National: U.S. Crackdown on Russian Hackers Ensnares Notorious Spammer | Bloomberg

U.S. efforts to disrupt Russian hacking rings took another step as a 10-year pursuit of a Russian man whom U.S. prosecutors called one of the world’s most notorious email spammers ended with his arrest in Spain last week. Peter Levashov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, hacked into email and bank accounts of thousands of Americans, federal prosecutors said Monday in a statement. They said he also operated under the name Peter Severa, who is among the top 10 of the world’s worst spammers, according to a list maintained by the antispam organization Spamhaus. The arrest is part of a crackdown on Russian hackers accused of targeting everything from financial institutions to the U.S. presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia orchestrated computer attacks to meddle with the election last fall, including a break-in to systems operated by the Democratic National Committee. That investigation is underway, and no charges have been filed.

Editorials: Using randomness to protect election integrity | Eugene Vorobeychik/The Conversation

Democratic societies depend on trust in elections and their results. Throughout the 2016 presidential election, and since President Trump’s inauguration, allegations of Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential campaign have raised concerns about how vulnerable American elections are to hacking or other types of interference. Various investigations – involving congressional committees, the FBI and the intelligence community – are underway, seeking to understand what happened and how. There are many potential problems with elections: Voters can be individually coerced or bribed into changing their votes; the public can be misled about important facts, causing them to draw inaccurate conclusions that affect their votes; and the physical – and electronic – process of voting can itself be hacked. Without conducting a full, vote-by-vote manual recount, which is impossible because many voting machines leave no paper trail, how can we be sure an election was conducted fairly and not interfered with?

Delaware: Bills would move local primaries; allow for early voting | The News Journal

Delawareans would be able to vote early, would be automatically registered to vote at the DMV, and would vote in local primary elections and presidential primary at the same time if a trio of bills passes the General Assembly. The goal of all three proposals is to encourage more people to vote, the sponsors say. Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, sponsored a bill that would allow citizens to vote in the 10 days leading up to any general, primary or special election. There would be one early-voting polling place in each county, plus one in Wilmington. “We should try to make it so that our elections fit into the people’s schedules, and not where people should have to fit their schedule into the government’s,” Bentz said.

Illinois: Both sides agree legislative mapping should change, details on how and when are murky | Illinois News Network

Republicans and Democrats apparently agree. The way Illinois draws legislative district maps needs to change. But there’s disagreement on how and when to get it done. After every 10-year Census, the majority political party – Democrats for decades in Illinois – redraws the state’s legislative maps. Critics say that lets politicians pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians. Even former President Barack Obama supports redistricting reform. A citizen-led effort to change the process failed to get in front of voters last year after an attorney with ties to the state’s leading Democrats, including Speaker Michael Madigan, successfully blocked the initiative just before a ballot-printing deadline.

Iowa: Political back-and-forth continues on voter ID bill at Iowa Capitol | Des Moines Register

A bill that would enact voter identification requirements continues to inch forward in the Iowa Legislature as lawmakers make a final push to close out the session. The Iowa House debated House File 516 into the night Monday. The legislation would make significant changes to the state’s election laws that Republicans say are needed to ensure the integrity of the process and prevent fraud. But Democrats contend the measure is about “voter suppression,” and they offered an amendment that would have vastly expanded the types of accepted identification to include things like student IDs, tribal IDs, Medicare cards and hunting licenses. The amendment was voted down by the House’s Republican majority.

Iowa: Secretary Of State’s Office Released Statistics That Its Own Staff Objected To | The Huffington Post

In an effort to highlight voter irregularities and push for stricter voting laws, Iowa’s top election official pushed statistics on alleged voter fraud that even a member of his own staff privately suggested were misleading, emails obtained by the Huffington Post reveal. This past January, Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) introduced a bill that required those who wanted to cast a ballot to show official identification, eliminated straight party voting, and established post election audits of the vote. This effort was part of a nationwide push by Republicans to enforce voter ID laws, even though voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. And to sell the measure, his office did what other Republicans have as well: it argued that while there’s been no evidence of voter fraud in Iowa, elections are insecure and could potentially be cheated.

Montana: Time Running Out For Mail-Only Voting In U.S. House Race | MTPR

County election officials need to know this week if a last-ditch effort to run next month’s special congressional election by mail will pass the state Legislature. Next week, counties across the state will start finalizing their list of voters who will cast absentee ballots in that election. On Friday Governor Steve Bullock revived efforts to get the Legislature to OK letting county clerks run mail-only balloting in the special election. The state Senate had already OK’d a bill to do that, but it was killed in a Republican-controlled House committee. So Bullock added mail-balloting language to a an unrelated bill, giving it what’s called an “amendatory veto,” and sent it back to legislative leaders for a vote. But House Republican leaders haven’t scheduled it for a vote, and aren’t talking to the press about Bullock’s action.

North Carolina: Senate puts brakes on ethics/elections merger bill | News & Observer

The state Senate on Monday night voted not to go along with a House bill that would merge the ethics and elections commissions. Instead, the bill was sent to a conference committee of Senate and House members to work out a compromise. Gov. Roy Cooper said last week he would veto the bill because it curtails voting rights. It also deprives the governor of the power to control the boards through appointments.

Texas: Federal Judge Says Texas Voter ID Law Intentionally Discriminates | The New York Times

A federal judge ruled on Monday that the voter identification law the Texas Legislature passed in 2011 was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, raising the possibility that the state’s election procedures could be put back under federal oversight. In a long-running case over the legality of one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country, the judge found that the law violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, had made a similar ruling in 2014, but after Texas appealed her decision, a federal appellate court instructed her to review the issue once more. The appeals court — the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans — found that Judge Ramos had relied too heavily on Texas’ history of discriminatory voting measures and other evidence it labeled “infirm” and asked her to reweigh the question of discriminatory intent.

