Editorials: Election security isn’t that hard – We can have safe elections if we follow these three steps. | Kevin Shelley and Wayne Williams/Politico

Intelligence experts warn that hostile nation-states, criminals and political partisans are preparing attacks on our election systems in 2020. We’ve set ourselves up for this: In the course of modernizing our voting systems, our country has introduced computers into many layers of our election process, including the recording and tallying of our votes. In fact, 99 percent of votes cast in 2020 will be counted either by the computerized voting machines on which the voters cast their ballots or – in the case of voter-marked paper ballots – by scanners, which also are computers. As former secretaries of state from both parties, we know that it’s possible to devise tangible solutions needed to validate our elections. In fact, we can tell you how to do it. That’s not to say that it’s easy, particularly given the decentralized nature of our election administration system. Most states administer elections locally and only a few states have uniform equipment in each locality. For many years, election administration has been woefully underfunded, leading to wide variability in capacity and resources. But, as long as the equipment incorporates a voter-marked paper ballot, officials can adjust existing processes to instill confidence in elections, regardless of the equipment in place.

National: Former Homeland Security secretaries call for action to address cybersecurity threats | Maggie Miller/TheHill

Three former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday testified that cybersecurity threats to elections and other critical infrastructure are major issues that could impact the security of the nation. Former DHS Secretaries Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson all discussed the severity of cyber threats to the U.S. while testifying in New York City during a field hearing at the National September 11 Memorial Museum held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Napolitano, who served as secretary under former President Obama from 2009 through 2013, listed cybersecurity as one of the top three threats DHS “can and must confront,” pointing to vulnerabilities in election infrastructure, utility grids and other critical infrastructure as putting the country at risk.  “Our adversaries and international criminal organizations have become more determined and more brazen in their efforts to attack us and to steal from us,” Napolitano said. “We need a whole of government and a whole of public and private sector response to this threat, and it needs to happen immediately.

National: Even conservative Democrats are savaging GOP over election security | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A group of centrist House Democrats that usually aims for bipartisanship is coming out swinging against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans for blocking election security legislation. Members of the Democrats’ Blue Dog Coalition, which includes the conservative wing of the party, charged Republican senators with endangering the country’s democratic process for not forcing a vote on election security legislation during a press briefing. And they leveled their most pointed criticism at McConnell, who has steadfastly refused to allow major election security bills to get a vote on the Senate floor. “The underlying trust of our citizens in their electoral system and who they choose to elect is at the base of this whole process,” Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) said. “The question should be put day in and day out to Mr. McConnell: ‘Why are you not wanting to protect the electoral system in this nation?’”

National: Here’s why Mitch McConnell is blocking election security bills | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

As Congress returns this week, Mitch McConnell remains the one-man roadblock for Democrats’ election security bills. He’s still refusing to allow a vote, even as Democrats deride him as “Moscow Mitch” and accuse him of inviting Russia to interfere on Republicans’ behalf in the 2020 election. But why is McConnell so staunchly opposed? Republicans and Democrats offer a fairly straightforward theory: McConnell is wary of drawing the ire of President Trump, who has repeatedly wavered on whether Russia interfered in the presidential contest — and seems to view traditionally bipartisan discussions about election security as delegitimizing his unexpected 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. “This is a narrative that the White House doesn’t want to approach,” David Jolly, a former Republican House member from Florida and an outspoken Trump critic, told me. “The president’s not comfortable talking about it. He’s someone with a fragile ego. And McConnell is happy to coordinate with this White House. That’s the only thing that explains it.” McConnell is likely also concerned about the political fallout for Republican senators, several of whom have supported and even co-sponsored election security bills in the past, says a former Democratic Senate staffer who worked extensively on cybersecurity issues during the Obama administration.

