National: Putin says Russian role in election hacking ‘theoretically possible’ | The Guardian

Vladimir Putin has given his broadest hint yet that Russia may have played a role in the hacking of western elections but emphatically denied that his government was involved. Speaking at the St Petersburg economic forum, the Russian president acknowledged that it was “theoretically possible” that “patriotic” Moscow hackers might have interfered in foreign polls. Asked on Thursday if Russia would meddle in Germany’s election later this year, Putin said: “If [hackers] are patriotically minded, they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia. “Is that possible? Theoretically, that’s possible,” he said.

Editorials: On voting rights, we’re becoming two separate and unequal countries | Paul Waldman/The Washington Post

America, as we all know, is a deeply divided nation, split along lines of class and race and culture and politics. And in this most polarized time, the two parties are pulling the places where they dominate further apart, creating a red and blue America that can be profoundly different depending on what side of a state line you stand on. In few areas is this more evident than in the way the parties treat the ballot. Consider the following. Yesterday, the Illinois House passed a bill creating automatic voter registration (AVR) in the state, so that when you get a driver’s license or interact with state agencies in other ways, you’re automatically registered to vote. The Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, vetoed a previous version of the bill, but he may end up having no choice in this blue state but to support it, in which case Illinois would join eight other states (plus the District of Columbia) that have created AVR in recent years.

Maine: Lawmakers hear passionate debate on ranked-choice voting | Portland Press Herald

Supporters and opponents of ranked-choice voting laid out their cases Friday during a sometimes-heated four-hour hearing on a first-in-the-nation election method that the state’s highest court says is unconstitutional. About two dozen people spoke to the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, with most urging members to keep ranked-choice voting as a way to depolarize an increasingly uncivil political landscape. “Ranked-choice voting encourages politicians to reach across lines … to appeal beyond their natural constituents to voters who pick them as a second or third choice,” said Amy Smith, a retired political scientist and the town clerk in Arrowsic. Smith, citing her own academic studies, said plurality voting is often associated with increasingly uncivil and sometimes violent campaigns, in which politicians appeal solely to their own bases, or core constituencies. “The surest way to rule their own base is to demean and disrespect the other side,” she said.

Maryland: Lawsuit forces Maryland Democrats to acknowledge the obvious: Redistricting was motivated by politics | Baltimore Sun

Maryland Democrats drew the state’s convoluted congressional districts with an eye toward ousting a longtime Republican incumbent and replacing him with a Democrat, former Gov. Martin O’Malley has acknowledged as part of a high-profile legal challenge to the maps winding its way through federal court. The acknowledgment that state Democrats were working in 2011 to add a seventh member of their party to the House of Representatives, widely understood at the time but seldom conceded publicly even now, comes as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is advocating for a nonpartisan redistricting commission, ostensibly to curb partisan gerrymandering.

North Carolina: Rebuked Twice by Supreme Court, North Carolina Republicans Are Unabashed | The New York Times

In Washington, efforts by this state’s Republicans to cement their political dominance have taken a drubbing this month. On May 15, the Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina elections law that a federal appeals court said had been designed “with almost surgical precision” to depress black voter turnout. A week later, the court threw out maps of two congressional districts that it said sought to limit black voters’ clout. And it could get worse: Gerrymandering challenges to other congressional and state legislative districts also are headed for the justices. But if North Carolina Republicans have been chastened in Washington, there is scant evidence of it here in the state capital. Quite the opposite: Hours after the court nullified the elections law, for example, party officials said they would simply write another.

Ohio: Supreme Court to hear case on Ohio voter purges, latest in a string of voting rights cases | USA Today

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear yet another case on voting rights — not so much about who can vote, but who cannot. The justices will hear Ohio’s challenge to a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s aggressive method for purging voters from its registration rolls. The decision to hear the case could signify that some of the Supreme Court’s more conservative justices believe Ohio and other states have a right to purge voters for not voting in several successive elections. Ohio says at least 10 other states have similar processes; opponents say only five do: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Texas: Abbott signs voter ID, end of straight-party voting into law | Austin American-Statesman

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new voter ID bill into law Thursday, loosening identification requirements from a 2011 law that a federal judge said was enacted by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats. Senate Bill 5 will allow registered voters who lack a photo ID to cast a ballot after showing documents that list their name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement, government check or work paycheck. Such voters would have to sign a “declaration of reasonable impediment” stating that they could not acquire a photo ID due to a lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, disability, illness, family responsibility, or lost or stolen ID.

