North Carolina: Senators question DHS on North Carolina voting equipment malfunctions | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) are demanding answers regarding voting equipment malfunctions in North Carolina during the 2016 presidential election, as election security continues to be a contentious topic on Capitol Hill. Klobuchar and Reed sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan late last week asking him to explain the steps taken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate the “unexpected behavior” of voting equipment made by VR Systems during the 2016 election in Durham County, North Carolina. On election day, electronic poll books in this county made by VR Systems malfunctioned, leading the county to switch to paper poll books. It is not clear if this was the result of a cyberattack or a different cause.  The letter from the two Democratic senators was sent in the wake of the release of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which concluded that Russian officers “targeted employees of [redacted], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network.”

Georgia: Election law resolves lawsuits over absentee ballots | Mark Niesse/Atlanta Journal Constitution

The battle over thousands of rejected absentee ballots appears to have come to an end. Absentee ballots can no longer be thrown out in Georgia because of a signature mismatch or a missing birth year and address, according to a new state law that recently resolved two federal lawsuits.County election officials discarded nearly 7,000 absentee ballots in the November election, often for minor transgressions such as marking the outside of the absentee ballot envelope incorrectly.Judges issued orders at the time preventing election officials from discarding absentee and provisional ballots. Then the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 316 in March, a broad elections bill that replaces the state’s voting machines and makes many other changes to elections.That legislation led to the lawsuits’ dismissal.

National: Senate to be briefed on election security Wednesday | Jordain Carney/The Hill

The Senate will get an election security briefing on Wednesday, as Democrats clamor for Congress to pass new legislation ahead of the 2020 election. Senators will have a closed-door meeting with Trump administration officials, including briefers from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to a senior Senate aide.  The House is also expected to be briefed on Wednesday, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announcing late last month that the lower chamber would also have an “all members” briefing. The back-to-back briefings come as Democrats have been pushing for months for Congress to pass new legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. They also follow former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. House Democrats passed a massive election and ethics reform bill earlier this year and have followed it up with smaller bills as they’ve tried to put pressure on the GOP-controlled Senate to take action.

National: NAACP hosts election security teleconference call, highlights ongoing threats to African American community | The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

In his extensive investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — which revealed that Russia had interfered “in a sweeping and systemic fashion” — Special Counsel Robert Mueller uncovered evidence which surprised many – that the African American community in particular was singled out and targeted by Russian-based troll farms and propaganda campaigns. These destructive forces took their cues from historic, home grown voter suppression tactics, entrenched American racism and tensions amongst Black people themselves. The Russians — not unlike the GOP — recognized the sheer power of this voting block and set out to disenfranchise it, largely through the use of digital and social media. They are determined to do so again, employing even more sophisticated technology and real time tactics. The NAACP recently held a teleconference featuring policymakers and thought leaders that addressed these challenges frankly and boldly.

National: Senate Democrats asking Republicans to help pass new election safeguards | Lyanne Melendez/KGO

The Democrats vowed to turn up the heat to force Republicans in the Senate to approve new election security bills. Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Monday the new safeguards are necessary to defend itself against any possible voter meddling-like what the country saw in 2016. “People have said to us, ‘ok, the Russians disrupted our elections, they made a difference in our elections, what are you going to do about it?’ SAFE,” said Speaker Pelosi. Democrats have proposed a few bills that, they say, would help protect our elections from future foreign interference. One of them is called the Securing America’s Federal Election Act, known as SAFE. SAFE would upgrade or replace electronic voting machines, hire information technology staff and give financial assistance to states to secure and maintain their election infrastructure.

Editorials: Facebook is ripe for exploitation – again – in 2020 | Siva Vaidhyanathan/The Guardian

We won’t need Russia in 2020. We will hijack our democracy ourselves. And Facebook is sure to be a major factor in that hijacking – once again. The platform is ripe for further exploitation by domestic forces bent on distorting the political conversation and stirring up irrational passions in a way sure to benefit Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The continued proliferation of white supremacists on Facebook, and its refusal to block a heavily doctored video of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, are just the latest demonstrations of Facebook’s cowardice. Despite scrutiny in the three years since Facebook’s troublesome role in Trump’s 2016 election – embedding Facebook staff in the campaign itself, hosting millions of dollars of targeted ad spending, and distributing false and divisive messages sponsored by Russia and meant to divide the United States and promote Trump – Facebook remains vulnerable to the sorts of divisive propaganda that motivate nationalist and authoritarian movements. This was evident in recent elections in Brazil, Italy, and India, where nationalist forces assumed power with the aid of Facebook-centric election campaigns filled with vitriol and conspiracy theories. Such propaganda starts with a concerted effort using platforms other than Facebook, such as Reddit, YouTube, state-sponsored systems like Russia’s RT, or private media like Fox News in the US. The messages then migrate to Facebook, with its 220 million American users and 2.4 billion users worldwide. Once there, Facebook’s algorithms take over, amplifying extremist content and connecting susceptible people who might never otherwise find each other. It’s a complex ecosystem that can’t be examined properly by isolating its elements. What happens on Reddit and Fox changes Facebook, and what happens on Facebook changes Reddit and Fox.

