National: Activists complain of weakened EAC voting security standard | Frank Bajak/Associated Press

Leaders of the federal agency overseeing election administration have quietly weakened a key element of proposed security standards for voting systems, raising concern among voting-integrity experts that many such systems will remain vulnerable to hacking. The Election Assistance Commission is poised to approve its first new security standards in 15 years after an arduous process involving multiple technical and elections community bodies and open hearings. But ahead of a scheduled Feb. 10 ratification vote by commissioners, the EAC leadership tweaked the draft standards to remove language that stakeholders interpreted as banning wireless modems and chips from voting machines as a condition for federal certification. The mere presence of such wireless hardware poses unnecessary risks for tampering that could alter data or programs on election systems, say computer security specialists and activists, some of whom have long complained than the EAC bends too easily to industry pressure. Agency leaders argue that overall, the revised guidelines represent a major security improvement. They stress that the rules require manufacturers to disable wireless functions present in any machines, although the wireless hardware can remain. In a Feb. 3 letter to the agency, computer scientists and voting integrity activists say the change “profoundly weakens voting system security and will introduce very real opportunities to remotely attack election systems.” They demand the wireless hardware ban be restored. “They’re trying to do an end run to avoid scrutiny by the public and Congress,” said Susan Greenhalgh, senior advisor on election security for Free Speech for People, a nonpartisan nonprofit, accusing agency leaders of bowing to industry pressure. Seven members of the commission’s 35-member advisory board including its chair, Michael Yaki, wrote EAC leadership on Thursday to express dismay that the standards were “substantially altered” from what they approved in June. At the very least, the wrote, they deserve an explanation why the draft standards “backtracked so drastically on a critical security issue.”

Full Article: Activists complain of weakened voting security standard

National: Is Secure Online Voting Too Good To Be True? (For Voatz, It Might Be) | Chitra Ragavan/Swaay

When Amelia Powers Gardner won political office as county clerk and auditor in Utah County, Utah, in January 2019, she was determined to fix what she viewed as the county’s archaic and dysfunctional voting mechanisms. Around that same time, nearly 800 miles northwest, Christine Walker, the long-time county clerk in Jackson County, Oregon, had been deploying various hardware and software products to revamp her county’s voting technology and processes with little success. She was ready for something new.  Walker and Gardner don’t know each other. But when they each learned about a small Boston-based tech startup, called Voatz, that had built the first mobile voting app and platform secured by blockchain technology, they were immediately intrigued. And upon discovering that West Virginia and Colorado were already testing the app for absentee military voters overseas, the two election leaders were even more eager to put their counties on the map as trailblazers in online voting.  “I like to be the person that’s kind of setting the pace, not just following along,” says Walker, who prides herself on her tech-savvy leadership. Gardner, a former Caterpillar executive, automotive technologist, and business efficiency expert, is similarly technologically inclined. Noble intentions aside, Walker and Gardner’s vote of confidence in Voatz may be misplaced, say members of the cybersecurity community who have repeatedly warned the U.S. government that the app is vulnerable to hacking. These experts, along with several members of Congress, have criticized Voatz for its failures in transparency, lack of accountability, and refusal to release its source code so that it can be better tested for security flaws.

Full Article: Is Secure Online Voting Too Good To Be True? (For This Company, It Might Be)

National: Voting machines didn’t steal the election. But they’re a terrible technology. | Cory Doctorow/The Washington Post

onspiracy theories succeed by leveraging a grain of truth: There is usually some small connection to reality beneath even the most outlandish assertions. So while some people on the right-wing fringe spin crazed tales about a left-leaning cabal that indulges in pedophilia, there’s still the very real case of Jeffrey Epstein — showing that some rich predators do abuse teenage girls with impunity, while powerful friends look the other way. The unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding voting machines reveal the same dynamic at work. A popular right-wing talking point holds that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by nefarious actors who hacked machines from Dominion Voting Systems, which supplies many U.S. precincts. The conspiracy theory is rubbish: There’s no evidence that Dominion’s machines were hacked, and certainly no evidence that Dominion itself attempted to subvert the vote count. Each telling of the Dominion conspiracy is more unhinged than the last; small wonder that the company is suing Trump lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell for spreading their versions of the lie, asking for $1.3 billion in damages in each case. But although the conspiracy theories are nonsense, that doesn’t mean there’s anything unreasonable about mistrusting voting machines, about which experts have been sounding the alarm for years. Even before Bush v. Gore — with its disputes over missed votes and hanging chads — voting machines were a cesspool of low reliability and low security, not to mention profiteering. And they still are. State officials have striven to improve their voting systems in the past two decades, but substantial flaws remain. Something of a tech backwater, the voting machine industry has been sustained through inertia and sweetheart deals with local governments. One hurdle to reform is that the industry is dominated by three players — Election Systems & Software, which supplies half of the nation’s machines; Dominion Voting (30 percent); and Hart InterCivic (15 percent).

