National: Officials fear voter registries vulnerable to hackers, could lead to problems on Election Day | Associated Press

A top Department of Homeland Security official said on Tuesday that while it would be difficult for hackers to meaningfully change vote totals in the upcoming elections, they could attack more vulnerable voter registration files, which an expert said could sow “chaos” on Election Day. “Our assessment is that it would be exceedingly complex to change vote totals, and that in trying to attempt to do so [it’s] likely that something would be noticed,” DHS’s National Risk Management Center Director Robert Kolasky said in a Senate hearing. “Voter registration files we’ve assessed as more of a vulnerability than the actual vote count process.”

National: States Detail Election-Security Plans | Wall Street Journal

State election officials plan to spend about two thirds of election security money allocated by Congress earlier this year on new voting equipment and cybersecurity efforts, though not all the improvements will be completed before the November elections. New data gathered by the federal agency that distributes the funds detail how states plan to spend $380 million appropriated by Congress in March to upgrade election security. States plan to spend roughly $134.2 million on cybersecurity upgrades over five years, and $102.6 million on voting equipment, according to the data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. States plan to spend the rest of the federal funding on measures that include upgrading voter-registration databases, bolstering postelection auditing and communications capabilities.

National: Tech giants open up about election cyberthreats as specter of regulation looms | The Washington Post

Tech companies are taking a more transparent approach than usual in disclosing cyberthreats against their platforms — especially when it comes to election interference. One high-profile example came this week when Microsoft announced that Russian hackers tried to use the company’s domains to launch phishing attacks on U.S. political institutions. The company also revealed recently that hackers had used similar means to target 2018 congressional candidates. And just last month, Facebook said that it had uncovered a sophisticated political disinformation campaign involving nearly two dozen fraudulent pages and profiles. The disclosures are not just limited to U.S. election threats. Late Tuesday, Facebook announced that it had identified new social media influence campaigns — one backed by the Iranian government, another linked to Russian military intelligence — and removed hundreds of fraudulent accounts that it said were designed to manipulate users in other countries around the globe.

Editorials: The South Will Disenfranchise Again: How the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act allows states to disenfranchise black voters | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate

The two notices were published in a local paper on Aug. 9, but no one could quite make sense of them. In one, Georgia’s Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration declared it would hold public meetings on Aug. 16 and 17 “to discuss Precinct Consolidation.” In the other, the board clarified that it planned to close seven of the nine polling places in the county. It announced a meeting on Aug. 24 “to consider this proposal,” but failed to specify a date or time. The notice added that the closures “shall become effective” on Aug. 24—indicating that the period of consideration was already over, and the decision to shutter the polls had already been made. For decades, Randolph County—a majority-black jurisdiction with a history of racist voter suppression—could not unilaterally alter its voting rules. It was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, compelling the county to obtain federal permission, or “preclearance,” before changing its election procedures. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court kneecapped Section 5, effectively abolishing preclearance. The result has been a dramatic escalation of voter suppression across the country, a trend that’s vividly illustrated by the direct assault on the franchise in Georgia.

Georgia: Backlash erupts over poll-closing plan in black county | Associated Press

A predominantly black county in rural Georgia is facing a nationwide backlash over plans to close about 75 percent of its voting locations ahead of the November election. County officials say the locations are inaccessible to those with disabilities; critics say the closures will disenfranchise black voters ahead of an election in which a black candidate is running for governor for the first time. The Randolph County elections board is considering a proposal to eliminate seven of nine polling places in the county. The seven precincts in question don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, county officials and an independent consultant say. Longtime Randolph County attorney Tommy Coleman acknowledged in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the timing of the move could appear strange. The polling places were used during the May 22 primary election and July 24 primary runoff, and officials have known about ADA compliance problems in the county for at least six years.

