National: Election Security Push Ahead Of 2020 Could Be Blunted By Wave Of Retirements | Pam Fessler/NPR

Between possible foreign interference, potentially record-high turnout, new voting equipment in many parts of the country and what could be a razor-close outcome, the 2020 election was already shaping up to be one of the most challenging elections to administer in U.S. history. On top of those challenges, a number of top election officials who oversaw voting in 2016 won’t be around next year. Some are retiring after long careers, but others are feeling the strain of an increasingly demanding and politicized job. Among those who’ve left are former Virginia Election Commissioner, Edgardo Cortes, now an election security adviser with the Brennan Center for Justice. He decided to move on last year when the governor he worked for was heading out of office. Cortes also had a new baby on the way and a three hour commute, and says he needed a break from his 24/7 job. “In Virginia in particular, there are elections going on every year, multiple times a year, so it was definitely a huge time commitment,” says Cortes. Running elections can be difficult work, with long hours, low pay and an electorate that isn’t always appreciative. Most officials say they love the work and believe they’re performing a key democratic function, but several high-profile election officials have recently announced that they’re leaving, in part to give their replacements time to prepare for 2020.

National: As the 2020 US election nears, voter systems still vulnerable | Lydia Emmanouilidou/BBC

With a little less than a year to go before the 2020 US presidential election, security experts and lawmakers say progress has been made to guard against foreign interference. But they warn the country’s election infrastructure could be vulnerable to the types of hacking operations that took place in the lead-up to the 2016 election. One such attack was directed at the Illinois State Board of Elections, an agency that oversees and facilitates parts of election processes in the state, including a statewide voter registration system. “One of our IT people noticed that our [voter registration] system was running extremely slowly,” said Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the agency. “It had practically shut down.” The IT member inspected the system, and discovered that an intruder had exploited a vulnerability on the board’s online voter application, broken into the statewide voter registration database and gained access to voter information, including names, addresses and drivers’ license numbers. “It was terrifying. … We took the entire system down,” Mr Dietrich said. In the immediate aftermath of the incident – which took place in July 2016 – Mr Dietrich said the agency didn’t know who was behind the intrusion. But in July 2018, then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian military officers over alleged cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.

National: Ahead of 2020, Democrats wrestle with how to disavow disinformation tactics | Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Democratic Party leaders are engaged in an internal struggle over whether to explicitly disavow the use of disinformation tactics in the 2020 election. State party leaders, led by Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin, have urged the Democratic National Committee to adopt such a pledge, but others are privately worried that it would put the party at a disadvantage against a president who has repeatedly trafficked in doctored videos and retweeted false stories since winning the presidency in 2016. Former Vice President Joe Biden is so far one of the only candidates to publicly sign a pledge not to use manipulated videos, content from fake social media accounts or other increasingly common disinformation tactics. Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has not signed a pledge, but she has personally vowed not to traffic in disinformation tactics. But the National Committee has refused to take action. The Republican National Committee also has declined to take a formal stance.

National: Russia’s 2016 Election Meddling Was a ‘Well-Choreographed Military Operation,’ Former FBI Counterintelligence Expert Says | David Brenna/Newsweek

former FBI expert in counterintelligence and cyberwarfare has warned that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was not a one-off, and that Moscow’s dedicated network of operatives never stopped their malign activities after President Donald Trump’s victory. Robert Anderson worked for the FBI for 21 years, rising to oversee the bureau’s efforts to identify, track and disrupt foreign intelligence and cyberwarfare efforts—including those originating from Russia. In a 60 Minutes interview broadcast Sunday, Anderson told CBS News’ Bill Whitaker that Russia’s cyberwarfare arm remains a significant threat to the American political system. “The Russians never left,” Anderson said. “I can guarantee you in 2016 after this all hit the news, they never left. They didn’t stop doing what they’re doing.” Asked by Whitaker if 2016 could have been “a one-time thing,” Anderson bluntly replied, “No way. Russia doesn’t do it that way.”

