At an April 4 Election Assistance Commission public hearing, a senior Department of Homeland Security official sought to stress one thing: The designation of election systems as critical infrastructure doesn’t cut into states’ autonomy. Concerns over DHS control have simmered since then-Secretary Jeh Johnson first suggested the critical infrastructure designation last summer. Yet Neil Jenkins, DHS’ director of the Enterprise Performance Management Office, said at the EAC hearing that his agency sees the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Election Cybersecurity Task Force as the main point of contact for deciding when DHS system-scanning tools are needed. Jenkins also said he sees the EAC as a critical point of contact for local officials who may be interested in utilizing DHS scanning and security products.
Devin Nunes, Donald Trump’s chief ally on the congressional committees investigating the president’s connections to Russia, has stepped aside from the inquiry, as he faces his own ethics investigation. Less than two weeks after the Democrats on the House intelligence committee called for Nunes to recuse himself, the committee chairman said he would “temporarily” leave the inquiry in the hands of other rightwing Republicans, leaving it unclear how much Nunes’ absence would transform an investigation stalled by deep partisan infighting. Nunes, a member of Trump’s national security transition team and the head of the House intelligence committee, is now the subject of an inquiry from the House ethics panel. … Nunes’ decision makes him the second Trump ally to remove himself from the varied Russia investigations. The first, attorney general Jeff Sessions, stepped aside on 3 March after revelations that he had meetings with the Russian ambassador while part of the Trump campaign.
Federal investigators say a “security researcher” was behind a data breach at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, and his probing of the system broke no federal law. University officials announced the finding Friday after being briefed by investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ending a monthlong probe over a potential hacking case that had raised alarms over the security of the state’s election system. In a statement, university officials acknowledged what they called “unauthorized access” to a server used by the center, which helps the state prepare elections information and has access to millions of Georgia voter records. No student data were involved in the case. They said the incident has prompted a review of the university’s digital security efforts.
A federal magistrate judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to hand over for review the documents that he took to a meeting with President Trump outlining a strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., will determine whether the documents are relevant to two federal lawsuits seeking to overturn a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote. Kobach, who served on the president’s transition team and was rumored to be under consideration for a role in the administration, met with Trump in November in Bedminster, N.J., and was photographed carrying a stack of papers with headings “DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY” and “KOBACH STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE FIRST 365 DAYS.”
Gov. Steve Bullock revived debate over mail-only voting on Friday when he used his veto power to rewrite a routine bill to allow counties to conduct the May 25 congressional election by mail. The governor’s action caught Secretary of State Corey Stapleton off guard. His fellow Republicans in the House, who had killed the bill last month, were scrambling to see if there was a way to prevent the governor’s changes from being debated and getting a floor vote. They could run down the clock — because they can choose to take up the matter any time during the remaining days of the session. The 11th-hour political maneuver might be too late for some counties, who are already planning to print ballots, arrange polling sites and assemble thousands of poll workers.
North Carolina: Governor threatens veto as legislature tries again to combine ethics, elections boards | News & Observer
The state House on Thursday approved a bill wresting control of elections boards from the political party of the governor. Earlier in the day Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he would veto the bill if it comes to his desk and sue to block it if necessary. The House vote was 68-42. The proposal is on a fast track, having just been made public Tuesday afternoon – inserted into an unrelated bill so that it could move directly to the full Senate rather than work its way through Senate committees. Senate Bill 68 would merge the State Ethics Board and the State Board of Elections, and evenly divide membership of the new board between Republicans and Democrats. The bill would let the governor appoint all eight members, choosing from lists provided by the each of the major parties.
Texas: Federal judge says changes to Texas voter ID law won’t affect lawsuit against it | San Antonio Express-News
Proposed legislative changes to Texas’ voter ID law won’t affect a lawsuit’s claim that the law is discriminatory, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, based in Corpus Christi, made the declaration in an opinion that also allowed the Justice Department to withdraw from the case. The opinion follows a hearing in February in which — as directed by a federal appeals court, the U.S. Fifth Circuit — she heard more arguments about whether the law, SB 14, was passed with discriminatory intent. The state argued that lawmakers planned fixes to be made in Austin with a measure called Senate Bill 5.
