Nineteen tables are spread across a ballroom the size of an Olympic swimming pool, each with its own set of voting machines. Hackers crowd around them, tinkering, unscrewing, and more or less destroying anything with a power button. This is the Voting Village at DEFCON, the annual “ethical hacker” conference in Las Vegas and one of the few places where pretty much anyone has permission to do whatever they please to equipment that would otherwise be locked away. At the last in-person DEFCON, in 2019, well before “Stop the Steal,” the “audit” in Maricopa County, and the conspiracy theory that Nancy Pelosi’s husband owns one of the country’s largest voting machine manufacturers, attendees packed the village. Now, two years later, the issue has become even more of a national obsession. DEFCON is a meeting place for the different stakeholders in the world of cybersecurity: grungy hackers, nerdy academics, security researchers, election officials, voting machine manufacturers, and representatives from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the federal agency whose security guidelines nearly every state relies on to some extent. For a few days, DEFCON enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists gather together and race to see who can prove voting machines are insecure. With its made-to-be-shared antics, the village regularly produces viral tweets and national headlines. It also has quick impact: Following demonstrations at the convention in 2017, Virginia’s Department of Elections recommended decertifying some of its machines effective immediately. “Multiple types of DREs, some of which are currently in use in Virginia, were hacked, according to public reports from DefCon,” the agency wrote.
Pennsylvania county’s voting machine review has its roots in 2020 election fraud lies | Sam Dunklau/WITF
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily blocked a data security company hired by state Senate Republicans from examining Fulton County’s voting machines last week. But a legal team representing the county is fighting to get the probe back on track. The standoff has put the focus on those leading that effort, and on questions about the process that remain unanswered. Those who have instigated and supported looking at Fulton County’s machines have ties to organizations and lawmakers who have backed false claims about the last presidential election. The probe is part of a push by a Republican-led state Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush (R-Cameron), to investigate Pennsylvania’s last several elections, despite audits confirming results and a previous Senate election review that yielded suggestions about how to make Election Day run more smoothly in Pennsylvania. Dush and others haven’t been clear about why they want to probe Fulton County’s voting machines. But lawyer Thomas Breth of western Pennsylvania firm Dillon McCandless King Coulter & Graham, who is representing the county, said it doesn’t matter. “We’re not going to second-guess a request coming from the chairman of a committee within the Pennsylvania Senate. As a governmental entity ourselves, we have a constitutional obligation to cooperate with other governmental entities,” Breth said before the Supreme Court court decision Friday.
National: Senate Democrats Press Ahead With Debate on Voting Rights Bill | Catie Edmondson/The New York Times
Senate Democrats plan to press ahead this week with an effort to push new voting rights protections through Congress, in an all but doomed attempt to enact a key piece of President Biden’s agenda that has been undercut by members of his own party. The Senate on Tuesday will begin to debate legislation that combines two separate bills already passed by the House — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — and folds them into an unrelated measure. The move would allow the Senate to bring the bill directly to the floor, avoiding an initial filibuster. But that strategy would still allow Republicans to block it from coming to a final vote, and Democrats lack the unanimous support needed in their party to change Senate rules to muscle through the legislation themselves. Still, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said late last week that Democrats would forge ahead anyway, forcing Republicans to publicly declare their opposition to the bill. “We all have to be recorded at this moment in time about where are we in protecting the right to vote,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Right now, it doesn’t look like it has the votes to pass, but we’re going to cancel our Martin Luther King Day recess and be there this week because we think it’s so important for the country.”
Republicans and Democrats are increasingly setting their sights on installing their candidates in top election posts across the country as the issue of voting rights takes center stage in Washington. The focus is likely to turn secretary of state races across the country into high-profile battles as both parties see the power the position has over election practices as critical. Republicans are pushing the issue of election integrity, while Democrats are seeking to roll back voting restrictions. And both parties are bringing cash to the fight. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which handles secretary of state races among other state-level contents, and its strategic policy partner, the State Government Leadership Foundation, raised a record $14.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, bringing the groups’ annual total to $33.3 million in the off-election year. “National liberals are ramping up their investments in secretary of state races because they see control of these offices as a way to change the rules to compensate for their inability to win elections with their failed socialist agenda,” said RSLC communications director Andrew Romeo. “The RSLC is focused on continuing to accelerate our fundraising efforts so we can stop them,” he added. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (DASS) raked in $1 million during the first six months of 2021, a marked improvement from raising $202,000 in the first half of 2019, according to a report released on Wednesday from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.
