The U.S. envoy to the United Nations says she’s maintaining a hard line against Russia, even as her boss — President Donald Trump — continues to dismiss reported Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election as “fake” news. “Certainly I think Russia was involved in the election,” Nikki Haley said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” broadcast on Sunday, according to a transcript provided by the network. “There’s no question about that.” Haley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, made her first Sunday-show appearances since becoming the nation’s top diplomat at the UN as the U.S. prepared to take over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.
A senior adviser to President Donald Trump on Saturday urged a primary challenge against a House Freedom Caucus member, prompting charges that he may have violated federal law against using his official position to sway an election campaign. Dan Scavino Jr., director of social media and senior White House adviser, tweeted that Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is a “big liability” for his state and encouraged a GOP primary opponent to oust him in 2018. But that tweet, sent from Scavino’s personal Twitter account, immediately landed him in controversy as ethics lawyers called out Scavino for possibly violating the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that regulates campaigning by government officials.
In the fall of 2002, just over a year after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft summoned a group of federal prosecutors to Washington. He had a new mission he wanted them to focus on: voter fraud. “Votes have been bought, voters intimidated and ballot boxes stuffed,” he told the attendees of the Justice Department’s inaugural Voting Integrity Symposium. “Voters have been duped into signing absentee ballots believing they were applications for public relief. And the residents of cemeteries have infamously shown up at the polls on election day.” This might seem an unusually dark portrait of America’s electoral system, coming from the nation’s top prosecutor. But Ashcroft spoke from personal experience. In 2000, as a U.S. Senator from Missouri, he lost his re-election bid to a dead man. His opponent, Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day. It was too late to remove the governor’s name from the ballot, so his wife, Jean, announced she would serve his term. Mel Carnahan won by 49,000 votes. Ashcroft and his fellow Missouri Republicans were outraged. Skeptical that voters might simply have preferred any Carnahan to him, Ashcroft and other Republicans accused Democrats in St. Louis of trying to steal the election by keeping the polls open later than usual. They dubbed it a “major criminal enterprise”. That December, George W. Bush nominated the out-of-work Ashcroft to be his first attorney general.
Could we create an app for people to use for voting in national elections? I did some work on electronic voting systems problems with Ed Gerck in the early 2000s. It was hard then, it’s arguably harder now. This gets back to what some people have lobbied for since the early days of the Internet: the “Internet driver’s license.” In the U.S., to get a voter’s registration card, you have to prove you are who you say you are, that you live where you say you live, and that you’re a U.S. citizen. That entitles you to be enrolled as a registered voter, which means that for any election in your jurisdiction, you can show up and cast your vote (or as is more commonly the case, to mail your ballot in or drop it off at a collection point).
Many states have adopted or are considering enacting strict photo identification requirements for voting. But doing so is a waste of time and money: The laws will not prevent election fraud, and these states will surely face protracted litigation with an uncertain outcome. Voter ID advocates claim that the requirement is a common-sense tool to make our elections more secure. Yet that assertion is fundamentally flawed. A fraudster truly intent on perpetrating this kind of electoral shenanigans would likely have no qualms about stealing someone’s identity or otherwise obtaining a fake ID to satisfy the requirement.
For the past two years, the search for Donald Trump’s unseen tax returns has been something of a quest for the Holy Grail, an elusive trophy that could unlock the mysteries of our political universe. Lacking real proof as to what the president’s tax documents might show, the imagination swells with possibility: Russia ties? Massive personal debts? A wealth substantially lower than his self-reported $10 billion fortune? Something nefarious? The best efforts of Trump’s political opponents have turned up little by way of tax returns. Ditto the intrepid work of a nation of journalists; despite reporters obtaining a few different pieces of paperwork—as in the New York Times’ report last fall, or Rachel Maddow’s glimpse at two pages of Trump’s 2005 returns two weeks ago—the knowledge gained by any of these leaks has been dwarfed by the new questions raised. Trump keeps insisting that because his returns are under audit, he can’t possibly release them. And the Republican-led Congress, save a few renegades like South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, evince little interest in compelling the president to disclose them.
Editorials: The voting rights issue no one talks about: Ending the disenfranchisement of felons will strengthen democracy | Sean McElwee/Salon.com
Elections are decided by who votes — and increasingly, in America, by who cannot. Barriers to voting participation skew policy outcomes and elections to the right in the United States. One of the most racially discriminatory of these barriers is felon disenfranchisement. Nearly 6 million Americans are disenfranchised due to felonies. This may seem like a small share of the population, but the concentration of disenfranchisement in some states makes it enough to shift elections. In six Southern states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population is disenfranchised. Unsurprisingly, given the racial biases in the criminal justice system, the burden does not fall equally across racial groups. In the most definitive research, Christopher Uggen, Sarah Shannon and Jeff Manza find that “one of every 13 African-Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than non-African Americans.” New research suggests this is skewing democracy.
