National: Republican lawmakers distance themselves from Trump on memo | The Washington Post

A fierce partisan battle over the Justice Department and its role in the Russia investigation moves into its second week Monday as Democrats try to persuade the House Intelligence Committee to release a 10-page rebuttal to a controversial Republican memo alleging surveillance abuse. The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), is expected to offer a motion to release his party’s response to the Republican document during a committee meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday. It was not immediately clear whether Republicans would join Democrats in voting for the document’s release, as some members of the GOP have expressed concerns about its contents. Speaking Sunday on ABC News, Schiff called the GOP memo a “political hit job on the FBI in service of the president.”

National: A Citizenship Query Threatens Census, The Basis Of US Elections | AFP

The United States is gearing up to conduct its next population census in 2020 but a thorny question on citizenship has ignited controversy even before it has begun. When the decennial national headcount gets under way, census takers may have to ask respondents if they are US citizens, which observers say would discourage some ethnic minorities from participating and undermine the accuracy of the data. Arturo Vargas, head of the NALEO Educational Fund, said surveys have shown as recently as September that test respondents are now experiencing “unprecedented fear of the US government.”

Florida: The ‘Slave Power’ Behind Florida’s Felon Disenfranchisement | The Atlantic

In November 1865—barely six months after Appomattox, and three weeks before the official ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment—the New York Tribune’s front page bore a provocative headline: “South Carolina Re-establishing Slavery.” The story laid out the new system being put into place in most of the former Confederacy—“Black Codes,” criminal laws targeting black citizens, coupling a long list of minor offenses with a schedule of prohibitive fines. If a black defendant could not pay the fine, he or she was to be “contracted out” to work off the “debt” for some white employer. (In some of the codes, a “debtor’s” black children would also be “apprenticed,” with preference given to the families of their former “masters.”) The new system, a Confederate veteran explained to Chicago Tribune correspondent Sydney Andrews, would “be called ‘involuntary servitude for the punishment of crime,’ but it won’t differ much from slavery.”

Georgia: State To End Controversial Step In Voter Roll Deletions | WABE

Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office will “instruct” local elections officials to automatically update addresses for people who move within the same county as part of a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Georgia against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections. In the short term, the mutual agreement means the information of 35,000 Georgians will be updated. It will also make voting easier in the future for people who move within the same county, said Sean Young, legal director with the ACLU of Georgia. “If someone’s address isn’t updated they may show up at the wrong polling place,” Young said. “They’re supposed to be given an opportunity at that point to go ahead and vote and have the opportunity to change their address at the polling site. But sometimes what happens is the voter gets frustrated and then they’re turned away. They look for their correct polling place and they may not have enough time to find the correct polling place.”

Idaho: Secretary of state seeks budget boost to upgrade software, transparency | The Spokesman-Review

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney is asking for a budget increase next year of more than 70 percent, with most of the increase coming in a major upgrade to the state’s election software system to allow more transparent reporting of campaign finances, lobbyist records and election management and results. “This will allow us to migrate the full functionality of the state’s election software management applications into a single, comprehensive and purpose-built software suite that will carry us into the future,” Denney told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “These areas represent within the election system the highest customer interest from a voter-information standpoint. It’s through these areas that voters can look up who is running and what they’re running for, who is contributing to the campaigns, and who is lobbying, along with our election management and an upgrade to our election-night reporting.” The move was endorsed unanimously earlier by a legislative interim committee that’s recommending more and more frequent campaign finance reporting.

Kansas: Kobach acting as his own attorney in upcoming trial | The Wichita Eagle

When a federal lawsuit challenging Kansas’s proof of citizenship voter law goes to trial in March, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach plans to be in the courtroom. He’ll be the attorney defending the law he crafted. Rarely, if ever, do statewide elected officials represent themselves at trial. The unusual situation is made possible by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Kobach, who is being sued in his official capacity as secretary of state, received permission from Schmidt to represent himself at the trial-court level in the lawsuit after he agreed that the secretary of state’s office will pay for all costs of the case, Schmidt’s office said.

Minnesota: Counties get money for new equipment | Detroit Lakes Online

Time to upgrade that aging election equipment: Counties including Becker, Otter Tail, Wadena and Hubbard are taking advantage of $7 million in state matching grant money. It provides up to a 50 percent match for mandatory equipment, such as optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters, or assistive voting devices, and up to a 75 percent match for electronic rosters. Becker County asked for, and was granted $71,000 for new equipment. That means the county will have to kick in another $71,000 towards the total purchase price. “We will be using it for voting equipment, we will not be purchasing (electronic) poll books at this time,” said Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson.

