National: Russian computer programmer arrested in Spain reportedly over US election hacking | The New York Times

He refused to meet business associates in person and never talked on the phone, preferring instead to communicate via encrypted messaging services. But the elaborate precautions taken by the Russian computer spam kingpin known as Peter Severa appear to have failed him. Acting on an F.B.I. request, the police in Spain arrested a man this weekend named Peter Levashov, according to Russian news media reports and Reuters, citing a Russian Embassy spokesman in Madrid. Western cybersecurity researchers have identified Mr. Levashov as Peter Severa, though some doubt he is the same person. The initial reports in Russian news media of Mr. Levashov’s arrest did not say if he was suspected by United States intelligence agencies of being involved in attempts by Russian government hackers to meddle in the 2016 American presidential election. The American intelligence agencies have said Russian hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and released documents in an effort to sway the election toward Donald J. Trump.

Alabama: Governor’s advisor suggested closure of DMV offices in majority black counties, report shows |

Governor Robert Bentley’s former top advisor and secret paramour Rebekah Mason led a politically-motivated effort in 2015 to close 31 driver’s license offices in mostly black counties, a move that embarrassed the state and was later reversed. The decision also led to a federal investigation and drew civil rights protesters such as Jesse Jackson to the state. Mason’s role was highlighted in a 131-page report released Friday by the investigator leading impeachment efforts against Gov. Bentley, a report largely focused on the relationship between Mason and Bentley. The report and exhibits can be found here. According to that report, which was compiled by lead investigator Jack Sharman, it was Mason who “proposed closing multiple driver’s license offices throughout the State” and asked the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to “put together a plan.”

Arizona: Secretary of State Reagan to attorney general: Is what I did legal? | The Arizona Republic

The rocky relations between Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Arizona’s county recorders continue. The flash point: Voter registration. Last fall, and again in early February, her office tapped into the voter-registration databases run by Maricopa and Pima counties. The two large counties were perplexed — and more than a little peeved. They said this had not happened since a test on the system in 2010. Plus, Reagan should have forwarded whatever request for information her office was researching to them, instead of just logging in, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said. And to add insult to injury, they complained they couldn’t get answers on why Reagan’s office was, in their view, snooping in their data.

California: A voting law meant to increase minority representation has generated many more lawsuits than seats for people of color | Los Angeles Times

Two years ago, the city of Palmdale settled a lawsuit alleging that its system of electing all four council members by citywide votes was rigged against Latinos and other minorities. In addition to a $4.5-million payout, the city agreed to scrap its “at large” voting system and create four separate council districts, including two with Latino majorities. The result? The city had one appointed Latino council member before the rules change. It still has just one, though that member was elected. Facing the threat of similar lawsuits under the California Voting Rights Act, several dozen cities across the state have switched from citywide elections in which all voters choose everyone on the council, to district elections in which geographically divided groups of voters each elect their own representative. And more are preparing to switch. But those efforts have so far failed to deliver a surge of Latino political representation inside California’s city halls.

Delaware: An effort to take politics out of redistricting in Delaware | The News Journal

The General Assembly is only a few steps away from handing over the job of drawing legislative districts to an independent commission. Supporters, mostly Democrats, say the change would prevent politicians from holding onto power by manipulating the redistricting process. “Voters should choose their elected officials; elected officials shouldn’t choose their voters,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who sponsored legislation to create the commission. Townsend’s bill passed the Senate on a 12-7 vote Wednesday. It still needs to pass a House committee, then the full House, before going to Gov. John Carney’s desk.

Michigan: Detroit getting new voting machines, bound statewide | Detroit Free Press

Using state-of-the-art voting machines wouldn’t have changed the controversial results of Michigan’s presidential election last fall, according to Detroit and state election officials. But new digital machines unveiled Saturday — to about 1,200 volunteer supervisors of Detroit’s polling sites — won’t suffer the frequent breakdowns of the old machines, causing lines to back up with impatient voters, and soon will be used statewide, officials said. “At the end of the day, we all have one goal, right? To ensure that every person that wants to vote gets to vote and we count that vote accurately,” Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey told the poll workers. In an event billed as an equipment fair, Winfrey and her staff showed off the new, $4,000 voting tabulators to noisy, curious crowds of election volunteers who gathered — one group in the morning, another in the afternoon — at Wayne County Community College in downtown Detroit.

