National: Russia Targeted Elections Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds | David E. Sanger and Catie Edmondson/The New York Times

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time. But while the bipartisan report’s warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out. The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came 24 hours after the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.” While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee described “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” intended largely to search for vulnerabilities in the security of the election systems.

National: Mueller Warns of Russian Sabotage and Rejects Trump’s ‘Witch Hunt’ Claims | Mark Mazzetti/The New York Times

Robert S. Mueller III warned lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia was again trying to sabotage American democracy before next year’s presidential election, defended his investigation’s conclusions about Moscow’s sweeping interference campaign in 2016 and publicly rejected President Trump’s criticism that he had conducted a “witch hunt.” The partisan war over Mr. Mueller’s inquiry reached a heated climax during nearly seven hours of his long-awaited testimony before two congressional committees. Lawmakers hunted for viral sound bites and tried to score political points, but Mr. Mueller consistently refused to accommodate them, returning over and over in a sometimes halting delivery to his damning and voluminous report. Mr. Mueller remained a spectral presence in Washington over the past two years as the president and his allies subjected the special counsel and his team of lawyers to withering attacks. Speaking in detail for the first time about his conclusions produced occasionally dramatic moments in which he ventured beyond his report to offer insights about Mr. Trump’s behavior.

National: Senate Intel finds ‘extensive’ Russian election interference going back to 2014 | Morgan Chalfant and Maggie Miller/The Hill

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its long-awaited bipartisan report on election security and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the key findings of the report, the committee writes that “the Russian government directed extensive activity, beginning in at least 2014 and carrying into at least 2017, against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level.” The report is heavily redacted in some areas and is 67 pages. The Senate panel, which has been investigating Russian interference for more than two years, released a summary version of its election security findings in May 2018. The panel released its redacted report one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his own 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. The congressional document, which is the product of a bipartisan investigation led by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), recommended that officials give “renewed attention” to vulnerabilities in voting infrastructure, such as further securing voter registration databases.

National: Election infrastructure bill remains stalled as Senate Intelligence panel releases first volume of Russia report | Niels Lesniewski/Roll Call

As the Senate Intelligence Committee was releasing the first volume of its comprehensive report into Russian election interference in 2016, a Republican senator was making clear that he still wants to get support for encouraging states to have paper audit trails and to boost the ability of election officials to get timely security clearances. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who has been working with Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, told reporters Thursday that with the 2020 primaries and caucuses just around the corner, security enhancements would be meant for the next midterms. “The discussion now is not about 2020. That’s already resolved,” Lankford said. “They’re not going to add new stuff unless its already currently in the pipeline. It’s really 2022 at this point.” Lankford said that if he and Klobuchar can find a way to overcome objections from lawmakers concerned about undue federal influence in state and local elections, they will be looking for a legislative vehicle for their measure.

National: GOP blocks election security bills after Mueller testimony | Jotdain Carney/The Hill

Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday in the wake of former special counsel Robert Muellerwarning about meddling attempts during his public testimony before congressional lawmakers. Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that would require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff.  But Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked each of the bills. She didn’t give reason for her objections, or say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. A spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object. The floor drama comes after Mueller warned about election interference during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, saying Russia was laying the groundwork to interfere in the 2020 election “as we sit here.” “We are expecting them to do it again during the next campaign,” Mueller said.

National: DEF CON Invites Kids to Crack Campaign Finance Portals | Kelly Sheridan/Dark Reading

A new challenge at this year’s DEF CON will let kid hackers take aim at simulated election campaign financial disclosure portals and use their findings to stage disinformation campaigns. DEF CON’s Voting Village and AI Village have teamed up with r00tz Asylum, a nonprofit dedicated to educating kids about white-hat hacking, to teach budding infosec enthusiasts ages 8–16 about digital threats to democracy. Like the Voting Village, which lets adults explore flaws in election infrastructure, r00tz Asylum gives kids a chance to poke holes in election security. Last year, r00tz Asylum made its first foray into election security. Kids used SQL injection to access and manipulate synthetic state election results websites, where they could change the candidates and displayed vote counts. It took two 11-year-old hackers just 15 minutes to crack a replica of the Florida Secretary of State’s website and change its vote count reports.

Editorials: Mueller gave a warning on Russian meddling. Congress — and America — should listen. | Washington Post

IF THERE is one thing former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III made clear in his Wednesday congressional testimony, it is that his investigation was not an “illegal and treasonous attack on our Country,” as President Trump characterized it in a tweet shortly before Mr. Mueller’s appearance. On the contrary, Mr. Mueller underscored that it was Russia that attacked the country’s democracy in the 2016 presidential election through a cyber-campaign designed to help Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, the former special counsel confirmed, welcomed that assistance. A number of his top aides lied in the ensuing investigation. Those lies, Mr. Mueller said, impeded his probe. Perhaps most seriously, Mr. Mueller said Russia’s interference is continuing and will be repeated in the 2020 presidential election. “Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mr. Mueller said. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.” He added: “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” What’s more, “many more countries” are also looking at election hacking.

