Wisconsin: Democrats sue to extend deadlines for online voter registration and counting absentee ballots | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democrats sued Wisconsin election officials Wednesday to extend absentee balloting for the April 7 presidential primary because the coronavirus pandemic has confined many people to their homes. The lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic Party also seeks to drop a requirement that voters provide a copy of their photo ID when they request absentee ballots. The lawsuit is also aimed at giving people more time to use the web to register to vote — and to do so without providing proof of residence. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Madison, argues that some of Wisconsin’s voting laws should be set aside because the world is in the grip of a pandemic that has forced voters to stay at home.  “In this unprecedented situation, the regulatory scheme (for the election) has become hostile to voting rights and, as a direct result, thousands of Wisconsin voters are likely to be disenfranchised,” attorney Marc Elias wrote in his filing.

National: Why vote-by-mail may not save our elections from the virus’ disruption | Kim Zetter/Politico

The spreading coronavirus is starting to create a difficult choice for the nation’s election supervisors: force people to keep voting in person, despite the risk of contagion, or rush into a vast expansion of voting by mail. Already, the pandemic has forced Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio to postpone their presidential primaries until later in the spring, while reportedly contributing to lower than average turnout in Tuesday’s primaries in Illinois and Florida. It has also inspired some lawmakers and activists to call for much broader use of mail-in voting, a way for Americans to cast their ballots despite the lockdowns, quarantines and limitations on crowds taking hold across the country. But some election experts warn that an abrupt adoption of vote-by-mail systems in states that aren’t sufficiently prepared would introduce new risks and avenues for disruption. The results, they say, could bring widespread confusion or even disenfranchise voters. “Rolling something as complex as this out at large-scale introduces thousands of small problems — some of which are security problems, some of which are reliability problems, some of which are resource-management problems — that only become apparent when you do it,” said Matt Blaze, an election security expert and computer science professor at Georgetown Law School. “Which is why changing anything right before a high-stakes election carries risks.”

National: Illinois Stumbles as States See Light Voter Turnout, With Many Ballots in the Mail | Nick Corasaniti, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens and Reid J. Epstein/The New York Times

Voting in major cities in Illinois was rife with confusion on Tuesday and early turnout in many areas was significantly lower than expected, leading to complaints from poll workers and clashes between Chicago officials and the statehouse. Illinois is one of three states that went ahead with their Democratic presidential primaries on Tuesday amid fears about people gathering in groups and risking exposure to the coronavirus. In Florida, relocated polling sites led to disruption and low turnout was reported in some counties, while voting in others was running smoothly. Arizona, where a vast majority of voters had cast their ballots early, was reporting no major issues. Elections officials in all three states hoped that any drop-off in turnout would be partially offset by early voting and the vote-by-mail ballots that many Democrats filed in the weeks leading up to Tuesday. Ohio also had a presidential primary scheduled, but Gov. Mike DeWine postponed it through a flurry of legal actions and declarations on Monday night, recommending that it be pushed to June 2. Voters who weren’t aware of the late-night decision by the governor and the state’s top health official were greeted Tuesday morning with closed doors and statements taped to windows saying the primary had been postponed.

National: Coronavirus wreaks havoc on Tuesday primaries | Natasha Korecki/Politico

Voters practiced social distancing with the election on Tuesday – by staying away from the polls. Early signs of low turnout in Illinois and Florida offered another sobering reminder of how the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the election year. In Ohio, a wild day of pronouncements from elected officials and legal challenges ended in the last-minute postponement of the state’s primary. Tensions also flared in other states as officials faced a backlash over decisions to forge ahead with their elections. In Illinois, the number of people who showed up to vote early in the day in Chicago was below even the pace of mayoral contests, which are typically low-turnout affairs, according to an election official. Statewide numbers were also expected to come in low. Turnout likewise looked skimpy in Florida, according to anecdotal reports. Steve Vancore, a spokesman for Broward County elections, said turnout so far has been light in the South Florida county that has been one of the hot spots for the virus in the state.

