Senators are working to again revise legislation designed to help guard digital voting infrastructure from cyberattacks after meeting with state officials. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told The Hill that he expects to work out the final details of the bill within “weeks,” after state election officials expressed some remaining concerns with the current version. Lankford and a slate of bipartisan co-sponsors originally introduced the legislation, called the Secure Elections Act, last December, months after the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that Russian hackers tried to break into voting systems in 21 states as part of a broader effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
If a person is convicted of first-degree murder in the state of Vermont, he or she will retain the right to vote — even while incarcerated. But a person who commits perjury in Mississippi could be permanently barred from casting a ballot there. It is up to states — not the federal government — to say whether convicted felons can vote, and which ones, and when. So the rules for convicted criminals can change, sometimes drastically, from one state to the next. (The issue can be knotty within states, too: This past week, New York’s governor announced plans to sidestep a resistant State Legislature to give the vote to felons on parole.) It’s a lot to keep track of, but here’s an overview of where states stand — at least for now — on felons’ voting rights.
National: ‘Protecting our democracy’: DNC chair defends suit against Trump and Russia | The Guardian
Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday defended the Democratic National Committee’s decision to sue Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over Russian election interference, saying the DNC was “protecting our democracy” and could “walk and chew gum” when it came to keeping its focus on the midterm elections. The multimillion-dollar civil suit was filed on Friday in federal court in the southern district of New York, claiming senior Trump officials conspired with the Russian government in an attempt to damage Hillary Clinton. The suit seeks damages for the hacking of DNC email servers.Donald Trump tweeted about the suit over the weekend, seemingly promising a legal counter move. “So funny, the Democrats have sued the Republicans for Winning,” he wrote on Saturday. “Now he [sic] R’s counter and force them to turn over a treasure trove of material, including Servers and Emails!” It was unclear why Republicans would sue to obtain Democratic party emails, many of which are already public owing to Russia-directed hacking that began in April 2016.
Arizona: Lawmakers at odds over a bill that could keep a McCain successor off the ballot this year | The Washington Post
State lawmakers in Arizona are sparring over legislation that would give a Republican successor to Sen. John McCain a pass on having to stand for election in November even if the ailing six-term senator resigns or dies before the end of next month. Leaders of the Republican-controlled state Senate say they plan a vote next week on the measure, which could have implications on control of the U.S. Senate and has intensified the spotlight on the health of McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer. Democrats have cried foul and are vowing to block the bill, which they say reflects how worried Republicans are about defending GOP-held seats, even in a red state like Arizona. The state’s other U.S. Senate seat is also on the ballot in November, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is not seeking reelection.
Arkansas: Attorney general again rejects bid to create panel to draw state’s districts | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday rejected, for the second time, the ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw Arkansas’ legislative and congressional district boundaries. Rutledge first shot down the proposed amendment’s title last month, citing ambiguities in the text. She noted additional unclear terms Friday. Little Rock attorney David Couch, who wrote the proposal, said the objections raised in Friday’s opinion are different from those raised in the first rejection.
Missouri legislators approved numerous changes Thursday to local elections, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots by email. The omnibus measure won final approval in the Senate, 24-7, more than a week after the House passed it 139-6. The measure would also potentially reduce the amount of time candidates would have to get their names on ballots during special elections.
North Dakota voters should be prepared to show identification when they go to the polls in June, although just what that means might depend on a federal judge. Secretary of State Al Jaeger spoke to the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee Friday about the state’s election system. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland expanded the valid forms of identification that can be used by tribal members and struck down a state mandate that voter identification include a current residential street address. Several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa first challenged the state’s voter ID law more than two years ago. They are asking the court to award them $1.1 million in attorney fees and other costs.
