National: Coronavirus and 2020 Elections: What Happens to Voting in an Outbreak | Kirk Johnson and Campbell Robertson/The New York Times

Elections are complicated events, involving massive amounts of paperwork, thorny issues of law and a widely scattered cast of poll workers and ballot counters. In Washington State, which is holding its 2020 primary on Tuesday, there is another matter that officials are having to consider this year. “How long does coronavirus last in saliva that is on an envelope?” asked Kim Wyman, the secretary of state in Washington, the state hardest hit by the virus so far. Washington votes by mail, which eliminates most concerns about viral transmission, but also creates some. “We’re telling all of the people who handle incoming ballots to use gloves,” Ms. Wyman said. “We’ve also had a recommendation from National Guard: ‘Folks, you might consider masks.’” Voters have been advised to use a wet sponge or cloth to seal envelopes rather than licking them. But many were probably mailed in before it was clear how big a virus risk there was in the state. The leading Democratic presidential candidates, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bernie Sanders, both addressed questions on Sunday about how the virus might affect their travel and campaigning. Public health officials have said adults over 60 are most at risk and should avoid crowds. Mr. Biden is 77. Mr. Sanders is 78. President Trump is 73.

Missouri: Kansas City’s Mayor Was Turned Away When He Tried to Vote | Matt Stevens/The New York Times

The mayor of Kansas City, Mo., was turned away from a polling place when he tried to vote in the state’s primary on Tuesday, a development he found frustrating and emblematic of broader problems with the American voting system. The mayor, Quinton Lucas, said on Twitter that he had been told he “wasn’t in the system” at a polling place he had used for more than a decade. The episode unfolded shortly after he made a video in which he discussed the importance of voting and encouraged people to show up at the polls. “If the mayor can get turned away, think about everyone else,” he wrote on Twitter. “We gotta do better.” The mayor’s experience was a high-profile hiccup in Missouri, one of the six states holding a primary or caucus on Tuesday — contests that could play a significant role in shaping the Democratic presidential race. Though Mr. Lucas said in an interview that he was later told that he was in fact on the voter rolls and had been turned away by mistake, he said the situation was illustrative of larger problems, namely how hard it can be to vote in America. Mr. Lucas, a Democrat who began his term in 2019, said he had used a utility bill to verify his identity, but during a 10-minute exchange with a poll worker, he was repeatedly told he could not be found on the voter rolls.

National: Election security: GAO warns of issues this year and chides federal security agency | Joe Davidson/The Washington Post

Just as the presidential primary season began, a government watchdog warned the Trump administration that it “urgently needed” to address problems with election security infrastructure. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, was to have finalized plans by January to support states and localities with their election security operations. That did not happen, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. While noting that state election officials generally “were very satisfied with CISA’s election-related work,” the report said the agency “is not well-positioned to execute a nationwide strategy for securing election infrastructure prior to the start of the 2020 election cycle” because it has not completed plans. As if to prove the point, shortly before the GAO findings were released in February, the Iowa caucuses ended in a debacle when a new app for reporting results failed, plunging the first contest of the season into disarray. Then, during Super Tuesday last week, voting machine malfunctions and other technical problems combined with higher than expected turnout, leaving some voters in Texas and California waiting hours to cast ballots.

National: Acting intelligence chief will not brief lawmakers on election security despite expectation he was coming | Alex Marquardt and Zachary Cohen/CNN

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell said late Monday he will not be briefing lawmakers on Tuesday about election security despite being expected on Capitol Hill by members of Congress to be on the panel of the country’s most senior national security officials. Grenell had been due to appear alongside the other senior officials in a pair of classified briefings to all members of the House and Senate. A list of top agency officials obtained by CNN from two congressional sources and a person familiar with the plans listed Grenell alongside National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, FBI Director Christopher Wray and others. As of late Monday night, the list and guidance circulated to Congress had not changed. However, Grenell and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence denied that he would be briefing. Grenell’s office would not explain why his name was on the list sent around by multiple congressional offices, and did not respond to requests for comment until after CNN reported Grenell was expected to appear. In a message, Grenell told CNN the expectation was “fake info” and said the intention was always to send “experts.”

National: U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections. “Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.” US Vote’s State Voting Methods and Options shows that while 32 states allow voters to request a ballot by mail without providing a reason, or what is commonly called an excuse for not going to the polls, there remains 19 states and 5 territories that do not. These include high population states like Texas and New York.