National Archives received forged letters from Arizona and Michigan claiming Trump won election, report says | Gustaf Kilander/The Independent
The National Archives received fake certificates of ascertainment that then-President Donald Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence had won Michigan and Arizona in the 2020 election, according to a report. The secretaries of state in those states have passed along the forgeries to the House Select Committee investigating 6 January, Politico reported. Communications between state officials and the National Archives have also been shared with the panel. Democratic secretaries of state Jocelyn Benson of Michigan and Katie Hobbs of Arizona met with the committee in November. “They mostly discussed election administration in Arizona, the 2020 elections, threats/harassment directed toward the office, and the Cyber Ninja’s partisan ballot review,” Murphy Hebert, a spokesperson for Ms Hobbs, told Politico. Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Ms Benson, told the outlet that she and her staff answered the committee’s questions about the 2020 election and events in the run-up to the Capitol riot on 6 January 2021.
National: Biden will endorse changing Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation | Katie Rogers/The New York Times
President Biden will endorse changing Senate rules to pass new voting rights protections during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, the most significant step he will have taken to pressure lawmakers to act on an issue he has called the biggest test of America’s democracy since the Civil War. Mr. Biden will not go so far as to call for full-scale elimination of the filibuster, a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to kill legislation that fails to garner 60 votes, according to a senior administration official who previewed the speech. But Mr. Biden will say he supports a filibuster “carve-out” in the case of voting rights, the official said. Citing “repeated obstruction” by Republicans, Mr. Biden will endorse changing the Senate rules, the official said. The president will contend that the filibuster has protected “extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right.” “This is one of those defining moments,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Tuesday, before departing for Georgia. “People are going to be judged, where were they before and where were they after the vote. History is going to judge this. And so the risk is making sure people understand just how important this is.”
National: GOP push for hand-counting paper ballots is latest effort to cast doubt on elections | Kelly Mena/CNN
After more than a year of baselessly questioning the results of the 2020 election, some Republicans are casting doubt on how ballots are counted, part of a broader movement inspired by former President Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud that is undermining confidence in America’s vote. In at least three states — Utah, New Hampshire and Texas — Republicans have pushed for banning traditional ballot scanning machines in favor of hand-counting paper ballots, an antiquated process that experts fear could inject error into an election system where very little has been found. Critics also worry that the inevitable delay in results from hand counting would be an opportunity for those looking to sow doubt about the outcome of future contests. Republicans have already seized on Trump’s unfounded claims to launch partisan audits and enact restrictive voting laws ahead of this year’s midterms. And now they’re targeting the tabulation of votes by suggesting, without evidence, that there’s a problem — even in places where Trump or down-ballot Republicans won in 2020. One GOP county chair in Texas, for example, said he has “concerns” about the election, even though Trump won the Lone Star State by more than 630,000 votes, and there’s no evidence that fraud or irregularities influenced results there or anywhere else.
Candidates for top election official in battleground states are raking in an unusual amount of cash compared to previous years, according to a new report. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found in an analysis released Wednesday that campaign contributions for election administrator contests are surging in some of the states that played key roles in the 2020 presidential election. In three battleground states with available fundraising data — Georgia, Michigan and Minnesota — candidates for secretary of state have raised 2½ times more than at the same point in the previous two election cycles. The figures underscore how once-overlooked races are now deeply partisan contests, in large part because of former President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in 2020. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin all have elections for secretary of state this year, and voter fraud claims and conspiracy theories are playing roles in each. “These have traditionally been sleepy bureaucratic races that no one’s heard of, and we’re seeing much more attention being paid to them and this feeling that the stakes are higher,” said Ian Vandewalker, a co-author of the report. “Candidates on both sides are saying democracy is at stake if I win or lose — it’s pretty much unheard of in our lifetimes.”
