National: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election – documents | Reuters

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters. They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election. The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office. The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals. It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said. A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

National: Gerrymandering Is Illegal, But Only Mathematicians Can Prove It | WIRED

Partisan Gerrymandering – the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge—is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional. Yet in that same ruling, the court declined to strike down two Indiana maps under consideration, even though both “used every trick in the book,” according to a paper in theUniversity of Chicago Law Review. And in the decades since then, the court has failed to throw out a single map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “If you’re never going to declare a partisan gerrymander, what is it that’s unconstitutional?” said Wendy K. Tam Cho, a political scientist and statistician at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Alabama: Governor moves U.S. Senate election to this year | AL.com

Gov. Kay Ivey has changed the date for the election to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions. Ivey scheduled the election for this year. Former Gov. Robert Bentley had scheduled it for next year. Under a proclamation Ivey signed today, the primary will be August 15, the runoff, if necessary, will be Sept. 26 and the general election will be Dec. 12. “I promised to steady our ship of state,” Ivey said in a press release today. “This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. Senator as soon as possible.”

Georgia: Group files voting rights suit on hot Georgia run-off election | CNN

Civil rights and voting organizations filed a suit Thursday challenging a Georgia law that affects voting in a hotly contested special election runoff in June. The lawsuit alleges that a Georgia law prohibiting voters who weren’t registered in time for the special election from voting in the runoff violates federal voting law. The case could affect the heated race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, who are running to replace former Republican Rep. Tom Price, who joined the Trump administration. Ossoff finished in an election this week just shy of the 50% threshold against a crowded field of Republicans, meaning he and second-place vote-getter Handel advanced to a runoff election on June 20.

Nevada: Investigation finds that 3 non-citizens voted in Nevada’s 2016 election | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, responding to requests Wednesday for details on allegations of Nevada voter fraud, said her office obtained evidence that three non-citizens voted in Clark County in last year’s election. Her pronouncement comes after the Republican secretary of state on Friday sent a letter to the head of the Department of Motor Vehicles, claiming voter registration procedures at the DMV led to non-citizens being allowed to register illegally to vote. At an event in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Cegavske declined to say if her office would attempt to prosecute the three voters. “As things roll out, we’ll keep everyone abreast,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Cegavske said the DMV should “cease” providing registration applications to people who do not have paperwork proving citizenship. That drew pushback from DMV Director Terri Albertson, as well as Gov. Brian Sandoval.

North Carolina: Voting rights group wants investigation of Republican voting protests | Winston-Salem Journal

A voting rights group called Tuesday for state and local officials to investigate whether allies of North Carolina’s former governor and the state Republican Party broke laws when hundreds of people were accused of voter fraud or absentee ballot irregularities last November. “We are calling on them to enforce state and federal laws that protect…

Texas: Minority votes intentionally diluted by GOP-led Texas House redistricting, federal court says | Dallas Morning News

Texas statehouse districts drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 intentionally diluted the votes of minorities, violating the U.S. Constitution and parts of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court ruled Thursday. In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the maps gave Republicans an advantage in elections and weakened the voting strength of minority voters. House Districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties were among those in which the judges ruled minority voters had seen their clout weakened. The ruling is yet another blow to the state in its six-year legal battle over the redrawing of the maps. Last month, the same court found that the state’s congressional maps were drawn with intent to discriminate against minority voters and invalidated three congressional districts. And last week, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate.

France: It’s France’s Turn to Worry About Election Meddling by Russia | The New York Times

The flagging, scandal-plagued presidential campaign of François Fillon — a former prime minister of France much liked by the Kremlin but not so much, it seems, by French voters — received a surprise lift late last month with a report that he had staged a remarkable recovery in opinion polls and was now leading the pack ahead of voting this Sunday. “The Return of Fillon to the Head of Opinion Polls,” declared the bold headline, contradicting other French polls suggesting that the onetime favorite had fallen to third or even fourth place as he battled corruption charges. As it happens, Mr. Fillon’s lead in the polls existed only in a world of alternative facts shared by the French-language service of Sputnik, a state-funded Russian news operation with the motto “Telling the Untold.

