Forget the conspiracy theories — here are the real election security lessons of 2020 | Eric Geller/Politico

The foreign cyberattacks that so many intelligence officials feared didn’t upend the 2020 elections — but this year’s contests nonetheless showed how much the nation still needs to do to fix its security weaknesses. Paper trails protected the integrity of the votes in closely watched states, thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, but many counties still lack that protection. States mostly rejected the riskiest voting technology — internet balloting — but a few embraced it. And a pandemic-ravaged nation managed to vote safely and reliably, but election offices are still woefully short of money and staff. Perhaps most of all, this year also exposed the United States’ vulnerability to election threats from within, as President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans promoted discredited conspiracy theories to try to nullify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. “The big picture lesson from 2020 is that ensuring an accurate result isn’t enough,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and leading election security expert. “Elections also have to be able to prove to a skeptical public that the result really was accurate.” Restoring that trust starts — but doesn’t end — with improving the election technology, policy specialists say. Joe Kiniry, the chief scientist at the election technology firm Free & Fair, said the U.S. “simply cannot continue” using election systems that “an enormous fraction of the electorate” considers “broken.” Without urgent reforms, he said, “2024 will be a disaster.”

Full Article: Forget the conspiracy theories — here are the real election security lessons of 2020 – POLITICO

National: Five myths about voting machines | Douglas W. Jones/The Washington Post

President Trump is still pretending that he won last month’s election, insisting falsely that only massive fraud made it appear that President-elect Joe Biden won. Many of his claims, and the even more baroque allegations of his supporters, have focused on voting machines — part of the electoral system that most people don’t spend much time thinking about. Here are some of the biggest myths circulating about them now. Trump has complained of “voting machine ‘glitches’ all over the place (meaning they got caught cheating!).” His former lawyer Sidney Powell has said computer algorithms shifted votes from Trump to Biden. Democrats made similar allegations about voting machines in Ohio in 2004, suggesting that tampering helped reelect President George W. Bush. Voting machines are easy to hack: In the hands of a skilled person, individual machines are shockingly vulnerable, as experts demonstrated at Def Con, a hacker convention, in 2019. That’s why a growing movement over the past 20 years has pushed to replace paperless voting machines with devices that record votes on paper ballots. That transition is still in progress, but paperless machines have been eliminated in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the states Trump supporters have focused on since November. Wherever paper ballots are used, officials can check behind the machines with recounts and audits to find out whether the software was honest. The hand audits done in Georgia, plus recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties in Wisconsin and in Antrim County, Mich., found no evidence of hacking, and confirmed Biden wins (in Georgia and the Wisconsin counties) as well as a Trump one (in Antrim County).

Full Article: Five myths about voting machines – The Washington Post

National: Sidney Powell’s secret intelligence contractor witness is pro-Trump podcaster Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman | Jon Swaine/The Washington Post

As she asked the U.S. Supreme Court this month to overturn President Trump’s election loss, the attorney Sidney Powell cited testimony from a secret witness presented as a former intelligence contractor with insights on a foreign conspiracy to subvert democracy. Powell told courts that the witness is an expert who could show that overseas corporations helped shift votes to President-elect Joe Biden. The witness’s identity must be concealed from the public, Powell has said, to protect her “reputation, professional career and personal safety.” The Washington Post identified the witness by determining that portions of her affidavit match, sometimes verbatim, a blog post that the pro-Trump podcaster Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman published in November 2019. In an interview, Maras-Lindeman confirmed that she wrote the affidavit and said she viewed it as her contribution to a fight against the theft of the election. “This is everybody’s duty,” she said. “It’s just not fair.” In a recent civil fraud case, attorneys for the state of North Dakota said that Maras-Lindeman falsely claimed to be a medical doctor and to have both a PhD and an MBA. They said she used multiple aliases and social security numbers and created exaggerated online résumés as part of what they called “a persistent effort . . . to deceive others.” Powell’s reliance on Maras-Lindeman’s testimony may raise further questions about her judgment and the strength of her arguments at a time when she is becoming an increasingly influential adviser to the president. Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell last month after she falsely claimed Republican state officials took bribes to rig the election. But she has visited the White House three times in the past week, once to participate in an Oval Office meeting. Trump has weighed naming Powell a special counsel to investigate the election, according to previous reports.

