National: ‘A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity’: Senate grills Comey on Clinton and Russia probes | Business Insider

The Senate Judiciary Committee grilled FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday about his handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, used his opening statement to assert that there is still no proof that any collusion occurred between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials, and that “all this speculation about collusion” is coming from the explosive but unverified Trump-Russia dossier that is “spinning wild conspiracy theories.”

National: James Comey defends Clinton email decision but warns of threat from Russia | The Guardian

FBI director James Comey on Wednesday described Russia as “the greatest threat” to US democracy, but defended his decision to keep secret an investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Moscow despite revealing details of an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails. Giving evidence to a hearing of the Senate judiciary committee, Comey offered his most extensive explanation to date of the thinking behind his different approaches to the two investigations. Clinton claimed on Tuesday that Comey’s 28 October letter to leading members of Congress about new emails that had been found damaged voter perceptions of her and cost her the election. “If the election had been on 27 October, I would be your president,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said. The discovery of the emails ultimately made no difference to the FBI decision not to press charges over the use of the private server.

Alabama: Redistricting plans move forward, but Democrats object | Montgomery Advertiser

House Democrats launched filibusters of legislation Tuesday in protest of the map and the chamber passing a bill last week critics say will prevent removal of Confederate memorials. “I don’t care if the Pope got a bill today,” said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. “It’s dead. We want parity, equality and fair play.” The slowdown could affect other pending legislation, like the budgets and prison bills, and Republicans tried to strike encouraging notes in the committee hearings Wednesday. The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee held a hearing on that chamber’s map Tuesday afternoon but did not vote on the proposal. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the chair of the committee, recommended to Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who drew the maps, to get together with Senate Democrats before the expected vote Wednesday.

Alabama: GOP proposal would prevent crossover voting | Decatur Daily

With a U.S. Senate election later this year and statewide contests in 2018, Republicans are again trying to keep Democrats out of GOP runoffs. “We feel it’s important, simply, that we pick our team and they pick their team,” said Terry Lathan, chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party. Senate Bill 108, which passed that chamber, and House Bill 372, require the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to create rules and procedures to keep someone from voting in a runoff if they didn’t vote in the preceding primary.

Arizona: Former attorney general: Maricopa County Recorder Fontes’ voter-registration fix is ‘reasonable’ | The Arizona Republic

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes has lowered an estimate of American citizens in the county whose voter registrations were blocked because they didn’t fill out the form correctly,basing his new estimate on further research into roughly 100,000 registration forms that initially were rejected by the office. Fontes’ effort to register citizens who were initially blocked was endorsed Wednesday by a former Arizona attorney general. After digging more deeply into the matter this week, Fontes said a non-scientific sample suggests the number of citizens who weren’t able to register could be closer to 17,000 rather than the roughly 58,000 originally thought.

Indiana: Common Cause, NAACP sue over Marion County early-voting site | Indianapolis Business Journal

Marion County’s single location for early voting provides unequal access to the ballot, argues a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Common Cause and the NAACP. Plaintiffs in the case allege Indianapolis’ sole early-voting precinct is discriminatory and constitutes voter suppression. The lawsuit takes aim at the system in which one of the three unelected members of the Marion County Election Board, most recently Republican Party member Maura Hoff, has vetoed multiple early-voting locations in the state’s most populous county. The result has been sometimes-long lines at the only location for early voting, the Marion County Clerk’s office in the Indianapolis City-County Building.

Nebraska: Politically charged bills, including winner-take-all, voter ID, await senators | Lincoln Journal Star

Political fireworks ahead in the Legislature. Sen. John Murante of Gretna said Wednesday he still intends to offer an amendment to pending legislation that would return Nebraska to a winner-take-all presidential electoral system, but he has not picked a legislative vehicle yet. Meanwhile, Murante’s proposed constitutional amendment (LR1CA) to require a photo ID for voters to participate in Nebraska elections is virtually assured of consideration during the final 15 days of this legislative session because he has identified it as his priority proposal.

Nevada: New Voting Machines Could Be On the Way for Nevada | KTVN

The next time we head to the polls, there is a good chance we will cast our ballots on new voting machines. Some of Nevada’s machines have been in use since 2004, spanning more than a dozen elections. “Their expected life-span was about ten years when we got them and we’re already well past that,” Luanne Cutler, Washoe County Registrar of Voters said. There are 6,894 voting machines throughout Nevada’s 17 counties. If the legislature approves funding, the cost could be up to $25,000. “Dominion Voting Systems” and “Elections Systems & Software” are the two companies that the Secretary of State’s Office could buy the new machines from. “The accuracy is very, very important but also the new technology,” Barbara Cegavske, Nevada Secretary of State said. “We’re looking at all of those aspects, all of the new bells and whistles.”

