National: Intelligence Committee preps election security plan | USA Today

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the panel will soon issue recommendations to help states thwart Russian efforts to hack election systems in advance of congressional primaries that begin in March. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who serves as vice chairman, said the committee could release its plan this month or next. The first congressional primary is less than two months away — March 6 in Texas.  “I do think there’s a real sense of urgency,” Warner said in an interview with USA TODAY. “The one thing we do know with certainty is that Russian interference in our elections did not end on Election Day 2016.” Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., also has indicated that he expects the committee to provide security advice to states early this year.

National: DHS: Kobach not advising on new voter fraud investigation | The Kansas City Star

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved. President Donald Trump officially disbanded his voter fraud commission last week in the face of a flood of lawsuits and resistance from states to a massive data request sent out by Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, in June. The administration said the Department of Homeland Security would study the issue instead of the commission. 

National: World grapples with critical computer flaws | The Hill

The technology industry and organizations worldwide are reeling from the disclosure of two critical computer hardware vulnerabilities that affect scores of modern devices from PCs to smartphones. Details about the computer processor flaws nicknamed “Meltdown” and “Spectre” came into full focus over the past week and sent programmers at major software companies racing to quickly issue patches to protect affected systems. The issue was initially believed to only affect Intel processors but actually affects a variety of chip vendors. Intel’s stock dropped Thursday as a result of the revelations.

National: Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation | The New York Times

From the start, he was a central casting misfire — the dark artist slicing through the capital by electric scooter, a cloak-and-dagger digger better known to former colleagues for scratching his bare belly in plain office view. In a past career, Glenn R. Simpson had been a reporter’s reporter, tenacious through two decades in journalism, often driving the Washington story of the day — congressional corruption, fund-raising shenanigans, sundry misbehavior — but never becoming it himself. “It’s not news when things go right,” he told a group of students in 1991, describing his craft. “When things go right, it’s boring.” Mr. Simpson’s life has not been boring for some time now. It has, perhaps inevitably, become news.

Editorials: Donald Trump’s Racist Voter Fraud Charade Isn’t Dead Yet | Sherrilyn Ifill/Newsweek

President Donald Trump’s slapdash commission on election integrity, which he disbanded earlier this week, exists now only in the dustbin of history. But we should not assume that his administration’s attacks on voters of color are over. Beginning during his campaign, Trump has consistently peddled the odious narrative that voters of color are cheaters. During a rally before a nearly all-white audience in rural Pennsylvania, the then-candidate encouraged his supporters to “go down to certain areas” in the state to ensure “other people don’t come in and vote five times.” Many took that to mean African-American voters in places like Philadelphia, a majority-minority city and county that voted overwhelmingly against Trump.

Florida: Orange County to appeal nonpartisan elections case to Supreme Court | Orlando Sentinel

Orange County will appeal to the state Supreme Court in its legal fight with its sheriff, property appraiser and tax collector over nonpartisan elections. The move revealed Monday is the latest in the years-long battle stemming from two countywide votes in 2014 and 2016 on whether elections for six constitutional offices, including comptroller, clerk of the circuit court and elections supervisor, should no longer be partisan. Sheriff Jerry Demings, Property Appraiser Rick Singh and Tax Collector Scott Randolph, all Democrats, sued to overturn the amendments, claiming they violated state law. A circuit court judge agreed and rejected the idea of nonpartisan elections, a ruling upheld by the 5th District Court of Appeal in December.

Illinois: Two sides face off over Aurora Election Commission ballot question | Kendall County Record

The Aurora Election Commission attempted to preserve itself by trying to stop a referendum on its dissolution from being placed on the March 20 ballot in Aurora. The commission oversees voting in 73 precincts throughout Aurora, which takes in sections of Kane, Kendall, Will and DuPage counties. A large portion of School District 308 is located in Aurora and under the comission’s jurisdiction. In a hearing before Kane County Court Judge David Akemann on Jan. 4, commission attorney Patrick Bond argued that the petitioners did not choose the right election, as per state election law.

Indiana: Dead-voter bill passes in Senate Elections Committee | The Republic

A local legislator’s bill that would ensure the votes of dead people count in the Indiana General Assembly passed Monday. State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, introduced Senate Bill 155, which would require that an absentee ballot completed by a voter who subsequently dies before Election Day to be counted as it would be had the voter not died. The bill passed by a 9-0 vote Monday in the Senate Elections Committee, of which Walker is chairman. It now moves to the Senate floor for further consideration. The need for the bill is twofold, Walker said. First, current regulations regarding early ballots of deceased voters are too burdensome. Secondly, it’s important for families to know that the wishes of the deceased family member regarding their vote are honored.

Maine: Secretary of state to fight for voting panel documents | Associated Press

Maine’s top election official vowed Monday to continue his legal fight for records from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on which he served. A judge previously ruled that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, was entitled to the documents, but the commission rejected his request after President Donald Trump disbanded the panel last week. Dunlap, who accused the panel of operating under a cloak of secrecy, said he was especially concerned by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ comment that the commission’s preliminary findings were being forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security, which will take over the work. He said he was unaware of any “preliminary findings.”