The Liberal government says it will not pursue mandatory or online voting for federal elections. The Liberals had raised the ideas for consideration in their 2015 election platform and tasked the special committee on electoral reform with studying the possibilities. But MPs on the special committee were divided on the merits of mandatory voting and concerned about the security of online voting, and recommended against pursuing either. In a formal response to the committee’s report, submitted on Monday, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould said the government agrees with the committee. “While Canadians feel that online voting in federal elections would have a positive effect on voter turnout, their support is contingent on assurances that online voting would not result in increased security risks,” Gould wrote. “We agree.”
In a surprise move, Ecuador’s ruling party, Country Alliance, has called for a recount of the votes cast in the weekend’s presidential election. Its candidate, Lenin Moreno, had won the election by the narrowest margin, with 51.16% of the vote. Moreno is considered the “heir apparent” of previous President Rafael Correa, who has been in office for three terms. For days, Guillermo Lasso, a former banker and Ecuador’s conservative challenger for the presidency, who recorded 48.86% of the vote, has been alleging fraud and vote rigging. Despite these accusations, the Organization of American States election observers “found no discrepancies between the observed records and the official data”. In calling Lasso’s bluff on Wednesday, Country Alliance took the opportunity to denounce his bad faith.
Russia: Russia wants India’s electronic voting machine technology for its 2018 presidential election | The Economic Times
Delhi’s close partner Russia is seeking to learn from India’s experience in conducting smooth polls through EVMs — this, at a time when the Opposition in India has raised the possibility of EVM tampering in the recently-concluded Assembly polls in five states. Moscow, it has been learnt, is keen to learn from India’s EVM technology experience ahead of the March 2018 presidential polls when Vladimir Putin will seek re-election.
Hillary Clinton said she is “deeply concerned” about allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and says there needs to be an independent, nonpartisan investigation to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Speaking Thursday in New York at a summit on women’s issues, Clinton said Russian involvement was meant to sow “distrust and confusion. I think what was done to us was an act of aggression and it was carried out by a foreign power under the control of someone who has a deep desire to dominate Europe and send us into a tailspin,” she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Clinton called on Congress to put party squabbles aside and look into it. Otherwise, she said, “They will be back.”
National: C.I.A. Had Evidence of Russian Effort to Help Trump Earlier Than Believed | The New York Times
The C.I.A. told senior lawmakers in classified briefings last summer that it had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president, a finding that did not emerge publicly until after Mr. Trump’s victory months later, former government officials say. The briefings indicate that intelligence officials had evidence of Russia’s intentions to help Mr. Trump much earlier in the presidential campaign than previously thought. The briefings also reveal a critical split last summer between the C.I.A. and counterparts at the F.B.I., where a number of senior officials continued to believe through last fall that Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed primarily at disrupting America’s political system, and not at getting Mr. Trump elected, according to interviews. The former officials said that in late August — 10 weeks before the election — John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director, was so concerned about increasing evidence of Russia’s election meddling that he began a series of urgent, individual briefings for eight top members of Congress, some of them on secure phone lines while they were on their summer break.
Editorials: There’s no guarantee of a credible investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, but Nunes’ departure is a start | Los Angeles Times
It’s still not a sure thing that the House Intelligence Committee will conduct a credible bipartisan investigation of whether Russia interfered in last year’s presidential campaign with the intention of helping Donald Trump and whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded in that effort. But Thursday’s announcement by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), that he is stepping down from the investigation removes a compromising cloud from the inquiry. Nunes said he was withdrawing temporarily while the House Ethics Committee probed a complaint by outside groups — a complaint he called “false and politically motivated” — that he had improperly disclosed classified information. The complaint apparently refers to Nunes’ statements last month that U.S. surveillance operations aimed at foreign targets had incidentally collected communications involving members of President-elect Trump’s transition team, and that some of the U.S. citizens had been identified or “unmasked.” He also claimed that details about people associated with the incoming administration “with little apparent foreign intelligence value” were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.
