Editorials: Trump’s explanation for shutting down his voter fraud commission is just as untrue and partisan | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

President Trump’s efforts to root out voter fraud in the 2016 election were always a charade. Before Election Day, he offered dire warnings in his campaign speeches about voters near Philadelphia (winkwinkwinkwink) and in other places who were voting illegally. His campaign put together a halfhearted poll-watching system, encouraging supporters to blow the whistle on apparent fraudulent activity at the polls. Then, unexpectedly, Trump won Pennsylvania, and his claims of fraud in the Keystone State vanished from his portfolio faster than an Atlantic City casino. Instead, he found new targets: California — a state which, by itself, made up the vote margin by which Trump lost the popular vote — and New Hampshire, a state he narrowly lost. In Michigan, the closest state of the cycle, Trump wasn’t worried about fraud having been a factor; his lawyers declared in a court filing in that state opposing a recount that “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

Editorials: Two Ways of Looking at Gerrymandering | Linda Greenhouse/The New York Times

Even though Doug Jones won a famous statewide victory in last month’s Alabama Senate race, he actually lost — less famously — to Roy Moore in six of the state’s seven congressional districts. That’s right: He carried only the heavily black Seventh Congressional District, into which the Alabama Legislature has jammed almost a third of the state’s African-American population while making sure that the rest of the districts remain safely white and Republican. That’s gerrymandering in the raw. Something equally raw, although less overtly racial, happened in Maryland back in 2011, when the overwhelmingly Democratic State Legislature decided that two Republicans out of Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation was at least one Republican too many. The 2010 census required the state to shrink the majority-Republican Sixth District by 10,000 people in order to restore one-person, one-vote equality among the districts. Seeing its opportunity for some major new line-drawing, the Legislature conducted a population transfer. It moved 66,417 Republican voters out of the district while moving into it 24,460 Democratic voters from safely Democratic adjoining districts, a swing of more than 90,000 votes. And guess what? The 20-year Republican incumbent, Roscoe Bartlett, lost the 2012 election to the Democratic candidate, John Delaney, who has won re-election ever since.

Illinois: Judge hears arguments about Aurora Election Commission referendum | Aurora Beacon-News

Proponents and opponents of a referendum seeking to eliminate the AuroraElection Commission were able to agree on one thing during a court hearing Thursday — the situation is unique. The hearing of objections to the referendum is being heard in 16th Circuit Court in Geneva, before Judge David Akemann, because it cannot be heard by the body that would normally hear nominating petition objections, the Aurora Election Commission. State election law set up a hearing before a circuit court judge on the idea that the Election Commission might be biased toward a referendum seeking its elimination. A citizens group submitted about 1,500 signatures — it needed only 1,000 — asking that the referendum be put on the March 20 primary election ballot.

Kansas: Kobach charges two with voting in Kansas, Colorado | The Kansas City Star

Less than a day after President Donald Trump dismantled his voter fraud commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has filed criminal charges against two people he says voted illegally in the 2016 election. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor who had served as the commission’s vice chair, obtained prosecutorial power in 2015 and is the only secretary of state in the nation with such authority. He has filed charges against 15 people since then for a variety of election crimes, resulting in nine convictions or plea deals and one dismissal. The remaining five cases, including the charges announced Thursday, remain pending. Most of those cases have involved U.S. citizens who have allegedly voted in more than one jurisdiction rather than non-citizens, despite Kobach’s claims that hundreds of non-citizens are on the voter rolls.

North Carolina: Altered Legislative Districts Back in Court | Associated Press

North Carolina legislative districts drawn up by Republicans are back in court as federal judges decide whether to accept proposed boundary changes from the third-party expert they appointed. The three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired as a special master redrew boundaries the way he did. The judges appointed Nathaniel Persily because they were concerned new state House and Senate maps approved by the GOP-controlled legislature last summer failed to remove unlawful racial bias from four districts. House and Senate districts drawn by Republican legislators have been challenged in courts since 2011.

Editorials: Husted voting rights case: The Supreme Court has a chance to redeem itself | Karen Hobert Flynn/The Washington Post

Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and nearly 66 million cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. But the votes for Trump and Clinton fell well short of the number cast for no one at all; more than 95 million eligible Americans just didn’t vote. Some of those nonvoters probably just didn’t like Trump or Clinton or any of their minor-party challengers. Some were ill or disabled or out of the country or couldn’t get away from work to vote. Some had no way to get to the registrar’s office before the registration deadline or to the polls on Election Day. And, sad to say, some didn’t vote because they’ve given up on politics and government. Whatever their reasons, the nonvoters had the same right to vote — guaranteed by our Constitution — as the people who voted. But because they didn’t vote, millions of Americans now face the loss of that right at the hands of state officials who ought to be protecting it.