National: A Primary? In a Pandemic? Voting is the opposite of social distancing. But Americans in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois are still heading to the polls | Elaine Godfrey/The Atlantic

Americans are supposed to be avoiding one another right now. But they’re still convening at the polls. Hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions—of voters in Arizona, Illinois, and Florida today will grasp the same door handles, drag their fingers across the same touch-screen voting machines, and wait in long lines with dozens of other people as they participate in the next series of primary contests. All three of these states have reported multiple cases of the coronavirus, making the elections today a major health risk, says Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “When you bring people together in close proximity for extended periods of time, that is where you see explosions of disease,” she told me. “It’s tough to stay apart when you’re standing in a line” to vote. The threat of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is likely to compound some of the problems already plaguing America’s election systems: Coronavirus fears could lead to depressed turnout, longer lines, and general confusion for voters on Election Day, experts worry. “This is building up to a level that it could clearly cause real problems,” warns David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. And if states don’t start planning now, the virus could impede the general election too.

National: Facing coronavirus pandemic, US confronts cyberattacks | Ali Dukakis, James Gordon Meek, Mike Levine, Luke Barr and Josh Margolin/ABC

The United States, already dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, is also being targeted for cyberattacks and foreign disinformation campaigns, as federal officials feared. Multiple sources confirmed to ABC News in recent days that both the efforts that slowed computer systems at the Health and Human Services Department Sunday night and the weekend rash of bogus text messages warning a national quarantine is imminent were the products of foreign actors or components of foreign governments or entities connected to them. “We are seeing multiple disinformation campaigns right now,” said one federal official briefed on the situation. The two types of cyber incidents are different, but both are aimed at sowing panic in the American population and feeding distrust in government, according to intelligence officials. Federal officials said the two most likely perpetrators are Russia and China, two nations with the sophistication, skill and desire to carry out such campaigns against the U.S. In the case of the HHS incident, officials said outsiders deployed automated users — called bots — to target the public-facing computer system. A source familiar with the investigation into the incident told ABC News that it is thought to be either a widespread campaign to scan HHS systems for vulnerabilities, or possibly a “clumsy” attempt to paralyze public online systems with a flood of visitors, something called distributed denial of service, or DDOS.

National: Shuttered polling places and a dearth of cleaning supplies: Voters confront pandemic-fueled confusion at the polls | Elise Viebeck, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker/The Washington Post

Voters in three states Tuesday confronted shuttered polling places, a lack of cleaning supplies and confused officials struggling to administer an election during a public health crisis, a chaotic situation that voting advocates said created barriers for those trying to participate in the Democratic presidential primary. In Arizona, Florida and Illinois, people seeking to vote encountered significant hurdles that appeared directly related to the coronavirus outbreak, according to interviews with voters and nonpartisan advocates. The three states chose to proceed with their contests this week while a fourth — Ohio — postponed in a controversial, eleventh-hour move on Monday night, citing a “health emergency.” In locations around Chicago, voters arrived at polling places to find no election judges to run the precinct as well as no disinfecting supplies. Some voting locations in Palm Beach County, Fla., had not opened by late morning. And around Arizona, some people were directed to vote at municipal buildings that were otherwise closed to the public, causing confusion. Even in Ohio, some voters showed up at polling sites on Tuesday morning only to learn that in-person voting was delayed until June 2. In some locations, advocates said, no signs were posted to indicate the change. “We’ve been hearing from countless voters who are unsure about the status of voting today,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on a conference call with reporters. Clarke said she had never see anything comparable to the situation in Ohio, where voters “went to bed” on Monday night unsure whether the elections would take place. “It’s unlike anything we have ever seen before,” she said.

National: Election Assistance Commission hires cyber-savvy adviser to support 2020 efforts | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is hiring a senior policy adviser to bolster its cybersecurity work with election officials and voting equipment vendors ahead of the 2020 presidential vote. Maurice Turner is set to join the federal commission at the end of the month as a senior adviser to the executive director, supporting the EAC’s internal operations and programing. Externally, he says he can help the commission with an update to important guidelines for voting systems security, and in supporting states as they set up programs to find and fix software vulnerabilities. “I want election officials to expect that EAC is a place that they can go for this type of information,” Turner told CyberScoop. “Whether it’s about security standards or new methods for election administration.” Turner has spent the last two years working on election security at the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology. He was previously a fellow in the Senate advising the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on cybersecurity issues.

