National: Chaos in primary elections offers troubling signs for November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Sometimes-chaotic primary elections across eight states and the District of Columbia foreshadowed challenges that could undermine the security and legitimacy of the general election in November. There were signs of dangerous shortcuts and workarounds, especially in the District where officials couldn’t get mail-in ballots out to everyone who requested them and resorted to accepting emailed ballots. Security experts warn such ballots are highly vulnerable to hacking because voters can’t verify they were recorded accurately. That was the biggest security concern on a night that was also marked by hours-long lines for in-person voting, last-minute extensions for absentee voting, and anxiety about going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, which prompted curfews in some places including Washington and Philadelphia. The good news was that Department of Homeland Security officials said they hadn’t seen any signs of cyberattacks or significant disinformation campaigns from Russia or elsewhere as of a midday briefing. But they warned that disinformation attacks in particular might take more time to identify. Overall, the day produced a middling report card for election officials, with one big note: Needs improvement before November.

Editorials: I Know Voting Feels Inadequate Right Now – Just hear me out. | Stacey Abrams/The New York Times

Voting feels inadequate in our darkest moments. I recognize that. When you’re watching a man’s death on a video loop, hearing him say “I can’t breathe.” When those words echo what another man said in his last moments, his life also taken by the police. When a woman who saved lives is shot dead in her home in a botched police raid. When a black man is murdered for jogging, his killers left free to celebrate. When you know there is a list of deaths so long that most people can’t keep all the names in their head. To say that the answer is to go cast a ballot feels not just inadequate, but disrespectful. “Go vote” sounds like a slogan, not a solution. Because millions of us have voted. And too many still die. The moment requires many things of each one of us. What I am focused on is the work of showing people, in concrete ways, what voting gets us. And being honest about how much work voting requires.

National: Presidential Campaigns Targeted by Suspected Chinese, Iranian Hackers | Robert McMillan/Wall Street Journal

Campaign staffers working on the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been targeted with online attacks coming from Iran and China respectively, Google said, in a sign that the meddling four years ago in the U.S. presidential election by Russia could be pursued more widely this time. Google said Thursday that the staffers were targeted with so-called phishing attacks that often are an attempt to gain access to online email accounts. They raise the specter of a repeat of the 2016 campaign, during which Russian hackers stole information from Democratic staffers and posted them online. While neither China nor Iran are thought to have previously engaged in the kind of hacking and public dumping of emails that disrupted Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign four years ago, some cybersecurity experts believe that Russia’s success in 2016 may spur copycat activity. The fact that the attacks targeted campaign staff should put campaigns on alert for a possible attempt to hack and dump information, said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “It should be a major red flag.”

National: Senate panel approves legislation requiring campaigns to report foreign election help | Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb/CNN

The Senate Intelligence Committee quietly approved on Wednesday a measure that would require presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election influence to federal authorities, a move taken in response to Russian election interference in 2016 and one that could draw the attention of President Donald Trump, committee sources say. Senate Republicans, however, are preparing to remove the provision from the bill when it heads to the Senate floor. The committee adopted the measure behind closed doors in a classified setting, adding it to the Intelligence Authorization Act, a bill setting policy for the intelligence community. The amendment was offered by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat and the author of the standalone legislation, and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It passed 8-7, with Collins joining the panel’s seven Democrats.

National: Confusion, long lines at some poll sites as eight U.S. states vote during coronavirus pandemic | John Whitesides and Jarrett Renshaw/Reuters

Confusion, complaints of missing mail-in ballots and long lines at some polling centers marred primary elections on Tuesday in eight states and the District of Columbia, the biggest test yet of voting during the coronavirus outbreak. The most extensive balloting since the pandemic sparked lockdowns in mid-March served as a dry run for the Nov. 3 general election. It offered a glimpse of the challenges ahead on a national scale if that vote is conducted under a lingering threat from COVID-19. All of the states voting on Tuesday encouraged or expanded mail-in balloting as a safe alternative during the outbreak, and most sharply reduced the number of in-person polling places as officials struggled to recruit workers to run them. That led to record numbers of mail-in ballots requested and cast in many states, along with complaints over not receiving requested ballots and questions about where to vote after polling places were consolidated. Pennsylvania and three of the other states voting – Indiana, Maryland and Rhode Island – had delayed their nominating contests from earlier in the year to avoid the worst of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 106,000 people in the United States. Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and the District of Columbia also voted on Tuesday.