Turkey: Election board rejects calls to annul referendum result | The Guardian

Turkey’s high election board has rejected formal calls by the country’s main opposition parties to annul the result of a referendum that will grant Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers as president. Voters narrowly approved a set of constitutional reforms that will transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential republic, concentrating power in the hands of Erdoğan, who will be able to run for two more terms and potentially govern until 2029. The Turkish president has been handed the chance to declare himself as the only fit protector of a besieged state and its vulnerable people The two main opposition parties – the Republican People’s party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic party (HDP) – had lodged formal complaints calling for the annulment of the result, citing a controversial last-minute decision by the board to allow the counting of possibly hundreds of thousands of unstamped ballots. The constitutional amendments passed with a margin of just over a million votes. International observers had said the decision to count the ballots “contradicted the law” and removed a safeguard against fraud.

United Kingdom: Parliament Approves Theresa May’s General Election Call | The New York Times

Less than 12 months after deciding to quit the European Union, Britons will vote on many of the same questions again, after lawmakers on Wednesday agreed to call an early general election, the outcome of which could shape Britain’s relations with its closest neighbors for decades to come. By an overwhelming vote of 522 to 13, British lawmakers agreed to hold elections on June 8 at the request of Prime Minister Theresa May, who hopes to strengthen her parliamentary support and gain a freer hand to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc. The outcome of Wednesday’s vote in Parliament was never in doubt, even with the requirement of a two-thirds threshold to call a snap election that, until Tuesday morning, Mrs. May and her aides had insisted would not happen.

France: How Russia hacked the French election | Politico.eu

Since the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Moscow waged an influence campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. elections, experts have asked: Will it do the same in the French and German elections? Both votes will have an enormous impact on the future of Europe and the liberal order, and much is weighing on whether these democracies are adequately shielded from outside manipulation. In fact, Moscow has already interfered in French elections. In 1974, the KGB launched a covert propaganda campaign to discredit both François Mitterrand and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Overtly, Moscow courted Giscard, to an extent that papers such as the right-wing L’Aurore condemned it as an “intolerable” insertion into French domestic politics. Correspondents interpreted the move as “open intervention in national politics.”

National: Trump-Russia probe to face challenge in Justice Department | Business Insider

A high-level official at the Department of Justice tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has announced that she will leave the DOJ in May, leaving a key position in the department’s National Security Division unfilled as President Donald Trump’s political appointees await confirmation in the Senate. Mary McCord, the acting assistant attorney general of the division, did not provide a reason when she told her staff that she would be leaving in May, according to NPR. She said “the time is now right for me to pursue new career opportunities.” McCord’s departure has raised questions about the future of the Trump-Russia probe, which will be in the hands of Trump’s deputy attorney general nominee, Rod Rosenstein, if and when he is confirmed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from Trump campaign-related investigations last month amid revelations that he failed to disclose two meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in 2016.

National: FEC Mulls How Much Harassment Is Enough for Disclosure Exemption | Bloomberg

Lawyers for the Socialist Workers Party said the party shouldn’t have to show the party faces “serious” threats of harassment and reprisals in order to be exempt from Federal Election Commission disclosure rules. Extensive written comments filed by party lawyers ahead of an April 20 FEC open meeting sought to persuade the commissioners they should extend the party’s unique, decades-old exemption from campaign finance law requirements to disclose donors and vendors. The fringe party’s long history of persecution should be enough for a continued waiver from having to disclose, the comments said, despite arguments that recent incidents have been few and relatively minor.

