CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Russia will target U.S. mid-term elections later this year as part of the Kremlin’s attempt to influence domestic politics across the West, and warned the world had to do more to push back against Chinese meddling. Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the allegations, which Moscow denies, and whether there was any collusion involving President Donald Trump’s associates. In an interview with the BBC aired on Tuesday, U.S. intelligence chief Pompeo said Russia had a long history of information campaigns and said its threat would not go away.
National: Democrats press Gowdy to subpoena Homeland Security for election hacking documents | The Hill
Democratic lawmakers are pressing House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to subpoena the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for documents related to Russia’s efforts to target state systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In a letter sent to Gowdy on Monday, the Democrats on the committee accused the Trump administration of withholding “critical information” from Congress on the targeting. Homeland Security said last year that Russian hackers tried to probe election-related systems in 21 states. Most of the activity amounted to only preparations for hacking, such as scanning for vulnerabilities, though both Illinois and Arizona witnessed breaches of state voter registration databases. None of the systems targeted were involved in vote tallying, officials say.
National: Like Abstract Expressionists, They Draw the Free-Form Political Maps Now Under Scrutiny | The New York Times
In a big partisan gerrymandering case that will come before the Supreme Court in March, lawyers, and judges have already devoted thousands of words to the question of why some of Maryland’s eight congressional districts are so, ah, creatively drawn. But the best answer by far comes from the man who drew them. In 2011, Eric Hawkins lugged a laptop loaded with demographic data and a program called Maptitude to Capitol Hill and the offices of the state’s six Democratic House members. Over a series of meetings of which there apparently are no written records, Mr. Hawkins not only crafted new districts for those members, but rerouted the district of 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett to make it substantially more challenging for a Republican. In the first election after the new maps were drawn, Mr. Bartlett failed to muster even 38 percent of the vote. And Maryland Democrats added another House seat to the six they already boasted. Asked in a deposition last year why the state’s Democratic House members met with him, Mr. Hawkins was refreshingly forthcoming. “They wanted to get re-elected,” he said.
Colorado: First year of open, mail-in primaries will be an unprecedented experiment with unclear implications | Summit Daily
Colorado will elect a new governor in November, and at least a dozen candidates are currently in the running on both the Republican and Democratic sides. This year, unaffiliated voters have reason to take early notice in the race to replace term-limited Governor John Hickenlooper — and not just because of the dizzying number of candidates. Thanks to an open primaries ballot measure passed in 2016, voters who aren’t registered to either major party will able to help choose nominees for the first time in June. Proponents of the measure argued that opening up primaries to independents could give a boost to more moderate candidates and wrest some control from the hardcore partisans who cast a disproportionate number of primary votes.
Kentucky: Eighth State Quietly Quit Free Anti-Voter-Fraud Program Over Security Concerns and ‘Unreliable’ Results | Gizmodo
The State of Kentucky has pulled out of the Interstate Crosscheck System, Gizmodo has learned, making it the eighth state to quit the program so far—even though it cost nothing to participate. A source with direct knowledge of the decision told Gizmodo that Kentucky never used the data that it received from Crosscheck for the purpose of purging voter rolls because the data was “unreliable.” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes also expressed concern about the security of the program, the source said. Kentucky officially quit Crosscheck in June but made no official announcement at the time. A tweet by Grimes last week about Kentucky not submitting voter data to Crosscheck initially puzzled activists who were unaware of the state’s decision.