Full Article: Sidney Powell secret witness is Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman – The Washington Post

National: Frustrated Trump met with Pence before holiday break – ‘confused’ about Vice President’s role | Pamela Brown and Kevin Liptak/CNN

Hours before President Donald Trump retweeted a message for his vice president to “act” in stopping the ratification of the Electoral College, he met for more than an hour in the Oval Office with Mike Pence, whom he has complained recently isn’t doing enough to support his bid to overturn the election. The discussion was “entirely unrelated” to the eventual tweet, one person familiar with the matter said, though would not specify whether the issue of the January 6 ratification in Congress arose. The two men went separate ways for the holiday. As Trump enters the holiday stretch as fixated as ever on overturning the results of the election, the Electoral College certification is becoming a focal point for his efforts. On Wednesday evening, as he was flying to Florida for his vacation, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters for Pence to refuse to ratify the Electoral College results on January 6 — a prospect that has captured his imagination even if it remains completely impossible. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was with Trump aboard Air Force One before the President sent out the tweet. Giuliani is joining Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate for the holidays, where the men are expected to discuss their election efforts. Arriving at his golf club Thursday afternoon, Trump received a warm welcome from members and vowed to continue fighting to overturn the election, a person familiar with the matter said. “He’s very resolute in continuing to want to fight the Electoral College,” this person said. “And he still thinks it’s not over.” Later, he spent much of Christmas Eve tweeting grievances, including one aimed at Senate Republicans, vowing that he will “NEVER FORGET!” what he sees as their abandonment.

Se: Frustrated Trump met with Pence before holiday break – CNNPolitics

National: Pence faces pressure as final step nears in formalizing Biden win | Colby Itkowitz and  Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

Vice President Pence urged an audience of conservative youth activists earlier this week to “stay in the fight,” as they chanted “Four more years” and “Stop the steal” to trumpet their embrace of the groundless notion that President Trump was the true victor of the recent election. “I’ll make you a promise: We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted, we’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out,” Pence said at the event Tuesday. “So — for all we’ve done, for all we have yet to do — stay in the fight.” But in less than two weeks, it will fall to Pence to declare that fight over — and lost. A joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 will take the last step in formalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, will preside over the session after four years of ceaseless efforts to demonstrate his loyalty to Trump. Some die-hard Trump supporters are declaring that Pence will be a traitor if he does not somehow derail the proceedings. There is no evident way for him to do that even if he wanted to, but such demands ratchet up the pressure on Pence, who is unlikely to escape their wrath — or Trump’s. “Trump would probably tell Pence, ‘Just go declare us reelected,’ ” said Joel Goldstein, a professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “Part of his constitutional duty is to be responsible. Just because you’re vice president doesn’t mean you get to engage in behavior that is threatening the underpinning of democratic institutions of the country.”

Full Article: Pence faces pressure as final step nears in formalizing Biden win – The Washington Post

The Toll Of Conspiracy Theories: A Voting Security Expert Lives In Hiding | Bente Birkelund/NPR

More than a month ago, Eric Coomer went into hiding. The voting conspiracy theories that have led millions of Republicans to feel as though the election was stolen from them, which are still spreading, have also led to calls for Coomer’s head. Coomer oversees product strategy and security for Dominion Voting Systems, the Denver-based company that has suddenly found itself at the center of many of President Trump’s false claims about November’s election, spread by allies and pro-Trump media. Some of Trump’s supporters have focused on Coomer as the supposed evil mastermind. “I actually am in fear for my safety,” Coomer said recently, speaking by video call from an undisclosed location to Colorado Public Radio. “I’m in fear for my family’s safety. These are real, tangible things coming out of these baseless accusations.” On Tuesday, Coomer sued the Trump campaign and a number of allies, alleging defamation.

Full Article: Dominion Voting Systems Official Is In Hiding After Threats : NPR

National: Dominion, Smartmatic Strike Back: Trump And His Lawyers Face Possible Legal Consequences For Flimsy Election Challenges | Alison Durkee/Forbes

Dominion employee Eric Coomer filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Trump campaign and its allies have spread “false and baseless assertions” linking Coomer to the debunked Dominion voter fraud conspiracy, which has “invaded [Coomer’s] privacy, threatened his security, and fundamentally defamed his reputation across this country.” Dominion has also threatened to take legal action as…

National: 2020 Shows the Danger of a Decapitated Cyber Regime | Andy Greenberg/WIRED

When it comes to cybersecurity policy, the Trump administration’s head and body have rarely seemed to agree. Take the past two months, for instance. In late October, the president made an absurd declaration at a campaign rally that “nobody gets hacked.” That same week, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA), Justice Department, and Treasury Department all took separate, landmark steps to counter Russian hacking—unsealing an indictment against six hackers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, imposing new sanctions on the Moscow research institute responsible for a uniquely dangerous piece of malware, and warning of an ongoing hacking campaign believed to be carried out by the FSB. A few weeks later, Donald Trump lost the election and laid the blame on false conspiracy theories about electoral hacking and fraud. When CISA released a statement lauding the election as the “most secure in American history,” contradicting the president’s claims, Trump summarily fired CISA director Chris Krebs. This year was finally capped off by revelations of a disastrous hacking campaign that hijacked the software updates of IT management firm SolarWinds to breach a slew of federal agencies and tech firms. Now, even as attorney general William Barr and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have pointed to Russia as the culprit, Trump has responded by downplaying the crisis, suggesting intrusions might have been carried out by China instead. On almost every significant cybersecurity issue of the past year, President Trump has appeared to be either AWOL or at war with his own federal agencies. But cybersecurity observers on both sides of the political divide say the results of that disconnect have been a surprisingly mixed bag: The ongoing SolarWinds debacle shows how Trump’s disjointed, self-serving failures of leadership have left the federal government struggling to pull together a coherent response to one of America’s most serious cybersecurity failures in years. But in other cases, Trump’s inattention to and ignorance of cyber issues led him to empower and then largely ignore leaders at agencies like CISA, the NSA, and Cyber Command, allowing them to carry out aggressive new tactics that often were effective, if uncoordinated.

