The Washington Post reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and other administration officials enlisted senior members of the intelligence community as well as the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia. These actions may have violated multiple existing Justice Department rules controlling contacts between the bureau and White House officials first established by the Carter Administration in the wake of Watergate and imposed ever since by administrations of both parties. The involvement of the committee chairs led Congressional Democrats to question if the impartiality of Senate and House investigations into alleged Russian interference in the November election had been compromised and Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Government Oversight Committee agreed in an interview that a special prosecutor should investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.
According to advocates for election security and reliability say a bill that Republican leaders recently passed out of the House Administration Committee would make it unlikely that a crucial nationwide upgrade of voting technology can be completed in time for the 2020 election. The EAC is in the process of developing a new set of the voting system standards, used by forty-seven states as a benchmark for voting equipment certification. After announcing her that she would be leaving the Federal Election Commission when her current term expires next month, Ann Ravel wrote in a scathing editorial in the New York Times that deadlock and dysfunction at the commission was “betraying the American public and jeopardizing our democracy.”
The nomination of Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department in his administration set up the necessity of a special election to fill his seat in Congress. Responding to complaints from counties in the state who were having a hard time finding the money for a special election, Republican State Senator Steve Fitzpatrick introduced a bipartisan bill that would allow counties to use mail-in ballots for the election. Not only would the proposal save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars, it would also make voting incredibly easy. But making voting easier benefits Democrats and therefore many Republicans opposed the bill. The resulting split in the Republican caucus allowed the bill to pass in the Senate. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is expected to sign it into law.
In the final days of his administration Republican Governor Pat McCrory requested a Supreme Court review a Circuit Court of Appeals decision that key provisions of North Carolina’s voter ID law were unconstitutional. The new Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and state Attorney General Josh Stein have requested a withdrawal of the previous Governor’s request. However, the law firm hired by the Republican-led General Assembly to defend the controversial measure contends that the new Governor and Attorney General have overstepped their authority. This dispute seems unlikely to go away any time soon.
In a case challenging limits on early voting in Wisconsin, three federal judges expressed skepticism over claims that Wisconsin Republicans had deliberately made it harder for minorities to vote, suggesting that it is somehow okay for a party to change the election law in ways that are politically expedient. As noted by Richard Hasen, “Judge Easterbrook asks plaintiffs’ counsel: “A large part your brief reads as if the argument is: ‘When Democrats are in control they are free to expand voting. When Republicans in control they are prohibited from making any pro-Republican changes.’ That can’t be right… Why are the standards when Republicans are in control any different from when Democrats are in control?” So “pro-Republican changes” must equal contracting the right to vote. And that’s ok?”
Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission rejected the sole bid to rent voting machines to it for snap elections, next month meaning that it will be impossible to comply with a Supreme Administrative Court ruling that voting machines should be available at all polling stations. After frontrunner Lenin Moreno feel just short of the 40% required to avoid a run-off, Ecuador’s Presidential election is heading for a second round.