Full Article: Voting machines didn’t steal the election. But they’re a terrible technology. – The Washington Post

National: Trump’s election fraud falsehoods have cost taxpayers $519 million — and counting | By Toluse Olorunnipa and Michelle Ye Hee Lee/Washington Post

President Donald Trump’s onslaught of falsehoods about the November election misled millions of Americans, undermined faith in the electoral system, sparked a deadly riot — and has now left taxpayers with a large, and growing, bill. The total so far: $519 million. The costs have mounted daily as government agencies at all levels have been forced to devote public funds to respond to actions taken by Trump and his supporters, according to a Washington Post review of local, state and federal spending records, as well as interviews with government officials. The expenditures include legal fees prompted by dozens of fruitless lawsuits, enhanced security in response to death threats against poll workers, and costly repairs needed after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. That attack triggered the expensive massing of thousands of National Guard troops on the streets of Washington amid fears of additional extremist violence. Although more than $480 million of the total is attributable to the military’s estimated expenses for the troop deployment through mid-March, the financial impact of the president’s refusal to concede the election is probably much higher than what has been documented thus far, and the true costs may never be known.

Full Article: Trump’s election fraud falsehoods have cost taxpayers $519 million — and counting – Washington Post

Fox Says Coverage of Alleged Voting Machine Fraud Is Free Speech | Joel Rosenblatt/Bloomberg

Smartmatic Corp.’s defamation lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump’s supporters of promoting claims of rampant election fraud violates free speech rights, Fox News Network said. Fox responded Monday to what Smartmatic describes as a disinformation campaign spread by the news organization, lawyer Sidney Powell and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who claimed its voting machines were manipulated in the 2020 election. The Trump campaign’s lawsuits pointing to the manipulation qualified as news, Fox said. “While many doubted those claims, no one doubted their newsworthiness,” Fox said in its court filing, referring to the campaign’s lawsuits. As the story unfolded, Fox said, Smartmatic was given ample opportunity to tell its side. Smartmatic’s suit should be thrown out because it can’t prove Fox knowingly or recklessly falsified its coverage about the machines, the broadcaster said. “The First Amendment provides its highest protection to coverage of and commentary on matters of public concern,” Fox said.

Full Article: Fox Says Coverage of Alleged Voting Machine Fraud Is Free Speech – Bloomberg

National: Cyber chief Chris Krebs: ‘You find out who your friends are’ | Kiran Stacey/Financial Times

If there is one upside to having been publicly fired by Donald Trump, Chris Krebs reflects towards the end of our lunch, it is that some of his neighbours have started talking to him again.  Picking over tapas outside an upmarket Spanish restaurant on a wintry Washington day, we have spent two hours dissecting Krebs’s past four years, which were tumultuous even by the heady standards of the Trump administration.  Joining the federal government in 2017, he was later appointed as its first cyber security tsar, in charge of defending the US against cyber attacks and disinformation, both foreign and domestic. Krebs is credited with helping companies keep working through the pandemic and overseeing two successful and secure national elections — the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election. But when he started to rebut the former president’s claims that last year’s vote had been rigged, he promptly found himself out of a job and facing death threats from Trump’s most ardent supporters. While the chaos is unlikely to subside in the immediate future — he is now suing the Trump campaign and others for defamation — at least the social stigma has begun to wear off. “It’s remarkable,” Krebs notes wryly. “You find out who your friends are . . . I had neighbours that hadn’t talked to me for a while because they found out I was in the Trump administration, and now they are. “Considering the current situation, I’m OK with that,” he adds. “Just as long as you’re not torching my house.”

