National: Reliability of pricey new ballot marking devices questioned | Frank Bajak/Associated Press

In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems. Called ballot-marking devices, the machines have touchscreens for registering voter choice. Unlike touchscreen-only machines, they print out paper records that are scanned by optical readers. South Carolina voters will use them in Saturday’s primary. The most pricey solution available, they are at least twice as expensive as the hand-marked paper ballot option. They have been vigorously promoted by the three voting equipment vendors that control 88 percent of the U.S. market.

National: With 2020 general election approaching, voting security under growing scrutiny | Maya Rodriguez/Scripps Media

It’s the foundation of American democracy: voting. Depending on where you are in the U.S., though, your election experience could look very different from that in your neighboring state or even just your neighbor. “It really does depend on where you are in the country,” said Marian Schneider, who heads up Verified Voting, a non-profit, non-partisan group that advocates for better election security. In particular, the group takes a closer look at when it comes to the use of computers in elections. “We use computers in every aspect of election administration in this country,” Schneider said. “We have also historically underfunded our elections and not put the money into them that we need in order to run a computerized operation.”

National: Russia trying to help Bernie Sanders’s campaign, according to briefing from U.S. officials | Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan/The Washington Post

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump. “I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do. “In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

National: Sanders blasts Russia for reportedly trying to boost his presidential campaign | Susan Heavey and Simon Lewis/Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday warned Russia to stay out of U.S. elections after American officials had told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign. “The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020. And what I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me you are not going to be interfering in American elections,” Sanders told reporters in Bakersfield, California. Sanders, 78, a democratic socialist from Vermont, is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and is favored to win the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. The Washington Post on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, said U.S. officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers. It was not clear what form the Russian assistance took, the paper said. A congressional source confirmed intelligence officials have told lawmakers Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump. The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.

National: Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama | Jordain Carney/The Hill

The administration is gearing up to brief lawmakers on election security as the country wades deeper into the 2020 primaries. Both the House and Senate will be briefed, separately, on March 10, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a Senate aide. The briefings will come a week after Super Tuesday, when primary voters in more than a dozen states will head to the polls. On March 10, voters in six more states will cast ballots. The announcement of the briefings come as President Trump’s shake up of top intelligence community positions has sparked fierce criticism from Democrats and some national security professionals, and after reports that intelligence leaders have told lawmakers that Russia is again seeking to aid Trump’s campaign efforts. “American voters should decide American elections — not Vladimir Putin. All Members of Congress should condemn the President’s reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community,” Pelosi said in a tweet on Thursday.

National: DHS Publishes 2020 Strategic Plan for Election Security | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

With a contentious race for the American presidency underway and fears of foreign influence in electoral politics growing, state governments are looking for ways to bolster their position before voters hit the polls. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently published its 2020 election security strategic plan to help meet that mission, outlining how it hopes to assist states before this year’s presidential contest unfolds. That assistance will come in a number of forms: engaging the nation’s some 8,000 election jurisdictions with planning and response capabilities; facilitating coordination between various state, local and private stakeholders; and deploying personnel to offer assessment and testing of voting infrastructure, including cyberhygiene and penetration tests. At the same time, CISA is also offering assistance to political campaigns and infrastructure, giving security assessments and information sharing services to them, while also highlighting the work of other important intelligence organizations like the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center. The CISA report also shines a spotlight on a number of states that are currently role models for election security practices.

Editorials: Calm down, America. If election results aren’t instant, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘rigged.’ | Joshua A. Douglas/USA Today

The contrast between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary offers two lessons for the media and the public, especially for the next two contests in Nevada and South Carolina: Put your trust in professional election administrators, and don’t expect an immediate announcement of the winner. The Iowa Democratic Party, not election professionals, ran the caucuses. The party made mistakes at several turns. It transmitted and tabulated results using a new app that turned out to be unreliable. It then compounded those errors by rushing to report results, which appeared incomplete and potentially inaccurate, over the ensuing days. By contrast, New Hampshire election officials administered the primary. They did it without any hiccups and, importantly, there seemed to be less of a rush to announce the winner. The Nevada Democratic Party is running Saturday’s caucuses, while state election officials are in charge of the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29. Nevada Democrats are trying to learn from the experience of their Iowa counterparts, but the bottom line is unavoidable: The practice of nonprofessionals administering caucuses adds another reason to question the entire caucus system, which is generally undemocratic and unrepresentative to begin with.

California: Man Arrested For Election Cyber Attacks | Christianne McCormick/Canyon News

Federal officers arrested a Santa Monica man Friday morning, February 21 for charges related to a series of cyberattacks on a website for a candidate who was campaigning for a Congressional seat back in 2018. Arthur Dam, 32, was charged with one count of intentionally damaging and attempting to damage a protected computer. Officials accuse him of coordinating cyberattacks on Rep. Katie Hill’s Democratic Rival Rep. Bryan Caforio. Allegedly, Dam staged four cyberattacks in April and May of 2018 that resulted in Caforio’s website to be down for a total of 21 hours. The website first crashed on April 20, 2018 then again on the 21st, 28th and May 29th. The attack that transpired on April 28 was the day of the debate between Hill and Caforio. The attack that transpired on May 29, 2018 was just days before Hill beat Caforio in the June 5 primary.

