National: Democrats paint McConnell as ‘lead opponent’ to election security in new report | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Senate Democrats labeled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as “the lead opponent” to election security efforts in a report released Tuesday. The attack came as Democrats continue to push McConnell to bring election security legislation to the Senate floor. The report, specifically released ahead of the House hearings featuring special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday, details what the Democrats see as steps taken by McConnell since 1999 to resist election security and voting reform efforts.  “For years, Sen. McConnell has fought to increase the impact of dark money and corporate spending in our elections,” the Senate Democrats wrote. “But now, after reportedly fighting efforts to expose Putin’s interference during the 2016 elections, Senator McConnell is blocking bipartisan reforms that would secure our elections from foreign interference.” The Senate Democrats pointed to efforts by McConnell and other Senate Republicans to block election security efforts in the Senate, accusing McConnell of “threatening the integrity of, and faith in, our democratic institutions.”

South Carolina: First look at South Carolina’s new voting machines | Jacob Reynolds/WLTX

“We had a 15-year-old system that was– had reached the end of its life. So, that’s exciting we have a dependable system that’s going to serve the voters for years to come,” said State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. Whitmire said South Carolina’s new voting equipment will combine a familiar touchscreen with the additional security of paper. However, the touchscreens are an updated model and have better sensitivity and brightness, according to Whitmire. “They’ll check in, they’ll show their ID, they’ll sign the poll list, the poll manager will take them over to the voting booth, and all of that will be very familiar. But when you get to the voting booth, you’ll have a paper ballot,” said Whitmire, discussing the biggest change from the last 15 years.

National: FBI Director Wray: Russia intent on interfering with U.S. elections | Doina Chiacu/Reuters

Russia is determined to interfere in U.S. elections despite sanctions and other efforts to deter such actions before the next presidential election in 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” Wray said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Wray appeared at an oversight hearing a day before Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, was due to testify publicly before Congress about his two-year investigation of Russian interference to sway the 2016 presidential race toward President Donald Trump. “Everything we’ve done against Russia has not deterred them enough?” asked Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican committee chairman. “All the sanctions, all the talk, they’re still at it?” “Yes. My view is until they stop they haven’t been deterred enough,” Wray responded. Mueller’s investigation disclosed an elaborate campaign of hacking and propaganda during the 2016 presidential race and resulted in indictments that charged 25 Russian individuals and three Russian companies.

National: U.S. Elections Are Still Not Safe From Attack | Lawrence Norden And Daniel I. Weiner/Foreign Affairs

Russia’s attack on American elections in 2016, described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent report as “sweeping and systematic,” came as a shock to many. It shouldn’t have. Experts had been warning of the danger of foreign meddling in U.S. elections for years. Already by 2016, the wholesale adoption of computerized voting had weakened safeguards against interference and left the United States vulnerable to an attack. So, too, the shift to digital media and communications had opened new gaps in security and the law that could be used for manipulation and blackmail.  Russia—and perhaps other powers like China and Iran—will likely try to exploit these vulnerabilities once again in 2020. The United States was caught flatfooted the last time. Now, nearly three years after the Russian efforts first came to light, the United States has made relatively little progress toward hardening its electoral system against interference. Each day it waits to do so raises the likelihood of another election tainted by significant foreign meddling.  Fortunately, there are still measures that Congress, the Federal Election Commission, and other policymakers can take to substantially blunt a future attack. With just over six months remaining until the New Hampshire primary and the start of 2020 voting, lawmakers and executive branch agencies should make election security a priority by upgrading equipment, guarding against hacking, and combatting foreign influence operations.

National: First look at the DEFCON Voting Village | Eric Geller, Mary Lee and Natasha Bertrand/Politico

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and former 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) will speak at this year’s DEFCON Voting Village, MC can reveal. The lawmakers will join California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and former NSA national threat operations director Sherri Ramsay in the election security-focused corner of the cybersecurity conference, which runs Aug. 8-11 in Las Vegas. “The overwhelming interest we are seeing from government leaders demonstrates that securing our democracy is a national security priority,” Voting Village co-founder Harri Hursti says in a press release set to go out this morning, “and we need policy solutions that address the concerns brought to light each year by this Village.” The Voting Village sparked controversy last year when the National Association of Secretaries of State dismissed its findings about voting technology vulnerabilities by saying the test conditions were unrealistic. NASS said at the time that it looked forward to working more closely with the village’s organizers this year. That appears to have happened: This year’s event will “feature a significant increase” in government speakers, including “prominent state and local election authorities,” the organizers said. Other speakers will hail from the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Pentagon. And good news for attendees seeking a hands-on experience: Per the organizers, there will also be “a more extensive array of voting equipment” this year.

