National: Intelligence Officials Warn of Continued Russia Cyberthreats | The New York Times

On the same day that President Trump went on Twitter to renew his claim that the focus on Russian hacking was “a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election,” his two top intelligence officials told the Senate on Thursday that Russian cyberactivities were the foremost threat facing the United States and were likely to grow only more severe. The officials delivered the warning as the nation’s intelligence agencies released their annual worldwide threat assessment, which described the Kremlin’s “aggressive cyberposture,” evidenced by “Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election.” Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, repeated and endorsed, almost word for word, the Obama administration’s conclusion that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 U.S. election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets.”

National: Russian Election Meddling ‘Well Documented,’ Tillerson Says | Bloomberg

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election has been “well documented,” but it’s still in the interests of the U.S. to attempt to improve relations with Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. “I don’t think there’s any question that the Russians were playing around in our electoral processes,” Tillerson said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” on Sunday. He added that the impact of that meddling was “inconclusive.” Even so, “it’s in the interest of the American people, it’s in the interest of Russia, the rest of the world, that we do something to see if we cannot improve the relationship between the two greatest nuclear powers in the world,” Tillerson said.

National: Richard Burr Leads Russia Inquiry, Whether He Likes It or Not | The New York Times

The premonition came in a Winston-Salem conference room, on an otherwise happy election night in 2004, before Richard M. Burr of North Carolina had even declared victory in his bid to join the Senate. News outlets had begun calling the race. A watch party was waiting for him. But his mind was elsewhere, at least for a moment. “He said, ‘I hope they don’t put me on the Intelligence Committee,’” recalled Paul Shumaker, a top strategist for Mr. Burr who sat with him to follow the returns. “‘It’s hard enough to sleep at night the way it is.’” Mr. Burr’s present sleep habits are unknown, particularly as he tiptoes at last toward criticism of a president he had generally praised — until the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director. This much is less ambiguous: Now the committee’s chairman as it investigates ties between President Trump’s associates and Russia, the unobtrusive Mr. Burr is shrugging into a spotlight he never expected and does not especially seem to relish.

Editorials: The Commission to Round Up the Usual Suspects | Justin Levitt/Take Care

Repeatedly, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump claimed that the 2016 election was “absolutely being rigged.” Not only in the sense of an allegedly distorted media narrative, “but also at many polling places.” He specifically claimed, for example, that there was “large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” The assertions persisted after the election, not merely from a candidate but from the President-Elect and then President of the United States.  He stated that there was “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” (all states in which he did not prevail).  He further stated that he lost the popular vote only because 3-5 million peoplevoted illegally.” State and local officials actually supervising the election process have, in bipartisan fashion, consistently rebutted these claims. In litigation over recount proceedings, the President’s own attorneys consistently rebutted these claims

Illinois: Washington County disputes voter roll allegations | SE Illinois News

Washington County is “NOT in violation” of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, County Clerk Nancy Heseman told the SE Illinois News in an email recently. Heseman was responding to allegations by a Washington-based conservative group known as Judicial Watch, which sent a letter to Illinois accusing 24 counties of being in violation off election laws. The Illinois State Board of Elections has since filed a response to Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, saying the group was wrong. “Since the advent of the statewide voter database in Illinois, the SBE has continuously monitored voter registration levels in various jurisdictions,” the letter said. “You are either working from bad data, or are misunderstanding the data you have.”

Kansas: A Seeker of Kansas Voter Fraud Gets a National Soapbox | The New York Times

Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, oversees an office whose clerical and regulatory work costs the state’s taxpayers barely $5.5 million a year. But he has parlayed that modest post into a national platform for tough restrictions on voting rights and immigration, becoming both a celebrated voice within the Republican Party and a regular target of lawsuits by civil rights advocates. Now, as vice chairman of the new Advisory Commission on Election Integrity announced by the White House on Thursday (Vice President Mike Pence is the titular chairman), Mr. Kobach has a far bigger soapbox for his views on voter fraud — which Republicans, including President Trump, call a cancer on democracy. Others say it is a pretense for discouraging the poor, minorities and other typically Democratic-leaning voters from casting ballots. Academic studies regularly show — and most state election officials agree — that fraud is rare, and that the kind of fraud Republicans seek to address with voter ID laws is minuscule.

Editorials: Maryland Democrats’ faux redistricting reform | The Washington Post

With its preposterously gerrymandered congressional voting districts, Maryland is an outstanding example of why states need nonpartisan redistricting reform. But the redistricting bill that emerged this year in Annapolis — in equal parts cynical and ludicrous — makes clear that the Democrats who dominate both houses of the General Assembly there remain loath to part with the incumbent-protection racket that enables them to choose their voters and perpetuate their grip on power with scant regard for good governance. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery), is an Alphonse-and-Gaston arrangement, except that in this case there is not one Gaston but five. It would establish a nonpartisan commission to draft the state’s congressional districts — so far so good — but only if five other Eastern Seaboard states agreed in lockstep to do the same. (They are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.)

