National: Securing voter registration databases takes on added importance in pandemic, DHS official says | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

The expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic makes it all the more important that election officials secure voter registration databases from hacking, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security official. The greater amount of absentee voting and mail-in ballots “shifts the risk towards voter registration data security,” Matt Masterson, senior adviser at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said Wednesday during a virtual conference. People voting by mail generally won’t have access to the same provisional-balloting process that those voting in person can use if they’ve been left off of voter rolls due to an administrative error. That makes the integrity of voter registration data all the more important in the era of COVID-19, Masterson said. The novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 120,000 people in the U.S., has forced many states to postpone presidential primaries and ramp up voting-by-mail options. Forty-six states currently offer all of their voters some form of by-mail voting, according to the nonprofit Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET).

National: Trump’s False Attacks on Voting by Mail Stir Broad Concern | Maggie Haberman, Nick Corasaniti and Linda Qiu/The New York Times

President Trump is stepping up his attacks on the integrity of the election system, sowing doubts about the November vote at a time when the pandemic has upended normal balloting and as polls show former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. ahead by large margins. Having yet to find an effective formula for undercutting Mr. Biden or to lure him into the kinds of culture war fights that the president prefers, Mr. Trump is training more of his fire on the political process in a way that appears intended to give him the option of raising doubts about the legitimacy of the outcome. Promoting baseless questions about election fraud is nothing new for Mr. Trump. He has hopscotched from saying that President Barack Obama was elected with the help of dead voters to suggesting that undocumented immigrants were voting en masse to claiming that out-of-state voters were bused into New Hampshire in 2016. But in recent days, Mr. Trump has focused intensive new attacks on voting by mail, as states grapple with the challenge of conducting elections in the middle of surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the country.

National: Security Flaws in US Online Voting System Raises Alarm Over Potential Vote Manipulation | Byron Muhlberg/CPO Magazine

As the 2020 US presidential election draws nearer, concern is beginning to mount over the potential threat of vote manipulation. Alarm over vote manipulation was once again raised after OmniBallot, an online voting system, was found to be riddled with a host of security risks according to the findings of a recent research paper by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Michigan computer scientists. The research paper, which hit the press on June 7, revealed that OmniBallot’s designer Democracy Live leaves the ballots that it processes susceptible to vote manipulation. What’s more, the researchers found that Democracy Live actively collects sensitive voter information and does not ensure adequate protection of the information while online. As a result, according to the paper, the online voting system runs the risk of providing easy pickings for sophisticated cybercriminals—especially those using ransomware—one that is only exacerbated by the fact that no technology currently exists to mitigate the risks in question.

National: Klobuchar: Trump’s opposition to expanded mail-in voting is a ‘blatant effort to suppress the vote’ | Rebecca Klar/The Hill

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called President Trump’s opposition to expanding access to vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic a “blatant effort to suppress the vote.” Klobuchar accused Trump of trying to scare voters with unsubstantiated claims that more mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud in an effort to aid his bid for reelection in November. “He said it himself. I would love to break news on your show that I had some special thing, but he has said that the vote by mail is going to hurt him in his election,” Klobuchar said Wednesday in an interview with The Hill’s Steve Clemons. “So what does he do, which is his typical playbook? He then claims that it’s fraudulent to scare people in a blatant effort to suppress the vote,” she added. Trump has railed against mail-in voting, as Democrats have pushed to expand the option amid the coronavirus pandemic. Klobuchar pushed back on the president’s claims. “He says it is fraudulent, yet if you look at a state like Oregon, which is nearly 100 percent vote by mail … the fraud rate is like 0.0000001 percent or something like that. It’s crazy,” she said.

National: Trump and Barr say mail-in voting will lead to fraud. Experts say that’s not true | Caitlin Huey-Burns and Adam Brewster/CBS

As election officials from both parties are scaling up their vote by mail operations ahead of November’s election, the president and the attorney general are making unverified claims that foreign actors could tamper with those ballots. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr said mail-in voting “absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud” and claimed that “a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and (it would) be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot.” It was the second time this month Barr had speculated about election fraud in November. In an interview with the New York Times, the attorney general said a number of foreign countries “could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in.” In a string of tweets on Monday, President Trump followed suit, claiming the 2020 election would be “rigged” because “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries.” The comments have baffled election officials and experts who say a complicated and detailed set of safeguards in place are expressly designed to detect and prevent such interference. “You would have to reproduce the entire election administration apparatus somewhere in the middle of Siberia,” says Charles Stewart, the founding director of the Election Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

National: A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It | Shane Goldmacher/The New York Times

