President Trump on Thursday named Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has pressed for aggressive measures to crack down on undocumented immigrants, to a commission investigating vote fraud, following through on his unsubstantiated claim that millions of “illegals” voted for his Democratic rival and robbed him of victory in the national popular vote. Mr. Kobach, who has championed the strictest voter identification laws in the country, will be the vice chairman of the commission, which will be led by Vice President Mike Pence and is expected to include about a dozen others, including state officials from both political parties, said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary.
National: Firing Fuels Calls for Independent Investigator, Even From Republicans | The New York Times
President Trump’s decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, immediately fueled calls for an independent investigator or commission to look into Russia’s efforts to disrupt the election and any connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government. Calls to appoint an independent prosecutor have simmered for months, but until now, they had been voiced almost entirely by Democrats. Mr. Comey’s insistence that he was pressing ahead with the Russia investigation, and would go wherever the facts took him, had deflected those calls — especially because he was in such open defiance of a president who said the charges were “fake.” Mr. Comey’s firing upended the politics of the investigation, and even Republicans were joining the call for independent inquiries.
National: U.S. Census director resigns amid turmoil over funding of 2020 count | The Washington Post
The director of the U.S. Census Bureau is resigning, leaving the agency leaderless at a time when it faces a crisis over funding for the 2020 decennial count of the U.S. population and beyond. John H. Thompson, who has served as director since 2013 and worked for the bureau for 27 years before that, will leave June 30, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday. The news, which surprised census experts, follows an April congressional budget allocation for the census that critics say is woefully inadequate. And it comes less than a week after a prickly hearing at which Thompson told lawmakers that cost estimates for a new electronic data collection system had ballooned by nearly 50 percent.
Editorials: Online Voting Won’t Save Democracy – but letting people use the internet to register to vote is a start | Bruce Schneier/The Atlantic
Technology can do a lot more to make our elections more secure and reliable, and to ensure that participation in the democratic process is available to all. There are three parts to this process. First, the voter registration process can improved. The whole process can be streamlined. People should be able to register online, just as they can register for other government services. The voter rolls need to be protected from tampering, as that’s one of the major ways hackers can disrupt the election. Second, the voting process can be significantly improved. Voting machines need to be made more secure. There are a lot of technical details best left to the voting-security experts who can deal with the technical details, but such machines must include a paper ballot that provides a record verifiable by voters. The simplest and most reliable way to do that is already practiced in 37 states: optical-scan paper ballots, marked by the voters, counted by computer but recountable by hand. We need national security standards for voting machines, and funding for states to procure machines that comply with those standards. This means no Internet voting.
In January, America’s main intelligence agencies issued a report concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, using a combination of cyber-intrusion, espionage, and propaganda. In addition to the details provided in this account, media outlets have since reported that several election databases were hacked before and after the election. While the Department of Homeland Security found no evidence any of these efforts manipulated vote tallies, the assaults have left many Americans asking: Just how safe are voting machines from cyberattack? The answer is not reassuring. For more than a decade, independent security experts have repeatedly demonstrated that many electronic voting machines are dangerously insecure and vulnerable to attack and manipulation by bad actors.
Georgia: Voters seek review of Georgia voting system before 6th District runoff | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Eleven voters have asked Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to review the state’s voting system ahead of next month’s hotly contested 6th Congressional District runoff. The request is allowed under state law. It comes after one of the three counties in the district — Fulton — experienced a technical snafu on April 18 that delayed reported election results in the race. It also follows a letter to Kemp in March from a group of voting advocates who recommended that the state overhaul its elections system and begin using a system with a paper audit trail.
A federal judge has given Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach until Friday to give the American Civil Liberties Union two documents outlining proposed changes to a federal voting law. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said Wednesday that she privately reviewed the documents, including the one Kobach was photographed taking into a meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump in November. Robinson said she found no error in a magistrate’s April 17 ruling requiring Kobach to produce the redacted documents as part of a lawsuit challenging the state’s voter registration requirements. The ACLU is representing some Kansas voters and the League of Women Voters in that lawsuit.
