Two Obama administration officials will testify in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee as part of ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to help Donald Trump win the election. Investigations by the House, Senate and FBI are examining what exactly Russia did and whether the Trump campaign was involved, among other questions. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are scheduled to appear before the House committee on May 8. It’s a long-delayed hearing. Yates and Clapper, along with former CIA Director John Brennan, were originally scheduled to testify in late March, but those plans were scuttled amid a simmering soap opera of distrust and missteps within the House committee.
Voting Blogs: Social Media in Politics-and The Problem of What (or Not) to Do About Fake News | More Soft Money Hard Law
Nate Persily of Stanford Law is emerging as the leading authority on the effect of the internet and social media on political campaigns. His recent article in the Journal of Democracy displays Persily’s strengths: deep research, clarity of exposition and a grasp of what is significant in the messy world of facts. He is unmistakably alarmed: indeed, in interviews, he has said so. Persily fears that a ruthless marriage of technology to “fake news” can destroy the prospects for responsible democratic deliberation. Where does this discussion of fake news go from here, and what are the pitfalls? Professor Persily notes that the dominant Internet platforms are moving toward policies to help readers locate the bona fide news items. Facebook now works with traditional media organizations and fact-checking enterprises to “flag” dubious stories.
It’s a sentiment shared by Democratic politicians and liberal pundits: disgust over how Republicans drew up favorable (for them) legislative districts after the 2010 Census. Redistricting is blamed for Congress’ relative lack of legislative production and the rise of stringent partisanship, and has prompted Democrats to fight back in several states. Even former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is getting in on it, leading the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to crusade against gerrymandering (aka the act of drawing legislative districts to benefit a political party). But one place that isn’t a battleground is Illinois, where Democrats could be seen as the bad guy, having drawn legislative boundaries in 2011 that put the GOP at a disadvantage. And that has some wondering whether Democrats’ broader push for “fair” maps is really about politics more than principle.
Whatever the state Supreme Court advises about whether ranked-choice voting violates Maine’s Constitution, the new voting method would apparently still apply to primaries and congressional elections. “The majority of the elections should be governed by this in 2018,” said Kate Knox of Bernstein Shur, representing the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting that pushed last year’s successful ballot question that would make Maine the first state in the country to adopt the system. Knox told legislators recently they “still have a large number of elections” that are required to use ranked-choice voting under last year’s initiative regardless of what the Supreme Court says.
Ballots are already out for school elections and special districts all over Montana, but by May 2nd, most voters will have yet another ballot to fill out: for the high-profile congressional race to replace Ryan Zinke. In many counties, the ballots don’t have any ‘Due by date’ stamped on the outside and some elections administrators are worried people may miss the May 2nd deadline for school districts. Ravalli County Election Administrator Regina Plettenberg says her office is fielding around 20 calls a day because people are confused.
Nebraska: Ricketts won’t sign bill restoring felons’ voting rights sooner; governor mum on veto | Omaha World-Herald
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced today that he won’t sign a bill that allows Nebraska felons to vote in elections after completing their sentences. The Legislature voted 27-13 Monday to pass the bill, which ends the two-year waiting period for felons before they can exercise their right to vote. Ricketts declined to say whether he will veto the bill, which would require a vote of 30 senators to override. If the governor simply does not sign the legislation, it will become law after five days.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes says Gov. Gary Herbert needs to call an immediate legislative special session to pass a law detailing how a U.S. House replacement is picked. Last week in his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference Herbert declined to do so – only the governor may call a special session, and he sets the agenda. Herbert said the governor’s power to call a special U.S. House election is good enough for now, as there is no opening to fill currently. But Hughes, who himself is looking to run in such a special election for Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s 3rd Congressional District, says no time should be wasted.
Wisconsin: DOJ: Project Veritas tape did not show election law violations | Milwaukee Journal-Serntinel
Covert videos of Democratic activists released in the run-up to last year’s presidential election showed no violations of Wisconsin laws, a review by the attorney general’s office found. The blunt conclusion is at odds with how Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel initially reacted to the videos by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe, who has a track record of mischaracterizing his recordings and was found guilty of a misdemeanor in 2010 over one of his operations. Schimel’s office released a statement in October calling the actions by Democrats on the undercover videos “apparent violations of the law” and saying Schimel was “very concerned” about them.
France: Cyberattack on French presidential front-runner bears Russian ‘fingerprints,’ research group says | The Washington Post
A security firm claimed Tuesday that a new cyberattack against the campaign offices of the front-runner in France’s presidential race carried similar digital “fingerprints” to the suspected Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and others. The report, released by the Trend Micro research group, did not disclose what possible fallout the infiltration had on the campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who is in a two-person runoff with far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the May 7 election. But if a Russian connection was proved, the hacking would add to mounting allegations of Moscow-backed attempts to influence Western elections in favor of candidates with policies potentially more favorable to the Kremlin. Le Pen has voiced opposition to the powers of the European Union and has called for better ties with Russia, echoing some of the campaign rhetoric of President Trump.
