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The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 24-30 2017

The Guardian reported that in December former MI6 officer Christopher Steele provided the UK Government alleging extensive contacts and collusion between the the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Court papers say Steele decided to pass on the information he had collected because it was “of considerable importance in relation to alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election”, that it “had implications for the national security of the US and the UK” and “needed to [be] analysed and further investigated/verified”.

The House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has agreed on a witness list of between 36 and 48 people, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; and Carter Page, an early Trump campaign adviser. Already last week, the committee had announced thatit had invited three former officials with knowledge of Russia’s interference — former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The Maine House rejected a bill that would have required voters to present photo identification at their polling places in order to cast a ballot. The bill will likely still receive a vote in the state Senate, but it appears all but dead for 2017 with the House’s rejection. Meanwhile, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed legislation amending the state’s voter identification laws Monday, April 24, despite warnings it doesn’t comply with a federal judge’s ruling. Last year, a federal judge ruled previous changes to the state’s voter ID laws have placed an “undue burden” on Native Americans and others.

In North Carolina, judges voted 2-1 to stop a new law from taking effect that would curtail the new Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s control over state and local elections. Earlier in the week, Republicans lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of the bill but the judge’s majority decision ruling said Cooper was likely to succeed in challenging the law, which dilutes the ability governors have had for more than a century to pick election board majorities.

Since March 10, federal judges issued three consecutive rulings against Texas’ legislative redistricting, each finding that the state had drawn the maps with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.“It’s the third strike against Texas in a matter of weeks,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a lead counsel for the Latino organizations in the redistricting case. “[The laws have] been found not just to have discriminated as a side effect, but these are three decisions finding that Texas intentionally racially discriminated against minority voters.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that he had broken the record for restoring voting rights to convicted felons, calling it his “proudest achievement” as governor. McAuliffe said he had individually restored rights to 156,221 Virginians, surpassing the previous record-holder by a nose. As governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, Charlie Crist restored voting rights to 155,315 felons, according to figures that McAuliffe’s office obtained from Florida.

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign.

In response to the Indian Election Commission’s electronic voting machine challenge, a group of engineers and computer scientists have urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the machines. Poorvi L. Vora, professor of computer science at the George Washington University and a member of the group, wrote in an article that “the Election Commission should allow experts a reasonable amount of time to examine machines whose entire design has been secret for so many years. The experts should be able to work in a laboratory space of their choosing, with the freedom to fully explore the system and its vulnerabilities, including physical tampering, as any attacker with some access to a single storage locker might have.”

Turkey’s main opposition party announced it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests.

National: UK was given details of alleged contacts between Trump campaign and Moscow | The Guardian

The UK government was given details last December of allegedly extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, according to court papers. Reports by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, on possible collusion between the the Trump camp and the Kremlin are at the centre of a political storm in the US over Moscow’s role in getting Donald Trump elected. It was not previously known that the UK intelligence services had also received the dossier but Steele confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that he handed a memorandum compiled in December to a “senior UK government national security official acting in his official capacity, on a confidential basis in hard copy form”. The court papers say Steele decided to pass on the information he had collected because it was “of considerable importance in relation to alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election”, that it “had implications for the national security of the US and the UK” and “needed to [be] analysed and further investigated/verified”.

Full Article: UK was given details of alleged contacts between Trump campaign and Moscow | US news | The Guardian.

National: House Intelligence Committee reportedly agrees on witness list for Russia probe | Business Insider

The House Intelligence Committee has agreed on a witness list of between 36 and 48 people for its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported Wednesday night. Included on the list are current and former associates of President Donald Trump believed to have been in contact with Russian officials during the campaign or transition period. According to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the list includes Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; and Carter Page, an early Trump campaign adviser. … The full committee has also now gained access to the classified intelligence documents Nunes said he obtained from a source on White House grounds last month, according to CNN. Nunes sparked bipartisan outcry and came under intense scrutiny when he briefed Trump on the documents directly without first sharing them with Schiff.