Arizona: Maricopa County report says 40,000 voter registration forms found sitting in boxes | Associated Press
A report released Thursday from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said 40,000 voter registration forms received before the 2016 election were left sitting in boxes by the previous administration. Under Proposition 200, Arizona voter registration forms are required to have proof of citizenship attached. Without it, the registrant would not be considered eligible to vote in the state. The forms found in the boxes did not have that proof. “It was the policy of the previous administration that if a voter registration form did not comply with Prop. 200 — and it did not show proof of citizenship — it went into a box after a letter went out saying, ‘We need more information,’” Recorder Adrian Fontes, who was elected in November, said.
A new lawsuit by a group of ex-felons seeks to change the strict Florida law that restricts voting rights for felons. The seven plaintiffs in the class action have sued Governor Rick Scott claiming the law restricting their rights is unconstitutional. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. This suit was brought by the non-partisan Fair Elections Legal Network on behalf of the seven plaintiffs. It takes aim at the process by which they can seek to regain their voting rights. There is a backlog of more than 10,000 petitions to have voting rights restored. Over 1.6 million people in Florida have lost their voting rights, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel cited research from The Sentencing Project. In many states, those convicted of felonies find their voting rights restricted. Florida, however, strips all former felons of voting rights. In 2011, Scott and Republican lawmakers enacted laws requiring felons to wait for five to seven years after their sentences are completed before even applying to have their voting rights reinstated. The Sentencing Project estimates that across America 6.1 million Americans have lost their voting rights.
Reforming Indiana’s redistricting process is not likely to change this legislative session, despite four bipartisan bills addressing the issue. One of those bills, SB136 was written by Sen. John Ruckelshaus (R- Indianapolis). Ruckelshaus thinks more public interest and bi-partisan efforts are required in reforming the redistricting process. “I just strongly believe in bipartisanship, and I think that when you have districts that are more competitive in that regard it just produces a better product,” he says.
Michigan: Supreme Court could decide if Emergency Manager law violates Voting Rights Act | MLive.com
Attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging Michigan’s emergency manager law, contending Flint’s water crisis now stands as evidence for “what happens when the government is allowed to run our communities based only on the ‘bottom line.’ “In filing a petition for a Writ of Certiorari Friday, March 31, Ann Arbor attorney and professor Samuel R. Bagenstos claims the emergency manager law is racially discriminatory and deprives citizens of their rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A last-ditch effort to hold the May special election to fill Montana’s vacant seat in Congress by mail failed Friday. Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, tried to “blast” a bill that would let counties choose to use mail ballots onto the House floor. A blast motion is an attempt to revive a bill that has stalled in committee. The motion needed 60 votes out of 100 House members, but only got 51. Senate Bill 305 was carried by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls. The bill would have allowed counties to choose to conduct the May 25 election to replace former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who resigned to become Secretary of the Interior, by mail. Voting still would be available at county courthouses before the election and on Election Day, a Thursday, as well as at satellite offices.
Nebraska lawmakers gave initial approval Friday to a bill that would allow people convicted of felonies to vote when they complete their prison sentences and any parole or probation. Senators voted 28-8 to eliminate the state’s two-year waiting period, which Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha says continues to disenfranchise Nebraska residents who are racial minorities. People of color made up about 15 percent of the state’s population in the most recent census and nearly half of its prisoners. “This disenfranchisement law is at best profoundly outdated,” Wayne said. “At worst, it’s discrimination against minority voters.” The bill would affect about 7,800 felons in Nebraska.
New Hampshire: As state considers letting towns upgrade polling tech, vendors show off wares | Concord Monitor
If New Hampshire allows electronic check-in at polling places, replacing ballot clerks drawing lines through voter names in printed books with people touching icons on computer tablet screens, it will be due in part to one unlikely motivation: the alphabet. “There’s nothing more frustrating to a voter than standing in line because your name starts with the letters A to D, but the M-to-Z check-in line is empty. … This eliminates that,” said Rob Rock, the director of elections for Rhode Island, describing his state’s experience with what are known as electronic poll books. Speed and convenience, both for voters and for polling-place workers, were big selling points Friday as vendors of five companies that make e-poll books pitched their wares to state and local election officials in the Legislative Office Building.
Virginia: Richmond judge upholds 11 legislative districts challenged in gerrymandering lawsuit | Richmond Times-Dispatch
A Richmond judge issued a ruling Friday upholding the constitutionality of 11 state legislative districts that were challenged as being designed for political purposes. The ruling by Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant is a setback for redistricting reform advocates in Virginia. The lawsuit was backed by the reform group OneVirginia2021. The decision will likely be appealed. Marchant heard evidence during a three-day bench trial in March relating to five state House districts and six state Senate districts drawn by the Virginia General Assembly in 2011.