Full Article: 2020 Shows the Danger of a Decapitated Cyber Regime | WIRED

National: Trump leans on QAnon figures in flailing effort to overturn election | Tina Nguyen/Politico

With his presidency dwindling, Donald Trump is turning to QAnon heroes, contemplating QAnon ideas and boosting QAnon accounts. At the White House, Trump has recently hosted three of the conspiracy movement’s most prominent figures. On Twitter, he has surged his activity boosting QAnon-linked accounts. And he’s been toying with a series of suggestions — such as seizing the voting machines — that are circulating in QAnon circles. Trump has long flirted with QAnon figures and equivocated when asked to denounce the movement, which believes Trump is fighting a Satan-worshiping cabal of pedophile elites who control Washington. But Trump’s recent moves are perhaps the most he has directly engaged with QAnon-beloved figures as president in such a short time period. In a matter of several days, he met multiple times with Sidney Powell, the controversial attorney who is a hero in the QAnon community, and talked multiple times with Rep. elect-Marjorie Taylor Greene, the first QAnon-booster to get elected to Congress. He also met with Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who became a celebrated QAnon figure after seeking to rescind a guilty plea for lying to the FBI. And on Sunday, Trump retweeted 11 QAnon-linked accounts — the most he had elevated Q content since July 4, according to Media Matters for America, a progressive watchdog site monitoring far-right media. The behavior itself does not prove that Trump is specifically targeting a QAnon audience or embracing the ideas of the movement itself. But it does show how the president is increasingly turning to the most extreme and loyal corners of his base as more and more Republicans back away from his flailing effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win. And, whether he intended it or not, the confluence of events was received as a signal among QAnon adherents. In their eyes, “it’s big ‘end of days’ stuff for those people to all be meeting — it means the final blow is about to be delivered,” said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher working on a book about QAnon. In the apocalyptic QAnon community, the final blow is “The Storm,” a long-predicted day of reckoning where Trump institutes martial law and the elites are arrested, tried in front of military tribunals and executed.

Full Article: Trump leans on QAnon figures in flailing effort to overturn election – POLITICO

National: Iran behind pro-Trump ‘hit list’ of U.S. election officials, FBI says | Kevin Collier/NBC

Iran created an online “hit list” of U.S. government officials who helped conduct and certify the 2020 U.S. presidential election, federal officials announced Wednesday. Titled “Enemies of the people,” the list was framed as a call to arms for supporters of President Donald Trump to take revenge on more than a dozen federal and state officials, as well as employees of the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems. The FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity Agency “possess highly credible information indicating Iranian cyber actors almost certainly were responsible” for the site, which has since been taken down from its initial URL, the agencies wrote in a statement. The agencies didn’t elaborate how they were able to make that attribution. The list included photos and purported home addresses and contact information of people who some Trump supporters have tied to baseless conspiracy theories for why he lost the election: FBI Director Christopher Wray; the former director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Christopher Krebs; and Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

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National: Despite smooth election, GOP leaders seek vote restrictions | Anthony Izaguirre and Christina A. Cassidy

Changes to the way millions of Americans voted this year contributed to record turnout, but that’s no guarantee the measures making it easier to cast ballots will stick around for future elections. Republicans in key states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden already are pushing for new restrictions, especially to absentee voting. It’s an option many states expanded amid the coronavirus outbreak that proved hugely popular and helped ensure one of the smoothest election days in recent years. President Donald Trump has been unrelenting in his attacks on mail voting as he continues to challenge the legitimacy of an election he lost. Despite a lack of evidence and dozens of losses in the courts, his claims of widespread voter fraud have gained traction with some Republican elected officials. They are vowing to crack down on mail ballots and threatening to roll back other steps that have made it easier for people to vote. “This myth could not justify throwing out the results of the election, nor can it justify imposing additional burdens on voters that will disenfranchise many Americans,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. An estimated 108 million people voted before Election Day, either through early in-person voting or by mailing or dropping off absentee ballots. That represented nearly 70% of all votes cast, after states took steps to make it easier to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic. A few states sent ballots to every registered voter while others dropped requirements that voters needed a specific excuse to cast an absentee ballot. Many states added drop boxes and expanded early voting options. The changes were popular with voters and did not lead to widespread fraud. A group of election officials including representatives of the federal cybersecurity agency called the 2020 presidential election the “most secure” election in U.S. history, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press there had been no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

