National: Long lines, broken machines: Why voters should not be too worried about some poll site snafus | Ivan Pereira and Catherine Sanz/ABC

With voting in the 2020 election well underway across the country, Americans are anxious to make sure their choices are counted with as few problems as possible. Despite the mail-in and early voting processes appearing to go smoothly for the vast majority of people, there have been reports circulating on social media (as there have been in other election cycles) that have raised concerns. Videos of long lines of people, even in the thousands, outside voting sites and reports of glitches with voting machines have gone viral over the last couple of weeks. Despite these stories, election integrity experts told ABC News that voters should not necessarily panic or believe those instances are examples of voter fraud or intimidation. Most of those issues can be quickly addressed and resolved, according to Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections for the non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause. “First and foremost, elections aren’t perfect,” she told ABC News. “Just like anything else, stuff happens and there are a lot of ways people can deal with that.”

Full Article: Long lines, broken machines: Why voters should not be too worried about some poll site snafus – ABC News

National: DHS plans largest-ever operation to secure U.S. election against hacking | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division is mounting the largest operation to secure a U.S. election, aiming to prevent a repeat of Russia’s 2016 interference and to ward off new threats posed by Iran and China. On Election Day, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will launch a 24/7 virtual war room, to which election officials across the nation can dial in at any time to share notes about suspicious activity and work together to respond. The agency will also pass along classified information from intelligence agencies about efforts they detect from adversaries seeking to undermine the election and advise states on how to protect against such attacks. “I anticipate possibly thousands of local election officials coming in to share information in real time, to coordinate, to track down what’s real and what’s not, separate fact from fiction on the ground,” said Matt Masterson, CISA’s senior cybersecurity adviser, who has helped lead election preparations. “We’ll be able to sort through what’s happening and identify: Is this a typical election event or is this something larger?” The operation will run for days or weeks until winners are clear in most races — and potentially until the election is formally certified in December. “We’ll remain stood up until the [election] community tells us, ‘Okay, we’re good, you can stand down,’ ” Masterson said. The wide-ranging operation is the culmination of four years during which CISA has grown from a backwater agency that was largely unknown outside Washington to the main federal government liaison to a nationwide ecosystem of officials running the elections.

Full Article: DHS plans largest-ever operation to secure U.S. election against hacking – The Washington Post

National: Ransomware Can Interfere with Elections and Fuel Disinformation – Basic Cybersecurity Precautions Are Key to Minimizing the Damage | Richard Forno/Government Technology

Government computer systems in Hall County, Georgia, including a voter signature database, were hit by a ransomware attack earlier this fall in the first known ransomware attack on election infrastructure during the 2020 presidential election. Thankfully, county officials reported that the voting process for its citizens was not disrupted. The attack follows on the heels of a ransomware attack last month on eResearchTechnology, a company that provides software used in clinical trials, including trials for COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Less than a week after the attack in Georgia was revealed, the FBI warned that cyber criminals have unleashed a wave of ransomware attacks targeting hospital information systems. Attacks like these underscore the challenges that cybersecurity experts face daily – and which loom over the upcoming election. As a cybersecurity professional and researcher, I can attest that there is no silver bullet for defeating cyber threats like ransomware. Rather, defending against them comes down to the actions of thousands of IT staff and millions of computer users in organizations large and small across the country by embracing and applying the basic good computing practices and IT procedures that have been promoted for years.

Full Article: Ransomware Can Interfere with Elections and Fuel Disinformation – Basic Cybersecurity Precautions Are Key to Minimizing the Damage

National: How State and Local Officials Plan to Prevent Election Violence | Alan Greenblatt/Governing

