Editorials: Can the Kremlin Influence the French Election? | Cécile Vaissié/The New York Times

Never, it is being said, has a presidential election in France seemed so uncertain. And never has there been so much concern about possible attempts by the Russian leadership to shape — perhaps even interfere with — the outcome. Last month, President François Hollande of France denounced the Kremlin’s efforts to “influence public opinion” through “ideological operations” and its “strategy of influence, of networks” in France. His comments followed another accusation, by Richard Ferrand, the national secretary of the En Marche! (Onward!) movement, who claimed that the Kremlin was responsible for a series of cyberattacks against the party’s website and that it was seeking to undermine Emmanuel Macron, En Marche!’s presidential candidate, for being, among other things, too pro-European Union. The Kremlin has denied this.

Editorials: Why It Is so Hard to Vote If You’re Black, Poor or Elderly in America | Mirren Gidda/Newsweek

The U.S. prides itself on being the world’s greatest democracy, but across the country, millions of people are denied the right to vote. More than half of all states require voters to show ID when they cast a ballot, yanking the most vulnerable in U.S. society from the electoral process. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that Texas’ electoral law, which requires voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot, intentionally discriminates against black and Hispanic voters. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, ethnic minorities, along with low-income, disabled and elderly voters, are less likely to have government-issued identification.

Editorials: Using randomness to protect election integrity | Eugene Vorobeychik/The Conversation

Democratic societies depend on trust in elections and their results. Throughout the 2016 presidential election, and since President Trump’s inauguration, allegations of Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential campaign have raised concerns about how vulnerable American elections are to hacking or other types of interference. Various investigations – involving congressional committees, the FBI and the intelligence community – are underway, seeking to understand what happened and how. There are many potential problems with elections: Voters can be individually coerced or bribed into changing their votes; the public can be misled about important facts, causing them to draw inaccurate conclusions that affect their votes; and the physical – and electronic – process of voting can itself be hacked. Without conducting a full, vote-by-vote manual recount, which is impossible because many voting machines leave no paper trail, how can we be sure an election was conducted fairly and not interfered with?

Editorials: A Serbian Election Erodes Democracy | The New York Times

With Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s decisive victory in the presidential election on April 2, Serbia has edged closer to autocracy. Though the presidency is largely ceremonial, Mr. Vucic can now handpick his successor as prime minister and consolidate his power, since Parliament and the judiciary are all but locked up by Mr. Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party. Having severely curtailed press freedom and marginalized political opposition, his concentration of power bodes ill for Serbian democracy. Though Mr. Vucic won more than 50 percent of the vote, far surpassing the second-place candidate, Sasa Jankovic, who won a little over 16 percent, the election was marred by accusations of voter intimidation and a near total domination of Serbia’s media by Mr. Vucic and his party.

Editorials: GOP is trying to shape elections by reshaping North Carolina’s election boards | News & Observer

A three-judge panel issued a clear ruling last month that Republican shenanigans trying to change the makeup of local elections boards and the structure of the state Board of Elections and the state ethics board were illegal and unconstitutional. The reason was simple enough: Authority to appoint local elections boards — with three members of the governor’s party and two of the other party, and the separate State Elections Board and the ethics panel fall under the authority of the executive branch. Despite being repudiated by judges, Republicans in the state House are continuing to monkey with the elections board setup to weaken the governor’s authority, so they’re again wasting the public’s time and money with a new bill to allow the governor to appoint all eight members of a new elections and ethics board — but membership would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The governor would name four members, and four names would be submitted from lists provided by the state’s largest political parties.

Editorials: There’s no guarantee of a credible investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, but Nunes’ departure is a start | Los Angeles Times

It’s still not a sure thing that the House Intelligence Committee will conduct a credible bipartisan investigation of whether Russia interfered in last year’s presidential campaign with the intention of helping Donald Trump and whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded in that effort. But Thursday’s announcement by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), that he is stepping down from the investigation removes a compromising cloud from the inquiry. Nunes said he was withdrawing temporarily while the House Ethics Committee probed a complaint by outside groups — a complaint he called “false and politically motivated” — that he had improperly disclosed classified information. The complaint apparently refers to Nunes’ statements last month that U.S. surveillance operations aimed at foreign targets had incidentally collected communications involving members of President-elect Trump’s transition team, and that some of the U.S. citizens had been identified or “unmasked.” He also claimed that details about people associated with the incoming administration “with little apparent foreign intelligence value” were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.

