National: Senate panel backs assessment that Russia interfered in 2016 election | Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker/Associated Press

A bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday confirms the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to sow chaos. Senators warned that it could happen again this presidential election year. The heavily redacted report from the Senate Intelligence Committee is part of the panel’s more than three-year investigation into the Russian interference. The intelligence agencies concluded in January 2017 that Russians had engaged in cyber-espionage and distributed messages through Russian-controlled propaganda outlets to undermine public faith in the democratic process, hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. President Trump has repeatedly questioned the assessment, which was also confirmed by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his report last year. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

National: Researchers discover how far-right coronavirus protest websites are organized | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

More evidence that a group of conservative political activists is operating a network of websites meant to inflame pandemic-related tension in the U.S. and solicit donations has been uncovered by a Seattle-based cybersecurity company. Threat intelligence firm DomainTools released research Friday indicating that pro-gun activist Aaron Dorr appears to be using widely available software to operate dozens of websites, many of which include “reopen” in the URL. DomainTools researchers have conducted a technical examination of “reopen” sites — like “ReopenMN” and “ReopenWI” — to determine just how consolidated the sites are, despite the appearance that they exist as standalone entities. The sites are registered to local gun advocacy groups and utilize One Click Politics, a digital organizing service that allows a single person to manage dozens of websites, run email promotion and collect money. The network starts with Dorr’s personal website on top, at least 13 gun rights coalition groups on the next level down, and many dozens of state “reopen” sites beneath that, according to DomainTools. “All of the [domains] in our report are tied back to Dorr,” said senior security researcher Chad Anderson.

National: Senate Russia report may inspire last push for election security changes before November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A bipartisan Senate report on Russia’s 2016 hacking operations may be the last major catalyst for lawmakers to make meaningful election security changes before the 2020 contest.  The heavily redacted Senate Intelligence Committee report unanimously endorses the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin was instrumental in directing a wide-ranging hacking and influence effort aimed in part at helping elect President Trump. It’s a bipartisan congressional rebuke of “President Trump’s oft-stated doubts about Russia’s role in the 2016 race,” as my colleague Ellen Nakashima reports.  But it came out the same day Congress passed a $484 billion stimulus bill aimed at aimed at shoring up small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic — which didn’t include any money to make elections more secure during the crisis. And it’s far from clear whether more money will come through in time to help.  It’s the latest disappointment for election security advocates who say far too little has been done since 2016.

United Kingdom: Inside the troubled, glitchy birth of parliament’s online voting app | Chris Stokel-Walker/WIRED UK

A system that allows MPs to vote in parliament while working remotely has been beset by technical and testing issues, according to people familiar with its development. WIRED understands that two tests of the system have taken place this week. One involved around 30 participants, and the second involved several hundred. Altogether, 430 people have tested the voting app, only a handful of them MPs: House of Commons and Lords staff, and workers in the Parliament Digital Services group were also asked to play the role of MPs during the test environment. Messaging about the voting system, which piggybacks on existing parliamentary IT systems, through the MPs MemberHub application, hasn’t been enormously clear. Only a few of the MPs we approached for this story knew that the app existed at all, and fewer still knew of anyone who had partaken in the voting trial. Those who were privy to the trial reported back to authorities that the system struggled to cope with demand from the number of users, particularly on the second, larger test.

National: As coronavirus upends elections, ballot access becomes next point of concern | Meg Cunningham and Kendall Karson/ABC News

As coronavirus continues to upend the election cycle and fights over voter access to the polls weave through the courts, candidate access to ballots has become just as difficult. On Wednesday, Arkansas Voters First and the Campaign Legal Center filed a lawsuit seeking to relieve some of the petitioning requirements needed to qualify for a ballot due to coronavirus. Ballot initiatives, which only make it to the ballot if enough voters sign a petition to qualify it to do so, are often the source of legal changes in a state which do not go through the legislature. Without the ability to collect signatures or canvass in-person, the plaintiffs argue that ballot initiatives won’t make it onto the ballot for voters to decide, putting democracy at risk. The issue at play is the enactment of a non-partisan redistricting commission which would redraw the state’s districts, instead of the state legislature.