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to be prepared for any imaginable scenario. Running an election with record turnout during a pandemic was always going to be a challenge, but she also has to take seriously the possibility of violence and voter intimidation. She hopes the election and its aftermath will be peaceful, but she knows she can’t count on it. “Given what we’ve experienced over the course of the spring and the summer, we can’t presume that what will happen on election night or the days before, and certainly not the days after are going to be peaceful,” she said. Toward that end, Lightfoot ran an “all hazards drill,” with emergency management, law enforcement and election officials trying to game out every possible thing that could go wrong – unrest, violence, storms, COVID-19 outbreaks, arson. “We really threw in the kitchen sink,” she said. “If you were pitching this to a Hollywood producer, they’d say, no way this could happen.” That same level of concern and preparedness is evident all over the country. State and local officials are having to assume things might turn grim. They’re working collaboratively to be sure any incidents can be addressed quickly. “There’s a long history of intimidation and violence associated with elections,” said Christopher Witko, a political scientist at Penn State University. The Republican Party was barred nationally for nearly four decades from recruiting election observers to challenge voters’ credentials aggressively. The federal consent decree limiting the party’s activities expired in 2018, making this the first national election to be conducted without such restrictions.

Full Article: How State and Local Officials Plan to Prevent Election Violence

National: Overstating the foreign threat to elections poses its own risks, U.S. officials and experts say | Ellen Nakashima/The Washington Post

Iranian government-backed hackers last week pulled off a feat few were expecting. They became the first foreign adversary to interfere in the 2020 election by sending threatening emails to voters. But that action — so far the only confirmed intelligence operation by a foreign government that directly targeted specific voters in this election — had far less impact than Moscow’s hacking and leaking of Democratic emails four years ago. Officials and disinformation experts warn that overstating the threat posed by foreign spies and hackers plays into their narrative that they have the power to sow chaos, and undermines the ability to fashion the most effective and proportionate response. “My biggest concern is that we give a foreign adversary more credit than they’re actually due,” said Brig. Gen. Joe Hartman, the election security lead for the military’s U.S. Cyber Command, which is working with the National Security Agency to protect the election from foreign threats.

Full Article: Overstating the foreign threat to elections poses its own risks, U.S. officials and experts say – The Washington Post

National: U.S. voter info has always been public — but now it’s getting weaponized | Kevin Collier/NBC

When John Ratcliffe, the top U.S. intelligence official, said at a news conference last week that Iran and Russia had obtained American voter registration information, he left out an important point: American voters’ data is already public and widely available. “We have confirmed some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said last Wednesday. “This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion.” Iran had already weaponized some of that information in the form of threatening emails sent to some Democrats in Florida. The email campaign showed no signs of any successful effort to target Florida’s election infrastructure. But the campaign offered a stark reminder that voting in the U.S. comes with a strong chance that your personal information is shared online. While states’ readiness to share the information may not be common knowledge, it has been the reality for more than a century, said Eitan Hersh, a politics professor at Tufts University and author of a history of how political campaigns target voters.”I think there’s a pretty widespread view across the political spectrum that if you want to participate in the political process, having a public record about it is part of what that means,” he said. “It’s amazingly hard to not have your name, address and birthday in the public record.” State legislators periodically introduce bills to change state laws about sharing the information, but “the mainstream of both parties are committed to the idea that parties should be able to contact you, so these bills are squashed,” Hersh said.

Full Article: U.S. voter info has always been public — but now it’s getting weaponized

National: With Election Day looming, an anxious nation hears rumblings of violence | Marc Fisher/The Washington Post

This weekend, several dozen people will arrive at secret locations in West Virginia and Colorado to ride out the election and its aftermath. If Tuesday’s vote sparks unrest, Drew Miller’s customers at Fortitude Ranch will be secure behind walls patrolled by armed guards. “Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.” In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing be there as well. “The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.” On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.

Full Article: Fear of violence high ahead of election day – The Washington Post

National: How the fight over mail-in ballots threatens to undermine the votes of American troops | James Clark/Task & Purpose

Marine Corps flying missions in support of ground forces and convoys overseas. “I was thinking the other day about some other elections, and talking to some friends,” said Cooper, a former Marine aviator who retired from the Corps in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel, and went on to found Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan political advocacy group. “You know, the most significant election in my own lifetime was in December 2005. And that wasn’t an American election. It was the Iraqi election.” When Cooper was deployed to Al Anbar province in Iraq with VMAQ-1, a Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, the elections were overshadowed by fears of violence, concerns that Iraqi citizens would denounce the results as fraudulent, and worries that voters wouldn’t have the patience to see the process through. “How ironic is it that I feel those same three things today?” Cooper said. This time around, it’s the U.S. election that’s been shadowed in doubt and uncertainty, following a presidential race that has been defined by its hyper-partisanship and long-held norms of peaceful transition of power and mail-in voting being called into question or politicized.