Editorials: Voting rights restored to a very few Kentucky felons | Lexington Herald-Leader

Gov. Matt Bevin this week restored the voting rights of 24 Kentuckians who had felony convictions and had completed their sentences. Good for them. Unfortunately, Bevin’s action, the first felon voting restorations since he took office in December 2015, leaves about 1,100 who have petitioned him still disenfranchised. It also leaves out about 180,000 former felons, most of whose rights would have been restored under an executive order filed by former Gov. Steve Beshear shortly before he left office that was overturned by Bevin. … Oddly, despite the very long waiting list that includes some who have been waiting for years, most of Bevin’s two dozen are people who only very recently finished their sentences.

Editorials: Armenia’s election: The status quo wins at the expense of democracy | Armine Ishkanian/EUROPP

After a quarter of a century of ‘transitioning’ to democracy, Armenia remains at best a partly free ‘managed’ democracy and at worst a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime. The country has high levels of poverty and inequality (over 30% of Armenians live under the poverty line, with 47% of those aged 15 and above being unemployed) and the discontent with the status quo has led to continual emigration since the early 1990s and mass protests over recent years. In the immediate aftermath of the election on 2 April, in which the ruling Republican (Hanrapetakan) Party of Armenia, received nearly 50% of the vote, questions have been raised as to why, despite growing discontent with the political and socio-economic status quo, including the unresolved conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, so many Armenian citizens appear to have given their support to the ruling party?

Editorials: What a ballot-rigging conspiracy theory says about India’s toxic political climate | Nayanika Mathur/The Conversation

The headline story from India’s recent provincial elections was the staggering victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state of Uttar Pradesh. But a range of politicians and observers, however, have claimed it wasn’t Modi’s charisma that won it for the BJP, but rigged voting machines. Normally, such claims – currently unproven – would be laughed off as nothing but sour grapes. But in this case, the conspiracy theory appears to have taken root. And that it has done so illuminates some deeper concerns with the state of Indian democracy. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP annihilated all political opposition including the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), led by the Dalit icon Mayawati. Another surprise came in the state of Punjab, with a surprisingly poor performance by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by the current chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. It was widely expected to do better, having dramatically halted Modi’s momentum in the Delhi elections of February 2015.

Editorials: Turkey is about to use democracy to end its democracy | Tezcan Gumus/The Conversation

The Turkish people will vote in a momentous constitutional referendum on April 16. If adopted, the proposals would drastically alter the country’s political system. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced the 18 proposed changes to the constitution, with the support of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Together they secured the minimum 330 parliamentary votes required to launch a public referendum. Though constitutional referendums are not uncommon in Turkey’s political history, this particular one is extremely important in terms of the very nature of the country’s political regime. The proposed amendments would take Turkey away from its current parliamentary system. In its place, the country would have an executive presidency “a la Turka.” Despite the arguments of the AKP government, the amendments will not strengthen democracy—quite the opposite.

Editorials: How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering | Erica Klarreich/Quanta Magazine

Partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge — is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional. Yet in that same ruling, the court declined to strike down two Indiana maps under consideration, even though both “used every trick in the book,” according to a paper in the University of Chicago Law Review. And in the decades since then, the court has failed to throw out a single map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “If you’re never going to declare a partisan gerrymander, what is it that’s unconstitutional?” said Wendy K. Tam Cho, a political scientist and statistician at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Editorials: Dwindling Odds of Coincidence | Charles M. Blow/The New York Times

We are still not conclusively able to connect the dots on the question of whether there was any coordination or collusion between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians who interfered in our election to benefit him, but those dots do continue to multiply at an alarming rate. First, and we have to keep saying this because this fact keeps getting obscured in the subterfuge of deflection, misdirection and ideological finger-pointing about what has yet to be proven: It is absolutely clear that the Russians did interfere in our election. This is not a debatable issue. This is not fake news. This is not a witch hunt. This happened. The investigations, rightly, are seeking to figure out exactly how and to what degree, and those questions obviously depend on knowing more about campaign contacts with Russian meddlers.

Editorials: Web-Based Voting Isn’t Plausible—At Least Not Yet | Stan Hanks/Newsweek

Could we create an app for people to use for voting in national elections? I did some work on electronic voting systems problems with Ed Gerck in the early 2000s. It was hard then, it’s arguably harder now. This gets back to what some people have lobbied for since the early days of the Internet: the “Internet driver’s license.” In the U.S., to get a voter’s registration card, you have to prove you are who you say you are, that you live where you say you live, and that you’re a U.S. citizen. That entitles you to be enrolled as a registered voter, which means that for any election in your jurisdiction, you can show up and cast your vote (or as is more commonly the case, to mail your ballot in or drop it off at a collection point).

