The UK government was given details last December of allegedly extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, according to court papers. Reports by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, on possible collusion between the the Trump camp and the Kremlin are at the centre of a political storm in the US over Moscow’s role in getting Donald Trump elected. It was not previously known that the UK intelligence services had also received the dossier but Steele confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that he handed a memorandum compiled in December to a “senior UK government national security official acting in his official capacity, on a confidential basis in hard copy form”.
National: House Intelligence Committee reportedly agrees on witness list for Russia probe | Business Insider
The House Intelligence Committee has agreed on a witness list of between 36 and 48 people for its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported Wednesday night. Included on the list are current and former associates of President Donald Trump believed to have been in contact with Russian officials during the campaign or transition period. According to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the list includes Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; and Carter Page, an early Trump campaign adviser. … The full committee has also now gained access to the classified intelligence documents Nunes said he obtained from a source on White House grounds last month, according to CNN. Nunes sparked bipartisan outcry and came under intense scrutiny when he briefed Trump on the documents directly without first sharing them with Schiff.
The Maine House rejected a bill Tuesday that would have required voters to present photo identification at their polling places in order to cast a ballot. Majority Democrats prevailed on a 76-67 vote that split mostly on party lines in rejecting L.D. 121, which required a voter provide proof of identity with a photographic identification, such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The bill will likely still receive a vote in the state Senate, but it appears all but dead for 2017 with the House’s rejection. Rep. Karl Ward, R- Holden, the bill’s primary sponsor, expressed frustration with Democrats via Facebook following the vote Tuesday. He wrote that the measure would have “prevented virtually all voter fraud in Maine,” and vowed to defeat Democrats at the polls in 2018.
North Carolina judges on Friday put a temporary brake on renewed efforts by Republican state lawmakers to curtail the new Democratic governor’s control over state and local elections. A panel of state trial court judges voted 2-1 to stop a new law from taking effect Monday until a more extensive hearing on May 10. The panel’s majority said Gov. Roy Cooper was likely to succeed in challenging a law GOP legislators passed this week diluting the ability governors have had for more than a century to pick election board majorities. State Senate leader Phil Berger blasted the temporary restraining order, saying legislators had responded to the panel’s rejection of an earlier version by tailoring the revamped effort “exactly as they required.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation amending the state’s voter identification laws Monday, April 24, despite warnings it doesn’t comply with a federal judge’s ruling. Burgum signed House Bill 1369, his spokesman Mike Nowatzki said. It comes amid a federal lawsuit challenging changes made by the Republican-led Legislature in the past two sessions. The bill allows those who don’t bring a valid ID to the polls to cast a ballot that’s set aside until they produce an ID. If an ID doesn’t include required information or is out of date, a voter could use a current utility bill, bank statement, government-issued check, paycheck or government document to supplement the ID.
Texas: Recent rulings that Texas’ voting laws discriminate put pressure on the state, but the road ahead is long | Dallas Morning News
Texas has spent six years locked in legal battles over a controversial voter identification law and its congressional and statehouse district maps. Then, starting March 10, federal judges issued three consecutive rulings against the state. The first, from a district court in San Antonio, invalidated three congressional districts when it found that the Legislature drew the state’s congressional maps with the intent to discriminate against minority voters. Weeks later, a federal judge in Corpus Christi upheld a finding that Texas’ voter ID law was written with the same intent. And on Thursday, the San Antonio court ruled that legislators drew the 2011 statehouse maps with the intent to dilute minority voting strength.
Virginia: McAuliffe says he has broken U.S. record for restoring voting rights | The Washington Post
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that he had broken the record for restoring voting rights to convicted felons, calling it his “proudest achievement” as governor. McAuliffe (D) said he had individually restored rights to 156,221 Virginians, surpassing the previous record-holder by a nose. As governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, Charlie Crist restored voting rights to 155,315 felons, according to figures that McAuliffe’s office obtained from Florida. Today Crist, who has evolved from Republican to Independent to Democrat, is a freshman member of Congress. His spokeswoman, Erin Moffet, said Crist would not mind seeing his record fall. “I know my boss would congratulate Governor McAuliffe on the work he’s doing in his state, as well,” she said.
