National: Tillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms | The Hill

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Russia is already trying to meddle in this year’s midterm elections in the U.S. “If it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that. We can take steps we can take but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it,” Tillerson told Fox News. Tillerson said it’s important for the U.S. to confront Russia about interfering in American elections instead of turning a blind eye. 

National: Air Force streamlines voting program to help optimize Airmen’s core missions | U.S. Air Force

Air Force officials recently released guidance that streamlines the organizational structure and functions of the Air Force Voting Assistance Program. A November 2017 Air Force guidance memorandum realigned the program under installation Airman and Family Readiness Centers, thereby eliminating voting assistance officers as an additional duty at Air Force units. The move is part of an Air Force-wide effort to reduce Airmen’s additional duties so they can more effectively focus on their core missions.

National: Black lawmakers continue King’s fight for jobs, justice and voting | USA Today

Three years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., 13 black members of Congress formed a group to tackle issues affecting their districts and constituents. Today, the Congressional Black Caucus has a record 48 members. Many say they’re fighting some of the same battles that the group’s founders fought nearly five decades ago. “There has been some progress. I don’t think that any of us would have thought … that in 2008 this country could elect an African-American president,” says Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama. “But I think that we have to be ever vigilant fighting for jobs and justice. Those issues are still very much at the forefront today.” “I do believe that Martin Luther King’s life, and his legacy, was not in vain.”

National: Civil rights groups oppose a push to include citizenship on the Census | USA Today

Congressional lawmakers, mayors and civil rights activists are ramping up efforts to urge federal officials to reject a request to include a controversial question about citizenship in the upcoming Census. With only weeks before the deadline to submit questions for the 2020 Census, the groups are calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to turn down a request from the Justice Department to ask respondents if they are citizens. “This is not the time to parachute in and try to throw something in at the last minute, particularly something so incendiary that is likely to impact people’s willingness to participate,” said Terry Ao Minnis, director of Census and Voting Programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Alabama: Transgender people sue Alabama over driver’s license policy | Reuters

Three transgender people sued an Alabama state agency on Tuesday, alleging its policy requiring proof of gender surgery to change the gender indicator on driver’s licenses was discriminatory. The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s policy denied transgender people access to identification, and applicants were forced to release medical information to get driver’s licenses. “Anyone who is eligible for a license should be able to get one that they can use without sacrificing their privacy, safety, health, autonomy or dignity,” ACLU lawyer Gabriel Arkles said on a conference call with reporters.

Kansas: Budget feud escalates between county officials, county election commissioners | Topeka Capital-Journal

Secretary of State Kris Kobach and election officials in the state’s four large counties Tuesday opposed a bill designed to shift budget authority for elections in the counties of Shawnee, Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte in hands of county commissions. Kobach argued Kansas law permitted election officers in each of these counties — all appointed by Kobach — to unilaterally certify an annual budget to their respective county commission, which must be financed regardless of amount. Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a nonbinding opinion last August affirming Kobach’s interpretation of state law. Under Senate Bill 299, county commissions in these four jurisdictions would be given authority for election budgets and decisions on personnel policy.

Pennsylvania: Concern over condition of voting machines in Pennsylvania | PAHomepage

The May primary election is fast approaching. Congressional seats are the big prize in the 2018 midterms. Questions have been raised about the condition of some of the Commonwealth’s voting machines. Are they up to snuff? The general consensus is, the voting machines can do the job but many of them are nearing the end of their life cycle. The big question is: where do counties, most of which are financially strapped, get the money to replace them? “It’s a huge expense to the county, but when you’re talking about transparency, about elections, we got no choice,” said David Petri, Luzerne County Manager.

Virginia: Breaking logjam, Virginia House panel advances bill to establish redistricting criteria | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A bill to create a new rulebook for Virginia’s political redistricting process passed a Republican-controlled House of Delegates subcommittee early Tuesday, giving anti-gerrymandering activists an incremental win as other bills they supported were struck down. A House subcommittee on elections, usually the place where redistricting bills go to die, voted 6-0 to advance a bill to set new redistricting criteria in Virginia law as state lawmakers prepare to redraw the General Assembly and congressional maps in 2021. House Bill 1598, sponsored by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, declares that districts should respect existing political boundaries between cities, counties and towns, preserve “communities of interest” and avoid the types of odd, jagged lines lawmakers from both parties have long used to gain political advantage.