Full Article: Despite smooth election, GOP leaders seek vote restrictions

National: Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but the Myth of Stolen Elections Lives On | Jim Rutenberg, Nick Corasaniti and Alan Feuer/The New York Times

President Trump’s baseless and desperate claims of a stolen election over the last seven weeks — the most aggressive promotion of “voter fraud” in American history — failed to get any traction in courts across seven states, or come anywhere close to reversing the loss he suffered to Joseph R. Biden Jr. But the effort has led to at least one unexpected and profoundly different result: A thorough debunking of the sorts of voter fraud claims that Republicans have used to roll back voting rights for the better part of the young century. In making their case in real courts and the court of public opinion, Mr. Trump and his allies have trotted out a series of tropes and canards similar to those Republicans have pushed to justify laws that in many cases made voting disproportionately harder for Blacks and Hispanics, who largely support Democrats. Their allegations that thousands of people “double voted” by assuming other identities at polling booths echoed those that have previously been cited as a reason to impose strict new voter identification laws. Their assertion that large numbers of noncitizens cast illegal votes for Mr. Biden matched claims Republicans have made to argue for harsh new “proof of citizenship” requirements for voter registration. And their tales about large numbers of cheaters casting ballots in the name of “dead voters” were akin to those several states have used to conduct aggressive “purges” of voting lists that wrongfully slated tens of thousands of registrations for termination. After bringing some 60 lawsuits, and even offering financial incentive for information about fraud, Mr. Trump and his allies have failed to prove definitively any case of illegal voting on behalf of their opponent in court — not a single case of an undocumented immigrant casting a ballot, a citizen double voting, nor any credible evidence that legions of the voting dead gave Mr. Biden a victory that wasn’t his.

Full Article: Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but the Myth of Stolen Elections Lives On – The New York Times

National: Trump attorneys risk disciplinary action over wave of election suits | John Kruzel/The Hill

The attorneys behind President Trump’s failing effort to overturn the election are facing mounting ethics complaints for advancing what critics say is a frivolous legal campaign designed to delegitimize President-elect Joe Biden’s win and bolster Trump’s post-election fundraising. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as allies Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, have been accused of pressing lawsuits larded up with unreliable assertions, flimsy claims and even outright lies, in violation of their obligations as officers of the court. As a result, judges and bar associations may soon face the task of sorting out whether these legal efforts amount to hard-fought advocacy, or if they’ve crossed a line. According to experts in legal ethics, disciplinary sanctions could include fines, private or public censure, law-license suspension or even disbarment. The possibility of Trump-allied attorneys facing disciplinary action was in many ways sparked by their woeful win-loss record in court. By some estimates, the campaign and its allies have prevailed in only a minor case affecting a sliver of Pennsylvania mail ballots, while at the same time losing or withdrawing in more than 50 rounds in state and federal court. “Essentially, the rules require lawyers to screen out junk from the court in order to protect judicial resources, which are limited. Lawyers have a gatekeeper function,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University. “The abysmal failure rate of the campaign’s claims, and the fact that claims were filed even after many losses, reveal almost certain violations of these rules.”

Full Article: Trump attorneys risk disciplinary action over wave of election suits | TheHill

Georgia can expect election disputes after Senate runoff election | Mark Niesse and Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s extraordinarily thin partisan divide set the stage for rampant misinformation, lawsuits and fights over election integrity after the presidential election. With control of the Senate on the line Jan. 5, elections officials are bracing for a new round of drama — especially if the races are as close as polls, analysts and the campaigns suggest they will be. President Donald Trump has warred with state leaders and elections officials for weeks following his narrow defeat here, even though flipping Georgia wouldn’t be enough to reverse Joe Biden’s White House victory. Imagine, though, an equally tight margin in the twin runoffs, which have attracted unprecedented spending and attention with the fate of Biden’s legislative agenda at stake. Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, is preparing for such a drawn-out scenario. “Even if there’s a blowout election, I think we’ll have people saying: ‘Well, obviously it was stolen. We have close elections in this state,’ ” Sterling said. “So no matter what direction you go, that’s going to happen.” He’s not alone. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed more than a dozen state officials, voting rights experts and party leaders who are quietly gearing up for a tortured election aftermath even while the U.S. Senate runoff campaigns are in full swing. Their message: Brace yourselves, Georgia voters. These races might not be settled for weeks.

Full Article: Georgia can expect election disputes after Senate runoff election

Georgia secretary of state wants to limit voting by absentee ballot | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday asked Georgia state representatives to end no-excuse absentee voting, a proposal that would limit the voting method over 1.3 million people used in the presidential election. Raffensperger wants to reduce absentee voting after promoting it during the coronavirus pandemic, when he mailed ballot applications to active registered voters before the primary election. In last month’s election, about one-quarter of Georgia’s 5 million voters cast absentee ballots as Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump. “It makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person early voting available. It opens the door to potential illegal voting,” Raffensperger told the House Governmental Affairs Committee. “From a logistical challenge, it’s a tremendous burden on our counties” that run elections. Absentee voting became politicized after Trump frequently suggested it wasn’t trustworthy, causing Republicans to move toward voting early or on Election Day. About 34% of Biden voters submitted absentee ballots, compared with 18% of Trump voters. Georgia law has allowed anyone to cast an absentee ballot without having to give a reason since 2005.