Texas: Reaching across the aisle, Texas lawmakers target voter fraud at nursing homes | The Texas Tribune

Here’s something folks rarely see in Austin, or other statehouses, in these politically prickly times: a bipartisan effort to crack down on voter fraud. In the waning days of the 85th Texas Legislative Session, a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers — backed by party leaders — are pushing to tighten oversight of absentee ballots cast at nursing homes, which experts have long called vulnerable to abuse. This effort has another twist: It could also bolster ballot access among the elderly. “When was the last time you heard about a voter fraud bill that actually made it easier to vote?” said Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress, one of the Republicans championing the proposal.

Austria: Coalition collapse opens way to far-right election challenge | Financial Times

Austria’s government coalition collapsed on Friday, almost certainly paving the way for elections in the autumn, when one of Europe’s longest-established far-right populist parties could win the largest share of the vote. Sebastian Kurz, foreign minister, in effect tore up a coalition deal between his centre-right People’s party and chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats by demanding an early national vote. His decision reflected widespread disenchantment with the “grand coalition,” which has failed so far to reverse Austria’s economic underperformance — although the country remains among the most affluent in Europe.

Congo: Election risks delay due to militia violence: commission president | Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election, slated for late this year to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, could be delayed because of persistent militia violence in central Congo, the election commission president said on Friday. The elections were originally supposed to have been held by November 2016 but were postponed when the government said it needed more time to register voters. Many analysts say further delays could rekindle violent anti-Kabila protests that resulted in dozens of deaths last year. Under a deal struck in December, a presidential election to replace Kabila, in power since 2001, must take place by the end of this year. Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate on Dec. 19 to avoid a power vacuum in the absence of the vote.

Nepal: Voting in first local election ends peacefully – All eyes on the 2nd round | Nepali Times

By all accounts, the first round of local elections on Sunday went off much better than anyone had expected, with people voting enthusiastically and in large numbers for their local ward, village and municipality members. However, the Election Commission’s decision to count ballots and declare results immediately has raised concerns about the second phase next month. Even so, the orderly voting and high turnout on Sunday has raised hopes that despite delays caused by a deadlock in the constitution, this could be a landmark on the road to greater inclusion and political devolution.

Russia: Nato stages summit to counter alleged Russian interference in elections | The Guardian

Security specialists from 27 countries including Britain and the US will meet in Prague in what is being billed as the most concerted attempt yet to counter alleged Kremlin destabilisation measures aimed at undermining western elections. The Czech interior ministry is hosting the five-day summit staged by Stratcom – Nato’s strategic communications arm – in an effort to persuade governments and the European Union to strengthen electoral processes amid rising concern over suspected interference by the Russian government under Vladimir Putin. The event comes at a time of heightened sensitivity following Donald Trump’s sacking last week of the FBI director, James Comey, who had been overseeing an investigation into alleged links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

United Kingdom: Foreign minister says Russia may try to interfere in election | Reuters

There is a “realistic possibility” Russia might try to interfere in Britain’s national election next month, according to Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary. In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper published on Saturday, the Conservative politician also said Russian president Vladimir Putin would “rejoice” if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party won the June 8 election. Referring to Putin, Johnson said: “Clearly we think that is what he did in America, it’s blatantly obvious that’s what he did in France [where incoming president Emmanuel Macron’s emails were hacked], in the western Balkans he is up to all sorts of sordid enterprises, so we have to be vigilant.”

United Kingdom: Follow the data: does a legal document link Brexit campaigns to US billionaire? | The Guardian

On 18 November 2015, the British press gathered in a hall in Westminster to witness the official launch of Leave.EU. Nigel Farage, the campaign’s figurehead, was banished to the back of the room and instead an American political strategist, Gerry Gunster, took centre stage and explained its strategy. “The one thing that I know is data,” he said. “Numbers do not lie. I’m going to follow the data.” Eighteen months on, it’s this same insight – to follow the data – that is the key to unlocking what really happened behind the scenes of the Leave campaign. On the surface, the two main campaigns, Leave.EU and Vote Leave, hated one other. Their leading lights, Farage and Boris Johnson, were sworn enemies for the duration of the referendum. The two campaigns bitterly refused even to share a platform.

National: Trump creates voter-fraud panel that critics label a ‘sham’ | The Washington Post

President Trump on Thursday launched a long-promised commission on “election integrity,” rekindling a controversy over the prevalence of voter fraud at U.S. polls. The commission, established by executive order, is the upshot of Trump’s unsubstantiated claim shortly after taking office that more than 3 million undocumented immigrants illegally voted in November’s election. White House aides said the scope of the commission, chaired by Vice President Pence, will reach beyond allegations of voter fraud to include voter suppression and other suspect election practices, and would include members of both major political parties.