Virginia: Citing registration concerns, attorney warns of false voter fraud prosecutions | WTOP

A Virginia commonwealth’s attorney has warned prosecutors statewide Wednesday against prosecuting certain voter registration fraud cases, due to concerns raised by Virginia registrars. In an email obtained by WTOP through a Freedom of Information Act request, Chuck Slemp, commonwealth’s attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton, said he has dropped prosecutions in “several cases” where it initially appeared that felons were trying to register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles, because he cannot be completely sure any data in the system is accurate. “I believe that all Commonwealth’s Attorneys should be made aware of this issue because there may be a considerable risk of unfair prosecution of certain individuals statewide,” the email forwarded on Slemp’s behalf said.

Germany: Second time lucky? Merkel starts over with coalition talks | Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, weakened by an election setback in September, launches a second bid to build a coalition government on Sunday when she sits down with the Social Democrats (SPD) for exploratory talks. A re-run of her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD, in power from 2013 to 2017, appears the best option for conservative Merkel is as it would provide stability in what would be her fourth term. But with success far from guaranteed, there are a range of other possible scenarios. After her conservatives bled support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 national election, Merkel saw her authority undermined two months later by the collapse of three-way coalition talks with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens.

Honduras: NGOs, Governments Call For Dialogue To End Honduran Election Crisis | teleSUR

International organizations and governments are backing dialogue between former presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla and president-elect of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez. The German Embassy in Honduras said it supports talks between the two parties and denounces any violence. In a release issued on Jan. 2, the Embassy stated “all responsible should be dedicated to finding a peaceful solution for the good of the entire country and to strengthen the people’s confidence of a stable democracy” in Honduras. The Coordinator of Spanish Non-Government Organizations in Honduras, or Congdeh, is also urging the Spanish government along with other European Union member states to help the Hondurans “find a legitimate (and) constitutional solution” to the current political crisis in the country.

Italy: Election Expected To Produce Hung Parliament | Eurasia Review

Italy will vote on March 4 in an election expected to produce a hung parliament, instability and possible market turbulence in the eurozone’s third largest economy. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s cabinet set the date of the vote after the president dissolved parliament on 28 December, formally opening an election campaign which in practice has already been raging bitterly for weeks. With opinion polls suggesting no one will win a parliamentary majority, Gentiloni said he would remain in office and ensure continuity until a new administration was in place. As things stand, a centre-right alliance around Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy) looks set to take the largest number of seats – potentially catapulting the 81-year-old four-times premier back to centre stage, even though he cannot become prime minister due to a tax fraud conviction.

Russia: Opposition leader appeals ban on election run against Putin | ABC

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has submitted another appeal to the nation’s courts after he was banned from running against President Vladimir Putin, according to Russian media reports. On Wednesday, Navalny submitted an appeal to appellate body of the Russian Supreme Court after his previous challenge to the ruling by the country’s electoral commission, which banned him from running in this year’s presidential election, was denied. Russia’s Central Elections Commission blocked Navalny from running last month by preventing a group of his supporters from nominating him, on the grounds that Navalny had been convicted of fraud.

National: Trump scraps his widely denounced ‘election integrity’ commission | The Guardian

Donald Trump has scrapped his advisory commission on “election integrity”, ending an initiative that was widely denounced by civil rights groups as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of poor people and minorities. A White House statement released on Wednesday evening said that Trump had signed an executive order dissolving the commission. The president put the blame for the panel’s failure on the many states that refused to co-operate with it by handing over voters’ sensitive personal data including name, address, party affiliation and voting history to the inquiry. … After he won the presidential election in November 2016, Trump claimed that at least 3m illegal votes had been cast – the same number by which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. That claim has never been substantiated, and in fact studies have found that more people are struck by lightning each year or attacked by sharks than are accused of election fraud.

National: Trump disbands fraud commission let by Pence, Kobach | The Kansas City Star

President Donald Trump has dissolved a commission intended to investigate voter fraud after a massive data request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led to a backlash from state officials across the political spectrum. The White House announced the dissolution of the panel late Wednesday, citing resistance from states about complying with the commission. Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, had sought personal information on every voter in the nation in June, a massive data request that spurred multiple lawsuits and backlash from state officials from across the political spectrum. Many states had refused to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns, and even Kansas could not legally provide the commission with partial Social Security numbers as Kobach requested.

