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National: James Comey dismisses House Russia report as ‘political document’ | The Guardian

Former FBI director James Comey on Sunday dismissed a House intelligence committee report that found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign as a “political document”. Interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press, Comey said the most important investigation into Russian election interference and alleged links between Trump aides and Moscow was being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Senate judiciary and intelligence committees are also investigating. Democrats on the House committee protested the conclusions of the report, claiming the Republican majority had acted primarily to defend Trump.  Read More

National: The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual | Buzzfeed

Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors. In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down. The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media. Not all changes are substantive: Long paragraphs have been split up, outdated contacts lists have been updated, and citations to repealed laws have been removed. Read More

Editorials: The House’s Russia report has some good ideas — but bias drowns them out | The Washington Post

Of the three major investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the House Intelligence Committee’s has been the briefest, sloppiest and most partisan. The result is a report released Friday that contains some useful information and recommendations — which will be drowned out by its slanted attacks on the intelligence community and its other attempts to give President Trump cover. “In 2015, Russia began engaging in a covert influence campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report begins. “The Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, sought to sow discord in American society and undermine our faith in the democratic process.” Although these sentences suggest that the committee does not live in the president’s world of total denial, the committee neverthe less refused to accept that the Kremlin tried to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump. Read More

Alaska: Election cost doubles as Anchorage turns to vote by mail | Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage paid slightly more than $1 million to hold the city’s first-ever vote-by-mail election this spring, roughly twice the cost of previous poll-based elections, according to data released by election officials Friday. Elections officials said they weren’t surprised by the higher price tag for the election, an experiment that recorded the highest number of voters in an April city election in city history. But the bigger bill likely won’t go away anytime soon, officials said.”It looks like going forward we will probably have higher election costs doing vote-by-mail than we did the poll-based election,” said Assemblyman Pete Petersen, who chairs the Assembly’s ethics and elections committee. Read More

Arkansas: Order blocking voter ID law appealed | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

As expected, state lawyers on Friday appealed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray’s decision to block the voter identification law. The judge ruled Thursday that the General Assembly had created the requirement that voters show government-approved photo identification by inserting an unsupportable contradiction in the state Constitution, which controls the election process. With early voting starting May 7, less than two weeks away, Secretary of State Mark Martin and the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners went right to the Arkansas Supreme Court rather than petition Gray to stay her own order. Martin, represented by Deputy Secretary of State A.J. Kelly, the secretary’s general counsel, and the commissioners, through Dylan Jacobs, assistant solicitor general for the Arkansas attorney general, launched separate appeals almost simultaneously Friday. Read More

Kansas: House votes against state money for Kobach for contempt case | The Kansas City Star

A move by a Kansas House Republican would keep GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach from using state money to pay for being found in contempt of court. Kobach, who is running for governor, was found in contempt of court by a federal judge earlier this month. The legislation was offered by Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin. He said the move would prohibit using any state money for defense or penalties involved in a finding of a contempt of court by statewide elected officials. That would include the governor and the secretary of state. “You pay your own bills if you get yourself in that kind of trouble,” Jennings said. The change passed, 103-16. The overall budget bill that includes the prohibition is still a ways from making it to Gov. Jeff Colyer’s desk. Read More

Michigan: Group challenges anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative | Associated Press

A group with ties to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is challenging a 2018 ballot initiative that aims to end political gerrymandering by empowering an independent commission to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts. Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution filed a challenge Thursday with the state elections board, announcing that it had also sued in the state appeals court a day before. It contends ballot committee Voters Not Politicians is seeking to amend so many parts of the state constitution that a constitutional convention is required, and that the proposal does not list all of the sections of the constitution that would be abrogated. Read More

Ohio: Ballot question aims to reform Ohio’s redistricting process | The Toledo Blade

A single statewide question greets voters on the May 8 ballot, asking them to amend the Ohio Constitution to create what backers claim will be a less partisan way to redraw congressional districts each decade. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed it. It has a broad swath of bipartisan support from government watchdog, business, labor, and agricultural organizations. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues the plan would still allow partisan gerrymandering, isn’t asking voters to reject it. Keary McCarthy, one of the leaders of the “yes” campaign on Issue 1, said a modest budget of less than $500,000 will focus on promoting the broad, bipartisan support. But he also knows that the multistep process involved could be relatively confusing to explain. Read More

Editorials: Ohio redistricting proposal unites strange bedfellows | Dan Krassner/Cincinnati Inquirer

Political reformers across America are paying close attention to how Ohioans vote on May 8. But it’s not about candidates or political parties. It’s about how you vote on Issue 1, the ballot measure that would end gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is when politicians draw the boundaries of those districts in order to create an unfair advantage for one political party over another. Ohio voters get the first say on the topic of ending gerrymandering this year before voters consider similar ballot initiatives in November in Michigan, Missouri, Utah and Colorado. Seventy-one percent of Ohio voters approved another Issue 1 in 2015 to end gerrymandering of state legislative districts. This year’s Issue 1 ends gerrymandering of federal congressional districts. If passed, it would create a fair system to draw congressional district lines in an open, transparent manner, with citizen input. It’s a common-sense reform that would bring fairness and a level playing field to congressional elections. Read More

Pennsylvania: Lancaster County will try to avoid replacing voting machines that already have paper trails | Lancaster Online

Lancaster County officials are taking a “cautious” approach to what they believe could be a costly, and perhaps misplaced, directive that they replace their 12-year-old voting system by the end of 2019. Each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties must implement a new voting system that meets two qualifications, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The system must leave a “voter-verifiable paper record,” and it must be among the systems approved by the department in 2018 or later. Though Lancaster County is among the minority of counties that still have voting machines with paper trails, its system is from 2006. “We felt like our paper ballot system would qualify but as of right now it does not,” said Commissioner Dennis Stuckey. “What we’ll have to do is press the case and see if we can convince them that we will qualify. So far they’ve told us (our system) will not be certified.” Read More