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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”. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More