National: Google: Biden and Trump campaigns targeted by separate spearphishing campaigns | Shannon Vavra/CyberScoop

Hackers linked with China and Iran have been sending malicious spearphishing emails to staff on Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s campaigns respectively, according to a researcher with Google’s Threat Analysis Group. Chinese government-linked hackers have been targeting Biden’s staffers, whereas Iranian government-linked hackers have been targeting Trump’s campaign, according to Shane Huntley, the Director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group. There is no evidence that the hacking attempts have resulted in compromises, Huntley said. This is just the latest warning from security researchers and the U.S. intelligence community that foreign government-backed hackers are interested in targeting various U.S. presidential campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, in what is turning out to be a tumultuous year for American citizens amid economic turmoil, the coronavirus pandemic, and mass protests about racism. “The Trump campaign has been briefed that foreign actors unsuccessfully attempted to breach the technology of our staff,” the Trump campaign told CyberScoop in a statement. “We are vigilant about cybersecurity and do not discuss any of our precautions.”

Editorials: Bill Barr’s strategy to undermine confidence in the 2020 election | Perry Grossman/Slate

We are in the midst of a lethal pandemic. There are also unprecedented protests against police brutality and curfews in place. And the attorney general of the United States is using his time to actively undermine confidence in the integrity of the November elections by floating nonsense conspiracy theories about counterfeit absentee ballots. Republican attempts at voter suppression are nothing new. What’s new is the chaos element that Barr’s remarks inject into the 2020 election cycle. It’s an attempt to foment a climate in which Trumpian authoritarianism can take center stage over liberal democracy. For decades, Republicans have used false claims of voter fraud to justify voter suppression efforts. For example, in the 1981 race for governor of New Jersey, the Republican National Committee and the state party executed a voter-caging scheme by mailing out letters targeting thousands of primarily Black and Latinx New Jersey voters using an outdated voter registration list. They then used the bounced-back mail to try to purge those voters from the rolls. That same year, Republicans deployed a group of off-duty police officers wearing armbands identifying themselves as members of the “National Ballot Security Task Force,” armed and carrying walkie-talkies, to patrol polling places in minority neighborhoods on Election Day. They posted signs reading: “WARNING THIS AREA IS BEING PATROLLED BY THE NATIONAL BALLOT SECURITY TASK FORCE.” These tactics resulted in a consent decree against the RNC’s “ballot security” programs that remained in place for the next 25 years, but Democrats lost that 1981 gubernatorial race by fewer than 2,000 votes.

Editorials: Will We Actually Get To Vote in November? | Sue Halpern/The New Yorker

I’ve kept a copy of Timothy Snyder’s book “On Tyranny” on my desk since it was published, in 2017. It’s a small volume—the cover is about the size of an index card. Most of the time, it’s buried under stacks of paper from stories I’ve been working on. Snyder is a historian of the Holocaust and of fascism, at Yale, and this book, subtitled “Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” is a claxon rung to get our attention. “Listen up,” Snyder seems to be saying to Americans. “Tyranny, fascism, authoritarianism could happen here, too.” The juxtaposition of those two things—Snyder’s book, which was published shortly after Donald Trump took office, and my stack of papers, which focus mostly on aspects of American democracy—has not been lost on me. If it were simply a contest of words, and the contest were confined to my desk, democracy would be winning. But we know this is not the case. American democracy is imperilled, and not just because of Trump and Trumpism but because of an ingrained and widely shared belief that the Founders of this country insulated us from the excesses of government with the power of the ballot. We heard it the other day from Representative John Lewis, the civil-rights leader and icon. “To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country,” Lewis said, “I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive.” These are vital words, earned words, wise words. But they also come from an abiding trust that, no matter what, the electoral system many of us were born into, and others, like Lewis, had to bleed for, will prevail.

California: Newsom orders new California in-person voting rules for November election | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave California counties permission on Wednesday to limit their in-person voting operations for the Nov. 3 election as protection against the spread of the coronavirus — but only if they also offer three days of early voting, a tradeoff some local officials said could be expensive and challenging. The decision, detailed in an executive order, came almost one month after Newsom instructed California counties to mail each of the state’s 20.6 million voters an absentee ballot for the upcoming election. In doing so, he noted that voting locations would still be provided, primarily for voters with disabilities and those seeking assistance in a language other than English. But Newsom’s earlier executive order, issued May 8, didn’t address where and when to set up voting sites, leaving elections officials in limbo on plans for the upcoming presidential election. The cost to implement the latest guidelines could be substantial, exceeding the federal dollars already earmarked for election assistance during the pandemic and further straining county government budgets stretched thin by public health and safety spending.

