Texas: Plaintiffs still fear exposure of voter data even with Trump’s fraud commission dissolved | Dallas Morning News

President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission was disbanded last week, but plaintiffs in a Texas lawsuit want more assurances about the safety of voter information. The question of what voter data Texas can release to such commissions and what safeguards they must ensure stems from a lawsuit filed in July by the Texas NAACP and the Texas League of Women Voters seeking to block the state from handing over its voter rolls to the federal commission. Texas election law includes provisions that prohibit the information from being used for commercial purposes. If the information was given to the commission, plaintiffs argued, it would be open to public review under a federal law, allowing businesses to sidestep the state law banning its use for commercial purposes. It would also put the data at risk of a breach, plaintiffs said.

Washington: Legislators consider expanding voting rights | Auburn Reporter

Voting rights legislation proposed by Democratic lawmakers aims to boost election turnout for young and low-income voters and enhance representation in communities often left out in political affairs. One bill would allow local governments to change their local election processes without going through court; the other would extend the voter registration period and allow same-day in-person registration. Both bills have versions in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two bills in the House were heard on Tuesday, Jan. 9 and the two bills in the Senate were heard on Wednesday, Jan. 10. Officials and student group leaders from Yakima showed strong support for two bills at the Senate version of the proposal’s hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 10 in Olympia.

Canada: Democracy Watch pushes Elections Ontario to give voters more info on refusing ballots | Toronto Star

With more Ontarians than ever flexing their non-voting rights, a national democracy watchdog is fighting to get those choosing “none of the above” to the polls this spring. In a letter penned to Elections Ontario this week, Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher threatened to launch a court challenge over allegations that information about declining a ballot was buried on the provincial agency’s website. Citizens who aren’t inspired by any of the choices on the ticket in the June 7 election have the right to formally forfeit their vote, and Elections Ontario will count it separately in the final voter turnout tally.

Czech Republic: Czechs head to the polls to elect next president | Al Jazeera

Three months after the election of the populist Eurosceptic and billionaire Andrej Babis as prime minister, Czechs will once again head to the polls on Friday and Saturday to elect a new president. The favourite in the field of nine candidates vying for a spot in the election runoff later this month is the outspoken incumbent, President Milos Zeman, who at 73 has watched his country become more politically divided during his five-year tenure. As a member of an increasingly right-wing regional alliance of Central European nations, named the Visegrad Group, that includes Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the Czech Republic stands at an ideological crossroads with the rise of the country’s xenophobic far right, which rose to parliament in October’s legislative elections.

Norway: Prime minister, says Europe is on alert about Russian interference | The Washington Post

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who calls her country the West’s “eyes and ears” on Russia’s northern border, said Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has put European democracies on alert for future meddling. “The discussion you’ve had in the United States has, of course, lifted this issue in all European countries,” Solberg said Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post. “Every country has to deal with it their own way. It’s also about making your political system resilient enough against these types of threats.”

Poland: Lawmakers approve controversial electoral law | Associated Press

Poland’s lawmakers have approved a controversial electoral law that critics say will give the ruling party influence over the voting procedure and will allow more room for vote rigging. The lower house voted late Wednesday to approve the legislation that will govern elections, beginning with local elections this fall. It was proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and is seen as favoring it. The party took power after winning elections in 2015 and immediately set about changing much of Poland’s laws, including those governing the justice system. The changes in the judiciary have drawn strong criticism from European Union leaders who say they threaten Poland’s rule of law, and have opened a procedure that could strip the nation of its EU voting rights. The new electoral law is expected to add to Poland’s conflict with its EU partners.

National: White House says it will destroy Trump voter panel data, send no records to DHS | The Washington Post

State voter registration data collected by President Trump’s abandoned election fraud commission will be destroyed and not shared with the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency, a White House aide told a federal judge. White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon also said in a legal filing in Washington late Tuesday that none of the controversial panel’s other “records or data will be transferred to the DHS or another agency” from this point on, except for disclosure or archiving that a court or federal law might require. Herndon’s declaration left unclear what other information the panel may have assembled since its formation in May, if any analysis was done and whether information had already been shared with others outside the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, according to lawyers who participated in a telephone conference call with the court Wednesday.