National: Coronavirus Likely Won’t Disrupt Upcoming Primaries, But Absentee Voting Could Surge | Martin Austermuhle/WAMU

Elections. They’re both a democratic necessity, and a health official’s worst nightmare. Candidates literally pressing the flesh, traveling from one site to another for weeks at a time shaking hands and kissing babies. And it’s all capped off by thousands of people all touching the same equipment while in a confined spaces. While there’s never really a good time for Coronavirus outbreak, the timing of U.S.’s small-yet-growing epidemic is particularly bad, falling right in the middle of primary season. While 18 states have already voted, more than two-dozen still have to — D.C. and Maryland included — and could face more challenging conditions if Coronavirus cases pick up steam. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency this week after three Coronavirus cases were confirmed in Montgomery County. Some of those challenges were evident on Super Tuesday, when there were reports of poll workers in California and Texas not showing up to work over fears of contracting the virus. But in Virginia, which also voted on Tuesday, most election officials say there was no obvious impact on voter turnout and only slight accommodations had to be made.

Voting Blogs: Ballot-level comparison audits: precinct-count | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

In my last post I described a particularly efficient kind of risk-limiting audit (RLA) of election results: ballot-level comparison audits, which rely on a unique serial number on every ballot. The serial number should not be preprinted on the ballot where the voter can learn it, otherwise the voter could sell their vote, or be coerced to vote a certain way, and the buyer or coercer could learn the vote from the file of cast-vote records (CVRs). The solution, when central-count optical scan (CCOS) is used, is that the central-count optical-scan voting machine can print the serial number onto the ballot, as it scans and counts the ballot. But many jurisdictions use precinct-count optical scan (PCOS): the voter marks a ballot, and feeds it directly into the PCOS voting machine, where it is scanned, counted, and preserved in a ballot box. This has three advantages over CCOS: PCOS machines can alert the voter about overvotes, undervotes, or blank ballots, which gives the voter a chance to correct their ballot. PCOS tabulations are ready immediately at the close of the polls, which gives faster election-night reporting. PCOS tabulations give an additional safeguard against low-tech paper-ballot tampering: if the hand-to-eye recount of this batch does not match the results claimed by the optical-scanner, then one of them is wrong. The paper ballots themselves are the presumed ballot of record; State statutes should say that in case of disagreement we trust the paper by default, not the (possibly hacked or buggy) computers; but even so, a disagreement is important evidence of possible tampering that could be worth a forensic investigation. We don’t get this safeguard with central-count scanning of precinct-marked ballots. But PCOS machines are not equipped with serial-number printers. Why is that? It would be straightforward to add one to a standard PCOS design, and it wouldn’t much affect the price of the product (so I’ve been told by the vice president of a major voting-machine company). The reason is not that the vendors can’t or won’t make the product; it’s that PCOS-ballot serial numbers are not so straightforward to use in RLAs.

Arkansas: Panel weighs vote machine financial aid | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

State Rep. Doug House on Monday floated the idea of the state treasury loaning funds to counties that can’t afford their share of the cost of purchasing new voting equipment for the Nov. 3 general election. House, a Republican from North Little Rock, tossed out this proposal during a meeting of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that also heard a pitch from Anna Claire Tilley, an 11th-grade student at Southside High School in Fort Smith, for Arkansas to implement online voter registration. Sixty-four of the state’s 75 counties had updated voting equipment for the March 3 primary election. These 64 counties included 10 that Secretary of State John Thurston’s office purchased new voting equipment for last year through Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software with the help of state funding made available under Act 808 of 2019 plus funding from most of those counties. Act 808 diverted $8.24 million in excess funds from the property tax relief trust fund to the county voting systems grant fund. The $8.4 million in state funds included about $2 million to reimburse Ashley, Benton and White counties for half of what they paid for their new equipment. (Act 808 also increased the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375 per parcel.)

Georgia: Election board tries to stop Clarke County switch from touchscreens to hand marked paper ballots | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board is challenging Athens-Clarke County’s decision to reject Georgia’s new statewide voting system. The state board called an emergency hearing for Wednesday on whether the Athens elections board broke several state laws when it voted 3-2 last week to switch to paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by machine. The State Election Board has the power under state law to order a $5,000 fine against Athens’ government for each violation of Georgia laws requiring a uniform statewide voting system. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the chairman of the State Election Board. The Athens election board abandoned the state’s new voting touchscreens because of concerns that the large, brightly lit screens allow people to see voters’ choices from 30 feet away. The board cited state laws that allow for paper ballots when use of voting equipment is “impossible or impracticable.”

