In his public remarks stepping down as special counsel, Robert Mueller reminded Americans not to overlook a crucial finding from his investigation: Russia’s “multiple and systematic” efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. After the Special Counsel’s warning, some lawmakers have sought to reintroduce election security bills. And while election security has wide bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has blocked several election security measures, arguing that the federal government is already doing enough to protect elections. In his speech declaring “case closed” on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, McConnell said the United States was ready for the 2020 race. “Thanks to this administration’s leadership, all 50 states and more than 1,400 local election jurisdictions focused on election security like never before,” McConnell said at the time. The problem predates the special counsel’s warning; election security legislation has been facing roadblocks for over a year in Congress, and little activity on the issue is expected in the coming months.Full Article: How the U.S. is trying to improve election security ahead of 2020 | PBS NewsHour.
National: Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation | Maggie Miller/The Hill
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Monday said the White House is blocking election security legislation from moving through the Senate. Warner said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations that multiple measures he has introduced to secure U.S. elections against foreign interference are not receiving a floor vote in the Senate because of objections from the White House. Warner and several Democrats last week tried to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act by unanimous consent but were blocked by Republicans. The bill would require campaigns to notify the FBI about any attempts by foreign government to interfere in U.S. elections. The topic has gained traction in Congress following President Trump’s recent comments to ABC News that he would consider accepting information on a political opponent from a foreign government. Warner on Monday described Trump’s comments as “utterly outrageous.”Full Article: Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation | TheHill.
National: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell’s opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House | Manu Raju and Ted Barrett/CNN
Senate GOP resistance is building over Democratic measures to bolster security around US elections, setting the stage for a partisan clash with the House over imposing tougher safeguards ahead of 2020. In the latest sign of the escalating standoff, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska dismissed calls Monday for election security legislation, while also rejecting a push by Democratic lawmakers to require campaigns to disclose to federal authorities if foreign nationals offer them help in presidential elections. It’s the latest sign of how the topic of election security has suddenly become a flashpoint in Congress amid President Donald Trump’s all-out assault on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “I’m not sure why we need to have one,” Murkowski said when asked if she believed the Senate should advance an election security bill. “I know there are some who believe we have to do more election reform. I think some of it is calculated to add, I think, additional fuel to the Mueller report and the aftermath of that.” Murkowski also said she expected campaigns to voluntarily report offers of foreign interference to federal authorities, saying legislation to mandate such disclosure would amount to “political fodder.”Full Article: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell's opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House - CNNPolitics.
National: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid | David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States. But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow. The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world.Full Article: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid - The New York Times.
Florida: State has $5.1 million to spend on election security ahead of 2020 voting | Ana Ceballos/Miami Herald
A month after learning Russian hackers breached elections systems in two Florida counties in 2016, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said his administration is focused on identifying “any vulnerabilities” ahead of next year’s elections. The Republican governor announced he is redistributing $2.3 million in election-security money that went unspent by county elections supervisors last year. The funds are in addition to $2.8 million for elections cybersecurity that Florida lawmakers earmarked in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor told reporters at a Monday press conference. The unspent money from the 2018 election cycle will be redistributed to 61 of the state’s 67 counties. The additional $2.8 million will be given to those with the most critical needs, according to Secretary of State Laurel Lee.Full Article: Florida to spend $5.1 million on voting security | Miami Herald.
Georgia: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date | Mark Niesse and Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia election officials won’t set the state’s presidential primary election date until new voting machines are in place. The delay raised concerns from some county election directors who said they might have to move polling places if churches and other facilities get booked before an election date is announced.The uncertain timing also creates the possibility that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years.Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July. At least four companies are bidding for the state’s $150 million contract to provide touchscreen voting machines that print out paper ballots, replacing Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting system.Full Article: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date.