Full Article: Big bucks flow into state races for election officials
Arizona: Cyber Ninjas, firm that led ballot review, is closed | Derek Gilliam/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
The CEO of the Florida cybersecurity company that conducted a highly contested election review in Arizona confirmed Friday that his company has closed and laid off its employees. News of the closure had reached Arizona on Thursday shortly before a judge issued an order finding the company in contempt of court and imposing a fine of $50,000 a day for its failure to produce records requested by The Arizona Republic. Company founder Doug Logan on Friday confirmed the shutdown to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, but said it wasn’t because of the fines, pointing instead to cash flow issues. He notified the remaining four employees — down from eight when the audit started last year in Maricopa County — of the decision to close the business the first week of December. “Yes, we closed our doors and laid off our employees,” he said. “No. It did not have anything to do with what happened yesterday.” The employees were laid off Jan. 1 and will have health insurance through the month, he said. Part of Cyber Ninjas’ cash flow problems, Logan said, stemmed from the Arizona Senate not adhering to the contract signed when it hired the company to conduct the audit. Logan said the company was never fully paid for the audit, nor did the Senate indemnify the company as was required by the company’s contract.
Colorado: Mesa County grand jury will investigate allegations of official misconduct, tampering with election equipment | Stephanie Butzer and Blair Miller/Denver Channel
A Mesa County grand jury will investigate the allegations of official misconduct and tampering with county election equipment amid an ongoing investigation into accusations that an elections clerk was involved in a security breach of the equipment in 2021. The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the announcement early Thursday morning. The county made national headlines in 2021 after security information from the county’s voting machines was leaked to a right wing website. According to the investigation as of late December, investigators say Mesa’s Clerk and Recorder, Republican Tina Peters, let an unauthorized person access the voting machines. That person was also present for a secure software system update. In the announcement Thursday morning, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said the grand jury investigation will be “thorough and guided by the facts and the law.” Their statement did not name anybody in particular.
In defending itself against a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, Fox News is seeking access to an expert report filed under seal in a separate Georgia lawsuit that the author says details vulnerabilities in the company’s touchscreen voting machines. Election security expert J. Alex Halderman spent 12 weeks examining the voting machines used in Georgia and more than a dozen other states and said he identified “multiple severe security flaws” in the machines that would allow attackers to install malicious software. His report was filed in federal court in Atlanta in July in support of a long-running lawsuit filed by election security advocates and voters who want Georgia to scrap the electronic voting machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. Dominion in March filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News in Delaware, where both companies are incorporated, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. A judge last month rejected Fox’s motion to dismiss the suit. The lawsuit cites Halderman, saying he “told Fox explicitly, ‘There is absolutely no evidence, none, that Dominion Voting Machines changed any votes in this election.’”
Indiana looks to require voting machines with paper ballot backups by 2024 | Margaret Menge/Princeton Daily Clarion
The Indiana General Assembly recently passed a bill out of that requires all counties in the state to have voting machines with at least some paper ballot backups by July 1, 2024. State law now says counties have until Dec. 31, 2029 to replace voting machines with no paper backup, and the Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly has resisted calls to move this up to an earlier date, until now. House Bill 1116 requires counties using Direct Recording Electronic device (DREs) machine that has no paper ballot backups will either have to replace them or make sure that they have attachments called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail [VVPAT] printers for at least 10% of all voting machines by July 1, 2024. The bill says the “audit trail” or paper ballot that is produced by the voting machine must include the following information: the name or code of the election; the date of the election; the date the audit trail [paper ballot] was printed; a security code and record number specific to each paper receipt assigned by the voting system; the name or designation of the voter’s precinct; the name or designation of each office on the voter’s ballot; the name of the candidate and the designation of the candidate’s political party selected by the voter; if the voter selects a straight-party ticket, the name of the political party the voter selected and a description of the text of any public question or judicial retention question and the response the voter selected.
Maine: Harsher punishment sought for those who threaten election workers | Randy Billings/Portland Press Herald
Municipal clerks who oversee local, state and federal elections asked Maine lawmakers Wednesday to make it a felony to harass, threaten or intimidate election workers. But the measure is being opposed by some who say incarcerating more people is not the answer. Clerks said they have noticed higher tensions and more confrontations with angry and misinformed voters, and the situation is making it harder to find poll workers. State officials said they have received two reports of threats against election workers since the 2020 presidential election, which some Republicans have falsely claimed was rigged and rife with voter fraud. Details about specific incidents were not made available, but Waterville City Clerk Patti Dubois said election workers are experiencing increased hostility and threats, both in person at polling locations and online through social media. “Being on the receiving end of a voter’s profanity-laced rants (is) commonplace now,” Dubois said. “At least one clerk in Maine has received a credible death threat from a voter. Technology has made it unbelievably easy for misinformed citizens to threaten election officials. Email, voicemail and social media are platforms easily used that allow a degree of anonymity. We cannot become desensitized to this disturbing trend.”