Full Article: House Intel Committee reportedly agrees on witness list for Russia probe - Business Insider.

Maine: House rejects requiring voters to present photo IDs | Portland Press Herald

The Maine House rejected a bill Tuesday that would have required voters to present photo identification at their polling places in order to cast a ballot. Majority Democrats prevailed on a 76-67 vote that split mostly on party lines in rejecting L.D. 121, which required a voter provide proof of identity with a photographic identification, such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The bill will likely still receive a vote in the state Senate, but it appears all but dead for 2017 with the House’s rejection. Rep. Karl Ward, R- Holden, the bill’s primary sponsor, expressed frustration with Democrats via Facebook following the vote Tuesday. He wrote that the measure would have “prevented virtually all voter fraud in Maine,” and vowed to defeat Democrats at the polls in 2018.

Full Article: Maine House rejects requiring voters to present photo IDs - Portland Press Herald.

North Carolina: Judges back governor over election changes | Greensboro News & Record

North Carolina judges on Friday put a temporary brake on renewed efforts by Republican state lawmakers to curtail the new Democratic governor’s control over state and local elections. A panel of state trial court judges voted 2-1 to stop a new law from taking effect Monday until a more extensive hearing on May 10. The panel’s majority said Gov. Roy Cooper was likely to succeed in challenging a law GOP legislators passed this week diluting the ability governors have had for more than a century to pick election board majorities. State Senate leader Phil Berger blasted the temporary restraining order, saying legislators had responded to the panel’s rejection of an earlier version by tailoring the revamped effort “exactly as they required.”

Full Article: North Carolina judges back governor over election changes | North Carolina | greensboro.com.

North Dakota: Burgum signs voter ID bill amid lawsuit | Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation amending the state’s voter identification laws Monday, April 24, despite warnings it doesn’t comply with a federal judge’s ruling. Burgum signed House Bill 1369, his spokesman Mike Nowatzki said. It comes amid a federal lawsuit challenging changes made by the Republican-led Legislature in the past two sessions. The bill allows those who don’t bring a valid ID to the polls to cast a ballot that’s set aside until they produce an ID. If an ID doesn’t include required information or is out of date, a voter could use a current utility bill, bank statement, government-issued check, paycheck or government document to supplement the ID.

Full Article: Burgum signs voter ID bill amid lawsuit | Bismarck Tribune.

Texas: Recent rulings that Texas’ voting laws discriminate put pressure on the state, but the road ahead is long | Dallas Morning News

Texas has spent six years locked in legal battles over a controversial voter identification law and its congressional and statehouse district maps. Then, starting March 10, federal judges issued three consecutive rulings against the state. The first, from a district court in San Antonio, invalidated three congressional districts when it found that the Legislature drew the state’s congressional maps with the intent to discriminate against minority voters. Weeks later, a federal judge in Corpus Christi upheld a finding that Texas’ voter ID law was written with the same intent. And on Thursday, the San Antonio court ruled that legislators drew the 2011 statehouse maps with the intent to dilute minority voting strength.

Full Article: Recent rulings that Texas' voting laws discriminate put pressure on the state, but the road ahead is long | Texas Legislature | Dallas News.

Virginia: McAuliffe says he has broken U.S. record for restoring voting rights | The Washington Post

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that he had broken the record for restoring voting rights to convicted felons, calling it his “proudest achievement” as governor. McAuliffe (D) said he had individually restored rights to 156,221 Virginians, surpassing the previous record-holder by a nose. As governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, Charlie Crist restored voting rights to 155,315 felons, according to figures that McAuliffe’s office obtained from Florida. Today Crist, who has evolved from Republican to Independent to Democrat, is a freshman member of Congress. His spokeswoman, Erin Moffet, said Crist would not mind seeing his record fall. “I know my boss would congratulate Governor McAuliffe on the work he’s doing in his state, as well,” she said.

Full Article: Va. Gov. McAuliffe says he has broken U.S. record for restoring voting rights - The Washington Post.