Pennsylvania: Robert Torres: Its time to bring Pennsylvania’s voting machines up to modern, secure standards | The Morning Call
Imagine depending on a 12-year-old cellphone or a 15-year-old computer. No one would fault you for seeking to replace that outdated equipment with newer, technologically superior models. Many counties in the commonwealth own voting systems that old or even older. Fortunately, voting machines remain reliable longer than cellphones and laptops. Also, Pennsylvania employs a host of measures — such as comprehensive monitoring and network isolation — to maintain their security. With the cooperation of law enforcement and cybersecurity partners, we know our elections will be run in a safe, secure way this year. But as our voting machines approach the end of their usable life, we must think and plan ahead now. We are constantly reminded that worldwide cybersecurity threats are growing and hackers have become increasingly sophisticated. Modernizing Pennsylvania’s election infrastructure is the responsible thing to do so our citizens can feel confident that their votes are accurately and securely recorded.
Texas: Why everyone is mad in the Texas redistricting fight that’s taken seven years | The Texas Tribune
Everyone in the Texas redistricting fight is pissed off. In their latest brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, the voting and minority rights groups challenging Texas’ political maps painted Republican state lawmakers as “opportunistically inconsistent in their treatment of appearance versus reality.” Pointing to the lawmakers’ 2013 adoption of a court-drawn map that was meant to be temporary, the groups chronicled the actions as “a ruse,” a “shellgame strategy” and a devious “smokescreen” meant to obscure discriminatory motives behind a previous redistricting plan. Channeling their anger toward the lower court that found lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color, state attorneys used a February brief to denounce the court’s ruling as one that “defies law and logic,” suffers multiple “legal defects” and “flunks the commonsense test to boot.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on whether Abbott can suspend state election law to call a special election “as soon as is legally possible” to fill the congressional seat left vacant when embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned two weeks ago. In a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday, Abbott said he is concerned that state and federal law may not allow an election earlier than September. Abbott said he is concerned that coastal Texans continuing to seek federal relief from Hurricane Harvey damage lack representation in Congress. Abbott writes in the letter that “it is imperative to restore representation” to the voters of the 27th Congressional District, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop and Caldwell counties. Abbott noted that all of the district’s 13 counties are covered by his most recent disaster declaration for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The last parliamentary elections in Lebanon were held nine years ago. Since then, the country has seen its executive body sit vacant for two years, watched parliament extend its tenure twice, and witnessed a prime minister abruptly resign and just as suddenly retract his resignation. A new electoral law, passed last summer, staved off a major political deadlock that threatened to leave the country without a parliament – and the bill set a vote deadline of May 2018. But as the country prepares to put the new electoral law to the test, many Lebanese expressed scepticism and a lack of enthusiasm for the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Mexico’s lower house of Congress has voted to remove politicians’ immunity from prosecution, a move meant to curb corruption and impunity and lessen perceptions the country’s political class can act above the law. Under the constitutional changes approved late on Thursday, the country’s president – who can currently only be impeached for treason and “serious crimes of the common order” – could be put on criminal trial while in office, but only after a vote in congress. “This bill will put an end to the impunity that prevails in Mexico’s political circles,” congressman Jesús Álvarez López of the leftist Morena party told AP. Politicians from all sides were quick to claim credit for the changes – which have long been pushed by parties while in opposition but blocked by the party in power.
The candidate from Paraguay’s ruling Colorado Party won Sunday’s presidential election, according to official results with 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing to another five years of pro-business policies in the major soy producer. The country’s elections authority said Mario Abdo, a 46-year-old former senator who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, had an “irreversible” advantage over his main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition. “My administration will be committed to gaining the confidence of those who did not accompany us,” Abdo said in his acceptance speech.
A fledgling Turkish political party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks. Turkey’s top electoral board ruled the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party would be allowed to participate in the polls, a board official said. President Tayyip Erdogan this week called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, more than a year earlier than scheduled. The announcement wrongfooted the troubled opposition and brings Erdogan closer to his long-sought goal of a presidency with sweeping executive powers.
Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities, according to a leaked letter to ministers from the equality and human rights watchdog. In a move that will fuel controversy over the treatment of migrants in the UK following the Windrush scandal, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the plan for compulsory checks was more evidence of the kind of “hostile environment” that Theresa May’s government wanted to create for people who had come to settle in Britain. In a speech on Sunday, Corbyn will claim that Theresa May’s determination to cut immigration at all costs was responsible for the Windrush scandal. He will say: “British citizens who came to our country to rebuild it after the war have faced deportation because they couldn’t clear the deliberately unreachable bar set by Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.”