Elections clerks across Montana could find themselves increasingly challenged to serve voters with severe physical disabilities because of a dwindling supply of polling equipment designed especially for people who cannot use traditional voting machines. Existing inventories of voting machines for disabled voters are antiquated, some nearly two decades old. Many units are in disrepair and elections officials have been unable to replace the aging machines with newer, modern equipment because of state law. In 2008, a disabled voter sued Missoula County for not being in full compliance with federal law when it did not have a backup unit for a malfunctioning machine specially designed for people who do not have full function of their limbs.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday that challenges the process of validating signatures on absentee ballots in New Hampshire. The suit says current law allows election officials to reject an absentee ballot without giving notice to the voter, if they think there’s a signature mismatch in the voter’s paperwork. It also says it puts moderators in the difficult position of acting as handwriting experts. The ACLU filed the suit against the secretary of state’s office on behalf of three absentee voters whose signatures were rejected. All voted in the 2016 general election, but didn’t learn their vote wasn’t counted until this year. One of them, Mary Saucedo, 94, of Manchester, is legally blind and is allowed to obtain assistance in completing the absentee ballot process. Her husband helps her.
Texas: Although Texas leads nation in straight-ticket voting, bill to eliminate it gains traction | San Antonio Express-News
Texas is on the verge of eliminating straight-ticket voting, which supporters say would force voters to pay attention to every race on a ballot but critics say could decrease turnout and put the state at risk of yet another civil rights lawsuit. “I disagree that (straight-ticket voting) is a right, I believe it is an option,” said Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, author of House Bill 25. “I believe this will provide better candidates, better elected officials and I do not believe it will harm voting down the ballot.” Statewide, 63 percent of Texas voters cast straight-ticket ballots during the November general elections, according to Texas Election Source, a non-partisan data-driven public policy group. In Bexar County, the figure was 57 percent with 340,847 voters casting straight ticket ballots for either all Republicans, all Democrats, all Libertarians or all Green Party candidates out of a total of 598,691 votes cast. Forty percent of all straight ticket ballots were for the Republican Party; 57 percent went to the Democrats.
The US watched Russians hack France’s computer networks during the presidential election – and tipped off French officials before it became public, a US cyber official has told the Senate. France’s election campaign commission said on Saturday that “a significant amount of data” — and some fake information — was leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on Emmanuel Macron’s successful presidential campaign. France’s cybersecurity agency is investigating what a government official described as a “very serious” breach.
India: Future elections will be held with paper trail, Election Commission tells political parties | Telugu 360
The Election Commission on Friday ruled out any possibility of the EVMs being tampered with in elections even as it announced that all future elections will be held with VVPAT slips to prevent any doubts while the AAP demanded ‘hackathon’, a view others were not apparently enthusiastic about at an all-party meeting convened to discuss worries over the machines. At the end of the day-long meeting, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi that the poll panel will hold a “challenge” for political parties to prove their allegations that the machines were or could be tampered with. “All future elections will be mandatorily held with VVPAT (Voter-verifiable paper audit trail),” he said. “The Commission will hold a challenge and offer an opportunity to political parties to demonstrate that the EVMs used in the recently-concluded assembly elections were tampered or the EVMs can be tampered with even under the laid down technical and administrative safeguards,” he added.
Let’s be clear at the outset. There is no evidence of a massive voter fraud problem in the United States. There is no evidence of even a modest voter fraud problem in the United States. There is no statistical evidence. There is no anecdotal evidence. There is no more evidence that we need national protections from voter fraud than there is that we need to wear personal lightning-rod suits so that we avoid the 30-odd deaths each year from electrical storms. For any other president, then, an executive order establishing a “presidential advisory commission on election integrity” such as the one Donald Trump signed on Thursday would prompt a flurry of questions about why such a commission was needed. For Trump, though, it’s part of the package: Directing government resources, however modest, to bolster a faulty political argument that he’s embraced despite being repeatedly shown that it’s false.
Kris Kobach, who as Kansas secretary of state repeatedly made unsubstantiated voter-fraud allegations, will co-chair President Donald Trump’s new Commission on Election Integrity, igniting outrage from civil rights groups and top Democrats. Critics ridiculed the very creation of the commission Thursday, as well as Kobach’s role, saying it’s all intended to perpetuate the president’s false claim that millions voted illegally in November. The 12-member bipartisan commission will review claims of improper registrations and voting, fraudulent registrations and voter suppression, White House officials told McClatchy. Members will provide the president with a report in 2018 and may issue recommendations to the states. It’s a sham, charged critics.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena on Wednesday demanding documents related to Russia from President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, ramping up its monthslong investigation of Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. In a joint statement, Senators Richard Burr, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Mark Warner, its top Democrat, said the committee had first requested the documents from Flynn in a April 28 letter, but the retired lieutenant general had declined, through counsel, to cooperate with the committee’s request. It was the first subpoena announced by the committee in its investigation.