The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign. Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords. The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one onedrive-en-marche.fr and another mail-en-marche.fr to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche.
India: Give Us Full Access to Electronic Voting Machines, Experts Tell Election Commission | The Wire
A group of trained engineers and scientists, from India and abroad (drawn primarily from IITs and other premier science institutes), have, in response to the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the electronic voter machines. However, the 27-member group has said that for a truly objective and fair assessment of the machines and “to understand what kind of tampering is possible, actions that might be performed by an insider in the process, or a criminal, should be allowed during the challenge.” In this regard, the group noted that the EC had in 2009 prevented some type of access – when it disallowed physical tampering – and therefore “it should explain why an insider or a criminal would not have that kind of access”. … Poorvi L. Vora, professor of computer science at the George Washington University and a member of the group, wrote in an article that “the Election Commission should allow experts a reasonable amount of time to examine machines whose entire design has been secret for so many years. The experts should be able to work in a laboratory space of their choosing, with the freedom to fully explore the system and its vulnerabilities, including physical tampering, as any attacker with some access to a single storage locker might have.”
Turkey: Opposition party to challenge referendum on expanding presidential powers at European Court | Los Angeles Times
The question now is whether Europe can and will step in to keep Turkey’s leader from expanding his powers. Turkey’s main opposition party announced Wednesday it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests. “We faced illegal referendum results after seeing an unverified election,” Selin Sayek Boke, a spokeswoman for the Republican People’s Party told journalists in Ankara. “Our priority is standing up for the legal rights of all citizens. Thus, we would like to announce that we will soon apply to the ECHR.”
National: Holder: Trump’s election fraud claims are laying foundation for voter suppression | The Hill
Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday tore into President Trump’s claims of rampant voter fraud, saying the allegations have laid a foundation for voter suppression and more restrictive voter identification laws. “The vote fraud mantra is said so often — it’s almost said robotically — that some people have unthinkingly begun to believe that the issue is real,” Holder said at a National Action Network conference in New York City. “And with recent claims by Mr. Trump of ‘rigged elections’ based on fraud, again without any proof, save the bluster of the candidate, this mistaken belief in voter fraud becomes almost hardwired,” he continued.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Thursday that Russian meddling in U.S. elections could become “normalized” if the government does not further respond to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential contest. Shaheen doubled down on her push for an independent investigation of Russia’s actions and more sanctions on Moscow in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Thursday afternoon. “If Russia gets a pass on 2016, it could interfere in future U.S. elections not only at the presidential level but at the House and Senate level,” Shaheen said.
Facebook says some groups tried to use its platform to sway the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. In a case study of the 2016 presidential election, the company said it found several instances of “information operations,” its term for governments and organizations who attempt to sway political opinion by spreading fake news and other nefarious tactics. The case study was included in Facebook’s white paper on “information operations.” It also detailed ways it was combating “fake news” and other misinformation spread by adding new technologies and creating more security features.
Editorials: Why won’t Congress really investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia? | Douglas L. Kriner and Eric Schickler/The Washington Post
Politicians, pundits, and scholars alike routinely call Congress the “broken branch.” Most often, they note its abysmally low level of legislative productivity recently, a trend that even the return of unified Republican control of government has failed to reverse. But Congress’s feeble efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election may be an even more startling and serious institutional failure. The House inquiry has been plagued by infighting and missteps. The most notable so far was the clandestine meeting to share intelligence between chief investigator, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and the White House he was charged with investigating. While the Senate investigative committee has pledged a thorough probe, it’s done little so far. It has held no high-profile hearings. Until very recently, it had no full-time staff, and its few part-time staffers have no investigative experience or expertise with Russia.
