During comments at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been responsible for the breach of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign e-mail accounts, as well as other attempts to aid the campaign of Donald Trump. Though a reversal of previous Kremlin denials of any Russian involvement in operations against Clinton and the Democrats, Putin continued to deny any state role in the hacking. Asked about the potential of Russian interference in European elections this year, Putin raised the possibility of “free-spirited Russian patriots” who might be inclined to meddle.
Paul Waldman, writing for The Washington Post, observes that the increasingly sharp partisan divide in the country is reflected in voting laws. Many States with Democratic majority legislatures have passed laws requiring automatic voter registration, online and same day registration, as well as laws intended to make voting more convenient like in-person early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. By contrast, states with Republican majorities in the state house have passed laws that restrict access to the polls, photo id requirements, longer residency requirements and limiting or prohibiting early voting.
A group of technology experts has again written to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp voicing concern over the state’s use of paperless touchscreen voting machines in the upcoming special election. A legal effort seeking to require voters’ use of paper ballots for the election was launched last week. Early voting has already begun in Georgia.
Following last week’s ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that ranked-choice voting violates the state constitution, two bills were introduced in the state house. Democrats took different approaches to resolving the issue, but bipartisan support will be necessary for either bill to pass. On Friday, lawmakers heard from a parade of citizens speaking in support of ranked choice voting.
As part of a federal lawsuit, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has acknowledged that in 2011 Democrats drew the state’s congressional districts with the intention of defeating a Republican incumbent. Current Governor Larry Hogan is supporting calls for the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Republicans have fought independent redistricting commissions in Arizona and other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court has told North Carolina’s top court to reconsider a redistricting lawsuit filed by Democrats and allies after the nation’s highest court struck down congressional districts as racial gerrymanders. In the face of repeated defeats in federal court, North Carolina Republican remain undaunted in their effort to consolidate their political dominance. Also this week, Governor Roy Cooper said he would appeal a North Carolina court decision that upheld a Republican-backed law that reduced Cooper’s election oversight authority.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, Ohio’s challenge to a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s aggressive method for purging voters from its registration rolls. Under Ohio law a voter is removed from a registration roll if they have not voted or updated their registration (for example, because they may have moved) over a six-year span. Civil rights advocates contend that such “voter purge” laws are suppressing the right to vote of many thousands of citizens.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new voter ID bill into law. The new law is intended to loosen identification requirements from a 2011 law that a federal judge said was enacted by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats. Abbott also signed into law a bill that will end straight-party voting, requiring every candidate on state ballots to be chosen individually.
The likelihood of early elections increased after an agreement was reached between Italy’s four main political parties on a new electoral system. The new plan is modeled on the German version of proportional representation in which a 5 percent threshold must be met for a party to get seats in parliament. Facing the threat of an opposition boycott, the Nepalese government postponed the second phase of local elections by nine days to June 23.