National: Election Misinformation went down after Twitter banned Trump | Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg/The Washington Post

Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively. The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter. Election disinformation had for months been a major subject of online misinformation, beginning even before the Nov. 3 election and pushed heavily by Trump and his allies. Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.

Full Article: Misinformation went down after Twitter banned Trump – The Washington Post

National: FBI investigating whether Capitol assault suspect tried to sell Pelosi computer to Russian intelligence service | Luke Barr andJack Date/ABC News

The FBI is investigating whether a woman who allegedly participated in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol stole a computer or hard drive from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the intention of selling it to Russia’s intelligence service. According to an FBI criminal complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Sunday, a witness called the FBI with a tip that a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, woman, Riley June Williams, is seen in a video published by ITV, a British broadcasting network, depicting Williams’ presence in the Capitol during the riot. The witness told the FBI he or she was formerly a romantic partner of Williams. The witness claimed to have spoken to friends of Williams who allegedly showed the witness a video of Williams “taking a laptop or hard drive from Pelosi’s office,” according to the complaint. The sale to Russia fell through, according to the witness account described by the FBI in the complaint, and Williams “still has the computer device or destroyed it.” The matter remains under investigation, the document stated. The complaint alleges Williams committed the criminal violations of entering restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. She is not charged with stealing Pelosi’s computer. Williams’ whereabouts were unknown until late Monday when the Department of Justice reported she had been taken into custody in Pennsylvania. “It appears that WILLIAMS has fled,” according to the document, and “sometime after January 6, 2021, WILLIAMS changed her telephone number and deleted what I believe were her social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Telegram, and Parler.”

Full Article: FBI investigating whether Capitol assault suspect tried to sell Pelosi computer to Russian intelligence service – ABC News

National: Pelosi laptop theft highlights ‘real counterintelligence concerns’ of Capitol riot, lawmaker says | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

There are growing concerns that U.S. adversaries may be seeking ways to benefit from the Capitol assault – and that some of rioters may have been looking to work with them. The FBI is investigating claims that Riley June Williams stole a laptop or or hard drive from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and intended to sell the device to Russia’s intelligence services by way of a friend who lives in the country. “The idea that a group of so-called ‘patriots’ would sell a government computer to the Russians should tell you everything you need to know about the people who assaulted the Capitol,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “There are real counterintelligence concerns associated with a breach like the one that occurred on January 6th.”Williams was arrested Monday in her home state of Pennsylvania, and it’s unclear if she still had the laptop in her possession. She has been charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct in the Capitol, Spencer S. Hsu and Hannah Knowles report. The case is the first with foreign intelligence implications. There could be more. The Justice Department is treating its investigation into the riot “just like a significant international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation,” acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said last week. Sherwin previously stated that his office was still assessing how many of the more than 100 cases related to the Capitol riot involved “national security equities.” He previously said that “multiple devices” were stolen. The FBI also is looking into potential financial ties between some of the groups that incited the riot and foreign governments, 

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Pelosi laptop theft highlights ‘real counterintelligence concerns’ of Capitol riot, lawmaker says – The Washington Post

National: Dominion Voting Systems Threatens to Sue MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell | Maggie Haberman/The New York Times

Officials with Dominion Voting Systems have sent Mike Lindell, the C.E.O. of MyPillow, a legal letter warning of pending litigation over his baseless claims of widespread fraud involving their machines. “You have positioned yourself as a prominent leader of the ongoing misinformation campaign,” the letter said, referring to his continued false claims that their systems were rigged by someone to effect the outcome. “Litigation regarding these issues is imminent,” the letter said. Mr. Lindell is only the latest to get a warning letter from Dominion officials about potential litigation, after he and Sidney Powell, the right-wing lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani and others have continued to spread false claims about the integrity of the results the machines showed. Mr. Lindell visited Mr. Trump at the White House briefly on Friday, before the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, steered him away. In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Lindell said he welcomed a lawsuit from Dominion. “I would really welcome them to sue me because I have all the evidence against them,” he said. “They sent this letter a couple of weeks ago. They’re lying, they’re nervous because I have all the evidence on them.”

Full Article: Dominion Voting Systems Threatens to Sue MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell – The New York Times

National: American Thinker apologizes to Dominion after getting letter from defamation attorneys | Celine Castronuovo/The Hill

Conservative opinion website American Thinker on Friday issued a statement apologizing for printing false claims about Dominion Voting Systems after the voting machine company’s lawyers accused the blog of defamation. American Thinker editor and publisher Thomas Lifson posted an online statement saying that the website had received a “lengthy letter from Dominion’s defamation lawyers explaining why they believe that their client has been the victim of defamatory statements.” Lifson said that, “Having considered the full import of the letter,” he admitted that several pieces on the website “falsely accuse” Dominion “of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump.” Lifson added that the pieces “rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.” The opinion website head confirmed, “These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact,” and that “Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.” “It was wrong for us to publish these false statements,” Lifson continued. “We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees,” the statement added, along with an apology to readers for what it called a “grave error.”

