National: Democrats warn U.S. remains unprepared for Russian election interference | NBC

One year after U.S. intelligence agencies detailed the scale and scope of Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential elections, the United States still lacks “a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach” to countering potential future threats from the Kremlin or elsewhere, a new Democratic congressional report finds. President Donald Trump’s negligence in acknowledging and responding to the threat of continued Russian interference is among the biggest factors leaving the U.S. at risk, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assert in the report released Wednesday. The 200-page document lays out in detail how Russia, over two decades under President Vladimir Putin, developed, refined and executed tactics to undermine democratic institutions throughout Europe and, ultimately, the U.S.

National: Judge ends consent decree limiting RNC ‘ballot security’ activities | Politico

After more than three decades, Republicans are free of a federal court consent decree that sharply limited the Republican National Committee’s ability to challenge voters’ qualifications and target the kind of fraud President Donald Trump has alleged affected the 2016 presidential race. Newark-based U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez ruled in an order released Tuesday that the longstanding decree ended Dec. 1 and will not be extended. The decree, which dated to 1982, arose from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit charging the RNC with seeking to discourage African-Americans from voting through targeted mailings warning about penalties for violating election laws and by posting armed, off-duty law enforcement officers at the polls in minority neighborhoods.

National: White House plans to erase data from Trump voter fraud panel | The Hill

The White House plans to erase data collected for President Trump’s now-disbanded voter fraud commission instead of turning it over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Politico reported Tuesday. In a court filing, White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said the commission would destroy voter data associated with its efforts, despite the White House signaling last week DHS would handle the probe moving forward. Herndon added that the panel did not create any “preliminary findings,” despite White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously suggesting such findings would be sent to DHS, Politico reported.

National: DOJ Wants to Ask a Question on Citizenship in the 2020 Census | The Atlantic

A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats. In December, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking that it reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. “This data is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the department said in a letter. “To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.” The request immediately met pushback from census experts, civil rights advocates, and a handful of Democratic senators, who say that the argument is unfounded and that the timing of the request is irresponsible.

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: Fusion GPS founder testified Trump associate went to FBI over Russia concerns | Reuters

An associate of Donald Trump expressed concerns to the FBI about contacts between Russia and Trump’s presidential election campaign team, helping to trigger the probe into possible collusion, according to closed-door testimony made public on Tuesday by a senior Democrat. Glenn Simpson, who leads the Washington research firm Fusion GPS, said in his August testimony that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received intelligence from a “voluntary source” in Trump’s orbit in 2016, before a former British spy gave the FBI his own “dossier” of allegations about collusion. Fusion GPS hired the former spy, Christopher Steele, to investigate Trump’s business dealings with Russia.

Indiana: State could eliminate excuse requirement for voting absentee by mail | Kokomo Perspective

Hoosiers soon may no longer need to cite a specific reason for voting by absentee ballot. On Monday, state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, won unanimous approval from the Senate Elections Committee for his proposal allowing any registered voter to cast their ballot by mail prior to Election Day. Current law requires voters identify one of 13 excuses for voting absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day, lacking transportation to the polls or observing a religious holiday.

New Mexico: Court clears way for ranked-choice voting in city election | Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe will indeed become the 12th U.S. city to use ranked-choice voting in municipal elections after the state Supreme Court on Tuesday swatted away a legal challenge to the implementation of the new format. The high court provided no explanation for its decision but effectively preserved the order of state District Court Judge David Thomson, who ruled in late November that because ranked-choice voting machine software is available, it must be used in the March election in accordance with the city’s charter. Thomson also ruled that the ranked-choice format, used in larger cities like San Francisco as well as smaller progressive enclaves such as Portland, Maine, adheres to a provision of the New Mexico constitution allowing home-rule municipalities such as Santa Fe to conduct runoff elections.

North Carolina: Judges order overhaul of North Carolina’s partisan congressional districts | Reuters

A three-judge federal panel ordered congressional districts in North Carolina to be redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections, ruling on Tuesday that the current Republican-drawn map was illegal and unconstitutionally partisan. The judges said the state legislator responsible for the 2016 map had said he drew it to give Republican candidates an advantage. “But that is not a choice the Constitution allows legislative map drawers to make,” the court said. Ralph Hise, North Carolina’s state Senate Redistricting Chairman, said through a spokeswoman that lawmakers would appeal.