The acting director of the F.B.I. contradicted the White House on two major issues on Thursday: the support of rank-and-file agents for the fired F.B.I. chief James B. Comey and the importance of the agency’s investigation into Russian election interference. In a striking repudiation of official White House statements, the acting director, Andrew G. McCabe, said the inquiry was “highly significant” and pledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. would resist any attempt to influence or hobble the investigation. “Simply put,” he said, “you cannot stop the men and women of the F.B.I. from doing the right thing.” That Mr. McCabe felt compelled to assert the F.B.I.’s independence was itself remarkable, a byproduct of the unusually public effort by Mr. Trump and his aides to take focus off the investigations into Russia’s election meddling. He also said the F.B.I. investigation had the resources it needed, partly disputing an account that Mr. Comey had sought more aid. Mr. McCabe did not hesitate to make clear where Mr. Comey stood in the eyes of F.B.I. agents and employees.
Three-thousand Wisconsinites were chanting Donald Trump’s name. It was Oct. 17, 2016, just after the candidate’s now-infamous “locker-room” chat with Billy Bush became public knowledge. But the crowd was unfazed. They were happy. And they were rowdy, cheering for Trump, cheering for the USA, cheering for Hillary Clinton to see the inside of a jail cell. The extended applause lines meant it took Trump a good 20 minutes to get through the basics — thanks for having me, you are wonderful, my opponent is bad — and on to a rhetorical point that was quickly becoming a signature of his campaign: If we lose in November, Trump told the supporters in Green Bay, it’ll be because the election is rigged by millions of fraudulent voters — many of them illegal immigrants. That night wasn’t the first time Trump had made this accusation, but now he had statistics to support it. His campaign had recently begun to send the same data to reporters, as well. In both cases, one of the chief pieces of evidence was a peer-reviewed research paper published in 2014 by political scientists at Virginia’s Old Dominion University. The research showed that 14 percent of noncitizens were registered to vote, Trump told the crowd in Green Bay, enough of a margin to give the Democrats control of the Senate. Enough, he claimed, to have given North Carolina to Barack Obama in 2008.
National: ACLU Files FOIA Request for Voter Fraud Evidence After Trump Orders Election Commission | Law News
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Thursday to learn why President Donald Trump thinks there is voter fraud. This comes after POTUS signed an Executive Order to implement a commission to examine voter fraud in federal elections. “The Commission shall, consistent with applicable law, study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections,” it says. When done, they’d report to Trump on relevant policies, and vulnerabilities in voting systems. The ACLU’s FOIA request targets our head-of-state’s public comments on voter fraud, citing a Jan. 25 interview with ABC. It is old news that Trump has claimed that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, but he didn’t provide his sources. The ACLU’s stance: Prove it.
The Department of Commerce announced on Tuesday that Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson will step down at the end of June, creating the possibility of a leadership void at the bureau in the run-up to undertaking the 2020 Census. In a statement, Thompson, who will retire on June 30, said he plans to “pursue opportunities in the private sector.” Thompson was sworn in as census director in 2013, and had reportedly been expected to remain in the role through the end of 2017. The results of the United States census, which takes place every decade, are crucial for determining the allocation of government resources for schools, law enforcement, and housing. Information collected by the census also has a direct bearing on how American citizens are represented in federal government since the population count serves as the basis for how congressional districts are carved out.
The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved new legislative districts, but only after Democrats were able to delay a vote by having the bill read aloud for 16 hours. Representatives in the GOP-controlled House approved the districts in a 70-30 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans argued the bill fairly corrects problems identified by a federal court with current boundaries. Democrats contended Republicans rammed through a plan aimed at entrenching GOP dominance in the state and minimizing the influence of black voters. Before the vote, Democrats requested for the 539-page bill to be read aloud. The process took 16 hours as the sound of the computerized bill reader filled the chamber for two days. Black lawmakers in the House said they requested the reading in order to make their objections known because Republicans tried to limit floor debate on the plan that is headed back for court review.
Lawmakers in the state House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 272 on Wednesday (May 10) that makes it easier to recall an elected official from office. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, now moves to the Senate for further consideration. “My belief is that we need to enact this immediately and across the board,” Hollis said, in response to a question from Rep. Joe Stagni, R-Kenner, about delaying implementation if the bill becomes law. Following a debate that lasted about 10 minutes and an added amendment requiring recall organizers to state the reason for targeting an election official for removal, House members voted 70 to 27 in support of the bill.
