National: Top intelligence, homeland and cyber officials brief Congress on election security | Karoun Demirjian/The Washington Post

The full House and Senate were briefed about election security Wednesday by the Trump administration’s top intelligence, homeland security and cybersecurity officials as the parties continue to battle over how to protect the 2020 elections against foreign threats. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats; FBI Director Christopher A. Wray; the director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone; and acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan were among the senior officials who spoke to the full complement of House members and senators in back-to-back briefings. They told the lawmakers about the state of election security, including the new tools the government has equipped itself with to identify and avert future organized attempts to interfere with federal elections. Democrats and Republicans left the sessions expressing confidence in the officials’ efforts, even while the parties remain bitterly divided as to whether President Trump is taking election security seriously enough. That division has played out in Congress as a standoff between each party’s leaders, who spent Wednesday accusing each other of attempting to politicize election security to achieve partisan objectives.

National: Democrats clash with Republicans over election security | Marianne Levine, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle/Politico

House Democrats and Senate Republicans may have attended similar classified briefings on election security Wednesday, but they left with opposite conclusions. House Democrats expressed deep concerns about the White House’s ability to protect voting systems in 2020, drawing fresh scrutiny to the administration’s efforts to prevent foreign meddling in another election. But Senate Republicans said they had faith in the administration’s handling of the issue and saw no need for further legislation on election security. The divergent reactions suggests that while both parties acknowledge the role of Russian interference in the 2016 election, detailed in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report this spring, Congress is unlikely to take any further legislative action. Leaving the hour-long House briefing, several senior Democrats said they still had key questions about the Trump administration’s work ahead of next November’s election, including which agency is leading the effort to combat foreign interference. “There is real interest on the part of members of Congress to know who is in charge or what are the operating procedures for the process to move forward,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “And the answers were not as clear as they need to be.”

National: Republicans say they’re satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings | Jordain Carney/The Hill

Congressional Republicans are expressing confidence that the 2020 elections will be secure, despite strong protests from Democrats that more needs to be done. House and Senate members received separate classified briefings from senior administration officials on Wednesday, during which the plans for securing the 2020 elections were outlined in the wake of Russia’s extensive interference ahead of the 2016 vote. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told reporters that while the U.S. must be “very vigilant” against election threats from foreign governments, “the agencies have the tools they need, and I am confident they are addressing the threats.”Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of President Trump who has previously supported additional election security legislation, said that he was “very impressed” by the administration’s efforts ahead of 2020. “They all said the president is giving them every authority they’ve asked for. No interference from the White House,” Graham said.  While none of the administration officials involved spoke with the press, several lawmakers confirmed that they said during the closed-door meetings they didn’t need additional legislation or extra funding from Congress.

National: Trump officials warn of ‘active threats’ to US elections | Matthew Daly/Associated Press

The Trump administration warned of unspecified “active threats” to U.S. elections as top security officials briefed Congress Wednesday on steps the government has taken to improve election security in the wake of Russian interference in 2016. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other officials “made it clear there are active threats and they’re doing everything they can” to stop them, said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. Dingell called the closed-door presentation “very impressive” and said the issue was “one we all need to take seriously.” Coats, Wray and other officials, including acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, met separately with the House and Senate in classified briefings at the Capitol. Democrats requested the sessions as they press legislation to keep Russia and other foreign adversaries from interfering with the U.S. political system. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called the briefing helpful and said it reinforced the importance of remaining vigilant against outside threats to U.S. elections. Federal agencies “continue to learn from the mistakes of the 2016 election, when the (Obama) administration was flat-footed in their response” to Russian interference, Scalise said. “We need to stay vigilant.”

National: No new legislative momentum after election security briefings | Niels Lesniewski/Roll Call

Sen. Marco Rubio emerged from a closed briefing on the Trump administration’s efforts to secure elections and made a renewed push for his own bipartisan deterrence legislation, even as he acknowledged there has not been momentum. “In my view, they’re doing everything you can do,” Rubio said of the administration efforts. “Election interference is a broadly used term, and understand this is psychological warfare. It’s designed to weaken America from the inside out, to drive divisions internally so we fight with each other, to undermine our confidence in the elections and in our democracy and particularly to undermine individual candidates either because they don’t like that candidate or because they know someone else.” Rubio, a Florida Republican, then plugged the DETER Act, a bipartisan bill he introduced with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, that is designed to provide for new sanctions to be imposed against Russia or other adversaries in the event of future interference.