National: Primary states voting Tuesday take steps to limit coronavirus risks | Ben Popken/NBC

The blue painter’s tape issued to poll workers in Cook County, Illinois, has a particularly important use this year: marking off 6-foot increments to make sure people maintain a safe distance from one another. “It is our job to ensure the safety of those around us while we carry out our civic duty today,” tweeted County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. Arizona, Florida and Illinois are proceeding with Tuesday’s primaries, but officials are stressing alternatives, such as voting by mail, and telling voters to be on the lookout for changes due to coronavirus precautions. Polling places are also taking their own precautions in an effort to keep people at least 6 feet apart, the distance recommended by health professionals to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Disruptions have already been reported in each state, with some locations closing or changing and poll workers dropping out because of coronavirus concerns. In Arizona, Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, cut almost 80 polling places due to a lack of sufficient cleaning supplies and to ensure that those sites that remain open have enough poll workers, the county’s board of supervisors announced.

National: Connecticut, other states talk about delaying ‘Acela primary’ | Mark Pazniokas/CT Monitor

Connecticut and the other five northeastern states now scheduled to hold presidential primaries on April 28 are in talks about finding a new date in May or June to accommodate the current ban on large public gatherings due to the coronavirus. “Our primary is very, very late, which ironically was considered a liability by some. Now, it gives us more time to think this through.” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who has talked to Gov. Ned Lamont about a delay. “We don’t need to make that decision now.” The registrars of votes are urging a postponement, and Merrill was scheduled to hold a conference call with the registrars and town clerks Tuesday, followed by a teleconference with the state party chairs, Democrat Nancy Wyman and Republican J.R. Romano. The primary date is set in state law, but Gov. Ned Lamont has authority under his public health emergency declaration to waive laws and regulations. “Only the governor can make that decision. I certainly will have a recommendation,” Merrill said.

National: Election Assistance Commission allows states to use election security funds for cleaning supplies to fight coronavirus | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Tuesday announced it would allow states to use funds allocated by Congress for election security to fight the spread of coronavirus at the polls. The EAC said it would allow states to use the money, which totals over $800 million, to purchase disinfectant wipes, masks and other cleaning supplies in order to lower the risk of voters contracting coronavirus at the polls. “The EAC considers these allowable costs purchased to protect the health and safety of poll workers, staff and voters during federal elections,” the EAC wrote in a notice announcing the change. The funds include $380 million allocated by Congress to states to shore up election security in 2018. It also includes the $425 million given to states as part of the 2020 appropriations cycle, money that has still not been made available but that states are allowed to incur expenses against.

Editorials: Here’s how to guarantee coronavirus won’t disrupt our elections | Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden/The Washington Post

The coronavirus has brought unprecedented disruptions to the daily lives of Americans. Something as commonplace as walking into the grocery store is a troubling reminder that the world is facing a challenge that most of us have never seen before. Our top priority right now is to make sure that people are safe in the face of this global pandemic. Federal, state and local health-care providers and first responders are working overtime to protect people, and we must give them the resources they need to do their jobs. The federal government must also fund testing, vaccine development and economic assistance for those whose lives have been turned upside down. In the midst of this crisis, we must also remember to protect the foundation of our democracy by ensuring that every eligible American can safely cast a ballot in the upcoming elections. The coronavirus should not stop our citizens from casting their ballots. The stakes are high. In less than eight months, elections will be held across the country that determine not only who the president will be but also the outcome of 11 gubernatorial elections, 35 of 100 U.S. Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Primary elections underway across the country will decide who will be on the ballot in November, and we have already seen them affected by this pandemic.

Alabama: Attorney general says runoff election can be postponed, rescheduled | Eddie Burkhalter/AL Reporter

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued an opinion Tuesday that Gov. Kay Ivey can reschedule the March 31 runoff election and the secretary of state can certify the results. Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill had asked for Marshall’s opinion, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the state, prompting concern over exposing the public at voting precincts. In his opinion, Marshall writes that when Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on March 13 she acquired “substantial powers” and “has the authority to postpone a primary runoff election to protect the public health and safety during the proclaimed emergency.”

