The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials. This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN. Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.” However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Editorials: Why It Is so Hard to Vote If You’re Black, Poor or Elderly in America | Mirren Gidda/Newsweek
The U.S. prides itself on being the world’s greatest democracy, but across the country, millions of people are denied the right to vote. More than half of all states require voters to show ID when they cast a ballot, yanking the most vulnerable in U.S. society from the electoral process. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that Texas’ electoral law, which requires voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot, intentionally discriminates against black and Hispanic voters. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, ethnic minorities, along with low-income, disabled and elderly voters, are less likely to have government-issued identification.
After Alabama passed a law requiring voters to have a photo ID to cast a ballot, a nefarious plan to close driver’s licenses offices in many majority black counties in the state was announced. According to an impeachment investigation into Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, that scheme was hatched by the governor’s mistress, Rebekah Mason, who wanted to roll out the plan in a way that wouldn’t unduly harm her lover’s political allies. When they announced the plan to shut those offices, Alabama officials touted it as a cost savings. How much would it save? $200,000. AL.com reports that $200,000 would be “an extremely small savings in a General Fund that typically has annual shortfalls ranging from $100 million to $200 million.” But if disenfranchisement is the goal, a paltry $200,000 saved is not a deterrent. Actually, if disenfranchisement is the goal, then the amount saved is irrelevant.
Iowa: Budget includes funding for voter ID initiative, cuts for other programs | Des Moines Register
Legislative Republicans unveiled a budget proposal Tuesday that includes nearly $650,000 to implement a new voter ID initiative but makes $1.4 million in cuts to other departments and programs. Republicans said they were glad to support the Secretary of State’s voter identification plan, but Democrats were immediately critical that it would come at the expense of other programs such as the Iowa Public Information Board and the Child Advocacy Board. “Given the cuts of every other department, this is unconscionable that we would put $700,000 into a problem that doesn’t exist when we have other problems that do exist and we’re cutting those departments,” said Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines. The proposal would provide about $47.4 million in funding to administration and regulation services. It’s part of the state’s overall $7.245 billion spending plan, which includes cuts to nearly every area of the state budget.
State legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper are likely headed for another veto fight, this time over a measure that would reconfigure the state’s oversight of elections, ethics and lobbying. Lawmakers sent the bill to Cooper’s desk Tuesday. In December 2016 during a special session, state lawmakers approved a proposal to do away with the existing State Board of Elections and replace it with the state’s ethics board, half appointed by the governor and the other half appointed by state lawmakers. That law also gave Republicans control of all local elections boards in each election year. Cooper sued to block the law, saying it violated the separation of powers in the state constitution, and a three-judge panel agreed last month. Senate Bill 68 is an attempt to revive some of that enjoined law, crafted to avoid the constitutional pitfalls that plagued the first version.
In Oregon — where its first-in-the-nation automatic-voter registration system has been hailed as a pioneer in knocking down voter-access barriers — it takes just five years of failing to participate in an election before a registered voter gets knocked from the active voter rolls and no longer receives a ballot in the mail. Roughly 400,000 registered Oregonian voters have been flagged as inactive at some point in time, a number that this year is expected to grow by another 30,000 who registered during the 2012 general election when President Barack Obama was up for re-election. For Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, five years isn’t long enough. So this year, he’s doubling that timeline to 10 years.
Texas: Voter ID law was designed to discriminate against minorities, judge rules | The Washington Post
Dealing Texas another rebuke over voting rights, a judge Monday again ruled that Republican lawmakers purposefully designed a strict voter ID law to disadvantage minorities and effectively dampen their growing electoral power. It amounted to the second finding of intentional discrimination in Texas election laws in two months. A different court in March ruled that Republicans racially gerrymandered several congressional districts when drawing voting maps in 2011, the same year the voter ID rules were passed. Neither ruling has any immediate impact. But the decisions are significant because they raise the possibility of Texas being stripped of the right to unilaterally change its election laws without federal approval. Forcing Texas to once again seek federal permission — known as “preclearance” — has been a goal of Democrats and rights groups since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the rule in 2013.
Almost three years after Mallika Das, a naturalized citizen who spoke Bengali, was unable to vote properly because she was not proficient in English, Texas lawmakers are considering a change to an obscure provision of Texas election law regarding language interpreters. Members of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday took up Senate Bill 148 by Democratic state Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, which would repeal a section of the state’s election code that requires interpreters to be registered voters in the same county in which they are providing help. The measure will ensure that voters are able “to meaningfully and effectively exercise their vote,” Garcia told the committee. “This ensures that voters have the capacity to navigate polling stations, communicate with election officers and understand how to fill out required forms and answer questions directed at them by any election officer.”
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission told a Utah federal judge that Utah’s San Juan County can’t dodge its bid to find the county liable for failing to provide equal opportunities to vote to Navajo citizens, saying that a 2016 plan by the county didn’t provide equally accessible polling places to Navajo voters seeking to vote in person. The commission and a handful of Navajo citizens on Friday replied to the defendant’s opposition to their motion for summary judgment in a suit against San Juan County and some of its officials that claims the county’s voting procedures hinder Navajo citizens’ ability to participate in the political process on equal terms with white voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.