To most people, the mundane sound of typing on a computer keyboard does not have any special significance. But in the computer server room of the Sangamon County, Ill., Board of Elections, the tapping signals the defense of our democracy. The county’s computers, like those in state and local election offices across the country, are the new battlefield against foreign attacks on our election system. Don Gray, the Sangamon County Clerk, likens the fight to a war. “We are at the frontlines of ensuring that the protections to the integrity of our elections is first at hand. We are working hard, we are staying focused, we are staying out in front, I spend the majority of my time analyzing and staying in proper positioning to thwart these type of attacks,” Gray told Fox News. “Cyber threats are a reality and we take it seriously. What happened to us was bad, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse,” said Steve Sandvoss, the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. “The threat is ongoing and it is very serious.”Full Article: Illinois says it's prepared for another election hack | Fox News.
It took more wrangling with lawmakers than expected, but the state’s chief election official now has access to $6.6 million in federal funds to implement his plan for warding off hackers and potential cyberattacks. “We were the very last state to get that money,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Minnesota received its share of the federal election security money from the Help America Vote Act over a year ago. But political maneuvering at the State Capitol delayed the authorization Simon needed to put the money to use. He didn’t get it until last month’s special session. “It still puts us behind other states,” Simon said. “Every other state not only had it but had it some time ago in time for the last election. So, we are behind, but we can now use that money.” Simon said most of the money will go toward short-term projects that can be done ahead of the presidential primary next March. The rest will go toward a four-year project to modernize the state’s voter registration system. With the help of cybersecurity experts, local election officials and legislators, Simon put together a detailed plan months ago for spending the money.Full Article: Minnesota finally working on long-promised election security improvements | MPR News.
Editorials: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in North Carolina. That’s a bad sign. | The Washington Post
Since it became clear that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election, intelligence officials have warned regularly that the United States remains vulnerable to another cyberattack. If the aftermath of an Election Day fiasco in North Carolina is any indication, the Trump administration and Congress still have much to do to prepare the nation for next year’s vote. A Post investigation detailed how North Carolina officials have desperately sought information and help from the Department of Homeland Security following a possible Election Day 2016 breach, in which Durham County’s electronic poll books, which provide information on eligible voters, improperly rejected people at their polling places. Election officials resorted to using paper-based poll books, creating massive delays. If a malicious foreign actor wanted to promote havoc on Election Day or call election results into question, this is one way it might happen.Full Article: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in N.C. That’s a bad sign. - The Washington Post.
Millions of dollars in new Butler County voting machines that must be operational by November are arriving this week, and the board of elections now also has a six-month deadline to implement comprehensive security measures. Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued an edict last week that includes criminal background checks on all full-time county board of elections employees and any vendors who work with the voting systems, cybersecurity training, changing email domain names and performing various security checks on their systems, among other items. “Although the list of tasks that we’ve given them looks intimidating initially, once you start working through them in many cases they’ll find they’ve already complied,” LaRose told the Journal-News. “We’re confident they’re going to be able to work through this, we’ll be there to support them every step of the way.”Full Article: Background Checks to Supplement Voting Tech in Ohio County.
Russian interference in the 2016 election was not limited to spreading political discord via social media. It also involved hacking.
And election officials across America, Democrats and Republicans, continue to voice concern about future hacking of computer systems used for voting.
Perhaps they need to visit Washington state for some tips. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, has been focused on preventing fraud for years.
Wyman has been beefing up security. She has been working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up cyber security for voter registration and emailed ballots from service members stationed out of the country.
But what makes Washington state’s vote-by-mail election system extremely secure is paper. When it comes to conducting elections, paper ballots are the gold standard. Those ballots can’t be tampered with through a cyber attack and can always be recounted when necessary.
Washington mostly uses paper ballots because its statewide elections are conducted via (snail) mail.
In Walla Walla County, for example, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant said in 2016 that results are put on a Zip disk and then carried to a Zip drive (introduced in 1994) to be loaded onto a computer.
Since there is no internet involved — only the old fashioned sneaker-net (as in walking) — computer hackers can’t access or change the information.
While paper ballots are at the core of our local and state election system, computers are involved. Over time, as new equipment and technology are introduced into conducting elections, the need for the best cybersecurity will increase.
