The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 10-16 2017

A Guardian article reports that according to a source close to US Congressional investigations, the committees “now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion … between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.” The wide-ranging article describes how already in 2015 British and other foreign intelligence services had become aware of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents. The FBI and CIA appear to have been slow to pursue information provided by foreign intelligence sources, in part because of US laws prohibiting US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants.

In reference to hacks of the DNC and political figures last summer, University of Michigan computer scientist and Verified Voting Board of Advisors member Alex Halderman said he thinks “we’re going to see a lot more attacks like them in future campaigns.” Though most think US voting systems are secure because they are different from county to county and most are not connected to the internet, Halderman noted that an attacker can select the machines that are the most vulnerable or attack the third-party vendors that provide the memory cards for each machine. Few if any states carry out post-election audits and forensic examinations sufficient to determine whether their voting machines were hacked.

With all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no, the Iowa Senate gave final approval Thursday to contentious legislation that will require voters to show government-issued identification at the polls and reduce the time period for early voting. The bill now heads to Governor Terry Branstad, who is expected to sign it. In Montana, a federal judge on Tuesday denied a request to delay the printing and mailing of ballots for next month’s special congressional election for three minor party and independent candidates who are suing to be on the ballot. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the filing requirements were overly burdensome but was not prepared to delay the the election.

After being rebuffed once by judges who determined lawmakers went too far, Republican legislators on Tuesday tried a second time to dilute the power of North Carolina’s new Democratic governor to run elections. In separate votes, the state House and Senate voted along party lines to trim the power governors have had for more than a century to oversee elections by appointing the state and county elections boards that settle disputes and enforce ballot laws. Governor Roy Cooper has indicated he will veto the legislation, having challenged similar legislation in court earlier this year.

For a second time, a judge ruled that Texas lawmakers violated federal voting rights protections by intentionally discriminating against minority voters when they approved a strict law requiring an approved photo ID to cast a ballot. In a 10-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote that the state “has not met its burden” to prove that Texas legislators could have enforced the 2011 voter ID law “without its discriminatory purpose.”

Plaintiffs from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico filed their opening brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging discriminatory overseas voting laws and making the case that where you live shouldn’t impact your right to vote for president. Under current law, an American citizen who moves from any state to a foreign country retains their right to vote for federal office in their last state of residence. However, citizens moving to one the U.S. Territories lose the right to vote in Federal elections.

The Electoral Council of Ecuador has announced that it will recount 10%, or just over 1.3 million ballots from the April 2 presidential election, bowing to pressure from opposition leader Guillermo Lasso and his supporters. Lasso has alleged fraud and is unlikely to accept a partial recount as adequate to confirm the election of ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno. In India, faced with allegations from several political parties that electronic voting machines could be manipulated, the Election Commission has publicly challenged political parties, scientists and technical experts to demonstrate that EVMs could be hacked.

Turkey votes today in a referendum that could have significant ramifications for the future of the country. Voters are being asked to approve or reject sweeping changes to the Turkish constitution including the elimination of the position of Prime Minister and the transferal of executive power to the president. The newly empowered president would be able to dissolve parliament, govern by decree and appoint many of the judges and officials tasked with scrutinizing his decisions. Opposition leaders are concerned that the new system would threaten the separation of powers on which liberal democracies have traditionally depended.

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