Full Article: Will military absentee votes matter in the 2020 election? – Task & Purpose

Editorial: The absurd legal theory conservative judges are using to restrict voting | Neal Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer/The Washington Post

A novel legal theory is surging among conservative judges and justices. The notion is that, under the Constitution, only state legislatures — without any input from state executives or courts — may set the rules for presidential elections. This theory is clearly a misunderstanding of constitutional election law. But it’s actually worse than that: It fundamentally misapprehends how law itself functions. To imagine that the work of legislatures can be wholly isolated from the work of other parts of our government is a fantasy untethered from an inescapable feature of the American legal system: Law represents an interplay between legislators and those who must interpret and implement their handiwork, including judges and executive branch officials. Here’s what everyone agrees on: Article II of the Constitution says that “[e]ach State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” that state’s representatives to the electoral college, which chooses the president. No one disputes the basic reality that state legislatures typically take the lead in setting rules for the statewide elections that choose electors who, in turn, choose a president. But in the past couple of weeks, the focus on two words in that constitutional text — “the Legislature” — has been taken to fanatical extremes. Most recent — and most absurd — is a decision on Thursday by a federal court of appeals that, five days before Election Day (too late for the state to do anything to respond to it), abruptly changed the rule for Minnesota voters from a requirement that their mail-in ballots be sent by Election Day to a requirement that those ballots be received by Election Day, thus unsettling at the last moment both the law and voters’ expectations.

Full Article: The Minnesota voting ruling relies on an absurd conservative legal theory – The Washington Post

National: ‘To me, it’s voter suppression’: the Republican fight to limit ballot boxes | Jess Hardin/The Guardian

On the East Side of Youngstown, Ohio, a steady stream of early voters drop off completed absentee ballots into the new drop box outside the Mahoning county board of elections. Gloria Phifer is one of them. The 68-year-old retired mail carrier drove about 15 minutes to the former hospital-turned-county office center. She doesn’t mind walking, so she found a parking spot outside, walked up to the entrance and dropped her ballot into the red drop box – the only one in the county. “My fellow mail carriers, God bless them and everything, but I thought it would easier just to bring it down here,” Phifer said. “This is an important election and I wanted to just make sure [there were] no problems.” In response to safety concerns spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and worries about potential mail delays, drop boxes are popping up all over the country – in many places for the first time. The largely secure voting method has long been available to voters in states like Colorado and Washington. But amid the partisan battles over access to the polls, election officials in battleground states are still fighting to limit their usage with only days left until 3 November.

Source: ‘To me, it’s voter suppression’: the Republican fight to limit ballot boxes | US news | The Guardian

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others | Elise Viebeck and Beth Reinhard/The Washington Post

As Floridians rush to vote in the presidential election, mail ballots from Black, Hispanic and younger voters are being flagged for problems at a higher rate than they are for other voters, potentially jeopardizing their participation in the race for the country’s largest battleground state. The deficient ballots — which have been tagged for issues such as a missing signature — could be rejected if voters do not remedy the problems by 5 p.m. Nov. 5. As of Thursday, election officials had set aside twice as many ballots from Black and Hispanic voters as those from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older. While the number of deficient mail ballots in Florida was relatively low one week before the election, at roughly 15,000 out of more than 4.3 million cast, that figure could rise sharply: Roughly 1.6 million Floridians still have outstanding mail ballots.