Still, paper ballots should remain at the core of the election system and elsewhere in the nation. Sure, there might be faster and flashier ways to vote, but having a paper record (carefully tracked each step of the way) is critical to ensuring confidence in elections.
At some point, computer-based voting might become so secure that it could replace vote-by-mail voting. That day isn’t here.
Until then, paper ballots should be preserved as a way to ensure our election results aren’t hacked by Russia or any other foreign power.
Europe: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat | Lauren Bishop and Jacopo Barigazzi/Politico
European leaders are expected to call for a tougher “security culture” in the bloc to counter cyber threats, according to draft European Council conclusions dated Monday and seen by POLITICO. Days after news broke of a cybersecurity breach at the EU delegation in Moscow, the draft says that the EU needs more cooperation with international actors and institutions and a “coordinated response” to cyber threats. It backs the creation of a new strategy to deter and respond to cyberattacks. Earlier this month, news broke that the EU was investigating an apparent hack of its IT networks in its delegation offices in Moscow. An EU spokesperson said then it had “observed potential signs of compromised systems connected to our unclassified network.” Buzzfeed News reported on a leaked analysis of the hack that said information was stolen from at least two computers.Full Article: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat – POLITICO.
Europe: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections | Irene Kostaki/New Europe
The European Commission revealed that Russian sources attempted to suppress turnout and influence voters during last month’s EU elections that employed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russia that covered a broad range of topics ranging from challenging the European Union’s democratic legitimacy to exploiting divisive public debates on issues such as migration and political sovereignty. Online platforms will need to do more to combat disinformation, including sharing data, which will assist in tracking even more suspected attempts by a Russian or Chinese attempt to influence the democratic processes both in the EU and the US, particularly after Western intelligence agencies continue to uncover evidence of a sustained effort by Moscow to promote extremist views and polarise local debates through disinformation.Full Article: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections.
Canada: In new guide, spy agency warns campaign teams ‘more likely’ targets of cyber attacks | Rachel Aiello/CTV News
If you are working on a political campaign, are a candidate, or political volunteer, you are poised to be a prime target for attempted foreign interference and cyber attacks in the coming federal election. That’s the message from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in a newly released cyber guide for political campaigns. It’s the first time a guide like this has been created by the federal electronic spy agency, and comes after the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security issued reports in 2017 and 2019 warning that foreign interference in the fall federal campaign is “very likely” and that political campaigns are one of the higher-risk entities vulnerable to these attempts to meddle in the outcome of the election. The 2019 report found that politicians, their parties, and their staff are targets for more advanced cyber attacks such as obtaining private information for the purpose of blackmail, or accessing campaign databases.Full Article: In new guide, spy agency warns campaign teams 'more likely' targets of cyber attacks | CTV News.
A tiny federal agency that plays a crucial role in assisting the nation’s local election supervisors is gripped by a leadership crisis that has sparked concerns that it is unprepared to play its role in protecting the 2020 presidential race from foreign interference. Brian Newby, the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, has blocked important work on election security, micromanaged employees’ interactions with partners outside the agency and routinely ignored staff questions, according to former election officials, former federal employees and others who regularly work with the agency. In doing so, Newby has not only frustrated his own employees and helped create a staff exodus — nine EAC office directors have left since Newby arrived — but also angered cybersecurity experts, election integrity activists and state and local officials. His reputation in the elections community conjures up “the eye-roll emoji,” said one former election official. “Everybody kind of puts up with him.” POLITICO’s seven sources — all of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly — described Newby, a Republican, as too beholden to the EAC’s GOP chairwoman, Christy McCormick, who masterminded his appointment and later spent years denying the reality of Russian interferencein the 2016 election. They also said that Newby alienated his agency almost immediately by wading into the issue of a citizenship requirement for voter eligibility — and that he has failed to regain their trust ever since. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the lawmakers most focused on election security, told POLITICO that “if these allegations are true, Brian Newby should immediately resign.”Full Article: Federal election official accused of undermining his own agency - POLITICO.
