National: How the Twitter Hack Revealed a Risky 2020 Election System | David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Over the past year government officials have raced to help states replace voting machines that leave no paper trail, and to harden vulnerable online voter registration systems that many fear Russia, or others, could hijack to trigger chaos on Election Day. But this week, the country got a startling vision of other perils in political disinformation — and how many other ways there may be to manipulate turnout, if not votes. The breach by a hacker or hackers who bored into the command center of Twitter on Wednesday — seizing control of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s and Barack Obama’s blue-checked accounts, among many others — served as a warning that some of the most critical infrastructure that could influence the election is not in the hands of government experts, and is far less protected than anyone assumed even a day ago. The hackers probably did the nation a favor. With a crude scheme to deceive users into thinking that Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama were asking them for donations in Bitcoin — which sent more than $120,000 flowing into their cryptocurrency wallets — they revealed how simple it may be to imitate the powerful and the trusted. Had saboteurs infiltrated Twitter on Nov. 3 instead of in the middle of July, with the goal of upending the election, the political fallout could have been quite different. False warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in key precincts in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania could have untold impact on a close vote in a battleground state. Deceptive tweets from political party accounts saying polling places were closed could sow confusion.

Editorials: America has to count on more than prayer in the case of close election | Edward Foley/The Hill

Many of us remember the 2000 election and the time of doubt between November and the concession of Al Gore after his Supreme Court defeat in December. None of us were alive for the even more controversial 1876 election. The results were unresolved for months until Congress declared Rutherford Hayes the winner only days before the inauguration. We all hope this year ends up nothing like either of those precedents. But there is an increasing chance that the results of the 2020 election could remain uncertain for weeks because of delays in counting mailed ballots in the midst of the coronavirus. What can our leaders in the government do now to avoid a bad repeat of those calamitous precedents? One answer is to say the prayer of election administrators that the results are a landslide. If the early returns are so lopsided that uncounted ballots will not make a difference in the end, the networks may be able to call an unofficial winner that night. However, realism forces us to recognize that the race could be close enough with the volume of uncounted ballots to prevent a typical Election Day call, with the race going into overtime. At that point the prayer for a landslide fails. What happens then? In this regard, it is worth comparing the 1884 election and 1916 election, on the one hand, with the 1876 election and 2000 election, on the other. No one thinks of 1884 and 1916 as years when the election for president was disputed, and that is the critical point. In both years, however, the results remained unsettled for two weeks, yet the losing side ultimately accepted the final count to be the official choice of the people.

National: Tens of thousands of mail ballots have been tossed out in this year’s primaries. What will happen in November? | lise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

More than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary after many arrived by mail after the deadline. In Nevada, about 6,700 ballots were rejected in June because election officials could not verify voters’ signatures. And during Pennsylvania’s primary last month, only state and court orders prevented tens of thousands of late-returned ballots from being disqualified. As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the House and Senate. While the number of rejected ballots in Florida and Nevada represents a fraction of those cast in their primaries, the unprecedented shift toward absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic could make such margins potentially significant in the fall. In 2016, roughly 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin helped Donald Trump win the White House. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.” The growing risks has party officials and voting rights activists on high alert, raising the stakes for dozens of ongoing legal battles over absentee voting rules and placing additional pressure on election officials, whose staffs and budgets are already stretched thin by the demands of administering the vote during a pandemic.

National: Congress To Hold Hearing On Remote Voting Technology, Blockchain Not Invited | Jason Brett/Forbes

On Friday, the House of Representatives will hold a virtual hearing titled, “Exploring the Feasibility and Security of Technology To Conduct Remote Voting In The House.” Unlike the discussion for how Americans would vote anonymously in a primary or general election, this hearing narrowly discusses how our elected representatives can safely vote on legislative bills from a location other than our nation’s Capitol. On May 15th, the House of Representatives broke with a tradition held for 231 years since 1789, when to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be in person. The current notion of proxy voting, where if I lived in and represented Hawaii and you were representing Virginia, I could entrust you to vote for me so as not to make the long and less socially-distance choice of travel by plane. However, the House now explores taking this concept one step further, and while for many corporations the idea of remote working, when possible, is considered a given based on the current state of affairs in our country, the fully remote option clashes against the long-standing traditions of what it means to represent our country.

