President Donald Trump has fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, smack in the middle of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia. But while whomever Trump appoints to take Comey’s place could shut down the Russia probe eventually, Comey’s removal won’t make it skip a beat. According to press secretary Sean Spicer, the decision to terminate Comey had nothing to do with the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties but rather Comey’s handling—including controversial public statements—of the Clinton email case. In a statement, Trump said that he relied on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ guidance that “a fresh start is needed” to restore confidence in the FBI. In a letter to the president, Sessions wrote, “It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions.”
National: Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry | The New York Times
Days before he was fired as F.B.I. director, James B. Comey asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to accelerate the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election. It was the first clear-cut evidence that Mr. Comey believed the bureau needed more resources to handle a sprawling and highly politicized counterintelligence investigation. His appeal, described on Wednesday by four congressional officials, was made to Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, whose memo was used to justify Mr. Comey’s abrupt dismissal on Tuesday.
California: There were serious problems in 2016 for some California voters who don’t speak English, new report says | Los Angeles Times
California voters with limited English language skills were too often left on their own when it came to getting help casting ballots last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers. The data raise significant questions about the effectiveness of a long-standing state election law designed to help those voters, and whether they will struggle more as counties are allowed to transition away from traditional neighborhood polling places. “We’re talking about huge chunks of the electorate that are in danger of being disenfranchised,” said Jonathan Stein, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California.
Georgia: Voter registration backlog ahead of Georgia’s 6th District runoff | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Local counties under order to reopen voter registration in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District face a backlog of tens of thousands of applications and have already begun working overtime to process them all in time for the June 20 runoff election. Still, despite concerns that a federal judge’s order would back them into a corner, no problems have been reported so far as the counties themselves appear to have hit the ground running. “Everything has been going very smoothly,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official. All three counties that have areas in the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — had contingency plans in place in anticipation of Thursday’s ruling. The first of tens of thousands of backlogged registration applications have already begun to be processed, although officials said it is impossible to know how many of them involve residents in each county who actually reside in the district itself. That’s because it’s not readily apparent on the applications themselves.
An effort to amend the Nebraska constitution to require voters to present photo IDs is dead for the year after supporters failed to end an expected filibuster. The measure’s sponsor, Sen. John Murante of Gretna, said he intends to travel Nebraska during the next eight months to gather statewide support. He’s not ruling out asking Nebraska residents to amend the constitution through a ballot initiative. He said voters overwhelmingly support voter ID requirements to restore faith in the election process. Murante also is considering a run for Nebraska secretary of state and said he intends to announce a decision within the next few weeks. “We have a problem with voter confidence in our country,” Murante said. “You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the 2016 election.”
The American Civil Liberties Union sued New Hampshire on Wednesday after the state invalidated the absentee ballots of hundreds of voters in the November 2016 election, including a blind woman, because of mismatched signatures, the civil rights group said. The lawsuit was brought against William Gardner, the state’s secretary of state, and New Hampshire’s voter signature-matching law, which the ACLU said violates the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act. “People should not be denied their fundamental right to vote because of penmanship but that’s exactly what is happening in New Hampshire,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in a statement. The state said it could not yet comment on the lawsuit.
A New Hampshire House committee Tuesday reviewed controversial legislation that would tighten identification requirements for voting and registering to vote, with the bill expected to be presented to the full House within the next few weeks. Senate Bill 3 has divided lawmakers and activists along party lines. The Senate passed it by a 14-9 vote on March 30, sending it to the House. The House Election Law Committee spent several hours Tuesday going through the bill line-by-line on Tuesday, discussing technical changes proposed by the committee vice chairwoman, Rep. Yvonne Dean-Bailey, R-Northwood.
Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would switch South Dakota to an open primary system for some political offices say they plan to put the measure before voters in 2018. The effort includes veterans of a campaign last year for a similar amendment that didn’t pass, but backers of the new proposal say they’ve learned lessons from the previous push. Joe Kirby, chairman of the group proposing the constitutional amendment, said it would apply to primaries including those for the state Legislature, governor and congressional offices. For example, in a gubernatorial race under the plan, there would be an open primary in which the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.
Texas: Lawmakers racing against clock to pass bill aimed at curbing mail-in vote fraud | Dallas Morning News
Texas lawmakers are trying to implement legislation that would curb mail-in ballot fraud at nursing homes. The House bill and its Senate companion would amend the Election Code to allow election judges to collect mail-in ballots directly from voters at nursing homes or similar facilities. The new process would prevent political operatives from requesting mail-in ballots for unsuspecting seniors or the infirm and then returning to the facility to pick up the ballots before they reach the voter. It would also make it unnecessary for a person other than an election judge to help a nursing home resident vote. Nursing homes that have more than five mail-in ballot requests would be put on a list maintained by the secretary of state’s office. Election officials would then be notified to send two eligible judges, one Republican and one Democrat, to collect the ballots.
Texas: With Bill to Abolish Straight-Ticket Voting, Is Texas Hurtling Toward Another Civil Rights Lawsuit? | Observer
A bill advancing through the Legislature that would drastically change how the majority of Texas voters cast ballots could embroil the state in yet another voting discrimination lawsuit, critics say. House Bill 25 would abolish “straight-ticket” voting, the “one-punch” option at the top of Texas ballots that allows voters to simultaneously cast a vote for all the candidates of a single political party. Backed by conservative leadership, the bill would slow down the voting process for a majority of the state electorate: 63 percent of Texas voters used the straight-ticket option in the 2016 presidential election, according to Texas Elections Source. Voters would still be able to cast ballots for all the candidates of one party, but HB 25 would make voters select them one by one. The proposal passed the House over the weekend and will be considered by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Thursday.