Full Article: Georgia secretary of state wants to limit voting by absentee ballot

Georgia: Judge dismisses GOP lawsuit to limit ballot drop box hours | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Fulton County judge dismissed a Republican Party lawsuit Thursday that tried to close absentee ballot drop boxes after normal business hours. Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams’ ruling allows voters to continue using drop boxes 24 hours a day under video surveillance until polls close for the U.S. Senate runoffs Jan. 5. She rejected the case after an online court hearing. The decision is the latest defeat for Republicans who have filed a series of lawsuits in the wake of the presidential election seeking to invalidate its results or change election procedures in the runoffs. None of these lawsuits has been successful in federal or state courts in Georgia. The lawsuit from the Republican National Committee and Georgia Republican Party had argued that drop boxes should be limited to the same hours as county election offices. But an attorney for the secretary of state’s office said drop boxes are allowed to remain open at all hours under a State Election Board rule approved earlier this year. “The public has confidence that the rules of the game will not be altered to indulge the needs of a political party who is trying to benefit their particular candidates,” said Russ Willard, a senior assistant attorney general. “Plaintiffs want to poke at the bear and adjust the election machinery when we only have one week of early advance voting and one week of absentee voting left to go.”

Full Article: Republican lawsuit to restrict ballot drop box hours dismissed

Georgia: GOP activist’s voter challenges raise questions | Bill Barrow/Associated Press

When a conservative organization announced plans this month to launch an election integrity operation in Georgia, the group’s news release included a high-profile name: the chairman of the state’s Republican Party. Less than a week later, the same group announced plans to challenge the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters. To Democrats in the state and voting rights advocates, it was verification of what they have long argued — that the Georgia GOP is supporting efforts to suppress voting in one of the nation’s newest political battlegrounds. It also raised questions about the legality of any coordination between the state party and the group True the Vote, charges the organization’s founder disputes. A relatively obscure conservative group, True the Vote is among the numerous political organizations descending on Georgia ahead of a pair of high-stakes Senate run-offs on Jan. 5. The outcome of the contests will determine which party controls the Senate as President-elect Joe Biden launches his administration. On Dec. 14, True the Vote announced it was launching an “election integrity” campaign in Georgia as “partners with (the) Georgia GOP to ensure transparent, secure ballot effort” for the Senate runoffs. The release featured a quote attributed to Georgia Republican Chairman David Shafer: “The resources of True the Vote will help us organize and implement the most comprehensive ballot security initiative in Georgia history.”

Full Article: GOP activist’s voter challenges raise questions in Georgia

Indiana: Blind Voters Sue State to Improve Voting Access | Suzanne Potter/Public News Service

A group of blind voters is suing to force the state of Indiana to make absentee balloting more accessible. Blind voters now have only two options in Indiana: They can vote in person, using voting machines that read their choices aloud as they are made; or they can ask a pair of bipartisan election officials from the “traveling board” to come to their house and help them fill out the ballot. Jelena Kolic, a staff attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, said other states provide special online voting options. “They deserve to participate fully in our democracy, and to know that their vote is private and that it’s being counted,” she said. “And that didn’t happen for some of the blind residents in Indiana this year.” That’s because, during the pandemic, the traveling board failed to show up at some voters’ homes. Voting in person is especially challenging for people with visual impairments, who have to touch a lot of surfaces in order to get around, raising the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Full Article: Blind Voters Sue State of Indiana to Improve Voting Access / Public News Service

Michigan: Woman faces federal charges for sending threats, photo of bloody corpse to Wayne County canvasser | Malachi Barrett/

A New Hampshire woman is facing federal charges for allegedly threatening the chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers through a series of text messages that included graphic photos of a mutilated corpse. Katelyn Jones, a 23-year-old former Olivet resident who now lives in Epping, New Hampshire, admitted to the FBI that she threatened Republican board member Monica Palmer because she felt Palmer was interfering with the presidential election. Jones is charged with transmitting threats of violence through interstate commerce and faces up to 20 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000, if convicted. “The allegations in this case should make all of us disgusted,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “There is simply no place in Michigan, or in the United States, for chilling threats like this to people who are simply doing what they believe is correct.” The Wayne County Board of Canvassers received national attention when Palmer and another Republican board member declined to certify results of the Nov. 3 election, citing unproven allegations of voter fraud touted by President Donald Trump and his allies. Both Republicans agreed to vote to certify results in exchange for an audit of Wayne County results, but Palmer later signed an affidavit saying she wanted to rescind her vote.

