The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has won another legal battle over the political boundaries it drew earlier this decade. It could be the final legal skirmish in the current commission’s seven-year existence. On Thursday, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected challenges from a coalition of Republican voters that the commission used the wrong process in drawing boundaries for Arizona’s nine congressional districts. Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman also rejected claims that the five-member commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Law as it went about its work.
The U.S. Justice Department, in the face of rising pressure from Capitol Hill, named former FBI chief Robert Mueller on Wednesday as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow. The move followed a week in which the White House was thrown into uproar after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Democrats and some of the president’s fellow Republicans had demanded an independent probe of whether Russia tried to sway the outcome of November’s election in favor of Trump and against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
It seemed like an important victory for voting rights advocates on Monday when the Supreme Court declined to reconsider an appellate decision striking down North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. But those who follow the arcana of election law have another view — that the justices have merely postponed a showdown over what kind of voting rules are acceptable and how much influence partisanship should have over access to the ballot box. And in that struggle, it is by no means certain who will prevail. A parade of voting rights cases is headed for likely review by the Supreme Court — including challenges to gerrymanders in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas and a ruling against another restrictive voter law in Texas. At the same time, states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors are continuing to enact stringent election laws, many of them similar to the ones already moving through the courts.
President Trump has empaneled a commission to investigate voter fraud. The real fraud is the commission itself. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is to be led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Mr. Kobach, a Republican, is a longtime champion of voter suppression laws who seconded as “absolutely correct” the president’s fabricated assertion that Hillary Clinton’s victory in the popular vote, which she won by nearly 3 million ballots, was a result of “millions of people who voted illegally.” Mr. Kobach is notorious for erecting impediments to the ballot box — specifically, ones that would disproportionately discourage and deter minority and other Democratic-leaning voters. His presence as the commission’s vice chair — Mr. Pence’s other responsibilities make it likely that Mr. Kobach will be the panel’s driving force — makes a farce of the idea that the commission’s work will be dispassionate, fair and clear-eyed.
Georgia: As millions pour into Georgia’s congressional runoff, the voting machinery is among the worst in America | Salon
There are so many disturbing aspects to the special election happening in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, the election runs on Microsoft Server 2000. That is not a typo. “That’s a crap system,” said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa in a phone interview; adding that the database in use, Microsoft Access is a “toy database” that should never be used for industrial applications. nFulton County Elections Director Richard Barron acknowledged in testimony on the troubled first round of the election, that the system is “inflexible.” But delving into his testimony further, and speaking to both local and national computer experts it’s evident that the results of the first round of the election on April 18th are legitimately suspect and that no election running on this type of computer system can be verified as accurate.
North Carolina: Supreme Court won’t save North Carolina voting restrictions, GOP leaders say they will try again with new law | News & Observer
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider reinstating key provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 elections law overhaul, which includes a voter ID requirement and other restrictions on voting. Within hours of the release of the order, N.C. Republican Party leaders were calling for a new law that would incorporate some of the same ideas in a manner that they thought could withstand judicial review. The Supreme Court ruling gave few details about why the justices left a lower-court decision in place that struck down the restrictions, stating they “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Utah: Legislators lobbing threats at Herbert in the fight over a special election to replace Chaffetz | UtahPolicy
Within the bounds of Utah Republican congenial politics, what’s happening now on Capitol Hill between GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Republicans lawmakers is about as bad as it’s been in recent years. Wednesday, members of the House GOP caucus basically threatened to sue Herbert before the state Supreme Court over whether he will call them into a special session to decide how a replacement for U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz will be picked. Meanwhile, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, told an open caucus meeting that Chaffetz’s resignation could come as soon as next week, but surely before the end of June.
The Legislature’s budget committee on Tuesday approved state funding for five of six Elections Commission staff positions that have been supported by federal grant that’s set to run out, dismissing Gov. Scott Walker’s recommendation to cut all six of them. The governor argued that the commission can handle its workload without the positions that had been supported by the federal Help America Vote Act passed in 2002. But state and local elections officials disagreed, arguing that the jobs were critically important to ensuring that Wisconsin’s elections are properly run.
India: Electronic Voting Machine row: Why Election Commission is not going back to ballot paper for polls | India Today
Since 2000 the country has witnessed 107 Assembly elections and three Lok Sabha polls (2004, 2009, and 2014) where EVMs were used to cast and record votes in all the constituencies and at all the poll booths. The parliamentary polls of 2004 were the first general elections to be fully conducted through electronic voting machines (EVMs). The incumbent government lost power. Before that the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal in 2001 were completely conducted using EVMs. During the first two Lok Sabha elections in 1952 and 1957, and simultaneous Assembly polls, each candidate was allotted a separate ballot box. The poll symbol of the candidate or his party was pasted on the respective ballot boxes.
