Susan Rice, former President Obama’s national security adviser, on Sunday dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “Frankly, he’s lying,” Rice said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The reality is — as all of our intelligence agencies have come together to affirm with high confidence — the Russian government at the highest levels was behind the very unprecedented effort to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.” Rice said the country needs to understand how and why that happened. The country also needs to find out whether there is “any evidence to suggest that there were those on the American side who facilitated that meddling,” she said, referring to allegations that members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.
National: Trump Appears Unlikely to Hinder Comey’s Testimony About Russia Inquiry | The New York Times
President Trump does not plan to invoke executive privilege to try to prevent James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, from providing potentially damaging testimony to Congress on statements the president made about an investigation into his former national security adviser, two senior administration officials said Friday. Mr. Trump could still move to block the testimony next week, given his history of changing his mind at the last minute about major decisions. But legal experts have said that Mr. Trump has a weak case to invoke executive privilege because he has publicly addressed his conversations with Mr. Comey, and any such move could carry serious political risks. One of the administration officials said Friday evening that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Comey to testify because the president had nothing to hide and wanted Mr. Comey’s statements to be publicly aired. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a decision that had not been announced.
Editorials: Constitutional Connections: Race, partisan gerrymandering and the Constitution | John Greabe/Concord Monitor
For the most part, the Constitution speaks in generalities. The 14th Amendment, for example, instructs the states to provide all persons the “equal protection of the laws.” But obviously, this cannot mean that states are always forbidden from treating a person differently than any other person. Children can, of course, be constitutionally barred from driving, notwithstanding the Equal Protection Clause. Thus, there is a need within our constitutional system to refine the Constitution’s abstract provisions. Otherwise, public officials and the people would not know what is permitted and what is forbidden. The process of refinement has devolved principally (although not exclusively) to the courts. It is the courts that have told us that the Equal Protection Clause permits the states to discriminate on the basis of age in issuing driver’s licenses, but ordinarily does not permit the states to treat persons differently on the basis of their race.
Voting Blogs: EAC Commissioners Divided on Authority Over Proof of Citizenship Documents | Brennan Center for Justice
Officials on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced in a federal court filing today that they’re split along partisan lines over whether the panel’s executive director acted within his authority last year when he allowed three states to include documentary proof of citizenship requirements on federal voter registration forms. The disagreement means that the September 2016 injunction against the burdensome registration requirements stills stands. The memo, filed by commissioners in federal district court today, discussed Executive Director Brian Newby’s decision to grant the federal form requests at issue in the case. Two commissioners, Chair Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick, both Republicans, found that Newby had the authority to do so. One, Thomas Hicks, a Democrat, found that he did not and wrote separately to that effect.
Alabama might allow more former felons to vote in upcoming elections after lawmakers, for the first time, approved a definitive list of what crimes will cause someone to lose their voting rights. Alabama lawmakers last month gave final approval to legislation that defines a crime of “moral turpitude” that will cause someone to lose their voting rights. The measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, is aimed at ending confusion over who can, and can’t vote, because of prior convictions. The new list of 46 types of felonies includes robbery, assault, felony theft and drug trafficking but not offenses such as drug possession.
California: County election officials say hundreds of voters in L.A.’s congressional race haven’t received their mail ballots | Los Angeles Times
With less than three days until the special congressional election in Los Angeles, hundreds of newly registered voters have not received the mail ballots they requested, county election officials say. More than 400 voters who registered as permanent mail voters between May 1 and May 31 have not gotten their ballots to vote, said Aaron Nevarez, a manager for governmental and legislative affairs at the L.A. County registrar’s office.
California: Trump wouldn’t release his tax returns, so lawmakers move to make it mandatory for California’s primary | Los Angeles Times
Legislation to require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to gain a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot won passage in the state Senate on Wednesday, but only after a tense debate that largely centered on President Trump. Senate Bill 149 was approved on a strict party-line vote, 27-13. The bill now moves to the state Assembly, and was one of the last bills debated during a marathon session at the state Capitol to consider bills before a Friday deadline for action. The bill would require presidential candidates to file copies of their income tax returns with state elections officials for the five most recent taxable years. Failure to do so would mean their name wouldn’t appear on California’s presidential primary ballot. The legislation was introduced in December, in the wake of Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns during the 2016 campaign. The president has continued to reject calls for the information.
State lawmakers have little time to determine how to implement the ranked choice voting law that was passed by voters in November. Following the Maine Supreme Court’s advisory opinion that the law was in conflict with the state constitution, lawmakers have three options moving forward. The law, as it stands, would allow residents to rank their ballot choices from first to last in a system that ensures a candidate wins majority support. “Has anyone ever wondered why we are having so many citizen’s initiatives on ballots these days? It’s because the people of Maine think that they are not being heard by this legislature,” said Rep. Kent Ackley, (I). Some lawmakers support allowing the voting system to proceed in federal elections, as the questions of constitutionality pertain only to elections for governor and state lawmakers. Other legislators hope to amend Maine’s constitution to bring the full law into compliance.
Minnesota: Secretary’s push to replace aging election equipment signed into law | Faribault Daily News
Secretary of State Steve Simon is praising a new law that will help replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment, calling it a “critical and necessary investment” to ensure voting equipment works properly and consistently in precincts all around the state. Replacing aging equipment has been a major priority of Secretary Simon’s since taking office and was signed into law May 30. The bill creates a $7 million grant fund to replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment by 2018. It provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books.