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting & California Voter Foundation’s Letter of Concern regarding California’s November election

The California Voter Foundation and Verified Voting are writing to express technological and security concerns about your bill, AB 860, which requires all counties to mail every registered voter a vote-bymail ballot for the November 3 Presidential Election. We appreciate all the hard work and negotiations that have gone into crafting both AB 860 and its companion bill, SB 423 and hope these comments help strengthen your proposal as well as planning for November.

Provisional voting and VoteCal

While we support the plan to mail every registered voter a ballot during this uncertain time, doing so may also result in widespread use of provisional voting in order to keep voters who received a mailed ballot from being able to cast an additional ballot.

Counties could minimize the need for provisional ballots if they have access to real-time connectivity from voting sites to VoteCal, California’s statewide voter registration database, and can verify the voter’s mailed ballot has not already been received and also cancel that ballot to prevent double-voting.

During the March Primary, VoteCal was inaccessible for periods during the morning and evening to several counties on Election Day, dramatically slowing down the voting process during those times. Los Angeles County’s technical issues, including problems syncing county voter data with VoteCal, contributed to long lines and hours-long wait times in some locations. If all counties will be depending on VoteCal for November to verify whether ballots have already been cast, it is imperative that this database be load- and stress-tested well in advance to ensure it can handle the amount of traffic that may occur when potentially thousands of voting sites across the state attempt to access the database in real time.

District of Columbia: D.C.’s use of email voting shows what could go wrong in November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The District of Columbia’s last-minute decision to allow voting by email in this week’s primary is sounding warning bells for election security hawks. The practice puts election results at higher risk of hacking because there’s no way for voters to verify their votes were recorded accurately, they say. And the scramble is a disturbing preview of how election officials beset by challenges may bargain away security if they’re not better prepared by November. “Between now and November, the D.C. board and any other jurisdiction that’s paying attention to what happened [Tuesday] needs to be absolutely focusing their energies on ramping up voting by mail capacities,” Edward Perez, global director of technology development at OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology organization, told me. “And they need to do it now, now, now. Not in July or August, and definitely not in September.”

Georgia: State gets fresh start on election security, but risks remain | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The security surrounding Georgia’s new voting system is code-named Project Beskar, a reference to impenetrable steel from “Star Wars.” Georgia election officials say the protections are strong enough to safeguard votes from hacking attempts or tampering, with upgraded voting equipment that adds a paper ballot for the first time in 18 years.But election security experts aren’t convinced. They say the system remains vulnerable because it still relies on electronics and retains a link to the internet. They fear computer-generated paper ballots will prove to be meaningless if most voters fail to check them for accuracy.Across Georgia, all voters who go to the polls to cast ballots in the June 9 primary will use the $104 million system, which features fresh touchscreens, printers, check-in tablets and tabulation servers. Old equipment has been put in storage, never to be touched by voters again. Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the installation of the voting system, said it’s independent from any potential flaws in Georgia’s outdated electronic voting machines. Even if they had been compromised, Sterling said the old computers wouldn’t contaminate the new ones.

Indiana: Republican state leaders may limit use of mail-in ballots for November general election | Dan Carden/NWITimes

Hoosiers who appreciated the convenience and safety of voting by mail in Tuesday’s primary election may nevertheless be forced to cast their ballot in-person, at a polling place, for the Nov. 3 general election. Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson declined to say Wednesday whether mail-in voting will continue to be available to all Hoosiers in future elections, or if the opportunity to vote by mail again will be limited to only those with a specific excuse for being unable to vote in person. The Indiana Election Commission authorized no excuse mail-in voting for this year’s rescheduled primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic and based on the bipartisan recommendation of the leaders of Indiana’s Republican and Democratic parties. Since that time, however, Republican President Donald Trump repeatedly has called on states to scrap mail-in voting, by claiming — without evidence — the mail-in process, which Trump used to cast his own primary election ballot in Florida, is riddled with fraud.

