Carter Page, who served briefly as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, made an appearance in a federal espionage case because he communicated several years ago with a Russian intelligence agent under surveillance by the FBI. In a statement released Tuesday, Page confirmed his role in the 2015 Justice Department spy case, adding another twist to the still-unfolding story of Trump’s peculiar and expanding ties to people connected to Russia. Page said he assisted U.S. prosecutors in their case against Evgeny Buryakov, an undercover Kremlin agent then posing as a bank executive in New York. Buryakov was convicted of espionage and released from federal prison last week, a few months short of completing a 30-month sentence. Buryakov agreed to be immediately deported to Russia.
Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman. The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
A group of 20 House Democrats is urging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to remove Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) from the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian election meddling last year. “Chairman Nunes’ recusal is critical in order to preserve the integrity and independence of the U.S. House of Representatives,” they wrote in a Tuesday letter to Ryan. “Congress must come together in a bipartisan fashion to understand the nature of this attack and the scope of Russian ties to [President Trump’s 2016] campaign, transition team and presidential administration,” they added. “This is about country, not party. Chairman Nunes has demonstrated his bias, and the public will no longer accept the results of this probe as legitimate under his leadership.”
The Senate voted tentatively Tuesday to ask the voters next year whether Florida’s secretary of state should once again be an elective position. SJR 882, by Sen. Aaron Bean, would amend the state constitution to make the Secretary of State an elected member of the Cabinet beginning with the 2022 General Election. Identical legislation is pending in the House. The Senate action set up the measure for a final vote. Bean argued the state’s chief elections officer should be “accountable to the people.” Now, secretaries of state are appointed by the governor. If approved by a supermajority on the House and 60 percent of the voters, the amendment would take effect on June 1. That would allow the next governor to appoint someone following the 2018 election cycle.
Early last month, someone reportedly hacked into the voting records database at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, which is contracted to maintain and program all of Georgia’s 100% unverifiable touch-screen Diebold voting systems and electronic poll books. The state still uses the same unverifiable 2002 voting systems that, as we reported more than a decade ago, were hacked in a minute’s time by researchers at Princeton University, where they were able to implant a virus that could pass itself from machine to machine and flip the results of an election with little or no possibility of detection. The recent hack at Georgia’s KSU, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described at the time as possibly compromising some 7.5 million voter records, resulted in a quiet FBI investigation, and comes as special elections are about to be held in a number of states to fill U.S. House seats vacated by Republican members of Congress tapped to serve in the Trump Administration. … Longtime computer scientist and voting systems expert Barbara Simons of VerifiedVoting.org joins me today to explain the ongoing concerns about the still-mysterious Georgia hack, Verified Voting’s effort to get answers about it from GA’s Republican Sec. of State Brian Kemp; the group’s request to have him to offer paper ballots to voters in the wake of the reported “massive data breach”; and this weekend’s similarly cryptic news that the FBI has now concluded its investigation.
A federal judge in Great Falls listened to arguments Tuesday for a lawsuit filed against the Secretary of State’s office to get third party names on the May special election ballot. Thomas Breck is the nominee for the Montana Green Party and Steve Kelly is the potential candidate for the Independent Party. The two along with Danielle Breck are challenging Montana’s ballot access laws for independent and minor party candidates. The trio says they didn’t have enough time to collect the required 14,268 signatures to get their names on the ballot under the special election deadlines. The filing fee for the May 25 special election is $1,740.
Nevada: Absentee ballots could become more accessible for disabled voters | Las Vegas Review-Journal
It may become easier for registered voters with disabilities to get Nevada absentee ballots on a long-term basis.
Senate Bill 447 would allow registered voters with a physical disability to request an absentee ballot for every election they are eligible to vote in. The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee heard the bill on Monday without taking action.
A little more than two weeks after a three-judge panel threw out a new state law combining oversight of state elections and ethics enforcement, leading Republican House members are pushing a revised version of the plan. The House Elections and Finance committees on Tuesday approved a committee substitute for Senate Bill 68 less than 18 hours after Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, stripped out the bill’s original half-page of language calling for student attendance recognition programs in local school districts and replaced it with 15 pages of policies and procedures for the proposed Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. Lewis, the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, beat back an effort by Democratic members of the committee to delay voting on the new bill, saying the House needed to take a floor vote on it before lawmakers take time off for Easter late next week.
New electronic poll books for elections are supposed to make voting faster, more accurate and more secure, but Butler County commissioners don’t like the state’s “use it or lose it” policy regarding money to pay for them. County elections officials presented a plan Monday to spend $524,900 on the new technology. The state will pick up the lion’s share, $394,465, for the equipment, but county leaders said the catch is the elections board must be under contract with the vendor by May 31 or the money will vanish. “I don’t like the state saying you have to use it or lose,” Commissioner Don Dixon said. “I think if they are going to allocate that money, then if we have a plan to bundle that with something else, and it may be a year before we’re there, we should be allowed to do that.”