Illinois: State Board of Elections without IT chief Matt Eammons week before Illinois primary | Chuck Goudie, Barb Markoff and Ross Weidner/WLS

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that Matt Emmons, Illinois State Board of Elections IT director, has departed for a job in private industry. After authorities said the state’s voter registration database was breached by Russian attackers in 2016, resulting in the theft of several hundred thousand records, Emmons helped coordinate security operations before the midterm elections. “The most sophisticated threats we are facing are coming from outside the country,” Emmons told StateTech, an online government technology site, in 2018. “We consider the threat of nation-state actors and their near limitless resources the most threatening issue today. Most federal law enforcement agencies believe the foreign meddling with our election systems is going to continue.” Emmons explained that the first task after the breach was to ensure that there was no permanent hacking stake in the Illinois election system. “In the weeks and months after the attack, we worked with the FBI and DHS to confirm the attack was limited to the exfiltration of data,” Emmons said. Now Emmons is gone a week before the 2020 Illinois primary, having taken a position that is said to be in the insurance industry.

North Carolina: Ransomware Attack Hits Durham North Carolina City, County Governments | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

Hackers of “Russian” origin targeted the city and county governments of Durham, N.C., over the weekend, hampering computer and communications networks with ransomware, according to local officials. The attack, which used the infamous Ryuk malware strain typically spread through malicious attachments in phishing emails, was carried out late Friday by a Russian hacking group, according to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, one of the agencies looking into the attack. On the heels of a year with a precipitous rise in ransomware attacks on state and local government, the incident is one of several to occur in the first few months of 2020 that show the trend does not seem to be slowing.  City and county officials confirmed during a joint press conference Monday that the malware appears to have spread after internal employees clicked on infected emails.

Texas: Dallas County election recount court date set for Tuesday | Nic Garcia/Dallas Morning News

Dallas County’s request for a recount of last week’s election after it discovered a discrepancy between the number of voters who signed in and the actual ballots counted will be heard by a district court judge on Tuesday. The county’s election chief, Toni Pippins-Poole, filed a request to reopen the election late Friday after ballots from 44 vote tabulating machines were not included in the final tally that officials had submitted, according to court papers. Without knowing how many votes are at issue, it’s unclear whether the outcomes of any races will change. State law stipulates that ballots must be counted continuously after the polls close. Once officials have stopped tallying votes, the election is considered completed. Even though the results are unofficial until county commissioners approve them, a judge must order any additional ballot counting. Judge Emily G. Tobolowsky will consider the recount request. Between the two parties, more than 317,000 ballots — 233,014 Democratic and 83,997 Republican — were counted last week, according to unofficial results on Dallas County’s election website. Democratic turnout, in particular, nearly hit a record — second only to 2008 when 298,612 Democrats voted.

Texas: Parker County Commissioner on Hart InterCivic voting machines: ‘We’re not going to tolerate this type of failure again’ | Autumn Owens/Weatherford Democrat

Parker County officials discussed voting machine failures that occurred at five locations on Election Day last week, saying what took place cannot happen again. The discussion took place during Monday’s meeting of the commissioners court and included comments from the elections administrator, county judge, party chairs, commissioners and a representative from Hart InterCivic, the vendor that owns the voting machines. “We had about 14,454 people vote in early voting and that went very smooth — we had seven sites and no major issues whatsoever, so early voting went very well. The problems occurred during Election Day,” Elections Administrator Don Markum said. “We had 13,401 people vote on Election Day at 37 poll sites. The issue we had was the scanners would not read some of the ballots. It was basically five whole sites that had this issue with a lot of the ballots not being able to be read — Santa Fe Baptist Church, ESD 6, Rock Baptist Church, Willow Park and Aledo ISD. Those five sites had major issues.”

Venezuela: Nearly 50,000 Voting Machines Burnt in ‘Terrorist Attack’ | Paul Dobson/Venezuelanalysis

An unknown militant group has claimed responsibility for a blaze which destroyed 99 percent of Venezuela’s electoral machines on Saturday. In a video message published on Twitter on Sunday, seven masked men calling themselves the Venezuelan Patriotic Front stated that the attack formed part of “Operation Sodom,” a reference to the biblical tale of the city destroyed by “divine judgement” on the Jordan River. The group goes on to justify the arson by alleging that electoral authorities have “violated the people’s rights through fraudulent elections.” In the same message, it also claimed responsibility for a fire last month at a state-run CANTV telecommunications center used in elections in Valencia, Carabobo State. While the origins and connections of the group remain unclear, its video message pledged further actions against government supporters and leaders, which it defined as being “military targets,” as well as issuing warnings about “what may occur” at the upcoming opposition march on Tuesday. Speaking Monday, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello condemned the fire as a “terrorist attack.” Opposition leaders are yet to comment.