Georgia: State Tells Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections Not to Use Paper Ballots | Flagpole

Earlier this month, the ACC Board of Elections ordered staff to switch from the new Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting machines to paper ballots. This was a controversial 3-2 vote, with Chair Jesse Evans, Willa Fambrough and new member Rocky Raffle voting in favor, and Charles Knapper and Patricia Till voting against. While some people strongly prefer paper ballots because of election security, the reasoning given by board members was instead about voters’ constitutional right to ballot privacy. Paper ballots make this easier to do; inexpensive manila folders suffice to shield voter’s choices from view, which were used in Athens over the past week. Nevertheless, the decision was controversial. The ACC GOP even circulated a petition to have Evans removed from his position. The board was advised against this action by County Attorney Judd Drake and by Director of Elections Charlotte Sosebee. In Drake’s opinion, it would be very difficult to prove that it was “impossible or impracticable” for Athens to use BMDs as required by state law. Elections in Georgia are done in a uniform manner—counties aren’t free to choose their voting method in this state.

Illinois: Blame game ensues in election hobbled by coronavirus, marred by low turnout | Andy Grimm, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Maureen O’Donnell, Mitch Dudek, and Tom McNamee/Chicago Sun-Times

Chicagoans voted in a virtual ghost town Tuesday, prompting a war of words between government officials and a battle of sorts by an 80-year-old woman who — after visits to three polling places — finally was able to cast her ballot. The voter turnout in Chicago, as throughout the suburbs and most of Illinois, was extremely low because nobody wanted to catch the coronavirus. Voters by the thousands had voted early or by mail. Thousands of others took a pass. By mid-afternoon in Chicago, fewer than half the usual number of ballots had been cast. Voters straggled in off half-empty streets — much of the city was self-isolating — into half-empty polling places that nonetheless weren’t always ready for business. Some polling places had been shifted to new locations on short notice, leaving voters feeling lost and confused. Other polling places opened late. Others were undermanned because COVID-19 had scared off judges. At other polling places, last-minute replacement judges were not sufficiently trained, as anybody could see.

Maryland: Primary moves to June amid coronavirus pandemic; voters to pick Cummings’ replacement by mail in April | Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun

Maryland will postpone its April 28 primary to June 2 because of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Tuesday. The governor is issuing a proclamation Tuesday to move the date of the primary, which includes the Baltimore mayor’s race, U.S. House contests and the presidential primary. Early voting will begin May 21 and run through May 28. “I have two main priorities — keeping Marylanders safe and protecting their constitutional right to vote,” Hogan said at a news conference in Annapolis. Hogan will direct the State Board of Elections to develop a plan by April 3 to carry out the primary that addresses people’s concerns about the election and preventing the further spread of the disease. Meanwhile, a special election in the 7th Congressional District will be held using absentee ballots only. It is to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represented parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. “While there are many valid reasons for unease and uncertainty right now, ensuring that the voices of Maryland citizens are heard shouldn’t be one of them,” the governor said.

Ohio: Democratic Party sues over delay of primary election | Julie Carr Smyth and Dan Sewell/Associated Press

Politicians of all stripes expressed frustration Tuesday after Ohio’s primary was postponed until June by the state’s elected officials amid concerns attendance at polling places would contribute to coronavirus pandemic. The Ohio Democratic Party sued Tuesday afternoon over Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s decision to set a new date, saying that power rests only with the Legislature. Messages were left seeking comment from LaRose, a Republican, and the state attorney general, who represents him. The state’s top health official, Dr. Amy Acton, cited the need to contain the pandemic in calling off the election hours before voters were supposed to cast ballots Tuesday morning. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced the decision late Monday after a judge rejected an administration-backed request that in-person voting be delayed to avoid crowding at polling places that could expose people and deter older voters. LaRose quickly ordered all county election boards to comply. Both DeWine and Acton defended the decision Tuesday afternoon, saying it was needed to save lives. Most people who contract COVID-19 have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.

