National: How G.O.P. Election Reviews Created a New Security Threat | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Late one night in May, after surveillance cameras had inexplicably been turned off, three people entered the secure area of a warehouse in Mesa County, Colo., where crucial election equipment was stored. They copied hard drives and election-management software from voting machines, the authorities said, and then fled. The identity of one of the people dismayed state election officials: It was Tina Peters, the Republican county clerk responsible for overseeing Mesa County’s elections. How the incident came to public light was stranger still. Last month in South Dakota, Ms. Peters spoke at a disinformation-drenched gathering of people determined to show that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald J. Trump. And another of the presenters, a leading proponent of QAnon conspiracy theories, projected a portion of the Colorado software — a tool meant to be restricted to election officials only — onto a big screen for all the attendees to see. The security of American elections has been the focus of enormous concern and scrutiny for several years, first over possible interference or mischief-making by foreign adversaries like Russia or Iran, and later, as Mr. Trump stoked baseless fears of fraud in last year’s election, over possible domestic attempts to tamper with the democratic process. But as Republican state and county officials and their allies mount a relentless effort to discredit the result of the 2020 contest, the torrent of election falsehoods has led to unusual episodes like the one in Mesa County, as well as to a wave of G.O.P.-driven reviews of the vote count conducted by uncredentialed and partisan companies or people. Roughly half a dozen reviews are underway or completed, and more are being proposed. These reviews — carried out under the banner of making elections more secure, and misleadingly labeled audits to lend an air of official sanction — have given rise to their own new set of threats to the integrity of the voting machines, software and other equipment that make up the nation’s election infrastructure.

Full Article: How G.O.P. Election Reviews Created a New Security Threat – The New York Times

National: New Texas voting bill deepens growing disparities in how Americans can cast their ballots | Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

Red and blue states are increasingly moving in opposite directions on how millions of Americans can cast their ballots, exacerbating a growing divide as Republicans in states across the country — most recently Texas — impose new voting restrictions, while Democrats in others expand access. The conflicting trends are widening the disparities in election policy in the wake of the 2020 election, with Republicans heeding former president Donald Trump’s calls to tighten rules and Democrats moving to make permanent many voting policies that helped turnout soar during the pandemic. At least 18 states this year enacted 30 laws restricting access to voting, according to an analysis as of mid-July by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. That includes 11 states — nine of which supported Trump in 2020 — that only imposed restrictions and seven other states that both restricted and expanded voting access. An additional 18 states — nearly all of which backed President Biden — enacted laws that solely expanded access, the analysis shows.

Full Article: New Texas voting bill deepens growing disparities in how Americans can cast their ballots – The Washington Post

National: State GOP leaders push new 2020 election reviews as Arizona report looms | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Full Article: State GOP leaders push new 2020 election reviews as Arizona report looms – POLITICO

National: After voters embraced mail ballots, GOP states tighten rules | Anthony Izaguirre and Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

A monthslong campaign by the Republican Party, fueled in part by the false narrative of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential election, has led to a wave of new voting laws that will tighten access to the ballot for millions of Americans. The restrictions especially target voting methods that have been rising in popularity across the country, erecting hurdles to mail balloting and early voting that saw explosive growth during the pandemic. More than 40% of all voters last fall cast mail ballots, a record. Texas is the latest state to crack down, after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill Tuesday taking aim at Democratic-leaning counties that have sought to expand access to the ballot. “Regardless of motives, these bills hurt voters,” said Isabel Longoria, the election administrator of Harris County, which includes Houston. “Voters are going to feel this the next time they go vote, and that’s what I’m most worried about.”

Full Article: After voters embraced mail ballots, GOP states tighten rules

National: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections | Isaac Arnsdorf, Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon and Anjeanette Damon/ProPublica

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?” When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges. The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.” Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

Full Article: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections — ProPublica

National: Misinformation on Facebook beats factual news when it comes to clicks, study finds | Elizabeth Dwoskin/The Washington Post

A new study of user behavior on Facebook around the 2020 election is likely to bolster critics’ long-standing arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation over more trustworthy sources. The forthcoming peer-reviewed study by researchers at New York University and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France has found that from August 2020 to January 2021, news publishers known for putting out misinformation got six times the amount of likes, shares, and interactions on the platform as did trustworthy news sources, such as CNN or the World Health Organization. Ever since “fake news” on Facebook became a public concern following the 2016 presidential election, publishers who traffic in misinformation have been repeatedly shown to be able to gain major audiences on the platform. But the NYU study is one of the few comprehensive attempts to measure and isolate the misinformation effect across a wide group of publishers on Facebook, experts said, and its conclusions support the criticism that Facebook’s platform rewards publishers that put out misleading accounts. The study “helps add to the growing body of evidence that, despite a variety of mitigation efforts, misinformation has found a comfortable home — and an engaged audience — on Facebook,” said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University, who reviewed the study’s findings. In response, Facebook said that the report measured the number of people who engage with content, but that is not a measure of the number of people that actually view it (Facebook does not make the latter number, called impressions, publicly available to researchers).