Full Article: In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others – The Washington Post

Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

With days to go, Florida has failed to spend more than $10 million designated for election security, COVID-19 protection at the polls and a surge in mailed ballots. A large piece of that pie is $3.5 million that Secretary of State Laurel Lee requested from the Legislature earlier this year for the state’s 67 county supervisors of elections to shore up their systems. The counties didn’t ask for that money. And it remains unspent, sitting in a state account as “unbudgeted reserve.” Another chunk of pie left on the plate is $6 million in CARES Act funds that 19 counties decided not to take advantage of, which could be used to make polling places safer for voters and hire extra people to count mail-in ballots. As the state’s top election official, Lee insists Florida is ready. “Florida is very well situated to proceed to our November election,” Lee said. Lee said the same thing about making sure the online voter registration system could handle the onslaught of new applicants. But it crashed on the last day people were allowed to apply to vote, forcing Lee to extend the deadline and sparking a legal challenge to extend it further.

Full Article: Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection

Georgia officials expect outages won’t affect Election Day | Kate Brumback and Jeff Martin/Associated Press

Georgia officials say they don’t expect power outages caused by severe weather that swept through parts of the state to interrupt Election Day voting. The remnants of Hurricane Zeta, which hit southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 storm Wednesday, swept across northern Georgia, knocking down trees and leaving more than a million residents without power early Thursday. But power crews quickly sprang to action, working nonstop to restore electricity. Statewide, roughly 255,000 customers in Georgia were still without power Friday afternoon, nearly 36 hours after the storm barreled through. Allison Gregoire, a Georgia Power spokeswoman, said the company expects to restore power to about 95% of its customers by Sunday night. “We should be back and rolling by Election Day,” she said Friday. Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office, said he’s been in close contact with Georgia Power and with the electric membership cooperatives and expects power to be restored to the state’s 2,419 Election Day polling places by Tuesday. But he also said the secretary of state’s office is talking to the state emergency management agency about backup generators. All of the voting machines have a minimum two-hour battery backup and polling places are required to have backup paper ballots on hand for emergencies, he added.

Full Article: Georgia officials expect outages won’t affect Election Day

Georgia election networks untouched by Hall County ransomware attack | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A ransomware attack that took over some Hall County election information won’t harm other Georgia election systems, according to the secretary of state’s office. “There is no connective tissue between those things, so I want to put everyone’s mind at ease on that,” Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said during a meeting Thursday of Georgia’s new Safe, Secure, and Accessible Elections Task Force. Hackers penetrated Hall’s networks and captured some election information, hindering the county’s ability to verify voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, Sterling said. “They weren’t targeting an election system. They were just targeting anywhere where they could get in,” Sterling said. “It never touched the state system.”

Full Article: A ransomware attack in Hall County didn’t infect Georgia election systems

‘Like a yo-yo’: Election officials grapple with flood of confusing last-minute rule changes | Lucien Bruggeman/ABC

Local election administrators are scrambling to keep up with a crush of ongoing litigation winding its way through the courts, with some saying they feel like “yo-yos” caught in the middle of politically fraught legal battles over ballot deadlines and other voting rules. County and municipal clerks are already navigating an election season burdened by unprecedented challenges – with the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on key swing states and a record-setting number of voters casting their ballots by mail. The blizzard of legal challenges, conflicting rulings, deadline extensions and last-minute rule changes, has only compounded the confusion, several officials told ABC News. “It’s like a yo-yo,” said John Gleason, the election clerk in Genessee County, Michigan — a key swing state. “We get a directive, then a judge says ‘no.’ We get another directive, and the appeals court says ‘no.’ It has not been easy.” Partisans in at least 44 states have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits tied to voting rules changes during the pandemic, according to a tally gathered by the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election — more than half of which remain pending or on appeal.

Full Article: ‘Like a yo-yo’: Election officials grapple with flood of confusing last-minute rule changes – ABC News

Iowa: Judge backs limits on absentee ballot drop box sites | Ryan J. Foley/Associated Press

A judge has kept in place guidance from Iowa’s secretary of state that county elections commissioners can only set up absentee ballot drop boxes at or outside their offices. Judge William Kelly rejected a request from a Latino civil rights organization and a group aligned with Democrats to block Secretary of State Paul Pate’s guidance and allow for drop boxes in locations such as grocery stores. The ruling, coming nearly three weeks after Kelly heard arguments in the case, isn’t expected to have an impact because it comes so close to Election Day. Most absentee ballots have already been returned and auditors had dropped plans to add drop box locations even if Pate’s guidance was suspended. Kelly said that requiring voters or their designees to return ballots to a location where the county auditor conducts business is “not a severe burden” on the right to vote. He noted that voters can also put them in the mail or vote in person, either early or on Election Day. Iowa law says that absentee ballots should be returned to the county elections commissioner’s office by voters or their designees and is silent on the use of drop boxes to collect them.