Full Article: Woman faces federal charges for sending threats, photo of bloody corpse to Wayne County canvasser

New York: Brindisi-Tenney race narrows even more: 3 to 5 votes separate candidates | Patrick Lohmann/Syracuse Post-Standard

The incredibly close race for the 22nd Congressional District got even closer Tuesday, as about 90 new votes from a bundle of about 2,500 affidavit ballots from Oneida County were counted. Incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D) and Claudia Tenney (R) are separated by three to five votes, according to an update in court from one of Brindisi’s attorneys. The candidates’ attorneys have been locked in a courtroom battle for nearly two months to determine the winner. The attorney, Bruce Spiva, did not specify which candidate had the minuscule edge. More than 300,000 ballots were cast in the election, making the margin separating the candidates 0.000016%. Before today, the latest unofficial vote counts had Tenney in the lead by 19 votes. That tiny margin will change again, likely multiple times, before State Supreme Court Judge Scott DelConte makes a ruling about which of the several thousand contested ballots will count. Oneida County officials and campaign representatives on Monday reviewed 253 contested affidavit ballots. Of them, 89 or 90 ballots were counted, attorneys said. Today, they reviewed 436 ballots, though it hadn’t yet been determined at about 5 p.m. Tuesday how many would be added to the count. In addition to the 689 ballots reviewed today and yesterday, 1,797 have yet to be reviewed.

Full Article: Brindisi-Tenney race narrows even more: 3 to 5 votes separate candidates –

Pennsylvania election lawsuit over mail ballots that could overturn a race — but not the presidency | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

At its narrowest, Ziccarelli v. Allegheny County Board of Elections is an argument over 2,349 mail ballots cast in Allegheny County that arrived in time but lacked dates filled out on the envelopes. Those ballots, including 311 votes in the 45th Senatorial District, gave incumbent Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat, the win by just 69 votes. The state Supreme Court affirmed Allegheny County’s decision to count the votes. But the district crosses into Westmoreland County, one of the counties that decided not to count ballots that lacked dates, classifying them as incomplete. That creates an unfair situation, Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli argued in her federal court lawsuit. Similar votes are being handled differently in different counties, which she says violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. “Based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s judgment, mail-in ballots will be counted or not counted based solely on the happenstance of which county election board reviews the ballot,” she wrote in her complaint late last month. The real impact of the case, experts said, could be much broader than who wins the seat, possibly clarifying a recurring question that has proven hard to answer in the messy real world: When is it OK for counties in the same state or electoral district to have different policies and run their elections differently?

Full Article: Pennsylvania lawsuit over mail ballots could reshape future elections

Wisconsin: Federal appeals court rejects Trump bid to overturn election results | Bill Glauber/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s latest effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Wisconsin. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a decision reached nearly two weeks ago by U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig in Milwaukee. In his suit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission and others, Trump had sought to have the Republican-led Legislature, rather than voters, decide how to allocate Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Ludwig — a Trump nominee — concluded Wisconsin officials had followed state laws when they conducted the Nov. 3 election. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel in Chicago “affirmed” Ludwig’s decision. “On the merits, the district court was right to enter judgment for the defendants,” the 7th Circuit said. “We reach this conclusion in no small part because of the President’s delay in bringing the challenges to Wisconsin law that provide the foundation for the alleged constitutional violation. Even apart from the delay, the claims fail under the Electors Clause.” Judge Michael Scudder Jr., nominated to the court by Trump, wrote the decision. The other members of the panel were Judge Joel Flaum and Judge Ilana Rovner, who were both nominated by Ronald Reagan.

Full Article: Federal appeals court rejects Trump bid to overturn Wisconsin results

Wisconsin Chief Justice Decries ‘Threats of Actual or Proposed Violence’ After Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Against Trumpe | Aaron Keller/Law & Crime

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack issued a rare Christmas Day statement decrying concerning comments throttled toward at the judiciary, including “threats of actual or proposed violence.” The statement comes on the heels of a narrow 4 to 3 decision earlier this month which shot down election litigation launched by President Donald Trump. Though Roggensack was part of the dissent (and, therefore, ruled in favor of Trump), she was apparently not interested in standing idly by as her fellow justices were menaced for ruling against the president. … The statement arguably applies to comments levied toward multiple justices. Justices Jill Karofsky and Rebecca Dallet have reportedly been subjected to a “torrent of misogynistic and anti-Semitic messages.” The majority ruling which dismissed Trump’s election case was authored by Justice Brian Hagedorn, the former chief legal counsel to Republican Gov. Scott Walker who went on to win an election to serve on the state’s highest court. The New York Times called Hagedorn a “darling of the right” in a recent piece which touched briefly on a certain level of vitriol Hagedorn received after authoring the opinion. “I’ve been called a traitor. I’ve been called a liar. I’ve been called a fraud,” Hagedorn told the Times. “I’ve been asked if I’m being paid off by the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve been told I might be tried for treason by a military tribunal. Sure, I’ve gotten lots of interesting and sometimes dark messages.”