Georgia: Randolph County Can’t Back Up Its Excuse For Plan To Disenfranchise Black Voters | HuffPost

Officials in a majority-black Georgia county accused of trying to close almost all polling places to make it harder for black people to vote claimed last week that the locations couldn’t be used because of accessibility problems for people with disabilities. But Randolph County doesn’t have a single recent report, analysis or document supporting the idea that it needs to close seven of its nine polling places due to accessibility issues, a lawyer for the county told HuffPost on Tuesday in response to a public records request. HuffPost requested records from the county dating back to March 1, 2018. The county hired Michael Malone, an outside elections consultant now pushing for the closures, on April 2. But according to the county, it has no written record of evidence to back his recommendations. “There is no document, report or analysis studying the handicap accessibility of polling places in Randolph County and the cost of fixing them within the time frame specified in your open records request,” Hayden Hooks, an attorney with the firm Perry & Walters, which represents Randolph County, wrote in an email. The county has no record of such a document in the past year, Hooks added.

Kansas: Kobach said voter fraud in primary was unclear. Then he won | The Kansas City Star

As uncertainty loomed about the outcome of the GOP primary for governor in the days after the Aug. 7 primary, Kris Kobach said it was unclear how many non-citizens voted in the election. Back then, the race was too close to call. But now, a week after he secured a 350-vote victory over Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach is dismissing concerns that voter fraud could have changed the election’s outcome. In an Aug. 21 Breitbart column, Kobach writes that his race against Colyer “was the closest in modern history in Kansas.” But he maintains that “it is highly unlikely that voter fraud changed the outcome,” despite telling The Star during the weeklong post-election feud between him and Colyer when a winner was undecided that it was unclear how many “non-citizens” voted in the Republican primary.

Editorials: More changes needed to safeguard New Jersey elections |

A nearly $10 million infusion of cash meant to shore up New Jersey’s highly vulnerable voting system is welcome, but it’s not enough, and it won’t measurably address one big problem – the state’s lack of a verifiable paper record of votes cast. Indeed, the federal grant money the state secured this spring from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what is needed to transform the state’s election infrastructure, which a number of election experts view as susceptible to hacking or worse.

North Carolina: Constitutional amendments: Judges say two proposals have misleading language | News & Observer

A panel of Superior Court judges on Tuesday blocked two North Carolina constitutional amendments from statewide ballots. The order from a three-judge panel said ballots should not be printed that ask voters to make changes in the state constitution on how state boards and commission members are appointed and how judges are selected to fill vacancies. The order said those ballot questions did not fully inform voters of the changes that would result if the measures passed. The court order gives Gov. Roy Cooper a victory, at least temporarily, in his lawsuit against legislative leaders. The order has no real effect since the judges last week ordered that no ballots be printed while the court cases and appeals continue. Attorneys representing Cooper, the state elections board and legislative leaders said at a hearing last week they would appeal the order if their side lost.

Texas: Harris County mistakenly suspends voter registrations after GOP challenge | Houston Chronicle

Harris County mistakenly placed more than 1,700 voters on its suspension list in response to a local Republican official’s challenge of nearly 4,000 voter registrations, county Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett said Wednesday. The situation quickly spun into a partisan spat with the Harris County Democrats accusing the GOP of targeting Democratic voters, and the Harris County Republican Party blasting Bennett, who also is the county’s voter registrar, for the suspensions and for confusing voters. “Democrat Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett should not have jumped the gun by suspending those voters’ registrations,” Harris County Republican Party Chairman Paul Simpson said in a statement. “We urge Democrat Ann Harris Bennett to follow the law and quit violating voters’ rights.”

Virginia: Hopewell electoral board stands by new registrar’s decision to approve ballots with some names in capital letters | Richmond Post Dispatch

After raised voices and pounding on the table, the Hopewell Electoral Board voted 2-1 on Tuesday to stand by its newly appointed registrar’s decision to create ballots that feature some candidates’ names in capital letters. In a heated debate in the back of the Hopewell registrar’s office, the board’s two Democrats stood by Registrar Yolanda Stokes after she submitted a draft ballot for November’s election that showed three Hopewell City Council candidates’ names entirely in uppercase. Stokes is overseeing her first general election after being appointed registrar in May. She previously served on Hopewell’s public housing board, but the City Council voted to remove her in 2013 after she clashed with other city officials who accused her of overstepping her role.