National: DNC’s email voting plan limits hacking risk but can’t eliminate it | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Democratic National Committee’s virtual convention next month will mark a major test for whether Internet-based voting can be done safely and securely. The DNC, which is moving its convention online because of the coronavirus pandemic, released a plan Friday for delegates to vote by email for the Democratic presidential nominee and planks in the party’s platform. Internet voting presents far fewer risks in this case than it would during a regular election because delegates’ ballots aren’t secret. That means they can verify their votes weren’t altered either by hackers or technological snafus and correct any errors after the fact. There’s also no drama about the outcome of the most important vote because former vice president Joe Biden has basically already secured the Democratic nomination. But it still presents numerous opportunities for hackers from Russia or elsewhere to disrupt the voting process, sow confusion about results or use disinformation operations to spread conspiracy theories or gin up hostilities between rival camps supporting Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And any disruption is likely to spark painful memories of 2016 when information Russia hacked and leaked from the DNC helped wreak havoc on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That means the DNC must be hyper-prepared to knock back any allegations of digital interference or rapidly respond to attacks even as it runs a convention unlike any in history.

National: What It’s Been Like to Vote in 2020 So Far | Evan Nicole Brown/The New York Times

Over the past five months, people have waited in all sorts of lines to vote: some bent around stuccoed store corners, some curving through city parks, others spaced six feet apart. On Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Texas and Maine went to the polls in primary and runoff contests for one of the final election days before Election Day on Nov. 3. The coronavirus crisis has upended every aspect of life in 2020, including how people vote. More than a dozen states postponed elections, some more than once, as they scrambled to figure out how to safely conduct voting in the midst of a pandemic. But even before the virus took hold in the United States, caucuses didn’t go according to plan, and high turnout meant long lines in some states on Super Tuesday. How much of a hassle it is to vote is generally a matter of design, not accident, according to Carol Anderson, the author of “One Person, No Vote” and a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “Long lines are deliberate, because they deal with the allocation of resources,” Professor Anderson said. She said it’s frustrating to see long lines reported in the news media as evidence of voter enthusiasm: “What they really show is government ineptness. And oftentimes a deliberate deployment of not enough resources in minority communities.” Here is a look at what it was like to vote in 2020.

National: As Trump and Biden battle, election officials are running out of time, money for November | Pat Beall, Catharina Felke and Elizabeth Mulvey/USA Today

Heading into Georgia’s primary June 9, McDuffie County Elections Director Phyllis Brooks had no choice but to assemble a last-minute crew to count votes. Two of her three staffers were out with COVID-19. She had more than 2,500 absentee ballots to tally by hand. Brooks brought in a handful of county employees and hired teenagers to do the counting. There’s no money left in her election office budget. Not for poll workers. Not for extra hands to count what is likely to be a record number of mail-in ballots. Not even for stamps to send out the absentee ballots they expect to need. Sixteen weeks before the presidential election, Brooks and hundreds of other cash-strapped elections supervisors across the nation are waiting to see how much state and federal money will come their way. Experts said the coronavirus pandemic tacked on hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs to this year’s election, and there are clear signs that an emergency federal infusion of $400 million made in March will fall far short of what’s needed.

National: Scattered problems with mail-in ballots this year signal potential November challenges for Postal Service | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

Postal workers found three tubs of uncounted absentee ballots the day after the Wisconsin primary. Some Ohioans did not receive their ballots in time for the election because of mail delays. And in Dallas, absentee ballots some voters sent to the county were returned just days before Election Day, with no explanation. Problems caused by a spike in absentee voting during this year’s primaries are serving as potential warning signs for the U.S. Postal Service, which is bracing for an expected onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall as states and cities push alternatives to in-person voting because of the pandemic. The concern extends to local elections offices that may be unaccustomed to aspects of the mail, such as the time it takes for parcels to reach their destinations and how to design their ballots to meet postal standards. So the Postal Service is regularly sending advice and checklists to thousands of elections officials. Local elections offices are hiring temporary workers to process absentee ballots, and some local elections boards are adding options for voters to do curbside drop-offs of their mail ballots on Election Day. The Postal Service is also recommending that voters request their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day and mail their completed ballots at least one week before the due date.