Maryland has found itself in the crosshairs of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, which has thereatened to sue the state if a better effort isn’t made to clean up its voter rolls. Earlier this month, the group sent a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections to complain that there are more registered voters in Montgomery County than there are voting-age residents. Judicial Watch argues the overage demonstrates that there is “strong circumstantial evidence” that non-citizens may be registered to vote in heavily-Democratic Montgomery County, which is also Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction.
California: Moving to March primary gaining traction: Legislation on presidential races passes key Assembly committee | San Mateo Daily Journal
Legislation to elevate the political influence of one of the nation’s most populous states by bumping up California’s presidential primary received bipartisan support this week as it heads toward the Assembly floor. Assembly-man Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, seeks to move California’s typically June primary to the first Tuesday of March during presidential elections. On Wednesday, Mullin’s bill passed 6-1 through the Assembly’s Committee on Elections and Redistricting, garnering support and dissent from two Republicans. The goal is to provide California, the sixth largest economy in the world and where 1 in 8 U.S. voters resides, with a more influential role in deciding presidential nominations for both the Republican and Democratic parties, Mullin said.
Proposals to restore the voting rights of more than 70,000 Louisiana ex-felons on probation or parole got a chilly reaction from some state lawmakers Wednesday (April 26). The House Governmental Affairs Committee rejected one such proposal and persuaded a lawmaker to delay action on a similar bill until next week. Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, D-Baton Rouge, pulled her House Bill 229 from a vote after her colleagues expressed concern about giving the vote back to people who have been on parole or probation for five years. The law affects about 71,000 people, roughly 1.5 percent of the state’s population. Similar proposals have died before in the conservative Louisiana Legislature. Smith introduced the bill after supporters of restoring voting rights struck out in court last month, when a judge told them they would have to get the law changed if they want the prohibition lifted.
Although President Trump won the state by a narrow margin, GOP candidates in down-ballot races in Michigan won across the board, adding further to their large majority in the State Legislature. According to a new test conducted by Bridge Magazine, GOP candidates succeed in Michigan despite relatively equal support for both parties because of gerrymandered districts. The test, titled the “efficiency gap,” calculates how many votes are “wasted” when a certain party draws district lines in their favor. Wasted votes are those cast for the candidate that didn’t win and those cast for the winning candidate beyond the number they needed to win.
In what may be one of the most confusing election cycles ever, voters who cast their ballots by mail need to pay attention this next week. “We have some voters who are definitely confused right now,” said Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg. “We’ve been getting calls from people telling us that they opened their envelopes and found there weren’t any congressional races on their ballots.” That’s because the absentee ballots for the upcoming special election to select Montana’s sole congressman won’t be mailed out until next week. The mail ballots that voters have already received are for several school and one fire district election.
The governor is headed for a showdown with state lawmakers over felon voting rights. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a measure Thursday that restores the voting rights of felons immediately after they complete their sentences. He maintained that the Legislature violated the Nebraska Constitution by assuming the power to pardon that properly belongs to the executive branch of government. “Any effort to restore a civil right revoked in the Nebraska Constitution requires changing the Nebraska Constitution,” the governor said in a message announcing his first veto of the session.
Advocates for election reform say voter turnout across the New York could be greatly increased by allowing citizens to cast their ballots early and adopting automatic voter registration, as other states have. Without such measures, said Jennifer Wilson, program and policy director for the League of Women Voters of New York State, this state will continue to have one of the lowest voter-participation levels in the nation. “We think early voting would have an immediate impact,” Wilson said Wednesday after the Assembly Election Law Committee advanced legislation that would allow voting in New York up to seven days before an election.
