National: Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say | The Washington Post

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

National: Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal with new limits on Trump | Politico

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan package of new Russia sanctions that also lets Congress block President Donald Trump from easing or ending penalties against Moscow, the year’s most significant GOP-imposed restriction on the White House. The 97-2 vote on the Russia sanctions plan capped a week of talks that demonstrated cross-aisle collaboration that’s become increasingly rare as Trump and the GOP push to repeal Obamacare without any Democratic votes. Senators merged the sanctions package with a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill that’s on track for passage as soon as this week, complicating the politics of any future veto threat from the Trump administration. “It’s particularly significant that a bipartisan coalition is seeking to reestablish Congress, not the president, as the final arbiter of sanctions relief, considering that this administration has been too eager — far too eager, in my mind — to put sanctions relief on the table,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who pressed hard for the strongest possible anti-Russia bill, said in a floor speech. “These additional sanctions will also send a powerful, bipartisan statement that Russia and any other nation who might try to interfere with our elections will be punished.”

California: Democrats craft law to help win California recall election | The Sacramento Bee

Democrats are pushing late-blooming bills to significantly improve state Sen. Josh Newman’s odds of surviving an effort by the state GOP and others to recall him from office. The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot. The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election. Regular election turnout historically is much higher than turnout for special elections, which helps Democrats. The effort to recall Newman, D-Fullerton, began soon after his April 6 vote for a road-funding plan that will raise taxes on gas and diesel and vehicle fees by billions of dollars. Newman, who represents an area that has long had Republican representation, won election last fall by just 2,498 votes.

Colorado: Remember the faithless electors? Colorado secretary of state wants to bolster rules banning them | Denver Post

Nearly six months after the Colorado statehouse became the unlikely stage for a dramatic attempt to deny Donald Trump the presidency, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is looking to prevent a repeat performance of last year’s Electoral College theatrics. A proposed policy change would require Colorado presidential electors to take an oath swearing to back the winner of the state’s popular vote or be replaced by someone who will. The rule parallels an emergency protocol adopted in December that was aimed at defusing a planned Electoral College revolt led in part by Colorado’s Democratic electors.

Georgia: GOP congressional candidate Handel ignored election integrity report, Georgia professor says | The Washington Post

Eleven years ago, after Karen Handel had been elected as Georgia’s first Republican secretary of state since Reconstruction, Richard DeMillo, head of the Office of Policy Analysis and Research at Georgia Tech, got a call about an important project. The state’s election system, updated with new machines, needed a hard look. “They said: Take a look at our processes, take a look at our technology, and give us your opinion,” DeMillo said. “I assigned some people from our Information Security Center to work on it.” In May 2008, the Georgia Tech Information Security Center and Office of Policy Analysis and Research released its report, “A Security Study of the Processes and Procedures Surrounding Electronic Voting in Georgia.” A number of potential problems came up, from the transportation of election machines by prison laborers to password protection of machines and poll-watcher training.

Georgia: Security lapses may lead Georgia to ditch election data center | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Kennesaw State University center that has helped run Georgia’s elections for the past 15 years may lose its contract in a matter of weeks because of concerns over security lapses that left 6.5 million voter records exposed. The secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that it is “actively investigating alternative arrangements” to using Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, news that coincided with the unmasking by Politico Magazine of the security researchers behind a data scare involving the center that became public in March. “All options are on the table,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The center’s annual $800,000 contract with the state ends June 30.

Georgia: Researcher finds Georgia voter records exposed on internet | Associated Press

A security researcher disclosed a gaping security hole at the outfit that manages Georgia’s election technology, days before the state holds a closely watched congressional runoff vote on June 20. The security failure left the state’s 6.7 million voter records and other sensitive files exposed to hackers, and may have been left unpatched for seven months. The revealed files might have allowed attackers to plant malware and possibly rig votes or wreak chaos with voter rolls during elections. Georgia is especially vulnerable to such disruption, as the entire state relies on antiquated touchscreen voting machines that provide no hardcopy record of votes, making it all but impossible to tell if anyone has manipulated the tallies. The true dimensions of the failure were first reported Wednesday by Politico Magazine . The affected Center for Election Systems referred all questions to its host, Kennesaw State University, which declined comment. In March, the university had mischaracterized the flaw’s discovery as a security breach.