Florida: State approves new round of vote security grants | Scott Powers/Florida Politics

Fifty-five Florida counties’ Supervisors of Elections offices will get state grants to improve their elections and voter database security, thanks to redistribution of more than $2.3 million in unexpended funds authorized by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by Secretary of State Laurel Lee. The grants respond to applications from the counties, and range from $524,838 for Orange County to just $229 for Hendry County. The redirected funds are in addition to $2.8 million for election security that the Florida Legislature approved, making available in the upcoming fiscal year. that makes for a total of $5.1 million for election security heading toward 2020. The newly announced awards and the earlier appropriations have come after revelations that Russian hackers had managed to infiltrate two Florida Supervisors of Elections’ computer systems in the 2016 election. The identities of those two counties have not been publicly revealed.

Editorials: One Lesson From the Katz-Cabán Recount | The New York Times

New York, long home to some of the more arcane, incumbent-protecting election laws in the country, has made rapid progress in bolstering the right to vote. In recent months, the State Legislature enacted early voting, passed a measure to automatically transfer a voter’s registration if she moves within the state and gave initial authorization for a constitutional amendment to make absentee voting easier. But when lawmakers left Albany last month, some of the work remained unfinished — 31 election-related bills that have been approved by the Legislature but have not been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The importance of at least one of those measures has become clear since last month’s Democratic primary for district attorney in Queens ended with a razor-thin margin that set off an automatic recount. Tiffany Cabán, a public defender, declared victory on election night, June 25, with a margin of some 1,100 votes. But several days later, after election officials reviewed the roughly 6,300 paper ballots cast, Borough President Melinda Katz was ahead by 20 votes.

Pennsylvania: Rep. Gene DiGirolamo to introduce new $90M voting machine bill | Anthony DiMattia/Bucks County Courier Times

State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo on Monday announced plans to introduce legislation to help counties buy new voting machines only days after Pennsylvania’s governor vetoed a similar bill passed by the Senate. The proposed legislation would float up to $90 million in state bonds to reimburse counties about 60% of the more than $100 million estimated to replace voting machines across the state. “Our counties are in the midst of replacing voting machines. They are working diligently, within a short time frame, to make the right choices for their respective voters,” DiGirolamo, R-18, of Bensalem, said in a statement. “This is a costly endeavor, and we must take steps to provide needed funding.” On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation that carried $90 million to help counties buy new voting machines. The bill also ordered changes to election laws that the Democrat said wouldn’t help improve voting security or access, such as eliminating the straight-party ticket voting option on ballots. Wolf said eliminating it could lead to voter confusion and longer lines at polls, while Democrats had argued that it is designed to benefit down-ballot Republican candidates. DiGirolamo said he is hopeful Wolf will support the legislation since it does not include the elimination of straight-party voting.

Pennsylvania: Despite impasse over state funding, Pennsylvania counties are plunging forward on voting machine upgrades | Charles Thompson/PennLive

Most Central Pennsylvania counties are taking a damn the veto, full speed ahead approach to replacing voting machines in advance of the 2020 presidential election cycle. They are acting now, and then hoping Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will eventually agree on a plan to reimburse them for up to 60 percent of the cost of the new equipment designed to build more back-ups into Pennsylvania elections.\ “We’re still going ahead and getting the machines, and we will have them in operation as mandated by April of 2020,” said Vince DeFilippo, chairman of the Cumberland County board of commissioners. Cumberland’s Board of Elections recommended a new system for purchase in late June. It’s position was the overwhelming consensus from a check of midstate counties Monday.\ Wolf, who put the counties on this track in a 2018 lawsuit settlement, had attempted to strike a deal with legislative leaders for a $90 million bond issue intended to reimburse counties for close to 60 percent of their costs. But that deal fell apart as the bill became enmeshed in other election reform issues – including a provision to abolish straight-party balloting – that raised the ire of many Democratic lawmakers who argued it could discourage voting by the disabled, people with low literacy skills, or even casual voters who could be turned off by rush hour lines.