Editorials: Connecticut’s upcoming primary election should be audited. Will it really be? | Luther Weeks/CT Mirror

After every general election and primary, Connecticut law requires a post-election audit. Such audits are intended to provide justified confidence in our elections, that errors were not made, and that machines have not been hacked. However, unless something is done, this year the audits will be by far the weakest, least credible since audits were initiated with the adoption of optical scanners in 2007. Reasonably, in the COVID emergency, Gov. Ned Lamont and Secretary of the State Merrill have provided the opportunity for everyone to vote by absentee ballot in the primary. It is likely the General Assembly will do the same for the general election. Unfortunately, this will exacerbate preexisting gaps in our post-election audits. Congress and voters are concerned with the potential for hacking by foreign governments and insiders, others do not trust the integrity of mail-in voting. The Federal Government has provided billions for protecting elections, with Connecticut spending millions of that Federal money on cyber security and absentee ballot mailings. In contrast, past audits have cost less than $100,000 in a presidential year and this year are on course to be halved in cost and effort for a second time. In 2007 the General Assembly passed post-election audits that mandated auditing the counts in 10% of our polling place voting machines. The audits have proven useful in providing overall confidence and in identifying some flaws in the operation of those machines, uncovering persistent errors by officials, rather than computer errors, and exposing gaps in ballot security.

Florida: Democrats Go to Court to Compel Supervisors of Elections to Retain Electronic Ballot Images | Mitch Perry/Spectrum News

A group of Florida Democrats filed a lawsuit earlier this month, claiming that the supervisors of elections who are destroying electronic ballot images from vote scanning machines are in violation of state and federal law. Election law requires that supervisors of elections retain paper ballots for at least 22 months after an election, but approximately 40 of the 67 counties are not retaining their electronic ballots, according to the suit, which was filed on July 1 in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County.  “It’s the redundancy. Instead of just one set of paper ballots, you have a set of paper ballots and you have the ballot images,” says attorney Chris Sautter, representing the group AUDIT Elections USA, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of a number of Florida Democrats. Digital vote scanners are in use throughout Florida as the mechanism by which voters cast ballots and the ballots are tabulated. These digital vote scanning systems replaced optical scanners over the course of the past decade. They function by capturing an electronic image of each vote on each ballot. As ballots are fed through digital scanners, the scanners automatically create an electronic image of each ballot that is automatically stored as an electronic file.  In the 2018 general election in Florida, there were approximately 3,000 so-called “lost votes.” Sautter claims that those votes would have been counted if the ballot images were preserved, and thus there would have been a more accurate account.

Georgia: Fulton County reverses course on emailed absentee ballot applications | Mark Niesse Ben Brasch/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Election officials in Fulton County on Tuesday resumed accepting absentee ballot requests submitted by email, backtracking from a decision to require absentee applications by mail, fax or in person. The county’s reversal came quickly after complaints that its refusal to process emailed ballot requests would reduce voting access and violate Georgia voting laws. Fulton, the most populous county in the state, initially rejected emailed absentee ballot requests following struggles to manage a flood of applications before the June 9 primary election. Many voters in Fulton said they never received their absentee ballots, forcing them to wait in line for hours to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Voters who emailed absentee ballot requests Monday and part of Tuesday received a response from Fulton asking them to instead send paper applications by mail. The county on Tuesday restarted processing absentee ballot requests for the Aug. 11 runoff, with some limits meant to avoid problems that surfaced before the primary. Only one absentee ballot application may be attached to each email. Absentee ballot applications submitted by email must be less than 5 megabytes in size, legible and in pdf or jpg file format.

Maine: Visually impaired voters sue state over lack of accessible absentee ballots | Megan Gray/Portland Press Herald

A group of voters has sued the state and several municipalities, arguing that the state violated federal law by not providing an electronic alternative to paper ballots for people who are visually impaired. State officials encouraged voters to use absentee ballots during this week’s primary to minimize the risk of people gathering at polling places and spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Every polling place in Maine has an accessible voting machine for people with disabilities, but paper ballots are the only option for most people who want to vote absentee. Four voters from different Maine communities filed the lawsuit in federal court in Bangor on Tuesday. Disability Rights Maine is representing the plaintiffs, each of whom requested an electronic ballot to vote absentee but were denied. The suit names Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and municipal clerks in Portland, Augusta, Bangor and Winslow. While the state allows a voter to receive assistance in reading or marking their absentee ballots, the plaintiffs argue that option compromises their ability to vote independently and privately.

