Editorial: How AI could take over elections – and undermine democracy | Archon Fung and Lawrence Lessig/The Conversation

Could organizations use artificial intelligence language models such as ChatGPT to induce voters to behave in specific ways? Sen. Josh Hawley asked OpenAI CEO Sam Altman this question in a May 16, 2023, U.S. Senate hearing on artificial intelligence. Altman replied that he was indeed concerned that some people might use language models to manipulate, persuade and engage in one-on-one interactions with voters. Altman did not elaborate, but he might have had something like this scenario in mind. Imagine that soon, political technologists develop a machine called Clogger – a political campaign in a black box. Clogger relentlessly pursues just one objective: to maximize the chances that its candidate – the campaign that buys the services of Clogger Inc. – prevails in an election. Read Article

Texas: Harris County elections face state intervention under new laws | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

Texas Republicans have passed legislation that grants unprecedented state interventions into elections in Harris County, potentially overhauling the Democratic stronghold. The bills allow for the removal of the county’s chief elections official and state supervision in response to administrative complaints. Experts warn that this sets a concerning precedent, resembling tactics used in Florida and Georgia, and could indicate an intention to control elections beyond Harris County. These changes contribute to the ongoing partisan battle over election administration in Texas. Read Article

National: These Activists Distrust Voting Machines. Just Don’t Call Them Election Deniers. | Stuart A. Thompson/The New York Times

Election integrity advocates find themselves in a challenging position as they push for security while inadvertently amplifying claims made by conspiracy theorists. The overlap between their warnings about potential hacking of election machines and conspiracy theorists’ unfounded claims is a consequence of Trump’s false voter fraud allegations, leading to doubts about election integrity. Activists fear being associated with conspiracy theorists, hindering their efforts and eroding trust in the electoral system. The debate intensifies in New York as officials consider certifying machines by ES&S, a company targeted by Trump. Activists and experts express concerns about the machines’ cost, potential errors, and security, but caution against overblowing the hacking threat, emphasizing no evidence of hacking in the 2020 election. Read Article

The 2024 race promises to be ‘very, very active’ in terms of foreign and domestic meddling, says former CISA chief | Elias Groll/CyberScoop

Chris Krebs, the former head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), predicts that foreign adversaries like Russia and China will engage in activities to disrupt or influence the next election. Krebs, who was fired by President Trump over his comments about the 2020 election, expects an active threat landscape with increased motivations for foreign actors to meddle in the election. He distinguishes between “influence” (shaping public opinion) and “interference” (attacking election infrastructure) and anticipates a similar narrative and misbehavior in the 2024 election as seen in 2020. Krebs also highlights the adoption of foreign adversaries’ playbooks by domestic actors and expresses concern about threats to the election posed by violent threats against poll workers and the integrity messaging that may be adopted by Trump. Read Article

How I Won $5 Million From the MyPillow Guy and Saved Democracy | Bob Zeidman/Politico

If you watch TV, especially conservative TV, you know Mike Lindell. He’s the guy who comes on every 10 minutes or so to sell his pillows for “the best night’s sleep in the whole wide world.” He’s also the guy who has sunk tens of millions of dollars into supporting investigations and lawsuits that claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. And I just took him for $5 million. You may have read a little about it. In the summer of 2021, Lindell announced that he was going to hold a “Cyber Symposium” in Sioux Falls, S.D., to release data that proved that U.S. voting machines were hacked by China. He said he would even pay $5 million to anyone who could disprove his data. Right away, friends started calling to ask me if I was planning to go. After all, I invented the field of software forensics, the science of analyzing software source code for intellectual property infringement or theft. Still, I wasn’t sure. There are a lot of experts that could analyze data. And no one in their right mind would offer $5 million if the data wasn’t real and verified, right? Anyway, the symposium ran three days — not nearly long enough to analyze and verify any data. Read Article

New Mexico: Solomon Peña Faces Federal Charges for Attacks on Democrats | Mike Ives/The New York Times

Solomon Peña, a former Republican candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives, has been charged with federal offenses related to drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic officials. Peña allegedly orchestrated the shootings after losing an election bid in November 2022. No one was injured in the attacks. He already faces state charges and could face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 60 years if convicted of the federal charges. The shootings caused alarm within New Mexico’s political establishment and highlighted concerns about political violence across the country. Read Article

