Michigan: Overseas ballot transmission for military puts lawmakers at odds | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

The Michigan House has passed a bill allowing spouses, children, and family members stationed overseas with military personnel to electronically return their absentee ballots by 2025. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carol Glanville, mandates the development of a secure web portal and rules for ballot submission, requiring them to match the voter’s signature on file and be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Additionally, another bill passed would permit third-party transportation services for voters and eliminate requirements for clerks to automatically challenge certain absentee ballots. Both bills are heading to the Senate, with similar legislation pending. Currently, 31 other states allow certain voters to return ballots electronically. This move has been celebrated by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who assert it will strengthen democracy in Michigan. Read Article

Local Labs, paid by a GOP group, requests voter data, claiming it’s for political research and journalism | Jen Fifield/Votebeat

Local Labs, a conservative-leaning news company, is overwhelming local election offices across the U.S. with unclear and extensive public records requests, causing frustration among officials. CEO Brian Timpone claims they aim to expose election fraud and sometimes receive GOP-backed payments for their work, blurring the lines between research and journalism. Critics argue this is not ethical journalism. The company’s past includes plagiarism controversies. Officials are unsure about the legality of releasing records due to the commercial nature of Local Labs’ requests. Their broad demands strain election offices, requiring substantial time and resources. A recent project funded by a Trump-affiliated think tank led to a misleading report on voter fraud. Read Article

National: As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase | Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush/The New York Times

The prosecutions against former President Donald Trump have led to a surge in threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials, and others, prompting increased protective measures. This climate of threats and harassment is causing concern among experts who fear the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry individuals. Surveys show an increase in the percentage of Americans who believe the use of force is justified to restore Trump to the presidency. Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the issue, emphasizing the importance of the rule of law and the need to protect public servants from intimidation. Read Article

National: When an Olive Branch Meeting Over Voting Machine Technology Turned Into Fresh Controversy | Eric Geller/The Messenger

Election technology companies held a three-day event to engage with security professionals and invited them to probe for vulnerabilities in their newly developed election devices. The event aimed to foster transparent communication between technology providers and researchers, but it stirred controversy in the election security community due to the exclusion of some leading experts. Critics argue that any security scrutiny is better than none, but the event may be perceived as more of a publicity stunt. While election vendors emphasized the unique challenges and safeguards in elections, security experts stressed the importance of addressing digital vulnerabilities alongside operational protections. Read Article

National: Senate panel weighs free speech and deep fakes in AI campaign ads | Jacob Fischler/States Newsroom

Members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration raised concerns about the potential misuse of AI in next year’s election campaigns during a hearing. AI’s ability to create realistic but fake content, such as manipulated images and videos, poses a significant challenge for elections, potentially enabling disinformation campaigns. Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar advocated for the establishment of regulations to govern AI’s use in elections, proposing a bipartisan bill to ban deceptive campaign materials generated by AI. Read Article

National: X Fires Its Election Team Before a Huge Election Year | Vittoria Elliott/Wired

X, formerly known as Twitter, has dismissed its head of threat intelligence, Aaron Rodericks, and four team members responsible for countering disinformation and misinformation. This move comes just months before the US Republican primaries kick off the 2024 American election cycle, amidst a year when over 50 countries worldwide are heading to the polls. Rodericks’ team was focused on identifying and thwarting malicious actors on the platform, particularly those targeting elections. Critics argue that letting go of Rodericks and his team may embolden such malicious actors and make it easier for them to operate on the platform. The firings also coincide with X rolling back a feature that allowed users in several countries to report tweets containing hate speech or misinformation. Additionally, the trust and safety teams, responsible for content moderation, elections, and misinformation, have been significantly reduced since Elon Musk took over the company. Experts warn that with elections looming in numerous countries, this move could have far-reaching implications for safeguarding the integrity of democratic processes globally. Read Article

Arizona: Maricopa County argues that Kari Lake is legally barred from seeing voters’ signatures | Howard Fischer/Tucson Daily Star

Kari Lake, the Republican candidate who lost the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race, is seeking access to ballot envelope images and signatures to support her claim that Maricopa County improperly counted some early ballots. However, Maricopa County’s attorney argues that Arizona’s Election Code specifies that voter registration records “shall not be accessible or reproduced by any person other than the voter.” This, he contends, overrides laws presuming public disclosure. Additionally, the attorney suggests that even if the records were considered public, Arizona law allows for withholding them if their release is deemed “not in the best interests of the public.” Read Article

98% of Arizonans will have new elections officials in 2024, report finds | Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/AZ Mirror

Arizona is facing a significant turnover in election officials, with 98% of the state expected to have new officials overseeing elections in 2024 compared to those who managed the 2020 elections, according to a report by the nonpartisan political reform organization, Issue One. This mass exodus of experienced officials is attributed to election misinformation and threats of violence directed at election workers since 2020, leading to a loss of 176 collective years of experience. The report emphasizes the urgency for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to provide regular funding and increased protections for election officials to ensure the integrity of the democratic process. Read Articles

Colorado: More than a third of state’s election officials have left office since 2020 — sparking concerns ahead of 2024 | Seth Klamann/Denver Post