Massachusetts: State owes municipalities more than $1M for early voting, auditor says | WWLP

Cities and towns spent more than $1 million to cover the costs of holding mandatory early voting periods in 2016, Auditor Suzanne Bump has found, costs that the Legislature may be on the hook for reimbursing. Bump determined in February that parts of the state’s early voting law imposed an unfunded mandate on municipalities. In a letter she sent Monday to the governor, legislative leaders and state budget writers, Bump pegged the total unfunded mandated early voting cost to municipalities at $1,063,978.14 and asked that the Legislature make municipalities whole in a supplemental budget. “Early voting is an important addition to our democratic processes and funding the expenses incurred by our municipalities will make it that much stronger,” Bump wrote in the letter.

North Carolina: Redistricting cases cost taxpayers $5.6 million | The Courier Tribune

The General Assembly has spent almost $5.6 million defending against a continuing series of lawsuits attacking the legislature’s redistricting efforts. And that tab, the official tally through Dec. 18, is sure to keep climbing as lawsuits filed since the Republican-led body’s 2011 redistricting for both state and federal offices continue grinding toward a conclusion, hopefully in time for this year’s elections. Candidate filing starts Feb. 12. In fact, several days before Christmas, attorneys who filed one of the original lawsuits against the General Assembly’s congressional redistricting efforts in 2011 were awarded nearly $1.4 million in legal fees from state coffers for their successful claims of racial gerrymandering, apparently bringing the state’s running tally for the cost of redistricting lawsuits to about $7 million.

Ohio: Purge of voter rolls gets Supreme Court scrutiny this week | Columbus Dispatch

To the state of Ohio, it is nothing more than a housekeeping device to keep the voting rolls up to date. To opponents, it is a system that deprives legal voters the right to cast a ballot in a federal election. With oral arguments scheduled Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide whether Ohio has been too zealous in trying to keep its voter rolls up-to-date and make certain those rolls do not include people who have left the state or died. And while the dispute between Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union probably does not rise to the level of a landmark case, if the justices strike down Ohio’s system — the decision is expected this spring — then more than a dozen other states will have to revise their election laws.

Virginia: Voters file appeal to block Republican from taking office in House race tainted by ballot mix-up | The Washington Post

Four Democratic voters in Virginia are appealing a court decision that cleared the way for Republicans to take control of the state House of Delegates. At issue is whether errors that led some voters in an extremely close Northern Virginia House race to be given the wrong ballots were so significant that Republican Robert Thomas, the victor, should not be seated when the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday. Late Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia decided they were not. The four voters have appealed Ellis’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and filed an emergency motion there to stop Thomas from being seated.

International: Russian meddling: are free and fair elections impossible? | The Week UK

Russia is being accused of orchestrating a sophisticated campaign to influence the presidential election in Mexico – the latest smear against Moscow following allegations involving the US presidential vote, the UK Brexit referendum, elections in France and Kenya, and Catalonia’s secession vote. US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster claims there is evidence of “Russian meddling” in Mexican elections set for July, according to a video obtained by Mexican newspaper Reforma. Although Russia denies the allegation, the claims illustrate the increasing fears about Russia’s use of advanced cyber tools to spread disinformation.

Cyprus: Polls close in Turkish Cypriot general elections | TRT World

Polls have closed in a snap general election in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and the count is expected to begin shortly. Votes were cast at 719 polling stations across the country in the 14th election since 1976, when the TRNC was the Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus. The TRNC was founded in 1983. Due to changes to the election system, the vote count may take longer than in previous years. A total of 379 candidates from eight parties and nine independent candidates are competing for 50 seats in Parliament.

Egypt: Presidential Vote Set for March as Top El-Sisi Rival Backs Out | Bloomberg

Egypt’s top election body said Monday that the next presidential election will be held in March, and gave prospective candidates about three weeks to declare. So far the race has only one potential contender: incumbent Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. His most serious possible challenger to date, former premier and air force general Ahmed Shafiq, backed out of contention late Sunday after a mysterious string of events. That left the field wide open to El-Sisi, who hasn’t yet officially tossed his hat into the race.

Germany: Merkel Embarks on New Talks to Form Government | Associated Press

German Chancellor Angela Merkel embarked Sunday on talks with the center-left Social Democrats on forming a new government, with leaders stressing the need for speed as they attempt to break an impasse more than three months after the country’s election. Leaders aim to decide by Friday whether there’s enough common ground to move on to formal coalition negotiations. Whatever the result, it will be a while yet before a new administration is in place to end what is already post-World War II Germany’s longest effort to put together a new government. Germany’s Sept. 24 election produced a parliamentary majority for only two plausible coalitions: the outgoing alliance of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, with the Social Democrats; or an untried combination of the conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens.

Honduras: Thousands take to streets to demand new elections | The Independent

Thousands of protesters have staged a massive protest in Honduras’ second city over the victory of President Juan Orlando Hernandez in an election the opposition claim was fraudulent. Opposition leader Salvador Nasralla lead the protests in the city of San Pedro Sula. Addressing the crowd, he said: “We will not stop until Hernandez says he’s leaving”. It was the first march in the city since the 26 November election, and the losing candidate once again appealed to the Organisation of American States and the countries that have recognised Mr Hernandez’s victory to listen to the protesters. Former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by a military coup in 2009, also joined the protest, Deutsche Welle reported.