Full Article: American Thinker apologizes to Dominion after getting letter from defamation attorneys | TheHill

National: Rep. Lauren Boebert led ‘large’ Capitol tour before riots, Rep. Steve Cohen says | Andrea Salcedo/The Washington Post

Amid a push to investigate whether any GOP lawmakers aided rioters at the Capitol, several Democrats last week accused an unnamed House Republican of leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the building before the Jan. 6 attack. Now, two Democratic lawmakers say they personally saw one Republican — Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — with a “large” group in a tunnel connected to the Capitol days before the attempted insurrection that left four rioters and one police officer dead.Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said on Monday that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) had both seen Boebert in the tunnel outside the Cannon House Office Building with a group sometime in the three days before the riots. He said he didn’t know who was in the group or if anyone with Boebert later participated in the attack. “Congressman [John] Yarmuth refreshed my recollection yesterday,” Cohen told Jim Sciutto on “CNN Newsroom.” “We saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th. … Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.” Boebert, a gun rights advocate with links to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, called Cohen’s remarks “false” and “slanderous” in a letter sent to the congressman on Monday, which she also shared on Twitter. Boebert said she had taken a number of family members into the Capitol on Jan. 2 for a tour and Jan. 3 to take pictures on the day she was sworn into office, but had not given any other tours.

Full Article: Rep. Lauren Boebert led ‘large’ Capitol tour before riots, Rep. Steve Cohen says – The Washington Post

National: Urgency mounts for new voting rights bill | Marty Johnson/The Hill

Urgency is mounting among voter rights groups and Black lawmakers for President-elect Joe Biden to make a new and improved voting rights bill a top priority. In his first address to the American people as president-elect back in November, Biden made a bold pledge: that he’d have Black Americans’ backs. The promise holds even more weight following last week’s insurrection at the Capitol that featured strong overtures of white nationalism. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the original 1965 Voting Rights Act that was gutted by a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2013. Given the slim majority Democrats will now enjoy the Senate, proponents are hopeful Biden will make it a headline of his agenda. Biden transition spokesperson Jamal Brown told The Hill that the former vice president “will work to enact the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act when in office.” The bill prevent state legislatures from unilaterally making changes to voting procedures, which they’ve been able to do since the 2013 ruling. In states where voting rights activists were successful in boosting the turnout of voters of color, proposals already exist to have sweeping roll backs of expanded voting rights that many states reluctantly introduced because of the pandemic. 

Full Article: Urgency mounts for new voting rights bill | TheHill

Editorial: My voting technology company has been hit with a tsunami of lies and misinformation | John Poulos/The Globe and Mail

A lot has been said about the recent U.S. presidential election. Disinformation concerning states that used voting technology from my company, Dominion Voting Systems, has unfortunately been the subject of much discussion. We have been hit with tsunami of lies, and I’d like to set the record straight. We did not start our company in Venezuela with Cuban money with the intent to rig elections for Hugo Chávez (or anyone else). We have not, and do not, send votes anywhere (let alone across jurisdictional borders). As the U.S. Army has attested, there was no “raid of Dominion servers in Germany.” The name “Dominion” does not connote some vast evil conspiracy theory. Here is the truth: I started the company in Toronto, not Caracas. The first investor was my sister, not Fidel Castro. We picked the company name as an homage to the 1920 Dominion Elections Act. For those that don’t know, this piece of legislation removed significant voting barriers, including those focused on voters’ sex, religion, race and economic standing. The ideals encapsulated in that piece of legislation reflected our core purpose in founding the company: increasing election transparency and helping voters vote. We started by helping blind voters vote independently with dignity. During the past few months, many have asked me how it feels to be attacked by a sitting president. The answer is complicated. Dominion’s systems are tested by the U.S. federal government and 28 U.S. states long before, leading up to, and right after elections. There were no “switched or deleted votes” involving Dominion machines, nor any other type of manipulation. We understand, however, that candidates (and their supporters) can become very emotional over the loss of an election, especially a highly contentious and divisive one. In times like these, election officials rely on audit trails and recounts to demonstrate complete transparency. Hand recounts of all paper ballots, in conjunction with robust legal avenues for aggrieved candidates to pursue election challenges, have always won the day.