Italy: As Voting Rules Deal Nears, Italy Moves Toward Early Elections | Bloomberg

The path is beginning to clear for Italians to head back to the polls as the country’s main political parties near a deal on a new electoral law. Italy’s biggest parties are considering a proportional system similar to the German model with a 5 percent cut-off for smaller parties, and lawmakers are due to discuss a first draft of the new law early next month. An agreement would remove any hindrance to snap elections, eliminating the need to wait for scheduled elections in early 2018. “Momentum is building among political leaders and is pushing towards early elections but it will be an uphill battle against the President and parts of the rank-and-file in the parliament,” Giovanni Orsina, a professor of government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University said in a phone interview.

Nepal: Local elections postponed for a second time after ethnic minority groups threaten boycott | Hindustan Times

The Nepal government on Monday deferred the second phase of elections to local bodies by nine days to June 23 to ensure the participation of agitating Madhes-based parties. According to a cabinet decision, some electoral provisions will be amended speedily in line with the demands of the Madhesi parties so that they can register and get their election symbols. But the government was silent on two key demands of the Madhesi parties — amendments in the new Constitution to make it more Madhes-friendly and inclusive, and increasing the numbers of local government units in the plains known as Terai.

National: Protesters in Washington Demand Independent Russia Inquiry | The New York Times

The March for Truth, the latest in what has become nearly weekly demonstrations of various stripes against the Trump administration, drew a sign-waving crowd to the Washington Monument on Saturday to protest possible collusion between associates of President Trump and Russian officials in the 2016 election. As new revelations have continued to emerge five months into the administration — the latest involving reported efforts by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, to create a secret back channel to Russia — the protest was organized on Twitter under the banner #MarchforTruth. The several dozen demonstrators in Washington said they were demanding a well-staffed, independent commission, removed from the White House’s influence, to investigate the possibility of collusion. They also called for Mr. Trump to release his tax returns, saying the documents could shed light on any connections to Russia.

National: Maybe Private Russian Hackers Meddled in Election, Putin Says | The New York Times

Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suggested on Thursday that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year that meddled in the United States presidential election. While Mr. Putin continued to deny any state role in the hacking, his comments, made to reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia, departed from the Kremlin’s previous position: that Russia had played no role whatsoever in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and that, after Donald J. Trump’s victory, the United States had become the victim of anti-Russia hysteria among crestfallen Democrats. Asked about suspicions that Russia might try to interfere in the coming elections in Germany, Mr. Putin raised the possibility of attacks on foreign votes by what he portrayed as free-spirited Russian patriots. Hackers, he said, “are like artists” who choose their targets depending how they feel “when they wake up in the morning.” Any such attacks, he added, could not alter the result of elections in Europe, America or elsewhere.

National: Putin’s Just Trolling the World Now on Trump and the US Election | The Fiscal Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded for the first time that perhaps computer hackers from his country actually had worked to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The concession comes as the Trump administration is preparing to restore Russian diplomats’ access to two luxury East Coast vacation properties a few months after the Obama administration took them away as punishment for Russian interference in the election. Speaking to reporters in St. Petersburg, Putin continued to insist that there had been no government-sponsored effort to attack Clinton and the Democratic National Committee — a claim the entire U.S. Intelligence Community rejects. However, he said, “patriotic” Russian hackers might have taken it upon themselves to stand up for their country against someone, as Putin put it, “who say bad things” about it.

Arizona: Counties threaten funding cutoff to force meeting with Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office | The Arizona Republic

It’s Reagan vs. Recorders, again. This time, the dispute among Secretary of State Michele Reagan and the 15 county elections officials in Arizona is over who’s to blame for letting lapse a committee that makes sure the voter-registration database keeps working. But it’s really about simmering tensions over the upcoming creation of a new statewide voter-registration system — and who will be in charge. “I think the counties got tired of being pushed around,” said F. Ann Rodriguez, the Pima County recorder.