A group of youths have started a campaign to lower the eligible voting age from 21 to 18 years old, saying young adults were the largest age group in the country. Calling themselves Undi18, the six youths kicked off a signature campaign last Saturday to generate support for their call to give young Malaysians a bigger say in the country’s direction. “As of now, we have several hundred signatories for the petition, but ideally, we are looking at between 5,000 and 10,000 petitioners in the next five months before we submit it to the Prime Minister’s Office,” director of Undi18, Tharmelinggem Pillai told Malay Mail Online. Although conceding it was unlikely that an amendment to Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age can be done in time for the next general election, he said the group was hoping for this to occur by the 15th general election.
Charities and other campaign groups fear they could be gagged by red tape during the general election campaign.
Groups like Greenpeace like to make their voice heard during elections. But they face strict rules on what they can spend money on for the year before an election. They had been working on the basis that an election would be held in 2020 – but the announcement of a snap election in June has raised concerns they will not be able to comply with the rules. This has meant that they will have to declare their spending retrospectively over the last year if they want to campaign, creating a huge amount of work at short notice.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has barred the Zimbabwe Political Parties Dialogue Forum (ZPPDF) from partaking in the Biometric Voter Registration kit testing pilot project. ZPPDF is a technical partner of the opposition National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) coalition. The forum had written to ZEC, asking to be allowed to participate in the BVR testing pilot project. Last week ZEC engaged political parties and civil society organisations that deal with elections where the electoral body announced that it was going to test the feasibility of the BVR.
Nebraska: Lawmakers pass bill to restore felons’ voting rights sooner, but it’s unclear whether Ricketts will sign or veto it | Omaha World-Herald
Felons would no longer have to wait two years after serving their sentences to exercise their right to vote under a bill that passed Monday in the Nebraska Legislature. It remained unclear, however, whether Gov. Pete Ricketts would allow Legislative Bill 75 to become law or veto it. The Governor’s Office did not respond Monday to questions about the measure. The priority bill of State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha would need 30 votes to override a veto. It received 27 “yes” votes Monday.
The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records. With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity. A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more staff members were being added and a few others were involved less formally.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is hiring two new staffers for its investigation into Russian interference in the US election, the top Democrat on the Senate Russia investigation told CNN on Monday. The additional staffers — including one Republican and one Democrat, versed in the National Security Agency collection tactics — come as some sources on the committee have grumbled behind the scenes about the pace of the investigation. Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said investigators obtained a large batch of documents they requested just before Congress went on break and have completed 27 interviews as part of their investigation.
In more innocent times, the rise of the Internet was seen by many people as a boon to democracy. Disruptive, yes, but the Web broadened the flow of information, introduced new voices into the political debates, empowered citizens and even provided a powerful fundraising tool for some lesser-known candidates such as Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders. Now, in what are clearly less innocent times, the Internet is viewed as a far less benign force. It can be a haven for spreading fake news and rewarding the harshest and most divisive of political rhetoric. It is a medium, for all its benefits, that has dark corners populated by anonymous actors (some not even real people) whose influence appears to be growing but not easily measured.
Georgia lawmakers violated federal voting rights law by moving black voters out and white voters in to two state House districts in 2015, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that calls the mid-decade redistricting an effort to protect white Republican incumbents. The Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed the federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia on behalf of the state chapter of the NAACP and five residents of the affected districts. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official, also is named in the suit. “Lawmakers firmly placed their thumb on the scale by redrawing district boundaries in ways that would preserve their incumbency and freeze the status quo in place,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “They seek to disregard the demographic changes occurring across Georgia by putting pen to paper mid-decade.”
Montgomery election officials said Monday they will review registration procedures in response to allegations from a conservative watchdog group that the county’s rolls are packed with ineligible voters. Judicial Watch said in a letter earlier this month there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that Montgomery’s lists are filled with names of voters who have died, moved out of state or are non-citizens. It said the charge is supported by data showing more registered voters in the county than there are citizens of voting age (18 and over). … The state board, which oversees county panels, said last week that it will also review practices in response to Judicial Watch. But county election staff and voting rights groups raised questions Monday about the legitimacy of Judicial Watch’s claim.
Missouri is heading toward a slow-motion pile-up in about six weeks, when the state’s new voter ID law kicks in. State officials, including Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, must speed up efforts to educate Missourians about coming changes to their fundamental right to vote. After June 1, barring legal intervention, Missouri law will require voters to present an acceptable form of photographic identification to cast a ballot. Alternatively, those without a photo ID will be required to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting to their name and address. Election authorities will be allowed to take a picture of the voter. Those provisions are onerous enough in a state where turnout is typically, and depressingly, low. But it will scare some voters, particularly the poor and elderly, who may be reluctant to sign a legal document they don’t fully understand in order to cast a ballot.
The Montana Senate has rejected an attempt by Gov. Steve Bullock to revive a bill that would have allowed counties to conduct the May 25 special congressional election by mail. The Republican-led Senate rejected the Democratic governor’s proposed amendment to a separate election bill 27-21 on Monday.