Election security legislation is hitting a wall on Capitol Hill despite special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report detailing Russia’s attempts to interfere with the nation’s last presidential contest. The standoff is frustrating Democrats, who say President Trump’s remarks to ABC News that he would be open to accepting information on a political opponent invited more interference in the next election. “I can’t believe Senator McConnell is not entertaining election security measures right now. … We don’t have a lot of time left,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat. The House passed a sweeping ethics and election reform bill that includes a paper ballot requirement and early voting standards. It also includes unrelated issues like tightening campaign finance laws, requiring a president and vice president to release their tax returns, and tapping independent commissions to draw redistricting maps. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed that it won’t get a vote, referring to it as the “Democratic Politician Protection Act.”Full Article: Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw | TheHill.
National: Democrats accelerate election security push after Trump comments | Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro/Associated Press
Alarmed by President Donald Trump’s willingness to accept foreign dirt on a political opponent, House Democrats are accelerating their efforts to strengthen election security ahead of the 2020 campaign. Lawmakers had already been compiling a fresh package of bills in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Trump-Russia probe. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are now pushing ahead with votes because it’s part of “what the American people elected us to do.” It remains to be seen if passage of bills through the House will break the stalemate in Congress over what to do about election security. While Russia interfered in the presidential election more than two years ago, lawmakers have yet to act on legislation — and there is no shortage of proposals. Democrats sped up their efforts after Trump suggested Wednesday in an interview with ABC News that he was open to accepting a foreign power’s help in his 2020 campaign. He appeared to walk those comments back Friday, telling Fox News that “of course” he would go to the FBI or the attorney general if a foreign power offered him dirt about an opponent.Full Article: Dems accelerate election security push after Trump comments - StarTribune.com.
In the wake of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, American officials have sought to implement new cybersecurity measures in preparation for upcoming votes, even at the state and local levels. The electoral landscape has essentially changed, and a newly published white paper outlines the resultant dangers, while also making suggestions for state and local governments on how to take preventative action against potential hackers and bad actors. Securing America’s Elections, published by Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, suggests that more needs to be done to protect electoral infrastructure at all levels of government, while also asking the question: how likely is it that foreign powers — like Russia — will attempt another large-scale intervention in United States elections?Full Article: Assessing the Evolving Risks to State, Local Election Systems.
National: Mitch McConnell: Why the Senate leader is rejecting Hill calls on election security | Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Clare Foran/CNN
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to buckle to the near constant drumbeat from Democrats — and some Republicans — about the need to pass election security legislation in the wake of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller that found Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The Kentucky Republican, who believes strongly that elections should be primarily controlled by state and local authorities and not managed by Washington, argues that the federal government has already responded to the problems raised from the 2016 campaign and more does not need to be done at this time. McConnell thinks Democrats have poisoned the water through their early legislative efforts on election security. Still, moving forward with some of the bills pushed by Democrats — namely to require FBI disclosure for any foreign assistance — would amount to an implicit rebuke of Trump, a fight that Republican leaders are eager to avoid. Behind the scenes, congressional Democrats are finalizing their plans to mount a pressure campaign on McConnell in the weeks ahead to try to shame him for his opposition to these matters.Full Article: Mitch McConnell: Why the Senate leader is rejecting Hill calls on election security - CNNPolitics.
National: Trump says supporters might ‘demand’ that he serve more than two terms as president | Felicia Sonmez/The Washington Post
President Trump on Sunday floated the possibility of staying in office longer than two terms, suggesting in a morning tweet that his supporters might “demand that I stay longer.” The president, who will kick off his reelection campaign on Tuesday with an event in Orlando, has previously joked about serving more than two terms, including at an event in April, when he told a crowd that he might remain in the Oval Office “at least for 10 or 14 years.” The 22nd Amendment of the Constitution limits the presidency to two terms. In tweets Sunday morning, Trump also voiced dissatisfaction with recent news coverage of his administration, calling both The Washington Post and the New York Times “the Enemy of the People.” He added: “The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”Full Article: Trump says supporters might ‘demand’ that he serve more than two terms as president - The Washington Post.