Virginia: Attorney general declines to issue opinion on voting machine security in Botetourt | Roanoke Times
The state attorney general’s office has declined to issue a legal opinion on whether it’s a conflict for a Botetourt County elected official to share office space with the voting machines to be used in the next election. The county’s electoral board sought the opinion last month, after questioning whether it should continue to store the machines in the same Fincastle building where Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom recently relocated his office. Although no one suggested that Branscom or his staff would tamper with — or even touch — the machines, election officials said they were concerned about the appearances of the new arrangement.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday, Radev called on the new parliament which will start work on April 19 to take steps to prevent the recurrence of what he called “significant problems” at snap elections last month. He said Bulgaria had witnessed “targeted attempt from abroad to influence the electoral results” – indirectly referring to Turkey’s agitation in favour of DOST, a recently-formed ethnic Turkish-dominated party, which resulted in the extradition of several Turkish officials by the Bulgarian authorities prior to the vote. “The problems remain after the election. They do not end with external interference, there are targeted attempts at deep and systematic infiltration and influence over society and political life in the country,” Radev said.
Rectifying one of the greatest sources of outrage and discontent surrounding previous elections, the voter list compiled for upcoming commune elections has passed an audit with flying colors, though commentators remain skeptical as to whether the country will actually witness free and fair elections on June 4. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Tuesday published its full report on the completely remade voter list, following the NGO coalition’s release of a summary at a news conference last week. “This audit found that there are significant improvements on the quality of the 2016 voter list in its completeness, currency, and accuracy compared with the previous voter list,” Comfrel’s report says.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa confirmed Tuesday that with the recount requested by the right-wing opposition, former presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso lost 100 votes, while President elect Lenin Moreno gained an additional 143 votes. After coming in 2 percent behind Moreno in the April 2 run-off vote, Lasso alleged the elections were fraudulent, basing his claims largely on favorable exit polls that has projected a win for him and his running mate Andres Paez. Days later, after the National Electoral Council, known as CNE, officially delcared Moreno the winner with more than 99 percent of votes counted, Lasso requested a vote-by-vote recount.
The golden domes of one of Vladimir Putin’s foreign projects, the recently built Russian Holy Trinity cathedral in the heart of Paris, rise up not far from the Elysée palace, the seat of the French presidency. Dubbed “Putin’s cathedral” or “Saint-Vladimir”, it stands out as a symbol of the many connections the French elite has long nurtured with Russia, and which the Kremlin is actively seeking to capitalise on in the run-up to the French presidential election. France is an important target for Russia’s soft power and networks of influence. The country is a key pillar of the European Union, an important Nato member and home to Europe’s largest far-right party, the Front National, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is expected to reach the 7 May run-off in the presidential vote and has benefited from Russian financing.
Indian police on Monday imposed curfew-like curbs on movement of people across several parts of disputed Kashmir, a day after clashes with protesters during a by-election killed eight people and injured more than 200. Separatist factions in Kashmir called for a two-day strike in protest. Their calls to boycott the poll in Srinagar, and the ensuing violence, resulted in voter turnout of a mere 7 percent on Sunday and forced 70 polling stations to shut down. During clashes in Budgam district, police initially used tear gas against protesters who were throwing stones, but then opened fire, killing seven people, a senior police official told Reuters. One protester was killed in a separate incident. Security was beefed up on Monday across the Himalayan region, with police blocking roads with barricades and restricting movement of vehicles. Some train services were also suspended in the region, a railway official said.
Following months of protest by the Anies Baswedan camp concerning the possible manipulation of voter registration, the Jakarta Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) has stripped the voting rights of more than 15,000 people in the Jakarta gubernatorial election. KPU commissioner Mochammad Sidik said Tuesday that most of the 15,000 voters had been declared ineligible to vote as their identity numbers and family card numbers were not included in commission data.
Fears that Russia could meddle in next year’s Mexican presidential election are growing. While there is no hard evidence to suggest that Moscow will be involved in the contest, its effort to disrupt last year’s U.S. election and reports that it is trying to affect elections in Europe have augmented concerns. “Russia meddles in elections, we know that,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. Sen. Armando Ríos Piter of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) told The Hill on Monday that the prospect of Russian interference in Mexican elections “must not be minimized. If [Russia] intervened in the United States, there’s every reason to think that Mexico is a target for attack,” said Ríos Piter, who recently launched an independent presidential bid.
Foreign ministers of the Group of 7 (G7) countries are voicing concerns about cyber interference in the democratic process, after their meeting in Italy on Tuesday. A declaration issued by the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, and other member states on responsible behavior in cyber space all but singles out Russia for using cyber intrusions to meddle in democratic elections. “We are increasingly concerned about cyber-enabled interference in democratic political processes,” the declaration published on Tuesday states. The declaration says that international law and the United Nations Charter applies to the use of communications and information technology, and that states that fall victim to malicious cyber activities are under international law allowed to take “proportionate countermeasures.”
A new protest was held in Belgrade on Monday evening by citizens dissatisfied with the outcome of the April 2 presidential election in Serbia. Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic won the vote in the first round. The protesters gathered for the eight time and marched from the National Assembly, past several media outlets – where they made short stops and expressed their dissatisfaction, including state broadcaster RTS, tabloid Informer, and Studio B broadcaster – as well as past the Serbian government and the Electoral Commission (RIK). They carried banners with anti-government messages and those demanding fair and free elections and freedom of the media.
Foreign governments such as Russia and China may have been involved in the collapse of a voter registration website in the run-up to the EU referendum, a committee of MPs has claimed. A report by the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC) said MPs were deeply concerned about the allegations of foreign interference in last year’s Brexit vote. The committee does not identify who may have been responsible, but has noted that both Russia and China use an approach to cyber-attacks based on an understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals. The findings follow repeated claims that Russia has been involved in trying to influence the US and French presidential elections.