National: Mitch McConnell is Making the 2020 Election Open Season for Hackers | Sue Halpern/The New Yorker

On May 21st, four commissioners who compose the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (E.A.C.) were asked to attest, in Congress, that they agreed with the findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. It was a strange and oddly suspenseful moment in what might have been a routine oversight hearing of the House Administration Committee. The E.A.C. is a small, relatively obscure agency, established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (H.A.V.A.), an election-modernization bill that was passed in response to the disastrous failure of voting equipment during the 2000 Presidential election. H.A.V.A. allocated over three billion dollars to the states to upgrade their election systems and authorized the E.A.C. to distribute it. The E.A.C. was also mandated to advise election officials and oversee the testing and certification of voting and vote-tabulation machines. Seventeen months away from the next Presidential election, it could be leading the charge against future cyberattacks. It is not.

National: Ex-NSA director says Mueller report highlights risks of foreign interference | Morgan Chalfant/The Hill

Former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers says the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller shows just how important it is for the government to be laser-focused on stopping interference in its elections by foreign governments. “That should be totally unacceptable, totally unallowable, and we ought to be focused on what are we going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Because it’s not going to go away,” Rogers said in a wide-ranging interview with The Hill. Rogers, who retired his uniform a year ago, urged the public to read Mueller’s report to judge its findings independently, describing the breadth of the Russian effort as chilling. “I think the breadth of the Russians’ effort, the amount of time, the complexity of that effort — it didn’t surprise me, but again, I think it’s something that ought to make people step back and say, ‘Wow, this wasn’t a casual effort,’ ” Rogers said. “This was a broad, sustained, comprehensive strategy about how we are going to attempt to influence and impact the 2016 election.”

National: Unfinished Business: What Mueller Didn’t Cover, But Congress Can | John T. Nelson/Just Security

The House Intelligence Committee hearings on the first volume of the Mueller report and the FBI’s underlying counterintelligence probe are scheduled to begin Wednesday with the testimony of two former senior Bureau officials and a former Assistant US Attorney. As one of these witnesses, Stephanie Douglas, has written of Russia’s election interference efforts in Just Security, “I am not sure there are many intelligence plans which work any better than this one.” The use of the present tense is unlikely to be accidental. Despite its thoroughness in investigating certain aspects of Russia’s election interference, the Mueller report addresses only a narrow slice of a larger intelligence story that is still unfolding. President Donald Trump’s curious relationship with Russia did not begin with the Trump Tower Moscow deal and it has not ended with his inauguration—more or less the time frame analyzed in the first volume of the report. Chairman Adam Schiff’s committee’s oversight mandate certainly includes the activities and relationships described in volume one, but is not limited to them. There are many questions to be asked, therefore, not only about why Mueller framed his investigation as he did, but also about what he left outside of the picture entirely. So what exactly are the potential lines of further inquiry for Congress to pursue?

National: McConnell: Senate will hold election security briefing | Jordain Carney/The Hill

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that the Senate will have an election security briefing in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “We intend to have a briefing on election security,” McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference while not responding to questions about whether the upper chamber will take up any election security legislation. McConnell’s comments mark the first time that he has confirmed he will hold an all-members election security briefing since Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor that he had received assurances from the Senate GOP leader that there would be a closed-door briefing with administration officials.  “I have some positive news. I have spoken to the Republican leader about that request. He has assured me we will have a briefing,” Schumer said from the Senate floor last week.

National: House panel approves $408 million boost for CISA | FCW

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $63.8 billion spending package for the Department of Homeland Security that includes higher funding levels for the department’s top cyber agency. The bill allocates approximately $2 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a $335 million bump from last year and $408 million above what was requested in the president’s budget. Lawmakers in both parties have expressed support over the past year for the idea of providing CISA with more resources to carry out its cybersecurity mission. “This 20% funding increase will help the new agency move faster to improve our cyber and infrastructure defense capabilities,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal Allard (D-Calif.), chair of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.

Editorials: The U.S. still hasn’t done nearly enough to stop election interference | The Washington Post

It is obvious to all but the willfully ignorant that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. What is less obvious is what this country is going to do about it. So far, the signs have pointed to: not nearly enough. A report from scholars at Stanford University offers one road map — and shows how the nation remains shockingly near the beginning of the road. The Stanford report includes 45 recommendations for protecting the U.S. democratic process. Some three years after Vladimir Putin’s government planted trolls and bots on social media sites to propagandize for Donald Trump, hacked into the emails of officials on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and probed election infrastructure for vulnerabilities, the president’s team has not pursued a single one of them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to block even the consideration of stand-alone legislation that would bolster election security.