Minnesota will spend $7 million on new voting equipment in 2018, but the state’s elections chief says cities and counties need a lot more help. Secretary of State Steve Simon announced the $7 million in grant funding for new election equipment that was the result of bipartisan legislation approved in 2017. The grants cover half the cost of mandatory equipment, like ballot counters, and 75 percent of the cost of electronic voter rosters.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 18 decision to pause a nine-day-old federal court ruling against North Carolina’s congressional map was the latest turn in a legal war that has made the state’s electoral system the most chaotic in the U.S. The temporary stay is part of a wider, national challenge to the kind of political gerrymandering that has…
Pennsylvania: The Supreme Court may have signaled that it might block Pennsylvania’s ruling against partisan gerrymandering | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Supreme Court was seen as signaling Monday it may be open to blocking a state ruling on partisan gerrymandering at the behest of Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders. Last week, Pennsylvania’s high court struck down the state’s election districts on the grounds they were drawn to give the GOP a 13-5 majority of its seats in the House of Representatives. Unlike other recent rulings, the state justices said they based their ruling solely on the state’s constitution. Usually, the U.S. Supreme Court has no grounds for reviewing a state court ruling that is based on state law.
Virginia voters could see their own face when they check in at the polls under a bill approved along party lines by the Virginia Senate on Monday. Sen. Mark Obenshain’s proposal would have electronic poll books automatically display driver’s license photos of voters, which could eventually be used in place of Virginia’s existing voter identification requirement. “It’s not going to allow any election official to actually turn anybody away right now at all. It is simply porting those IDs over and is simply an additional deterrent to casting votes illegally,” said Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, before the 21-19 vote.
Former guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono was once one of Colombia’s most-wanted men. Now he is a presidential contender. The graying, spectacled man best known by his alias Timochenko launched his bid Saturday to lead the government he once battled from the jungle with a celebratory campaign kickoff featuring giant posters, colorful confetti and even a catchy jingle. “I promise to lead a government that propels the birth of a new Colombia,” he said. “A government that at last represents the interests of the poor.”
An Egyptian politician emerged just ahead of a deadline on Monday as the sole challenger to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a March election the incumbent appears set to win after other candidates withdrew citing repression. Mousa Mostafa Mousa leads the Ghad party, which had endorsed Sisi for a second term and even organized events to help nominate the former military commander as recently as last week. Mousa said he would mount a full challenge to Sisi, though opposition activists, journalists, and analysts took to Twitter to dismiss him as a dummy candidate, standing only to give the impression of a full democratic contest. “This is all theater,” said a shopkeeper outside the Ghad party headquarters in downtown Cairo.
Russia: Protesters urge boycott of presidential vote even as opposition leader is arrested | The Washington Post
From central Moscow to the Arctic, thousands of Russian protesters on Sunday called for a boycott of the upcoming presidential election even as the authorities detained organizers and raided the office of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Police detained Navalny, who branded the boycott a “voters’ strike” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, shortly after the protests began. But more than 1,000 people took to one of Moscow’s central thoroughfares nevertheless. Thousands more turned out on squares and streets in St. Petersburg, in Siberia and in places as remote as Murmansk, a port city in the far north where the temperature Sunday afternoon was 8 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
Catalonia’s parliament speaker on Tuesday postponed a session intended to re-elect the region’s fugitive ex-president, saying the planned meeting would not take place until there were guarantees Spanish authorities “won’t interfere.” The decision comes after Spain’s top court ruled Saturday that Carles Puigdemont, who has fled to Belgium and faces arrest if he returns, could only be re-elected if physically present in the parliament in Barcelona. The court also ordered that he must obtain permission to appear at parliament from the judge investigating him over Catalonia’s independence bid. Puigdemont is one of more than a dozen Catalan political figures facing possible rebellion and sedition charges following the previous parliament’s illegal and unsuccessful declaration of independence in October, which brought Spain’s worst political crisis in decades to a head. The decision leaves the future government of the prosperous region in something of a limbo.
Venezuela is under mounting international pressure over the government’s decision to push up presidential elections under conditions that opponents say overwhelmingly favor President Nicolas Maduro, who is so far the only candidate. Spain, a major trading partner with deep roots in Venezuela, became the latest government to break diplomatic ties on Friday, while French President Emmanuel Macron said that he’s open to additional European Union sanctions against what he called an “unacceptable authoritarian shift” by Maduro. The pro-government national constituent assembly last week called for an election to be held by the end of April but set no date.