National: Assessing the Bipartisan Secure Elections Act | Lawfare

On Dec. 21, all eyes were on the Republican bill to cut taxes. Yet a bipartisan group of six senators also had their eyes on the far less sexy (but still important!) topic of election hacking. They quietly introduced a bill called the Secure Elections Act that, if passed, would be a good down payment on improving the confidence we can have in the integrity of our elections. This short, stocking-stuffer size review will: review some of the core questions around election security, assess the bill’s provisions to improve information sharing, its grant program, and its bug bounty, and conclude with some tough realism about additional work that needs to be undertaken to protect our elections.

National: Manafort sues Mueller, challenging scope of Russia investigation | The Hill

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert Mueller in an attempt to kneecap the federal probe into alleged coordination between the campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. In a court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for Manafort argue that the order establishing Mueller’s investigation is overly broad and not permitted under Justice Department regulations. Mueller should be ordered to stop investigating any of Manafort’s conduct that doesn’t relate to his time as campaign chair, the suit says, and the appointment itself should be declared invalid.

Kansas: Court Fight Over Kansas Voting Rights Will Exclude Some Evidence | KCUR

The fight over whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated the constitution in his quest to demand proof of citizenship from voters goes to trial, with a ruling Wednesday that could complicate his case, in March. A federal judge tossed aside some testimony Kobach had hoped to present in his long-running contention that voter fraud is commonplace. The decision came the same day President Donald Trump scrapped a commission, led by Kobach, designed to document what both men have said is widespread cheating at the polls. In a statement, the White House said states were refusing to cooperate with the commission’s work. The panel also faced numerous lawsuits from civil rights groups.

Maine: Lawmakers Weigh Bill to Ban Signature Gathering at Polls | Associated Press

A legislative panel on Wednesday considered a bill that would make signature-gathering at Maine polling places a crime. The bill includes a provision to prohibit exit polling, signature gathering, electioneering and charitable activities within 50 feet of the entrance to polling places. Lawmakers heard testimony on the bill at a committee hearing on Wednesday. Maine lawmakers since January have been contending with laws that voters approved at the polls to legalize recreational marijuana, overhaul Maine’s election system, expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage. Several lawmakers critical of the influence of out-of-state special interest groups have unsuccessfully tried to make it harder for citizens to get questions on the ballot.

Missouri: Judge dismisses suit over Missouri’s voter ID law | Associated Press

A lawsuit alleging that Missouri’s new voter identification law was intended to make it harder for poor and minority residents to cast their ballots has been dismissed. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem on Tuesday threw out the suit filed in June by the ACLU and the Advancement Project on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters. Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a November 2016 ballot measure instituting voter ID. The law became effective June 1.

New Hampshire: State Senate OK’s residency definition for voting; Sununu remains opposed | Union Leader

The state Senate in a 14-9 party-line vote on Wednesday passed HB 372, establishing a new definition of residency that the bill’s supporters hope will pass legal muster and set the stage for enforcement of the bill’s purpose statement: “A person must be a resident of New Hampshire to vote or hold office in New Hampshire.” The bill was substantially changed from the version that passed the House last year, and will have to go back to the House as amended by the Senate. The House version contained only the change in definition. The purpose statement was added by the Senate.

Virginia: Tiebreaker Drawing Is Back On. But It May Not Settle House Race. | The New York Times

Virginia’s on-again, off-again drawing to break a tie in a state House race is back on, with the winner’s name to be ceremoniously plucked from a bowl on Thursday in Richmond. But the drawing, the latest chapter in an election melodrama that has drawn wide attention, may fail to bring finality, since the loser can request a recount — which would be the second recount of the original vote. At 11 a.m. in a building named for Patrick Henry, adjacent to the State Capitol, Virginia’s Board of Elections plans to chose the winner of House District 94 “by lot,’’ as state law specifies. The proceedings will be live-streamed. The only thing that might intervene is a winter storm headed for the Mid-Atlantic states, James Alcorn, the chairman of the elections board, said on Twitter.

Virginia: Recount court denies Democrat’s request, leaving critical House race a tie | The Washington Post

The winner of a pivotal Virginia legislative race will be decided by lottery Thursday, one day after a recount court rejected a request to toss out a disputed ballot that brought the contest to a tie. In a race full of unexpected twists, the State Board of Elections is set to break the tie by randomly selecting the name of either Republican incumbent David E. Yancey or Democrat Shelly Simonds from a stoneware bowl fashioned by a Virginia artist. The spectacle, expected to be watched via live stream around the country, could break the GOP’s 18-year hold on the House of Delegates. But even if Simonds wins the drawing — splitting the 100-member chamber right down the middle — odds are the GOP will retain control on day one of the 2018 General Assembly session, when crucial votes for speaker and rules take place.