National: Republicans Are AWOL on Russian Election Meddling | Foreign Policy

Senate Democrats have produced a factual report about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine democracy. Everyone should read it. On Wednesday morning, Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a report to his colleagues entitled “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.” This so-called minority staff report (because it was authored by the staff working for the Democratic minority on the committee) is an impressive piece of work. In more than 200 pages, it lays out Putin’s tactics over nearly two decades — and includes a host of specific practical recommendations for a U.S. response.

National: Groups document voting rights abuses in Indian Country | Associated Press

Election sites far from reservations. Poll workers who don’t speak tribal languages. Unequal access to early voting sites. Native Americans say they’ve encountered a wide range of obstacles that makes voting difficult. Advocates have been spending the last few months gathering stories from around Indian Country in hopes that tribal members can wield more influence in elections, and improve conditions among populations that encounter huge disparities in health, education and economics. “Some of the problems they were facing actually were issues we thought we’d taken care of long ago,” said OJ Semans, a Rosebud Sioux tribal member and executive director of Four Directions. “If you don’t keep your eye open and the communication open, things will reverse.”

Media Release: Verified Voting Says Paper Ballots and Post-Election Audits Can Safeguard our Elections as State and Local Election Officials Discuss Election Security

Marian K. Schneider: “Passing the bipartisan Security Elections Act will advance our nation’s efforts to protect and ensure trustworthy elections.” The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, regarding the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) summit held today in Washington, D.C. For additional media inquires, please contact aurora@newheightscommunications.com   “As…

California: Sen. McGuire introduces bill to ensure all votes are counted | Lake County News

A strong democracy depends on a voter’s belief that their vote counts. However, in California, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, more than 25,000 residents would be shocked to know that their ballots had been thrown away and not counted in the November 2016 General Election cycle. These 25,000 mail ballots were thrown out because of a mismatching signature — the voter’s signature on their ballot did not match what was in their file. While mismatching signatures can occur for a number of reasons, there is no law that mandates local election officials notify voters that their ballot will be tossed, or provide them with an opportunity to correct the mistake.

Illinois: Judge: Referendum on Aurora election law can go on March ballot | Daily Herald

Residents of Aurora will decide March 20 whether county clerks will take over running their elections. Kane County Judge David Akemann ruled Tuesday there were enough signatures on petitions to put a question on the ballot, and that the primary election was suitable for the vote. Objectors Alex Arroyo and Gordon Leach had argued petitioners didn’t collect enough good signatures. They needed signatures from 1,000 registered voters in the part of Aurora subject to the Aurora Election Commission. Petition-passers collected more than 1,540 signatures. The objectors said only 974 were valid. They said more than 300 were invalid because they didn’t match signatures on voter registrations; 39 were invalid because the names were printed, not written in cursive lettering; more than 130 signers were not registered voters; and 93 didn’t count because they lived outside the jurisdiction.

Massachusetts: Early Voting Expansion Proposed To Include Massachusetts Primary | WAMC

The top election official in Massachusetts has scheduled the state’s 2018 primary for September 4th — the day after Labor Day.  Secretary of State William Galvin is also proposing legislation to allow five days of early voting for the primaries. The date of the primary had to be moved up to avoid conflicts with Jewish holidays that fall this year on the second and third Tuesdays in September.  A primary later in the month might not allow for any potential recounts to be completed in time to meet a federally-established deadline to mail general election ballots to military personnel stationed overseas, according to Galvin’s office.

New Mexico: Supreme Court clears way for ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe | Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe’s March 6 municipal election. The high court rejected city government’s petition seeking to overturn state District Judge David Thomson’s December ruling that Santa Fe had to implement ranked-choice voting, or RCV, in 2018. The Supreme Court’s order simply denied the city’s petition without explanation or comment. City spokesman Matt Ross said the decision was a disappointment, partly because no explanation was provided.

North Carolina: North Carolina’s Novel Anti-Partisan-Gerrymander Ruling | The Atlantic

Federal judges have yet again struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as an unconstitutional gerrymander, dealing Republicans a blow and throwing the state’s maps into chaos just months before a pivotal midterm election. A three-judge panel, including one circuit-court judge and two district-court judges, ruled Tuesday evening that the Old North State’s redistricting plan relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution. The decision is the first time a federal court has ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander. The final word, however, will likely come from the Supreme Court, which is considering two partisan-gerrymandering cases.