National: Feds Don’t Regulate Election Equipment, So States Are On Their Own | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Behind nearly every voter registration database, voting machine and county website that posts results on Election Day, there’s an election technology company that has developed those systems and equipment. By targeting one of those private vendors, Russia, China or some other U.S. adversary could tamper with voter registration rolls, the ballot count or the publicly released results, potentially casting doubt on the legitimacy of the final tally. Nevertheless, there are no federal rules requiring vendors to meet security standards, test equipment for vulnerabilities or publicly disclose hacking attempts. With the 2020 presidential election approaching, security experts, lawmakers and even election vendors themselves are calling for more rigorous testing of election equipment and stricter security standards for the private companies that provide election-related services. “The lack of vendor regulation in the election technology space is a big gap that needs to be addressed,” said Edgardo Cortés, an election security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

National: Portland cybersecurity company aims to design, protect the future | Pat Dooris/KGW

Step inside Galois in downtown Portland and you’ll see a lot of smart people working with computers, circuit boards and more. A group of professors from the Oregon Institute of Technology started the company 20 years ago. The company says it performs computer science research and development for commercial, defense and intelligence industries, and that its employees are among the world’s foremost experts in computer science and mathematics, which allows Galois to take on the world’s most difficult challenges in computer science. They are now inventing, creating, testing and protecting against the future. The Ping-Pong table in one room is covered with parts from high-tech components. Soldering irons sit nearby ready for action. At the end of the table is a black box. It’s a prototype optical scanner for voting. The company built it from scratch. CEO Rob Wiltbank said the prototype is an attempt to answer a simple, but tough question. “How can you build a voting system that you can actually trust? A lot of computing systems function, but they don’t do only what you want them to do. So, the big experiment we’re doing here is, can you build a system that you can prove will only work as it’s supposed to work?” Wiltbank said. When it comes to elections, that’s a troubling idea.

Editorials: Why America must take the fight against cyberterrorism seriously | Joseph Moreno and Sam Curry/The Hill

cording to the Justice Department, a team of hackers sponsored by North Korea spent years infiltrating American companies to steal trade secrets and intellectual property. We know from the investigation of former special counsel Robert Mueller that Russian military intelligence groups hacked computer systems in the United States and spread social media disinformation to impact the 2016 election. More recently, we learned of a campaign by hackers backed by the Chinese government to spy on individuals through cyberattacks on global carrier companies. These may not be traditional acts of war. But make no mistake, they are hostile military grade actions against our companies, our government, and the public by foreign adversaries, and they are only getting worse. The United States is in a de facto state of war that is no less real for it being fought on a digital rather than a traditional battlefield. If a foreign army killed American citizens at home or abroad, there is no question that a conventional military response would be called for. Every nation has the right to defend itself against an armed attack under the United Nations charter. Similarly, if a foreign country was found to have supported a terrorist group in carrying out a violent assault against Americans, most would agree that some form of military retaliation would be warranted.

Florida: Lawmakers push DHS to notify voters, other officials of election system breaches | Olivia Beavers/The Hill

A pair of House lawmakers from Florida have introduced new legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to notify voters and other parties of potential breaches to election systems. Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D) and Mike Waltz (R) introduced their measure following revelations earlier this year that Russia infiltrated computer networks in two counties in the Sunshine State ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Members of the Florida congressional delegation blasted federal agencies in May for their lack of transparency about the cyberattacks, saying they only received an FBI briefing on the matter when former special counsel Robert Mueller revealed in his report that the bureau was investigating a Moscow-led hack into “at least one” Florida county. The FBI, which informed the Florida delegation that Russia had infiltrated a second county, has not permitted the members of Congress to reveal the names of which counties were targeted.