Editorials: Why is election security a partisan issue? | Pierluigi Stella/SC Media

Frankly I never thought that securing the elections would be a partisan issue.  But then, why am I surprised?  Anything that touches Washington becomes a partisan issue.  Securing the elections, ensuring ballot machines can’t be hacked, and ensuring voter registration data isn’t altered or deleted should be a common goal for everyone in Washington. Elections are the core of a democracy; if we lose faith in that process, our very existence as a democratic country is in jeopardy.  And yet, politicians find ways to spar also on these issues.  The GOP wants to just send money to the states and allow them to do what they choose, as long as they generically “secure the infrastructure.”  I guess they forget that we have 50 states and this approach would likely lead to 50 different approaches, an enormous waste of money and resources, and poor results across the board. It is clear that I prefer the Democrats’ approach.  States need to be told what to do, i.e. they need to be held to a certain level of security standards; and this is achieved by setting clear policies and precise requirements. 

Alabama: County voting machines now outdated | Ed Howell/Daily Mountain Eagle

Walker County is one of seven counties in the state with election tabulation machines that are not even manufactured anymore, leaving county officials agreeing that they will have to be replaced soon. Walker County Probate Judge A. Lee Tucker said Thursday that it looks like the machines, which accept paper ballots during elections, cannot be replaced in time for the 2020 elections. However, he said that the machines are tested and currently work. Currently the county has 45 precincts, not counting absentee and provisional ballots. Machines will have to be replaced in all those election sites, plus provisions made for machines to help the disabled. A total of 76 M100 machines and another 45 machines for the disabled are currently used in Walker County, he said. Tucker said some precincts use more than one machine, and extras are also needed sometimes when a machine breaks down.  The reactions come after a national election security report, “Defending Elections,” was published last week by the Brennan Center for Justice noting states need more federal funding to prevent outside cyber threats against elections.

California: The Unsexy Threat to Election Security | Krebs on Security

Much has been written about the need to further secure our elections, from ensuring the integrity of voting machines to combating fake news. But according to a report quietly issued by a California grand jury this week, more attention needs to be paid to securing social media and email accounts used by election officials at the state and local level. California has a civil grand jury system designed to serve as an independent oversight of local government functions, and each county impanels jurors to perform this service annually. On Wednesday, a grand jury from San Mateo County in northern California released a report which envisions the havoc that might be wrought on the election process if malicious hackers were able to hijack social media and/or email accounts and disseminate false voting instructions or phony election results. “Imagine that a hacker hijacks one of the County’s official social media accounts and uses it to report false results on election night and that local news outlets then redistribute those fraudulent election results to the public,” the report reads. “Such a scenario could cause great confusion and erode public confidence in our elections, even if the vote itself is actually secure,” the report continues. “Alternatively, imagine that a hacker hijacks the County’s elections website before an election and circulates false voting instructions designed to frustrate the efforts of some voters to participate in the election. In that case, the interference could affect the election outcome, or at least call the results into question.”

Georgia: Judge considers whether Georgia must stop using voting machines | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A federal judge who is deciding whether to shut down Georgia’s 27,000 electronic voting machines heard testimony Thursday that they flipped votes, lost ballots and posed election security risks. A packed courtroom listened as U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg considered a request that she immediately put the state’s 17-year-old voting machines out of service for this fall’s local elections, which include votes for the Atlanta school board, the Fulton County Commission and city councils across the state.State officials are already preparing to announce a replacement voting system that would go into use statewide in the March 24 presidential primary. But the concerned voters and election integrity advocates who sued say Georgia’s existing voting machines are fundamentally insecure and susceptible to hacking. They also plan to challenge the state’s incoming voting machines, which will still use touchscreens but with the added component of printed-out ballots that create a backup of electronic vote counts. The plaintiffs want voters to use paper ballots filled out with a pen.Totenberg didn’t signal how she would rule, but she said last fall that Georgia’s direct-recording electronic voting machines create a “concrete risk,” and election officials “had buried their heads in the sand” about vulnerabilities.

Georgia: Judge to hear arguments in Georgia voting machine case | Kate Brumback/Associated Press

A federal judge is considering whether to order Georgia to immediately stop using its outdated voting machines, even as state officials prepare to announce their replacement. A lawsuit filed by election integrity activists argues that the paperless touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure, vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited. It seeks statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots. A law passed this year and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp provides specifications for a new system, which state officials said will be in place for the 2020 presidential election. But the plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order the state to immediately stop using the current system, which it plans to use for special and municipal elections this year and which the plaintiffs fear would be used in 2020 if a new system isn’t implemented in time. Totenberg has scheduled a hearing Thursday on those requests. Georgia’s voting system drew national scrutiny last year during the closely watched governor’s race in which Kemp, a Republican who was the state’s top election official at the time, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams.