Australia: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Australia should stay away from electronic voting | The Conversation

The civic experience of interacting with analogue voting interfaces is as Australian as the democracy sausage. Voters are confronted with tiny pencils, plus physical security measures that involve huddling in a cardboard booth and origami-scale folding. The use of paper ballots – and human counting of those ballots – creates one of the most secure electoral systems imaginable. And the Australian tradition provides another sometimes under-recognised component of electoral security: compulsory voting. This practice secures against the voter suppression tactics used to undermine elections in the United States. In the digital era, smartphones are so prevalent that it might seem tempting to move to voting online. In 2013 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) explored internet voting. But cyber security experts say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Bosnia: Serb leader accuses U.S. of meddling in elections, embassy denies charge | Reuters

The president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic has accused the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo of using its development agency to interfere in the Balkan country’s election process, a charge dismissed by the embassy as a “wild” conspiracy theory. Milorad Dodik said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was implementing its aid program through non-government organizations to conceal what he said was its real agenda of countering Russian influence in the region. “Aiming to directly interfere in internal affairs of the Republika Srpska and Bosnia, USAID … tries to avoid all institutions and to grant funds under cover of the alleged fight against crime and corruption,” Dodik said. 

National: Election security steps hobbled by Congress-White House funding fight | Reuters

A battle between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats over federal funding to help secure November’s U.S. elections stymied legislation in Congress on Wednesday, at least for now, that is aimed at thwarting Russian meddling by strengthening states’ voting procedures. The Senate Rules Committee unexpectedly canceled a work session that was intended to advance the Secure Elections Act. That is a bipartisan bill requiring greater coordination between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a range of other federal and state election agencies as well as making it easier to audit voting results in the 50 states. The fight pits Democrats and some state officials against the Trump administration and Republicans who oppose additional money flowing from Washington to the states to shore up elections.

Zimbabwe: Top Court to Rule Friday on Presidential Election Challenge | VoA News

Zimbabwe’s highest court is expected to issue a ruling Friday on a petition in which the country’s main opposition group is seeking a nullification of July 30 presidential election won by the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa. “The judgment is reserved and the court should be able to come with a judgment at 2pm on the 24th of August which is Friday,” said Zimbabwe’s chief justice Luke Malaba, after hearing submissions for nearly 10 hours from lawyers of the country’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused Zimbabwe’s election commission of rigging the vote in favor of President Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party. According to the official results, Mnangagwa won nearly 51 percent of the vote to defeat MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who received just over 44 percent.

National: Senators duel over audit requirements in election security bill | FCW

As the Secure Elections Act barrels towards a crucial markup in the Senate, two of its original cosponsors expressed divergent views on whether the bill must mandate hand counted post-election audits. The latest version of the bill released by Senate Rules Committee chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) would, like its predecessors, mandate that every state conduct a post-election audit to verify the results. However, Blunt’s version would allow states to conduct those audits by hand as well as through electronic means. Previous versions of the bill specified that audits be inspected “by hand and not by device.” During a hearing on cybersecurity, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, pressed her colleagues to fight to reinsert the language. “I would love to see that risk-limiting audit requirement across the country,” said Klobuchar. “What we have right now in the bill is a requirement that simply audits be required and they have to report back to us. We have backup paper ballots in 14 states now, nine as you know have partial [paper backups], five don’t have any at all….I don’t know how you could prove what happened in an election if there was a hacking.”

National: States using chunk of federal $380M to safeguard voting | Associated Press

Racing to shore up their election systems before November, states are using millions of dollars from the federal government to tighten cybersecurity, safeguard their voter registration rolls and improve communication between county and state election officers. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a report Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. All but a fraction of the money has already been sent to the states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The largest chunk — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories. More than a quarter of the money will be used to replace voting equipment in 33 states and territories, although the bulk of this is unlikely to happen until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

National: Majority of election security grants going toward cybersecurity, equipment upgrades | CyberScoop

About a third of federal funding meant to improve election technology will be spent on cybersecurity-related improvements, while another third will be used to upgrade old equipment, according to plans released Tuesday by states and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In March, Congress appropriated $380 million for states to use for upgrades to election infrastructure, under the Help America Vote Act. It’s the first time the federal distributes HAVA funding since 2010. “The 380 [million] is something new in terms of additional funding, but it’s in that same realm of ensuring that our voting process remain secure and that vote of confidence remains high,” Tom Hicks, chairman of the EAC, told CyberScoop.

