It was a bombshell. Operatives from two Russian spy agencies had infiltrated computers of the Democratic National Committee, months before the US national election. One agency — nicknamed Cozy Bear by cybersecurity company CrowdStrike — used a tool that was “ingenious in its simplicity and power” to insert malicious code into the DNC’s computers, CrowdStrike’s Chief Technology Officer Dmitri Alperovitch wrote in a June blog post. The other group, nicknamed Fancy Bear, remotely grabbed control of the DNC’s computers. By October, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security agreed that Russia was behind the DNC hack. On Dec. 29, those agencies, together with the FBI, issued a joint statement reaffirming that conclusion. And a week later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence summarized its findings (PDF) in a declassified (read: scrubbed) report. Even President Donald Trump acknowledged, “It was Russia,” a few days later — although he told “Face the Nation” earlier this week it “could’ve been China.”
Don’t expect FBI Director James Comey to reveal much about the bureau’s months-long investigation of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia when he speaks publicly before members of Congress on Wednesday. In fact, there’s no guarantee Comey and his agency will ever fully lay bare those findings for the American public, because such investigations rarely end in criminal charges that offer a full picture. Some measure of information will certainly come to light through multiple congressional investigations. And political pressure will fall on Comey and the Justice Department to make public what investigators have learned.
Editorials: Who should vote in party primaries? Contested ideas of party membership | Susan Scarrow/OUPblog
One of the many controversies that emerged in regards to fair voting in the 2016 US Presidential campaign revolved around rules in some states which required voters to choose their party primary far in advance of the actual primary election. Complaints about these rules arose in both major parties, with supporters of two insurgent candidates (Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) claiming that rules were rigged in favor of party “establishment” candidates. A year later, these issues from spring 2016 may seem like minor – even quaint – electoral issues in light of other accusations about improprieties in the 2016 election, including President Trump’s accusations of voter fraud, and Congressional inquiries into Russian election interference. Yet the issues are worth revisiting, not least because they are likely to spark intra-party controversies in coming years as party factions strive to gain the upper hand for subsequent primary elections. Beyond the struggle for power, the question of principle is: who should be entitled to make the parties’ most important decisions?
Colorado: Unaffiliated? You can vote in Colorado’s 2018 party primaries. But should the party you choose be public information? | The Colorado Independent
Next year, unaffiliated voters —the state’s largest voting bloc—for the first time will be able to help choose the Democratic or Republican nominee in a Colorado governor’s race while still remaining unaffiliated. That’s because voters last year passed a ballot measure allowing those who choose not to join a political party to participate in the party primaries. Unaffiliated voters, however, can only pick one primary to vote in— they can’t vote in both.
And here’s something those non-party people should know: The primary they choose could become public information. Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, is pushing for such disclosure as he develops rules to implement the new law before the 2018 statewide gubernatorial primaries. He says such transparency is about voter integrity.
Common Cause Indiana and two branches of the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to challenge the law that governs early voting in Marion County. In 2008, two sites were established outside downtown Indianapolis that offered in-person early voting. But now they’re gone, meaning anyone in Marion County who wants to cast an early ballot has to make the trip to a single downtown office. Indiana law mandates that county election boards unanimously endorse early-voting locations. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, says the lack of access has become a constitutional issue, and that it also violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued a formal opinion Monday that if a governor resigns, the lieutenant governor becomes governor for all intents and purposes, but does not have legal authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor. Sen. David Johnson, I-Ocheyedan, requested the opinion following Governor Terry Branstad’s announcement that, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will serve as U.S. ambassador to China, according to a release. “The lieutenant governor takes on this authority because she is lieutenant governor,” Miller wrote in his opinion. “In other words, upon a governor’s resignation, the lieutenant governor will hold both the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor.” … Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate disagrees.
Minnesota often leads the nation in voter turnout, but isn’t always on the cutting edge of voting technology. One company wants to change that by convincing lawmakers touch screen voting is the wave of the future. “The Express Vote (machine) is an assisted voting device that can also be used by other voters as well,” said Mike Hoversten of Election Systems and Software. He points out that one machine can be used by voters of all abilities. The Express Vote machine eventually produces a paper ballot, but it’s smaller than the size of the ballot required by state law that is commonly used now. A change in state law would be required for counties to consider using the machine. State Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, a former Minnesota Secretary of State, said such a change is unlikely, at least for now. “Because you have a uniform paper ballot and that is equal treatment of all voters, that’s really important,” Kiffmeyer told 5 Eyewitness News.
The confusion started in the first hour of the first day of early voting in San Antonio last October. Signs in polling places about the state’s controversial voter ID law contained outdated rules. Poll workers gave voters incorrect information. Lines were long — full of people who were full of uncertainty. The presidential election of 2016 was off to a sputtering start in Texas, where years of angry claims about illegal voting had led to a toughening of identification requirements for those going to the polls. On that day last October, Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, was met with a line out the door when she arrived at her San Antonio polling place. “A poll worker stood in front of me where I was and said, ‘You are at the one-and-a-half-hour mark,'” Perales said. “And she insisted your ID needed to be out when you got to the front of the line.”