Rosa Ortega stirred herself awake at the sound of a prison guard yelling in her dreams. “It’s just a nightmare,” Oscar Sherman assured her as the pair rested in his low-slung apartment complex in a desolate part of town. “It’s over now.” “My mind’s not right,” Ortega said later that afternoon. “I have nightmares. I can’t combine foods. I’m always on top of everything, but my brain hurts. It can’t stop thinking about the situation.” The situation is that Ortega, 37, voted illegally and has become the national face of voter fraud, a crime that President Trump and other Republicans believe is an epidemic endangering the integrity of American elections, even though no evidence supports the claim.
In a sign of waning confidence in its legal position, the Pasadena City Council voted Tuesday to withhold payment from the law firm that’s trying to prove that the city’s redistricting plan doesn’t discriminate against Hispanics. The 7-1 vote, with Mayor Johnny Isbell absent, exposed the degree to which the mayor has unilaterally pressed for an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the plan was discriminatory. Council members complained they don’t fully understand the status of the lawsuit or of the work being done by Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP of Austin.
A Vermont federal court has confirmed a prior ruling, in Corren versus Donovan and Condos, that Vermont’s public financing statute is constitutional. In its decision(link is external) on Thursday, the Court also ruled that Plaintiffs are not entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees for the action. The case refers to the 2014 Progressive/Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor Dean Corren versus Attorney General TJ Donovan and Secretary of State Jim Condos. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2015 in an attempt block the state from pursuing a campaign finance law enforcement action in state court. Plaintiffs also asked the Court to declare Vermont’s system for the public financing of election campaigns unconstitutional.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) will call in local, regional and international experts to assist with a strategic assessment around implementing an e-voting system, IEC officials said on Tuesday. The IEC operational deputy head, Wasima Badghisi, said the election commission will share the findings of this assessment with the public in the near future. She said there is a possibility that the next election will be held under the new plan. The call for help from international experts was aimed at identifying weaknesses and strengths of an e-voting system as well as its impacts on election transparency.
Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court was to meet Tuesday on whether to invalidate the 2014 presidential election because of illegal campaign funding and to force President Michel Temer to step aside. The court, known as the TSE, could in theory scrap the results of the election, forcing either a snap election or for Congress to pick a new interim leader in Latin America’s biggest country. This would be a bombshell for a country already wallowing in two years of recession and the fallout from the massive “Car Wash” corruption investigation. Analysts say there is little chance of this, however, with Temer likely to keep his seat until regularly scheduled polls at the end of 2018.
Supporters of Guillermo Lasso protested in the capital, Quito, for a second night on Monday, echoing their candidate’s calls for votes to be recounted. “I’m warning the world that in Ecuador procedures are being violated, and they’re trying to swear in an illegitimate government,” Lasso said. “This is a clumsy fraud attempt.” Addressing a crowd of a few thousand supporters outside the National Electoral Council, Lasso said “We’re not afraid of the miserable cowards who are on the wrong side of history.” The scenes were more muted than protests on Sunday – election evening – when thousands of Lasso supporters chanted “fraud” through the night. Lasso shared images of the protests on his Twitter feed, saying: “All of you are like the majority of Ecuadoreans who voted for a change. Thank you for your support, thank you for your confidence.”
India: Election Commission should consider paper ballots in place of electronic voting machines: Congress | The Arunachal Times
The Congress on Monday said the Election Commission is only the arbiter and not the controller of the democratic process and asked the poll body to introspect and explore possibility of shifting voting from EVMs to the alternative system of paper ballots. The opposition party also said that the EC should not be an advocate for electronic voting machines (EVMs) and should conduct polls to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. A major row erupted last week over a video of a VVPAT demonstration by a poll official in Madhya Pradesh where the machine attached to an EVM allegedly dispensed slips of only BJP as the opposition demanded reverting to the old ballot paper system of voting while scrapping use of EVMs. There have been demands from various parties over the efficacy of EVMs following the spectacular victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh and of Congress in Punjab.
India: Rajya Sabha: Congress demands electronic voting machine use be stopped immediately | Hindustan Times
The Congress became the latest party to demand a ban on electronic voting machines (EVMs) on Wednesday, two days after Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal questioned the BJP’s election win in Uttar Pradesh, asking the Election Commission to release the devices for investigation into tampering allegations. During a heated debate in the Rajya Sabha over the use of EVMs, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “EVM should be stopped right now. In the upcoming civic polls of Delhi, assembly polls in Gujarat and other states EVMs should not be used.”
Russia tried to influence last month’s Dutch election by spreading fake news, according to the annual report of the Dutch intelligence service AIVD, published Tuesday. Rob Bertholee, the head of AIVD, told local media that Moscow did not succeed in “substantially influencing” the election process. “I think they have tried to push voters in the wrong direction by spreading news items that are not true, or partially true,” Bertholee said, without mentioning specific examples.