Ohio: After unprecedented 24 hours, Ohio is first state to delay voting in presidential cycle | Liz Sklaka/Toledo Blade

Ohio elections officials and poll workers are still reeling from Gov. Mike DeWine’s last-minute order to postpone Ohio’s primary and the eleventh-hour court battle that nearly sent them scrambling to put on a statewide election in a matter of hours amid a global pandemic. Months of behind-the-scenes planning to prepare for the primary were swiftly erased by the rapidly spreading coronavirus, which is disrupting every facet of American life, including the nation’s elections. On Tuesday, Ohio became the first state to actually delay voting in the 2020 presidential cycle after the state’s health director, Dr. Amy Acton, declared a health emergency hours before polls were set to open. Four other states that were supposed to vote later this month and into April have also moved their primaries, while the other states voting Tuesday — Arizona, Florida, and Illinois — held their elections amid poll-worker shortages and concerns about turnout. In Ohio, the drama began less than 24 hours before the primary and lasted well into the early morning on Tuesday, when the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an appeal to the governor’s plan at 4 a.m., two and a half hours before polls would have opened. And it continued into Tuesday with talk of pending legal battles that resulted in the Ohio Democratic Party filing a lawsuit in Ohio Supreme Court, arguing the governor and Secretary of State Frank LaRose don’t have the power to reschedule an election. The party is requesting a primary on April 28 instead of June 2.

Ohio: Governor Mike DeWine’s coronavirus-closing order at primary polls spawns confusion | Timothy Bella/The Washington Post

The late-night decision Monday by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) to close the polls in his state due to the “unprecedented public health crisis” surrounding the coronavirus pandemic created a wave of confusion and drew criticism from voting advocates. “We have a constitutional crisis now in Ohio,” tweeted state Rep. Jon Cross, a Republican who vowed to keep the polling locations open in his district in northwest Ohio. He added, “…the Ohio Department of Health can not shut down an election.” DeWine tweeted late Monday that conducting the election on Tuesday, another key Democratic contest between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), “would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus.” DeWine said Amy Acton, the state’s health director, ordered the polls to be closed on Monday. As of early Tuesday, there have been 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus and no reported deaths in Ohio.

Pennsylvania: Primary election should be postponed for coronavirus, officials urge | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

County elections officials from across Pennsylvania are urging the state to postpone the 2020 primary election, currently scheduled for April 28 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Elections administrators from five counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the region hardest hit by the outbreak, are drafting a letter to send to Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of State, which oversees elections, requesting that the primary be delayed until June 23. County officials elsewhere said in interviews that they are making similar pleas to lawmakers and the Wolf administration. “We’re having issues,” said Deborah Olivieri, elections director for Berks County. “Give us the time to do it right.” In addition to public health concerns, the officials say it could be difficult to actually run an election. Some institutions are backing out of serving as polling locations, and some poll workers are saying they can’t work on election day. “We have to be able to literally hold an election,” said Lee Soltysiak, Montgomery County’s chief operating officer and clerk of its elections board. Elections staff have stayed at home as part of a government closure there, and the elections offices in Philadelphia were similarly closed Tuesday and Wednesday this week. That means voters aren’t being registered, absentee ballot applications aren’t being processed, and other election preparations aren’t moving forward.

Pennsylvania: Primary could be postponed due to coronavirus, though law remains murky | Deb Erdley/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

With presidential primaries on hold due to public health concerns in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio, Pennsylvania’s primary scheduled for April 28 could well be the next election victim of the coronavirus. As voters undeterred by the threat of exposure cast ballots Tuesday in special elections in three Pennsylvania legislative districts, including the 58th House District in Westmoreland County, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said officials were weighing whether to change the date of the primary. “The Department of State is having comprehensive discussions about a range of potential options for the April primary election,” Department spokeswoman Wanda Murren said via email. “Those discussions are being held in consultation with the Department of Health, the governor’s office, the legislature and the counties. The department’s focus is on best ways to protect the integrity of the election while safeguarding public health.” Voting rights advocates say such decisions hold serious implications for voters.

Rhode Island: Elections board votes to move primary to June | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

Rhode Island’s Board of Elections is seeking to postpone the April 28 presidential preference primary until June 2 to give the state more time to prepare, if necessary, for a potential COVID-19-driven move to an all mail ballot election. The board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to ask Gov. Gina Raimondo to take all measures necessary — including potentially issuing another emergency executive order — to override the state law that now requires the primary to take place on April 28. Raimondo spokesman Josh Block responded: “She is open to the idea of moving the election date and will rely on guidance from public health and election officials to inform that decision.” The board’s executive director, Robert Rapoza, cited several arguments for a delay. Among them: “Process is currently disrupted because local communities are operating under severe restrictions due to Coronavirus precautions. … April 28 is only 6 weeks away. Outbreak is expected to last longer. Coronavirus situation may improve in May or June. … Protective gear and cleaning supplies may be easier to obtain and provide to the polls.”