National: Senators advocate for increased election security funding in 2020 budget | Melina Druga/Homeland Preparedness News

A group of 39 Democratic senators recently sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging the panels to better fund election security. The senators requested funding for election security grants and for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in the Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The EAC is an independent and bipartisan commission established in the Help America Vote Act that ensures elections across the country are secure, accurate, and accessible. It sets voting standards, certifies voting equipment, and conducts the Election Administration and Voting Survey. The senators urged the committees to fund the EAC fully. Currently, the House has appropriated roughly $16.2 million for the commission, and the Senate has appropriated nearly $12 million. The commission has half the staff it did when it was founded in 2010, and EAC’s budget for salaries and administration is $10 million less.

Editorials: More openness, less secrecy, on election security | Tampa Bay Times

State Sen. Annette Taddeo said on national television Sunday that she has been advised to stop talking about how Russian hackers released confidential information regarding her 2016 congressional campaign. That’s an issue from Washington to Tallahassee to county courthouses. Less than a year from the 2020 election, voters need more transparency, not more secrecy, about foreign interference in our democracy and what is being done at every level to combat it. There were few new revelations in the 60 Minutes report that featured Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who narrowly lost a primary race for Congress in 2016. But it provided a succinct, compelling narrative that reminded viewers how Russian interference in the elections stretched well beyond the race for president. The report also included a frank warning from a former FBI cyber-security expert that the Russians have not abandoned their efforts to influence U.S. elections and can be counted on to refine their methods for 2020.

Kentucky: Misinformation Efforts Over Kentucky Vote Could Be Playbook for 2020 | Jessica Huseman/ProPublica

The right-wing radio personality took to Twitter not long after the polls had closed and it seemed the Democtratic candidate had prevailed in the excruciatingly close race for governor of Kentucky. “Today #ELECTIONFRAUD and what is going on in #kentucky is REAL,” the host of “Tore Says,” streamed on the Red State Talk Radio website, tweeted on Nov. 8. “How do I know? I am actually have EVIDENCE because me and my family are VICTIMS of it.” The personality, whose real name is Terpsichore Lindeman, alleged that somehow she and her husband had wound up as registered Democrats in Kentucky, which she saw as a sure sign that Andy Beshear, the Democratic attorney general ultimately declared the winner of the race for governor, had been manipulating the voter rolls. Lindeman said that she is not a Democrat, and that she had her name removed from the rolls when she and her husband left the state years ago. Indeed, she said her husband is not a U.S. citizen and should not have been on any voting roll.

Ohio: State Takes Steps to Ensure Cyber Security at the Polls | Andrew Meyer/WKSU

We’re less than a year away from the 2020 presidential election, and concern about Russian interference in the 2016 election persists. Have states, including Ohio, done everything they need to ensure that the vote next time will be safe and secure? We spoke with Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. She says the state is in pretty good shape, but there’s still work to be done. Miller says in terms of security, Ohio already has a pretty good system that’s “well ahead of other states.” Ohio’s voting machines are not hooked up to the internet, so they can’t be hacked. But Miller advises it’s important to be ready for what comes next. She points to Sec. of State Frank LaRose, who worked with the Ohio Senate to craft Senate Bill 52. Gov. Mike DeWine signed this cybersecurity into law. According to Miller, the law gives the secretary of state a seat on the Homeland Security Council. “Clearly, elections are critical infrastructure,” she said. The law also creates a cyber-information officer seat within the secretary of state’s office, and it would codify postelection audits, Miller said. On that last point, Miller says that’s something the League of Women Voters secured from a lawsuit following the 2004 election.

