Facebook Inc (FB.O) warned on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but the company said it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else. The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations. Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media’s role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject.
National: Alleged payment to porn star was illegal donation to Trump campaign, watchdog says | Politico
A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws. In submissions to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, Common Cause said the alleged payment to Stephanie Clifford — who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels — amounted to an in-kind donation to Trump’s presidential campaign that should have been publicly disclosed in its official reports. An attorney for Common Cause, Paul Ryan, said the payment appeared to be hush money.
An Indiana Senate panel advanced a bill Monday that would set criteria for redrawing electoral districts. But the measure approved on an 8-0 vote falls far short of a comprehensive redistricting overhaul that good government groups have sought for years. Senate Elections Committee Chairman Greg Walker acknowledged his bill was a “baby step,” though the Columbus Republican said it still moves the conversation forward. Indiana’s legislative and congressional districts are currently drawn to favor Republicans. That’s because the Legislature, which oversees the once-in-a-decade effort that comes after the census, is in GOP control. In the past, when Democrats had more power, the maps tilted in their favor.
County election boards that beef up security around voting equipment and elections will be able to seek reimbursement for their expenses under a bill approved by a state Senate committee Monday. Senate Bill 327 requires counties to make sure their voting systems follow new security procedures and allows county election boards to apply to the Indiana Secretary of State for full or partial compensation of any resources or staff implemented to meet the new standards. However, it does not say where the money is coming from. The bill passed with a unanimous 8-0 vote and was referred to the Appropriations Committee for review of possible funding sources as the result of an approved amendment.
Efforts to detect voter fraud led to the exposure of private voter data from nearly 1,000 Kansas residents this year by officials in Florida, who released information including partial Social Security numbers to a woman who had filed an open records request. The incident is raising more questions about the Interstate Crosscheck System, which was designed in Kansas to detect double voting or people who register to vote in more than one state, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The Crosscheck system, set up in 2005 by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, has been criticized in the past for concerns about security and identifying false matches. In response to the data exposure, Florida election officials on Friday offered a year of free fraud detection and protection services to those affected by the data release.
Kansas: Election chief tries to reassure lawmakers on security of Crosscheck voter database | Lawrence Journal-World
The director of the state’s elections division tried to reassure Kansas lawmakers Wednesday that steps are being taken to ensure the security of a multistate database of voting rolls known as Interstate Crosscheck that is administered by the secretary of state’s office. Bryan Caskey, who runs the elections office under Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, told the House Committee on Government, Technology and Security that the system currently is not accepting any new data, either from Kansas or any of the other 27 states that participate in the program, and it won’t be reactivated until new security procedures have been tested and verified.
A petition drive hopes to put a voters’ rights amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. The amendment would let people vote absentee without giving a reason. It would allow early voting. And it would guarantee the right to vote a party-line ticket with one mark on the ballot. “We need to make sure that voting is accessible to all citizens and that everyone’s vote gets counted,” said Judy Karendjeff with the League of Women Voters.
Backers of a ballot measure to change how Ohio draws congressional districts are moving forward with little hope state lawmakers will draft a better plan. The congressional redistricting reforms proposed last week by Republican Sen. Matt Huffman would make it impossible to draw districts such as the “snake on the lake”-shaped 9th district. But critics say the proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 5, will also ensure that the majority party — currently Republicans — can draw a map that gives them plenty of safe seats. When leaders of the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition were asked what lawmakers could change about the proposal to win their support, they laughed. “How much time do you have?” Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio said at a Monday press conference.
The Pennsylvania supreme court on Monday struck down the boundaries of the state’s 18 congressional districts, granting a major victory to plaintiffs who contended that they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Republicans who controlled the legislature and governor’s office following the 2010 census broke decades of geographical precedent when redrawing the map, producing contorted shapes including one that critics said resembled “Goofy kicking Donald Duck”. They shifted whole counties and cities into different districts in an effort to protect a Republican advantage in the congressional delegation. They succeeded, securing 13 of 18 seats in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to four.
Texas: Trump voting commission asked for Texas lists flagging Hispanic voter surnames | The Washington Post
President Trump’s voting commission asked every state and the District for detailed voter registration data, but in Texas’s case it took an additional step: It asked to see Texas records that identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, newly released documents show. In buying nearly 50 million records from the state with the nation’s second-largest Hispanic population, a researcher for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity checked a box on two Texas public voter data request forms explicitly asking for the “Hispanic surname flag notation,” to be included in information sent to the voting commission, according to copies of the signed and notarized state forms. White House and Texas officials said the state’s voter data was never delivered because a lawsuit brought by Texas voting rights advocates after the request last year temporarily stopped any data handoff.
In the first round of the Czech presidential election earlier this month, Jiri Drahos was variously portrayed — without substantiation — as a pedophile, a thief, and a communist collaborator. The smears were part of a string of unfounded allegations in social media and on websites suspected of dealing in fake news. Now that the pro-Europe challenger’s campaign in a second-round runoff against incumbent Milos Zeman, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest allies in central Europe, is in full swing, the disinformation gloves have come off once again.
Germany has inched a step closer to forming a new government after the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPD) gave its lukewarm endorsement for a renewed Angela Merkel-led “grand coalition”. At a special SPD congress in Bonn that welcomed a speech by the party’s leader, Martin Schulz, with sarcastic applause and saw standing ovations for his fiercest critics, 56% of the party’s delegates voted in favour of moving on to the second and final stage of coalition talks with Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The cautious green light provides major relief not just for the beleaguered leaders of Germany’s two largest parties but also European heads of government, who have been holding off on major strategic decisions since federal elections in September.
Activists blocked roads and clashed with police in Honduras on Saturday as part of nationwide protests against the contested re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds jailed since Hernandez was declared the winner of the November 26 run-off election — after a three week stretch of often-interrupted ballot counting that stoked tensions and sparked accusations of fraud in the Central American country. The left-wing Alliance in Opposition against the Dictatorship is heading a protest campaign insisting that the election was stolen from its candidate, former TV anchor Salvador Nasrallah.
Iraq’s parliament on Monday set May 12 as the date for holding national elections despite calls from the country’s Sunni community to delay the vote until the return of nearly 3 million people displaced by the fight against the Islamic State group. Shiite lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati said lawmakers at a session in the Shiite-dominated house “unanimously” approved the date proposed by the government.
A Moscow court on Monday ordered the closing of a foundation supporting the activities of Aleksei A. Navalny, the country’s leading opposition politician, moving quickly in a case filed only this month by the Justice Ministry. The court order came before a series of rallies in more than 90 Russian cities and towns, scheduled for Sunday and organized by Mr. Navalny and his supporters. The foundation, the Fifth Season of the Year, has been used by Mr. Navalny to collect donations that finance campaign materials, salaries and offices in 84 regions across Russia, among other weapons in his drive against corruption and the workings of the Kremlin under President Vladimir V. Putin. More than 145,000 Russians have donated $4.9 million to the foundation over the past 13 months, Mr. Navalny says.