Michigan: ‘Forensic audit’ in largest pro-Trump county finds no evidence of election interference | Malachi Barrett/Mlive
A “forensic audit” of election equipment in the largest Michigan county won by former President Donald Trump found no evidence of outside interference in the 2020 election. Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini released the results of an independent investigation into the county’s voting software on Jan. 5, a day before the one-year anniversary of a riot in Washington, D.C. aimed at overturning the 2020 election. Michigan Republicans waged an unsuccessful year-long campaign to compel similar a “forensic audit” of the statewide election based on unproven allegations of interference in voting machines. “I’m very comfortable saying that the software and the tabulators work the way they were supposed to,” Forlini said. The Macomb County audit found no evidence of “malicious internet connectivity,” no evidence of file manipulation and no evidence of unauthorized software in the county’s election servers. Forlini said the audit disproved a popular theory that election machines could be tampered with through the internet. Forlini was elected in 2020 and said he immediately faced questions about election fraud after he took office in January 2021. Forlini said he sought the audit to answer those questions since he did not administer the 2020 election personally. “There is no agenda in my head up front, and I think that’s important because some people have agendas,” Forlini said. “I had no agenda, other than the truth.”
Pennsylvania court declines request to quash Senate GOP election investigation subpoena, needs more time for review | Marley Parrish/Pennsylvania Capital-Star
The legislative subpoena issued as part of the taxpayer-funded election investigation is on hold, following a Monday Commonwealth Court decision to take more time to evaluate a Senate panel’s request for millions of voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers. That means the legal request, issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee in a September vote along party lines, is delayed as the case enters into a fact-finding hearing with discovery and witness testimony. The unsigned, 7-page order comes nearly a month after a panel of five judges heard arguments in the case brought by legislative Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to challenge the review of the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections. They have also raised concerns that Envoy Sage, LLC, an Iowa-based company selected for the investigation, has not outlined specific security measures and has no direct election-related experience. The Commonwealth Court said that it could not conclude that challengers affirmed “a clear, legal right to quash the subpoena” by arguing that the seldom-used Senate panel does not have the legislative power to request voters’ identifying information. The court also wrote that there is “substantial factual question surrounding the federal protection requirements and the capability of the Senate committee’s contracted vendor, Envoy Sage, LLC, to protect the infrastructure information.” Most of the requested information is publicly available. State law, however, prohibits the public release of someone’s driver’s license number and Social Security number.
Tennessee lawmaker favors mirroring Georgia’s statewide voting system | Asia Ashley/The News Courier
A Tennessee state representative says he wants to instill more “confidence” in the state’s elections by implementing an electronic system similar to that used in Georgia since 2020. Initially, Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey filed a bill Dec. 29 to only allow votes to be cast by paper ballots statewide. According to the bill, HB 1662, ballots could only be hand-marked and must be counted using an electronic optical ballot scanner. However, Griffey said Monday he plans to re-draft the bill after speaking with Hardin County elections representatives about the county’s two-step voting verification process, which is similar to one used in Georgia. Georgia’s voting machines were purchased from Dominion Voting which drew the ire of President Donald Trump loyalists who falsely claimed the Georgia presidential election was “rigged,” despite the fact November 2020 results were re-certified and have been verified by two statewide audits and two recounts. John White, Hardin County, Tennessee, election commission chair, said its voting system — manufactured by Election Systems & Software — allows voters to make selections for each race via a touch screen computer. Once a voter confirms the selection, the ballot with the voter’s selections is printed on paper.
Members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission balked Tuesday at a massive request for voter data and other information by six Republican state lawmakers but did not order the request —deemed “insane” by one commissioner — be denied. Instead, the commission said the lawmakers should be told how much it would cost, how long it would take, and what information can’t be provided. Meagan Wolfe, the state’s top elections official, told commissioners it was “the most broad request we’ve ever seen.” Democratic commissioners said the Dec. 22 request was designed to grind operations at the elections commission to a halt, and frustrate and overwhelm those who work for the nonpartisan agency that is overseen by a bipartisan board. The request came from Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chair of the Assembly elections committee, and five other Republicans. They have been leading voices in questioning President Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin, pushing conspiracy theories about the election and how it was run in the state. Some Republicans have even called for members of the commission to resign and be charged with felonies.