National: Trump scraps his widely denounced ‘election integrity’ commission | The Guardian

Donald Trump has scrapped his advisory commission on “election integrity”, ending an initiative that was widely denounced by civil rights groups as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of poor people and minorities. A White House statement released on Wednesday evening said that Trump had signed an executive order dissolving the commission. The president put the blame for the panel’s failure on the many states that refused to co-operate with it by handing over voters’ sensitive personal data including name, address, party affiliation and voting history to the inquiry. … After he won the presidential election in November 2016, Trump claimed that at least 3m illegal votes had been cast – the same number by which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. That claim has never been substantiated, and in fact studies have found that more people are struck by lightning each year or attacked by sharks than are accused of election fraud.

National: Trump disbands fraud commission let by Pence, Kobach | The Kansas City Star

President Donald Trump has dissolved a commission intended to investigate voter fraud after a massive data request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led to a backlash from state officials across the political spectrum. The White House announced the dissolution of the panel late Wednesday, citing resistance from states about complying with the commission. Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, had sought personal information on every voter in the nation in June, a massive data request that spurred multiple lawsuits and backlash from state officials from across the political spectrum. Many states had refused to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns, and even Kansas could not legally provide the commission with partial Social Security numbers as Kobach requested.

National: Assessing the Bipartisan Secure Elections Act | Lawfare

On Dec. 21, all eyes were on the Republican bill to cut taxes. Yet a bipartisan group of six senators also had their eyes on the far less sexy (but still important!) topic of election hacking. They quietly introduced a bill called the Secure Elections Act that, if passed, would be a good down payment on improving the confidence we can have in the integrity of our elections. This short, stocking-stuffer size review will: review some of the core questions around election security, assess the bill’s provisions to improve information sharing, its grant program, and its bug bounty, and conclude with some tough realism about additional work that needs to be undertaken to protect our elections.

National: Manafort sues Mueller, challenging scope of Russia investigation | The Hill

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert Mueller in an attempt to kneecap the federal probe into alleged coordination between the campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. In a court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for Manafort argue that the order establishing Mueller’s investigation is overly broad and not permitted under Justice Department regulations. Mueller should be ordered to stop investigating any of Manafort’s conduct that doesn’t relate to his time as campaign chair, the suit says, and the appointment itself should be declared invalid.

Kansas: Court Fight Over Kansas Voting Rights Will Exclude Some Evidence | KCUR

The fight over whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated the constitution in his quest to demand proof of citizenship from voters goes to trial, with a ruling Wednesday that could complicate his case, in March. A federal judge tossed aside some testimony Kobach had hoped to present in his long-running contention that voter fraud is commonplace. The decision came the same day President Donald Trump scrapped a commission, led by Kobach, designed to document what both men have said is widespread cheating at the polls. In a statement, the White House said states were refusing to cooperate with the commission’s work. The panel also faced numerous lawsuits from civil rights groups.

Maine: Lawmakers Weigh Bill to Ban Signature Gathering at Polls | Associated Press

A legislative panel on Wednesday considered a bill that would make signature-gathering at Maine polling places a crime. The bill includes a provision to prohibit exit polling, signature gathering, electioneering and charitable activities within 50 feet of the entrance to polling places. Lawmakers heard testimony on the bill at a committee hearing on Wednesday. Maine lawmakers since January have been contending with laws that voters approved at the polls to legalize recreational marijuana, overhaul Maine’s election system, expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage. Several lawmakers critical of the influence of out-of-state special interest groups have unsuccessfully tried to make it harder for citizens to get questions on the ballot.

Missouri: Judge dismisses suit over Missouri’s voter ID law | Associated Press

A lawsuit alleging that Missouri’s new voter identification law was intended to make it harder for poor and minority residents to cast their ballots has been dismissed. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem on Tuesday threw out the suit filed in June by the ACLU and the Advancement Project on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters. Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a November 2016 ballot measure instituting voter ID. The law became effective June 1.

New Hampshire: State Senate OK’s residency definition for voting; Sununu remains opposed | Union Leader

The state Senate in a 14-9 party-line vote on Wednesday passed HB 372, establishing a new definition of residency that the bill’s supporters hope will pass legal muster and set the stage for enforcement of the bill’s purpose statement: “A person must be a resident of New Hampshire to vote or hold office in New Hampshire.” The bill was substantially changed from the version that passed the House last year, and will have to go back to the House as amended by the Senate. The House version contained only the change in definition. The purpose statement was added by the Senate.