Ohio: Election Day cyber attack attempt traced to Panama | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said that the “SQL injection” attack was detected by the state’s internal systems. He called the attack “relatively unsophisticated.” The Ohio Secretary of State’s office was the subject of a thwarted foreign cyber attack on Election Day. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Tuesday that the so-called “SQL injection” attack was detected by the state’s internal systems. The attack was attempting to insert malicious code into his office’s website. The attempted hack originated in Panama and was traced to a Russian-owned company, he said, but was “relatively unsophisticated.” “Some of these unsophisticated attacks are ways that they probe for vulnerabilities. They are poking around for soft spots,” LaRose said, noting that the cyber attack was looking for vulnerabilities in his office’s website.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s Voting Machines Challenged In Federal Court Ahead Of 2020 Presidential Election | Associated Press

A federal court was asked Tuesday to force Pennsylvania to rescind its certification of a voting machine newly purchased by Philadelphia and at least two other counties in the state ahead of 2020’s presidential election. The filing casts doubt onto how 17% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters will cast ballots in the April 28 primary election, as well as next November, when the state is expected to be one of the nation’s premier presidential battlegrounds. Court papers filed by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and several supporters accuse Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration of violating their year-old agreement in Philadelphia’s federal court by certifying the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The plaintiffs say certifying the system violates their agreement, in part because the machine does not meet the agreement’s requirements “that every Pennsylvania voter in 2020 uses a voter-verifiable paper ballot.” For one, the ExpressVote XL counts votes by counting machine-printed bar codes on paper, a format that is neither readable nor verifiable by an individual voter, they wrote in court papers.

Texas: Report finds 20% of Texas counties are following best website security practices | Wes Rapaport/Nexstar

With a big election year coming up, one Texas group says improvements to election security are still needed. A new survey from the League of Women Voters of Texas found 20% of Texas county election websites are following best security practices. The review looked at nine points of criteria:
Website security: counties earned points for having secure websites, including “.gov” domains and “https” URLs.
Mobile friendly: each website was tested for its compatibility with mobile devices.
Accessibility: the sites were judged on keywords like “election” or “voting” on the home page.
Election information: reviewers looked at ease of accessible voter and election information like detailed contact information for county election offices, dates and hours for early voting and Election Day, registration information, polling locations, and personnel, sample ballots, election results and candidate filing.
Help for special categories of voters: the survey reviewed how much information was provided for military and overseas voters, students, and voters with special needs

Texas: Midland ISD canvassing bond election | Victor Blanco, Tatum Guinn, Rachel Ripp/KWES

It’s officially in the books: the Midland school board finalized the bond election recount results Tuesday. Everything from here forward will be dealt with by Midland County. This despite a more than 800 ballot discrepancy. People at today’s meeting asked the board to hold off on canvassing the recount until the county gets to the bottom of what happened. “It’s disappointing in that there’s so many questions left unanswered. That’s the part that really I’m having trouble with,” Matt Galindo said. “To know that there’s a discrepancy in the amount of votes. I’m disappointed, worried and now have a lack of trust.” Midland ISD school board president Rick Davis took the opportunity to explain in detail how the recount process worked Friday. The process included nine teams of three – one representative from each side of the issue and an at-large member were on each team.

Namibia: Court throws out case against electronic voting machines | Tim Cocks/Reuters

A Namibian court dismissed a case on Monday aimed at preventing the use of electronic voting machines in its presidential election, which opponents of President Hage Geingob fear could be used to rig the result. Namibians will elect a president on Wednesday, with Geingob expected to be win with a reduced margin owing to voter anger over the worst economic crisis since independence from apartheid South Africa three decades ago. The use of voting machines has been controversial both within and outside Africa. Critics say they make it easier to fiddle the result than traditional pen and paper ballots. However, Magistrate Uaatjo Uanivi ruled that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to forbid the electoral commission from using them. Opposition leader McHenry Venaani told reporters he was disappointed with the ruling. “EVMs (electronic voting machines) in their current form do not address the question of transparency of the vote and I thought the court would put more effort into addressing (that) … question,” he said.