Montana: Bullock uses veto to insert May 25 mail-ballot option into other | KRTV

Gov. Steve Bullock used his veto power Friday to resurrect the possibility of allowing counties to hold an all-mail ballot for Montana’s May 25 special congressional election. Last week, House Republicans in the Legislature killed a measure, Senate Bill 305, that would have allowed the mail-ballot option. But on Friday, Bullock issued an amendatory veto to insert the mail-ballot option into another bill — House Bill 83 — that now goes back to lawmakers for another vote. A key difference in the political dynamic is that Bullock’s change, and the bill, can be approved by a simple majority of both the House and Senate. In killing SB305 last week, House Republicans used a rule that required a 60-member super-majority to resurrect it, because the bill had been killed in committee. An attempt to bring it to the floor last Friday won 51 votes, but fell short of the needed 60 vote.

Montana: Would-be candidates win court case, still won’t be on ballot | Great Falls Tribune

A federal judge sided with three would-be candidates who argued they didn’t have enough time to gather the signatures required to qualify for Montana’s special congressional election — but their names still aren’t going on the ballot. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Saturday ordered Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to reduce the number of voter signatures needed to place minor party and independent candidates on the ballot from 14,268 to 400. But the judge did not extend Stapleton’s March 6 deadline to turn in signatures, which means the three men who sued for ballot access — Thomas Breck of the Green Party and independents Steve Kelly and Doug Campbell — still don’t qualify for the ballot.

New Hampshire: E-Poll book trial program under consideration at the Statehouse | WMUR

New Hampshire is inching closer to bringing new technology into its elections. On First-in-the-Nation Primary Day in 2016 the lone polling location in Merrimack was swamped. Citizens waited for hours to cast ballots. Some gave up before getting a chance to vote. “It was just too hard to get there,” one voter said. “There was no way I was going to sit in traffic for that long.” The gridlock was largely the product of high turnout and a redesigned traffic pattern. But some of the wait may have been alleviated by E-Poll books; electronic versions of the paper checklists maintained by local election officials.

New Mexico: Governor pocket vetoes proposal to consolidate local elections |

Gov. Susana Martinez killed on Friday legislation that would have consolidated most local elections into one beginning in 2019. The pocket veto was a defense of local laws requiring photo identification to vote, Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said. “It would have taken away voter ID in the local jurisdictions that have implemented it,” Sanchez said. “The governor is a strong supporter of voter ID.” Satisfying concerns about preserving local voter ID laws in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and elsewhere was key to winning GOP support for the bill during legislative deliberations. Cities would have been allowed to opt out of consolidated elections if the bill had become law. Supporters said those that did opt out would have been allowed to keep their own rules governing elections, including requiring a photo ID to vote.

Editorials: GOP is trying to shape elections by reshaping North Carolina’s election boards | News & Observer

A three-judge panel issued a clear ruling last month that Republican shenanigans trying to change the makeup of local elections boards and the structure of the state Board of Elections and the state ethics board were illegal and unconstitutional. The reason was simple enough: Authority to appoint local elections boards — with three members of the governor’s party and two of the other party, and the separate State Elections Board and the ethics panel fall under the authority of the executive branch. Despite being repudiated by judges, Republicans in the state House are continuing to monkey with the elections board setup to weaken the governor’s authority, so they’re again wasting the public’s time and money with a new bill to allow the governor to appoint all eight members of a new elections and ethics board — but membership would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The governor would name four members, and four names would be submitted from lists provided by the state’s largest political parties.

Pennsylvania: Democrat’s write-in victory for House challenged in court | NewsWorks

Lawyers for the Green Party and the Republican Party (yes, you read that right) are joining in a lawsuit asking a federal judge to throw out the results of a special Pennsylvania House election in a North Philadelphia district last month. The suit says the election, won overwhelmingly by Democrat Emilio Vasquez, was marked by widespread voter intimidation and election tampering. “I’ve been practicing election law in Philadelphia for 12 years,” GOP attorney Linda Kerns said. “And what happened that day is the worst case of election code violations in Philadelphia history, and I think that’s saying a lot.”

Texas: Hearing Monday to make lying on Voter ID exemption a crime | KEYE

On Monday, the Texas house Election committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that would make it a crime to lie on a voter ID exemption form. Voting in Texas has not always been easy depending on who you ask. Some people say the process for casting a ballot is too restrictive. While others say it’s too easy for people to vote illegally. Right now Texas requires voters to carry one of seven forms of identification to vote, but with one exception.