Editorials: The False Promise of Voter ID | Joshua Douglas/Governing

Many states have adopted or are considering enacting strict photo identification requirements for voting. But doing so is a waste of time and money: The laws will not prevent election fraud, and these states will surely face protracted litigation with an uncertain outcome. Voter ID advocates claim that the requirement is a common-sense tool to make our elections more secure. Yet that assertion is fundamentally flawed. A fraudster truly intent on perpetrating this kind of electoral shenanigans would likely have no qualms about stealing someone’s identity or otherwise obtaining a fake ID to satisfy the requirement.

Editorials: How States Could Force Trump to Release His Tax Returns | Richard Hasen/Politico

For the past two years, the search for Donald Trump’s unseen tax returns has been something of a quest for the Holy Grail, an elusive trophy that could unlock the mysteries of our political universe. Lacking real proof as to what the president’s tax documents might show, the imagination swells with possibility: Russia ties? Massive personal debts? A wealth substantially lower than his self-reported $10 billion fortune? Something nefarious? The best efforts of Trump’s political opponents have turned up little by way of tax returns. Ditto the intrepid work of a nation of journalists; despite reporters obtaining a few different pieces of paperwork—as in the New York Times’ report last fall, or Rachel Maddow’s glimpse at two pages of Trump’s 2005 returns two weeks ago—the knowledge gained by any of these leaks has been dwarfed by the new questions raised. Trump keeps insisting that because his returns are under audit, he can’t possibly release them. And the Republican-led Congress, save a few renegades like South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, evince little interest in compelling the president to disclose them.

Editorials: The voting rights issue no one talks about: Ending the disenfranchisement of felons will strengthen democracy | Sean McElwee/Salon.com

Elections are decided by who votes — and increasingly, in America, by who cannot. Barriers to voting participation skew policy outcomes and elections to the right in the United States. One of the most racially discriminatory of these barriers is felon disenfranchisement. Nearly 6 million Americans are disenfranchised due to felonies. This may seem like a small share of the population, but the concentration of disenfranchisement in some states makes it enough to shift elections. In six Southern states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population is disenfranchised. Unsurprisingly, given the racial biases in the criminal justice system, the burden does not fall equally across racial groups. In the most definitive research, Christopher Uggen, Sarah Shannon and Jeff Manza find that “one of every 13 African-Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than non-African Americans.” New research suggests this is skewing democracy.

Editorials: How the White House and Republicans Blew Up the House Russia Investigation | Ryan Lizza/The New Yorker

The evidence is now clear that the White House and Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have worked together to halt what was previously billed as a sweeping investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. “We’ve been frozen,” Jim Himes, a Democratic representative from Connecticut who is a member of the Committee, said. The freeze started after last Monday’s hearing, where James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, revealed that the F.B.I. has been investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia since last July. Comey also said that there was no evidence to support Trump’s tweets about being wiretapped. Today, the House panel was scheduled to hear from three top officials who had served under the Obama Administration: Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General, who briefly served as acting Attorney General, before being fired by President Trump; John Brennan, the former head of the C.I.A.; and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. But last week Nunes cancelled today’s hearing.

Editorials: Floridians can put a stop to denying ex-felons the vote | Frank Askin/Miami Herald

Can Florida claim to be a democracy when one out of every 10 of adult citizens in the state are denied the right to vote because some time in their lives they were convicted of a felony? And 75 percent of those people are out of prison and otherwise living as free members of the community? Florida is one of a handful of states that impose a lifetime voting ban on convicted felons. Their right to vote can only be restored on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the governor and two members of the Board of Executive Clemency — the cabinet — on a petition filed five years after release from prison. Since Scott’s election in 2010, only 2,487 petitions have been granted. Only a few other states come even close to disenfranchising so many ex-felons.

Editorials: Lessons learned from the Russian hacking scandal and our “cyber” election | Joel Wallenstrom/TechCrunch

Information security — or what is commonly referred to as ‘cyber’ — has dominated the narrative in this week’s hearings on Capitol Hill about the Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Despite the political noise, a fact-based public debate on how to deal with strategic and targeted attacks is what’s needed now to develop better defenses for all – businesses or government organizations. There is a universal agreement that a highly-motivated and unapologetic entity has conducted an advanced and persistent campaign to disrupt, undermine and gain power over its strategic adversary. The questions become – what have we learned from the 2016 campaign and how are we going to adapt to prevent similar cyber campaigns in the future? The alleged attempt by Russia to influence the outcome of the US elections is today’s news. Yet this has not been and will not be the last time such operations have been conducted by nation-states, including our own.

