The implementation of ranked-choice voting hangs in limbo. The system, which election reform advocates have called a “better way to vote,” could be headed back to voters or could die at the hands of the Legislature, depending on what happens with two 11th-hour bills allowed into the legislative process on Thursday. Maine voters approved a change to ranked-choice voting last year after supporters gathered enough signatures to place it on the November ballot. But that law was ransacked this week in an advisory decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which said the voting method would be in violation of the Maine Constitution. The Constitution states that Maine elections can be won by plurality. That means in a contest with more than two candidates, whoever receives the most votes wins even if that person doesn’t receive a majority of all votes cast.
The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas Wednesday for testimony, documents and business records from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of an investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. “As part of our ongoing investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 campaign, today we approved subpoenas for several individuals for testimony, personal documents and business records,” said a joint statement from Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who are leading the House committee’s inquiry. “We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation. We will continue to pursue this investigation wherever the facts may lead.”
National: Trump administration moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York | The Washington Post
The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. President Barack Obama said Dec. 29 that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes” and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them. Separately, Obama expelled from the United States what he said were 35 Russian “intelligence operatives.”
National: Hillary Clinton: Russia Got Help From Americans in Election Meddling | Wall Street Journal
Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said she believes that Russians likely received help from inside the U.S. on how to effectively use the information that intelligence agencies say was gathered to meddle in last year’s presidential election, which she lost to President Donald Trump. “The Russians, in my opinion and based on the intel and counterintel people I’ve talked to, could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided,” said Mrs. Clinton at the Code technology conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Mrs. Clinton added that the guidance would likely have come from Americans and people with polling and data information.
Editorials: Can states adopt “use-it-or-lose-it” limits on voting rights? | Lyle Denniston/Constitution Daily
The Supreme Court, taking on another significant controversy over voting rights, agreed on Tuesday to clarify the power of states to take voters off the registration rolls if they skip going to the polls in several elections. The new case from Ohio will come up for review in the court’s term starting next fall. At issue is an appeal by state officials seeking to defend their view that federal voter registration laws allow the states to adopt limited versions of a “use-it-or-lose-it” condition on keeping a current voter registration. The appeal has the support of 15 other states, but has drawn opposition from civil rights groups who claim that “voter purge” laws are suppressing the right to vote of many thousands of citizens.
President Donald Trump is upset he lost the popular vote by such a historic margin, and this month he announced he is going to do something about it. What started as a presidential lie about voter fraud has turned into the President’s “Commission on Election Integrity,” a group that poses an actual threat to American democracy. With so much bad news coming out of the White House, a scandal can feel like a welcome distraction from Trump’s policy proposals, which have the potential to harm many Americans. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. As the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia gets underway, the President has formed a sham of a commission to suppress voting rights.
District of Columbia: A driver’s license in D.C. will soon come with a perk: automatic voter registration | The Washington Post
Every District resident over the age of 18 who gets a driver’s license would become automatically registered to vote under a spending plan the D.C. Council is expected to give final approval to later this month. The spending plan, which advanced easily on Tuesday, would mean the District would join eight states with automatic voter registration. Many Democratic lawmakers embraced automatic registration as a way to counter restrictive voter ID laws supported by some conservatives. Government groups have also pressed states to link voter registration with other government databases, saying doing so would help clean up inaccurate state voter rolls. Lawmakers in 32 states have introduced measures in the last year to automatically register drivers to vote.
Local election officials hope the state will budget enough money to do automatic voter registration properly. “Have they figured out how they’re going to pay for it and implement it? That will be key for its success,” said McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. “It would be a good thing if it worked perfectly, but we’re awaiting further details on it.” The state House and Senate sent Gov. Bruce Rauner legislation that would automatically add residents to the voter rolls when they visit state offices, including those of the secretary of state, who oversees driver’s licenses and vehicle registration. Residents would be able to opt out at the beginning of the registration process. … Logan County Clerk Sally Turner, however, said, “Most county clerks have resigned to the fact that (automatic voter registration) will be the law, but we are all apprehensive in the way it will occur.”