Ecuador: Campaign for Feb. 4 Referendum Launched | Latin American Herald Tribune

The election campaign for the popular referendum to be held in Ecuador on Feb. 4 began on Wednesday with 40 registered citizens’ organizations, most of them favoring the “yes” vote for the seven questions to be asked of the public by the government of Lenin Moreno. Just four social organizations, of the 40 approved by the National Electoral Council (CNE), will campaign for the “no” option to certain questions on the referendum dealing with issues such as corruption, re-election, capital gains, citizenship, mining and sexual crimes against minors. The CNE reiterated on Wednesday that the election campaign will last until midnight on Feb. 1, when a moratorium on proselytizing will be instituted to give the citizenry time to reflect on how they intend to vote.

Egypt: Court postpones verdict against presidential hopeful: sources | Reuters

An Egyptian court on Wednesday postponed its verdict in a case against rights lawyer and presidential hopeful Khaled Ali, judicial sources said, leaving uncertainty over whether he will be allowed to run in a forthcoming election. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to seek a second term in the presidential vote early this year, but has not yet announced his candidacy. Ali said in November he intended to run against former military commander Sisi, who led the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 before taking office a year later. But a three month prison sentence passed in September for public indecency over an alleged rude hand gesture he made outside a courthouse last year might yet disqualify Ali.

France: Emmanuel Macron promises ban on fake news during elections | The Guardian

Emmanuel Macron has vowed to introduce a law to ban fake news on the internet during French election campaigns. The French president, who beat the far-right Marine Le Pen to win 2017’s election, said he wanted new legislation for social media platforms during election periods “in order to protect democracy”. In his new year’s speech to journalists at the Élysée palace, Macron said he would shortly present the new law in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he said threatened liberal democracies. New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped.

Editorials: Liberia’s presidential election is a milestone for democracy in Africa | K. Riva Levinson/The Hill

On Friday, the 29th of December, Liberia’s National Elections Commission declared George Weah the 25th president of the Republic of Liberia. The 51-year old, former soccer superstar, the only African to receive the sport’s highest honor, the Ballon d’Or, was swept into office by the country’s youthful population with 61.5 percent of the vote, beating the incumbent vice president. It was an achievement not just for the opposition politician on the presidential ballot for the third and decisive time, but also a democratic milestone for Africa’s oldest republic. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country’s post-conflict leader, and the first woman elected to lead an African nation, will be stepping down, honoring the constitution after serving two six-year terms. The election marks Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected head-of-state to another in decades. Not since 1944, will a Liberian president take the oath of office in the presence of his (or her) predecessor.  

National: Election Assistance Commission announces meeting next week on securing mid-terms | InsideCyberSecurity

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has announced that it will be holding a public meeting on Jan. 10 to review steps for securing the nation’s election system in advance of mid-term voting this fall. “Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will host an all day summit to highlight a spectrum of issues that state and local election officials will face as they work to administer a secure, accessible and efficient 2018 Election,” according to a Federal Register notice issued today. The congressionally mandated commission will hear from witness on “topics such as election security, voting accessibility, and how to use election data to improve the voter experience,” according to the announcement.

National: Critics Say Questions About Citizenship Could Wreck Chances for an Accurate Census | The New York Times

A request by the Justice Department to ask people about their citizenship status in the 2020 census is stirring a broad backlash from census experts and others who say the move could wreck chances for an accurate count of the population — and, by extension, a fair redistricting of the House and state legislatures next decade. Their fear, echoed by experts in the Census Bureau itself, is that the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on immigration, and especially on undocumented migrants, will lead Latinos and other minorities, fearing prosecution, to ignore a census that tracks citizenship status. Their failure to participate would affect population counts needed not only to apportion legislative seats, but to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money to areas that most need it.

Editorials: The Republicans’ Fake Investigations | Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch/The New York Times

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.” Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

Editorials: Florida’s 1.5 Million Missing Voters | The New York Times

Everyone remembers that the 2000 presidential election was decided by 537 votes in Florida. Far fewer remember another important number from the state that year — 620,000, the Floridians who were barred from voting because state records showed, correctly or not, they had been convicted of a felony. It didn’t matter whether their crime was murder or driving with a suspended license, nor whether they had fully served their sentence. In Florida, the voting ban is entrenched in the Constitution, and it’s for life. Today, Florida disenfranchises almost 1.5 million of its citizens, more than 11 states’ populations and roughly a quarter of the more than six million Americans who are unable to vote because of a criminal record.