Georgia: Judge allows outside inspection of Georgia voting system | Mark Niesse/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The insides of Georgia’s voting system will be cracked open for inspection as part of a lawsuit alleging that the state’s elections are vulnerable to inaccuracies, malfunctions and hacking. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Tuesday ordered election officials to allow computer experts to review databases used to configure ballots and tabulate votes.The ruling comes in a lawsuit by election integrity advocates who doubt the accuracy of Georgia’s electronic voting machines and are asking Totenberg to require that elections be conducted on paper ballots filled out with a pen.The review of election management databases is needed to understand what caused problems during November’s heated race for governor between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, said Bruce Brown, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs.Voters reported that voting machines failed to record their choices, flipped their votes from one candidate to another and produced questionable results.“We can see the system malfunctioning, and everybody knows it is intrinsically vulnerable,” said Brown, who represents the Coalition for Good Governance, a Colorado-based organization focused on election accountability. “We’re trying to learn more about the exact causes of the particular problems we’re seeing in Georgia.”Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s attorneys objected to allowing a review of election databases, which have a variety of information including candidate names, party affiliations, ballot layouts and vote counts for each precinct. The databases don’t contain confidential information, Totenberg wrote.

North Carolina: ‘A risk to democracy’: North Carolina law may be violating secrecy of the ballot | Jordan Wilkie/The Guardian

North Carolina may be violating state and federal constitutional protections for the secret ballot in the US by tracing some of its citizens’ votes. The situation has arisen because North Carolina has a state law that demands absentee voting – which includes early, in-person voting as well as postal voting – is required to use ballots that can be traced back to the voter. The laws are in place as a means of guaranteeing that if citizens cast multiple ballots during early voting or that if ineligible residents – like non-citizens or people who have not completed sentences for criminal offenses – cast ballots, those votes can be retrieved and removed. Likewise, if a voter casts an early ballot then dies before election day, that ballot can then be discounted. But voting rights advocates think the North Carolina law breaks one of the most sacred tenets of the democratic system: preserving the secrecy of the ballot. “Anytime you can link a ballot back to the individual voter, that’s a violation of the secret ballot,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, the chief technology officer for the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Pennsylvania: Despite GOP objections, Wolf moves to upgrade voting machines | Katie Meyer/WITF

Governor Tom Wolf is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to funding upgrades for Pennsylvania’s voting machines. The move comes after he vetoed a funding bill the GOP-controlled legislature sent him during state budget negotiations. It would have given counties $90 million to upgrade machines — about 60 percent of the up-front cost. But it also had strings attached; most crucially, an election code change that eliminated automatic straight-ticket voting. Democrats balked, saying it might depress voter turnout. Wolf now plans to get the $90 million without add-ons by issuing a bond through the state’s Economic Development Financing Authority. He said as far as he knows, it’s allowed as long as the agency’s board authorizes it. “I’m not a lawyer,” he said when asked about the specific law that authorizes such an action. “The point that I think everybody in this building recognizes is that we’ve got to support the counties. This cannot be an unfunded mandate.” Wolf’s office later clarified, they interpret the Pennsylvania EDFA has having broad authority to provide funding in order to promote things like health, safety, economic activity, and general welfare for people in the commonwealth. Voting machine funding, they said, fits that mission.

Pennsylvania: Wolf orders $90M bond issue to help counties buy voting machines | The Intelligencer

Gov. Tom Wolf is moving to borrow up to $90 million to help Pennsylvania’s counties pay for new voting machines ahead of 2020′s election, announcing the step Tuesday after a dispute between the Democrat and the Republican-controlled Legislature doomed funding legislation last week. The bond issue would reimburse each county for 60% of their cost, according to Wolf’s administration, which provided little detail about the financing it will seek or the timeline for the move. Wolf began pressing counties last year to replace their voting machines with ones that provide verified paper ballots before 2020 after federal authorities warned Pennsylvania and at least 20 other states that Russian hackers targeted them during 2016′s presidential election. That prompted a wide range of election integrity advocates and experts to urge states to switch to machines that produce an auditable paper trail.