National: Americans Prepare To Safeguard 2020 Vote. Is It Too Much — Or Will It Be Enough? | Philip Ewing/ NPR

Americans are preparing more than ever to safeguard voting as the nation looks ahead to the Democratic primaries and the general election next year. What no one can say for certain today is whether all the work may turn out to be supeous — or whether it’ll be enough. National security officials have been clear about two things: First, that the Russian government attacked the 2016 election with a wave of “active measures” documented in prosecution documents and the final report of former Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. And second, that those measures have never stopped and that interference is likely in coming elections. With that understanding, the United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since 2016 to change practices at every level of government. A lot has changed

National: Expanding the Definition of “Election Systems” also Expands Cyber Security Funding Options | Steve Smith/Governing

In our previous article, the concept of elections systems as an integrated ecosystem of both specific (voter registration, vote collection, results reporting) and general (citizen data from multiple agencies) applications was presented. The point was that elections systems exist in perpetuity and not just in and around an election cycle and that data associated with elections are submitted and in process all year every year. The perpetual nature of the elections systems ecosystem has not traditionally been addressed with matching funding streams. The federal government has been reactive, appropriating funds via the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) on as as-needed basis, as in the aftermath of situations like the 2016 federal election, in which alleged vote tampering was reported. HAVA funding reaches state and local governments too late to take action in the current election cycle and results in the creation of reserve funds that remain until they can be effectively be utilized for future election cycles. State and local governments rely heavily on federal funding like HAVA funding to make large-scale investments in elections systems, which often further delays the impact these investments can have due to long and time-consuming procurement processes.

National: Democrats make renewed push for election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Congressional Democrats are shining the spotlight back on election security as they struggle to push various bills across the finish line in the face of Republican opposition. Democrats in both the House and Senate are renewing efforts to force the GOP-controlled Senate to allow votes on election security measures that have been stalled due to Republican concerns about federalizing elections and re-litigating the 2016 election interference by Russia. Both House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday sent letters to colleagues detailing their goals around election security for the fall. “We must continue our push to protect our elections at the federal, state, and local levels, especially in the upcoming Senate appropriations process,” Schumer wrote, while criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for not allowing any votes on the topic. Hoyer wrote that “the House may take up additional legislation to strengthen election security.” A spokesperson for Hoyer did not respond to a request for details about which legislation Hoyer was referring to.

Editorials: We need our elections protected. A weakened FEC only invites attack. | The Washington Post

IF THE Securities and Exchange Commission stopped acting, the nation would feel vulnerable to securities fraud. If the Federal Trade Commission were paralyzed, or the Federal Communications Commission, there would be a crisis of confidence in fields they regulate. Why, then, are the nation’s political leaders so complacent about the Federal Election Commission, the independent regulatory agency charged with being the watchdog over the political process and protecting the integrity of U.S. democracy? As of this month, the six-member commission is down to three commissioners, although it needs four for a quorum. Without a quorum, the FEC cannot hold hearings, make rules, initiate litigation, issue advisory opinions, launch investigations or approve enforcement actions and audits, among other things. The FEC chairwoman, Ellen L. Weintraub, has put on a brave face, noting that the commission’s “most important duties will continue unimpeded,” such as shining a spotlight on campaign finance and performing the staff work when it receives complaints. She insists that the “United States’ election cop is still on the 2020 campaign beat” and that she will “remain vigilant to all threats to the integrity of our elections.”

National: Lankford goes around roadblock on election security measures: ‘I’ve not waited on the bill to get passed’ | Randy Krehbiel/Tulsa World

U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s name is coming up in connection with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a potentially uncomfortable way for such stories about election security that refer to McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.” Also often mentioned is Lankford’s pending legislation on the subject and his warnings about the vulnerability of U.S. elections and voting technology. Lankford, though, said he’s OK with being set up as something of a foil against the leader of his own party. “I’ve been working on this 2½ years,” Lankford said in Tulsa last week. “When people say my name’s being dropped (into the discussion), it’s because I’ve been working on it. And I think it should actually get done.” Lankford feels so strongly about it that he’s been going around his congressional colleagues to get security measures implemented.

Arkansas: Funds pose vote-gear hurdle for Arkansas counties | Kat Stromquist and Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Pulaski County officials are reviewing a roughly $1.56 million contribution needed to buy new voting equipment, funds they say aren’t in the budget. The payment — which would be in addition to state funds set to be distributed to 21 counties through Secretary of State John Thurston’s office — has caught officials off guard, according to Barry Hyde, county judge of Pulaski County. The state has asked the largest county by population to put up a dollar-for-dollar match, which is intended to split the purchase price of about $3.1 million in new voting equipment. That’s an issue for the county, its circuit clerk and its election commission, who say the expense isn’t feasible at this time.