A new lawsuit claims the city of Santa Clara’s at-large elections violate state law by systematically discriminating against Asian-Americans. The city’s winner-take-all system dilutes minority votes and has prevented Asian-Americans from ever being elected to the City Council, according to the complaint filed last week by retired social worker Wes Mukoyama. In 2016 alone, five Asian-American candidates lost despite the fact that almost 40 percent of the city and a third of its electorate is of Asian descent. “Something is wrong when such a sizeable Asian-American population cannot elect candidates of its choice,” said Mukoyama, who’s represented by civil rights attorney Robert Rubin and the nonprofit Asian Law Alliance.
Georgia: Elections bill with 26-month voter verification deadline passes | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgians could continue to use federal tribal identification cards as proof of citizenship but would face a 26-month deadline to correct any discrepancies on their voter registration forms under a bill sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. House Bill 268, sponsored by state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, is generally considered a cleanup of the state’s election code but has drawn the ire of some voter advocacy groups. They want Deal to veto the measure because they claim it violates the spirit of a recent legal settlement over how Georgia verifies voter registration information. A federal lawsuit last year accused Georgia of disenfranchising minority voters because of an “exact match” requirement used by the state on registration forms that critics said blocked thousands of them from voter rolls. Among concerns the suit cited was that the federal and state databases used to match the information may contain errors that cause applicants to be wrongly flagged in the system.
Gov. Matt Bevin this week restored the voting rights of 24 Kentuckians who had felony convictions and had completed their sentences. Good for them. Unfortunately, Bevin’s action, the first felon voting restorations since he took office in December 2015, leaves about 1,100 who have petitioned him still disenfranchised. It also leaves out about 180,000 former felons, most of whose rights would have been restored under an executive order filed by former Gov. Steve Beshear shortly before he left office that was overturned by Bevin. … Oddly, despite the very long waiting list that includes some who have been waiting for years, most of Bevin’s two dozen are people who only very recently finished their sentences.
With the failure of Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper’s plan to ratify postponed election results, lawmakers are looking for a new way forward. The Hudson Republican’s amendment, which died Tuesday evening at the end of a several-hours long Election Law Committee session, asked towns to hold hearings and possibly special elections to ratify their own election results. Judy Silva, executive director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said that the testimony of numerous town moderators tipped the scales and prevented the special election amendment from passing.
The state House voted along party lines Thursday to retool a Republican law struck down by a court that combined elections and ethics duties into one board, which its chief proponent says he hopes would settle the matter without legal appeals. But Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who sued over the original law that he argues prevented him from overseeing elections, said he’ll veto the reworked measure if it reaches his desk and threatened legal action again if necessary “to protect the integrity of our electoral system.” The bill “is the latest GOP attempt to curtail voting rights in North Carolina? – and I intend to fight it,” Cooper wrote online hours before the House voted 68-42 for the measure, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, possibly next week.
Pennsylvania: Republicans and Green Party to judge: Hold a new 197th District election | Philadelphia Inquirer
Two losing candidates on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out the results of the controversial March 21 special election for the 197th Pennsylvania House District and order a new election, alleging the Democratic Party and its candidate engaged in illegal electioneering. The lawsuit from Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala was filed one day after Democrat Emilio Vazquez was sworn into office. The 29-page suit is a litany of complaints about shady tactics in the North Philadelphia district. The two candidates, along with the city and state Republican Parties and the state Green Party, are suing Vazquez, Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, and the Board of City Commissioners and Department of State, which oversaw the election.
The three-judge panel overseeing the challenge to Texas’ congressional district maps will meet with lawyers April 27 to get an update on the case, including whether the Legislature plans to take up redistricting to correct problems the panel identified in a ruling last month. The status conference also will discuss a request to prohibit Texas from using the current map of congressional districts in the 2018 election. As of now, candidates expect to begin filing for the primaries in November. The conference will chart the next steps in the case after the panel, in a 2-1 ruling on March 10, found that three congressional districts were drawn by Republicans in 2011 to intentionally discriminate against Latino and black voters.