Full Article: Wisconsin Justice Decries Threats of Violence | Law & Crime

The US has suffered a massive cyberbreach. It’s hard to overstate how bad it is | Bruce Schneier/The Guardian

Recent news articles have all been talking about the massive Russian cyber-attack against the United States, but that’s wrong on two accounts. It wasn’t a cyber-attack in international relations terms, it was espionage. And the victim wasn’t just the US, it was the entire world. But it was massive, and it is dangerous.Espionage is internationally allowed in peacetime. The problem is that both espionage and cyber-attacks require the same computer and network intrusions, and the difference is only a few keystrokes. And since this Russian operation isn’t at all targeted, the entire world is at risk – and not just from Russia. Many countries carry out these sorts of operations, none more extensively than the US. The solution is to prioritize security and defense over espionage and attack. Here’s what we know: Orion is a network management product from a company named SolarWinds, with over 300,000 customers worldwide. Sometime before March, hackers working for the Russian SVR – previously known as the KGB – hacked into SolarWinds and slipped a backdoor into an Orion software update. (We don’t know how, but last year the company’s update server was protected by the password “solarwinds123” – something that speaks to a lack of security culture.) Users who downloaded and installed that corrupted update between March and June unwittingly gave SVR hackers access to their networks. This is called a supply-chain attack, because it targets a supplier to an organization rather than an organization itself – and can affect all of a supplier’s customers. It’s an increasingly common way to attack networks. Other examples of this sort of attack include fake apps in the Google Play store, and hacked replacement screens for your smartphone. SolarWinds has removed its customers list from its website, but the Internet Archive saved it: all five branches of the US military, the state department, the White House, the NSA, 425 of the Fortune 500 companies, all five of the top five accounting firms, and hundreds of universities and colleges. In an SEC filing, SolarWinds said that it believes “fewer than 18,000” of those customers installed this malicious update, another way of saying that more than 17,000 did.

Full Articl: The US has suffered a massive cyberbreach. It’s hard to overstate how bad it is | Technology | The Guardian

National: Inside Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the election | Anita Kumar and Gabby Orr/Politico

It started with a phone call. In mid-November, President Donald Trump rang Monica Palmer, the Republican chair of an obscure board in Michigan that had just declared Joe Biden winner of the state’s most populous county. Within 24 hours, Palmer announced she wanted to “rescind” her vote. Her reasoning mirrored Trump’s public and private rants: The Nov. 3 election may have been rife with fraud. “The Wayne County election had serious process flaws which deserve investigation,” she wrote in an affidavit. “I continue to ask for information to assure Wayne County voters that these elections were conducted fairly and accurately.” The reversal came too late — the results were already confirmed. But Trump was just getting started. Over the next month, the president would conduct a sweeping campaign to personally cajole Republican Party leaders across the country to reject the will of the voters and hand him the election. In his appeals, he used specious and false claims of widespread voter fraud, leaning on baseless allegations that corrupt Democrats had conspired at every level to steal a presidential election. In total, the president talked to at least 31 Republicans, encompassing mostly local and state officials from four critical battleground states he lost — Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The contacts included at least 12 personal phone calls to 11 individuals, and at least four White House meetings with 20 Republican state lawmakers, party leaders and attorneys general, all people he hoped to win over to his side. Trump also spoke by phone about his efforts with numerous House Republicans and at least three current or incoming Senate Republicans.

Full Article: Inside Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the election – POLITICO

National: Dominion Voting Systems Employee Sues Trump Campaign | Amanda Pampuro/Couthouse News

A man caught in the center of 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories — who says ongoing threats and harassment have driven him into hiding — accused the Trump campaign in a lawsuit filed in Denver on Tuesday of defamation and inflicting emotional distress. The 52-page lawsuit claims Trump’s campaign team and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell grabbed onto an unsubstantiated narrative and led a social media army against Eric Coomer, an employee of Dominion Voting Systems. The lawsuit also names as defendants Trump supporter Joseph Oltmann, One America News Network correspondent Chanel Rion, Newsmax and other individuals and organizations. “The widespread dissemination of false conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election has had devastating consequences both for me personally and for many of the thousands of American election workers and officials, both Republican and Democratic, who put aside their political beliefs to run free, fair, and transparent elections,” Coomer said in a statement. “Elections are not about politics; they are about accurately tabulating legally cast votes,” Coomer said. Following his loss for reelection, President Donald Trump was quick to blame the election system as his campaign team scoured the country for examples of voter fraud. The Trump campaign has pursued and lost lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and many others in efforts to overturn the results.