National: Coronavirus will necessitate recruitment effort unseen since World War II to staff voting booths, election official warns | Jon Ward/Yahoo News

States will face severe shortages of election workers for November’s presidential election and will need to find new ones because of the coronavirus, the top elections official in Washington state said Wednesday. “As a nation we are going to need to do the biggest recruitment effort, probably since World War II — in terms of personnel — to staff polling places and voting centers and election processing warehouses,” said Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state. Wyman testified via teleconference during a meeting of the Election Assistance Commission, a federal government agency created in 2002. She told the commissioners that she expects her state and most others to lose a majority of their traditional poll workers, who tend to be older and therefore at greater risk of infection.  “Most of our seasonal workers come from people who are 65 and older, and we know that out of the gate we are going to lose between half and two-thirds of our workforce and we’re going to have to rebuild that nationally,” Wyman said.

National: The vote by mail fault lines that could define November’s election | Kendall Karson/ABC

The ongoing legal wrangling over voting rights and access, an issue that has become an undercurrent of the 2020 election, foreshadows some of the expected clashes to come ahead of November’s uncertain general election. The quarrels center on expanding mail voting as states adjust to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, particularly in key battlegrounds that could tip the scales of the upcoming presidential contest. In states such as Georgia, Texas, Nevada and Florida, among others, state and party leaders are seeking to change the way people vote to avoid a similar fate as Wisconsin, where a series of emergency orders and legal challenges earlier this month culminated in thousands of voters risking their health to stand in long lines for hours to vote. Since Wisconsin’s election, state health officials said Tuesday that 19 people who have either voted in-person or worked at a polling site on election day have so far tested positive for COVID-19 after April 9, two days after the spring election — underscoring the potential risks of forging ahead with an in-person voting during the height of the widespread and deadly public health crisis.

California: Here’s why Los Angeles County plans in-person voting during coronavirus crisis while Riverside, Orange went all-mail | Ryan Carter/Los Angeles Daily News

On May 12, Los Angeles County voters will decide who replaces former Rep. Katie Hill for her remaining term in Congress. Despite countywide “stay at home” orders spurred by the coronavirus outbreak, nine polling places will be available for residents to register and cast their ballots in person. Meanwhile, Riverside County plans its own May 12 special election in the 28th Senate District, but it will be mail-only with no in-person balloting. And Orange County will stage a May 19 City Council recall election in Santa Ana. Initially, the registrar positioned it as a mostly mail vote. But since then, citing “risks to public health,” the Board of Supervisors decreed a mail-only election, canceling early in-person voting options that were set to begin on May 9. All three elections were decreed under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 20 executive order. Newsom’s office acknowledges the pandemic risk at polling stations and required that mail-in ballots be sent to all registered voters. But he also “authorized and encouraged” elections officials to give voters in-person options, if they can be made safe.

Florida: Mail voting expected to ‘explode’ in Florida as coronavirus reshapes 2020 elections | David Smiley/Miami Herald

In Florida, a state where the steady rise of mail voting has dramatically transformed the campaign season over the last 20 years, the novel coronavirus could fast-forward the evolution of elections. Elections offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — home to more than a quarter of Florida’s 13.2 million voters — are preparing to send vote-by-mail registration forms to every voter in those counties amid worries that the virus will disrupt in-person voting this summer and fall. Elections supervisors and political organizations around the state asked Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks ago to provide flexibility under state law to help them administer the upcoming elections. They’re still waiting for an answer, and in the meantime are widely encouraging voting at home — even as President Donald Trump, a Florida resident, has called for restrictions. “My push for vote by mail isn’t political in any way,” said Wendy Sartory Link, elections supervisor in Palm Beach County, Trump’s home county. “It’s just safety. It’s a safety-driven measure.” But a significant spike in mail voting in the nation’s largest swing state could have political implications for the 2020 elections and affect campaigns for years to come by pushing a larger percentage of the vote into the weeks before Election Day.

Georgia: Lawsuit seeks another Georgia primary delay amid coronavirus | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A federal lawsuit is seeking emergency changes to Georgia’s June 9 primary election — including another postponement and a switch to hand-marked paper ballots — because of the health risk from the coronavirus. The lawsuit, filed Monday by an election integrity group and five voters, said Georgia’s new voting touchscreens could spread the illness to voters at precincts.Though unprecedented numbers of voters are expected to mail their ballots this election, in-person voting locations must remain open, according to state law. More than 586,000 voters had requested absentee ballots through Monday.A judge should delay Georgia’s primary by three weeks, abandon touchscreens, allow curbside voting, create mobile “pop up” early-voting locations, permit vote centers on election day and provide protective equipment to poll workers, the lawsuit said.