Editorials: Trump’s irresponsible claims are undermining confidence in voting | Mindy Romero/The Sacramento Bee

In today’s surreal political landscape, the president claims that 3-5 million people voted illegally in November and has called for an investigation, but offers no credible evidence for his claims. Just last month, President Donald Trump asserted that thousands of people were bused into New Hampshire from liberal-leaning Massachusetts to vote illegally on Election Day – again with no proof. Many Americans buy the president’s phony storyline. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showed 43 percent of registered voters believe voter fraud is somewhat common or very common in a typical presidential election. Voter fraud – voting by the deceased, voting by noncitizens, and voting more than once –is a serious offense. But election officials and leading voting experts find no evidence of significant voter fraud in U.S. elections, including in 2016.

Editorials: The fight over voting rules didn’t start with Trump’s tweets | Michael Waldman/Los Angeles Times

When President Trump said “millions” voted illegally in November, he joined an old American battle. The fight over who can vote in the United States goes back more than two centuries, with one group after another demanding to participate in our democracy, and the Supreme Court often playing referee. This history puts voting rights at the center of this week’s confirmation hearings for Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to fill the ninth seat on the high court. The next justice’s pen, not the president’s tweets, could redefine your right to vote. Nonetheless, Trump has raised the stakes over voting rights. He insists not just that he won the popular vote (he didn’t) but that 3 million people voted illegally in California, Virginia and New Hampshire. That assertion is nonsense. Democratic and Republican election officials confirm that voter fraud is almost nonexistent, and Trump’s own lawyers agree the 2016 election was fair. But even cartoonish claims may have big consequences. Vice President Mike Pence has been tapped to investigate Trump’s charges. National legislation to curb voting rights — in the guise of protecting the franchise — could follow.

Editorials: Texas Needs a Remedial Lesson on Voting Rights | The New York Times

In Texas, which has for decades made an art of violating the voting rights of minorities, officials and lawmakers can’t seem to keep their hands clean. Now, the state may become the first to have its voting practices placed under federal oversight since the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. A Federal District Court in San Antonio ruled on March 10 that the state’s Republican-led Legislature redrew congressional district lines in 2011 with the intent to dilute the voting power of Latino and black citizens, who tend to vote Democratic. In two districts — one encompassing parts of South and West Texas, and the other in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — the court found that mapmakers used various methods that violated the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. In the former, a Latino-majority district, they broke up cohesive Latino areas, pulled in Latino voters with lower turnout rates while excluding those with higher turnout rates, and included more high-turnout white voters.

Editorials: The great electronic voting machine debate: Convincing the losers that they lost | Poorvi L Vora/Scroll.in

Accusations about the tampering of Electronic Voting Machines continue to be in news. India’s EVMs have been carefully designed to avoid some of the well-known security problems with electronic voting machines in the West. But it is difficult to agree with Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi’s assertion that all the Election Commission needs to do is double down and more forcefully insist that the EVMs are secure because that is what they believe. It is not about what insiders trust to be true about voting technology, but about what has been demonstrated to be true to the public about a particular election. Besides, no EVM, including the Indian ones, can be assumed to be invulnerable to a determined attacker. While India’s EVM design makes it harder to implement large-scale attacks, all EVMs do not have to be rigged. Machines judiciously chosen in constituencies that are more favorable to rigging, with the collusion of local individuals, after the random allocation described by Quraishi, could be sufficient. Additionally, in a country with a very efficient counterfeit mafia, we cannot expect that printed paper seals will always expose tampering efforts, because they can be replaced with counterfeit ones.

Editorials: The Right Way to Investigate Russia’s Election Meddling | Carl Levin & John Warner/Politico

As Congress gears up to investigate Russia’s reported interference in American elections, precisely what form that inquiry will take is up for debate. But even at this early stage, one thing is clear: Whether it is done by the Intelligence Committees, a joint or select committee, or some other congressionally created framework, a vital goal of any such investigation must be bipartisanship. It’s not simply that an investigation must be conducted—from start to finish—in a bipartisan manner; it’s that history confirms that an investigation will be of value only if the American public perceives it as bipartisan. Indeed, some of the most important investigations Congress has ever conducted—the hearings on Watergate, Iran-Contra and the joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—made a real difference precisely because their bipartisan nature enabled them to get at the truth and gain the trust of the American people. Unfortunately, such bipartisanship will now pose a challenge.