North Carolina: Durham elections worker pleads guilty to altering vote counts in 2016 primary | WRAL

A former Durham County elections worker has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the mishandling of provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election, officials said Wednesday. Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, pleaded guilty last Friday to failure to discharge a duty of his office and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, suspended to a year on probation and a $500 fine, according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. An obstruction of justice charge was dismissed. Elections board officials discovered the problem during a routine audit of primary results in April 2016. The issue involved provisional ballots, which are given to voters who experience some sort of administrative issue when they show up at a polling place, such as a glitch in voter registration or trying to cast a ballot in the wrong precinct.

Ohio: In Voter Purging Case, Supreme Court Appears Divided | Governing

Ohio is among a handful of states where voters can be kicked off voter registration rolls after not voting in three federal elections. During oral arguments on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared split on whether that practice violates federal election laws. Once a registered voter skips two years’ worth of elections, Ohio mails them a confirmation notice and then purges voters who don’t respond and don’t vote for another four years. In 2015 and 2016, Ohio purged 426,781 voters this way.

Ohio: Ohio Republicans propose changes to congressional redistricting; Democrats say it won’t end gerrymandering | Cleveland Plain Dealer

State lawmakers would still draw congressional districts, but would need bipartisan support to approve a map under a GOP proposal unveiled Wednesday morning. Sen. Matt Huffman, the Lima Republican behind the proposal, said requiring minority-party votes and setting new rules for how districts could be drawn are improvements over the current process. But Democrats and redistricting-reform advocates say the plan still allows for too much political maneuvering by the majority party. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition plans to move forward with its proposed constitutional amendment.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico announces shadow congressional delegation | The Hill

Puerto Rican officials on Wednesday introduced the territory’s “Statehood Commission,” a shadow congressional delegation that will make the case for the territory’s statehood. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) announced the commission’s members on the House floor, saying territorial status subjects Puerto Ricans “to a second-class citizenship.” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) named former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and Zoraida Fonalledas (R) as shadow senators; and former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) as shadow representatives.

Virginia: Thousands of Virginians may have voted in the wrong state House districts | Washington Post

Thousands of Virginia voters may be registered in the wrong state House district, raising the possibility of election disputes. In a statewide analysis, The Washington Post found addresses of about 6,000 registered voters that appear to lie outside a map of the assigned House district. If their turnout tracked the state average, more than 2,800 mistaken state House votes could have been cast in November. Six of the 100 delegate races were decided by fewer than 500 votes. One was decided by a coin flip. One controversy stemming from such errors is now playing out in the 28th House District near Fredericksburg. Democrats are seeking a new electionbecause 147 people voted in the wrong race, while Republican Bob Thomas won by just 73 votes. (They can’t just throw out the individual bad ballots since they can’t be identified). A state Department of Elections investigation there, launched following voter complaints, found the 147 affected voters got the wrong ballot because official voter registration records placed them in the wrong district.

Kenya: EU Observers: Kenya’s 2017 Election Process Undermined Democracy | VoA News

The European Union’s chief observer for Kenya’s 2017 elections says the process was far from perfect, singling out, in particular, the country’s politicians. The EU mission is calling for Kenya to undertake reforms that will strengthen democracy. Speaking Tuesday at the European Parliament, the EU chief election observer in Kenya, Marietje Schaake, blamed politicians for problems with the country’s 2017 election. “The Kenyan people, including five million young people able to vote for the first time, did not fully enjoy their democratic rights as legally foreseen for all Kenyans,” said Schaake. “The electoral process was damaged by political leaders attacking independent institutions, and by a lack of dialogue between the opposing sides with escalating disputes and violence.”

Lebanon: Political Differences in Lebanon Undermine Electoral Reforms | Asharq AL-awsat

Members of the ministerial committee charged with examining the implementation of the new electoral law have admitted that it was impossible to apply the technical reforms stipulated in the law, with the parliamentary elections due on May 6. While the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, did not result in any decision on the matter, ministers have expressed clear stances towards the implementation of the reforms, in the wake of sharp disputes over the adoption of the biometric voting card and the mega center, which allows voting in place of residence. Ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that differences persisted over technical reforms, pointing out that any amendment in the law “requires prior agreement before submitting it to Parliament – a task that seems difficult so far.”