France: Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron | The New York Times

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign. Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords. The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one onedrive-en-marche.fr and another mail-en-marche.fr to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche.

Full Article: Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron - The New York Times.

India: Give Us Full Access to Electronic Voting Machines, Experts Tell Election Commission | The Wire

A group of trained engineers and scientists, from India and abroad (drawn primarily from IITs and other premier science institutes), have, in response to the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the electronic voter machines. However, the 27-member group has said that for a truly objective and fair assessment of the machines and “to understand what kind of tampering is possible, actions that might be performed by an insider in the process, or a criminal, should be allowed during the challenge.” In this regard, the group noted that the EC had in 2009 prevented some type of access – when it disallowed physical tampering – and therefore “it should explain why an insider or a criminal would not have that kind of access”. …  Poorvi L. Vora, professor of computer science at the George Washington University and a member of the group, wrote in an article that “the Election Commission should allow experts a reasonable amount of time to examine machines whose entire design has been secret for so many years. The experts should be able to work in a laboratory space of their choosing, with the freedom to fully explore the system and its vulnerabilities, including physical tampering, as any attacker with some access to a single storage locker might have.”

Full Article: Give Us Full Access to EVMs, Experts Tell Election Commission.

Turkey: Opposition party to challenge referendum on expanding presidential powers at European Court | Los Angeles Times

The question now is whether Europe can and will step in to keep Turkey’s leader from expanding his powers. Turkey’s main opposition party announced Wednesday it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests. “We faced illegal referendum results after seeing an unverified election,” Selin Sayek Boke, a spokeswoman for the Republican People’s Party told journalists in Ankara. “Our priority is standing up for the legal rights of all citizens. Thus, we would like to announce that we will soon apply to the ECHR.”

Full Article: Turkey's opposition party to challenge referendum on expanding presidential powers at European Court - LA Times.

National: Holder: Trump’s election fraud claims are laying foundation for voter suppression | The Hill

Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday tore into President Trump’s claims of rampant voter fraud, saying the allegations have laid a foundation for voter suppression and more restrictive voter identification laws. “The vote fraud mantra is said so often — it’s almost said robotically — that some people have unthinkingly begun to believe that the issue is real,” Holder said at a National Action Network conference in New York City. “And with recent claims by Mr. Trump of ‘rigged elections’ based on fraud, again without any proof, save the bluster of the candidate, this mistaken belief in voter fraud becomes almost hardwired,” he continued.

Full Article: Holder: Trump's election fraud claims are laying foundation for voter suppression | TheHill.

National: Senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’ | The Hill

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Thursday that Russian meddling in U.S. elections could become “normalized” if the government does not further respond to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential contest. Shaheen doubled down on her push for an independent investigation of Russia’s actions and more sanctions on Moscow in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Thursday afternoon. “If Russia gets a pass on 2016, it could interfere in future U.S. elections not only at the presidential level but at the House and Senate level,” Shaheen said. 

Full Article: Dem senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’ | TheHill.

National: Facebook found efforts to sway presidential election, elect Trump | CNBC

Facebook says some groups tried to use its platform to sway the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. In a case study of the 2016 presidential election, the company said it found several instances of “information operations,” its term for governments and organizations who attempt to sway political opinion by spreading fake news and other nefarious tactics. The case study was included in Facebook’s white paper on “information operations.” It also detailed ways it was combating “fake news” and other misinformation spread by adding new technologies and creating more security features.

Full Article: Facebook found efforts to sway presidential election, elect Trump.

Editorials: Why won’t Congress really investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia? | Douglas L. Kriner and Eric Schickler/The Washington Post

Politicians, pundits, and scholars alike routinely call Congress the “broken branch.” Most often, they note its abysmally low level of legislative productivity recently, a trend that even the return of unified Republican control of government has failed to reverse. But Congress’s feeble efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election may be an even more startling and serious institutional failure. The House inquiry has been plagued by infighting and missteps. The most notable so far was the clandestine meeting to share intelligence between chief investigator, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and the White House he was charged with investigating. While the Senate investigative committee has pledged a thorough probe, it’s done little so far. It has held no high-profile hearings. Until very recently, it had no full-time staff, and its few part-time staffers have no investigative experience or expertise with Russia.

