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.
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 Not all changes are substantive: Long paragraphs have been split up, outdated contacts lists have been updated, and citations to repealed laws have been removed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Amid efforts to prove Texas’ embattled voter ID law is discriminatory, a federal appeals panel on Friday OK’d state lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite the law last year to address faults previously identified by the courts. On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that tossed out the state’s revisions through Senate Bill 5. The lower court had said the changes did not absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against voters of color when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011. But the Legislature “succeeded in its goal” of addressing flaws in the voter ID law in 2017, Judge Edith Jones wrote in the majority opinion for the divided panel, and the lower court acted prematurely when it “abused its discretion” in ruling to invalidate SB 5.
Australia: New South Wales Electoral Commission appoints Scytl for iVote refresh project | Computerworld
Scytl has won a $1.9 million contract to upgrade the NSW Electoral Commission’s iVote application. The 2017-18 state budget included funding to enhance the iVote system, which provides browser-based Internet voting and telephone voting. iVote has been used in two NSW elections, as well as the 2017 WA election and nine NSW by-elections. There have been two versions of iVote; Scytl developed the core voting system used by the application from the 2015 NSW election onward. iVote has three key components: A registration and credential management system, which were both developed by the NSW EC; the Scytl core voting system; and a telephone system built by the electoral commission for vote verification.
Canada: Elections Canada braces for cyberrisks as new voter-registration technology is prepared for 2019 election | The Globe and Mail
Elections Canada is working closely with Canadian security officials to address the “real risks” of potential hacking as the agency prepares to roll out new electronic voter-registration technology for the 2019 federal election. Elections Canada has secured commitments from its outside contractor that the Apple iPads deployed at some advance polls will have never been used − and will never be used in the future − in countries outside of Canada’s “Five Eyes” security partners. Internal documents reveal the sensitive discussions taking place inside Elections Canada as it prepares for an election campaign in an era when countries around the world are grappling with allegations of foreign interference and hacking in the democratic process.
Campaigning for Malaysia’s May 9 general election began on Saturday, pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak against his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad in a contest marred by claims of sabotage and a skewed electoral system. Najib leads his undefeated ruling coalition into arguably its toughest election since independence from Britain in 1957. He is grappling with a multi-billion-dollar scandal at a state fund, public anger over living costs and an unprecedented challenge by the 92-year-old Mahathir. Mahathir, returning to politics after retiring 15 years ago, will stand in the holiday island of Langkawi. Prime minister for 22 years before stepping down in 2003, Mahathir returned to challenge Najib after a billion-dollar scandal at state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
A coalition of labor groups and migrant workers’ unions yesterday urged the government to improve the working conditions of migrant workers and allow them to vote on referendums related to labor issues. About 70 migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday held banners and shouted “live together, decide together” in a demonstration in front of the Central Election Commission office on Xuzhou Road in Taipei. Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have greatly affected migrant workers, because they have the toughest work conditions, said Hsu Wei-dong (許惟棟), a member of the Hope Workers’ Center in Hsinchu.
Police and soldiers went to the ballot box for the first time in Tunisia on Sunday, casting votes in municipal elections after the lifting of a longtime ban. Most Tunisians will vote on May 6 in the municipal polls — the first since the North African country’s 2011 revolution — but members of the security forces cast their ballots a week earlier. “This is a historic day. For the first time we are exercising a right of citizenship,” a police officer told AFP at a polling station in central Tunis, asking to remain anonymous.
Plans requiring voters to prove their identity before casting their ballot are deeply flawed, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has said. The group said it appeared the plans were a “calculated effort by the government to make voting harder for some citizens”. Pilot schemes will be in place at Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking councils in the local elections in England on 3 May. The ERS said personification fraud, in which someone votes while pretending to be someone else, is “incredibly rare” and the introduction of mandatory voter ID poses more problems than solutions. The ERS chief executive, Darren Hughes, said: “It’s hard not to see this as a calculated effort by the government to make voting harder for some citizens. “As such it’s vital we think about the risks these changes pose to a free and fair franchise in the UK. We need policy based on hard facts, not rumour and innuendo.