Full Article: Cyber chief Chris Krebs: ‘You find out who your friends are’ | Financial Times

National: Smartmatic files $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox News, hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro and lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell over bogus election-fraud claims | Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi/The Washington Post

An election technology company has filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and several of the network’s most prominent commentators, alleging that they “decimated” the company’s business by falsely accusing it of helping to steal the Nov. 3 election from former president Donald Trump. Smartmatic filed the nearly 300-page lawsuit against the network and its parent company, Fox Corp., in New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, after weeks of legal threats against the network. “Fox is responsible for this disinformation campaign, which has damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections,” Smartmatic chief executive Antonio Mugica said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. The company said it has identified “100 false statements and implications” about Smartmatic and its services made on Fox’s programs. The lawsuit singles out Fox News and Fox Business Network hosts Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, as well as two guests who repeatedly appeared on their shows in the weeks around the election: Trump-affiliated lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Powell and Giuliani made a tour of conservative news outlets after the election, repeating Trump’s claims that nefarious actors had infiltrated the U.S. election and fabricated millions of votes for his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, who won the election. The two lawyers were also involved in lawsuits seeking to overturn election results in swing states, every one of which was either dropped or thrown out of court. “Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell needed a platform to use to spread their story,” the lawsuit states. “They found a willing partner in Fox News.”

Full Article: Smartmatic files $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox News over bogus election-fraud claims – The Washington Post

National: Lawsuits Take the Lead in Fight Against Disinformation | Michael M. Grynbaum/The New York Times

In just a few weeks, lawsuits and legal threats from a pair of obscure election technology companies have achieved what years of advertising boycotts, public pressure campaigns and liberal outrage could not: curbing the flow of misinformation in right-wing media. Fox Business canceled its highest rated show, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” on Friday after its host was sued as part of a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit. On Tuesday, the pro-Trump cable channel Newsmax cut off a guest’s rant about rigged voting machines. Fox News, which seldom bows to critics, has run fact-checking segments to debunk its own anchors’ false claims about electoral fraud. This is not the typical playbook for right-wing media, which prides itself on pugilism and delights in ignoring the liberals who have long complained about its content. But conservative outlets have rarely faced this level of direct assault on their economic lifeblood. Smartmatic, a voter technology firm swept up in conspiracies spread by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies, filed its defamation suit against Rupert Murdoch’s Fox empire on Thursday, citing Mr. Dobbs and two other Fox anchors, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, for harming its business and reputation.

Full Article: Lawsuits Take the Lead in Fight Against Disinformation – The New York Times

National: No evidence SolarWinds hack touched election systems, acting CISA chief says | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

The compromise of products made by software company SolarWinds that allowed hackers to gain access to a wide array of organizations, including federal agencies, Fortune 500 corporations and at least three state governments does not appear to have affected any systems involved with election administration, the acting head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Wednesday. But speaking to the National Association of Secretaries of State winter conference, Brandon Wales, who became the agency’s leader last November, said there is still much more to be learned about the extent of the incident, which is believed to be the work of Russian intelligence agents conducting espionage on U.S.-based networks. “We have no evidence any election systems were compromised as part of this campaign,” Wales said. But, he said, U.S. intelligence still “does not have good information on all the victims.” While CISA continues to address the fallout of the SolarWinds operation, which the Biden administration has made its top cyber priority, Wales spent much of his conversation with secretaries of state recapping the agency’s role in the 2020 election. In particular, he praised efforts like a nationwide tabletop exercise last July that drew more than 2,100 participants from 37 states — against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the quick sharing of information in October that, within 27 hours, enabled U.S. officials to attribute an email campaign threatening voters to the government of Iran.

Full Article: No evidence SolarWinds hack touched election systems, acting CISA chief says

Arizona Senate fails in attempt to hold Maricopa County supervisors in contempt over election audit | Andrew Oxford Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

An attempt by Republican state senators to hold the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt failed on Monday as lawmakers seek to conduct their own audit of the presidential election results. Breaking with the GOP caucus and casting the crucial vote against the measure, which could have led to the supervisors’ arrests, Sen. Paul Boyer said he wanted to give the county and Senate more time to work out their ongoing legal dispute over the Legislature’s proposed audit. “Today’s vote merely provides a little bit more time for us to work together charitably and amicably as friends,” Boyer, R-Glendale, told the Senate. Boyer said the Board of Supervisors does not have any policy disagreement with additional audits of the last election and that his vote was not intended as an end of the process. “My vote is about patience,” he said. The Senate issued subpoenas in December and January demanding copies of all the county’s mail-in ballots and access to voting machines. But county officials have not released the ballots or voting machines, contending that state law requires the ballots to be sealed unless a judge says otherwise.