Nevadans may get another weekend of early voting. Assembly Bill 272 would allow county elections officials to have early voting last until the Sunday before Election Day. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, told the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Wednesday that the measure is intended to increase voter access.
Heading into Wednesday morning, the fourth after Dallas’ Saturday city council election, there are a couple of sure things about the incomplete District 6 council race. There is going to be a runoff election on June 10 to decide the West Dallas seat at the horseshoe and Monica Alonzo, the incumbent in the race and first round leader currently sitting at about 39 percent of the vote, is going to be in it. What isn’t clear is who her opponent will be. Omar Narvaez,currently leads Alex Dickey by 47 votes for second place, but more than 450 mail-in ballots in District 6 have not been tabulated. According to paperwork filed by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office about 700 mailed in ballots total in Council Districts 2 and 6 can be traced back to “an individual that signs his name Jose Rodriguez.” Rodriguez, who the district attorney’s office believes does not exist, at least under that name, signed his name to hundreds of applications for mail-in ballots, attesting that he helped the person requesting the ballot apply for it. Those are the ballots that have yet to be included in District 6’s totals.
The first legislation that Bulgaria’s ruling centre-right GERB party has proposed within the new 44th National Assembly – the introduction of a majoritarian electoral system – is likely to face opposition from the other four parties in parliament. Following promises it made during the previous legislature and in the campaign ahead of the snap vote on March 26, GERB on Wednesday proposed changes to the electoral code that would transform the current mixed electoral system into a fully majoritarian one, in which MPs are elected in constituencies with an absolute majority in two rounds. The proposal follows a referendum on changes to the political system held on November 6, 2016, which 2.5 million citizens – 11,000 short of the number needed to make the results of the plebiscite mandatory – supported.
For someone who’s rooting for Angela Merkel’s election opponent, labor-union official Josef Huelsduenker has a lot of respect for the chancellor. Sitting in a cafe in the town hall of Gelsenkirchen, a rust-belt town in Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial heartland, the longtime Social Democrat said Merkel’s relationship with the unions “improved hugely” after the financial crisis during her first term. He finds her far more approachable than any of her fellow Christian Democrat cabinet ministers.
India: Electronic voting machine tampering, electoral reforms: Election Commission to meet with political parties today | The Indian Express
The Election Commission of India will today hold an all party meeting to discuss the issue of alleged EVM tampering as well as electoral reforms that it has proposed. The EC has invited seven national and 48 state parties to the meeting during which the commission is also likely to throw an “open challenge” to prove allegations of EVM tampering.
Iran’s highest leader said on Wednesday that any disrupters of national elections, which are less than two weeks away, would receive a “slap in the face,” underscoring the political tensions lurking behind the vote. The warning came in a widely publicized speech by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to graduating cadets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the powerful paramilitary force, in which he emphasized that security was the most important issue in the May 19 election, when Iranians will choose a new president and city and village councils. Ever since unprecedented antigovernment protests after the disputed 2009 presidential vote, elections have become delicate moments in Iran.
A leaked copy of the British Labour Party’s manifesto reveals a number of policy changes that could be implemented in the U.K. if the party wins the upcoming general election on June 8. The document, first obtained Wednesday by the Daily Telegraph, contains information regarding the Labour Party’s proposals for Brexit, along with the party’s stance on national defense, tuition fees, and nuclear weapons, among other issues. While the manifesto still awaits signatures from dozens of party members, it is expected to receive final approval on Thursday.
Growing cases of poll-related violence in the backdrop of the local elections has exposed lapses in the ‘integrated polls security plan’ of the Ministry of Home Affairs. While the existing security arrangements have so far proved successful to contain the activities of the poll-opposing forces, it has failed to take into account other dimensions of the polls security including security of poll candidates and election campaigners.
National: Lawyers who said Trump has no ties to Russia named Russian law firm of 2016 | The Guardian
The law firm that said Donald Trump has no financial ties to Russia “with a few exceptions” was recognized in 2016 as Russia law firm of the year. In the letter released on Friday – but dated 8 March – Morgan Lewis tax partners Sherri A Dillon and William F Nelson said a review of Trump’s tax returns for the past 10 years did not find income from Russian sources during that period, save for “a few exceptions”. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, a break with decades of tradition. The law firm did not release copies of the returns, rendering its assessment of the documents impossible to verify independently. Morgan Lewis was honored by Chambers Europe, a division of publisher Chambers & Partners that ranks law firms based in the region. According to a press release dated 2 May 2016: “The prestigious honor was announced at the publication’s recent annual awards dinner in London, where firms from 24 countries were recognized.”