Maryland: Another election, another call for Maryland administrator Linda H. Lamone to resign | Jean Marbella/Baltimore Sun

If Maryland elections administrator Linda H. Lamone seemed unperturbed by calls to resign in the wake of ballot errors and on-again, off-again reporting of returns from Tuesday’s primary election, it might be because she’s survived worse over the course of her 23-year tenure. The Democrat, appointed to the post in 1997, beat back attempts to oust her by the administration of the last Republican governor. Since then, she has been protected by legislation that came to be known as the “Linda Lamone for Life” bill that made future attempts to remove her even more difficult. But her defenders say it is Lamone’s competence rather than any law that has kept her in office through multiple administrations and massive changes in how we vote. Over the course of her career, Maryland has gone from paper to electronic and back to paper, introduced early voting and now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, shifted to a mostly vote-by-mail system. “I would want to be in a foxhole with her anytime,” said former state Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Democrat and an attorney in private practice. Maloney represented Lamone in 2004 when the State Board of Elections suspended her and tried to have her removed from office, something he and Democratic officeholders charged was politically motivated.

Maryland: Officials Want to Remove State’s Top Elections Administrator. It’s Not So Easy | Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters

Maryland’s top elections administrator should retire in the wake of glitches and mishaps surrounding Tuesday’s primary election, Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) said Wednesday. Late ballots, errors in results reporting and a slew of other issues have some officials fed up with longtime Maryland Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone. Rutherford, along with Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), called for new elections leadership during a Wednesday Board of Public Works meeting. “I hesitate to ask for anyone’s resignation, but I think it’s time for some retirements and new leadership,” Franchot said. “There’s something going on over there that is just completely unacceptable.” Franchot said he’d also like to see the Baltimore City elections administrator, Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., gone. Problems in Maryland’s first vote-by-mail primary began long before Tuesday, when a limited number of polling places opened. Ballots were delivered later than expected in parts of Baltimore City and Montgomery County, and many were deemed “undeliverable” by the United States Postal Service.

Michigan: Absentee voting push won’t cause mass election fraud, election experts say | Malachi Barrett/MLive

A push to promote absentee voting as a safer alternative during the coronavirus pandemic is not expected to produce widespread fraud, according to election experts, despite President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on mail-in voting in Michigan and other states. Concerns about the potential for COVID-19 to spread through polling places in the August and November elections motivated Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to mail every registered voter an application to obtain an absentee ballot. The president quickly condemned the decision in a series of statements linking no-reason absentee voting to partisan election interference, claims that are considered misleading and possibly harmful by election clerks and researchers in Michigan. Testifying before Congres Wednesday, Benson said there is little evidence of election fraud in Michigan, but “in the rare times it does occur, we catch it and we prosecute it.” Benson, a Democrat, said she anticipates more politicalized attempts to confuse voters about the process of absentee voting and cause residents to “doubt the sanctity of our elections and question the accuracy of the results.” The secretary of state said attempts to misinform Michigan voters about their right to vote by mail are “antithetical to our democracy.”

Michigan: Secretary of State wants $40M from feds to hold election during COVID-19 | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told federal lawmakers Wednesday that the $11.2 million in CARES Act Funding appropriated to Michigan for election challenges posed by the coronavirus is not enough. Benson told the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary that she still needs roughly $40 million more to adjust election procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Democracy can and will survive this pandemic, but we need your ongoing help,” the Detroit Democrat said. The testimony comes nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened Michigan funding over Benson’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to qualified Michigan voters ahead of the August and November elections. The state already allows voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason. Benson announced Tuesday that she will mail all of Michigan’s 7.7 million voters an absentee voter application, an effort first employed in the May 5 election to curb in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Missouri: Governor signs bill that expands mail-in voting options for August, November elections | Crystal Thommas/The Kansas City Star

All Missourians will be eligible to vote by mail during the August and November elections, under a bill signed by Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday. A majority of voters, however, will need to have their ballot notarized under the new law, which expires at the end of the year. The legislation was passed to give Missourians more options to vote in the face of a possible resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the summer and fall. “Any Missourian affected by COVID-19 should still be able to vote, including those who are sick or considered at-risk,” Parson said in a statement. Voters who fall within “at-risk” categories as defined in the law can vote absentee and will not need notary approval. Those include those 65 or older, immunocompromised, or have certain chronic or respiratory illnesses.