West Virginia: Clarksburg courthouse cyber attack concerns local residents, business owners | Jonathan Weaver/The Exponent Telegram

Nearly a month after a cyberattack at the Harrison County Courthouse led to commissioners paying a ransom and several county officials losing access to their files, local residents have mixed feelings on whether the attack is a sign that more are forthcoming — either against themselves or local, state and national governments. “It’s going to get worse everywhere you go. It’s just a way of life,” Doddridge County’s Lynn Bennett said. “Everything’s getting sophisticated on your phone and I think it’s just inevitable. “You have to be careful with what you do and what you put on it.” The McClellan District resident heard about the Harrison County Courthouse cyberattack, but did not foresee cyberattacks during upcoming local elections or during the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Europe: Finland brings cybersecurity to the fore as EU presidency commences | Catherine Chapman/The Daily Swig

Finland is to hold exercises in cyber defense as part of the nation’s EU presidency term, which officially started this month. The so-called “hybrid exercises” will produce fictional cyber-attack scenarios for EU member states to participate in, with the aim of increasing awareness and cooperation between computer emergency response teams across the region. This includes activities to prepare for a wide range of threats directed at a country’s critical infrastructure or democratic processes, such as cyber-attacks, election interference, and disinformation campaigns. “Finland strives to build member states’ awareness of hybrid threats and of the existing EU instruments and policies to counter them,” reads the country’s presidency program.

Europe: The EU’s election interference alert system isn’t working properly | Jon Fingas/Engadget

The European Union was quick to report online interference in its recent elections, but the system designed to catch that interference apparently needs some improvement. The New York Times has learned through records and interviews that the EU’s Rapid Alert System hasn’t been very effective in aggregating meddling data or transmitting alerts. Most member states haven’t contributed to its database, and what data is there tends to be a “mishmash” that may go unanalyzed. Disagreements over the seriousness of interference attempts have also led officials to avoid issuing alerts. The political landscape is a significant problem by itself. Russia frequently exploits European websites and far-right political parties to further its agenda, but EU analysts aren’t allowed to send warnings or debunk campaigns when they come from European outlets. The restriction is billed as an attempt to protect free speech, but ultimately limits Rapid Alert System users to either monitoring official Russian outlets or running generic myth-busting initiatives. And then there are the disagreements between countries. When Hungarian leadership repeats Russia’s false claims about the Ukraine, for example, how does the EU go about chastising one of its own?

India: Raj Thackeray requests Election Commission to hold assembly polls by ballot paper | The Statesman

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Monday wrote to the Election Commission of India (ECI) regarding “restoring faith in the election process in the country”. Raj Thackeray has written, “Individuals have communicated their dissatisfaction with the manner in which elections are being conducted in the last few years and raised questions regarding EVMs. We request you to get back to ballot papers and appeal to have assembly election in Maharashtra with ballot papers only.” In July 2018, Raj Thackeray had alleged that the BJP had won the past elections by manipulating the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). “The EVMs had helped the BJP win the elections in the past. Otherwise, how can any candidate get zero votes in polls?” he had questioned while speaking to reporters. Representatives of 21 opposition parties led by TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had met the Election Commission raising concerns over the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT slips two days ahead of counting of votes for the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. The opposition parties have been complaining about EVM malfunctioning and demanding the use of ballot papers even before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Libya: Arrest of Russians in Libya raises questions over Kremlin election meddling | Jonathan Brown/The National

Authorities in the Libyan capital Tripoli say that two Russians arrested in May were involved in attempts to influence public opinion and swing possible future elections. The Foundation for National Values Protection, a Russian NGO, said on Friday that two of its staff were arrested while carrying out opinion polls. But according to Tripoli authorities, laptops and memory sticks discovered in their possession identified the men as working for Russia’s troll farm that “specialises in influencing elections that are to be held in several African states”. A letter stamped by the attorney general’s office and obtained by Bloomberg named the troll farm as Fabrika Trollei, Russian for “troll factory”, a collection of media sites and political organisations connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked Russian tycoon. Mr Prigozhin was placed on the US sanctions list last year for orchestrating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The United Nations and western countries have been trying for several years to hold elections in Libya as a way of bringing about an end to the impasse between the internationally recognised government in Tripoli and rival officials in Benghazi.

Switzerland: Three cantons seek damages for failed e-voting system | SWI

Three Swiss cantons that were preparing to use a new e-voting system this year say they will seek financial compensation after it was unexpectedly withdrawn and put on ice. Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Thurgau will seek compensation after spending money on making the system ready to voters in the October elections. Fribourg told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA that it had invested CHF150,000 ($151,000). A fourth canton, Basel City, said it was considering its options on suing Swiss Post, the state-owned postal service that had developed the system. The Swiss government recently suspended efforts to enshrine electronic voting in the law. Swiss Post followed this announcement by suspending its e-voting platform, to which the four cantons had already subscribed.