Full Article: Dominion Voting Systems Employee Sues Trump Campaign

National: Former Election Security Official Says It Will Take ‘Years’ To Undo Disinformation | Pam Fessler/NPR

One of the top federal officials responsible for securing the nation’s elections is speaking out days after leaving his job with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Matthew Masterson was a senior cybersecurity adviser at CISA, primarily responsible for elections, and his departure comes amid persistent, but baseless, claims that the 2020 elections were riddled with fraud. Many of those have come from President Trump, who last month fired Masterson’s former boss, Christopher Krebs, after Krebs joined others in calling the 2020 election the “most secure in American history.” Trump’s allegations have been widely disputed by election experts and numerous courts, where his campaign has tried unsuccessfully to overturn the election results. In his first interview since leaving his job, Masterson told NPR that the biggest challenge for the nation now is restoring public faith in the voting process. Recent polls have shown that a large segment of the electorate, including a majority of Republicans, does not trust that this year’s results were legitimate. Masterson believes, on the contrary, that the 2020 vote was “as smooth a presidential election as I’ve ever seen.” He noted recent improvements in election security and transparency, including expanded use of paper ballots and audits, as well as streaming live video of vote counts. “Yet we’re still beating back disinformation and claims of technical manipulation that just simply aren’t true,” he said. “So we’ve got to continue to explore how to offer voters more and more evidence, in a transparent fashion, to reassure them that their vote was counted as cast.”

Full Article: First Interview With Matthew Masterson, Former CISA Election Security Official : NPR

National: In Trump’s ‘coup,’ everyone is waiting for someone else to act first | Jonathan Masur/The Washington Post

What if they held a coup and nobody came? President Trump has made clear that he believes the election was rigged — somehow — and has called for its reversal. He’s been joined by a chorus of supporters: not just ordinary Trump voters but some members of Congress, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) — who has said the results in Georgia and Pennsylvania were the result of “flawed election systems” and wants his colleagues to reject President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) have suggested they might join that effort. Meanwhile, former national security adviser Michael Flynn has pitched the idea of imposing martial law, in several states, to rerun the election, first on Newsmax and then, according to reports, to Trump in the Oval Office. Overall, these efforts have been widely described as an “attempted coup.” But what is most striking about this attempted coup, at least so far, is that almost nobody has actually done anything. Instead, nearly everyone involved in the coup has asked someone else to do something. Trump met with Michigan’s Republican state legislative leaders to suggest that they overturn the results there, and made similar appeals by phone to Republican state legislative leaders in Pennsylvania, and to the governor of Georgia. He’s phoned Tuberville, too, and has filed dozens of lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country. And he has whipped his followers into a frenzy, asking them to “stop the steal.” But these are all requests that someone else take action. Trump has not summoned the military, attempted to seize ballots or otherwise used the power of the presidency.

Full Article: In Trump’s ‘coup,’ everyone is waiting for someone else to act first – The Washington Post

National: President Trump: Unhappy, Unleashed and Unpredictable | Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt/The New York Times

With four weeks left in President Trump’s term, he is at perhaps his most unleashed — and, as events of the last few days have demonstrated, at the most unpredictable point in his presidency. He remains the most powerful person in the world, yet he is focused on the one area in which he is powerless to get what he wants: a way to avoid leaving office as a loser. He spends his days flailing for any hope, if not of actually reversing the outcome of the election then at least of building a coherent case that he was robbed of a second term. When he has emerged from his relative isolation in recent days, it has been to suggest out of the blue that he would try to blow up the bipartisan stimulus package, driving a wedge through his party in the process, and to grant clemency to a raft of allies and supporters, mostly outside the normal Justice Department process. He has otherwise sequestered himself in the White House, playing host to a cast of conspiracy theorists and hard-core supporters who traffic in ideas like challenging the election’s outcome in Congress and even invoking martial law, seeking to give some of them government jobs.

Full Article: President Trump: Unhappy, Unleashed and Unpredictable – The New York Times

National: FBI links Iran to ‘Enemies of the People’ hit list targeting officials who?ve refuted election fraud claims | Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner and Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post

The FBI has concluded that Iran was behind online efforts earlier this month to incite lethal violence against the bureau’s director, a former top U.S. cyber expert and multiple state elections officials who have refuted claims of widespread voter fraud promoted by President Trump and his allies, federal and state officials said Tuesday. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and ousted Homeland Security Department official Christopher Krebs were among more than a dozen people whose ­images, home addresses and other personal information were posted on a website titled “Enemies of the People.” Crosshairs were superimposed over the photos. Many of these officials in one way or another have attested to the security of November’s election, saying they had not seen evidence of widespread fraud — a conclusion at odds with Trump’s baseless claims that the election was rigged. “The following individuals have aided and abetted the fraudulent election against Trump,” the website falsely claimed. Iran was active in seeking to interfere in the U.S. election, targeting Democratic voters in October with fake but menacing emails that purported to be from a far-right group threatening recipients to vote for Trump “or we will come after you.” Iran condemned the revelations — made by the top U.S. intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe — as “baseless” and “absurd.”

Full Article: FBI links Iran to ‘Enemies of the People’ hit list targeting officials who?ve refuted election fraud claims – The Washington Post