Full Article: Misinformation on Facebook beats factual news when it comes to clicks, study finds – The Washington Post

Arizona Senate releases more records of 2020 election review | Bob Christie/Associated Press

Lawyers representing the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate in a review of 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county released a slew of communications between GOP lawmakers, their audit liasions and others under a court order obtained by a watchdog group that is fighting for transparency in the election recount. Among the communications were text messages from a top campaign official of former President Donald Trump to Senate liaison Randy Pullen asking where to send $175,000 to help pay for the partisan recount. Former Trump campaign chief operating officer and ex-Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit also asked Pullen if another group raising funds for the audit was legitimate, saying “Trump asking.” The Senate records were not complete. Senate attorney Kory Langhofer told a judge Wednesday that it withheld nearly 3,000 records because they contained legislative or attorney-client communications he says are privileged. Other records sought by American Oversight remain the subject of a court battle. A judge had also ordered the Senate’s contractor, including the Florida company that is overseeing the audit, to produce its records.

Full Article: Arizona Senate releases more records of 2020 election review

California: Security of some ballot-marking devices could be vulnerable in recall election, researchers say | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

A group of voting security researchers, alarmed by recent disclosure of sensitive election system software by an ally of former President Trump, want California officials to conduct a statewide post-election review of ballots cast in the Sept. 14 recall targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom. Their request, made just days before in-person voting begins in several counties, threatens to drag California into the tumultuous national debate over election security. “While the software versions are not identical to those used in California, differences are relatively minor,” the group said in its letter Thursday to Secretary of State Shirley Weber. “The release materially elevates threats to the trustworthiness of the ongoing California recall election and to public trust in the election.” The researchers who wrote to Weber acknowledged California’s strong record on election security. But they argued the public discussion of Dominion products by Mike Lindell, the chief executive of My Pillow and an informal advisor to Trump, was tantamount to a serious breach of election system security. Jenna Dresner, a spokeswoman for Weber, said Friday that the election systems used in California are secure and the state has launched a pilot program for risk-limiting audits with plans to expand the effort to all counties by 2023.

Full Article: Experts question California recall ballot-marking devices – Los Angeles Times

California: Experts call for rigorous audit to protect recall election | Christina A. Cassidy and Kate Brumback/Associated Press

A group of election security experts on Thursday called for a rigorous audit of the upcoming recall election for California’s governor after copies of systems used to run elections across the country were released publicly. Their letter sent to the secretary of state’s office urges the state to conduct a type of post-election audit that can help detect malicious attempts to interfere. The  statewide recall targeting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, set for Sept. 14, is the first election since copies of Dominion Voting Systems’ election management system were distributed last month at an event organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of former President Donald Trump who has made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election. Election offices across 30 states use the Dominion system, including 40 counties in California. Election security experts have said the breaches, from a county in Colorado and another in Michigan, pose a heightened risk to elections because the system is used for a number of administrative functions — from designing ballots and configuring voting machines to tallying results. In the letter, the experts said they do not have evidence that anyone plans to attempt a hack of the systems used in California and are not casting blame on Dominion. “However, it is critical to recognize that the release of the Dominion software into the wild has increased the risk to the security of California elections to the point that emergency action is warranted,” the experts wrote in their letter, which was shared with The Associated Press. The eight experts signing the letter include computer scientists, election technology experts and cybersecurity researchers.

Full Article: Experts call for rigorous audit to protect California recall

California: Latest Wave of Fake News Concerns Mail Ballot Fraud in Recall Election | Sameea Kamal/Times of San Diego

You’ve seen the posts on Twitter and Facebook, or maybe someone forwarded a WhatsApp message about suspicious activity with California’s recall ballots. Unfounded rumors about election security have always been around, but they’ve been rampant since the 2020 election and former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement. Despite those allegations, the 2020 elections were found to be “the most secure in American history,” according to a statement from a coalition of government and election industry officials. Claims of fraud in California’s recall election have been amplified on social media by some recall supporters, as well by some of the candidates themselves, including Larry Elder, the Republican talk show host leading most polls. So ahead of the Sept. 14 election, state and county election officials are emphasizing transparency — including allowing observers to watch the vote count — and ramping up messages to combat disinformation. On television and social media, the secretary of state’s office is running spots about how votes are safeguarded, including independent testing, paper trails and audits.   On Sept. 2, a group of election security experts urged California to conduct a thorough post-election audit because the recall is the first contest after copies of systems used to run elections were released publicly, the Associated Press reported.