Mississippi: Secretary of State says existing law allows mail-in voting expansion during coronavirus pandemic. Is that enough? | Bobby Harrison/Mississippi Today

A section of existing Mississippi law could be used to allow some people to vote early by mail to avoid coronavirus exposure at the polls in November, Secretary of State Michael Watson told legislators Wednesday. Mississippi is one of six states nationwide that have not taken steps to expand voting by mail because of the coronavirus. The House and Senate Elections committees held a joint hearing on Wednesday regarding voting issues in November if the coronavirus is still a concern. In the hearing, Watson said it should be up to local circuit clerks in each county to determine whether a person could vote early under a provision of law that says people with a temporary disability can vote early by mail or in person. But Watson, who is the state’s chief elections officer, said he opposed a blanket expansion of vote by mail, though he said he would support an expansion to allow people to vote early in person at local courthouses.

Montana: Mail ballot election goes well, but a general election by mail isn’t certain in Montana | Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette

Montana’s first mail-ballot primary election set records for participation and the went fairly well, but it would take a fall emergency to set up a mail ballot general election. That’s because there’s no language in Montana law supporting a mail ballot general election. The exception would be another order by Gov. Steve Bullock giving counties the option of a mail ballot election to protect public health. “It is too early to tell what, if any, steps will need to be taken in the general election to protect the public’s health, while protecting the right to vote,” said Marissa Perry, Bullock’s communications director. “As he did in issuing the primary directive, Gov. Bullock will consult with county election administrators, public health experts, emergency management professionals, the Secretary of State, and political leaders from both parties to determine the safest way to proceed once more is known about how the virus could impact communities in the fall.” More to the point, said state Sen. Doug Cary, R-Billings, the governor’s executive order that triggered the mail ballot primary has a July expiration date. Bullock would need a new, 120-day order to raise the option of a mail ballot general election. The Bullock administration said Thursday that the governor’s current emergency order will last as long as the president’s. The normal, 120-day expiration rule doesn’t apply.

North Dakota: Judge grants order requiring notice, remedy process for mail-in ballots rejected for signature issues | David Olson/Grand Forks Herald

A federal judge has granted an injunction in a suit that sought protections for mail-in ballots that get rejected for signature issues. The injunction, granted Wednesday, June 3, bars North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger and other election officials from rejecting any mail-in ballot on the basis of a “signature mismatch” without having in place adequate notice and remedy procedures. The order is in place for the primary election set for Tuesday, June 9, and may apply to the general election on Nov. 3. The injunction was requested by the League of Women Voters of North Dakota and other plaintiffs, who argued that the state’s election process does not notify voters when their ballot is rejected due to a technical error such as a signature mismatch and that there is no method for voters to fix such situations.

Ohio: House acts to block changes in Ohio election dates | Jim Provance/Toledo Blade

The Ohio House voted along party lines Thursday to prohibit the governor or any other elected or appointed official from altering the date, time, and manner of an election set in law. In so doing the House joins the Senate in responding to the decision by Gov. Mike DeWine and his health director, Dr. Amy Acton, to issue an emergency health order shutting down polling places just hours before they were to open for the primary election on March 17. The bill passed by a vote of 61-34 with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition. Coming early in the state’s response to rising coronavirus infections, the governor’s unprecedented move was designed to reduce the threat of spread among voters and poll workers, many of whom are older Ohioans deemed at greater risk to complications from the disease. The bill leaves in place current authorization for a governor to postpone an election for up to six months in the case of an enemy attack.

Ohio: Lawmakers advance elections bill while removing language that rolled back early voting | Andrew J. Tobias/Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio lawmakers dramatically overhauled an elections bill on Wednesday, stripping controversial language that would have rolled back early voting for the November election. The House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday voted 8-4 to advance an amended version of House Bill 680, referring it to the full House for approval. Republicans on the committee voted ‘yes,’ Democrats voted ‘no.’ Committee members removed language that would have prohibited Secretary of State Frank LaRose from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in Ohio for the upcoming election, something that’s been done for every presidential and gubernatorial election since 2012. Instead, they authorized him to use federal funding to pay for the mailing, which will cost $1.3 million. Lawmakers also removed language that elections officials and voting-rights advocates believed would have eliminated early, in-person voting for the final three days before Election Day.