Maryland: Board of Elections searching for new ballot printing vendor for November elections after problems in primary | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Board of Elections is searching for a new ballot printing vendor ahead of the November election after numerous printing and mailing mistakes were reported during the June primary. The request for proposals, released Wednesday, seeks a vendor willing to print ballots upon request from voters — complying with Gov. Larry Hogan’s order for a mostly in-person election — but also leaves the door open for a vote-by-mail election, requesting pricing to print ballots for all 4 million voters in the state. Maryland is preparing to hold a traditional election despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican governor issued his order last week, calling for all polling locations to be open statewide as well as early voting locations. Registered voters will be mailed an application for an absentee ballot, but ballots will not be mailed to every voter. The format is a departure from the mostly mail-in election Hogan ordered for the June primary in an effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus. The pandemic has killed more than 3,000 Marylanders since the spring, and new cases have been increasing in the past week — 756 new cases were reported Wednesday, the biggest single day increase since early June. Ballots were mailed to all active eligible voters across the state ahead of the June primary, and the majority of voters made use of them. About 97% of voters returned their ballots via mail or placed them in drop boxes spread throughout the state.

Editorials: Why is Maryland’s governor making mail-in voting harder in November? | The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised voters last month that they should seek alternatives to casting ballots in person this November, becoming just one more in a parade of health and voting experts warning about the risks of treating the coming presidential election like a normal one. The warnings are as much for state leaders, who bear responsibility both to preserve public health and to enable voting, as they are for voters themselves. And after a mixed bag of covid-era primary elections over the past few months, there are many lessons from hard-won experiences in places such as Wisconsin, Georgia and the District. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) seems not to have learned them. He presided over a largely mail-in primary election in his state last month that saw strong turnout based on extremely high levels of absentee voting — but that also encountered some problems. Absentee ballots failed to reach everyone who wanted one, and polling place closures caused lines for those who sought to vote in person. So Mr. Hogan decided on Wednesday to reverse course and treat the November vote like a more routine election. His reaction may cause more problems than it solves.

Massachusetts: Galvin moving forward with sending vote-by-mail applications after funding dispute is resolved | Chris Van Buskirk/The Boston Globe

The state’s top elections official is moving forward with sending out vote-by-mail ballot applications after the governor’s office agreed to advance funds included in a COVID-19 supplemental budget that is nearing final approval in the Legislature. Both branches still need to take their final votes on the bill before sending the appropriations bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, but a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin’s office confirmed to the News Service Tuesday that the administration provided funds and the secretary’s office spent them. The provision of the funds appears to have ended a week-long dispute over whether the secretary’s office could use federal funds through the CARES Act to cover postage costs associated with the massive mailing. “The mailing is in process now,” the spokesperson said when asked about when the applications would go out. Election reform advocates filed a lawsuit Monday in an attempt to force the secretary of state to comply with a July 15 deadline to send applications for mail-in primary ballots outlined in a new state law. Galvin previously said he could not send out the applications until the Legislature provided funding for postage and advocates pointed to nearly $8.2 million in CARES Act funding set aside for COVID-19 election-related costs.

Michigan: Court denies Michigan absentee ballots that come after election | David Eggert/Associated Press

The Michigan appeals court denied a request to require the counting of absentee ballots received after the time polls close on Election Day, ruling that the battleground state’s deadline remains intact despite voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment that expanded mail-in voting. The court, in a 2-1 decision released Wednesday, said it is up to lawmakers to change the deadline that has been in place for at least 91 years. The League of Women Voters of Michigan and three voters sued in May, seeking a declaration that absentee ballots be counted as long as they are mailed on or before Election Day and are received within six days of the election. The plaintiffs, who will appeal to the state Supreme Court, pointed to voters’ new constitutional rights to cast an absentee ballot without giving a reason 40 days before an election and to do it in person or by mail. They also noted fears of visiting polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. “We follow the view that courts should typically defer to the Legislature in making policy decisions,” Judge David Sawyer wrote, adding that organizers of the ballot drive did not include a deadline in the initiative.