Full Article: Opinion: My voting technology company has been hit with a tsunami of lies and misinformation – The Globe and Mail

Arizona bill aims to disallow Sharpies to be used on ballots | Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

A bill at the Arizona legislature aims to prevent counties from requiring that specific markers or any other pen be used that may damage a ballot after a debunked claim that they spoiled ballots during the November election spread across social media during the election. For the first time ever in 2020, Arizona voters were given Sharpie permanent markers to mark their ballots at Arizona polls this year, and their use spawned false claims from Republican officials in Arizona and members of the state’s conservative fringe that election officials are using the markers to invalidate votes for Donald Trump and other GOP candidates. Senate Bill 1023 by Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, would bar county boards of supervisors from requiring that a specific marking pen be used on paper ballots and “shall not provide for use on ballots any pen that creates marks that are visible on the reverse side of the paper ballot or that otherwise may damage or cause a ballot to be spoiled.” The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said Sharpies were given to voters at polling places this year because of new voting machines. While the old voting machines — which had been in use since 1996 — could not read Sharpies and many other commercially available permanent markers, the new machines perform better with felt-tip markers. The new machines can read between 6,000 and 8,000 ballots an hour, about twice as many as the old machines. Ink from Sharpies dries faster than ink from traditional ballpoint pens, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office advised the use of the markers in Maricopa County. 

Full Article: Bill aims to disallow Sharpies to be used on ballots • Arizona Mirror

California: After Historic Election, Legislators Consider Keeping Voting Changes | Guy Marzorati/KQED

California’s 2020 election was marked by historic levels of voter participation amid rapid changes in the voting process. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred state lawmakers to broaden voting options in the name of safety. For the first time, every voter was mailed a ballot, while early voting was expanded and polling places were abandoned in favor of countywide voting locations. In a report released Wednesday, the National Vote at Home Institute gave California its highest score, praising the state for policy changes implemented in 2020. “They did achieve monumental success in terms of the adjustments while dealing with the pandemic,” said Amber McReynolds, the institute’s CEO. Now, lawmakers in Sacramento have to figure out which changes to keep. That work begins on Thursday, when the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee is set to consider legislation that would extend the state’s universal vote-by-mail provisions for another year. That would cover special elections (and any potential recall election) held in 2021.

Full Article: After Historic Election, California Legislators Consider Keeping Voting Changes | KQED

Georgia: Atlanta Prosecutor Appears to Move Closer to Trump Inquiry | Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim/The New York Times

Prosecutors in Georgia appear increasingly likely to open a criminal investigation of President Trump over his attempts to overturn the results of the state’s 2020 election, an inquiry into offenses that would be beyond his federal pardon power. The new Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, is already weighing whether to proceed, and among the options she is considering is the hiring of a special assistant from outside to oversee the investigation, according to people familiar with her office’s deliberations. At the same time, David Worley, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s five-member election board, said this week that he would ask the board to make a referral to the Fulton County district attorney by next month. Among the matters he will ask prosecutors to investigate is a phone call Mr. Trump made in which he pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the state’s election results. Jeff DiSantis, a district attorney spokesman, said the office had not taken any action to hire outside counsel and declined to comment further on the case. Some veteran Georgia prosecutors said they believed Mr. Trump had clearly violated state law. “If you took the fact out that he is the president of the United States and look at the conduct of the call, it tracks the communication you might see in any drug case or organized crime case,” said Michael J. Moore, the former United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “It’s full of threatening undertone and strong-arm tactics.”

Full Article: Atlanta Prosecutor Appears to Move Closer to Trump Inquiry – The New York Times

Georgia: Judge considers voter suppression claims in broad voting rights suit | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

So much has changed in Georgia over the past two years, including new voting laws and the election of Democratic U.S. senators, that a federal judge should reject a lawsuit alleging rampant voter suppression, attorneys for the state said Tuesday. The lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Steve Jones to rule in their favor in the case that has been pending since Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the 2018 election for governor to Republican Brian Kemp. But attorneys for Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Abrams that filed the suit, told Jones that Georgia’s elections continue to disenfranchise voters through voter registration cancellations, absentee ballot rejections, long lines and poll closures. Jones didn’t immediately decide Tuesday on the state’s motion for summary judgment, a key step before a potential trial. He questioned whether he has the authority to consider anything beyond the secretary of state’s voter registration cancellation practices because county governments handle most election functions.