Spain: Catalonia Separatists Support Re-Election of Exiled Leader Puigdemont | Wall Street Journal

Catalonia’s two main separatist parties have agreed to support the re-election of ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president, in a sign that pro-independence groups are eager to ratchet up the tension with Spain’s central government. The separatists’ agreement is the first significant step toward forming a new government in the restive Spanish region following regional elections Dec. 21. That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell the separatists’ push to secede from Spain. When a new and law-abiding government is seated in Catalonia, Madrid has said it would end direct rule.

National: Democrats warn U.S. remains unprepared for Russian election interference | NBC

One year after U.S. intelligence agencies detailed the scale and scope of Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential elections, the United States still lacks “a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach” to countering potential future threats from the Kremlin or elsewhere, a new Democratic congressional report finds. President Donald Trump’s negligence in acknowledging and responding to the threat of continued Russian interference is among the biggest factors leaving the U.S. at risk, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assert in the report released Wednesday. The 200-page document lays out in detail how Russia, over two decades under President Vladimir Putin, developed, refined and executed tactics to undermine democratic institutions throughout Europe and, ultimately, the U.S.

National: Judge ends consent decree limiting RNC ‘ballot security’ activities | Politico

After more than three decades, Republicans are free of a federal court consent decree that sharply limited the Republican National Committee’s ability to challenge voters’ qualifications and target the kind of fraud President Donald Trump has alleged affected the 2016 presidential race. Newark-based U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez ruled in an order released Tuesday that the longstanding decree ended Dec. 1 and will not be extended. The decree, which dated to 1982, arose from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit charging the RNC with seeking to discourage African-Americans from voting through targeted mailings warning about penalties for violating election laws and by posting armed, off-duty law enforcement officers at the polls in minority neighborhoods.

National: White House plans to erase data from Trump voter fraud panel | The Hill

The White House plans to erase data collected for President Trump’s now-disbanded voter fraud commission instead of turning it over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Politico reported Tuesday. In a court filing, White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said the commission would destroy voter data associated with its efforts, despite the White House signaling last week DHS would handle the probe moving forward. Herndon added that the panel did not create any “preliminary findings,” despite White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously suggesting such findings would be sent to DHS, Politico reported.

National: DOJ Wants to Ask a Question on Citizenship in the 2020 Census | The Atlantic

A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats. In December, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking that it reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. “This data is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the department said in a letter. “To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.” The request immediately met pushback from census experts, civil rights advocates, and a handful of Democratic senators, who say that the argument is unfounded and that the timing of the request is irresponsible.

National: DHS: Kobach not advising on new voter fraud investigation | The Kansas City Star

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved. President Donald Trump officially disbanded his voter fraud commission last week in the face of a flood of lawsuits and resistance from states to a massive data request sent out by Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, in June. The administration said the Department of Homeland Security would study the issue instead of the commission.

National: Fusion GPS founder testified Trump associate went to FBI over Russia concerns | Reuters

An associate of Donald Trump expressed concerns to the FBI about contacts between Russia and Trump’s presidential election campaign team, helping to trigger the probe into possible collusion, according to closed-door testimony made public on Tuesday by a senior Democrat. Glenn Simpson, who leads the Washington research firm Fusion GPS, said in his August testimony that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received intelligence from a “voluntary source” in Trump’s orbit in 2016, before a former British spy gave the FBI his own “dossier” of allegations about collusion. Fusion GPS hired the former spy, Christopher Steele, to investigate Trump’s business dealings with Russia.

Indiana: State could eliminate excuse requirement for voting absentee by mail | Kokomo Perspective

Hoosiers soon may no longer need to cite a specific reason for voting by absentee ballot. On Monday, state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, won unanimous approval from the Senate Elections Committee for his proposal allowing any registered voter to cast their ballot by mail prior to Election Day. Current law requires voters identify one of 13 excuses for voting absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day, lacking transportation to the polls or observing a religious holiday.