Full Article: Arizona Senate vote on contempt for Maricopa County leaders fails

Georgia opens probe of Trump phone call asking to overturn Biden’s election victory | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia election officials opened an investigation Monday into Donald Trump’s phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find” enough votes to reverse the outcome of the presidential contest in the state. The investigation will review Trump’s Jan. 2 call when he pressured Raffensperger to overturn the election, said Walter Jones, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. Raffensperger, a Republican, has repeatedly said there was no widespread fraud that could have changed the results of the election, which Joe Biden won by less than 12,000 votes in Georgia. He told Trump the “data you have is wrong” as he resisted the president’s false claims that he had won in Georgia. “The secretary of state’s office investigates complaints it receives. The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature. Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general,” Jones said.

Full Article: Georgia opens probe of Trump phone call asking to overturn Biden’s election victory

Georgia election is over, but lawsuits continue | David Wickert/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The votes were counted, recounted and audited. President Joe Biden and Georgia’s two new U.S. senators took office weeks ago. The election, in short, is over — except in the courts. More than 30 lawsuits contested some aspects of the November presidential election or the January U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia. Most were tossed out by judges in short order. But others live on, and new lawsuits are still being filed. They will not change the outcome of those elections. But the lawsuits underscore the prospect that future elections may be decided in the courts as well as at the ballot box. Biden’s victory over Donald Trump sparked a wave of litigation in Georgia and other swing states. Trump and his supporters claimed widespread fraud cost him reelection — claims that were consistently rejected by the courts and the people who ran the elections.

Full Article: Georgia election is over, but lawsuits continue

Iowa: Miller-Meeks’ attorney looking for rejected ballots in contested U.S. House race | Tom Barton/Quad City Times

More than a month after Democrat Rita Hart identified 22 ballots she claimed were legally cast but not counted, an attorney for Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now looking for rejected ballots. Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn in as a new member of Congress last month after state officials certified the election results. Hart has asked the U.S. House to investigate and overturn the race that state officials say she lost to Miller-Meeks by six votes following a district-wide recount in all 24 counties. Appanoose County Auditor Kelly Howard said an attorney for Miller-Meeks contacted the Appanoose County Auditor’s office Monday requesting copies of all rejected absentee ballot envelopes.

Full Article: UPDATED: Miller-Meeks’ attorney looking for rejected ballots in contested Iowa U.S. House race | Local News |

Louisiana Lawmakers plan review of voting machine search | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

Louisiana lawmakers intend a close watch as the state shops for new voting machines, a vendor search that comes in the aftermath of a divisive, partisan national uproar about the mechanics of casting ballots and the equipment used in that process. The solicitation for contractors went out last week, and lawmakers are planning a joint hearing of the House and Senate elections oversight committees on Feb. 19 to dig into the details of Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s effort to replace 10,000 decades-old voting machines. “We as legislators want to be able to tell our constituents that this is a good process and that we are confident in the vendor that was selected. I think part of our responsibility is rebuilding the public trust. I think some of the national issues have caused everyone to have doubts,” said Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the Slidell Republican who chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees voting issues. Ardoin held a conference call Friday with GOP lawmakers to talk through the search he started Jan. 27 and what criteria a contractor must meet. The Republican elections chief has offered a similar briefing to Democrats, according to Ardoin’s spokesperson Tyler Brey. “As you can imagine, we’ve been getting a lot of calls from legislators who are getting constituent calls asking about voting issues,” Brey said. “We just wanted to provide some information that will maybe give peace of mind.” Voting machine contracts stretch over years, the deals are lucrative and only a few companies offer the equipment. Louisiana is expected to be the only state in the market for new machines this year, putting a spotlight on its work.

Full Article: Lawmakers plan review of Louisiana’s voting machine search

Michigan: Gateway Pundit video doesn’t show election fraud in Detroit | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

An article from the conservative news website The Gateway Pundit claims that a video from the TCF Center where Detroit election workers counted absentee ballots cast by the city’s voters “shows late night deliveries of tens of thousands of illegal ballots 8 hours after deadline.”The article claims that the video is “proof of fraud in Detroit.” The video appears to show a white van at the TCF Center early in the morning on Nov. 4 containing ballots that were unloaded and brought into the counting room at the TCF Center. There is no evidence of anything nefarious. In Michigan, voters had until 8 p.m. on Election Day to return absentee ballots. The deadline was for casting ballots, not delivering or counting them.  A sworn affidavit written by Christopher Thomas, the former Michigan Director of Elections who worked at the TCF Center, in response to a lawsuit against the city says that no late-arriving ballots were ever counted. “No absentee ballots received after the deadline of 8 p.m. on November 3, 2020, were received by or processed at the TCF Center. Only ballots received by the deadline were processed,” Thomas wrote. 