Full Article: Far-reaching Georgia voting rights case argued in federal court

Michigan Republicans seek to replace canvasser who certified election | Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

The Michigan Republican Party wants to replace the GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers who cast the pivotal vote to certify election results in favor of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. With party activists calling for certification to be blocked on Nov. 23, Aaron Van Langevelde, a policy adviser and deputy legal counsel for state House Republicans, joined the two Democrats on the four-member board to sign offon the results.His term ends on Jan. 31. Instead of renominating him for a four-year term, the Michigan Republican Party has proposed three well-known activists to take his spot, according to a letter obtained by The Detroit News. Among them is Linda Lee Tarver, who was involved in a lawsuit that sought to have the GOP-controlled Legislature intervene in the results showing Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won. Van Langevelde said he was never asked if he’d like another term on the board, unlike the first time he was nominated, when the party approached him about serving. He said the party’s decision came as no surprise, but he stood by his vote and said he was proud of the board’s decision. “My conscience is clear, and I am confident that my decision is on the right side of the law and history,” Van Langevelde said in a Monday statement. “Time will tell that those who spread misinformation and tried to overturn the election were wrong, and they should be held responsible for the chaos and confusion they have caused.” In addition to Tarver, a longtime former employee of the Michigan Department of State, the state Republican Party also nominated Tony Daunt, director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, and Tori Sachs, a political strategist and executive director of Michigan Rising Action.

Full Article: Michigan Republicans seek to replace canvasser who certified election

New Jersey experience with 2020 elections, an invaluable teacher for coming contests | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

Confronted with a national health emergency that disrupted familiar Election Day traditions, New Jersey voters still managed to turn out in record numbers for 2020’s historic election. “What happened was kind of a miracle when you think about it,” said Ingrid Reed, the former director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics and a longtime advocate for voting reform. “But just how did we pull it off?  What did we do right in this election and where did we go wrong? If we don’t take a good hard look at the election now we’d be missing a great chance to improve the voting experience for everybody,” she added. Reed,  who has been brainstorming with a broad group of  policy experts and other advocates, said there’s consensus on the need for an independent study on  the 2020 election that would dig deep into state and county voter data and collect the views of frontline workers who basically created the vote-by-mail machinery on the fly. After Gov. Phil Murphy ordered last year’s election be conducted nearly all by mail  as the pandemic emerged, county officials faced a series of tight deadlines and logistical hurdles to make sure all voters received ballots. Those officials suddenly found themselves reviewing thousands of ballot signatures and battling balky state computers that spit out bad addresses and district data for voters.

Full Article: Valuable lessons for NJ from 2020 elections | NJ Spotlight News

New York’s 22nd District Congressional race may come down to DMV voter registrations | Rome Daily Sentinel

Who will represent the 22nd Congressional District in Washington may come down to whether nearly 70 people who filled out a voter registration form through the Department of Motor Vehicles were really registered to vote. The legal teams representing Republican Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi have filed briefs with state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte outlining how they believe he should rule on the paper ballots filled out by more than 60 voters. Brindisi’s filings mention 69 such voters and Tenney’s 64. It emerged during previous hearings in the court review of the ballot counting that Oneida County election commissioners did not include those ballots because they considered the voters not registered on time. Commissioners and their deputies said they received registration applications but did not process them as they were overwhelmed with a flood of absentee ballot requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, carrying out recent changes in the law regarding registration, and preparing for the first major general election with 10 days of early voting at multiple polling sites, as well as preparing for Election Day. Whether they should have may decide whether Tenney’s lead of 29 votes in unofficial tallies holds up. DelConte heard oral arguments Friday, and set Wednesday as the deadline to file more briefs, with final arguments two days later, all in Oswego, where he is based. The issue largely deals with provisional, or affidavit, ballots that people who are not allowed to vote normally may fill out if they are told at the polls that their names are not in the official poll books, or lists of registered voters at a polling place.

Full Article: NY-22 may come down to DMV voter registrations | Rome Daily Sentinel

Pennsylvania election probe over discarded Luzerne County military ballots ends without changes | Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

Federal prosecutors in Harrisburg announced Friday they had found “insufficient evidence” of a crime in an election investigation that President Donald Trump and his allies had repeatedly touted as a sign of vote-rigging in Pennsylvania. The case, involving nine military ballots found discarded in a Luzerne County dumpster, was unusual from the start. Breaking with traditional Justice Department norms that prohibit discussing most ongoing investigations — especially ones that could influence elections — then-U.S. Attorney David J. Freed sent out a news release confirming the probe after Trump alluded to the matter on a Fox News Radio segment in September. The president then repeatedly cited it during his first debate against Joe Biden to bolster his baseless claims that widespread fraud would cost him the election. In a since deleted tweet, a Trump campaign spokesperson pointed to the case, claiming: “Democrats are trying to steal the election.” In his announcement Friday, Freed’s successor, Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, said no criminal charges will be filed. “The matter is closed,” he said in a statement.