Florida: Cyber experts: Public should have known about 2016 Palm Beach County elections ransomware | Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

In the wake of the dispute over the cyber intrusion at the county elections office, The Palm Beach Post asked a series of security professionals to weigh in on the revelation of the Zepto virus exposure in September 2016. Is three years too long to learn that a ransomware attack happened at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office? Yes, say cybersecurity and IT experts. In the wake of the dispute over the cyber intrusion at the county elections office, The Palm Beach Post asked a series of security professionals to weigh in on the revelation of the Zepto virus exposure in September 2016. “Not only should they report this, they should understand that just because everything seems normal it might not necessarily be,” said Silka Gonzalez, founder of ERMProtect in Coral Gables. “Even if a hacker is already inside your network and passively stealing your information everything in your workplace is going to look normal and ‘business as usual.’ These things don’t come with sirens and red lights.” The scrutiny over Zepto and its purported encroachment by an unknown entity through an elections office computer in the weeks before the 2016 presidential vote has been a source of controversy. This month, current Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link revealed the previously unknown cyber attack via a Zepto virus. The severity of the episode, however, has been disputed by her predecessor, Susan Bucher.

Illinois: ‘Wake-up call’ led to focus on election security | Bernard Schoenburg/The State Journal-Register

As the March 17 Illinois primary approaches, state and local election officials say they are continually working to keep election records, information and vote totals safe from outside meddling. “What I always say is we’re confident that we’re doing everything we can to stay a step ahead of any cyber attacker,” said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections. “But all you can ever hope, when you’re dealing with cyber security, is to stay ahead of the next hacker.” Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray, whose office oversees elections in the county, said every election authority has been “working hard … protecting and defending our election apparatus. It is absolutely imperative today that we are proactive and being out in front of cybercriminals.”

Kansas: Counties’ websites may lack security against hackers | Associated Press

Many Kansas counties’websites may be at risk as they lack basic protocols that make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in order to install malware or trick individuals into giving out their personal information. Out of 105 counties, only eight of them have websites ending in .gov, a domain extension only government officials can control, and 60 counties’ URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Experts say it could be a serious concern for smaller governments during a time of increasing cyberattacks, KCUR-FM reported. Local governments have in recent years become frequent targets of ransomware attacks, where hackers hold data hostage in exchange for money.

Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh forum will look at threats to democracy in the internet age | Abigail Mihaly/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Leading expert in cybersecurity David Hickton is warning us that the internet could dismantle democracy. Mr. Hickton, founding Director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security and former United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, will discuss the issue in a lecture this week at the University of Pittsburgh. The “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” lecture, hosted by the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy at Pitt, will ask the question: Is the internet a force for freedom or for oppression? When his children began instant messaging online, Mr. Hickton realized the internet was an open environment, without sufficient rules or security. “[The cyber world] is designed to make our lives better,” said Mr. Hickton. “But … it’s not coincidental that in some places around the world, digital space is being used to make people less free.”

Editorials: As Washington State’s chief elections officer, I don’t think electronic voting is worth the risk | Kim Wyman/The Seattle Times

The integrity of our elections and our democracy is under attack. Bad actors — both foreign and domestic — seek to damage election infrastructure, manipulate results and sow discourse. Washington has made critical strides in shoring up security for upcoming elections and beyond, but safeguarding our elections is a race without a finish line. With cybersecurity experts warning of the severe vulnerabilities with online or mobile voting, including electronic ballot return methods, I am recommending the Legislature act on a bill I requested to protect Washington voters from cyber intrusion. Currently, Washington allows military and civilian overseas voters to return their ballots by email or fax. Cybersecurity experts, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are imploring states to eliminate these glaring vulnerabilities. Heeding their warnings, I partnered with a bipartisan group of legislators to eliminate email and fax ballot return options for voters serving or living overseas.

Canada: Nova Scotia could see limited internet voting for military with proposed changes | Keith Doucette/The Canadian Press

Limited internet voting for the military and financial reimbursement for candidate expenses related to family care feature in a series of proposed changes to Nova Scotia’s Elections Act tabled Friday. Justice Minister Mark Furey said the changes would reduce barriers to running in elections and make voting easier for members of the military who are serving elsewhere in Canada or overseas. Under the changes, candidates would be reimbursed for extra expenses such as child and spousal care, elder care or care for a person with a disability. “Public service is foundational to our democracy, and my hope is that these changes will reduce barriers to running, especially for women who are primary care givers in so many elements of their family,” Furey said.

Dominican Republic: Government officials ask OAS to investigate e-vote failure | Martín José Adames Alcántara/Associated Press

Officials in the Dominican Republic announced Friday that they have asked the Organization of American States to investigate the failure of an electronic voting system some believe was tampered with in an incident that sparked protests and delayed municipal elections. Government officials said they also requested that the local Justice Department suspend its investigation to allow international organizations to take over. “We must find a way to lend credibility to any investigation that is carried out to determine what happened and if there was any malicious action,” said Flavio Darío Espinal, the president’s legal adviser. The software glitch had forced the Dominican Republic to suspend municipal elections on Sunday, with voting halted after three hours when 50% of polling places using electronic ballot machines reported problems.