National: New bill would require paper ballots to secure election results | CNET

The Russians can’t hack paper. On Tuesday, nine Senators introduced a bill that would require state and local governments to use paper ballots in an effort to secure elections from hackers. The bill would also require rigorous audits for all federal elections to ensure that results match the votes. “Leaving the fate of America’s democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says ‘out of town,'” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a . “Any failure to secure our elections amounts to disenfranchising American voters.”

National: Democrats gear up for legal fights over voter suppression | The Hill

Democrats are getting ready for a major fight this fall over access to the polls, which the party believes could be a critical issue toward determining congressional majorities in the midterm elections. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, pointed out recent efforts to limit turnout by likely Democratic voters in Texas, Ohio and Indiana — three Senate battlegrounds. “A number of states have already acted. Texas put in place a set of additional restrictions,” Van Hollen said in an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.” Hilary Shelton, the director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, a nonpartisan group, said voting rights are under greater threat in 2018 compared to recent elections because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

National: Kids at hacking conference show how easily US elections could be sabotaged | The Guardian

At the world’s largest hacking conference, there was good news and bad news for fans of free and fair elections. The good news is that hacking the US midterms – actually changing the recorded votes to steal the election for a particular candidate – may be harder than it seems, and most of the political actors who could pose a threat to the validity of an election are hesitant to escalate their attacks that far. The bad news is that it doesn’t really matter. While the actual risk of a hacker seizing thousands of voting machines and altering their records may be remote, the risk of a hacker casting the validity of an election into question through one of any number of other entry points is huge, and the actual difficulty of such an attack is child’s play. Literally.

Editorials: Time is running out to secure our elections | James Lankford and Amy Klobuchar/The Hill

In 2016, Russia attacked the United States. Not with bombs or guns, but with a sophisticated well-funded cyberattack and information warfare directed by President Vladimir Putin designed to undermine the values we hold most dear. Russian entities launched cyberattacks against at least 21 states and attacked U.S. voting system software companies. Every top U.S. intelligence official has warned us, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who recently described our digital election infrastructure as “literally under attack,” and sounded the alarm that “the warning lights are blinking red again.” Far from being chastened by these reports, our foreign adversaries have only become emboldened. Microsoft has already detected phishing attacks targeting at least three midterm campaigns this year.

Arizona: State isn’t updating voter addresses, lawsuit claims | Associated Press

Voting rights organizations are suing Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan over concerns that her office isn’t updating voters’ addresses. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona on Monday announced the lawsuit from multiple voter rights organizations including the League of Women Voters of Arizona. They’re concerned that Reagan’s office doesn’t update voter registration information when someone changes their address on their driver’s license. Reagan’s office last week rejected a request from the ACLU to change more than 500,000 voter registration addresses to what is listed on driver’s licenses. She cited concerns about a lack of voters’ consent. Instead, she says her office has coordinated with the Arizona Department of Transportation to make those changes next year.

California: State Certifies Los Angeles County’s New Open-Source Vote Tally System | MyNewsLA

Los Angeles County’s open-source vote tally system was certified by the secretary of state Tuesday, clearing the way for redesigned vote-by-mail ballots to be used in the November election. “With security on the minds of elections officials and the public, open-source technology has the potential to further modernize election administration, security and transparency,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Los Angeles County’s VSAP vote tally system is now California’s first certified election system to use open-source technology. This publicly-owned technology represents a significant step in the future of elections in California and across the country.”