Ohio: Elections boards getting $23M from feds, but is it enough for pandemic-plagued vote? | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio’s 88 local boards of elections are getting nearly $23 million in federal relief in 2020, but they say more is needed to help pull off the general election amid the pandemic. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is channeling another $11.7 million in federal funding to the county boards to manage security for the November general election. The latest batch of money is on top of $11.2 million in federal coronavirus relief funding directed to the county boards last week. But with only 111 days left before Election Day, and in-person voting and absentee balloting to start a month earlier, the boards still are strapped for resources. In May, the Ohio Association of Election Officials sent a letter to Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman urging them to support more funding for elections in a future coronavirus stimulus package. “We’re still actively lobbying members of Congress to get additional federal money distributed,” said Aaron Ockerman, the association’s executive director.

Texas: Judge denies Harris County request to allow email voting for those infected with COVID-19 | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle

A state district judge on Friday denied a request by Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins to allow thousands of voters who recently tested positive for coronavirus, and now are quarantined, to vote online in the primary runoff election. The novel voting method never has been used in Harris County, but was permitted for the small-scale North Texas Ebola outbreak in 2014. Judge Larry Weiman, however, said he shared concerns raised by the Harris County Republican Party that online voting was not secure. Weiman, a Democrat, also said at the emergency telephone hearing that the county clerk had not produced an example of a voter being disenfranchised by exposure to coronavirus. “The plaintiff hasn’t shown any injured party,” Weiman said. Hollins sought to allow the estimated 10,000 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 after the July 2 deadline to apply for a mail ballot. Forcing infected residents to vote in person would put “thousands of other voters at risk,” County Attorney Vince Ryan wrote in the clerk’s court filing.

Malaysia: Government looking into internet voting, Law Minister says | The Straits Times

The Malaysian government is engaging various stakeholders to look into the feasibility of introducing e-voting for the next general election, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan. Datuk Takiyuddin, who is the de-facto Law Minister, said electronic voting would involve several issues pertaining to data confidentiality, security, cost and voter education. He said the Election Commission (EC) is still not satisfied with the confidentiality and security issues involving e-voting. “Therefore, the EC will continue to engage with the relevant quarters before any decision is put forward to the government,” he said during question time in Parliament on Thursday (July 16). The issue of e-voting has been raised amid talk that the four-month old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government might call for snap elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 15th general election isn’t due until 2023 but might be called soon due to the thin parliamentary majority held by PN.

North Macedonia: Election Commission ‘Cyber-Attacked During Polls’ | Bojan Stojkovski/Balkan Insight

The website of North Macedonia’s State Electoral Commission, SEC, suffered an alleged denial-of-service, DDoS, attack for more than three hours during the parliamentary elections on Wednesday. The attack delayed the SEC’s announcement of the official results of the tightly-contested vote on its website and it had to improvise by releasing partial results through YouTube clips instead. SEC officials insisted that the alleged attack did not affect the data that they had been collecting throughout the day. “From what I know so far, this was an attempted external attack. But until this is confirmed, I cannot speculate, we will know more about it tomorrow [Thursday]. The data wasn’t attacked and no damage was caused in the process,” SEC President Oliver Derkovski told a press conference. At the same time as the SEC suffered the alleged attack, the country’s most popular news aggregator was also targeted by a heavy DDoS attack, which took the website down for a couple of hours. The site’s founder, Igor Trajkovski, said that Cloudflare, a US-based website security company, had to block millions of IP addresses involved in the attack.

United Kingdom: Britain says Russia tried to meddle in election by leaking U.S. trade documents | Guy Faulconbridge/Reuters

Britain said on Thursday Russia had tried to interfere in its 2019 general election by illicitly acquiring sensitive documents relating to a planned free trade agreement with Washington and leaking them online. Russia, which has also faced allegations of trying to influence the outcome of elections in the United States and France, did not immediately respond to the accusation but has previously denied meddling in foreign countries. British foreign minister Dominic Raab said a government investigation had found that Russia tried repeatedly to meddle in last December’s election won by the Conservative Party, though the ultimate aim was not immediately published. “It is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents,” Raab said in a statement. “Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.” The investigation found that when these documents made little impact, further attempts were made to promote illicitly obtained material online before the election, Raab said.