North Carolina: Board of Elections to decide on new voting machines | Rad Berky/WCNC

In an unusual weekend session, the North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet Sunday to certify the companies who want to sell new voting machines for use in elections next year. This follows the decision to return the state from electronic voting to equipment that uses paper ballots. Mecklenburg County’s Elections Director Michael Dickerson said the county is one of a few that already keeps a paper record, but whichever new system is chosen will go a step farther. “We have a paper record of what you voted but they want to give each voter a paper ballot before you finalize your vote,” said Dickerson. South Carolina this week took the wraps off the new equipment voters there will be using. After finalizing choices on a touchscreen, the machines will print a paper ballot with a barcode. Voters will then check their paper ballot and place it in a scanner. The scanner takes an image of the ballot, counts it and keeps the original in a locked ballot box.

Utah: Blockchain-encrypted mobile voting comes to Utah | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Overseas voters from Utah County, Utah, have the option to cast ballots in local elections this year via a mobile app that uses blockchain encryption to transmit votes back to officials. Utah County plans to offer active-duty military and their dependents, as well as other expats, the ability to participate in upcoming elections using Voatz, the same app that has been tested in recent elections in West Virginia and Denver. Amelia Powers Gardner, Utah County’s recently elected clerk and auditor, said she was interested in testing out the technology shortly after taking office in January and encountering the dilapidated state of the county’s elections infrastructure. “I came into a county that hadn’t had any updates in the election department since 2005 and had no updates in the software or process for a decade,” Gardner told StateScoop. “My number one priority was to get elections up to speed. We started looking for any way to do that.”

Iran: It’s not just the Russians anymore as Iranians and others turn up disinformation efforts ahead of 2020 vote | Craig Timberg and Tony Romm/ The Washington Post

A recent tweet from Alicia Hernan — whose Twitter account described her as a wife, mother and lover of peace — did not mince words about her feelings for President Trump: “That stupid moron doesn’t get that that by creating bad guys, spewing hate filled words and creating fear of ‘others’, his message is spreading to fanatics around the world. Or maybe he does.” That March 16 tweet, directed to a Hawaii congressman, was not the work of an American voter venting her frustration. The account, “@AliciaHernan3,” was what disinformation researchers call a “sock puppet” — a type of fictitious online persona used by Russians when they were seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. But it was Iranians, not Russians, who created @AliciaHernan3, complete with a picture of a blonde woman with large, round-framed glasses and a turtleneck sweater. It was one of more than 7,000 phony accounts from Iran that Twitter has shut down this year alone. And Iran is far from the only nation that has, within its borders, substantial capacity to wage Russian-style influence operations in the United States ahead of next year’s election. That means American voters are likely to be targeted in the coming campaign season by more foreign disinformation than ever before, say those studying such operations.

Ukraine: Poorly regulated and rich in reach: online technologies in Ukraine’s elections | Tetyana Bohdanova/Global Voices

On Sunday July 21, Ukrainian voters went to the polls to vote in a snap parliamentary election, called after President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected in March 2019, announced a controversial decision to dissolve the parliament during his inauguration. Online misinformation, cyber-attacks, and the overall threat of external interference in the election were not last minute concerns; these issues were raised several months before the election. Ultimately, the election passed without major disruptions; Zelensky’s Servant of the People party took a majority of seats in parliament. So while some of these concerns turned out to be unjustified, the role of the internet in Sunday’s elections was more important than ever; according to 2019 data from the country’s State Statistical Service, 26 million Ukrainians are online and at least half that number actively use social networks. Ukrainian social media users have always actively discussed political topics online; the 2014 Euromaidan protests were famously sparked by a single Facebook post. This year, which also included a presidential election in March, was no exception. According to analysis by Internews Ukraine and data analytics company Singularex, Sunday’s elections provoked a tsunami of activity on social networks, with election-related posts surging immediately after the announcement of the parliament’s dissolution.

United Kingdom: Cost of vote counting in London elections set to double | Jessie Mathewson/East London and West Essex Guardian

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has used e-counting since its first election in 2000. But critics have branded the new contract for the London Assembly and mayoral elections “the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge”. GLA officials say the new contract will ensure better cyber-security and allow more testing ahead of the count, after a technical glitch delayed results in 2016. Speaking at a meeting of the GLA Oversight committee last week, Greater London’s deputy returning officer Alex Conway said the new contract was within budget. He said: “The money is sort of not the point – the point is to run a successful election.” But Pascal Crowe, democracy officer for scrutiny group Open Rights, said the GLA should release details of how it chose the winning bid. He said: “Given that the cost of the contract has more than doubled, taxpayers will want to know that their money is being spent wisely.” “This must be the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge.”