California: Here’s why California officials want $450 million to upgrade elections technology | Press Enterprise

Imagine using a dial-up modem for Internet and VHS for entertainment in 2017. California elections officials say they face a similar situation with the technology used for a bedrock function of democracy. It’s why Secretary of State Alex Padilla supports a bill to raise $450 million through bonds to upgrade elections technology in California’s 58 counties. The bill, AB 668, passed the Assembly 56-19 on Wednesday, May 31. If it passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California voters will decide whether to authorize the bonds in June 2018. Republicans argue the bill, known as the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, is a costly and wrong-headed approach to upgrading elections systems. “The right to vote is our most important right,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego. “But local election officials have to rely on equipment that is rapidly becoming outdated or obsolete.”

Connecticut: Secretary of the State Makes Push For Early Voting | WSHU

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says it’s time Connecticut update its constitution to allow for early voting. She says early voting would address the 21st century needs of voters. “It reduces long lines on Election Day and it gives people multiple opportunities to vote. You know it’s a different world than it was 200 years ago and people are mobile and busy.” Merrill says that getting more people to vote is key to creating a healthy democracy.

Georgia: Gwinnett County renews effort to get minority voting rights suit dismissed | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gwinnett County, its school district and its elections board have filed new motions arguing for the dismissal of a minority voting rights lawsuit filed against them last fall. The federal suit — filed in August on behalf of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Georgia NAACP and several individual plaintiffs — claims that the way Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners and school board districts are drawn dilutes the ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. Gwinnett is a minority-majority county but has never had a non-white candidate elected to either board.

Illinois: Automatic registration might not mean more voters | News Tribune

Voter rolls soon may be growing, but that doesn’t mean more people are going to vote. The Illinois House voted 115-0 this week to approve automatic voter registration for citizens who use state services, such as the driver facilities at the Secretary of State’s offices. It changes registration from “opt-in” to “opt-out.” On Wednesday, the Senate passed the bill 55-0. “The new system assumes they want in,” said David Druker, press secretary for the Secretary of State’s Office, of voters.

Maine: Supporters of ranked-choice voting call on legislators to adopt parts of law | Portland Press Herald

Supporters of a new Maine law that sets up the nation’s first ranked-choice voting system rallied Thursday at the State House and called on lawmakers to implement portions of the law that have not been called into question by the state’s highest court. Voters approved ranked-choice voting through a ballot question last November, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion in late May that found the parts of the law affecting candidates for governor and the Legislature were in conflict with the Maine Constitution, which calls for candidates to be selected by a plurality and not necessarily the majority required under the ranked-choice system.

Missouri: New voter photo ID law is unclear and unfunded, advocates claim | St. Louis American

According to a new law, effective June 1 Missouri voters must have state-issued photo ID in order to vote. In the November 8 election, voters passed Constitutional Amendment 6, which authorizes photo ID requirements at the polls. In a May 31 press conference organized by the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, a group of over 30 nonprofits and public servants, questions were raised both about whether this law is ethical and about how it will be implemented. The rule will be effective in the elections this upcoming July and August, which will include a St. Louis City aldermanic election on July 11, and special elections for one Missouri House and one Missouri Senate seat on August 8.

Nevada: Bill would replace Nevada voting machines | Nevada Appeal

A bill that would pay to replace all of Nevada’s electronic voting machines was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday. Assembly Bill 519 would provide a total of $8 million to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. County elections officials have repeatedly told lawmakers the Sequoia machines are now so old they’re failing, causing numerous problems for poll workers in early voting as well as on election day. Those machines are now more than a decade old and were the state’s first electronic voting system, replacing the old punch card voting machines.

New Hampshire: Bill tightening voter registration requirements passes in the House | Union Leader

A Senate-passed bill that modifies the definition of domicile to tighten up on voter registration in New Hampshire passed the House with amendments on Thursday, 191-162. SB 3 has been the focus of efforts by the Republican majority in the state Legislature to eliminate what they call “drive-by voting” by non-residents such as campaign workers or tourists. If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu as expected, a person registering to vote 30 or fewer days before an election would be required to provide the date they established their domicile in the state, and would have to complete a registration form to prove it.

