The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 15-21 2018

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act,” which lays out specific foreign actions against U.S. elections that would warrant penalties from the federal government. The bilsets explicit punishments for the Russian government — and other countries — if they meddle in future federal elections and directs the Director of National Intelligence to issue a report on potential election interference within one month of any federal election. As Rubio and Van Hollen argued in a Washington Post oped “[t]here is no reason to think this meddling will be an isolated incident. In fact, we expect the threat will grow in future years.”

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. Kobach said last week that he would “be working closely with DHS and the White House as the investigation moves forward.”

Te Buffalo News posted an editorial on Martin Luther King Day, hailing the civil rights leader’s efforts to secure voting rights for minorities while warning that that voter suppression remains under threat to American democracy. “[W]ere he alive, he might be at a loss as to why some key initiatives for which he and his contemporaries had marched and even died are still being debated.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp blamed  bad management at Kennesaw State University caused the erasure of an elections server last summer. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the secretary of state, Coalition for Good Governance Executive Director Marilyn Marks, said after the wipe was discovered that she was skeptical. “I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious,” she said.

Less than a month before the filing period opens for candidates seeking office in the state Senate and House of Representatives, a panel of federal judges has ordered North Carolina lawmakers to use maps created by a Stanford University law professor in those elections. It was the second ruling this week on a state redistricting case. On Thursday the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring North Carolina lawmakers to produce a revised congressional voting map.

After federal judges rejected their contention that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have filed a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the efforts of Texas Democrats and other plaintiffs to revive a related legal claim in the ongoing litigation over the state’s political boundaries. Last week the justices agreed to hear two other cases challenging congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, adding them to ones already pending from Wisconsin and Maryland.

American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but 5 million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. The Seventh Circuit this week ruled that “[a]bsent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections.

Clashes have broken out in Honduras as demonstrators protesting President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s re-election blocked roads in several locations and police moved into to break up the barricades. Police say four officers were injured Saturday, one seriously. At least seven demonstrators were detained. Former President Manuel Zelaya has supported protests on behalf of presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, who claims there was fraud in counts of the November vote.

Having been designated a “foreign agent” in 2016, Levada, the only independent polling agency in Russia, announced this week that it won’t publish political polls in the run-up to the presidential election on March 18 for fear that authorities might shut it down for falling foul of the law. That means that as the country enters an election cycle where president Vladimir Putin’s victory is certain, we won’t have any trustworthy data to give us a sense of how voters feel about the situation.

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