Washington: Nearly 7,000 Washington Voters Will Get Last Minute Ballots Due To Motor Voter Error | NW News Network

A batch of late-arriving ballots is going out to nearly 7,000 Washington voters in advance of next Tuesday’s special election. That’s because of an error in the state’s Motor Voter system that allows people to register to vote when they get a drivers license. Washington’s Department of Licensing said a software error prevented Motor Voter information from being transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office. The error affects people who changed their names on their driver’s license and in the process were assigned a new license number. The Department of Licensing said it identified and fixed the error in late January, but it’s just now being made public.

Azerbaijan: Snap election in Azerbaijan: Fighting elite, Russia’s factor and economy | EADaily

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s decree to set the date of a snap presidential election on April 11, 2018, has become a kind of “information bomb.” The Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan has been charged to organize and conduct the presidential election in compliance with the Election Code. The regular presidential election was supposed to be held in October of 2018. The president’s aide for public and political affairs Ali Hasanov has already called the nation to support the incumbent president at the snap election.

Costa Rica: Evangelical, ruling party candidate eye runoff in Costa Rica | Associated Press

Two candidates with the same last name and opposing stances on gay marriage, an issue that came to dominate Costa Rica’s presidential campaign, led election returns and appear headed to a runoff to decide who will be the Central American nation’s next leader. With nearly 87 percent of the ballots counted late Sunday, Fabricio Alvarado, an evangelical whose political stock soared after he came out strongly against same-sex marriage, had 24.8 percent of the vote. Carlos Alvarado — no relation — had 21.7 percent and was the only major candidate among 13 to support gay marriage.

Costa Rica: Women dress in “Handmaid’s Tale” costumes for election-day protest | Salon

In the U.S., Poland and Australia, protestors have dressed in the bright crimson robes and white bonnets made famous by the book and Hulu television series the “Handmaid’s Tale” as a way to demonstrate against policies and politicians they feel are are oppressive to women. Sunday, the protest traveled to Costa Rica, where a group of women donned such costumes to the polls to demonstrate against the statements and proposed policies of presidential front-runner Fabricio Alvarado, an evangelical Christian singer and legislator whose popularity in the current campaign is tied to a platform that appears regressive in relation to women’s rights and is stridently against gay marriage. According to Global News, there were eight women in total who wore the recognizable garb from the series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel from 1985, when they showed up at a voting center in Heredia, outside San Jose.

Malaysia: Transgender voters face dreaded path to the ballot box | Malaysiakini

A group of Malaysians are hesitant about going to the polls this year – because it is too dangerous for them. “To be honest, even I myself previously didn’t want to vote,” said Nisha Ayub, a prominent transgender rights activist, when asked about her voting experience in the general elections. “That is not because I don’t know my rights, it’s that I just don’t want to go through the process. You have to queue and to give your IC (identity card). All things about the IC are a problem to us,” she explained.

United Kingdom: A century after women got the vote, many people are still disenfranchised | The Guardian

Barbara Waterman was born 13 years after the Representation of the People Act gave women over 30 the right to vote in 1918. But it was not until three years ago, in the 2015 election, at the age of 83, that she finally used that right. Until then, Waterman thought she was barred because of her learning disability. Her belief that universal suffrage didn’t extend to people such as her is not uncommon, according to Dimensions, a charity that runs a scheme to help and encourage people with learning disabilities and autism to vote. What changed for Waterman was that she became involved in the charity’s Love Your Vote scheme. It gave her a “voting passport”: a document that provides instructions for polling station staff regarding how she would like to be assisted to vote. After studying Easy Read manifestos produced by each of the political parties online, Waterman was supported to cast her vote for the first time in 2015, then again in June 2017. “The voting passport helped me remember what to do when I got to the place where you vote,” says Waterman.