Armenians will elect a new parliament on Sunday in a closely fought race between the ruling party and a former coalition partner that heralds the start of a parliamentary system of government. Under controversial constitutional reforms, parliament, rather than voters, will elect the president for the first time, and the office of prime minister will become more powerful, reducing the presidency to a largely ceremonial role. The opposition says the changes are a ruse to let President Serzh Sarksyan slip into an enhanced prime ministerial role at the head of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) when his presidential term ends in 2018. Sarksyan, 62, denies the reforms were designed to extend his political career.
Leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno claimed victory in Ecuador’s presidential vote on Sunday, bucking a shift to the right in South America, but the conservative challenger asked for a recount as some supporters took to the streets in protest. A Moreno win would come as a relief for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso vowed to remove Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy in London if he won the runoff. It would also boost the struggling leftist movement in South America after right-leaning governments recently came to power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru as a commodities boom ended, economies flagged and corruption scandals grew.
Russia looms large over France’s presidential election, with candidates on the hard left, right and far right all promising to improve ties with the Kremlin, accused by some of meddling in the vote. As U.S. authorities press their investigation into alleged Russian interference in favor of Donald Trump in America’s election, officials on both sides of the Atlantic are warning of possible attempts by Russia to also sway the French vote. This week, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence outright accused Russia of an “overt effort” to disrupt France’s April 23-May 7 vote. “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Sen. Richard Burr told reporters.
India: Take steps against EVMs soon, or people will lose faith in them: Congress to EC | Deccan Chronicle
The Congress on Sunday urged the Election Commission to discuss the matter of EVM tampering with all the political parties and take necessary step in the regard, before people lose their faith in the device altogether. Speaking to ANI here, Congress leader Hanumantha Rao said if Election Commission did not take adequate steps soon then people will soon stop believing in the voting machine. “Initially Mayawati questioned the EVMs and then Kejriwal. The leaders are alleging of EVM tampering because they did not get votes even in their bastions. The Election Commission after mulling over the issue with all parties should take necessary steps in the regard, otherwise people will stop trusting EVMs,” he added.
Paraguay’s president has fired the country’s interior minister and top police official after the killing of young opposition party leader — a death that came amid violent clashes overnight sparked by a secret Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential re-election. President Horacio Cartes said Saturday that Interior Minister Tadeo Rojas and National Police Chief Crispulo Sotelo had been let go. Rodrigo Quintana, 25, was killed at the headquarters of a liberal youth activist group, a different location than the congress building where most of the violence took place. Demonstrators set fires around the legislative building after the vote to allow Cartes to run again in a country haunted by the 35-year rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
Russia: Anti-Putin protesters plan next move as jailed opponent considers election bid | The Guardian
“Nobody is scared of going to jail, but we have work to do,” said Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for Alexei Navalny, as she waited for the Russian opposition politician to be delivered to court for an appeal hearing on Thursday. Navalny, who was marched to his hearing handcuffed to a stout police officer, saw his appeal rejected, and will spend the next week behind bars, serving out a 15-day sentence after he was arrested at last weekend’s protest in Moscow, one of more than 1,000 people detained by police in the capital alone. There were protests in dozens of Russian cities last Sunday, called by Navalny over allegations of corruption against prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. They were the biggest since a wave of protests in 2011 and 2012, and for the first time since that wave was crushed there is an air of uncertainty on the Russian political scene.
Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claimed victory Sunday in the presidential election that was a test of his authoritarian rule, an outcome that could expand Russia’s influence in the Balkans. Speaking to supporters at his right-wing party’s headquarters, Vucic said, “My victory is crystal clear. This is a very important day for us, showing which way Serbia should be heading.” … While Vucic has said he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union, he has been pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed him.
United Kingdom: ‘Dark money’ is threat to integrity of UK elections, say leading academics | The Guardian
An urgent review of “weak and helpless” electoral laws is being demanded by a group of leading academics who say that uncontrolled “dark money” poses a threat to the fundamental principles of British democracy. A working group set up by the London School of Economics warns that new technology has disrupted British politics to such an extent that current laws are unable to ensure a free and fair election or control the influence of money in politics. Damian Tambini, director of the media policy project at the LSE, who heads the group made up of leading experts in the field, said that new forms of online campaigning had not only changed the ways that political parties target voters but, crucially, had also altered the ability of big money interests to manipulate political debate. “There is a real danger we are heading down the US route where whoever spends the most money is most likely to win. That’s why we’ve always controlled spending in this country. But these controls are no longer working.”