Ohio: U.S. Supreme Court considers legality of Ohio voter purging | Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court returns to the issue of voting rights on Wednesday as the justices hear arguments over whether Ohio’s policy of purging infrequent voters from its registration rolls disenfranchises thousands of people and violates federal law. The nine justices are set to hear an hour of arguments in Republican-governed Ohio’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found the policy violated a 1993 federal law aimed at making it easier to register to vote. The Supreme Court’s ruling, due by the end of June, could affect the ability to vote for thousands of people ahead of November’s midterm congressional elections.

Virginia: How Reversing Felony Disenfranchisement is Transforming Virginia | The Atlantic

Richmond is hot in the summer. August days in Virginia’s capital feature the kind of heat that shimmers in waves from the pavement and even in the evenings plasters suit shirts to skin like wet towels. On one such evening last year, that heat did a little extra sticking, even as a group of people gathered packed in a tiny room behind the governor’s mansion. In the middle of the group, Governor Terry McAuliffe stood, relishing the attention despite the heat. He’d shown his visitors through the traditional attractions of his home, like the room where the Marquis de Lafayette reportedly lodged during his 1820s tour of the United States. But he reserved the most gusto for the pieces of the mansion and its history that many previous inhabitants had preferred to skip: a thin staircase leading to the warrens and passageways where house slaves were expected to move and work unseen, and the handiworks of generations of enslaved people who’d been shuffled in and out of the house like furniture. The visit to the slave quarters was his pièce de résistance, a heavy dose of symbolism for a program whose beneficiaries he’d invited to dine with him.

Europe: Everything we know so far about Russian election meddling in Europe | The Washington Post

In a highly anticipated report due to be released on Wednesday, congressional Democrats are expected to raise renewed concerns over mounting evidence of Russian interference in at least 19 European nations, according to the Associated Press, which obtained an advance copy. The 200-plus pages report, commissioned by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, directly targets President Trump for failing to respond to the threat, even as other nations in Europe have taken much stronger measures to counter Russian efforts in the region. “Never before has a U.S. president so clearly ignored such a grave and growing threat to U.S. national security,” the report warns, according to AP. Even though American intelligence agencies agree that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections and have stood by their assessment, Trump has sent out mixed messages.

Congo: DRC gets high tech voting machines for long delayed polls | AFP

DR Congo’s electoral body trumpeted on Tuesday the arrival of the first voting machines from South Korea for long-delayed elections that the government has pledged to hold in December. The vote is supposed to bring about the belated departure of President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, who was supposed to step down last year but postponed the polls. But it remains unclear if the 45 million Congolese voters who registered in 2017 will finally get to choose a new president, deputies and elected representatives in the vote set for December 23, 2018. “The first lot of eight voting machines were received today for the purpose of civic and electoral education of the Congolese,” said the National Electoral Commission (CENI), adding that the devices would help reduce election fraud.

Cyprus: Complaints over counting ballots as official results announced | Cyprus Mail

The final results for Sunday’s Turkish Cypriot ‘parliamentary’ elections were released in full on Tuesday after the ‘election board’ complained of difficulties in counting certain ballot boxes due to the new electoral system. While there were no major changes to the semi-official results announced on Monday, Serdar Denktash’s Democratic Party regained one seat from the Rebirth Party, giving them three ‘MPs’ and the latter two, bringing an end to the back and forth seat confusion.

Latvia: Constitution Protection Bureau: e-voting to create security risks in Latvia | The Baltic Course

Introducing an electronic voting system in Latvia would create security risks, Janis Maizitis, Chief of the Constitution Protection Bureau or the top national security agency in Latvia, said on the public Latvian Radio, cites LETA. He said he was not prone to phobias but, based on the information that he knew as the head of the national security agency, he believed that it would best if Latvia kept to the existing voting procedure, using paper ballots. “That way it would be safer, and we will avoid security risks,” Maizitis said.

Russia: Behind the Scenes of Russia’s Imitated Democracy | Der Spiegel

Running a democracy isn’t easy. But imagine how challenging it must be to imitate one! Sets must be constantly rearranged and political roles must be assigned. The lighting has to be perfect and everybody needs to know their lines. Most importantly, though, the script must be well thought out far into the future, because the performance has no end. The way in which Russia elects its president is an example of this form of simulated democracy. Just recently, the Central Election Commission excluded Alexei Navalny, the only opposition politician who had run a serious campaign, from running in this year’s election. The candidate, the commission noted, has a criminal record, which disqualifies him from challenging the incumbent, Vladimir Putin.