Full Article: Pa. election probe over discarded Luzerne County military ballots ends without chages

Pennsylvania: Angered by State Supreme Court rulings, GOP moves to exert more control over judiciary branch | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA

A state House panel narrowly advanced a measure Wednesday aimed at giving the Republican-controlled legislature the power to draw districts for electing appellate court judges in Pennsylvania, a major shift away from the current statewide contests. The majority party has made overhauling the courts a priority after a slew of unsuccessful litigation involving the administration of the 2020 election as well as the coronavirus pandemic. But critics warn the change is an attempt to exert control over the judiciary branch. The House Judiciary Committee voted 13-12 in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment, which would affect races for state Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts. If passed by the full House and Senate by Feb. 18, it would be before voters for the May 18 primaries. Republicans contend electing judges by district will lead to more geographic representation. A majority of the 31 appellate judges are from either Philadelphia or Allegheny County — including four of the seven Supreme Court justices — but those areas make up less than a quarter of the state’s population. Rep. Russ Diamond (R., Lebanon), who introduced the amendment, said judges’ judicial philosophies are influenced in part by their geography, and courts should reflect that geographic diversity. “Just like we have geographic diversity when we create law and come to consensus based on that multi-voice, we should also have that sort of diversity when those laws are heard on appeal and when our courts are setting precedent for the future,” he said.

Full Article: Angered by Pa. Supreme Court rulings, GOP moves to exert more control over judiciary branch · Spotlight PA

Washington election director forced into hiding over potential threats of retaliation, violence | MyNorthwest

The political climate regarding election fraud has been fraught both in Washington state and across the county. In the former, it became so problematic that state election officials have been forced to take extreme precautions in the face of potential threats. That includes Washington state’s election director, who was forced into hiding after an Iranian website launched calling for the assassination of U.S. election officials. That website hosted photos of those officials alongside home addresses, encouraging Americans displeased with the election results to go out and commit acts of violence. “My state election director is in an undisclosed location with her family because they’re worried about their physical and personal safety,” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “It’s a scary time, and people are emotional, they’re illogical, and they’re not rational.” “The scary thing is that it’s just got to take one person that you motivate that says, ‘Yeah, we gotta go out and kill election officials,’” she added. Wyman herself has taken precautions as well, having even gotten rid of two personalized license plates that made her vehicle too easy to identify. All told, the situation has made for difficult — and often emotional — times for election officials across the country. “It’s frustrating because I go between fear and anger — I get mad because I don’t want to be afraid,” Wyman said. Much of that has been driven by rhetoric from the White House leading into the 2020 election, which saw President Trump repeatedly and emphatically insist that the results were fraudulent.

Full Article: Washington election director forced into hiding over potential threats of retaliation, violence

National: Biden to Restore Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Aides to Senior White House Posts | David E. Sanger/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., facing the rise of domestic terrorism and a crippling cyberattack from Russia, is elevating two White House posts that all but disappeared in the Trump administration: a homeland security adviser to manage matters as varied as extremism, pandemics and natural disasters, and the first deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology. The White House homeland security adviser will be Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, according to transition officials. She is a longtime aide to Mr. Biden who served under President Barack Obama as senior director for Europe and then deputy secretary of energy, where she oversaw the modernization of the nuclear arsenal. And for the complex task of bolstering cyberoffense and defense, Mr. Biden has carved out a role for Anne Neuberger, a rising official at the National Security Agency. She ran the Russia Small Group, which mounted a pre-emptive strike on the Kremlin’s cyberactors during the 2018 midterm elections, part of an effort to counter Moscow after its interference in the 2016 presidential election. For the past 15 months, she has overseen the agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate, a newly formed organization to prevent digital threats to sensitive government and military industry networks. But it has also been an incubator for emerging technologies, including the development of impenetrable cryptography — the National Security Agency’s original mission nearly 70 years ago — with a new generation of quantum computers. Taken together, the two appointments show how Mr. Biden appears determined to rebuild a national security apparatus that critics of the Trump administration say withered for the past four years. The new White House team will focus on threats that were battering the United States even before the coronavirus pandemic reordered the nation’s challenges.