Full Article: Latest Wave of Fake News Concerns Mail Ballot Fraud in California’s Recall Election – Times of San Diego

Colorado county election official allegedly pressured employees to not cooperate with investigation into security breach | Paul P. Murphy/CNN

County administrators in Colorado have opened an investigation into an election official after employees complained she was pressuring them not to cooperate with a joint local, state and federal criminal investigation into an election system security breach discovered last month, a source told CNN. Deputy clerk Belinda Knisley of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorders office has been placed on paid administrative leave due to a “confidential personnel matter,” CNN previously reported. A source in the Mesa County government tells CNN that the “confidential personnel matter” refers to an open county human resources investigation in which Knisley is accused of pressuring fellow clerk employees — her subordinates — not to cooperate with the criminal investigation into the breach. When Knisley caught wind of the HR investigation, the source said that Knisley also then pressured employees not to cooperate with it. Knisley was arrested on Wednesday, charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor cyber crime. As part of her bail conditions, Knisley agreed to have no contact with any clerk employees.

Full Article: Colorado county election official allegedly pressured employees to not cooperate with investigation into security breach – CNNPolitics

Georgia Election Officials Prep For New Voting Law’s Impact | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

It would be easy to lose track of all the changes to Georgia’s voting rules made by the 98-page Senate Bill 202, but for local elections officials, that’s not an option. Across three days this week, hundreds of county supervisors, elections board members, probate judges and staff received hands-on training at the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Elections Officials conference on Jekyll Island. The session dealing with SB 202 ran for more than an hour, with the Secretary of State’s office going section by section to make sure no alteration goes unnoticed. While Republicans, Democrats and federal lawsuits have zeroed in on a few higher-profile parts of the bill, dozens of pages of it that people aren’t talking about more directly affect how local officials do their jobs.

Full Article: Georgia Election Officials Prep For New Voting Law’s Impact | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Maryland settles lawsuit over machines used by blind voters | Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun

The state of Maryland will pay $230,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by visually impaired voters and the National Federation of the Blind that alleged the state’s electronic voting machines compromised voter secrecy and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Three voters and the federation sued the state in federal court two years ago, detailing problems with the electronic devices, which are often used by voters with vision impairments or other disabilities. Since 2016, most Maryland voters have used paper ballots marked with a pen. Before that, all voters used touch screen machines. The lawsuit contended that in some instances, election judges were poorly trained or that the voting machines, known as “ballot marking devices,” were inoperable. And the lawsuit noted that the ballot marking device prints out a ballot that’s a different size and shape than the paper ballots used by other voters. That means that if only one voter used the ballot marking devices at a voting location, their ballot could be identified among the rest. After months of settlement negotiations, the state and the plaintiffs reached an agreement in August. The Maryland Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that oversees state spending, voted unanimously and without discussion Wednesday to approve the settlement and $230,000 payment.

Full Article: Maryland settles lawsuit over machines used by blind voters – Baltimore Sun

Editorial: The lessons from Trump’s ‘Kraken’ lawyer sanctions in Michigan – How to protect against this type of attack in the future | Scott L. Cummings/NBC

The only thing surprising about U.S. District Judge Linda Parker’s order early last month imposing monetary sanctions on nine Trump attorneys was that it was so long in coming. These lawyers — led by conspiracy-theorists-in-chief Sidney Powell and Lin Wood — made outlandish claims of election fraud in Michigan and other key battleground states, all of which were roundly rejected by every court that considered them. The Michigan suit was part of multistate litigation that Powell called the “Kraken” after the mythic sea monster (the release of which she claimed would destroy President Joe Biden’s victory). The Trump legal team made unsubstantiated claims of computerized ballot stuffing by a deceased foreign dictator and late-night ballot dumps by mysterious trucks, leading Parker to lambaste the lawsuit as “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” The Kraken suit, and others brought by Trump campaign attorneys, imposed a stress test on the American legal system by seeking to co-opt courts to advance a fabricated account of the election results. Parker’s order suggests that the American system passed this test — just barely, and just for now. To protect against this type of attack in the future requires a concerted effort by the entire legal profession. It is therefore crucial that the lawyers on the bench and in the bar take seriously what they can do — and must do — better.