Tulsi Gurung, 35, woke up at dawn on May 13 to board a bus at Kathmandu’s Naya Bus Park with his wife, Ri Maya Gurung, 32, and their daughter Rebika Gurung, 4. The bus park was crowded despite the early hour; passengers awaiting departure loitered with glasses of tea and hawkers announced bottled water and pustakari, a Nepali sweet, for sale. Tulsi and his family had come to catch a bus to their village of Laprak in Gorkha District, just kilometers from the epicenter of the April 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and left over 750,000 families homeless. Tulsi, a trekking guide, had recently completed a climb of Tukche Peak in the Annapurna region of the country. Ri Maya usually stays in the village, where she lives in a temporary shelter with the children and farms potatoes and buckwheat, but she had brought Rebika to the capital city several days earlier to treat an eye infection. The family was in a hurry to return home to vote in local elections — the country’s first since 1997. For many Nepalis, the election represents their first chance to choose local representatives responsible for governance and development, and to influence the ongoing earthquake recovery process.
It was a few days after the start of the new millennium, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was holding a reception at Spaso House, for decades the elegant residence of the American ambassador. Russia’s tumultuous Boris Yeltsin era had come to an abrupt, shocking end on New Year’s Day, when the Russian president who had brought down the Soviet Union and turned his country into a chaotic, fledgling democracy announced his resignation. His successor was the man he had named his prime minister just four months earlier, a man barely known to most Russians, let alone to the outside world: former KGB officer Vladimir Putin. As Jim Collins, a soft-spoken career diplomat who was then the U.S. ambassador to Russia, made the rounds at that reception, querying guests as to what they thought of the dramatic shift atop the Kremlin, the overwhelming sentiment was relief. The Yeltsin era, which had begun with so much promise, had turned into a shambolic, deeply corrupt dystopia.
Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters. The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.
National: US spies caught Russian officers bragging about causing chaos in the election 6 months before the vote | Time
US spies caught Russian officers bragging about causing chaos in the election 6 months before the vote | Time #url#
National: How Trump’s new ‘election integrity’ appointee has unleashed chaos on elections in the South | Facing South
President Trump signed an executive order last week creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to promote “fair and honest Federal elections,” following up on his unproven claims that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton because of widespread voter fraud. The commission will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, and its vice chair will be Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. Kobach’s appointment has alarmed voting rights advocates, who point to his record of making unsubstantiated claims about the extent of voter fraud — which study after study has found to be negligible — and using them to promote strict voter ID laws and other policies that make it harder to vote.
The U.S. is in the midst of a historic moment of civic participation. And while protesters march in the streets and politicians wrangle with each other over the aftermath of an election, the people who actually run elections are quietly working on making their systems better. And those systems are, by all accounts, in need of updating. At the first-ever Global Election Technology Summit on May 17 in San Francisco, hosted by the Startup Policy Lab, a diverse group of people involved in elections and the technology used to run them gathered to talk about how they can improve the process for everyone involved. Here are three things they said the government could use right now to make elections better.
National: ACLU files Right-to-Know request with Secretary of State over election commission | New Hampshire Union Leader
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire has filed a Right-to-Know request with Secretary of State Bill Gardner, seeking information about his participation in the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission is headed up by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The Right-to-Know request in New Hampshire is part of a national campaign targeting commission members who currently serve as secretaries of state.
President Trump is doubling down on his false claims of voter fraud, fulfilling his promise to appoint a commission to study election integrity. We should see this move for what it is: a simple ploy to play into the misperceptions of his base, regardless of the evidence. More significant, if the focus of the commission is on election integrity, than it will be asking the wrong questions. We do not need a commission to tell us what we already know: Voter fraud, while existing occasionally in local races, is rare. Instead, we need to study why we make it far too hard for many people in this country to vote and what we can do to promote positive voting reforms. We need a commission on voter enhancements, not voter fraud.
“Many” Alabama felons will soon regain the right to vote if Gov. Kay Ivey signs a bill that landed on her desk Thursday morning, according to advocates. The bill, called the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act, passed both houses of the state legislature Wednesday, a victory for backers who have sought for years to see it codified into law. If Ivey signs it, the bill would more clearly define the term “moral turpitude” as it is used in the state constitution, which stipulates that “no person convicted of a felony of moral turpitude” may vote.