North Carolina election security chief to lead statewide cybersecurity | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Torry Crass, the chief information security officer for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, has been appointed as the statewide chief risk officer by the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. In his new role, Crass will oversee the cybersecurity office and lead a “whole-of-state” strategy to share resources and develop incident response policies. As the State Board of Elections’ CISO, Crass was responsible for the cyber and physical security of North Carolina’s voting technology and served as a liaison to federal and state agencies. This appointment marks Crass’ first full-time public-sector job after more than 20 years in private-sector cybersecurity roles. Read Article

National: Tussle in Texas over how elections are run could spread to other states | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Democratic lawmakers and independent election experts are warning that a move by Texas Republicans to abolish the position of Harris County elections administrator and grant new oversight powers to the governor-appointed secretary of state could set a precedent for other GOP leaders across the country who aim to influence elections in their favor. Republicans argue that Harris County mishandled the 2020 midterm election, and the new bills seek to address these alleged errors. However, Democrats and experts view the measures as a power grab, with concerns that other states may adopt similar strategies. The bills eliminate the county election administrator position and allow the secretary of state to assume control over election administration in case of persistent voting irregularities. Read Article

National: Trump White House Aides Subpoenaed in Firing of Election Security Expert | Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan/The New York Times

The special counsel investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election has subpoenaed staff members from the Trump White House who may have been involved in firing the government cybersecurity official whose agency judged the election “the most secure in American history,” according to two people briefed on the matter. The team led by the special counsel, Jack Smith, has been asking witnesses about the events surrounding the firing of Christopher Krebs, who was the Trump administration’s top cybersecurity official during the 2020 election. Mr. Krebs’s assessment that the election was secure was at odds with Mr. Trump’s baseless assertions that it was a “fraud on the American public.” Read Article

National: GOP-led states plan new voter data systems to replace one they rejected. Good luck with that. | Zachary Roth/Louisiana Illuminator

Several Republican-led states have withdrawn from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an interstate compact for sharing voter registration data, and some are planning to create their own data-sharing networks. The move to leave ERIC has raised concerns about the ability of these states to maintain accurate voter rolls and ensure smooth elections. Building a new system for data sharing is a complex task that requires significant time, resources, and technical expertise, including access to motor vehicle department data and sophisticated statistical analysis. Previous efforts to create similar data-sharing pacts have failed due to flawed approaches and privacy concerns. Replicating the effectiveness of ERIC would be challenging for any state, and it is unlikely to be achieved quickly or cheaply. Read Article

National: Deepfaking it: America’s 2024 election collides with AI boom | Alexandra Ulmer  and Anna Tong/Reuters

The rise of generative AI tools has led to a surge in deepfake videos in the polarized world of U.S. politics, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. These deepfakes, realistic yet fabricated videos created using AI algorithms, are becoming increasingly convincing and accessible due to new tools. This poses a significant challenge for voters in distinguishing real from fake content, as political actors on both sides could use deepfakes to manipulate public opinion. Major social media platforms have made efforts to prohibit and remove deepfakes, but their effectiveness varies. The rapid development of generative AI technology raises concerns about the potential for mass misinformation during elections, with limited safeguards in place. Read Article

Editorial: AI Could Save Politics—If It Doesn’t Destroy It First | Russell Berman/The Atlantic

The article discusses the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on American democracy and political campaigns. While there are concerns about the negative effects of AI, such as voice impersonation and deep-fake videos influencing elections, some tech entrepreneurs believe that AI can dramatically reduce the cost of running for office and create a more accessible democracy. AI can automate mundane campaign tasks and make them more affordable, allowing smaller campaigns to compete with well-funded ones. However, skeptics argue that AI may not democratize campaigning as much as hoped, as wealthier organizations can also leverage its capabilities to gain an advantage. Deep-fake videos are another concern, with fears of their potential impact on voter trust and the need for global standards to address the issue. Despite the debates, the rapid evolution of AI introduces uncertainty, making it difficult to predict its exact impact on future campaigns. Read Article

Arizona: Nothing ‘secret’ about voting machine testing shown on video, officials say | Philip Marcelo/Associated Press

A video circulating on social media purportedly showing election officials in Arizona’s Maricopa County conducting “secret” voting equipment tests ahead of the contested November 2022 midterms is false. The video is not new footage but comes from the county’s live broadcast of the election process in 2022. Election officials clarify that it shows the installation and testing of new memory cards on ballot counting machines, a routine process done before every election to ensure proper functioning. Experts and officials emphasize that there was nothing clandestine or secretive about the video, and the claims of ballot rigging are baseless. Read Article