The cliffhanger elections on Tuesday night in Kentucky and New York didn’t just leave the candidates and voters in a state of suspended animation wondering who had won. Election officials, lawyers and political strategists in both parties said the lack of results was a bracing preview of what could come after the polls close in November: No clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. With the coronavirus pandemic swelling the number of mailed-in ballots to historic highs across the nation, the process of vote-counting has become more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to keep up and deliver timely results. The jumble of election rules and deadlines by state, including in presidential battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all but ensure that the victor in a close race won’t be known on Nov. 3. And top election officials are warning that if the race between Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. is anything but a blowout, the public and the politicians need to recalibrate expectations for when the 2020 campaign will come to a decisive conclusion.

National: ‘Too early to call’: why it’s unlikely we’ll have a winner on US election night | Sam Levine/The Guardian

As Kentucky voters wait to see which Democrat will challenge Mitch McConnell this fall, Americans are quickly realizing there’s a new normal for elections during the pandemic: we’re not going to know the winner on election night. Over the last few months, states across the US have seen record numbers of their voters cast their votes by mail as states expand and encourage its use during Covid-19. It’s a change that means election officials are going to need more time to count votes as ballots flood election offices on election day and afterwards – some states count ballots postmarked by election day if they arrive in the days after the election. There are worries about how the US will react to delayed results during November’s hotly contested presidential election. Americans are used to the spectacle of election night – anchors on major networks breathlessly analyze and call races and the evening culminates in a late night speech from victorious candidates. That’s very unlikely to happen this year – Americans are going to be waiting a while to find out whether or not Donald Trump will be president for another four years.

Voting Blogs: Safely opening PDFs received by e-mail (or fax?!) | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

Many election administrators in U.S. states and counties need to receive and open PDF files from voters. Some of these administrators receive these PDFs as e-mail attachments. These may be filled-out voter registration forms, or even voted ballots from UOCAVA (overseas and military) voters. We all know that malware can lurk in e-mail attachments; how can those election officials protect themselves from being hacked? Internet return of voted ballots is inherently insecure; that’s a separate issue and I’ll discuss it below. For now, how can one safely open a PDF attachment? I discussed this question with Dan Guido, cybersecurity consultant and CEO of The safe way to view a PDF is inside the Chrome or Firefox browser. Printing a PDF directly from Chrome (or Firefox) to your printer is reasonably safe. The unsafe way to view a PDF is with your favorite PDF-viewer app such as Adobe Reader. The reason is simple: Google (for Chrome) and Mozilla (for Firefox) have put enormous effort into making their PDF viewers safe, putting them inside a “sandbox” that the hackers can’t get out of — and they’ve largely succeeded.

Georgia: Questioning State Elections Officials, Lawmakers Express Concerns Over November Vote | Emil Moffatt/WABE

Five million Georgians are expected to vote in November, an election that will come less than five months after the state experienced a bumpy primary. Amid a global health pandemic, the state rolled out its new voting system statewide for the first time on June 9. The result: many voters had to wait in lines for hours as poll workers – some of them brand new – sorted out technical problems. “We think the most important thing, obviously is training, training and re-training,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as he spoke in front of the House Governmental Affairs Committee. “And having more techs [technical support personnel] in there so that any issues that do pop up can be really handled expeditiously so that we have an improved result in November.” Raffensperger pledged to have technical support at every precinct in November, something that wasn’t there in June. Tuesday’s meeting started an hour late because House members were still across the street voting on a hate crimes bill which had been passed by the Senate just a short time before. And when the meeting started, Raffensperger made only a brief statement and took a handful of questions, citing other obligations. That didn’t sit well with House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, who said he wanted to hear more from the state’s top election’s official. “I would point out that voters often waited in line for hours, and the secretary was here for 20 minutes,” said Trammell.

Georgia: Republican Lawmakers Advance Bid to Ban Automatic Absentee Ballot Mailings | Kayla Goggin/Courthouse News

Georgia lawmakers advanced legislation Wednesday which would ban election officials from mailing absentee ballot request forms unless a voter requests one. The measure is part of Senate Bill 463, which also loosens restrictions on ballot signature-matching requirements and provides for the division of large precincts under certain conditions. The bill could receive a vote in the Georgia House before the Legislature ends its current session Friday. If the measure passes and is signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, it could take effect before the November general election. If passed, the bill would prevent Georgia election officials from repeating a large-scale absentee voting effort undertaken by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger prior to the primary election. Raffensperger mailed ballot request forms to 6.9 million registered voters ahead of the primary to encourage voting by mail in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The effort led to increased voter turnout, particularly among Democrats.