Virginia: Tiebreaker Drawing Is Back On. But It May Not Settle House Race. | The New York Times

Virginia’s on-again, off-again drawing to break a tie in a state House race is back on, with the winner’s name to be ceremoniously plucked from a bowl on Thursday in Richmond. But the drawing, the latest chapter in an election melodrama that has drawn wide attention, may fail to bring finality, since the loser can request a recount — which would be the second recount of the original vote. At 11 a.m. in a building named for Patrick Henry, adjacent to the State Capitol, Virginia’s Board of Elections plans to chose the winner of House District 94 “by lot,’’ as state law specifies. The proceedings will be live-streamed. The only thing that might intervene is a winter storm headed for the Mid-Atlantic states, James Alcorn, the chairman of the elections board, said on Twitter.

Virginia: Recount court denies Democrat’s request, leaving critical House race a tie | The Washington Post

The winner of a pivotal Virginia legislative race will be decided by lottery Thursday, one day after a recount court rejected a request to toss out a disputed ballot that brought the contest to a tie. In a race full of unexpected twists, the State Board of Elections is set to break the tie by randomly selecting the name of either Republican incumbent David E. Yancey or Democrat Shelly Simonds from a stoneware bowl fashioned by a Virginia artist. The spectacle, expected to be watched via live stream around the country, could break the GOP’s 18-year hold on the House of Delegates. But even if Simonds wins the drawing — splitting the 100-member chamber right down the middle — odds are the GOP will retain control on day one of the 2018 General Assembly session, when crucial votes for speaker and rules take place.

Ecuador: Campaign for Feb. 4 Referendum Launched | Latin American Herald Tribune

The election campaign for the popular referendum to be held in Ecuador on Feb. 4 began on Wednesday with 40 registered citizens’ organizations, most of them favoring the “yes” vote for the seven questions to be asked of the public by the government of Lenin Moreno. Just four social organizations, of the 40 approved by the National Electoral Council (CNE), will campaign for the “no” option to certain questions on the referendum dealing with issues such as corruption, re-election, capital gains, citizenship, mining and sexual crimes against minors. The CNE reiterated on Wednesday that the election campaign will last until midnight on Feb. 1, when a moratorium on proselytizing will be instituted to give the citizenry time to reflect on how they intend to vote.

Egypt: Court postpones verdict against presidential hopeful: sources | Reuters

An Egyptian court on Wednesday postponed its verdict in a case against rights lawyer and presidential hopeful Khaled Ali, judicial sources said, leaving uncertainty over whether he will be allowed to run in a forthcoming election. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to seek a second term in the presidential vote early this year, but has not yet announced his candidacy. Ali said in November he intended to run against former military commander Sisi, who led the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 before taking office a year later. But a three month prison sentence passed in September for public indecency over an alleged rude hand gesture he made outside a courthouse last year might yet disqualify Ali.

France: Emmanuel Macron promises ban on fake news during elections | The Guardian

Emmanuel Macron has vowed to introduce a law to ban fake news on the internet during French election campaigns. The French president, who beat the far-right Marine Le Pen to win 2017’s election, said he wanted new legislation for social media platforms during election periods “in order to protect democracy”. In his new year’s speech to journalists at the Élysée palace, Macron said he would shortly present the new law in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he said threatened liberal democracies. New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped.

Editorials: Liberia’s presidential election is a milestone for democracy in Africa | K. Riva Levinson/The Hill

On Friday, the 29th of December, Liberia’s National Elections Commission declared George Weah the 25th president of the Republic of Liberia. The 51-year old, former soccer superstar, the only African to receive the sport’s highest honor, the Ballon d’Or, was swept into office by the country’s youthful population with 61.5 percent of the vote, beating the incumbent vice president. It was an achievement not just for the opposition politician on the presidential ballot for the third and decisive time, but also a democratic milestone for Africa’s oldest republic. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country’s post-conflict leader, and the first woman elected to lead an African nation, will be stepping down, honoring the constitution after serving two six-year terms. The election marks Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected head-of-state to another in decades. Not since 1944, will a Liberian president take the oath of office in the presence of his (or her) predecessor.