Arkansas voting machines suit moved to federal court – use of bar code in tabulation questioned | Daniel McFadin/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A lawsuit challenging the use of bar-code voting machines in Arkansas was moved to federal court this week. The lawsuit was filed by Conrad Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel and 2020 presidential election denier. Reynolds argues that the bar-code machines do not comply with Arkansas law because the voter cannot independently verify the votes selected by the voter on the ballot prior to being cast. Susan Inman, a former elections director for Arkansas, has defended the use of the bar-code machines, saying that they are secure and reliable. The case is still ongoing. Read Article

California Secretary of State finalizing voting regulations aimed at Shasta County | Roman Battaglia/Jefferson Public Radio

Shasta County in Northern California has become the first and only county in the state to switch back to hand-counting ballots in elections, prompting the need for specific procedures to be outlined. California has not hand-counted every ballot for decades, so rules must be established to ensure accuracy and prevent tampering. The new regulations require a machine recount to verify any discrepancies from the hand-counting process. Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen anticipates challenges in recruiting enough temporary staff and finding sufficient space for counting and storage. A plan needs to be prepared and approved in time for the upcoming November election. Read Article

Connecticut Senate approves constitutional amendment for no-excuse absentee voting | Christopher Keating/Hartford Courant

The Connecticut Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to allow absentee voting for any reason in all elections. The resolution will now go to the public for a vote in November 2024. Currently, residents can only obtain an absentee ballot for specific reasons, such as sickness, physical disability, or serving overseas. The resolution has been controversial, with Republicans concerned about potential voter fraud. However, Democrats argue that the amendment is necessary to expand voting rights. Read Article

Florida: Hillsborough County election hack exposed 58,000 voters’ private information | C.T. Bowen/Tampa Bay Times

A data breach at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office in Florida has resulted in the exposure of private information belonging to around 58,000 voters. An unauthorized user accessed and copied files containing personal identification information, including Social Security and driver’s license numbers, primarily from files used for voter registration list maintenance. The breach did not affect the voter registration system or the ballot tabulation system, which have additional layers of security. The office is working with law enforcement officials to investigate the incident, and affected individuals will receive notification letters. Read Article

Georgia probe of Trump broadens to activities in other states | Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

An investigation into alleged election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in Georgia has expanded to include activities in Washington, D.C., and other states, potentially under Georgia’s racketeering laws. Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis has been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, and she has signaled that she may use Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute to allege a far-reaching criminal scheme. The investigation now includes information related to two firms hired by the Trump campaign to find voter fraud nationwide. The investigation is separate from the federal probe led by special counsel Jack Smith, but it covers some of the same ground. Willis’s ambitious plans may test the boundaries of the RICO law, which allows for penalties of up to 20 years in prison. The investigation has faced criticism from Republicans, but legal experts believe Willis has a strong case, although proving it in court may be challenging. Read Article

Nevada becomes latest to enhance penalties for election worker intimidation after statewide exodus | Gabe Stern/Associated Press

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes it a felony to harass, intimidate or use force on election workers performing their duties. The law was passed unanimously by the state legislature and was a core campaign promise from Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar. The law is meant to deter attacks against election workers who have faced increased scrutiny and threats in recent years. The law also makes it a felony to disseminate personal information about an election worker without their consent. The law is the latest in a series of measures taken by states to protect election workers. Other states that have taken similar steps include Maine, Vermont, Washington, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The law is a significant step in protecting election workers and ensuring that they can do their jobs without fear of harassment or intimidation. Read Article

New York: Watchdog Groups Criticize ‘Cyber Voting’ Plan | Christian Wade/Post Journal

A New York proposal to allow some voters to return ballots over the Internet has been criticized by government watchdogs, who say it would jeopardize cybersecurity and erode confidence in the state’s election system. The proposal, filed by a group of Democratic lawmakers, would allow New Yorkers who are members of the military serving overseas and people with disabilities to submit ballots for federal, state and local elections using “electronic absentee ballots” submitted by email. However, government watchdog groups say there is “broad consensus” that electronic ballot return presents “severe security risks” to the integrity of elections. They point to a recent review by several federal agencies, including the FBI, which found the risk is too high even with security safeguards and other precautions for electronic ballot returning systems. The agencies warn that electronic ballot return “faces significant security risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of voted ballots,” ultimately affecting the tabulation and results of elections. Read Article