Full Article: Why won’t Congress really investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia? - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Purging voter rolls doesn’t weed out fraud — it weeds out voters | Frederick News Post

Maryland has found itself in the crosshairs of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, which has thereatened to sue the state if a better effort isn’t made to clean up its voter rolls. Earlier this month, the group sent a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections to complain that there are more registered voters in Montgomery County than there are voting-age residents. Judicial Watch argues the overage demonstrates that there is “strong circumstantial evidence” that non-citizens may be registered to vote in heavily-Democratic Montgomery County, which is also Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction.

Full Article: Purging voter rolls doesn’t weed out fraud — it weeds out voters | Editorials | fredericknewspost.com.

California: Moving to March primary gaining traction: Legislation on presidential races passes key Assembly committee | San Mateo Daily Journal

Legislation to elevate the political influence of one of the nation’s most populous states by bumping up California’s presidential primary received bipartisan support this week as it heads toward the Assembly floor. Assembly-man Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, seeks to move California’s typically June primary to the first Tuesday of March during presidential elections. On Wednesday, Mullin’s bill passed 6-1 through the Assembly’s Committee on Elections and Redistricting, garnering support and dissent from two Republicans. The goal is to provide California, the sixth largest economy in the world and where 1 in 8 U.S. voters resides, with a more influential role in deciding presidential nominations for both the Republican and Democratic parties, Mullin said.

Full Article: Moving to March primary gaining traction: Legislation on presidential races passes key Assembly committee - - San Mateo Daily Journal.

Louisiana: Let 70,000 ex-felons vote? No, says Louisiana House committee | Associated Press

Proposals to restore the voting rights of more than 70,000 Louisiana ex-felons on probation or parole got a chilly reaction from some state lawmakers Wednesday (April 26). The House Governmental Affairs Committee rejected one such proposal and persuaded a lawmaker to delay action on a similar bill until next week. Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, D-Baton Rouge, pulled her House Bill 229 from a vote after her colleagues expressed concern about giving the vote back to people who have been on parole or probation for five years. The law affects about 71,000 people, roughly 1.5 percent of the state’s population. Similar proposals have died before in the conservative Louisiana Legislature. Smith introduced the bill after supporters of restoring voting rights struck out in court last month, when a judge told them they would have to get the law changed if they want the prohibition lifted.

Full Article: Let 70,000 ex-felons vote? No, says Louisiana House committee | NOLA.com.

Michigan: Gerrymandering seriously impacts voting, according to new test | The Michigan Daily

Although President Trump won the state by a narrow margin, GOP candidates in down-ballot races in Michigan won across the board, adding further to their large majority in the State Legislature. According to a new test conducted by Bridge Magazine, GOP candidates succeed in Michigan despite relatively equal support for both parties because of gerrymandered districts. The test, titled the “efficiency gap,” calculates how many votes are “wasted” when a certain party draws district lines in their favor. Wasted votes are those cast for the candidate that didn’t win and those cast for the winning candidate beyond the number they needed to win.

Full Article: Michigan gerrymandering seriously impacts voting, according to new test | The Michigan Daily.

Montana: Voters confused over multiple mail ballot elections | Ravalli Republic

In what may be one of the most confusing election cycles ever, voters who cast their ballots by mail need to pay attention this next week. “We have some voters who are definitely confused right now,” said Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg. “We’ve been getting calls from people telling us that they opened their envelopes and found there weren’t any congressional races on their ballots.” That’s because the absentee ballots for the upcoming special election to select Montana’s sole congressman won’t be mailed out until next week. The mail ballots that voters have already received are for several school and one fire district election.

Full Article: Voters confused over multiple mail ballot elections | Local News | ravallirepublic.com.