Georgia: Will Russia Hack Georgia’s Election? Report Says Its A Possibility | International Business Times

Georgia’s voting systems are susceptible to hacking, and the state has dragged its feet addressing the issue, Politico reported Wednesday. The report arrived ahead of the state’s forthcoming election, which was scheduled for next week. The race will fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The race pitted Democrat Jon Ossoff , a first-time candidate, against Republican Karen Handel, who was previously Georgia’s Secretary of State. According to the Washington Post last week, the June 20 special House race in Georgia’s sixth district has become the most expensive in history. Elections in Georgia are overseen by a central hub at Kennesaw University called the Center for Election Systems, which was founded in 2002. Politico spoke to security experts that found the systems easy to hack into. “I was absolutely stunned, just the sheer quantity of files I had acquired,” said Logan Lamb, a former cybersecurity research told Politico about testing the vulnerabilities of Georgia’s system.

Maine: Who benefits from ranked-choice voting? | The Maine Wire

Mainers seem to take voting more seriously than citizens of other states. Our 2014 voter participation topped the nation at 59.3 percent. We beat the next highest, Wisconsin (56.9 percent), handily and ran way ahead of the 36.3 percent national average. Voters in conservative Texas (28.5) and liberal New York (28.8) appear woefully apathetic by comparison. We deduce a relationship between high participation rates and Mainers’ attraction to measures designed to improve the democratic process. The latest such measure concerns “Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV).” The Maine Ranked Choice Voting Initiative, known as Question 5, was approved last November by a margin of 52 percent to 48. But the RCV passion didn’t suddenly grip the minds and imaginations of 388,273 Maine voters late some night in 2016. Persuasion was necessary. The Maine Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices records reveal the names of the organized persuaders.

Missouri: Voter ID opponents say law has echoes of Jim Crow, lynchings | Springfield News-Leader

Missouri’s new voter ID law was motivated by the same forces that lead to Jim Crow laws and segregation, according to a small group of local activists gathered Wednesday at Springfield’s Park Central Square, site of the 1906 lynching of three black men. Several people, including representatives of the Missouri NAACP and Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri, gathered downtown to speak with local journalists about the new law, which went into effect June 1. Marlon Graves, vice president of the Springfield NAACP chapter, and local liberal activist Marla Marantz explained the significance of holding the event in the Park Central Square.

North Carolina: Republicans blast Gov. Roy Cooper for 1990s redistricting plans, gerrymandering | News & Observer

As legislative leaders rejected Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a special session on redistricting last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown held up a map of the Senate district Cooper represented in the 1990s. The map showed Nash County — Cooper’s home — with a jagged swath extending north into Halifax County and a C-shaped territory through Wilson and Edgecombe counties. “I don’t think anybody could draw a map quite like this one,” said Brown, a Jacksonville Republican. “This one is about as bad as it gets, and this happens to be our governor’s map in 1990 that he drew.” … So what was Cooper’s role in redistricting during his time in the legislature? The maps Brown showed off were approved by the legislature along party lines in January 1992. At the time, Cooper was still in his first year in the Senate, having moved over from the House when the senator in his Nash County district died in office.

Editorials: From voter ID to gerrymandering, the political hacking of North Carolina | Jen Jones/News & Observer

Like Russian efforts to hack U.S. elections, the North Carolina legislature’s attacks on our state’s democracy have been broad and brazen. The Rev. William J. Barber II, taking his moral movement beyond N.C., reminded us last week on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” that our state’s racist election tampering was more of a threat than Russian operatives. The observation was sobering. And his warning unheeded, at least by too many members of the General Assembly. Just a few days later, the N.C. legislature pushed back against the executive and judicial branches to prop up its racially gerrymandered districts. Despite three pronouncements in as many weeks from the U.S. Supreme Court that North Carolina’s legislative and congressional districts were designed to pack and crack the political power of black voters, GOP lawmakers boldly batted efforts by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a special session to redraw these discriminatory districts.

Oklahoma: Legislature Slow to Adopt Changes to Ease Voting Laws | Oklahoma Watch

More than 60 legislative bills have been filed since 2015 that seek to expand or create new options for Oklahomans to vote or register to vote. But an Oklahoma Watch review of the legislation considered during the past three sessions shows that most didn’t even get a committee hearing. All but 10 failed to reach the governor’s desk. Among the survivors, the most potentially significant one – approved in 2015 to allow online voter registration – may not take effect for two to three more years, meaning most voters in the 2018 elections will likely encounter few changes that appreciably improve voter convenience or efficiency.

Pennsylvania: Legislation introduced for same-day voter registration | Your Erie

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, (D) Erie, today urged enactment of his legislation that would free qualified state residents to go to their polling place on Election Day, register to vote and cast their ballot” “My House Bill 101 – same day voter registration — removes unwarranted, archaic and costly barriers to voting, increases voter turnout and can save money,” Bizzarro said. Bizzarro, speaking at a Capitol news conference where various voting-reform measures were outlined, said studies have shown that states that have implemented same day voter registration have higher rates of participation than states like Pennsylvania, where a person has to register at least 30 days before an election to cast a ballot.