Full Article: Judge backs Iowa’s limits on absentee ballot drop box sites

Massachusetts: Federal immigration officials wrongly tell new US citizens they missed chance to vote | Collin Binkley/Associated Press

Federal immigration officials acknowledged Thursday that they erroneously told some new U.S. citizens in Massachusetts that they could not vote in next week’s election because they had missed the state’s voter registration deadline. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the citizenship process, said officials at some recent naturalization ceremonies mistakenly told new citizens they were ineligible to vote because the Oct. 24 registration deadline had passed. State law, however, allows new citizens to register until 4 p.m. the day before an election if they became citizens after the deadline. Agency spokesman Daniel Hetlage said in a written statement that the error was based on information from a state website. The agency has contacted all new citizens who may have received incorrect information, he said. “The state has since updated its webpage and we at USCIS are not aware of this happening anywhere else,” Hetlage said. In a statement to GBH News, which first reported the story, the immigration agency said it was contacting 409 new citizens who had received incorrect information at 36 ceremonies Monday and Tuesday. Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts secretary of state, said the elections website did not previously include details on registration for new citizens. The issue has rarely arisen, she said, but department officials have consistently told USCIS about the extension for newly naturalized citizens.

Full Article: Feds wrongly tell new US citizens they missed chance to vote

Michigan clerks have ‘deep concern’ about violence, COVID-19 at polls | Dave Boucher Christina Hall/Detroit Free Press

It’s not the surge in absentee ballots, or even the global pandemic that have Alpena City Clerk Anna Soik most concerned heading into Election Day. The clerk of the roughly 10,000-person city that rests on the shores of Lake Huron in northern Michigan is instead worried about what happens if someone fired up about the election brings a gun to a polling place. “I’m not going to lie, I am concerned about it. And we may possibly even have a police presence,” Soik said. “Because I think right now, in the time that we’re in, everybody is kind of on edge, and you just don’t know how someone is going to react, so we just need to be prepared for that.” Michigan election officials understand they face unprecedented challenges on Tuesday. They know someone may contract the coronavirus on Election Day, or that a woman or man with a gun may disrupt voting somewhere. They know a voting populace desperate for results will question why we do not know who won within minutes of polls closing. They are experts on absentee voting, ballot tabulation and poll worker training. They are not epidemiologists. They are not law enforcement officers.

Full Article: Michigan clerks have ‘deep concern’ about violence, COVID-19 at polls

Minnesota: Federal appeals court nixes extended ballot counting | Jan Wolfe/Reuters

A federal appeals court on Thursday said Minnesota’s plan to count absentee ballots received after Election Day was illegal, siding with Republicans in the battleground state. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said the deadline extension was an unconstitutional maneuver by the state’s top election official, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat. The appeals court said Minnesota election officials should identify and set aside all absentee ballots received after Nov. 3. “Simply put, the Secretary has no power to override the Minnesota Legislature,” the court’s majority wrote.

Full Article: U.S. appeals court nixes Minnesota’s extended ballot counting | Reuters

New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire | Christian Wade/The Center Square

When voters go to the polls in New Hampshire in Tuesday’s presidential election, they’ll be allowed to take firearms with them. New Hampshire is one of a handful of “open carry” states where firearm owners can possess a gun in plain view, without any special permit. The issue of guns in polling stations comes up every election cycle, but has been elevated this year amid heightened concerns about voter intimidation and violence ahead of a rancorous election. President Donald Trump, who is seeking another term, has been accused of stoking those fears with calls for his supporters to act as election “monitors” to check for fraud in the voting process. In a joint letter to local election officials on Thursday, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald clarified that the state doesn’t have the authority to prevent people from carrying firearms into polling stations, even if they are located inside schools. “There are no state election laws governing carrying of a firearm in a polling place,” the officials wrote. “Voters should not be prevented from voting based on possession of a firearm.” While a 1990 federal law prohibits firearms from being brought into schools, the officials noted they cannot prevent licensed carriers from entering school buildings.