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) intends to sign legislation supported by both chambers of the Illinois legislature that will automatically register people to vote when they interact with state drivers’ facilities and other state agencies. The decision to sign the legislation marks a big victory for voting rights advocates. Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year. At the time, he said the legislation would “inadvertently open the door to voter fraud and run afoul of federal election law.” But a few changes were apparently enough to convince Rauner to sign on to automatic voter registration, which has already led to considerable gains in the number of registered voters in Oregon, the first state to implement it last year. Illinois would be the ninth state to adopt automatic voter registration, and advocates estimate it could add over 1 million voters to the state’s rolls.
Maine: Maine’s citizens passed ‘ranked-choice voting.’ Why did Republicans shoot it down? | The Washington Post
Last fall, Maine voters passed an experiment in voting that no state has ever before tried: ranked-choice voting. It’s an experiment some say could change the national calculus against third parties, as I’ll explain below. But the state’s Republican-led Senate asked Maine’s Supreme Court to rule on the system — and the court recently issued an advisory ruling that ranked-choice violates the state constitution. So why would anyone be interested in ranked-choice voting — and why are Maine’s Republicans fighting it? Okay, what’s ranked-choice voting, and why would it be unconstitutional? A voter ranks candidates from one to six. If no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, the last-placed candidate is dropped. Ballots for the dropped candidate move to the next-ranked person on each ballot.
Seven individuals challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District as unconstitutional are asking a federal court to overturn the state’s voting map or block officials from using it in the 2018 election. John Benisek, a resident of Williamsport, and other residents allege that gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats during the 2010-2011 redistricting process violated their First Amendment rights, diminishing the ability of Republicans to elect candidates of their choice for the congressional seat now held by Rep. John Delaney (D). Plaintiffs’ attorneys deposed some of the state’s leading Democrats, including former governor Martin O’Malley, who said he felt a responsibility to make the seat more winnable for Democrats. The seat was held at the time by Roscoe Bartlett (R), and O’Malley led the redistricting effort.
Missouri: On eve of new photo ID voting law, opponents equate it to ‘Jim Crow’ | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis voters will be among the first to go to the polls under a new statewide photo-identification voting law, during a special election for an aldermanic seat in July. But Missouri’s top election official is acknowledging the state won’t be ready to provide free IDs to all in that election who may need them. “We won’t get free IDs to everyone who wants them before the St. Louis city special election,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a top Republican proponent of the controversial new law, said in an interview Wednesday. Still, he batted back what he alleged is a campaign by the law’s opponents to discredit it, and he insisted that backup provisions in the law would allow every eligible voter to vote even if they don’t have IDs. “People are misleading the voters of the state about what this law said,” Ashcroft said, “and I think that’s despicable.”
North Carolina: Will third time be a charm for those who want North Carolina Supreme Court to invalidate election maps? | News & Observer
A challenge to election maps drawn in 2011 that has twice come before the N.C. Supreme Court will return for a third pass before a court that has shifted since its most recent review from a Republican to a Democratic majority. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order that sent a lawsuit filed by former Democratic state legislator Margaret Dickson for another review by North Carolina’s highest court. The order tells the North Carolina justices to reconsider its 2015 decision upholding the maps in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that found lawmakers relied too heavily on race when drawing congressional districts in 2011.
The U.S. Supreme Court will review Ohio’s contested purge of its voter rolls next term, adding a potentially major case on voting rights to its docket for the first time since Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the high court. The justices agreed to hear the case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, in their weekly release of orders on Tuesday. At issue is the removal of tens of thousands of Ohio voters from the state’s voter list ahead of last November’s election. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the process before Election Day last year before it had fully taken effect, while a federal district court allowed 7,515 voters who had already been removed by that point to cast a ballot.
Pennsylvania: How Jay Costa wants to fix Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional districts | The Incline
Advocates for redistricting reform won the first battle: They got people talking about it. Now comes the hard part. The 2020 census is right around the corner, and with it, the redrawing of the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s legislative and congressional districts. There are a number of bills already under consideration that take these processes out of the hands of politicians and put them into the hands of average citizens. State Sen. Lisa Boscola has introduced legislation that would create an 11-person panel to draw both sets of boundaries, a proposal that has bipartisan support. The bill also has the backing of Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan project of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania that supports giving redistricting power to an independent commission.