Texas: Department of Justice will monitor Pasadena elections after voting rights ruling | Houston Chronicle
The U.S. Department of Justice is monitoring the Pasadena city elections as the suburb faces mounting federal scrutiny in the wake of a judge’s ruling that the city intentionally violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Hispanics. Two observers will be present to ensure the elections this Saturday are conducted smoothly, said C. Robert Heath, an attorney representing the city in the voting rights case. But he said he didn’t know who asked for them, what their specific charge would be and which polling locations may be watched.
There’s increasing disagreement between Gov. Gary Herbert and fellow GOP legislative leaders over how to handle a special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, if the Republican congressman steps down before his term ends. Chaffetz, who two weeks ago surprised Utahns by saying he would not seek re-election and may not serve out his full term, could announce around Memorial Day that he’s leaving Congress as early as June, sources told the Deseret News. Legislative leaders are pushing for the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to spell out how such an election should be conducted, although there’s been disagreement over that between the GOP majority in the House and Senate. But Herbert has said a special session isn’t necessary. Utah law says simply that when there’s a congressional vacancy, the governor issues a proclamation calling an election to fill it.
Virginia: Complaints over potentially illegal political ads in limbo as Virginia elections agency stops issuing guidance | Richmond Times-Dispatch
As they prepared to take up roughly a dozen old complaints of illegal political mail or signs, members of the Virginia State Board of Elections complained Monday that they were flying blind because the state agency they oversee stopped offering guidance on whether the ads in question did or didn’t violate the law. The lack of staff analysis and recommendations, coupled with lengthy delays between when complaints come in and when they come up for review, left one board member openly wondering whether the state is doing enough to police political campaigns. Board members also raised concern about receiving limited details about the cases — many dating back to the November election and some over a year old — on Friday afternoon for a Monday morning meeting.
A Victorian parliamentary inquiry has backed the roll out of Internet-based voting for state elections, but only in limited circumstances. A report by the state parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee on the issue was tabled yesterday. The inquiry endorsed the use of remote electronic voting for electors who are blind or have low vision, suffer motor impairment, have insufficient language or literacy skills, or who are eligible to vote but interstate or overseas. Internet-based voting should be backed by the “most rigorous security standards available” to the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), the report recommended.
The Democratic Republic of Congo said Monday it had indefinitely postponed voter registration in two provinces of its troubled central Kasai region after the brutal killing of an electoral official. On April 3, Philippe Iyidimbe, of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), “was decapitated by militias of chief Kamwina Nsapu in Ndekesha,” in central DRC,…
The Czech Republic’s prime minister offered his resignation on Tuesday, saying he could no longer work with his finance minister and political rival, a populist billionaire whose party is favored in elections set for October. The prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said he would meet President Milos Zeman this week to formally submit his resignation and that of the cabinet. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Zeman would accept the resignations. At a news conference, Mr. Sobotka said he could not defend the conduct of the finance minister, Andrej Babis, a 62-year-old magnate-turned-politician who has rejected frequent comparisons to President Trump.
Eugen Schmidt, a computer programmer from Cologne in western Germany, credits the television stations controlled by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin for exposing what he says local media won’t — the dangers of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for Muslim immigrants. A native of the Soviet Union, he was a loyal supporter of Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the years since he moved with his family to Germany in 1999. But four years ago, he defected to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, or AfD, as the incoming wave of refugees from violence in the Arab world began to swell. Events in January of last year turned the 41-year-old from a quiet AfD supporter to grassroots activist and widely read blogger. First, hundreds of women were sexually assaulted at New Year celebrations here by men mainly from North Africa. And then, for five days, he says German media “kept absolutely quiet” about an attack that shocked the nation when its true scale became public. “That was the last straw for me,” Schmidt said over coffee in a cafe near Cologne’s central square, one of several areas of Germany where the attacks happened. “It only came out through Russian media and Facebook.”
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Monday announced early elections amid mounting corruption claims and opposition calls for his resignation. Muscat called new elections for June 3, nearly 10 months early, at a May Day rally of his ruling Labor Party supporters.
The 43-year-old prime minister has been under pressure in recent weeks after popular blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia made claims that his wife, Michelle, owned an offshore shell company in Panama. A magisterial inquiry has been launched into the issue. Owning offshore accounts is not illegal in Malta, but the revelations and investigation have created a political backlash.
Editorials: Why are British voters in the dark about this week’s elections? | Joe Mitchell/The Guardian
ity the local elections, overshadowed again. Last year it was the EU referendum, this year it’s a general election. Voters will make the short walk to a polling station on Thursday more out of duty than of passion. Because information is so sparse on these elections, voters will cast their ballots without truly knowing what or who they are voting for. The UK will miss yet another opportunity to improve our trust in politicians, to boost our sense of being engaged in political decisions and to strengthen our belief in our ability to create change. Any potential “Brexit bump” in political interest and awareness is unlikely: the Hansard Society’s recent audit of political engagement shows interest in, and knowledge of, politics falling to around 50%. Just 31% of citizens say they are satisfied with our system of governance.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shocked many of his countrymen on Monday by calling for a constitutional assembly in a move similar to one his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez used almost 20 years ago. But there is a key difference: while Chavez enjoyed broad popularity following his 1998 election, Maduro faces slim odds at the ballot box and critics say he is calling the assembly precisely to avoid or delay free elections. After he took office in 1999, Chavez led a campaign to create an assembly that rewrote the constitution, letting him name allies to crucial posts such as the Supreme Court. He thus consolidated an already strong hand in institutional disputes with adversaries during his 14-year rule.