Indiana: Voting rights advocates call on Election Commission to provide more flexibility | Erica Irish/Goshen News

Indiana voting rights advocates joined an Indiana Election Commission meeting Wednesday to push for expanded flexibility in the upcoming state primary, which was moved to June 2 last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, told the commission members at their third virtual Zoom meeting that while their decision to move the primary date and to expand absentee voting were positive first steps, Hoosiers need more options. “You are operating in unprecedented times, and you really need to be thinking creatively and in ways that you probably never envisioned having to think about in the administration of elections in Indiana,” Vaughn said. “It’s going to be a challenging election period for voters, for election administrators, for county-level officials.”

Louisiana: Emergency plan for delayed elections gains approval after this change | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

Two key Republican-led legislative committees and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards have agreed on an emergency plan for the delayed spring elections, after GOP lawmakers rolled back the number of reasons people could access mail-in ballots that were included in an initial plan debated last week. GOP lawmakers on the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, who balked at the original plan because they claimed the expansion of mail-in ballots would invite voter fraud into the elections, approved the revised plan unanimously Wednesday morning. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee later approved the plan on an 11-5 vote. It also needs the approval of the full House and Senate. The new plan, submitted by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, reduces the number of reasons people can qualify for an absentee ballot out of concern for the coronavirus. Originally, the plan would have allowed absentee ballots for those 60 or older, those subject to a stay-at-home order, those unable to appear in public due to concern of exposure or transmission of COVID-19, or those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus.

Nevada: Conservative lawsuit seeks to stop mail-in primary | Colton Lochhead/Las Vegas Review-Journal

A conservative vote-monitoring group wants Nevada to scrap its plans to conduct a mail-in primary election in June, claiming it violates the U.S. Constitution and would open the state up to voter fraud. Attorneys for True the Vote filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday challenging Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s plans to shift to an all-mail primary amid coronavirus concerns. In its complaint, the group says the plan “strips vital anti-vote-fraud safeguards” that exist with in-person voting that “allow local poll workers and watchers to monitor who is voting and deny voting and issue challenges if appropriate.” Cegavske made the move to a mail primary because of increased risk and mitigation efforts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of her plan includes opening up one in-person polling place in each county. In normal elections, voters would have to request an absentee ballot. The group says that eliminating that requesting process creates “fraud potential of having unrequested, perhaps unexpected ballots arriving around the state.” That could lead to ballots being ignored or left in a pile of letters, which “invites ballot fraud.”

Pennsylvania: Why some election officials oppose a mail-only primary: ‘Considerable potential for serious problems’ | Ivey DeJesus/Patriot-News

Pennsylvania last year expanded access to voting by mail. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law giving voters the option to vote by mail without having to explain why they can’t cast a ballot in person. Now amid concerns over the highly contagious coronavirus pandemic, some of the state’s largest counties want the upcoming June 2 primary to be carried out exclusively via mail-in ballot. The idea is to do away with in-person voting, which could put poll workers as well as voters at risk of exposure to the coronavirus. More than 34,000 people in Pennsylvania have contracted the virus and more than 1,500 have died, according to the state Department of Health. The proposal already has support among some officials in Allegheny County as well as some of the hardest COVID-19-hit suburban Philadelphia counties, including Montgomery and Chester. But the proposal has engendered some opposition – particularly across central Pennsylvania.

South Carolina: Citing coronavirus, DCCC sues State to allow vote by mail | Emma Dumain/The State

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is leading a lawsuit against the South Carolina Election Commission to allow residents to vote by mail in elections through the end of the year amid fears that coronavirus-related social distancing mandates will still be in place in the coming months. The national party’s main fundraising apparatus for U.S. House candidates filed the suit Wednesday asking the state to expand absentee voting opportunities in advance of the scheduled June 9 primary and November general election. “Our leaders should be using every available tool to ensure South Carolina voters don’t have to choose between protecting their health and participating in our democracy,” DCCC chairwoman Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said in a statement announcing the suit. “We’ll keep fighting to ensure voters can safely and freely participate in our democracy during this time of uncertainty.” Under current South Carolina law, all voters can request and cast absentee ballots. They must, however, have a specific excuse that adheres to a set of more than a dozen, established reasons for not being able to vote in person on Election Day.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission Attorney Shares Office with ES&S Lobbyist | Jackson Baker/Memphis Flyer