Utah: Lawmakers want to define ‘vague’ special election process if Chaffetz steps down early | St George News

Ever since he announced he may leave office early, state lawmakers have been debating how to go about replacing Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz if he steps down from Congress before January 2019. The United States Constitution declares that a vacancy in the House of Representative must be filled via an election held in the congressional district from which the vacancy originates. In contract, filling a vacancy in the Senate isn’t spelled out in the Constitution, leaving it to a state’s governor to appoint an interim replacement. Chaffetz, who represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, said last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his term, adding he may not even finish his current term. This has led to a question among state lawmakers as to the process of how a replacement may be elected.

Vermont: Election Officials Worried Concerning Recount Rules | Valley News

The Vermont Municipal Clerks’ and Treasurers’ Association is raising concerns that already hardworking election officials would be overloaded by a pending House bill intended to address controversy over legislative-race recounts last fall. “The last couple years there’s been so much coming at us that something’s going to break,” said Karen Richard, the town clerk for Colchester, Vt., who also heads the association’s legislative committee. Richard cited several mandates that have come down from the Legislature in the past few years, including requirements that clerks report unofficial results to the Secretary of State’s Office on Election Day and deal with same-day registrants, online registration, automatic DMV registration and unlimited early absentee voting.

Czech Republic: Parties look to avoid snap election after Prime Minister quits | Reuters

Czech coalition parties sought to avoid a snap election on Wednesday and find a way to steer the country toward a scheduled vote in October after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s shock resignation. Sobotka announced on Tuesday that he and his government would step down, less than six months before its term finishes, to resolve a long-running dispute with billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis, his main political rival. The Social Democrat leader, whose party trails Babis’s centrist ANO movement by a double-digit margin in polls, justified the risky and drastic step by saying that simply firing Babis would have turned him into a ‘martyr’.

Germany: Putin, Merkel spar in Russia over election meddling | Associated Press

During a tense appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied on Tuesday that Moscow ever interferes in elections in other countries. Speaking during a joint news conference following talks at his Black Sea residence, Putin said accusations of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election were ‘‘simply rumors’’ that were being used as part of the political fight in Washington. He also denied interfering in European elections. US intelligence agencies say they have definitive evidence that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic e-mail accounts, with the aim of benefiting Donald Trump’s campaign and harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Ireland: Senators support plan for emigrant voting rights | The Irish Times

A broad coalition of Senators has called for voting rights to be extended to Irish citizens living abroad. Senators representing all of the political parties in the Upper House have backed a 10-point plan that would see the franchise extended to emigrants and Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland. The plan was unveiled at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon by Billy Lawless, an Independent Senator who lives in the US and is viewed as the Irish diaspora’s representative in the Seanad. It was accompanied by a policy paper prepared by Irish emigrants group

Kenya: Electoral Commission Challenges Ruling on Vote Counts | VoA News

Kenya’s electoral commission is appealing a court ruling that poll results announced at the constituency level are final. The electoral body says that opens the way to manipulation. The bad blood between the Kenya’s political opposition and its electoral commission has been taken to the corridors of justice three months before the August poll. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is appealing a high court ruling that bans the commission chairman from making the official announcement of presidential vote totals from each constituency. The court ruled that vote totals announced at polling stations and the constituency level are final.

Russia: Court Bans Putin-Critic Alexei Navalny From Standing for President | Newsweek

A Russian court has upheld a ruling that now likely leaves the Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny barred from running for president in next year’s election. The regional court ruled in favor of a controversial embezzlement conviction Navalny received in February, the Interfax news agency reported. The court gave Navalny a five-year suspended sentence which, in accordance with Russian criminal law, prevents him from taking public office in the meantime and keeps him out of next year’s presidential race. Navalny considers the case to be politically motivated and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called the case against him “arbitrary” and lacking a free trial last year. Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev told Interfax he intends to appeal the ruling in the ECHR, while Navalny’s campaign manager told the Mediazona news website that the campaign will continue as planned, regardless of the verdict.

Venezuela: As president calls for new constitution, Venezuela veers once again toward political chaos | Los Angeles Times

Already reeling from massive antigovernment marches in recent weeks, Venezuela is bracing for more demonstrations Wednesday as increasingly vocal activists protest the surprise plan by President Nicolas Maduro to draft a new constitution. Opposition leaders condemned the proposal as an antidemocratic move that will only aggravate the country’s ongoing political crisis. In an announcement at a May Day rally Monday, Maduro said he would seek to replace the constitution pushed through in 2000 by his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The new document would be drafted at an assembly consisting of 500 delegates, 250 of whom will be selected from “communal” groups recognized by Maduro’s government, which will likely assure his control over the final version, opponents said.