National: Microsoft Data Shows Hackers Still Targeting U.S. Elections | Alyza Sebenius and Kartikay Mehrotra/Bloomberg

State-backed hackers have attempted to infiltrate targets related to U.S. elections more than 700 times in the past year, furthering concerns about potential meddling in upcoming races, according to a blog posted Wednesday by Microsoft Corp. The hackers responsible are mostly from Russia and North Korea, said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security & trust, in an interview. The company has counted nearly 10,000 hacks globally stemming from state-sponsored attacks in the past year. Of those, 781 have been to democracy-focused organizations, particularly non-governmental organizations and think tanks, and nearly all of those attacks, 95 %, are against U.S.-based organizations. “We have uncovered attacks specifically targeting organizations that are fundamental to democracy,” Burt wrote. “Democracy-focused organizations in the United States should be particularly concerned.” The attacks on democratic institutions are a likely precursor to hacking attempts on campaigns and election systems ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, according to the blog. However, the North Korea-based hackers may be conducting espionage on issues of special interest like nuclear disarmament, rather than seeking to hack elections, Burt said in the interview.

National: Russia Is Using Cold War Strategy to Undermine the Faith of Americans in the 2020 Election—Will It Work? | Adam Piore/Newsweek

Three events occurring in rapid succession on October 7, 2016, stand out in Robby Mook’s memory.The first came at about 3:30 pm. The Obama Administration issued a statement that publicly blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee and orchestrating the release of the thousands of emails roiling the Democratic Party, which, it said, were “intended to interfere with the US election process.” In the day’s crazy news cycle, that highly-unusual announcement never had a chance.At 4 pm, The Washington Post unveiled the infamous Access Hollywood Tape, on which then-candidate Donald Trump was recorded boasting about his own sexual harassment of women. “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”Within the hour, yet another media bomb dropped. Wikileaks released another trove of emails—the first 20,000 pages of 50,000 hacked emails stolen from the account of Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman John Podesta. “It was so clear what was happening,” recalls Mook, who at the time was a 35-year-old political operative running the Clinton campaign. In time, reporters would dig out old transcripts of paid speeches to Wall Street banks, controversial comments about Catholic voters and other documents that turned out to be damaging to the Clinton campaign. U.S. intelligence has since linked the Podesta trove to the Russian military.

National: Hill Democrats target McConnell in election security push | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

Congressional Democrats are banding together to sound the alarm on the looming security threats facing the 2020 elections — and bash the senator they believe is most responsible for legislative inaction. In a July 23 press conference scheduled one day before Special Counsel Robert Mueller heads to Capitol Hill to testify on his report that found “sweeping and systemic” efforts on the part of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 elections, a group of Democrats pledged to barnstorm around the country serving as “Paul Reveres” to warn about the continuing need for comprehensive election security legislation. They spent most of their time taking aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has become in many respects the primary target of ire for election security advocates after congressional Republicans acknowledged in a Rules Committee hearing earlier this year that he was blocking legislation from reaching the floor of the Senate. “The remarkable thing is on an issue where there is broad bipartisan support…McConnell has not brought a single piece of election security legislation to the floor even though the president’s own security team has said that we’re in jeopardy,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.

Editorials: Mueller testimony reminds us everyone except Trump knows Russians interfered in election | Paul Rosenzweig/USA Today

Before she was ousted by President Donald Trump, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “Two years ago, a foreign power launched a brazen, multi-faceted influence campaign … to distort our presidential election. … Let me be clear: Our intelligence community had it right. It was the Russians.” Everybody knows this. The only person who still has doubts is President Trump. When he testifies before Congress on Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller has a unique opportunity to set the record straight and lay out the case for Russian election interference before the American public. Mueller’s testimony will be a watershed moment if facts still matter.  Mueller’s testimony is important not because he’s a Democrat or a Republican, not because he delivers snappy soundbites or long, carefully constructed sentences, and not because one may favor impeachment or oppose it: It matters because the country must come to grips with the things Mueller found that should trouble us about an adversary Russia, and a campaign and a president who welcomed Russia’s help.

California: Yet again, President Trump falsely blames illegal voting for getting walloped in California | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

A few hours after celebrating his $16 billion bailout to farmers affected by the trade war with China, President Trump told a roomful of young conservatives about the dangers and political opportunism of socialist handouts. “Socialism is not as easy to beat as you think,” Trump said to attendees of Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit. Why? Because people like free things. “Don’t kid yourself,” he said later. “Not as easy when I’m up there on the debate [stage] all alone with some maniac that they” — the Democrats — “chose and that maniac is saying, ‘We’re going to do this for you! We’re going to do that for you! We’re going to give you everything! Everybody gets a free Rolls-Royce, every family! And we’re going to take better care of illegal immigrants than we take care of our own citizens!’ they tell you,” he said. The riff was off in a new direction. “And when they’re saying all of this stuff, and then those illegals get out and vote, because they vote anyway. Don’t kid yourself,” he said. “Those numbers in California and numerous other states, they’re rigged. They’ve got people voting that shouldn’t be voting. They vote many times, not just twice, not just three times. It’s like a circle. They come back, they put a new hat on. They come back, they put a new shirt on. And in many cases, they don’t even do that. You know what’s going on. It’s a rigged deal.” Trump is making three claims here, all untrue.