Full Article: New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire |

North Carolina: Chatham County hit by cyber attack. Systems rendered ‘inoperable’ | Charlie Innis/Raleigh News & Observer

An unidentified “cyber incident” breached Chatham County’s communication systems Wednesday, County Manager Dan LaMontagne said. The attack rendered the government’s network, email and phone lines “inoperable for an undetermined amount of time,” LaMontagne said in an email to The News & Observer. “We are working with law enforcement and support agencies so we can recover from this incident as soon as possible. Our priority is to restore our systems in a secure manner and maintain the provision of critical services,” he said. The incident did not affect the county’s early voting or 911 communications, he said. When asked for details about what happened and how the system was breached, public information officer Kara Dudley said the county is “still evaluating the impact.”

Full Article: Chatham County systems “inoperable” after Cyber attack | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina: Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to block mail-ballot extension | John Kruzel/The Hill

The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Republican bid to block a mail-ballot extension in North Carolina, a day after rejecting a similar GOP effort in the key battleground state. The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — would have granted the Republican request. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the bench Tuesday, took no part in considering the case. The voting breakdown mirrored that of a similar Wednesday night ruling in which the court rejected an effort by the Trump campaign and North Carolina Republicans to reverse a six-day mail ballot due date extension. Together, the two rulings represent a major blow for President Trump and his GOP allies and means that North Carolina mail ballots that arrive by Nov. 12 and aren’t postmarked after Election Day will be accepted.

Source: Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to block mail-ballot extension in North Carolina | TheHill

Ohio: Two conservative operatives charged in a robocall scam are ordered to call 85,000 people back | Kathleen Gray/The New York Times

Two conservative operatives, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who have been charged in Ohio and Michigan with election fraud for sending out tens of thousands of robocalls intended to deter people from voting, have been ordered by a federal judge to call those voters back and inform them that the original call “contained false information.” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in the Southern District of New York, said in his ruling on Wednesday that the initial robocall sent in August to 85,000 people, “cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.” Mr. Wohl, 22, and Mr. Burkman, 54, both of Arlington, Va., were charged last month in Michigan and indicted by a grand jury in Ohio this week, with sending deceptive robocalls to 85,000 people, mostly in minority communities, that stated authorities would use the information on their absentee ballot forms to create a database to track down people with arrest warrants or outstanding debt. According to Judge Marrero’s ruling on Wednesday, the pair must make calls to everyone who received the robocall and deliver this message: “At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”

Full Article: Two conservative operatives charged in a robocall scam are ordered to call 85,000 people back. – The New York Times

Pennsylvania struggles with how — or if — to help voters fix their mail ballots | Jonathan Lai/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Officials across Pennsylvania are trying to help voters fix mail ballots that would otherwise be disqualified because of technical mistakes in completing them, creating a patchwork of policies around how — or even whether — people are notified and given a chance to make their votes count. Some counties are marking those ballots as received, the same as any other ballot, which gives voters no indication there’s a problem. Some are marking them as canceled, as the state says to do, which sends voters warning emails and updates the online ballot status tool but doesn’t notify voters without email addresses on file. Still others try to reach voters directly, including by mail, phone, or email — and at least one county mails the actual flawed ballots back to voters. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, provided some direction Sunday, telling counties to mark ballots as canceled if they have clear flaws, such as missing voters’ signatures, or are “naked ballots” without the required inner secrecy envelopes. Those ballots have to be rejected when votes are counted beginning on Election Day.