Media Release: Verified Voting Praises Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for Announcing Bond Financing to Reimburse Counties for Purchasing Voting Machines

Marian K. Schneider: “This move will ensure the smooth transition to secure and verifiable voting systems and will free up money for counties to use toward cybersecurity training and voter education.” “Verified Voting is pleased with Gov. Wolf’s commitment to replace electronic voting systems. The availability of this $90 million financing will allow counties to…

Texas: Taylor County approves funding for new voting machines amid backlash | Daniela Ibarra/KTXS

The Taylor County Commissioners have approved $2.1 million in funding to replace Taylor County’s current voting machines, which have been in use since 2005. … “A number of vulnerabilities that computers are susceptible to can be exploited,” said Marian Schneider, the President of Verified Voting. … Schneider said that DRE systems do not print out a paper ballot after each voter casts their vote, and if a voter makes a mistake when making a selection, she said that there is no way to refute the claim. “There’s no way to validate that what the voter inputted is actually what got recorded,” Schneider said. “Calling up the computer memory after the fact does nothing to validate that that’s what the voter intent was captured.”

Washington: ‘Not ready for prime time.’ Washington State election officials sound alarm over new voter registration system | Austin Jenkins/NW News Network

County election officials in Washington are warning that a new statewide voter registration database system is not ready for the state’s August 6 primary and could result in some voters getting incorrect ballots or no ballot at all. The concerns reached a crescendo on Tuesday at a work session of the Washington Senate’s State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. A panel of county auditors and election chiefs told members of the committee that the new VoteWA system is “not ready for prime time” and that they are proceeding with the primary election “on a hope and a prayer.” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, acknowledged that she decided to “go live” with phase one of the system over the objections of some county auditors, but defended that decision as necessary because of the age and security vulnerabilities of the old system.  “If you want to know why I made the decision that I made, it was I was so worried and freaked out by my security team that said we cannot keep operating this system,” Wyman told the committee members.

Canada: No direct threats to the election yet – but foreign actors are getting ready to meddle: officials | Catharine Tunney/CBC

Canadian security agencies haven’t seen any direct threats to the 2019 election so far, but a government official says hostile foreign actors are positioning themselves already to insert themselves into the campaign. A handful of senior officials spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity Tuesday to offer an update on how they’ll alert the public to any serious attempts to interfere with the October election. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment and the RCMP are monitoring foreign threat activity in Canada and around the world — which is not unusual, said one official. “At this time, we haven’t seen direct threats to the 2019 general election,” the official said. CSIS continues to observe hostile foreign actors “taking steps to position themselves to clandestinely influence, promote or discredit certain messages, candidates or groups during the campaign,” the official added.

Canada: Anti-election-meddling panel would prefer to keep quiet | Carl Meyer/National Observer

Canada’s anti-election-meddling panel will look into domestic threats as well as foreign interference during this fall’s campaign. But the government officials tasked with probing attempts to subvert Canada’s free and fair elections will require all members of the panel to sign off before informing the public of an incident. That’s because the panel sees its power to go public as a last resort, and would prefer that journalists and civil society organizations keep citizens informed through debunking conspiracy theories or exposing fake social media accounts before disinformation spreads too far. Federal government officials speaking on background revealed these and other details of Canada’s Critical Election Incident Public Protocol in a briefing Tuesday. The briefing was related to a cabinet directive that was published July 9, and first announced by Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould. “Canada’s democratic institutions have to be prepared to face incidents similar to those we have seen in other elections around the world,” Gould said in a statement. “This, combined with the various measures announced earlier this year, will allow us to uphold the trust and confidence that Canadians have in their democracy.”

Italy: A Secret Recording Reveals How Russia Tried To Funnel Millions To Matteo Salvini’s Lega Party | Alberto Nardelli/BuzzFeed

Six men sat down for a business meeting on the morning of October 18 last year, amid the hubbub and marble-columned opulence of Moscow’s iconic Metropol Hotel, to discuss plans for a “great alliance.” A century earlier, the grand institution was the scene of events that helped change the face of Europe and the world: Czarist forces fought from inside the hotel as they tried and failed to hold the Bolsheviks back from the Kremlin in 1917, and it was here, in suite 217, that the first Soviet Constitution was drafted after the revolution succeeded. The six men — three Russians, three Italians — gathered beneath the spectacular painted glass ceiling in the hotel lobby last October had their eyes on history too. Their nominal purpose was an oil deal; their real goal was to undermine liberal democracies and shape a new, nationalist Europe aligned with Moscow. BuzzFeed News has obtained an explosive audio recording of the Metropol meeting in which a close aide of Europe’s most powerful far-right leader — Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — and the other five men can be heard negotiating the terms of a deal to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money to Salvini’s Lega party.