New Jersey: New Jersey and Homeland Security are teaming up to spot potential election security risks | Dustin Racioppi/NorthJersey.com

State and federal officials plan a daylong series of exercises Tuesday to assess New Jersey’s election security and spot potential weaknesses ahead of voting in November. New Jersey’s Division of Elections is partnering with the U.S. Office of Homeland Security to conduct what is known as the Election Security Tabletop Exercise. The two offices routinely work together on election security, but the event planned for Tuesday is the first of its kind in New Jersey, officials said, bringing together representatives from all of the state’s 21 counties as well as those from 13 other states. In addition, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and current U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs will address the hundreds of people expected to attend, according to an advisory detailing the event.

Tennessee: Last of 2018 election lawsuits lingers with call for forensic audit of voting machines | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

The last lawsuit from a flurry of lawsuits filed over the conduct of 2018 elections in Shelby County still has some trace of life in it. The attorney for and members of the group SAVE – Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections – called Monday, outside of their pending court case, for a forensic audit of the touch-screen voting machines to be used in the Oct. 3 Memphis elections. The call comes just a few days ahead of Friday’s start of early voting across the city. “There needs to be some protection to the current election system we have for this next election,” said former state Representative and Shelby County Schools board member Mike Kernell. “These machines are in bad shape and we’ve recommended some new procedures.” Attorney Carol Chumney, representing SAVE in the federal lawsuit filed against county and state election officials in 2018, called specifically for forensic audits before and after the city elections.

Editorials: A bipartisan idea to secure elections: paper backup of electronic votes | Dallas Morning News

Our elections must be secure. And just as important as the integrity of our ballot boxes is voter trust in that integrity. In an age of political division, this is something we agree on across political lines here in Texas. We know that’s true because the Texas Lyceum’s annual poll, just released, showed that 84% of respondents said it is important to ensure ineligible voters are prevented from voting, and 92% said it’s important to ensure that all eligible voters are permitted to vote. We would like to see both of those numbers at 100%, but this is an imperfect world, and we accept these powerful majorities as a statement that Texans understand the importance of the ballot box. A troubling element did emerge from the poll. Just 62% of respondents say they are confident that the voting system in Texas is secure from hacking and other technological threats. Here again, Texans get it right. Few of us are naive enough now to think that electronic ballots are not vulnerable.

Canada: Russia could meddle in Canada’s election due to ‘growing interest’ in Arctic: report | Mike Blanchfield/The Canadian Press

A new University of Calgary study is predicting Russian interference in the federal election campaign to serve what it describes as the Kremlin’s long-term interest of competing against Canada in the Arctic. The study’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said in an interview that Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided as countries targeted in past elections, including the United States presidential ballot and Britain’s Brexit referendum in 2016, as well as various attacks on Ukraine and the Baltic states. “The Kremlin has a growing interest in dominating the Arctic, where it sees Russia as in competition with Canada. This means Canada can anticipate escalations in information warfare, particularly from hacktivists fomenting cyber-attacks,” writes Sukhankin, a senior fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think-tank, who is teaching at the University of Calgary.

Russia: CIA source pulled from Russia had confirmed Putin ordered 2016 meddling | Zack Budryk/The Hill

A CIA asset reportedly pulled from Russia in 2017 played a major role in the agency’s determination that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to The New York Times. The informant, while not in Putin’s inner circle, interacted with him regularly and was privy to decisionmaking at high levels of the Russian government, according to the Times. Information on the informant’s identity was so carefully guarded that it was kept out of then-President Obama’s daily security briefings in 2016, instead transmitted in separate sealed envelopes. In 2016, high-level CIA officials ordered a full review of the source’s record and grew suspicious he might have become a double agent after he rejected an offer of exfiltration from the agency, according to the Times. Other officials said these concerns were alleviated when the source was offered a second time and accepted.