California: Riverside County proposes spending millions to replace vote-counting systems by 2020 election | Sam Metz/Palm Springs Desert Sun

For the past 11 years, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters has used vote-counting machines that can take more than a month to finish counting ballots. It took 32 days before the registrar could count all the votes and certify the results of the 2018 midterm elections. But now, a threat from Secretary of State Alex Padilla to withdraw certification from counties with voting systems that don’t meet the 2015 California Voting Systems Standards is forcing Riverside County to spend millions on new vote-counting machines. “While county officials have worked diligently to keep equipment up and running, our democracy faces increasingly sophisticated threats from nefarious actors, both foreign and domestic,” Padilla said in February press release. “Some counties use machines that are so old that vendors no longer make replacement parts.” Riverside County’s 2019-2020 proposed county budget, which the supervisors begun reviewing this week, earmarks more than $2 million to buy a vote-sorting machine to process mail ballots and lease state-certified equipment that will bring them into compliance.

Florida: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash | Samantha-Jo Roth/Spectrum News

The majority of Florida’s 67 counties were forced to forfeit thousands of dollars in election security funding from the federal government ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to documents obtained by Spectrum News from the Florida Department of State.  A Spectrum News investigation found the majority of election officials across the state believe strict guidelines and short deadlines put in place by the state forced them to return more than $1 million in untapped funds to the State’s federal trust fund. Florida has emerged as ground zero in preventing hacking and Russian interference after the Mueller report revealed Russia successfully hacked election systems in two Florida counties in 2016. “This is the backbone of our democracy, it’s just too important,” said Brian Corley, the Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County in an interview with Spectrum News. “The bad guys have to be right one time, we have to be right every time,” he added.

Florida: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020 | Mike Schneider/Associated Press

The new voter protection director for Florida Democrats told party activists on Saturday that they should assume there will be a recount during next year’s presidential election. “We are going to be prepared,” Brandon Peters told a packed room of Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Peters, who was hired by the state party last month, said there will be teams of volunteers trained in how to monitor county canvassing boards for recount problems around the state, should one take place in the 2020 presidential election. Florida became famous for recounts after the 2000 presidential election, and last year there were recounts in three statewide races. The Florida Democratic Party is the second state Democratic party in the nation to hire a voter protection director, behind the Georgia Democratic Party.

Michigan: Lansing city clerk pilots new post-election audit | Elissa Kedziorek/WILX

The Lansing community was invited to observe a new post-election audit Monday morning. Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope partnered with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections, other local election officials and national election security experts to conduct a risk-limiting audit of the May 7, 2019 Lansing School District Special Election. After checking 337 randomly selected ballots as part of a new election audit pilot, Swope declared the Lansing School Millage Election results are confirmed accurate. “It was great to work with election officials at the national, state, county and local level to develop best practices to confirm election results,” Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope. “Each election we learn more, and the City of Lansing will be very experienced by the Presidential Election in November 2020. Nationally, risk-limiting audits are considered to be the gold-standard method for confirming results. This type of audit uses statistical methods that can detect possible discrepancies in areas that may need further attention due to factors such as human error, possible manipulation, cyber attacks,or a variety of other things.

Ohio: Elections chief orders counties to upgrade security | Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press

Ohio’s elections chief ordered county boards of elections on Tuesday to undergo a host of security upgrades that he says will guard against cyberattacks and other threats ahead of the 2020 election. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said his goal is to position Ohio as a national leader in election security that goes beyond voting machines to the boards’ software systems, email accounts and websites. “Even the most secure IT environments have lists of things that they want to do to become more secure, so it’s not to say that we have some sort of massive vulnerability,” he said. “But we know that when we have computer systems and personnel involved, there’s always room for improvement.” LaRose’s directive expands on the findings of a statewide review conducted last year. He said he is making available up to $12 million in Help America Vote Act money to pay for the upgrades. The order requires all 88 county boards to request four services from the Department of Homeland Security by July 19: a risk and vulnerability assessment, remote system testing, a communications review and an in-depth hunt for cyber threats.

Africa: Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa | Luke Harding and Jason Burke/The Guardian

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal. The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say. In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria.

Turkey: Local elections were not free or fair | Thomas Phillips/openDemocracy

During a hurried midnight taxi ride between Istanbul’s two major airports, the faces of Racep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s authoritarian president, and Binali Yildrim, Turkey’s former Prime Minister and Istanbul mayoral candidate, gazed down at me from every lamppost and roadside hoarding. I had been invited to Turkey by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) as part of a local election observation mission, and the omnipresent sight of these two moustachioed members of the ruling AK Party served as a reminder – if reminders were needed – that the elections would not occur on a level playing field. Turkey has been described by academics as a kind of hybrid electoral-authoritarian country. Its citizens are used to voting regularly and in relatively large numbers, even as the media and important state institutions are effectively under the tutelage of President Erdogan and his AKP. Recent plebiscites, including the 2017 referendum on switching to an anti-democratic presidential system, were marred by accusations of fraud and voter manipulation, but Turkey’s rulers nevertheless have cause to fear them. It is, despite President Erdogan’s best efforts to stack the deck in his own favour, possible for him to lose an election.