Full Article: Biden to Restore Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Aides to Senior White House Posts – The New York Times

Social media posts wrongly claim Dominion voting software was used in 2020 New Zealand election | Taylor Thompson Fuller/AFP

Multiple Facebook posts claim US-based company Dominion Voting Systems, which has been the centre of conspiracy theories and false claims of voter fraud in the United States, was used in New Zealand’s 2020 election. The posts question whether Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was legitimately elected. The claims are misleading: the New Zealand Electoral Commission told AFP they do not use machines or software from Dominion Voting Systems. In October 2020, Prime Minister Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election, leveraging success battling Covid-19 into an unprecedented majority. The claims were shared by a New Zealand-based user here. The post includes an image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the words “Dominion Voting Fraud” and “Jacinda Ardern victory for Labour Now Debatable”.  … The New Zealand Electoral Commission, which is responsible for the administration and running of elections in New Zealand, told AFP in an email: “Dominion Voting Systems are not used by the Electoral Commission”. “In New Zealand, votes in parliamentary elections are counted by hand. We do not use machines to count votes at general elections, including the 2020 election,” the January 11, 2021 email reads.  According to the Electoral Commission, once votes in parliamentary elections have been counted the results are recorded manually and entered into the Election Management System which produces the official results for the election.  “The Election Management System was developed in New Zealand and regularly undergoes independent security testing and certification,” the Electoral Commission said. “The Election Management System was developed for us by a New Zealand company, Catalyst. The Commission owns the system and maintains it with technical support from Catalyst.”

Full Article: Social media posts wrongly claim Dominion voting software was used in 2020 New Zealand election | Fact Check

National: Can the vote be trusted? A conversation on US election integrity. | Jessica Mendoza and Samantha Laine Perfas/CSMonitor

Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Americans remain divided over the integrity of the election. This is despite Congress having certified the results, and officials across the political spectrum assuring the public that the 2020 election was secure – perhaps “the most secure in American history.” But what does it mean to have a secure election? Is it ensuring that our systems are protected from cyberattacks? That we have ways to independently verify every vote? What about consistently investing in new technologies and resources for election officials? For Mark Lindeman, interim co-director of the nonpartisan organization Verified Voting, it’s all of the above – and then some.  “Doing better objectively and technically does not automatically translate to protecting American elections,” he says. “Voters need to have some fundamental belief that election results are trustworthy. And we can’t congratulate ourselves to the extent that we’re failing to provide that.”  

Full Article: Election doubts abounded in US. What’s reality of ballot integrity? – CSMonitor.com

National: Chris Krebs, the election security chief fired by Trump, warns ‘disinformation is upending our society and literally killing Americans’ as he launches a new commission to help fix it | Jeff Elder/Business Insider

Aiming to address disinformation he says is “upending our society and literally killing Americans,” Christopher Krebs, the federal cybersecurity official who challenged the president on election disinformation, will lead a new Aspen Institute commission he said will take a careful approach to an urgent problem. “America needs to pay attention to what’s unfolding right now and work to ensure that we’re not on the verge of a significant breakdown in democracy and civil society,” Krebs told Insider in written remarks. Krebs will chair a new, bipartisan commission announced Wednesday by the Aspen Institute think tank — called The Commission on Information Disorder — and funded by a $3.25 million grant from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. This new group intends to help connect the private and public sectors to help find solutions for these most complicated of policy issues. Krebs said the commission will pull different segments of society together so that government, tech, and industry can come together to study, discuss, and collaborate on the issue. “The way forward requires industry, government, and civil society taking a hard look at the deep divisions that allow these falsities to propagate, and to recognize that each has a core role to play. That is one of the primary goals of this new commission.”

Full Article: Krebs: Disinformation ‘upending our society’ and killing Americans – Business Insider

National: Lawyers face fallout from fueling Trump’s false claims of election fraud | Peter Stone/The Guardian

Prominent lawyers who helped fuel Donald Trump’s baseless charges of election fraud to try and thwart Joe Biden’s win, are now facing potentially serious legal and financial problems of their own tied to their aggressive echoing of Trump’s false election claims, say former Department of Justice lawyers and legal experts. They include a federal investigation into the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob, possible disbarment and a defamation lawsuit. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who led Trump’s conspiratorial drive to overturn the election and gave an incendiary talk to the Trump rally right before the march on the Capitol began, could be ensnared in a federal investigation of the attack and is facing a disbarment complaint in New York. Pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Cleta Mitchell have, respectively, been hit with a defamation lawsuit for making false claims, and losing her law firm post after coming under scrutiny for her work promoting Trump’s false claims. “I never saw allegations of misconduct that I think are as seriously unethical as the conduct of lawyers who have been propounding the false claims of President Trump,” said Mary McCord, who led the DoJ’s national security division at the end of the Obama administration until May 2017, and also served for six years on the DC Circuit’s Grievance Committee.