Indiana: Judge orders Secretary of State to produce documents on voting-machine security | John Russell/Indianapolis Business Journal

A Marion County Superior Court judge has ordered Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson to produce documents to back up her claim that the public should not see emails and other communications about the reliability and security of voting machines because they could jeopardize cyberterrorism security. Judge Heather Welch ruled Tuesday that Lawson did not provide adequate justification for withholding the materials and ordered her to produce some of the documents for inspection in chambers. In a 27-page ruling, the judge ordered Lawson to submit the materials that she had withheld based on the counterterrorism exception so that she may examine them in private. A spokesman for Lawson declined comment on Wednesday. The matter arose after a national group of cybersecurity experts sued Lawson last year, saying she has refused to turn over emails and other communications about the reliability and security of voting machines, despite numerous requests.

Kentucky: ‘A substantial challenge’: What Kentucky, New York tell us about voting in a pandemic come November | Joey Garrison/USA Today

NBA star Lebron James slammed Kentucky’s plan to cut voting sites from 3,700 to 200 “systemic racism and oppression.” Stacey Abrams called it “voter suppression.” So did Hillary Clinton, declaring it’s time to restore the Voting Rights Act. But the dire forecasts ahead of Kentucky’s state primary Tuesday – warnings of severely long lines and disaster certain to come – didn’t materialize. In fact, some critics quickly changed their tune after recognizing that Kentucky sacrificed in-person voting sites for a robust vote-by-mail program that allowed anyone to vote absentee from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a sharp reversal from her message the day before, Clinton tweeted “kudos” Tuesday night to Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for making it “easy for every (Kentuckian) to vote” through no-excuse mail-in voting and early voting. An estimated 1.1 million Kentuckians voted in the primary – a record for a Kentucky primary – including 75% through mail-in ballots in a state where typically only 2% vote absentee. Kentucky is now getting widely lauded for its election performance. Still, vote-by-mail advocates aren’t ready to crown the Bluegrass State the perfect model for voting in a pandemic during the November general election.

Kentucky: Lexington candidate had to convince election officials dogs ate her primary ballot |Associated Press

A Kentucky woman was allowed to vote after convincing the board of elections that her dogs ate her and her husband’s absentee ballots. Christine Stanley, a 34-year-old Lexington health care attorney, voted in the Democratic primary at Kroger Field but only after getting out of line and going before the board of elections. After showing the board evidence, including “lots of bite marks, drool and dirt,” she and her husband were allowed to vote, and Stanley said she voted for herself for the Urban County Council seat she is seeking, for Charles Booker in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and for Democrat Josh Hicks to run against Republican Rep. Andy Barr. Stanley, who is Black, said race didn’t really play a part in her choice of Booker.

Minnesota: Secretary of State Simon waives witness rule for primary absentee ballots | Tim Pugmire/MPR

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is waiving the state’s absentee voting witness requirement for the August 11 primary election. Simon, a Democrat, made the call after a district court judge signed off last week on a proposed settlement for a lawsuit challenging the rule. However, a federal judge hearing a similar but separate lawsuit this week did not accept the agreement. Early voting for the primary begins Friday. Simon said he will follow the state court. “The ruling yesterday does not affect last week’s primary state court ruling that this arrangement and this settlement agreement is fair, it’s adequate, it’s reasonable, it’s in the public interest,” Simon said. “We’re bound by that ruling. We can’t choose not to abide by the ruling.”

New York: COVID-19 forced New York to vote by mail. Participation went through the roof | Jon Campbell/Gannett

First COVID-19 forced New York to shut down businesses and tell residents to stay home. Then it forced an experiment in democracy. With infection rates climbing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state health officials decided in March to rely heavily on voting by mail for June’s school budget votes and primary elections, encouraging New York voters to cast their ballot from their home rather than congregating in close proximity at a polling place. The results so far? Voter participation appears to be soaring, a not-so-insignificant feat for a state that has long struggled to get people to the polls. “It did not surprise us because you’re making voting more accessible,” said Dave Albert, spokesman for the state School Boards Association. “Theoretically, you wouldn’t need to leave your house to vote.”