Source: Pennsylvania struggles with how — or if — to help voters fix their mail ballots

Pennsylvania elections chief urges counties to begin counting mail-in ballots early Tuesday morning | Kyle Cheney/Politico

Pennsylvania’s elections chief pleaded with county leaders Friday to make sure they start counting mail-in ballots the morning of Election Day, rather than waiting until the next day to begin the crucial tally. “The outcome of Tuesday’s election could well depend on Pennsylvania. It is vitally important that the more than 3 million ballots cast by mail here be counted as soon as possible,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a statement. “The country will be looking to Pennsylvania for accurate and timely results.” Her comments come as President Donald Trump has continued to question the need for votes to be counted after Nov. 3, despite the fact that it’s been commonplace in all presidential elections. This year, in particular, as voters leaned more heavily on mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of vote-counting that continues days or even weeks after Election Day has grown. Pennsylvania has already agreed to segregate any mail-in ballots that arrive after the polls close on Election Day, a nod to lingering legal questions about whether those ballots will be permitted to be counted. Boockvar’s comments come amid plans by some Pennsylvania counties to postpone counting of any mail-in ballots — whether they arrive before the polls close or after — until late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Full Article: Pa. elections chief urges counties to begin counting mail-in ballots early Tuesday morning – POLITICO

Texas: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 | Alejandro Serrano/Houston Chronicle

A federal judge on Monday will hear a complaint brought by Texas conservatives that challenges Harris County’s use of curbside drive-thru voting, according to the judge’s schedule and court records. Houston conservative activist Steven Hotze and three Republicans — state Rep. Steve Toth, Wendell Champion, a candidate for Congress, and Sharon Hemphill, who is running for a judgeship — are seeking an injunction requiring all memory cards from 10 drive-thru voting locations be secured and not entered or downloaded into the tally machine until the court issues a ruling on the complaint. The plaintiffs allege that curbside drive-thru voting runs afoul of state and federal election law. They are seeking the rejection of any votes “cast in violation of the Texas Election Code”; an order to make county elections officials review all curbside voting applications and reject those that do not meet parameters set by the code; and a permanent injunction stopping “a universal drive-thru voting scheme” unless it is adopted by the state legislature.By the time the complaint was filed, 100,000 drive-thru votes had already been cast. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the only named defendant, said Saturday afternoon the option was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote.” “Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it, and 117,000 voters from all walks of life have used it,” Hollins said in a statement. “The Harris County Clerk’s Office is committed to counting every vote cast by registered voters in this election. In the event court proceedings require any additional steps from these voters, we will work swiftly to provide that information to the public.”

Full Article: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 –

Wisconsin Republican Party says hackers stole $2.3 million in campaign funds | Scott Bauer/Associated Press

Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Donald Trump in the key battleground state, the party’s chairman told The Associated Press on Thursday. The party noticed the suspicious activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI on Friday, said Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt. Hitt said the FBI is investigating. FBI spokesman Brett Banner said that, per policy, “the FBI is not permitted to confirm or deny an investigation.” The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which has a center focused on cyber crime able to assist if requested, has not been asked to investigate, said spokeswoman Rebecca Ballweg. The alleged hack was discovered less than two weeks before Election Day, as Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made their final push to win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes. Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and was planning his third visit in seven days on Friday. Biden also planned to campaign in Wisconsin on Friday. Polls have consistently shown a tight race in the state, usually with Biden ahead by single digits and within the margin of error. Hitt said he was not aware of any other state GOP being targeted for a similar hack, but state parties were warned at the Republican National Convention this summer to be on the lookout for cyber attacks.

Full Article: Wisconsin Republican Party says hackers stole $2.3 million

National: Election operations are holding up so far against a wave of hacks and technical failures | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The week before Election Day has seen a wave of digital attacks on election systems and technical foul-ups, but officials are mostly parrying the blows to keep voting going on as planned. The most concerning hit came late yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers who compromised some election systems in Hall County, Ga., earlier this month had posted a small trove of nonpublic information, including voters’ social security numbers, as a ploy to persuade the county to pay a ransom. Officials’ greatest fear about such strikes, called ransomware attacks, is that hackers could seize voter registration databases and hold them hostage during voting so it becomes exceedingly difficult to check in voters. This is far from that worst case scenario because it hasn’t impeded any voting operations. But knowing that the act of voting put their personal data at risk is sure to have a chilling effect on some people. The hackers also teased the release as “example files,” which suggests they could release more sensitive and damaging information later.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election operations are holding up so far against a wave of hacks and technical failures – The Washington Post