California: Election officials support $450 million voting-equipment bond | The Sacramento Bee

California elections officials want state lawmakers to place a $450 million voting-equipment borrowing measure on the June 2018 ballot, saying that many counties’ voting machines rely on outdated equipment that make them vulnerable to breakdowns and hacking. The bond measure in Assembly Bill 668 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher, D-San Diego, would be more than double the size of the last voting machine borrowing proposal to go on the ballot. In March 2002, voters approved Proposition 41, a $200 million bond prompted by disputed Florida presidential vote in 2000 that highlighted hanging chads and other voting equipment problems. Some of the machines purchased with Proposition 41 money later were decertified after state officials imposed new paper-trail requirements and other rules. Counties either retrofitted machines to bring them into compliance, or pulled older equipment back into use.

Florida: State’s top court green lights voting right for felons ballot question | Tampa Bay Times

Voting rights advocates and civil rights attorneys cheered the Florida Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Thursday approving language of a proposed amendment that would restore voting rights for convicted felons, saying the decision is a major step toward erasing a lingering vestige of Jim Crow. “It’s a game changer,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who said the ruling could alter the state’s political landscape by opening elections up for hundreds of thousands of new voters. If supporters collect the needed signatures to get on the measure on the 2018 ballot, it could energize Democratic-leaning voters in a year when Florida will elect a new governor and a U.S. senator. The proposed measure still needs a total of 766,200 signatures before it can be placed on the 2018 ballot. The proposal has at leasts 71,209 so far, according to the state’s Division of Elections. Also, more than 60 percent of voters would then need to approve it in before it becomes law and voting rights would be restored. Despite those looming obstacles, the ruling was considered a major victory.

Georgia: Fulton County vote totals delayed by card error | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A “rare error” with a memory card that didn’t properly upload its vote tallies caused a long delay Tuesday night as Fulton County reported election results. The issue was with a card with vote totals from the 6th congressional district, said Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections. While no votes were compromised, the problem delayed counting for more than an hour while the card was identified and reread, Barron said. “While we’re looking for it, we can’t let any more results come through,” Barron said. “When you’re reading memory cards, if you don’t have something right, it can happen.” Barron said when the county moves to export vote totals to its website, it should get a dialog box that says “operation successful.” Instead, the result was “just a line of gobbledygook, just a line of junk, just letters,” Barron said.

Nebraska: Voter photo ID proposal clears committee | Lincoln Journal Star

A proposed constitutional amendment that would set the stage for voter photo ID requirements in Nebraska was dispatched Thursday to the floor of the Legislature where it will trigger a certain filibuster. Sen. John Murante of Gretna, sponsor of the proposal (LR1CA), said he’s not sure whether he can muster the 33 votes required to break a filibuster. “I think it will be close,” he said moments after the measure cleared the Government, Military and Affairs Committee.

Nevada: Elections Official Clarifies—Somewhat—Mysterious Voter Fraud Claims | TPM

Nevada’s top elections official announced Wednesday that her office has evidence that three non-citizens voted illegally in the 2016 general elections, culminating five days of intense speculation about the case but leaving many questions still unanswered. News of the claims first emerged last week when Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske accused the state’s DMV of abetting the improper registration of non-citizen voters, setting off a public spat between the two state offices. Voting right advocates have been especially concerned, alleging that Cegavske’s directions to the DMV for how to handle voter registration paperwork would violate federal voting law.

Texas: Court: House map drawn to dilute minority voters | Austin American-Statesman

Republicans redrew Texas House districts in 2011 to gain partisan advantage by intentionally and improperly diluting the voting strength of minority Texans, a federal court ruled Thursday. In a 2-1 decision, the San Antonio-based federal court panel said “invidious discriminatory purpose” underlies the map that set district boundaries for the state’s 150 House members in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters,” the court said.