Source: Scott L. Cummings: The lessons from Trump’s ‘Kraken’ lawyer sanctions in Michigan

Missouri Secretary of State wants ban on helping voters fix absentee ballot mistakes | Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wants the General Assembly to ban local election workers from helping voters correct mistakes on absentee ballots, a change that could keep some votes from being counted. The request adds to a growing list of measures advanced by Republicans to alter the state’s election laws, including restoring rules requiring voters to show a photo ID and making it harder to amend the state constitution through ballot measures. Lawmakers failed to pass most proposals earlier this year, but proponents are signaling they will try again in 2022. The proposals come as GOP legislators indulge lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Missouri Republicans are also keen on curbing Democrats’ success at passing progressive policies through statewide votes. Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and minimum wage increases have all been approved by voters in recent years. “We would like to see legislation that does not allow for curing of absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent told the House Elections Committee last week, ‘curing’ being a common term for fixing errors.

Full Article: Top MO elections official: ban absentee ballot ‘curing’ | The Kansas City Star

Nevada: Federal, state election officials stymie rural Lander County commissioners’ proposed 2020 election audit | Sean Golonka/The Nevada Independent

State election officials and the Department of Justice intervened last week to thwart an attempt by Lander County commissioners to audit the county’s electronic voting machines, which hold physical voting records from the 2020 general election. The county’s election official is required under federal law to retain and preserve those records for 22 months after the election. At the same time, county commissioners are also considering converting to entirely paper elections — largely viewed as more time-consuming and error-prone — by restricting use of all electronic machines in the election process. In August — more than nine months after the 2020 general election — Lander County Manager Bert Ramos requested to the county clerk (at the direction of the county commission) that all of the county’s 26 electronic voting machines be transferred from the clerk’s office into the custody of the county manager’s office. In an interview with The Nevada Independent, Lander County Clerk Sadie Sullivan confirmed that the commissioners intended to conduct a post-election audit of the machines in order to determine whether they had been tampered with or if they had been connected to the internet (the machines run on a closed system and are certified by the federal government to not rely on internet connectivity). Sullivan also said the county hired a legal team to examine the machines.

Full Article: Federal, state election officials stymie rural Lander County commissioners’ proposed 2020 election audit – The Nevada Independent

14 Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers go to court to challenge mail-in voting law 11 of them voted for | Marc Levy/Associated PRess

Fourteen Republican state lawmakers have filed a new lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law, calling it unconstitutional and asking for it to be thrown out — even though 11 of those lawmakers supported it just two years ago. The legal challenge was filed just before midnight Tuesday in the state Commonwealth Court. It is the latest attempt by Republicans to invalidate the 2019 law that GOP lawmakers almost unanimously supported. The central claim of the lawsuit is that the law — which allowed no-excuse voting by mail — violates a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to provide a way for people to vote if they are unable to do so in person for specific reasons. Those reasons include being out of town on business, illness, physical disability, Election Day duties or a religious observance. But the lawsuit contends that the 2019 law violates that because it allows people to vote by mail even if they do not meet fall under one of those categories.

Full Article: 14 Pa. Republican lawmakers go to court to challenge mail-in voting law 11 of them voted for | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Texas Senate too late with hastily conjured bill allowing party officials to trigger audits of 2020 election | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Full Article: Texas Senate bill would have let party officials trigger audits of 2020 election | The Texas Tribune

Wisconsin: Milwaukee, Brown County clerks refuse to turn over ballots, voting machines to GOP lawmaker, but issue could escalate | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The top election officials in Milwaukee and Brown counties refused Friday to turn over ballots, voting machines and other material to a Republican state lawmaker because subpoenas she issued last month have been deemed invalid by nonpartisan legislative attorneys. “Milwaukee County’s elections are transparent and fair. We have proven this fact on numerous occasions,” said a statement from George Christenson, a Democrat serving in his second term as Milwaukee County clerk. Hours after Christenson issued his statement, an attorney for Brown County Clerk Patrick Moynihan released a letter saying he was taking the same stance. Moynihan is a Republican who was elected to his first term less than a year ago. While officials from the two counties said they would not comply with Rep. Janel Brandtjen’s subpoenas, they could soon face new demands for documents — ones with far more legitimacy. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester last week said he will sign subpoenas as part of an investigation of the 2020 election if the attorney overseeing the probe believes they are necessary. Subpoenas signed by Vos could lead to a legal standoff. Some Democrats and election officials have said clerks should not turn over their material as part of an investigation into an election that multiple courts have found to be valid. Further, the U.S. Department of Justice has warned officials they could violate federal laws if they don’t maintain custody of their election records.

Full Article: Milwaukee, Brown counties refuse to turn over ballots to GOP lawmaker