North Carolina: Judges uphold law diminishing governor’s elections role | Associated Press

North Carolina judges sided Thursday with Republican legislators who stripped down the election oversight authorities of Gov. Roy Cooper. A three-judge panel unanimously dismissed a lawsuit by Cooper, who challenged the law as unconstitutional. The judges offered no reasons for their decision, issued within hours of hearing lawyers for Cooper and the Republican-dominated General Assembly argue about the law. The lawsuit that is part of the ongoing political battle that began after Cooper narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year. GOP lawmakers have sought to defang Cooper’s powers ever since. Cooper plans to appeal the ruling, said his spokesman, Ford Porter.

Texas: State may expand ballot access for elderly, disabled voters | The Texas Tribune

Something peculiar happened last week when few people were looking: Texas lawmakers approved legislation that might make it easier for thousands of people to vote. And they didn’t let politics get in the way. A day after House Republicans and Democrats spent six hours bickering over voter identification requirements, the Legislature sent Gov. Greg Abbott a separate proposal — backed by both parties — to simultaneously curb voter fraud at nursing homes and widen ballot access to elderly Texans who live in them.

Editorials: Wisconsin nonpartisan redistricting makes fair maps, saves tax dollars | Andrea Kaminski and Lindsay Dorff/The Cap Times

In a victory for voters last fall, a federal court ruled Wisconsin’s legislative districts unconstitutional and ordered the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw voting districts. With the deadline for the new maps now just five months off, Attorney General Schimel has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the requirement to draw new voting maps, saying that Wisconsin should not have to “invest the considerable time, effort and taxpayer resources” to comply with the order. Actually, Wisconsin taxpayers have already “invested” more than $2.1 million to have the unconstitutional districts drawn in secret by a private law firm and then litigated through two lawsuits. The costs continue to spiral now that the case is in the U.S. Supreme Court. We learned recently that taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $175,000 to have private law firms write amicus briefs defending the maps in the Supreme Court.

France: French cyber security agency says no trace of Russian hacking Macron | Associated Press

The head of the French government’s cyber security agency, which investigated leaks from President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, says they found no trace of a notorious Russian hacking group behind the attack. In an interview in his office Thursday with The Associated Press, Guillaume Poupard said the Macron campaign hack “was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone.” He said they found no trace that the Russian hacking group known as APT28, blamed for other attacks including on the U.S. presidential campaign, was responsible.

Ireland: Bill to extend Irish Presidential election voting rights to people in Northern Ireland receives cross-party support | Derry Now

Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed this morning’s cross party support from the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for his Bill which seeks to extend the franchise in Presidential elections to citizens in the North and in the diaspora. The Bill which is co-sponsored by Seán Crowe TD would also lower the voting age in Presidential elections to 16. The Bill is entitled the ‘Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Presidential Voting) Bill 2014’.

Lebanon: The Human Rights Cost of a Parliament Extension in Lebanon | Human Rights Watch

If Lebanon’s parliamentarians postpone general elections for a third time, they will have more than doubled the time they were elected to serve, dashing the hopes of citizens who have been waiting to elect their representatives since 2013. The last general election was in June 2009. Because Lebanon’s voting age is 21, some people are close to turning 30 but have never had a chance to elect their parliamentary representatives. President Michel Aoun in April suspended parliament for one month, to allow parliamentarians more time to resolve debate over Lebanon’s electoral law and to avert an anticipated one year extension. But they have yet to come to an agreement, and Speaker Nabih Berri has once again postponed the legislative session until June 5.

Russia: Putin Says ‘Patriotic Hackers’ May Have Targeted U.S. Election | The Atlantic

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday his country has “never engaged in” hacking another nation’s elections, but left open the possibility that hackers with “patriotic leanings … may try to add their contribution to the fight against those who speak badly about Russia.” “Hackers are free people, just like artists who wake up in the morning in a good mood and start painting,” Putin told news agencies at a meeting in St. Petersburg, the Associated Press reported. “The hackers are the same, they would wake up, read about something going on in interstate relations and if they have patriotic leanings, they may try to add their contribution to the fight against those who speak badly about Russia.”

United Kingdom: Nigel Farage is ‘person of interest’ in FBI investigation into Trump and Russia | The Guardian

Nigel Farage is a “person of interest” in the US counter-intelligence investigation that is looking into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Guardian has been told. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March. WikiLeaks published troves of hacked emails last year that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign and is suspected of having cooperated with Russia through third parties, according to recent congressional testimony by the former CIA director John Brennan, who also said the adamant denials of collusion by Assange and Russia were disingenuous.