Texas: Study: Texas voter education campaign failed to prevent ID confusion | The Texas Tribune

Texas’ court-ordered $2.5 million voter education campaign failed to prevent widespread confusion about the state’s identification rules ahead of the 2016 general election, according to a study released Monday. And such a misunderstanding may have kept some eligible voters in key political battlegrounds from showing up to the polls, the University of Houston study found. A federal judge last year ordered the Texas Secretary of State’s office to spend $2.5 million educating Texans about its voter ID requirements ahead of the 2016 elections. The requirements were relaxed after a federal appeals court last year ruled that Texas’ strict 2011 ID law discriminated against minority voters. The education efforts — a mix of television and radio advertisements and online media — fell short, the research suggested.

Albania: Opposition rally threatens to disrupt local election | Associated Press

Albania’s opposition parties said Monday they plan to hold a national protest in a western city that is holding local elections, a possible warning that they plan to disrupt voting. The city of Kavaja is holding an election on May 7 because the former mayor’s mandate was canceled due to his criminal past. Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said a rally would be held the same day to prevent “facade elections.” The opposition doesn’t trust the left-wing government to hold the election in a fair manner. They think the current coalition government will manipulate the vote by buying ballots with drug money.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): Tbilisi Condemns Illegal Elections and Referendum in Breakaway Tskhinvali | Georgia Today

Official Tbilisi condemns the presidential election and referendum held on 9 April 2017 in occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) Region of Georgia. Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has released an official statement, saying any elections or referendum in the occupied territories of Georgia are illegal and cannot have any legal effect. “This provocative act by the Russian occupation forces grossly violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and represents yet another attempt to legitimize the consequences of several waves of ethnic cleansing, military invasion and ongoing occupation of Georgian regions,” the statement reads. The MFA says that holding the referendum on changing the name of one of the oldest Georgian regions into “Republic of South Ossetia — State of Alania” is aimed at laying the ground for its illegal annexation.

India: 16 Opposition parties ask Election Commission to revert to paper ballots | Deccan Herald

Sixteen Opposition parties on Monday approached the Election Commission expressing no confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)and demanded elections through paper ballots. The concerted action follows a series of meetings between Opposition leaders, a few initiated by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, to forge a rainbow coalition against the BJP that has shown aggression in expanding its horizons after the electoral successes in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Ahmed Patel held a strategy meeting on Monday morning that was attended by leaders of eight parties – the NCP, JD(U), CPI, CPM, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress and the RJD. Azad and Patel also met Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to seek her support for the joint action against the use of EVMs.

Serbia: Thousands protest Serbia presidential outcome for 7th day | Associated Press

Thousands of people protested for the seventh consecutive day Sunday against the presidential election victory of Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, amid fresh allegations by the opposition of a rigged vote count. The protests by mostly young people have been held every day since last Sunday’s election, in which Vucic polled 55 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff. Opposition groups have alleged irregularities, including muzzling of the media during the campaign and voter intimidation and Election Day bribe. Sasa Jankovic, the liberal candidate who placed a distant second in the race, alleged Sunday that ballots from 25 polling stations showed evidence of massive fraud in Vucic’s favor. Vucic denied the allegation and told the state electoral commission to do a recount from two of the mentioned voting stations.

Editorials: A Serbian Election Erodes Democracy | The New York Times

With Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s decisive victory in the presidential election on April 2, Serbia has edged closer to autocracy. Though the presidency is largely ceremonial, Mr. Vucic can now handpick his successor as prime minister and consolidate his power, since Parliament and the judiciary are all but locked up by Mr. Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party. Having severely curtailed press freedom and marginalized political opposition, his concentration of power bodes ill for Serbian democracy. Though Mr. Vucic won more than 50 percent of the vote, far surpassing the second-place candidate, Sasa Jankovic, who won a little over 16 percent, the election was marred by accusations of voter intimidation and a near total domination of Serbia’s media by Mr. Vucic and his party.

Turkey: Constitutional referendum: all you need to know | The Guardian

Turks will go to the polls on 16 April to vote on constitutional amendments that would transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system. The package, which includes 18 amendments, is being put to the people because the proposed changes to the constitution did not get the backing of two-thirds of MPs in parliament. In this case the reforms were passed in the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 16 January with a simple majority, and then approved by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The referendum could bring about arguably the most significant political development since the Turkish republic was declared in 1923. The determination with which Erdoğan has pursued it has seen him dispatch ministers to Europe in search of expatriate voters, and attack the Dutch government as “Nazi remnants” when it cancelled campaign events.

Zimbabwe: Electoral Commission Still Using 2 Voters’ Rolls in By-Elections | VoA News

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has expressed dismay over the continued use of two voters’ roll in Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections saying the electoral body should stop this practice. In its detailed report following the Mwenezi parliamentary election won by a Zanu PF candidate at the weekend, ZESN said, “ZESN observers reported that the Commission continued to use two voters’ rolls in the by-election a trend that has been previously observed in previous by-elections. “The main voters’ roll made up of voters captured during the registration process was used together with a supplementary roll based on the ward based voters’ roll used in the 2013 harmonised election. ZESN reiterates its position that use of one voters’ roll in future elections will greatly enhance the transparency and integrity of the electoral process.”