Newly-appointed Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Brian Newby has decided — without public notice or review from his agency’s commissioners — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. The action by the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is being roundly criticized by voting rights activists, who say the “secretive move” will create additional barriers for potential voters, and one of the agency’s own commissioners, who says it contradicts policy and precedent. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told black lawmakers Wednesday that he supports new voting rights protections they’ve championed, but said he won’t bypass a committee chairman to move legislation. In the Iowa Democratic party’s chaotic attempt to report caucus results on Monday night, the results in at least one precinct were unilaterally changed by the party as it attempted to deal with the culmination of a rushed and imperfect process overseeing the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. Early voters in Maryland’s primary will cast their ballots on paper that will be scanned by a machine — just as election day voters will — after elections officials nixed the use of their ES&S ExpressVote ballot-marking devices for early voting. A federal court panel ruled lthat two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn within two weeks, sparking uncertainty about whether the March primary elections can proceed as planned. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Republican members of Congress to put on hold a Virginia election map that gives Democrats a chance to pick up a seat in this year’s election. Renewed fighting between communities has sparked tensions as presidential elections in the Central African Republic draw closer, while Haiti’s outgoing president prepared to leave office despite having no replacement after a botched election.