Editorials: Loss of Texas straight-ticket voting will force down-ballot candidates to change strategies | Gromer Jeffers Jr./Dallas Morning News
Straight-party voting in Texas is on the way out — for now. A bill outlawing the popular practice sailed through the House and is expected to win easy approval in the Senate. If one-punch voting goes away, voters will be asked to wade through ballots containing numerous candidates, many of them obscure. In 2014, Dallas County had more than 100 candidates on a single ballot. So, many voters chose to cast a single vote for all the candidates from the party of their choice. Repealing straight-ticket voting won’t have much impact on races at the top of the ballot. Voters across the state are generally aware and somewhat informed about the high-profile contests for governor and Senate. Even races like district attorney and county judge are in the minds of most voters.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert may well be facing a group of unhappy Republican Party delegates on May 20. He likely will be one of the few in the South Towne Convention Center advocating for a dual-route for candidates to a U.S. House special vacancy election. These are the same delegates who a year ago came within 140 votes of trying to kick Herbert out of office, giving their majority votes to his challenger, Overstock.com chairman Jonathan Johnson. Johnson failed to get 60 percent of the state delegate votes and faced Herbert in a closed June 2018 primary, where Herbert (popular among Republicans at large) crushed Johnson. Here is the proposed bylaw change, which delegates will vote on next Saturday.
Six months after Election Day, pollsters, Democrats, and much of the press are still trying to figure out what went wrong. How did Donald Trump outperform the polls in enough swing states to swipe an electoral victory Hillary Clinton appeared to have safely in hand? On Tuesday, the Nation offered the latest theory in a never-ending string of them, this one focused on what was by some metrics the single biggest surprise of the election: Trump’s victory in Wisconsin, where he trailed in polls by an average of 6.5 points ahead of Nov. 8, 2016. According to new research conducted by data science firm Civis Analytics for liberal super PAC Priorities USA, strict voter-ID laws significantly depressed the turnout of black and Democratic-leaning voters in a number of states, chief among them the Badger State. “Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis,” wrote the Nation’s Ari Berman. “Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.” The unstated but implicit conclusion here is that Hillary Clinton would have claimed Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes if it weren’t for a state law requiring residents to present a driver’s license or another form of government-issued ID to cast a non-provisional ballot.
Three days before the all-party meeting called by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to discuss the concerns over electronic voting machines’ (EVMs) reliability, the AAP on Tuesday conducted a mock poll inside the Delhi Assembly to back its allegations that EVMs can be “hacked” and claimed “such rigging” has led to BJP’s successive wins in the recent elections across the country. To lend credence to the whole exercise in the House, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party had invited representatives of the CPI (M), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Janata Dal (U) and Samajwadi Party to see EVMs hacking. CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu, RJD’s Manoj Jha and leader from the TMC were seen seated in the gallery to see the live demo.
In course, the AAP dared the BJP-led Centre and the ECI that given a chance it can get the EVMs “tampered” through its engineers within 30 hours and in poll-bound Gujarat it requires “just three hours” for the same, before the House adopted a resolution demanding that every election in the country henceforth be held using voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPAT slips as directed by the Supreme Court.
Malta: Nationalist Party claims it already received reports of defaced voting documents | The Malta Independent
The Nationalist Party has already received several reports of voting documents which were already defaced and had ink removed accidentally. PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami said that there were police officers who complained that the fell off and was stuck on the palm of their hand. Dr Fenech Adami this afternoon addressed another press conference on the ‘flimsy documents’ printed by the electoral commission. The PN Deputy Leader yesterday claimed that the new voting documents, which were set to be distributed to households as from today, do not have the necessary safety features, and the ink can be easily wiped off.
Editorials: Moldova’s Proposed Electoral Change Is a Blow to Democracy. The EU Must Oppose It. | Cristina Gherasimov/Chatham House
A proposal to change to a mixed electoral system in Moldova would entrench corruption and harm the young democracy. EU and other Western governments should use their economic clout to stop it. If free and fair elections were held in Moldova today, the current ruling Democratic Party would win about 4 per cent of the vote. Under the country’s current proportional representation system, this would not secure them any seats in parliament.
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron’s campaign hack last week was directed by Russia, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers suggested Tuesday. adding that the Kremlin is showing no signs of slowing down its widespread meddling in elections. Speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Rogers said the U.S. had earlier warned French intelligence about Russian interference. Just 36 hours before the presidential election, Macron’s campaign was targeted by what it called a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack. “If you take a look at the French election…we had become aware of Russian activity,” Rogers said in response to questions about allegations of Russia hacking the Macron campaign.
South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in pledged to unify the nation after nine years of conservative rule that culminated in the country’s biggest street protests since the 1980s and the impeachment of his predecessor. “This is really a victory for the people who did their utmost to make a country for justice, unity, principles and common sense,” Moon told supporters in Seoul. “I’ll become the president for everyone. A president who serves even those who didn’t support me.” The final tally showed Moon received 41.08 percent of votes, while conservative Hong Joon-pyo got 24.03 percent. Centrist Ahn Cheol-soo came third with 21.41 percent.
No criminal charges will be brought against more than 20 Conservative MPs over the national party’s failure to accurately declare campaign spending on a battlebus tour at the 2015 election. The Crown Prosecution Service said their constituency spending declarations “may have been inaccurate” but concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove dishonesty or bring a criminal case against the MPs and their agents. At issue was whether the costs of a Conservative campaign battlebus should have been accounted for by local campaigns where the legal spending limits are tighter at between about £11,000 and £16,000, depending on the size of the constituency.