The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the past 30 days rejected efforts by North Carolina lawmakers to make it harder for African Americans to vote while also packing them into as few districts as possible to diminish their electoral influence. In the latest ruling, announced May 21, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s opinion that North Carolina’s efforts to draw new lines for congressional districts unfairly packed two districts with African American voters and thus limited their ability to influence other political contests. The court agreed that majority-black districts might help the candidates favored by black voters win elections. But it said that North Carolina lawmakers had gone too far by drawing the lines in an effort to dilute the number of African Americans voters in other districts.
There just seems to be something inherently unfair about how Ohio draws its congressional district lines, a process that, in 2011, was controlled by Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly. Historically, it’s never mattered what party was in control of the process – Republicans draw districts that favor their party; Democrats draw lines that favor their party. But this 2011 re-draw of congressional districts in Ohio was a doozy. The Republican legislature drew lines that all but guaranteed that Republicans would hold three-fourths of the state’s congressional districts until at least the year 2022. Under current law, the majority party in the legislature draws the congressional district lines every 10 years after the U.S. Census; and there is not a whole lot the minority can do about it.
A congressional redistricting case could offer Texas Democrats a glimmer of hope for making gains in the Republican-dominated state if a new map takes effect shortly before the 2018 midterm elections. Revised congressional boundaries could create opportunities for Democrats looking to win back the House — but also challenges if they must quickly find formidable candidates in newly competitive races. And if a court redraws the state’s map, the GOP-led state government would lose control of a tool that lawmakers in Texas and across the country have relied on to stay in power. “As usual, it’s an interesting time in Texas politics where we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” said Colin Strother, a Democratic consultant in the Lone Star State.
Cambodia’s opposition made significant gains in local elections against the ruling party of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday, according to the first results. The election for more than 1,600 communes would not mean a major shift in power, but could be a springboard for next year’s general election, in which Hun Sen aims to extend more than three decades in power in the Southeast Asian country. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 11 out of the first 80 communes for which results were declared. In the last local election, the ruling Cambodia National Rescue Party won 97 percent against a divided opposition.
Officials scrambled Friday to smooth the path for the endorsement of a new vote law amid fears that sticking points could unravel the agreement reached by the country’s top leaders at Baabda Palace. A series of important meetings were held Friday between senior officials with each of Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri aimed at speeding up the implementation of the agreement reached by President Michel Aoun, Berri and Hariri at their closed talks before an iftar hosted by the president at Baabda Palace Thursday. Sticking points such as the percentage for candidates to win electoral seats in any district, the preferential vote, and the duration of a technical extension of Parliament’s term could block the agreement which calls basically for the adoption of a proportional voting system dividing Lebanon into 15 districts.
People in Lesotho voted in a national election on Saturday just two years after the previous one as the Southern African kingdom struggles with political instability. The nation of 2 million people has been hit by several coups since independence from Britain in 1966 and army troops were on duty until the polls closed at 1500 GMT on Saturday. Election officials expect results to start trickling in early on Sunday. King Letsie III has been head of state of the landlocked country, which is surrounded by South Africa, since independence from Britain in 1996. But political leadership has been volatile in recent years with the last two elections failing to produce a winner with a clear majority.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat won a second term in office after calling a snap parliamentary election last month to counter allegations of corruption against his wife and some of his political allies. Muscat’s Labour Party won 55 percent of votes in Saturday’s election, handing it an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament, according to political sources on both sides involved in the vote tally. The Labour Party had polled about five percentage points ahead of the rival Nationalist Party going into the vote. Nationalist Party chief Simon Busuttil called Muscat and conceded defeat on Sunday morning.
Yesterday’s voter turnout of 92.07% was the lowest turnout figure since the 1966 election, although it was only less than one percentage point lower than 2013’s turnout figure of 92.98%. In what can be described as a very long and painstaking night in politics, both the Nationalist and Labour parties have spent hours poring over the voter turnout figures in each electoral district, closely analysing who were those who decided to not cast a vote in yesterday’s general election.
Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) limped to victory in a key state election on Sunday, according to preliminary projections of results that were quickly challenged by the leftist party beaten into second place. The party, however, was heading for a loss in one state and struggling in another. The putative win in the State of Mexico was a close call for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s PRI, which has governed it for nearly nine decades. It will not end the aspirations of leftists led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an early favorite for next year’s presidential race. Despite its apparent victory against a party that was only founded three years ago, the PRI still has to battle widespread anger at corruption and rising violent crime under Pena Nieto as the countdown starts for the July 2018 presidential election.
On February 20 when the Pushpa Kamal Dahal led government announced local elections after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, the whole nation sprang up in joy. Like many others, locals of Khotang district too could not wait to exercise their voting rights in the polls originally scheduled for May 14. To their disappointment, the government then decided to hold polls in two phases – on May 14 and June 14, with Khotang also falling in the second phase. After severe objection from the Madhes-based parties, the government, on April 23, again postponed the polls date for the second round in an apparent bid to bring the agitating parties on board. According to the latest schedule the polls are now slated for June 28. But locals of Khotang are disappointed with the date as it falls during peak paddy plantation season.
With less than a week until the UK General Election takes place, attention is turning towards the danger of cyber criminals or state actors hacking into party, governmental or parliamentary systems, or disrupting the voting system itself. With similar attacks hitting both the US and French presidential elections, such concerns are founded in reality — but does that necessarily mean such an attack is likely? The IT Pro team considers the possibility that our democracy is the next area to be disrupted.