Legislation to automatically put anyone who applies for a Rhode Island driver’s license on the state’s voter rolls, unless they opt out, cleared the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, despite GOP efforts to block the same practice at other state agencies with troubled computer histories. In the end, the vote was unanimous for the legislation championed by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, the governor and a long list of groups, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Rhode Island, Young Democrats of R.I., and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.
Since Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote in November, our new commander-in-chief has consistently attacked the legitimacy of popular vote totals that showed his rival, Hillary Clinton, well ahead of him on election day. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted in November. Although he has doubled down on the claim in several subsequent statements, offering an estimate of three to five million illegal votes and complaints about specific states, Trump has failed to provide evidence of widespread fraud. Myrna Pérez, a Texas native and civil rights lawyer, won’t take the president at his word. As head of the Voting Rights and Elections project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, Pérez has seen states around the country—Texas included—rushing to respond to voter fraud threats. “As someone who’s driven by data, as someone who researches elections, as someone who is in the business of making sure our elections represent the voices of actual Americans, I’m very troubled at the policies we see that seem to not have any science or data behind them,” Pérez says.
As the 2017 Texas legislative session winds down, the way Texans will vote remains in flux. There’s a new voter identification law headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, but it’s unclear whether it will pass muster in federal court. A bigger voting rights issue, which threatens the state’s entire congressional map, remains unaddressed, also with a pending court case. In that one, the state faces charges of illegally diluting the votes of the state’s black and Latino populations. On Sunday afternoon, the Texas House of Representatives finally signed off on Senate Bill 5, the seemingly dead revision of the state’s 2011 voter ID bill that Abbott revived as a priority last week. The bill is mostly the same as the 2011 measure and requires that all Texans hoping to vote present a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S. citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate. However, it also adopts similar remedies to those put in place by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos for the 2016 general election after she ruled that the 2011 measure discriminated against minority voters.
The federal police chief says it would be “naive” to dismiss the threat of Russian interference in a future Australian election. AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin will head to the United States soon for talks with his counterparts on counter-terrorism and cyber security. American intelligence and security agencies say there was Russian interference – ranging from the spreading of disinformation to data theft – in the 2016 US presidential elections and 2017 French elections. Mr Colvin said the issue would be on his agenda. “I think we would be ignorant and naive if we didn’t think this is a real threat,” Mr Colvin told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
To vote or not to vote. For many of Cambodia’s saffron-robed Buddhist monks, it’s a difficult question. On one hand, activism among monks has a long tradition, from helping create a strong Khmer national identity during colonial rule, to leading the drive for independence in the 20th century, to protesting with the urban and rural poor in their land rights battles. On the other hand, as one of Cambodia’s top monks, Tep Vong has repeatedly said that monks should be a neutral force in an effort to protect the national religion’s hallowed image. At Wat Langka, one of Phnom Penh’s oldest pagodas, near Independence Monument, a respected veteran monk said he had never voted in his birth country.
Facebook has criticised a new German law that would force social media companies to pay up to €50 million (£43 million) if they fail to remove hate speech and false news, saying it will encourage paranoid tech companies to delete legal content in order to avoid the hefty fines. In March, the German government proposed legislation to fine social media companies if they fail to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly. The plans were approved by Germany’s cabinet in April but they are yet to come into force. Now Facebook has responded to the new law, which is being referred to as the “Network Enforcement Act” or “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” in German (NetzDG, for short). The Californian tech giant issued a statement over the weekend explaining why the draft law “is not suitable to combat hate speech and false news.”
With the monsoon now just around the corner, concerns have been raised that the second phase of local elections rescheduled for June 28 might be marred by rainfalls and water-induced disasters. Monsoon rain in Nepal originates from the Bay of Bengal and enters the country from the eastern side usually around June 10. This year, the Meteorological Forecasting Division (MFD) is expects the monsoon to arrive on time. In the worst case scenario, even if the monsoon gets delayed by a week, the second phase of the elections will be held only after the onset of the monsoon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have adopted President Trump’s rhetoric about the ongoing probes on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, calling it “fiction” and accusing the Democrats of inventing the allegations because they are still bitter about losing. The Kremlin leader told Le Figaro, a French newspaper, that the allegations were inspired by the “desire of those who lost the U.S. elections to improve their standing,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday. Putin also repeated his firm denial of Russian involvement with the hacking of members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee — hacks that negatively impacted the Democrats in the election.