Special Election Fraud Complaints | CBS

The Pennsylvania Attorney General is joining an investigation of last week’s special election for a North Philadelphia state house seat. The results are also being challenged in court. It’s been a bumpy ride for this seat. The ballot featured just one name– a Republican, though the district is 85 percent Democrat. Democrat Emilio Vazquez ran a write in campaign, as did Cheri Honkala of the Green Party. Honkala and Republicans complained throughout the day about Democratic election officials violating electioneering and voter assistance laws.

Wisconsin: Elections Commission warns of significant staff cuts | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With federal funds about to run out, the Wisconsin Elections Commission asked lawmakers Tuesday to stave off what would be a 28% staffing cut in just over two years. A federal grant is running out for the agency, which relies on that stream of money to fund 22 of its 32 positions. GOP Gov. Scott Walker has set aside $2.5 million in new state tax dollars in his two-year budget to retain 16 of those positions. But six positions would still disappear, amounting to a 28% staffing cut in an agency that has already seen job losses since 2015. “We are concerned that such a significant staffing reduction will mean that the agency will not be able to adequately carry out the duties and responsibilities assigned to it under federal and state laws,” said Jodi Jensen, a Republican who sits on the commission.

Belarus: ‘It’s easier to hack an election than eBay’: confessions of a Belarusian hacker | The Guardian

According to Sergei Pavlovich, one of the Russian-speaking world’s most notorious hackers, “it is easier to hack an electoral system than eBay or Citibank”. The Belarusian cyber-criminal known as Policedog online started hacking early on, and by the age of 20 he says he was earning $100,000 a month as a “carder”, turning stolen credit card information into cash. By the early 2000s he was one of the leading figures in the Russian and Eastern European cyber-underworld. In an exclusive interview Pavlovich, now 33 and with a 10-year jail term behind him, gives a rare insight into a community that has been accused of carrying out aggressive cyber-activity on behalf of the Kremlin. Allegations that the Russian government deliberately hacked Democratic party emails to try to steer Donald Trump to victory in the US presidential election have been rebutted by the now president and denounced as “baseless” and “amateurish” by the Kremlin.

Ecuador: The Controversy That Could Swing Ecuador’s Election | Americas Quarterly

A decade ago, Rafael Correa was sworn in as president of Ecuador in the Andean village of Zumbahua. In the presence of fellow “pink tide” socialist presidents Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, five indigenous priests sprinkled him with sacred herbs and evoked the spirits of the moon and sun to provide him with positive energy. But as Ecuadoreans prepare to go to the polls this Sunday, his successor candidate can no longer count on the support of the country’s indigenous population. The blessing of Pachamama – the Andean Mother Earth – has deserted him. “We will vote to reject correaismo,” Carlos Pérez Guartambel, a leader of indigenous party Pachakutik, told AQ. “(Correa) has plundered indigenous symbols and beliefs. He has prostituted his principles by supporting large-scale mining projects and violating the profound connection with Pachamama.”

France: Russia ‘actively involved’ in French election, warns US Senate intelligence chief | AFP

Senator Richard Burr, who has access to some of the most highly classified US intelligence, said Moscow has shown a clear will and ability to disrupt elections in Western democracies. “What we might assess was a very covert effort in 2016 in the United States, is a very overt effort, as well as covert, in Germany and France,” he told reporters. “I remind you that we’re within 30 days of the first French election, with four candidates. It will go down to two candidates with a runoff in May,” he said. “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections.”

Germany: Does Germany Hold the Key to Defeating Populism? | The Atlantic

Amid fears of a rising populist tide in Europe, Germany seems to be resisting its rightward tug with unique success. The day after Donald Trump’s election, The New York Times hailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the “Liberal West’s Last Defender.” And it was to Merkel, the new “leader of the free world,” that Barack Obama directed his final phone call as president. Meanwhile, others around the world are embracing right-wing populism, from the Britons’ stunning decision to leave the European Union to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian policies. Trump’s election has appeared at times to inject fresh energy into the right-wing parties of Europe. As some countries there brace for national elections this year, the prospects for these parties look bright. In France, for example, far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen is expected to advance to the second round of balloting in April’s presidential elections; recent polls show her beating scandal-ridden conservative candidate Francois Fillon in the first round.

Kenya: With Kenya’s election looming will technology deliver a free and fair election? | CNBC

Elections present a milestone beyond which countries either strengthen their democratic credentials or become failed states. Often states fail when there are either perceived or blatant election malpractices. This in turn can lead to prolonged civil unrest.
Numerous cases exist across the continent. But I will use the Kenyan case to illustrate how election processes can be compromised, and then brought back from the brink with the use of technology. Following the election in 2007 Kenya erupted into two months of unprecedented conflict. People were unhappy with the outcome which saw Mwai Kibaki of the incumbent Party of National Unity being declared the winner ahead of Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement. Many disputed the final tally. To preempt a similar situation in future elections, a commission led by former South African judge Justice Johann Kriegler was set up. The Kriegler Commission made several critical findings. These included instances of double voter registration, widespread impersonation and ballot stuffing. It concluded that, as a result, it was impossible to know who actually won the election.

India: Electronic voting machine tampering issue: Supreme Court wants Election Commission’s reply within 4 weeks | India Today

The Supreme Court today sought a reply from the Election Commission over a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be tampered with. The top court has asked the central poll panel to file its reply over the PIL within four weeks. The plea sought examination of the “quality, software/ malware and hacking effect in the EVMs from a reliable electronic lab/scientist and software expert and to file their report before this court for further action/prosecution”. In his PIL, advocate M L Sharma has also sought a direction to the Centre for registering an FIR to investigate the alleged tempering of EVMs “for vested interest by the political party and to file their report before the apex court”.

Zimbabwe: Politics of biometric voter registration system | The Zimbabwe Daily

When the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that the country was going to adopt Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system for use in the 2018 harmonised elections most of those that have known the Government of Zimbabwe found this overture to be too good to be true. Coming as it did — a good 30 months ahead of the elections — after minimum lobbying by civic society organisation (CSOs), many became suspicious about this concession that was being readily granted by a government that was intransigently resisting effecting a raft of electoral reforms that opposition parties have been demanding. At the time, some members of these CSOs had told the Financial Gazette that the readiness with which government was willing to let go the “golden” Tobaiwa Mudede-compiled voters’ roll showed that either the ruling party strategists had identified horse and cart loopholes that could be exploited to ZANU-PF’s electoral advantage or it was just a strategy to buy time so that it could plead poverty and shortage of time on the eleventh hour when the only option left would be to revert to the tested old voters’ roll.