In advance of a scheduled meeting Thursday afternoon at which county Election Administrator Linda Phillips is expected to reveal her preference for a vendor of new election machines for Shelby County, proponents of hand-marked voting devices expressed alarm over a potential link between an Election Commission lawyer and one of the vendors bidding on the county contract. The ES&S company, vendor of the controversial Diebold election machines now in use county elections and known to be a bidder for the contract on behalf of a line of devices that mark ballots by mechanical means, is represented by the lobbying firm of MNA Government Relations, which leases space in its Nashville office to the Memphis-Nashville law firm of Harris-Shelton. Both John Ryder and Pablo Varela, attorneys for the Election Commission, are principals of the law firm, and Ryder’s name appears in tandem with that of MNA on the interactive glass register in the lobby of Nashville’s Bank of America Building. Upstairs on the 10th floor, a metal plaque outside the office door of MNA lists the two companies together, with the company name of MNA followed by a forward slash and then the name of the law firm. [See photos.]

Virginia: State Senate blocks Northam’s proposal to move May elections to November amid push for June alternative | Local News | Amy Friedenberger /Roanoke Times

Gov. Ralph Northam’s effort to move the May municipal elections to November failed late Wednesday after the state Senate rejected his recommendation. Northam wanted to postpone the May 5 elections to Nov. 3, along with the presidential and congressional contests, out of concern about people voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Most Democrats supported his proposal, but it gave Republicans and a few Democrats pause. Under Northam’s plan, absentee ballots that already have been cast would have been destroyed, and people would have to vote again in November. Elected officials’ with terms expiring June 30 would have seen those terms extended. The House of Delegates narrowly approved Northam’s recommendation 47-45, but the Senate declined to take up the proposal. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats. Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, who opposed Northam’s recommendation, said he was preparing legislation that he’d like to be considered in a special session. He would have proposed the May elections be moved to June 16 and that the party primary scheduled for June 9 be delayed to July 28.

West Virginia: Legislators call for mail-only voting for primary election, Warner says current options are safe | Lacie Pierson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia Democratic legislators are asking Gov. Jim Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner to go one step further in making voting accessible amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic during the 2020 election cycle. A group of legislators on Wednesday sent out a news release asking Gov. Jim Justice to declare the state’s June 9 Primary Election a vote-by-mail-only election, as opposed to the current situation that allows all eligible West Virginia voters the option to vote absentee through the mail. In response to the call-out from the legislators, Secretary of State Mac Warner said he was not an advocate for West Virginia becoming a vote-by-mail-only state, and he wouldn’t implement such a system unless the state Legislature passed a law requiring him to do so. The legislators’ news release didn’t have exact details about how mail-only voting would work other than making it so voters wouldn’t have to physically go to a polling place to cast their vote.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee Council votes to mail absentee ballot applications | Alison Dirr/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a program under which all of the city’s approximately 300,000 registered voters would receive an application for an absentee ballot in the mail.      

The “SafeVote” program also provides voters with a postage-paid return envelope so they can participate in the fall election. The measure was proposed by new Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic and passed at her first meeting on the Common Council. The resolution notes thousands of people turned out to vote in person earlier this month in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused government officials to limit the number of people who can gather under other circumstances. In Milwaukee, some residents reported waiting in line for more than two hours to cast their ballots at the city’s five in-person polling locations.

Wisconsin: ‘They should have done something’: Broad failures fueled Wisconsin’s absentee ballot crisis, investigation shows | By Daphne Chen, Catharina Felke, Elizabeth Mulvey and Stephen Stirling(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In Lodi and Pewaukee, voters were told the system for requesting absentee ballots crashed. In Marshfield, Shorewood and Bristol, voters threw up their hands after spending hours in front of computers trying to request a ballot. In Milwaukee and Green Bay, dozens of couples said one member of their household received a ballot while the other didn’t. “Nobody cared,” said Brenda Lewis, a 61-year-old Delafield resident who said her local clerk could find no record of her or her husband ever requesting an absentee ballot, even though both of them had. “They should have done something, some sort of public service (announcement), something, just something,” Lewis said. “But nobody did.” An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the PBS series FRONTLINE and Columbia Journalism Investigations into Wisconsin’s missing ballot crisis reveals a system leaking from all sides, buckling under the weight of a global pandemic and partisan bickering that kept the logistics of Election Day up in the air until less than a day before polls opened. Inadequate computer systems, overwhelmed clerks and misleading ballot information hampered Wisconsin’s historic — and historically troubling — spring election.