Full Article: Gateway Pundit video doesn’t show election fraud in Detroit

New York: Claudia Tenney certified winner, Anthony Brindisi concedes | Steve Howe/Utica Observer-Dispatch

More than three months after Election Day, the race in New York’s 22nd Congressional District is over.  A little more than two hours after the state Board of Elections certified Republican Claudia Tenney as the winner by 109 votes, Democrat Anthony Brindisi conceded the race in a statement. The double announcements Monday brought an abrupt end to the last contested House of Representatives race in the nation.  “Today I congratulated Claudia Tenney and offered to make the transition process as smooth as possible on behalf of our community,” Brindisi said. “I hope that she will be a Representative for all the people of this district, not just those that agree with her point of view, and work with members of both parties to heal the deep divisions that exist in our Country.”

Full Article: NY-22: Claudia Tenney certified winner, Anthony Brindisi concedes

Ohio: Uproar over Dominion voting machines in Stark County shows Trump’s falsehoods linger | Hannah Knowles/The Washington Post

Late last year, amid rampant false claims of a stolen presidential election, officials in a Trump-loving county in Ohio took a stand: They voted 4 to 0 to buy Dominion voting machines. It was a good deal for the county, years in the making, says Board of Elections Director Jeff Matthews, who heads the Stark County GOP as well. It was also a step into a firestorm — Donald Trump’s supporters were incorrectly accusing Dominion Voting Systems of helping to rig the 2020 results. “We knew exactly what we were getting into,” said Matthews, who has worked on the elections board for 30 years. Two months later, Stark County has yet to replace its aging voting equipment while May primaries loom. The all-GOP board of commissioners has fielded an unprecedented deluge of upset callers and spent a recent meeting peppering election staff with doubts and questions. Matthews says officials could go to court to push commissioners to make the purchase. A former Trump campaign strategist’s video urging people to “warn” Stark County authorities against moving ahead just fueled a new round of complaints, Matthews said, many of them from out of state.

Full Article: Purchase of Dominion voting machines in Stark County draws a backlash – The Washington Post

Pennsylvania’s voting laws likely to change, but not in a big way | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As last year’s ultra-litigious presidential election magnified nearly every aspect of Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting laws, stakeholders say incremental clarifications to the law are more likely in the coming years than sweeping, foundational changes. While other states float complete overhauls of their systems, Pennsylvania’s political arena is more conducive to passing small changes to the election code that result from bipartisan consensus, observers and stakeholders say. They cite the veto power of a Democratic governor over the Republican-controlled Legislature as well as support for vote by mail by the general public and many members of both parties. “I think there’s more common ground [on election reform] than areas we can’t agree on,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said of Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg. But there’s always the possibility of political theater in a state that saw Republicans mount numerous legal attacks on the intricacies of Act 77, the Legislature’s 2019 overhaul of the voting system that garnered bipartisan support and allowed voters to cast ballots by mail.

Full Article: Pennsylvania’s voting laws likely to change, but not in a big way | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Virginia Bill Requiring Absentee Ballots to be Recorded in Precincts Where Voters Live Moves Forward | Michael Pope/WVTF

As more and more voters move toward absentee voting, important data about the geography of elections is not being collected. Looking over a list of precincts, Republican state Senator David Sutterlein of Roanoke can make determinations about which neighborhoods are giving him strong support and which neighborhoods he might want to pay a little bit more attention to. “If something is happening in one part of the county, and we’re wondering why our votes are falling off, you go there and you try to find out, ‘What are you not being heard on,'” he explained. But the movement toward absentee voting is undercutting the ability of elected officials and journalists to examine the geography of elections. When you cast an absentee ballot, the data is usually not recorded in the precinct where you live. It’s recorded in an at-large precinct, lumping your vote in with all the other absentee votes in the county or the city. That’s why Sutterlein introduced a bill requiring all those absentee votes are recorded in the precincts where the voters live.

Full Article: Bill Requiring Absentee Ballots to be Recorded in Precincts Where Voters Live Moves Forward | WVTF