Texas: Elections for U.S. Senate runoff, local races in flux amid coronavirus spread | Allie Morris/Dallas Morning News

Texas Democrats are pushing for the May 26 runoff election to be carried out entirely through mail-in ballots, amid fears of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus. The disease is upending the way candidates campaign, with many furiously canceling fundraisers and block walking in favor of virtual events. While Republican Gov. Greg Abbott cited COVID-19 in postponing a special election set for early May, it remains to be seen whether the runoff or other local elections will be similarly delayed. Abbott will be making a decision shortly and said “everything’s on the table.” Past and present election officials caution that shifting the contest to mail-in only, as the Texas Democratic Party is requesting, would be a major undertaking. “It’s hard enough getting people to vote, especially in a runoff election. How are they going to logistically get mail-in ballots to everyone?” said Carlos Cascos, who was Texas Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017. “Pushing it back 30 or 45 days may be the safe harbor to use.” In the runoff election, voters are choosing the Democrat who will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November and party nominees in a slew of other local races. Also at risk are municipal and school board elections scheduled to take place on May 2. Democrats in the runoff for U.S. Senate are focusing campaign efforts online.

Washington: Secretary of State Kim Wyman asks Inslee to cancel April special elections over coronavirus concerns | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to use his emergency authority to cancel the April 28 special elections in response to the new coronavirus. Those elections are scheduled to take place across 18 of Washington’s counties but don’t involve any candidates for office, according to a letter to the governor Tuesday by Wyman. Rather, they give voters choices on proposed bonds and levies. While there is less contact in Washington’s vote-by-mail system compared with other states, she wrote, election planners worry there are too many questions about adequately administering an election. “From courthouse closures, to workforce reductions of election staff, postal staff, or disruptions with vendors who support election operations, circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements,” Wyman wrote. “These include mail processing, voter registration, canvassing results, and certifying an election.”

Russia: U.S. drops charges against accused IRA sponsor over concerns Russia would weaponize evidence | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

U.S. prosecutors said on Monday they would drop criminal charges against two Russian firms accused of funding disinformation efforts ahead of the 2016 election, amid concerns that the companies would weaponize evidence in the trial to boost future operations. The U.S. Department of Justice charged the two companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, in 2018 as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Both shell firms funded Russian efforts to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to divide public opinion in the U.S., prosecutors said. With a trial set to begin April 6, though, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The abrupt change came after U.S. attorneys complained in prior court filings they would need to provide the defendants with some details about the U.S. government’s sources and methods for its national security investigation. Justice Department officials had expressed trepidation over whether Concord would release or somehow use details about its intelligence-collection for the defendants’ own gain, according to the New York Times.

Ohio: Primary vote halted at last minute by health officials amid coronavirus court battle | Daniel Strauss/The Guardian

Heath officials in Ohio have postponed the state’s primary vote just hours before polls were set to open, an 11th-hour decision that came after a judge denied the Governor’s request to postpone the vote because of the coronavirus. Health director Amy Acton declared a health emergency that would prevent the polls from opening out of fear of exposing voters and volunteer poll workers, many of them elderly. Arizona, Florida and Illinois were proceeding with their presidential primaries. Earlier on Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recommended that his state postpone in-person voting during Tuesday’s primary elections. DeWine said he alone did not have the authority to postpone the election, but lawyers would file a lawsuit to try to move the in-person voting date to 2 June. “We cannot conduct this election tomorrow,” DeWine said, adding that Ohioans should not be forced to make the “choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as [an] American citizen”. Later on Monday, in an interview with CNN, DeWine said without drastic moves tens of thousands of pollworkers, many of them “over the age of 65” would be in places where the virus could spread.