Pennsylvania: Provisional ballots adding to delay in primary results | Emily Previti/PA Post

Pennsylvania election officials in jurisdictions home to at least 5 million voters don’t expect to have unofficial results for the 2020 primary until the end of this week or, in some cases, next week. And some are warning that it could take even longer to count votes this fall unless steps are taken in the interim. A surge in vote-by-mail is the main reason why primary results will take days to compile. The state’s largest counties — Philadelphia and Allegheny — are among seven counties total that will accept mailed ballots until June 9, thanks to an extension issued by Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday. Officials in most of those jurisdictions – where more than 300,000 ballots hadn’t yet been returned as of Wednesday – say the public shouldn’t expect full unofficial results until at least June 10. Among the commonwealth’s other 60 counties, at least a dozen hadn’t plowed through their stack of absentee and mail-in ballots by the end of the day Wednesday, though most hoped to finish  by Friday. In all 60, ballots were due by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Tennessee: Judge: Tennessee must allow vote by mail for all amid virus | John Mattise/Associated Press

Tennessee must give all of its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, a judge ruled Thursday. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The decision upends a determination by Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls wouldn’t qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion wouldn’t be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns. The ruling is likely to be appealed.

Texas: Federal appeals court blocks expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19 | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked the expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a temporary injunction by District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio that allowed people who lacked immunity to COVID-19 — essentially all Texans — the ability to vote by mail. The panel unanimously blocked that injunction until a full appeal is heard. The appeals court had previously put the lower court’s injunction on temporary pause. But Thursday’s order brought the expansion of mail voting in the state during COVID-19 to a full stop. The injunction is now blocked until further order of the appeals court. Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the appeals court’s ruling in a statement. “Allowing universal mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” he said. “The unanimous Fifth Circuit ruling puts a stop to this blatant violation of Texas law.”

Utah: Utah County Clerk Received Campaign Donation from Investor In Voting App The County Now Uses | Sonja Hutson/KUER

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner received a $1,500 campaign donation from an investor in the blockchain voting app Voatz in 2018, roughly 16 months before the county first used the app in its elections. Utah County started using Voatz for a primary municipal election in August 2019, so military and overseas voters could cast their ballots through an app. The county expanded the pilot program in November 2019 to allow voters with disabilities to use it. In her role, Powers Gardner supervises the county’s elections. When she first ran for the position in 2018, Powers received a campaign contribution from CEO Jonathan Johnson in early April. Johnson is also the president of Medici Ventures, which is a major investor in Voatz. In January 2018, the app announced it had raised $2.2 million in a round of seed funding led by Medici Ventures.

Wisconsin: Were absentee ballots without postmarks counted in the April election? The answer depends on where you live | Jake Prinsen/Appleton Post-Crescent

Of the many issues in Wisconsin’s April 7 election — stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, a huge number of absentee ballots and several court challenges — one was created by the U.S. Supreme Court. On the eve of the election, the Supreme Court said absentee ballots had to be postmarked on or before April 7 to be counted. Not all mail gets postmarks, however, which meant some ballots might have been sent on or before the deadline but wouldn’t get counted. In an April 10 meeting, the Wisconsin Elections Commission left it up to municipal boards of canvassers to decide whether to count ballots they received after April 7 without a postmark. Those decisions led to inconsistencies in how those ballots were counted. “We provided guidance to clerks about that, but we can’t review every decision that they make,” Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said. “There’s a chance there were some inconsistencies in how that was handled across the state.”

Australia: How will the ACT election be made safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? | Dan Jervis-Bardy/The Canberra Times

Early voting should be expanded to allow this year’s territory election to be held safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT Electoral Commission has recommended. The commission has been forced to reassess the planning for, and staging of, the October 17 ballot because of the disruptions caused by coronavirus. In a special report presented to Speaker Joy Burch on Thursday, the commission said that due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus, it had to be assumed that the threat of further outbreaks and social distancing restrictions would still exist during the election period. It said it urgently needed to settle on a model for conducting the ballot which mitigated health risks to the community and its staff, while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process. The commission examined six options for conducting the ballot, including moving to universal online or postal voting, delaying the election date or maintaining normal procedures.

Europe: Europe nears tipping point on Russian hacking | Laurens Cerulus/Politico

The European Union is getting ready to slap sanctions on a group of Russian hackers, according to three diplomats involved — a move that would mark a turning point in the bloc’s efforts to address foreign hacking. The sanctions, expected later this year, come after the German government announced it “had evidence” tying members of a Russian hacking group to the cyberattack on the Bundestag in 2015. Diplomats gathered physically Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the Bundestag hack and whether they should respond using a new cyber sanctions regime. European countries have weighed sanctioning foreign nationals and entities involved in hacking for months, but talks were mired in secrecy as governments weighed their options. That changed when Chancellor Angela Merkel — previously reluctant to chide Russia over hacking — said last month that Berlin could not “simply ignore” an “outrageous” attack, and her government called for an EU response.