Utah: No signature gathering route to special election ballot | Utah Policy

Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he doesn’t see the need now to call a special legislative session this spring to pass a law detailing how his administration would conduct a special U.S. House election. U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who stunned state politicos by announcing Wednesday he won’t seek re-election in 2018, told KSL Radio’s Doug Wright Thursday morning that he “may” resign his seat before his current term ends January 2019. All Utah has currently is the U.S. constitutional requirement that the governor will call a special election to fill a U.S. House vacancy.

Europe: Russia’s Shadow-War in a Wary Europe | ProPublica

As the French prepare to vote Sunday in a presidential election marked by acrimonious debate about Russian influence in Europe, there’s little doubt about which candidate Moscow backs. Last month, the combative populist Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front flew to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin. It was a display of longtime mutual admiration. The frontrunner in a field of 11 candidates, Le Pen shrugs off allegations of corruption and human rights abuses against Putin, calling him a tough and effective leader. Her hard-line views on immigration, Islam and the European Union win praise from Putin and enthusiastic coverage from Russian media outlets. Her campaign has been propelled by a loan of more than $9 million from a Russian bank in 2014, according to Western officials and media reports.

Afghanistan: E-voting System Not Practical in Afghanistan: Task Team | TOLOnews

The e-voting system assessment committee on Thursday said that the complete implementation of e-voting system in Afghanistan is not practical. According to the commission, it would be difficult to conduct the country’s parliamentary and district council elections in the current year. According to the committee, currently, the e-voting system is applicable only in a few areas of the election process which include the voter registration process, the certification of voters’ identity during voting and the transfer of results of voting. But, the CEO’s office has said that investigations and assessments of the process are underway.

Ecuador: Unasur Ratifies Transparency of Ecuador’s Vote Recount | Prensa Latina

International observers from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) have ratified the transparency of the vote recount following the second round of the recently held presidential elections in Ecuador. The mission of observers from Unasur confirmed in a press release Thursday that it is still supervising the process with four highly technical teams; both the first round of elections on February 19 and the run-off on April 2. They also observed the first vote recount on April 8, and the second on April 18 when electoral workers recounted 11,2 percent of the ballots. ‘The recount was all normal, under the presence of national and international observers, communication media and delegates from the political organizations in the nation,’ the release stresses.

France: Experts say automated accounts sharing fake news ahead of French election | Reuters

French voters are being deluged with false stories on social media ahead of the country’s presidential election, though the onslaught of “junk news” is not as severe as that during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, according to a study by Oxford University researchers. The study to be published Friday and another published on Wednesday add evidence to complaints by officials in France, Germany and the United States that Russia is trying to replicate its cyber-powered election meddling in American politics. Just days before France votes in the first round of a presidential election, the study said misinformation at times has accounted for one-quarter of the political links shared on Twitter in France. It defined “junk news” as deliberately false stories and those expressing “ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial” views with logical flaws and opinions passed along as facts.

Kenya: Spat over electronic vote tender goes to court | AFP

Six Kenyans urged a court on Wednesday to suspend a controversial decision by election officials to scrap a tender process and directly procure an electronic voting system for the August polls. The petition is the umpteenth disruption to already chaotic election preparations, a sensitive process in a country where accusations of rigging accompany almost every vote. The tender was awarded to French defence and biometrics company Safran last month, pushing aside another French company Gemalto, which was lined up to win the contract in a bidding process launched in December. In court documents seen by AFP, the six petitioners argue that the entire process was “manipulated and rigged… to culminate in an artificial crisis that would then be used to justify the single sourcing”.

Turkey: Activists post videos of alleged poll fraud in referendum | Middle East Eye

Videos have emerged in Turkey of alleged ballot stuffing and polling station violations during the Sunday referendum that approved sweeping powers to the country’s president. Social media users circulated several videos, apparently showing violations on election day, including people voting more than once. In one video, a man who was identified by France 24 as Mehmet Koçlardan, the leader of a village in east Turkey from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is seen casting five votes into a ballot box. Another video shows an unidentified person stamping “yes” on five voting slips and piling them on a table.