Editorials: Secure elections protect our democracy | Martin Heinrich and Maggie Toulouse Oliver/Santa Fe New Mexican

Americans’ ability to fairly choose our own leaders is fundamental to our democracy. Given what we know about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, we must do everything we can at both the federal and state levels to protect the security and integrity of our election systems before voters go to the polls this year. While the Senate Intelligence Committee continues investigating the full extent of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, American intelligence assessments have already established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems and attacked a U.S. voting systems software company. Although there is no evidence that the Russian activity changed vote tallies on Election Day, these intrusions demonstrate a clear vulnerability that foreign hackers will try to exploit in upcoming elections.

North Carolina: Elections board lawsuit: Republicans drop nominees | News & Observer

In the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling, the North Carolina Republican Party is withdrawing nominations it made in April to the combined State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. NCGOP General Counsel Thomas Stark sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday to tell him the party “rescinds its pending nomination” because “the Governor no longer has authority to appoint to this board until further action by the General Assembly or the trial court.”

North Carolina: Justices won’t move elections ruling quickly | Associated Press

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday refused Gov. Roy Cooper’s requests to accelerate legal action in a power struggle with Republican legislators. In one-sentence denials without explanation, the court denied motions by Cooper’s attorneys in litigation challenging the composition of the state elections and ethics board. The legal action stems from the justices’ earlier ruling favoring Cooper.

Texas: Displaced Harvey Victims With Suspended Registration Can Still Vote In The 2018 Primary Elections | Houston Public Media

Many Houstonians who’ve been forced to live in hotels or an Airbnb since their home was flooded by Hurricane Harvey may find out online that their voter registration has been suspended. But that won’t stop displaced residents from being able to vote in the March primaries. “Absolutely, they can still vote,” said Sue Hastings, Manager of Voter Registration at the Harris County Tax Assessor’s Office.

Costa Rica: Gay-Marriage Foe Takes First Round | The New York Times

A debate over same-sex marriage propelled an evangelical Christian singer from a long-shot candidate to the top vote-getter in the first round of Costa Rica’s presidential election Sunday. Fabricio Alvarado, a former television journalist who became an influential Pentecostal singer, will face Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a former labor minister, in the April 1 runoff. The two men are not related. Mr. Alvarado had won almost 25 percent of the vote to nearly 22 percent for Mr. Alvarado Quesada, with about 90 percent of the polling places counted, the nation’s electoral board said.

Cyprus: President Anastasiades wins run-off to land second term | Reuters

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades won a second five-year term on Sunday as voters gave a thumbs-up to his record in containing an economic meltdown in 2013 and his attempts to reconcile with estranged Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically-split island. With all votes counted, the conservative had 56 percent of the vote against 44 percent for the leftist-backed Stavros Malas. “A new day dawns tomorrow which requires unity, because that is required to move forward,” Anastasiades told cheering crowds in downtown Nicosia. “I will continue to be a president for all Cypriots. Tonight, there are no winners or losers, there is (only) a Cyprus for all of us.”

Ireland: Ireland divided as vote on abortion tests faith and the old order | The Guardian

The eighth amendment of the Irish constitution makes Ireland, depending on your point of view, either a unique beacon of humanity in a godless world or a superstitious hamlet determined not to enter into the 21st century. The amendment was signed into law in October 1983 after two-thirds of the electorate voted in a referendum to accord equal status to the life of a child growing in the womb with that of its mother. As a result, only in extreme circumstances can an abortion take place. Pointing out that no one under the age of 52 had ever voted on the issue, the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, last week announced that a referendum would take place by the end of May to repeal the amendment.

Philippines: Hackers, a worldwide cybersecurity problem | Manila Bulletin

No government in the world today, not even the United States, is prepared to fight hackers, a cybersecurity expert declared at a forum on cybersecurity, PilipinasCon 2018, in Taguig City this week. Elections worldwide are being hacked. “Every single counting machine is hackable,” said cybersecurity expert Marc Goodman. At a recent underground hacking conference, he said, 25 different counting machines were broken into remotely and directly. Filipino hackers, he added, committed the biggest government data breach in history when they broke into the Comelec’s voter database and published it online in April, 2016, a month before the election that year.

Togo: Thousands Of Togolese Protest Against Election Reforms | AFP

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Togo’s capital Lome on Saturday, against President Faure Gnassingbe and his government. The protest came the day after mediators from Ghana and Guinea said that Togo will enter talks on controversial constitutional reform February 15, in a move aimed at ending a crippling political stalemate. A rolling series of demonstrations against President Gnassingbe have been unfolding for several months, and the country has been rocked by striking teachers and health workers.