Pennsylvania: A Philadelphia poll watcher got coronavirus, but the city isn’t notifying voters | Emily Previti/PAPost and Katie Meyer/WHYY

A Philadelphia woman who spent the entire June 2 primary as a poll watcher tested positive for COVID-19 10 days later. It’s unclear whether she contracted the virus at the polls. But thanks to a contact tracing program the city says isn’t fully staffed, the vast majority of voters and election workers who were at that polling place haven’t been notified that they may have been exposed. The situation also calls into question whether election and health officials across Pennsylvania are prepared to respond to potential coronavirus exposure at the polls. Andrea Johnson, a Democratic committeewoman, says she’s been vigilant during the pandemic, working from home as a paralegal and wearing a mask on the occasions she’s gone outside. But on June 2, she spent the day at the polls at Andrew Hamilton School in West Philadelphia. Johnson says she disclosed that information to contact tracers working for the city health department. She says she also provided a list of eight people — all voters and poll workers whose names she knew — who she’d come in close contact with in the days leading up to her positive diagnosis. She confirmed that city health officials contacted those eight people, but said she thinks contact tracing efforts ended there.

South Carolina: Democrats prep more lawsuits as Legislature punts on absentee voting expansion amid pandemic | Palmetto Politics | Jamie Lovegrove/Post and Courier

South Carolina Democrats are planning to file more lawsuits challenging the state’s absentee voting limitations during the coronavirus pandemic after lawmakers declined to expand ballot options for the general election during their brief legislative session this week. Republican leaders said they would consider taking action when they return in September if the pandemic is still at large, as health officials expect. They said they wanted to limit their brief time in the Statehouse this week to distributing federal funds for coronavirus relief. Democratic lawmakers questioned the decision to wait. “Why put off until tomorrow what we could do today?” asked state Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg. House members voted down two proposed amendments Wednesday to the coronavirus relief package that would have expanded absentee voting for November, largely along party lines.

Tennessee: State Supreme Court keeps mail voting expansion amid appeal | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it will not block a judge’s order offering a by-mail voting option to all eligible voters during the coronavirus pandemic while the state continues to appeal. The Tennessee high court did agree with the state’s wish to fast-track the appeal without a lower appellate court considering it. But a majority of justices voted against stopping the absentee voting expansion pending appeal, dealing a blow to the state’s efforts to unravel the expansion as the Aug. 6 primary approaches. Voters are able to apply for absentee ballots through July 30. The primary election will be headlined by a contested Republican race for an open U.S. Senate seat. State election officials have opposed the expansion, instead recommending preparations as though all 1.4 million registered voters 60 and older will cast mail-in ballots in the primary. Historically, Tennessee has historically seen less than 2.5% of votes cast by mail, the state has said.

Texas: Straight-ticket voting lawsuit tossed by federal court | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out Democrats’ effort to reinstate the straight-ticket voting option in Texas. Siding with the state, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo found that Democrats lacked standing to challenge Texas Republicans’ decision to kill straight-ticket voting ahead of the November general election. The judge dismissed the federal lawsuit after ruling that Democrats’ claims of the electoral fallout that could come from eliminating straight-ticket voting were too speculative. The Texas Democratic Party — joined by the chair of the Webb County Democratic Party and the Democratic campaign arms of the U.S. Senate and House — filed the lawsuit in March on the heels of Super Tuesday voting that left some Texans waiting for hours to cast their ballots. They claimed the elimination of straight-ticket voting is unconstitutional and intentionally discriminatory because the longer lines and waiting times it is expected to cause would be disproportionately felt at polling places that serve Hispanic and Black voters.

Wisconsin: Study: Poll closings, COVID-19 fears, kept many Milwaukee voters away | Dee Hall, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Significant numbers of Milwaukee voters were dissuaded from voting on April 7 by the sharp reduction in polling places and the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic — with the biggest effects seen among Black voters, according to a new study. Researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice say their study is the first to measure the impact of the pandemic on voting behavior. The study found that Milwaukee’s decision to close all but five of its 182 polling places reduced voting among non-Black voters in Milwaukee by 8.5 percentage points, and that COVID-19 may have further reduced turnout by 1.4 percentage points. That would mean the overall reduction in turnout among non-Black voters was 9.9 percentage points. Black voters experienced more severe effects: Poll closures reduced their turnout by an estimated 10.2 percentage points, while other mechanisms — including fear of contracting COVID-19 — lowered turnout by an additional 5.7 percentage points. Those factors combined to depress Black voter turnout by 15.9 percentage points, the researchers estimated. Overall, turnout in the city for the election — which determined a hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court race and the state’s Democratic nominee for president — was 32%, according to the Milwaukee Election Commission. The Brennan Center study raises concerns about disenfranchisement in November, especially among Black residents, as voters choose the president and members of Congress and the Wisconsin Legislature. And it raises fresh doubt about how well states like Wisconsin, which does not have a tradition of widespread absentee balloting, will ensure that all residents can vote in November without exposing themselves to a deadly disease.