North Carolina: Why This Woman Who Cast An Illegal Vote For Donald Trump Is Getting A Pass For Voter Fraud | The Huffington Post
A North Carolina prosecutor announced Wednesday that he would decline to bring charges in one of the few cases of voter fraud in the state during the 2016 election. The decision is significant because North Carolina is asking the Supreme Court to uphold a law that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. Of the 4.8 million votes cast, the incident was the single case of in-person voter impersonation at the polls in the 2016 election in North Carolina ― the kind of fraud the voter ID law would prevent. The 67-year-old woman, whose name is not being released, voted for Donald Trump on behalf of her mother, who died on Oct. 26, weeks before Election Day. The woman told the State Board of Elections that her mother had told her “if anything happens you have my power of attorney and you be sure to vote for Donald Trump for me.”
As the 2018 election cycle nears, it appears Texas and its legal foes are headed for a trial — yet again — over what the state’s House and congressional boundaries will look like, and it will likely come this summer. “I think the trial is certain,” said Jose Garza, an attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a lead plaintiff in the years-long challenge of the state’s political boundaries. “At the end of the day, we’re going to get new political maps, and the court’s going to draw them.” His comments followed a lengthy and complicated hearing Thursday over the fate of the state’s 2013 House and congressional maps — a high-profile status conference that followed a pair of federal rulings that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in initially drawing each map in 2011.
The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Ecuador, Juan Pablo Pozo, announced that it will prohibit the early dissemination of exit polls. “From now on, no figures can be given, until the institutions have given them first, otherwise it generates unnecessary speculation by the people,” suggested the president of the CNE. Reforms to the Democracy Code will also try to regulate electoral advertising on the internet. The initiative of the electoral body will be discussed for three months, starting next June, Pozo said on Wednesday, April 26.
Estonia: 10 Years After the Landmark Attack on Estonia, Is the World Better Prepared for Cyber Threats? | Foreign Policy
The Estonians just wanted to relocate a statue. Ten years ago today, authorities in Tallinn set out to remove a Soviet World War II memorial from the capital’s downtown. The Russian government had warned that removing the statue would be “disastrous for Estonians,” but since Moscow no longer called the shots in the Baltic state, the statue was duly shipped off to a suburban military cemetery. Soon after, Estonians found that they couldn’t use much of the internet. They couldn’t access newspapers online, or government websites. Bank accounts were suddenly inaccessible. “It was unheard of, and no one understood what was going on in the beginning,” Toomas Hendrik Ilves, then Estonian President, told Foreign Policy. Soon, he was informed that it was not an internal failure — but an attack from the outside. It was a Distributed Denial of Service Attack — an orchestrated swarm of internet traffic that literally swamps servers and shuts down websites for hours or days.
The Russian cyber-spying group Pawn Storm (also known as Fancy Bear) has targeted French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron, according to Japanese cyber-security experts. Macron campaign officials, however, say the group has so far failed. Barely two weeks before the critical second round of the French presidential election, fears of Russian meddling in the 2017 campaign mounted with the publication of a report accusing Pawn Storm of targeting Macron’s En Marche! (Forward!) movement, employing identical tactics used to attack the Hillary Clinton campaign during the US presidential race. A 41-page report, “Two Years of Pawn Storm,” by the Japanese cyber-security firm Trend Micro detailed a long list of the group’s targets, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party ahead of the September German general elections.
Iranian conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi met with visiting Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov — an encounter that Raisi probably did not expect would end up causing problems ahead of the May 19 presidential elections. The hard-line Tasnim News Agency, which is seen as backing Raisi and reported the meeting, described Minnikhanov as an envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, seemingly to highlight Raisi’s stature. During the meeting, Minnikhanov reportedly told Raisi, “We hope that the relationship between Iran and Tatarstan will be [further] developed.” He added, “Vladimir Putin gives special importance to the spread of religion, including Islam, as he has formed a strategic group, which I head, for developing relations with Islam [the Islamic world].”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey on Thursday to answer questions raised by European observers over a referendum that expanded President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers and also said the EU must reflect on what future ties it wants with Ankara. A report by observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe found that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which ended in a narrow victory for Erdogan’s push for greater powers. “The Turkish government must measure itself based on this report and answer the questions raised in it,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. “We will very carefully follow how Turkey deals with reports of possible irregularities.”