Editorials: Transparency sought in Delaware voting system purchase | Jennifer Hill/Delaware State News

Common Cause Delaware has been closely following the state of Delaware’s work to purchase a new voting system. For the past 18 months Common Cause has attended election system demonstrations, met with state election officials and state legislators, held public forums and worked with the media in our effort to be a voice for transparency and election integrity. CCDE was able to obtain the voting system bids from the Office of Management and budget in late July. Those bids came to the Department of Elections in January of this year, and at that time only the names of the vendors were released to the public. After our requests to see the content of the bids were rejected, we made a FOIA request for the information contained in the bids so all Delawareans would know the possible options for our new voting system. Many states are replacing their aging voting systems and Delaware is one of only five states that still operate with machines that have no paper trail. Delaware first used the voting machines in 1996 and we will be voting on those same machines in the 2018 elections.

Florida: Election official: Bilingual ballots in 32 Florida counties is ‘recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times

Another Florida voting rights case heads to court Tuesday as advocacy groups ask a judge to tell the state to direct 32 counties to print voting materials in English and Spanish in the November election. The plaintiffs argue that Hurricane Maria forced Puerto Rican voters to evacuate to counties all over Florida, including many places where all ballots, signs and other materials are printed only in English. The lawsuit was filed by Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, UnidosUS and Vamos4PR on behalf of a voter who’s registered in Gainesville, Marta Valentina Rivera Madera. The groups want election materials be printed in both languages in 32 counties, including Monroe, Pasco and Hernando.

Georgia: Judge told paper ballots are feasible | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Switching to paper ballots before November’s election is the only way to ensure voting is secure and accurate, say plaintiffs trying to convince a federal judge to discard the Georgia’s electronic voting machines. The court filing was made Monday in a lawsuit from voting integrity advocates who sued to prevent the state from using its 27,000 touchscreen machines, which they say could be hacked without a trace. Attorneys for some of the plaintiffs wrote that it was “utterly ridiculous” for the state government to suggest changing to paper ballots would cause chaos. “The only change that a voter will notice as a result of this change is that, rather than touching an electronic screen, the voter will use a felt-tip pen to record his or her vote on a paper ballot and will place the paper ballot in a secure ballot box,” according to attorneys for the Coalition for Good Governance, an organization seeking transparent and verifiable elections.

Georgia: Georgia’s elections system desperately needs an update—but how? | Atlanta Magazine

Pop the hood of Georgia’s elections system and you’ll notice a lot of old, rusted parts, begging to be repaired or replaced. But if you ask Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee in this year’s gubernatorial contest, for a diagnosis, he’ll likely assure you that, despite a few loose screws and some oxidation on the battery, the eight-cylinder power propelling this motor has no problem carrying you from Point A to Point B—or running an election. Kemp, who elbowed Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle out of the race in the July 24 runoff election, is the overseer of Georgia’s elections engine, which will likely count well over 2 million votes to determine if he or his Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams, will claim the state’s top job after the November 6 general election. Some—including the Democratic Party of Georgia—take issue with the fact that Kemp oversees the procedures that are used to elect Georgia’s public officials, calling on him to resign from his elections czar post or recuse himself from involvement in the vote tabulation and certification. (Congresswoman Karen Handel stepped down when she held the job in 2010 to run for governor, but Cathy Cox held on to her position when she ran for governor in the 2006 Democratic primary.) Kemp has reportedly said he has no intention of resigning.

Editorials: The Georgia GOP turns to toilets to suppress more black voters | Dana Milbank/The Washington Post

It warms the heart to see the newfound concern that Georgia has for its disabled residents. Election overseers were worried sick that the disabled in Randolph County, a rural hamlet where 60 percent of residents are black and nearly a third live in poverty, might arrive at their polling place and find they had to park on grass or, worse, that there was no railing next to the toilet seat. And so, bless their hearts, the officials did the compassionate thing: They proposed to close seven of the nine polling places in Randolph. Now disabled people wouldn’t have to worry about tripping on turf. They’d simply have to haul themselves up to 30 miles round trip to one of the two remaining precincts. … Many of those present expressed suspicion that the election officials’ motive was concern for the disabled, rather than, say, suppressing African American voters. Malone assured them this was the “farthest thing from the fact.” Indeed, why would anybody suspect this?