Full Article: Lawyers face fallout from fueling Trump’s false claims of election fraud | Law (US) | The Guardian

National: How antifa conspiracy theory traveled from fringe to floor of Congress | Aleszu Bajak and Javier Zarracina/USA Today

While much of America watched a mob of Trump supporters overrun police and break into the halls of Congress Wednesday afternoon, members of the far right chatted up an imaginary narrative of what was really going on. After weeks of planting the idea, dozens of extremists used social media to promote an idea with no basis in reality – that the people besieging the Capitol were actually far-left agitators disguised as Trump supporters. The trickle of claims became a flood in a matter of hours. It started in secretive corners of the web such as 4chan, but tweets and articles from more and more mainstream conservative news sites followed. It began spiking around 1 p.m., just after rioters started breaching barriers outside the Capitol. Soon, Fox News personalities were sharing the same speculation that circulated among believers in the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory. By 10:15 p.m., the “false flag” story reached the House floor that rioters had invaded earlier in the day. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told his shaken colleagues in a speech: “They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

Full Article: How antifa conspiracy theory traveled from fringe to floor of Congress

National: Far-right groups make plans for continued attacks before and after Inauguration Day | Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet and Razzan Nakhlawi/The Washington Post

President Trump’s incitement of his supporters before their attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 has galvanized a nationwide extremist movement and fueled those determined to disrupt the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden and violently challenge the legitimacy of the election for months — and possibly years, according to U.S. officials and independent experts. U.S. officials have warned authorities nationwide to be on alert for potential acts of violence at state capitols, as well as a possible second attack on the Capitol or on the White House. Law enforcement authorities have said extremists might use firearms and explosives and are monitoring online calls to rally in cities nationwide beginning Sunday. Security at the inaugural ceremony in Washington on Wednesday probably will be the most intense ever. At the center of the amorphous but increasingly motivated extremist movement sits the current president, now twice impeached, deprived of his social media megaphones but still exerting a powerful influence over his followers who take his baseless claims of election fraud as an article of faith.

Full Article: Far-right groups make plans for continued attacks before and after Inauguration Day – The Washington Post

National: ES&S Threatens Researchers for Exposing Valid Security Flaws | Karl Bode/Vice News

A major manufacturer of voting machine hardware has threatened researchers for highlighting proven privacy and security vulnerabilities in their products. Last week, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) fired off a cease and desist letter to SMART Elections, a New York State based non-partisan project designed to bring greater public awareness to the lack of security in electronic election equipment. In the letter, ES&S accuses the organization of “false, defamatory, and disparaging” comments related to the company’s ExpressVote XL touchscreen-enabled barcode voting system, which SMART Elections has been warning New York State officials suffers from design flaws that make it open to vote manipulation. “Security experts and good government groups say that the ExpressVote XL has a flawed design that makes it dangerously insecure, and that it is also glitchy and over-priced,” the group warned. “Many of them strongly oppose its use. Voters with disabilities have often struggled to use it.” ES&S didn’t take the criticism particularly well, and in its cease and desist letter claims the organization was engaged in “defamation and trade disparagement.” “We demand that you immediately and permanently cease and desist from communicating false allegations about ES&S, and immediately retract and correct the false, defamatory and disparaging accusations you have made against ES&S,” the company threatened. ES&S lawyers appear particularly annoyed by claims that the “ExpressVote XL can add, delete, or change the votes on individual ballots,” will “deteriorate our security and our ability to have confidence in our elections,” and is a “bad voting machine” in general. But many experts, including Princeton University professor Andrew Appel, say the accusations and criticism levied against ES&S are absolutely correct. “The ExpressVote XL, if hacked, can add, delete, or change votes on individual ballots — and no voting machine is immune from hacking,” Appel said. “That’s why optical-scan voting machines are the way to go, because they can’t change what’s printed on the ballot. And let me explain some more: The ExpressVote XL, if adopted, will deteriorate our security and our ability to have confidence in our elections, and indeed it is a bad voting machine. And expensive, too!”