Pennsylvania: Matzie bill would have state implement voting by mail | The Beaver County Times

Pennsylvanians would be allowed to vote by mail under a bill introduced on Tuesday by state Rep. Rob Matzie. “As elected representatives in state government, I believe it is our duty to find ways to make voting for our constituents easier, more accessible and more secure,” Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, said in a statement. “One of those ways, as other states have shown, is to allow any eligible voter to cast their ballot for any and every election by mail.” Under Matzie’s House Bill 1546, the Pennsylvania Department of State and county election boards would be directed to create a vote-by-mail system in which voters could make a one-time request for a mail-in ballot and be automatically sent one in subsequent elections. Matzie said 22 states allow “certain elections to be conducted by mail,” and three states — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — have only vote-by-mail systems with California slated to join them next year.

Wisconsin: State mails postcards to inactive voters | The Dunn County News

The State of Wisconsin began mailing “Notice of Suspension” postcards last week to approximately 380,000 registered voters who have not voted in the past four years. “This is an official postcard — not a scam,” said Michael Haas, Wisconsin’s chief elections official. “State law requires inactive voters to be removed from the statewide voter list, which is just one of many steps we take to ensure the integrity of voting in Wisconsin.” The Wisconsin Elections Commission is sending the postcards to voters who have not voted since the November 2012 presidential election. The postcard asks recipients whether they want to remain active on the state’s voter list. To remain active, voters have one month to mail a return postcard to their municipal clerk. Voters who do not respond will be marked as inactive on the list. Voters will also be inactivated if the postcard is undeliverable by the Post Office.

Cuba: Electoral Process Leading to Castro Handover Kicks Off | VoA News

Communist-run Cuba said on Wednesday it was calling for municipal elections on Oct. 22, kicking off the electoral procedure that should lead to the handover of power from Raul Castro to the next president. The ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma said the date for provincial and national assembly elections would be published “at the corresponding time.” The electoral notice coincides with a period of uncertainty for Cuba. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce his Cuba policy on Friday, rolling back parts of former President Barack Obama’s opening to the island, which included restoration of relations and reopening of embassies in a diplomatic breakthrough between Cold War foes.

France: As France’s electoral marathon nears its denouement there could still be surprises | The Conversation

When Emmanuel Macron launched his outsider campaign for France’s presidency in November 2016, most observers thought he had little chance of winning – he was “too young” and had support from neither of the major parties. Then he squeaked out a win in the first round and went on to crush the extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen nearly two-to-one in the May 7 finale. Now the candidates put forward by Macron and his party, La République en Marche (LREM) have dominated the first round of the legislative elections, with potential wins in more than 400 seats out of a total of 577. The legislative elections have served to amplify the restructuring that was already taking place during the presidential elections. This featured a collapse of the Socialist Party, a weakening of Les Républicains (LR), and a significant drop for both Le Pen’s Front National (FN) and the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed).

Lebanon: Cabinet approves electoral law, expects May election | Reuters

Lebanon is likely to hold long-delayed elections in May 2018, ministers said on Wednesday, after the cabinet approved a new law for a legislative vote that has spared the country a major political crisis. Recent disputes over an election law that is at the heart of the nation’s sectarian political system had pushed Lebanon to the brink of crisis, threatening to leave it without a parliament for the first time. The new law will extend parliament’s term by almost a year until next May, avoiding a legislative vacuum when the chamber’s current term ends on June 20. It will create a proportional representation system for parliament and alter the number of districts from which lawmakers are elected, among other changes.

Papua New Guinea: How traditional and social media will impact on Papua New Guinea elections | Asia Pacific Report

Social media is a new phenomenon which enables easy and instant access to voters. Papua New Guinea’s freedom of information is #51 on the Paris-based Reporters Without Border’s World Freedom Index and this study investigates traditional sources, social media and independent blogging websites to determine where a voter can locate quality information. The Papua New Guinea general election which begins next week has been impacted on by social media and provides a community platform for voters to express their opinions, and share news not found in traditional media. This has aided voters because they are able learn more about the candidates. It has also disadvantaged voters because PNG journalism does use any recognised fact-checking mediums to confirm information and this leads to an ill-informed public.

Russia: Putin critic Navalny has no chance of running for president: Election chief | Reuters

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has no chance of taking part in next year’s presidential election because of a previous conviction for embezzlement, the head of Russia’s election commission told TV Rain late on Wednesday. Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, has said he wants to run for the presidency in March 2018. Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for 17 years, is widely expected to run for what would be his fourth term, but has yet to confirm he will do so.