Ecuador: Presidential Recount Done, Official Report Due Monday | teleSUR

Ecuador’s National Electoral Council announced Sunday that the presidential vote recount was finished, saying it would make an official announcement of results Monday. For days, Lasso and his CREO-SUMA coalition have claimed the elections were “fraudulent” and “rigged” in favor of Moreno, despite the fact that the Organization of American States international observers found “no discrepancies between the observed records and the official data” from the National Electoral Council. Since the election, Argentina, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela and even the U.S. have all congratulated Moreno on his election win.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): South Ossetia Says Bibilov Leads Vote In Election Condemned By Georgia, U.S. As ‘Iillegitimate’ | RFERL

South Ossetia’s election officials say Anatoly Bibilov, the speaker of the breakaway Georgian region’s parliament, has taken the lead in a presidential election that was rejected by Tbilisi and condemned as “illegitimate” by the United States. The election commission on April 10 said Bibilov had 48.7 percent with 35 percent of votes counted, Russian state-run TASS news agency reported. A candidate needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff on April 23. Turnout was reported at 81 percent. TASS quoted Bibilov as claiming he had won 54.9 percent of the vote, avoiding the runoff. The news agency said 78 percent of voters supported a referendum to change the region’s name to “Republic of South Ossetia – State of Alania,” a move also condemned by Georgia and the United States.

Nigeria: How electronic voting will change the face of Nigeria’s future general elections | Ventures Africa

On the 31st of March, 2017, the Nigerian Senate passed the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017 into law. This bill gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the power to conduct Electronic Voting (E-voting). … The bill raises the question of Nigeria’s readiness to plunge into this new technology-based terrain. Proponents of the bill are inclined to believe that it will give credibility to our elections while cynics think Nigeria is yet to come to terms with using this technology for elections. These positions may have been gathered from INEC’s performance with the voter’s card readers during the last general elections in 2015 when INEC decided to adopt smart card readers for voters’ accreditation.

Pakistan: Indian electronic voting machine scandal is forewarning for Pakistan | The News

The scandal of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) system hounding the recent Indian elections is a timely forewarning for the Election Commission of Pakistan to desist from a complete switchover from the existing paper ballot system to the desired EVM. Official sources in the ECP told The News that although the commission was already not in favour of complete switchover, the reports coming from India have furthered their concerns. In their internal meetings, there is a consensus within the ECP that Pakistan should initially restrict itself to pilot projects under the EVM system. While different political parties, particularly the PTI, demand that the entire 2018 elections should be held under the EVM system, voices coming out of India make the system doubtful. Indian media reports showed that EVM had raised many questions during a mandatory mock poll in Jorhat when every time a button was pressed, the vote went in favour of BJP.

Serbia: Presidential Candidates Spar Over ‘Poll Irregularities’ | Balkan Insight

Serbia’s electoral commission was forced to hold a televised recount of some votes after opposition challenger Sasa Jankovic disputed PM Aleksandar Vucic’s poll results in 25 constituencies. The Republic Electoral Commission recounted votes from two polling stations in front of TV cameras on Sunday after allegations of irregularities were raised by opposition presidential candidate Sasa Jankovic. The recount was urged by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who won last Sunday’s presidential elections and denies any electoral fraud. The recount of votes from the two polling stations showed that Vucic received four fewer votes than initially counted, but is unlikely to resolve opposition concerns about the vote.

Turkey: The upcoming Turkish referendum could end what little democracy is left in the country | The Independent

In the final days before Turks vote in a referendum on 16 April on whether or not to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dictatorial powers and effectively end parliamentary government, the mood in Turkey is prone to conspiracy theories and suspicion of foreign plots. A sign of this is the reception given to a tweet that might have seemed to the sender to be exceptionally benign and non-controversial. It was sent in Turkish and English by the British ambassador to Ankara, Richard Moore, and read: “Tulips in Istanbul heralding spring. Hooray!” Accompanying it was a picture of a bank of tulips blooming outside the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. But for television sports anchor Ertem Sener the message had a much more menacing significance according to the Turkish Daily News. He tweeted to his 849,000 followers that the words were intended to show support for the failed military coup against Mr Erdogan in July 2016 and as an encouragement to “No” voters in the referendum. “This is how they are giving a message to Turkey,” said Mr Sener. “They are saying: ‘If we had prevailed [in the coup attempt] these tulips would have bloomed earlier. British dog. These tulips have been washed in [martyrs’] blood.”

Venezuela: Socialists’ election strategy? Block adversaries | Reuters

Venezuela’s move to bar two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles from public office for 15 years looked like an unusually brazen blow at the opposition but is just the logical extension of a strategy that has emerged as the last, best hope of President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialists for maintaining power. A nearly identical maneuver was used ten years ago to halt the rise of former mayor Leopoldo Lopez, who in polls remains one of the most influential opposition leaders despite being jailed three years ago for his role in anti-government protests. The situation suggests the Socialists may continue to lean on Comptroller Manuel Galindo, accused by the opposition of being a government puppet, to clear the playing field of potential challengers. The election, still unscheduled, must be held by the end of 2018.