National: Audit finds severe vulnerabilities in Voatz mobile voting app | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

An extensive audit published Friday of Voatz, the mobile app that’s been used to collect live ballots from overseas voters in multiple states since early 2018, revealed 16 “severe” technical vulnerabilities. These include sensitive user data being exposed to the company’s developers and improper use of cryptographic algorithms, a blow to a company that has staked its reputation on its use of blockchain technology. The audit confirmed the findings revealed last month by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who found, among other flaws, that Voatz’s use of third-party vendor to authenticate the identity of its users could compromise the anonymity of ballots the app collects. But unlike other reviews of Voatz’s technology, including the MIT study, the new audit, which was prepared by the cybersecurity firm Trail of Bits, was authorized by the company and Tusk Philanthropies, the venture capital-backed foundation that’s been promoting online voting by funding pilot uses of Voatz around the United States for nearly two years. Among the most glaring vulnerabilities Trail of Bits found was that Voatz had been storing authentication key passwords, which are required to release new versions of the app and could give an attacker an opening to masquerade as Voatz to distribute malware. Researchers also criticized Voatz for its reliance on unvalidated client data and weak security procedures, including a lack of insufficient continuous monitoring and risk-assessment plans. The audit’s executive summary chalks up Voatz’s flaws as a result of the company’s rush to get its app to market.

National: Our Full Report on the Voatz Mobile Voting Platform | Trail of Bits Blog

Voatz allows voters to cast their ballots from any geographic location on supported mobile devices. Its mobile voting platform is under increasing public scrutiny for security vulnerabilities that could potentially invalidate an election. The issues are serious enough to attract inquiries from the Department of Homeland Security and Congress. However, there has been no comprehensive security report to provide details of the Voatz vulnerabilities and recommendations for fixing them—until now. Trail of Bits has performed the first-ever “white-box” security assessment of the platform, with access to the Voatz Core Server and backend software. Our assessment confirmed the issues flagged in previous reports by MIT and others, discovered more, and made recommendations to fix issues and prevent bugs from compromising voting security. Trail of Bits was uniquely qualified for this assessment, employing industry-leading blockchain security, cryptographic, DARPA research, and reverse engineering teams, and having previously assessed other mobile blockchain voting platforms. Our security review resulted in seventy-nine (79) findings. A third of the findings are high severity, another third medium severity, and the remainder a combination of low, undetermined, and informational severity.

Read our Voatz security report and threat model for full details.

National: Election Assistance Commission Issues Guidance on Handling Primaries and Caucuses During Coronavirus | Courtney Bublé/Government Executive

As the novel coronavirus outbreak occurs during the presidential primary and caucus season, the nation’s elections information clearinghouse issued guidance last week to mitigate public health risk during voting. The independent and bipartisan Election Assistance Commission, which certifies voting systems and provides best practices in election administration, published a list of resources for state election officials, voting system vendors and federal agencies on Thursday on how to deal with the coronavirus. Primary and caucus season kicked off on Feb. 3 and runs until June 7, which is followed by the Democratic convention in July and the Republican one in August. So far only Louisiana and Georgia have postponed their primaries because of the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said on ABC News on Sunday that it could take “several weeks to a few months” before things go back to normal. Then on Sunday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there should be no large events or mass gatherings with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.

National: Pandemic Planning Should Ensure All Votes Can Be Cast by Mail in November, Experts Say | Robert Mackey/The Intercept

As Ohio’s Governor ordered that his state’s primary be delayed until June, citing the need for social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Democrats and election experts pressed Congress to act immediately on legislation to ensure that voters in all 50 states will be able to cast ballots by mail or vote early in the general election if the public health emergency lasts into November. That is particularly urgent because, as Marc Elias, a lawyer who represents the Democratic Party on voting rights issues, explains, while states can set their own primary days, “the federal general election is set by federal statute as the the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This date cannot be changed by a state nor by the President.” Democratic senators Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, introduced legislation on Monday that would require all states to offer an option for voters to mail in or drop off hand-marked paper ballots if 25 percent of the states have declared a state of emergency related to an infectious disease, like Covid-19, or a natural disaster. “The pandemic could hit like a tsunami,” Wyden told The Intercept by phone from his home in Portland. “How can we tell people, particularly elderly veterans, that they have to choose between their health and their vote?”