Editorials: ‘Never Trump’ Republicans join call for select committee to investigate Russia and Trump | Josh Rogin/The Washington Post

Democrats in Congress have long argued that the ongoing intelligence committee investigations into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and the Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin are unlikely to get to the bottom of the issue. Now a group of “Never Trump” Republicans are planning to pressure GOP leaders to establish a bipartisan select committee to take over the inquiries and settle the matter once and for all. Stand Up Republic, a nonprofit organization led by former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and his running mate, Mindy Finn, is launching a public campaign aimed at building support among Republicans for consolidating the various congressional Russia-related investigations into one empowered and fully funded select committee. The organization’s ad, which goes live Tuesday with a six-figure television ad buy, makes the case that the Russia issue is too important not to investigate fully.

Editorials: South Koreans Can’t Agree What Democracy Is | Steven Denney/Foreign Policy

On March 10, South Korea’s Constitutional Court rendered its most important decision since its founding in 1988. The court’s eight judges unanimously voted to remove President Park Geun-hye from office, citing abuse of power and permitting a private citizen, her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, to meddle in state affairs. The former president was impeached by the legislature on Dec. 9, following revelations that Park had consulted Choi on state matters and used her presidential influence to secure millions of dollars in donations from the country’s largest conglomerates, including Samsung, for two nonprofit organizations run by Choi. Following the court’s decision, the acting president and Park-appointed prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said in a public broadcast: “It’s time to end conflict and confrontation.” But that will be far easier said than done. Park’s scandal did much more than end her career. It has ruptured some of the most powerful institutions in Korean society and put the country in an unprecedented constitutional, social, and political crisis.

Editorials: Penny wise, pound foolish: 2020 Census needs funding now | Wade Henderson/The Hill

With everything going on in Washington, you may have missed the recent news that the 2020 Census has been deemed a “high risk” federal program by the Government Accountability Office, which is concerned about the Census Bureau’s “ability to conduct a cost-effective enumeration” in 2020. Should you be concerned? Yes, absolutely. While 2020 seems far away, decisions being made this year by Congress and the Trump administration will determine whether the Census Bureau has the resources it needs to do the job well. And getting the census right is important to everyone.

Editorials: The Justice Department to black voters: Don’t bother | The Washington Post

Texas is suffering the first consequence of the Trump administration’s indifference to voting rights, which is a polite way of characterizing the ongoing Republican campaign to disenfranchise young and minority voters who tend to support Democrats. In one of his first significant moves since taking office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw cold water on long-standing efforts by the Justice Department to clean up a blatantly discriminatory Texas law clearly designed to suppress African American and other Democratic-leaning votes. The move was in keeping with Mr. Sessions’s long-standing hostility to civil and voting rights, and with a widespread view within the GOP that nothing short of blatant hate speech should be considered as racism. However, by pulling back from the lawsuit seeking changes in the Texas statute, the administration threw in the towel on four years of efforts by civil rights lawyers in the Justice Department, which had so far been successful in the federal courts.

Editorials: Elections: State Progress, Federal Train Wreck | Miles Rapoport/The American Prospect

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) met February 16 and 17 on Pennsylvania Avenue, two blocks from the White House. Ironically, despite irresponsible claims of massive voter fraud and legitimate worries about voter suppression, participants in the NASS Conference and its sister group, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), had a fair amount to feel pretty good about. They could reflect upon an Election Day in November that in a procedural sense went fairly smoothly—not a description often applied to the 2016 election. The chaos and conflict at the polls that was feared by many did not materialize. The incidence of long lines and polling place problems was significantly reduced from 2012, and the gaps between the experiences of voters in white precincts and precincts in communities of color narrowed as well, according to MIT Professor Charles Stewart, based on the Survey on the Performance of American Elections conducted immediately after the elections. Two issues, however, were too fraught with partisan conflict to achieve any consensus on the part of the assembled secretaries of state: Russian hacking and calculated interference in the election, and the president’s claim of massive voter fraud.

Editorials: How Much Racial Gerrymandering Is Too Much? Court Doesn’t Know, But Wants Virginia To Think About It | Elie Mystal/Above the Law

I hate racial gerrymandering cases because they don’t fit neatly into a defensible, logically consistent, electoral philosophy. Racial gerrymandering is an unprincipled, highly practical, necessary grotesquerie of representative democracy. Absent mountains or rivers or some other kinds of geological formations, drawing district lines is fundamentally arbitrary. I get that some people like geometric shapes, but just because your district looks like a square and mine looks like a half-eaten snow crab doesn’t make your district more “fair.” Once you draw the line, you are making a decision to exclude some people and include others, and we shouldn’t pretend to be able to do that at the political level without some knowledge of the racial breakdown of the voters. Yet our rules say that race cannot be the “predominant” factor in drawing districts: which is kind of like saying “Don’t stare at the miniature disco ball in my eye socket!” Simply saying that race can’t be a predominant factor makes race a predominant factor in showing that race wasn’t a predominant factor.