Full Article: Voting Machine Company Threatens Researchers for Exposing Valid Security Flaws

Arizona bill aims to disallow Sharpies to be used on ballots | Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

A bill at the Arizona legislature aims to prevent counties from requiring that specific markers or any other pen be used that may damage a ballot after a debunked claim that they spoiled ballots during the November election spread across social media during the election.  For the first time ever in 2020, Arizona voters were given Sharpie permanent markers to mark their ballots at Arizona polls this year, and their use spawned false claims from Republican officials in Arizona and members of the state’s conservative fringe that election officials are using the markers to invalidate votes for Donald Trump and other GOP candidates. Senate Bill 1023 by Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, would bar county boards of supervisors from requiring that a specific marking pen be used on paper ballots and “shall not provide for use on ballots any pen that creates marks that are visible on the reverse side of the paper ballot or that otherwise may damage or cause a ballot to be spoiled.”  The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said Sharpies were given to voters at polling places this year because of new voting machines. While the old voting machines — which had been in use since 1996 — could not read Sharpies and many other commercially available permanent markers, the new machines perform better with felt-tip markers. The new machines can read between 6,000 and 8,000 ballots an hour, about twice as many as the old machines.  Ink from Sharpies dries faster than ink from traditional ballpoint pens, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office advised the use of the markers in Maricopa County.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich launched an investigation into the use of Sharpies; less than a day later, he concluded that the “use of Sharpie markers did not result in disenfranchisement of Arizona voters.” 

Full Article: Bill aims to disallow Sharpies to be used on ballots • Arizona Mirror

Georgia: After Attacks On Election Integrity, Officials Work To Rebuild Confidence | Stephen Fowler/NPR

It’s been more than a week since the Georgia Senate runoff elections delivered control of Congress to Democrats. But inside the Bartow County, Ga., Senior Center on Tuesday, a dozen teams worked in pairs to do a hand recount of more than 43,000 votes cast in the Jan. 5 runoffs. The final margin for the races are outside the threshold for a recount, and the voters in this county an hour northwest of Atlanta are about 75% Republican — so the result isn’t close, or expected to change. So why did poll workers spend a day conducting a voluntary audit at the end of an exhausting election cycle? “A lot of my voters, a lot of my citizens, do not trust the voting system after November, after a lot of misinformation went out about this specific system,” elections director Joseph Kirk said. Kirk is a firm believer in transparency and education when it comes to the state’s voting system – especially after one of the most secure elections in state history, one that saw record turnout and few reported problems. But Georgia was also ground zero for misinformation and attacks on election integrity, led by President Trump and a number of top Republicans in Georgia and beyond.

Full Article: Georgia Republicans Work To Rebuild Election Confidence : NPR

Georgia: Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney dismisses election fraud claims: ‘There’s just nothing to them’ | Chris Joyner/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The acting U.S. attorney for Northern Georgia, who was named after his predecessor reportedly angered President Trump for not finding election fraud, told staffers in a conference call Monday that he dismissed two election fraud cases on his first day. “I would love to stand out on the street corner and scream this, and I can’t,” said Bobby Christine, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I can tell you I closed the two most — I don’t know, I guess you’d call them high profile or the two most pressing election issues this office has,” he said. “I said I believe, as many of the people around the table believed, there’s just nothing to them.” Christine also said he found fewer election-related investigations in the office than he expected. “Quite frankly, just watching television you would assume that you got election cases stacked from the floor to the ceiling,” said Christine. “I am so happy to find out that’s not the case, but I didn’t know coming in.” Christine declined to comment on the call when contacted by the AJC Tuesday. Former U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, a Republican who had served since 2017, had planned to remain through the end of the Trump administration but resigned abruptly Jan. 4. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported the White House forced Pak to resign because Trump believed he was not being aggressive enough in investigating allegations of election fraud. In a call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger two days before Pak’s resignation, Trump disparaged Pak as a “never Trumper U.S. attorney.” Christine, the U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District, was appointed to replace him. The appointment bypassed the number two prosecutor in the office, Kurt Erskine, and raised fears of political interference as Trump was waging a campaign to overturn the results of the election.

Full Article: Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney in Georgia dismisses election fraud claims: ‘There’s just nothing to them’

Michigan election officials begin statewide audit of Nov. 3 vote | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

Michigan election officials began conducting a statewide audit of the Nov. 3 general election Monday that involves reviewing ballots from more than half of the state’s local jurisdictions, which is more than have ever participated in such an audit in the nation, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The Michigan Department of State will work with county and local election officials to undertake the “risk-limiting” audit, which will entail hand counting ballots from randomly selected jurisdictions across the state. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she hopes the audit will increase confidence in the election process and outcome after a disinformation campaign by President Donald Trump and his allies to sow doubt on the election precipitated the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6. “Post-election audits are an important part of the elections process and are critical to both affirming the accuracy of the results and reinforcing citizen trust in the system,” Benson said. She added, “This year more than ever, with the high volume of misinformation spread about what was an incredibly safe, secure and accurate election, conducting this bipartisan process openly and transparently is an important step in ensuring Michigan voters understand the truth about the security and integrity of our election system.”

Full Article: Michigan election officials begin statewide audit