The mechanisms are in place for Colorado to have an open primary next year and a presidential primary in 2020. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 305, giving direction to county clerks on how to conduct the elections that are new or revived in this state. Up until now, primary elections have been restricted to registered members of political parties, and Colorado has been in the minority of states that chooses its presidential party nominees via a caucus system where residents must be registered with the party and attend meetings.
Texas: Abbott declares voter ID bill an emergency item as legislative session nears end | Dallas Morning News
With little more than a week to go in the legislative session late Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a bill to overhaul the state’s controversial voter identification bill an emergency matter. In letters to both chambers of the Legislature, Abbott said he was designating the bill for “immediate consideration.” Senate Bill 5, which the Senate passed in March, has not been debated on the House floor. The bill is now on the House calendar for Tuesday — the last day it can be initially approved by the chamber in time to be enacted. Abbott joined a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers pushing the Legislature to approve changes to the state’s voter ID law. On Friday, Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the House to pass the bill. The next day, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick added the bill to his list of “must-pass” bills to avoid a special session.
Colleen O’Brien didn’t know her usual polling place wouldn’t be open for Montana’s May 25’s special election to fill Montana’s U.S. House seat until last week. “It’s making it incredibly inconvenient at best, and it is disenfranchising an underserved, underrepresented population at worst,” O’Brien says. O’Brien votes in East Glacier, on the Blackfeet Reservation, in Glacier County. The election administrator there has decided to cut five of its usual polling places, consolidating seven down to two — not five as we erroneously reported earlier. County officials say that’s necessary to cut costs, but O’Brien, who’s not Native American, worries the consolidation will make it harder for people living in more far flung areas of the reservation to vote.
The House Election Law Committee voted 11-9 along party lines on Tuesday to endorse an amended version of an election reform bill designed to toughen the verification requirements for voting. If SB 3 becomes law, voters would still be allowed to register and vote on Election Day even if they lack proof of domicile, but they would have to fill out a lengthy affidavit and be required to submit various forms of proof within 10 days of the election.
On Monday, the Supreme Court dealt a death blow to North Carolina’s notorious voter suppression law, refusing to review a lower court’s decision to block the measure for “target[ing] African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Republicans in the General Assembly, however, responded immediately with plans to introduce a new voter ID bill that mirrors the old, unlawful one. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who opposes voter ID laws, estimates that GOP legislators will pass the bill within ten days. Due to a gerrymander that has been found to be unconstitutionally racist, Republicans dominate the state legislature and will likely override Cooper’s inevitable veto.
The conflict between Utah’s governor and state Legislature escalated Thursday after Rep. Jason Chaffetz officially announced his plans to leave Congress, with legislative leadership threatening legal action over how the vacancy is filled. Gov. Gary Herbert has said he will not call a special session of the Legislature for state lawmakers to set the process for replacing Chaffetz, R-Utah, when he steps down June 30. In response, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, issued a statement warning Herbert that “the path forward with the least amount of legal risk would be for the governor to call a special session to allow lawmakers to add appropriate election language to the state code.”
Utah: Legislators, county clerks tussle over ‘ranked-choice voting’ proposal | The Salt Lake Tribune
Legislators and county clerks wrestled Wednesday over whether to pursue “ranked-choice voting,” sometimes called instant runoff voting, to help ensure that election winners are actually supported by a majority of voters. In such a system, voters rank their first, second, third, etc. choices. If no one achieves a majority initially, the lowest-vote-receiving candidate would be eliminated. Supporters of that eliminated candidate would have votes shifted to their second choice. The process would repeat until someone wins a majority. Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, has for years pushed bills to allow this type of voting. Legislation on the topic passed the House this year, but it died in the Senate after the Utah Republican Party endorsed the idea to help resolve worries that multi-candidate primaries could lead to winners who achieve small pluralities.
Editorials: No passport, no vote: why this cynical Tory plan will suffocate democracy | Maya Goodfellow/The Guardian
Nestled among a raft of Ukip-esque anti-immigration policies in the Tory manifesto is a plan to force people to show identification when they vote. No passport, no driving licence? No vote. The Tories say this would stop electoral fraud, but statistics suggest they’re interested in making it harder for people to vote. According to data from the government’s own report of the 51.4m votes cast in all elections in 2015, there were a mere 130 allegations of voting fraud in 2015. That amounts to 0.00025% of votes. Now, these figures can’t be taken as exact; some of the allegations might be untrue, some go unnoticed. And as the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) pointed out, the report largely relies on “anecdotes and self-professed claims to have witnessed (or even just heard about) electoral fraud”. But even when taking all of this into account, you’d be hard pressed to make the case that voter fraud is in any way a significant problem in the UK.