Editorials: Armenia’s election: The status quo wins at the expense of democracy | Armine Ishkanian/EUROPP
After a quarter of a century of ‘transitioning’ to democracy, Armenia remains at best a partly free ‘managed’ democracy and at worst a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime. The country has high levels of poverty and inequality (over 30% of Armenians live under the poverty line, with 47% of those aged 15 and above being unemployed) and the discontent with the status quo has led to continual emigration since the early 1990s and mass protests over recent years. In the immediate aftermath of the election on 2 April, in which the ruling Republican (Hanrapetakan) Party of Armenia, received nearly 50% of the vote, questions have been raised as to why, despite growing discontent with the political and socio-economic status quo, including the unresolved conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, so many Armenian citizens appear to have given their support to the ruling party?
In a surprise move, Ecuador’s ruling party, Country Alliance, has called for a recount of the votes cast in the weekend’s presidential election. Its candidate, Lenin Moreno, had won the election by the narrowest margin, with 51.16% of the vote. Moreno is considered the “heir apparent” of previous President Rafael Correa, who has been in office for three terms. For days, Guillermo Lasso, a former banker and Ecuador’s conservative challenger for the presidency, who recorded 48.86% of the vote, has been alleging fraud and vote rigging. Supporters of Lasso’s Creo Suma, or Creating Opportunities, party have taken up his cry. One, a protester named Gustavo Palacio, said:
Germany pushed ahead with legislation that threatens social networks such as Facebook Inc. with fines of as much as 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to give users the option to complain about hate speech and fake news or refuse to remove illegal content. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday backed a bill that would also force the companies to purge content flagged as child pornography or inciting terrorism — two categories added to the original draft. Corporate officials responsible would risk separate fines of as much as 5 million euros. If passed by parliament, the measures would be the toughest regulation Facebook faces in any country where it operates.
Editorials: What a ballot-rigging conspiracy theory says about India’s toxic political climate | Nayanika Mathur/The Conversation
The headline story from India’s recent provincial elections was the staggering victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state of Uttar Pradesh. But a range of politicians and observers, however, have claimed it wasn’t Modi’s charisma that won it for the BJP, but rigged voting machines. Normally, such claims – currently unproven – would be laughed off as nothing but sour grapes. But in this case, the conspiracy theory appears to have taken root. And that it has done so illuminates some deeper concerns with the state of Indian democracy. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP annihilated all political opposition including the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), led by the Dalit icon Mayawati. Another surprise came in the state of Punjab, with a surprisingly poor performance by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by the current chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. It was widely expected to do better, having dramatically halted Modi’s momentum in the Delhi elections of February 2015.
Indonesia: Election Supervisors Question Accuracy of Voters List in Gubernatorial Election Runoff | Jakarta Globe
The Jakarta branch of the Election Supervisory Agency, or Bawaslu, has questioned the accuracy of the temporary voters list, or DPS, ahead of the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election on April 19. Bawaslu Jakarta said 46,492 voters from the permanent voters list (DPT) were missing and identified around 13,000 duplicated voter registration cards after verifying the DPS on Thursday (06/04). The DPS list was provided by the General Election Commission, or KPU.
The Turkish people will vote in a momentous constitutional referendum on April 16. If adopted, the proposals would drastically alter the country’s political system. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced the 18 proposed changes to the constitution, with the support of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Together they secured the minimum 330 parliamentary votes required to launch a public referendum. Though constitutional referendums are not uncommon in Turkey’s political history, this particular one is extremely important in terms of the very nature of the country’s political regime. The proposed amendments would take Turkey away from its current parliamentary system. In its place, the country would have an executive presidency “a la Turka.” Despite the arguments of the AKP government, the amendments will not strengthen democracy—quite the opposite.