A bill that would allow ex-felons to vote without a two-year wait after their sentences are complete won approval from state senators Monday, but not by a lot. It will now move to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk for his signature. The Legislature voted 27-13 on final reading, not enough for a 30-vote veto override if one comes. The bill (LB75) came out of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on a 5-1 vote, but was questioned by committee Chairman John Murante.
Nebraska: Bill to make Nebraska’s Electoral College votes winner-take-all is headed to Legislature floor | Omaha World-Herald
Nebraska lawmakers may soon debate a familiar effort to return the state to a winner-take-all system for awarding presidential electors. The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to advance Legislative Bill 25 to the floor. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, the bill’s sponsor, said he will attempt to attach the proposal to another bill so it can still be debated in the waning weeks of the legislative session. Republican members of the officially nonpartisan Legislature have tried repeatedly to end Nebraska’s system of splitting its three Electoral College votes based upon the winner in each congressional district. Votes on the issue have largely fallen along party lines, with primarily Democrats voting against.
North Carolina: Senate overrides governor’s veto of elections/ethics boards merger | News & Observer
The state Senate voted Monday night to go ahead with a plan to reconfigure oversight of elections in North Carolina despite a gubernatorial veto. The attempt at a veto override will next be taken up in the House. The Senate vote to override was along party lines, 33-15. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the elections bill, Senate Bill 68, on Friday, along with House Bill 239, which would reduce the state Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 members.
At last, we know how badly photo voter ID is needed in North Carolina. For years, Republicans in North Carolina have alleged that in-person fraudulent voting is widespread while Democrats have said it is non-existent. But no one knew for sure, leaving the two sides talking past each other on voter ID. On Friday, the State Board of Elections released the results of an extensive, objective audit of the 2016 election. It found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one (1) would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law. One out of nearly 4.8 million.
A trio of nonprofits filed an initial batch of 1,000 signatures Monday to kick-off an effort to place congressional redistricting reform on the November 2017 or 2018 ballot. The proposed ballot issue would closely follow a legislative redistricting proposal that voters overwhelmingly supported in 2015. The goal is to dampen the political gerrymandering that allows the political party in control to draw districts to its benefit, creating few competitive seats and securing the party’s majority status. “This is a critical effort to ensure fair districts and fair elections for every congressional seat in Ohio,” said Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “When members of Congress have safe seats drawn to guarantee which party wins, the real losers are the voters.”
A pair of federal court rulings that Texas leaders purposefully discriminated against minority voters in rejiggering congressional and state House boundaries have triggered a slew of pressing questions among politicos here: Will Texas soon see new political maps that are friendlier to Latino and black voters and, in turn, Democrats? If so, who would draw them: the scolded Republican-led Legislature or the courts themselves? Will the maps land ahead of the 2018 elections? A three-judge panel based in San Antonio will start wading through such questions on Thursday as lawyers for each side of the redistricting dispute return to court for a high-profile status conference. “This hearing is a very important event in the sequence of what’s going to happen,” said Jose Garza, an attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a plaintiff in the case.
There’s nothing unusual about a state lawmaker and a mayor being worried about turnout in a local election. But in Dallas, it’s not just low turnout that’s got two local leaders concerned. It’s the cause. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and State Rep. Eric Johnson have sounded the alarm over potential voter fraud in West Dallas. Many people in that part of the city received mail-in ballots for the county’s May 6th election, even though they didn’t ask for them. In November, some voters from the same part of town were turned away at the polls because mail-in ballots had already been filed for them. Johnson is a Dallas Democrat from Texas’ 100th district, where much of this activity has taken place. He says he first started hearing about the issue a few weeks ago.
After a meeting that lasted only15 minutes, St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections members voted Monday not to certify the April 8 special election results and left the matter in the hands of the Senate to figure out. The special election was triggered in the wake of a back-and-forth between Kevin Rodriquez and Janelle Sarauw, who, at this point, have both been elected to fill the same St. Thomas-St. John District Senate seat. At a special meeting earlier this month, Elections board attorney Julita de Leon said that Rodriquez would first have to be decertified in order for Sarauw to sit, and by law, only the Legislature has the authority to make that happen.
Attorneys for the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to uphold GOP-drawn legislative boundaries, saying a ruling that found them to be unconstitutional was “dangerously” wrong. The filing comes in support of separate and similar arguments made by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel in his appeal of a three-judge panel’s ruling last year striking down the maps. The judges ordered new maps to be drawn by November, saying the current ones amounted to unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering favoring Republicans. It was the first ruling of its kind after decades of legal battles over redistricting.
Albanian opposition supporters blocked the country’s main roads Monday, demanding that a caretaker Cabinet be allowed to govern until the parliamentary election in June. Thousands of opposition supporters blocked five national crossroads for an hour. Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said they were protesting “drug traffic, crime traffic, ballots traffic, corruption, money laundering traffic.” The opposition has said that it will boycott the parliamentary election.