Mississippi: Elections officials fight back against hackers, foreign operatives | Erin Pickens/WAPT

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, the issue of foreign operatives and hackers manipulating the voting process has been a huge concern. Hackers tried 200,000 times on Election Day to jam the polling place locator on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office works year-round to identify and stop any potential problems. “We have been meeting and giving cybersecurity information to our circuit clerks and our election commissioners in a lot of instances,” Hosemann said. “We’ve started dual authentication if they want to get into the statewide election management system.” The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal agency focused full time on elections, says states have only spent about 29% of the $380 million Congress allocated in spring 2018 for election security. Congress gave states five years to spend those funds. Eleven states, including Mississippi, still have at least one precinct that uses paperless voting equipment that does not provide a voter-verified paper ballot to allow for risk-limiting audits.

North Carolina: Elections board may pick new voting machine options Sunday | Travis Fain/WRAL

The State Board of Elections will meet Sunday evening for a certification vote on what new voting machines will be allowed in North Carolina. The long-delayed decision will follow a demonstration of the various options from companies hoping to do business, or more business, in the state. Local boards of election decide what systems to buy, but the state board has to decide first whether various options meet state requirements. “If they meet the statutory requirements, they’re to be certified,” Board Chairman Robert Cordle said Tuesday. The board plans to meet at 5 p.m. in the Triangle Ballroom at the Cary Embassy Suites on Harrison Oaks Boulevard in Cary, not in the usual meeting room at the board offices.

Utah: Utah County pilot project will let LDS missionaries and overseas military vote using their phones | Taylor Stevens/The Salt Lake Tribune

Religious missionaries and active-duty military personnel will get to vote using their smartphones — some already have — as part of a pilot project during this year’s election for municipal offices in Utah County. Around 58 voters will be able take advantage of the program in the primary, estimates Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers. It’s an innovation she and other leaders hope will make it easier for overseas voters and for the state’s second-largest county to process their ballots. “It’s not a ton [of people] but it is enough that it helps with efficiency and manpower,” Powers said. … The primary worry for Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a national nongovernmental organization that advocates for more secure elections, is that Voatz hasn’t proved it could actually identify a threat, and that it would therefore be difficult to determine whether a voter’s information had been intercepted on its way to the blockchain. “We always advocate that there be a way to detect if something has gone wrong and then to recover from it,” she said. “This doesn’t have that — regardless of all the measures they’re putting in place to prevent something from happening.”

India: No concrete evidence of electronic voting machine tampering, but apprehensions are there over its functioning: Yechury | The New Indian Express

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury Tuesday said although there are no concrete evidence of tampering of electronic voting machines, several questions and apprehensions have cropped up over its functioning. All the major political parties may discuss the matter together and take up the issue with the Election commission (EC) with the demand for setting up of an expert committee to look into the matter, Yechury said. Several questions have been raised over the functioning of EVMs during the Lok Sabha polls, he said. “In Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, the BJP swept the polls. But within a week when municipal polls were held on ballot papers, the Congress-JD(S) swept the polls. The same thing has happened elsewhere,” the CPI(M) leader said. On the demands by several parties to replace EVMs with ballot papers, Yechury said the major political parties might discuss the matter after the Parliament session is over and ask the EC to constitute an expert panel to look into the matter.

Philippines: Comelec on trial | Jejomar C. Binay/Manila Bulletin News

A few days after the mid-term elections in May, no less than President Duterte himself called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to replace Smartmatic owing to allegations of election fraud. Almost two months have passed since the President’s remarks. But after the perfunctory reactions from Comelec officials, it seems that the poll body has opted to keep mum on the touchy subject. The issue, however, would be hard to brush off. The positioning for the 2022 presidential elections is expected to start in earnest. But unlike the 2010 and 2016 presidential elections, there is now a cloud of doubt on the reliability of electronic voting. And in a span of nine years, it appears that Comelec’s credibility has plummeted from the nearly universal acclaim it received in 2010. The descent to ignominy began in the eyes of many observers in 2017, with a very public spat with then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. Among the many damning revelations made were supposed documents showing alleged commissions received by the former poll chief from their election technology supplier, Smartmatic.

Ukraine: Monitors declare election fair but with campaign violations | Igor Kossov, Teah Pelechaty and Bermet Talant/KyivPost

Ukrainian and international election observers have announced that the July 21 parliamentary election was held in a fair and competitive manner.  “No systemic violations that could affect the vote result or the counting process were recorded,” said Olga Aivazovska, head of Ukrainian election watchdog Opora, at a press briefing on July 22, adding that there were many procedural violations, however. “Being able to conduct three elections in a four-month period, and at the same time engage in the defense of a country against a foreign aggressor that has invaded Ukraine, is an extraordinary feat,” said Stephen Nix, Eurasia Director at the International Republican Institute. According to a preliminary count, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, Servant of the People, won the party vote and the majority of single-member districts. It is followed by Opposition Platform — For Life, former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, and rock musician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Voice.  This results were largely confirmed by Opora’s parallel vote count. The official count continues.