Over the past three years, more than a third of Colorado’s local election officials have left their positions, driven by factors like term limits and harassment-related fatigue. This high turnover rate raises concerns as the state approaches the 2024 presidential election, with nearly half of Coloradans now living in a county with a new election clerk. Threats and harassment directed at election workers since the 2020 election have been cited as significant factors in these departures, with the state losing 24 top election officials in this period, impacting 38% of its counties. The bipartisan reform group Issue One is advocating for increased federal funding and protections to address this issue and strengthen the democratic process. Read Article

Connecticut: Towns to get $25 million for voting machine upgrade | Patrick Skahill/Connecticut Public

Connecticut is poised for a significant upgrade to its voting machines, as Governor Ned Lamont announced plans for a $25 million allocation from the State Bond Commission in October. This funding will go towards purchasing new ballot-counting machines, marking the first statewide replacement since the elimination of lever voting machines 17 years ago. While the current machines are still operational, they are showing signs of aging, prompting the need for updated technology. The allocation will cover the purchase of several thousand traditional tabulators and dozens of high-speed tabulators. Read Article

Georgia Republicans’ election security ideas come with a cost | Mark Niesse/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia election officials have informed Republican state legislators that proposed security enhancements, including eliminating ballot bar codes, adding verification technology, and upgrading voting machines, could be possible at an estimated cost of $32.5 million, but likely not before the 2024 election. This comes in response to demands for security improvements following a report by a computer science professor highlighting vulnerabilities in the voting system. The state Senate Ethics Committee plans to hold hearings on election security, while some senators are seeking answers regarding the decision not to upgrade Dominion Voting Systems software. Read Article

Michigan Democrats advance internet voting bill that worries security experts | Ben Orner/mlive.com

House Bill 4210, recently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives, expands electronic voting to include military spouses and dependents living overseas. Advocates assert that this enables military families to exercise their voting rights more conveniently. However, election security experts, including C.Jay Coles from Verified Voting, caution against the introduction of the internet into elections, emphasizing the potential risks. Coles warns that if the system is compromised, it could lead to a “crisis of confidence in our entire democracy” and open the door for large-scale manipulation of ballots and vote counts. Critics propose exploring alternatives such as expedited return of physical ballots or providing free postage for military spouses overseas to ensure their voting rights. The bill now awaits review in a Senate committee and the full Senate before potentially becoming law. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has expressed support for the bill. Read Article

Nevada’s exodus of election officials took with them 104 years of experience, says report | April Corbin Girnus/Nevada Current

Since the last presidential election, ten out of seventeen Nevada counties have seen a turnover in their top election officials, marking a higher rate of change than most other western states, according to a report by the political reform group Issue One. The turnover is attributed to a range of factors, including political pressure, threats, and burnout. Issue One is advocating for increased federal funding and protections to address the issue and strengthen the democratic process. Read Article

North Carolina Governor vetoes bill that would take away his control over election boards | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has vetoed Republican-backed legislation that seeks to shift the power to choose State Board of Elections members from the governor to legislative leaders. The proposed law comes at a critical juncture as the 2024 campaign cycle begins in the closely contested state. The bill, which would alter the current 3-2 party split on the board, is likely to face override votes in the coming month, with Republicans holding narrow veto-proof majorities in both chambers. The measure’s sponsors argue that an even split on the board would promote bipartisan consensus and bolster voter confidence in election outcomes. Critics, however, contend that the bill could lead to gridlock and potential reductions in early voting sites. Read Article

North Dakota Petition seeks to ban early voting and  voting machines | Kortney Lockey/KVLY

North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe has approved a petition format for a proposed constitutional measure regarding election processes. Supporters now have until September 27, 2024, to gather signatures for review. The measure, if passed, would bring several significant changes to North Dakota’s electoral procedures. These include prohibiting early voting, mail-in voting (except for absentee ballots), ranked-choice and approval voting, as well as electronic ballot counting devices and voting machines. Additionally, the amendment would require hand-counting of ballots, allow citizens from any U.S. state to audit North Dakota elections, and mandate the public release of individual ballots on the Secretary of State’s website for at least six years. Read Article

Pennsylvania: The cost of Fulton County’s losing legal battle over Dominion keeps climbing | Bruce Siwy/Chambersburg Public Opinion

In Fulton County, a three-day legal proceeding regarding the security of voting machines has revealed a contentious situation. Local officials sought to hire a Florida-based company, Cerberus Dynamic Solutions, to guard voting machines that had been illegally inspected for fraud after the 2020 election. However, a supervising judge instead opted for a different company selected by the Pennsylvania Department of State, possibly causing the county to be responsible for the state’s legal fees. The Pennsylvania Department of State is requesting reimbursement from the county of almost $450,000 in counsel fees and other litigation costs due to the illegal inspection of the Dominion voting machines. The controversy has raised concerns about potential financial implications for Fulton County taxpayers. Read Article

South Dakota: Minnehaha County auditor might want to hand count election ballots | Annie Todd/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

During a routine approval for an election systems agreement in Minnehaha County, a debate arose regarding the future of voting in Sioux Falls. County Auditor Leah Anderson suggested the possibility of hand counting ballots in upcoming elections, expressing a preference for combining random hand counts at precinct levels with tabulators to ensure caution in using election technology. She referenced a state statute allowing county commissions to decide how elections are conducted, including the use of automatic tabulation or electronic ballot marking systems. Read Article

Texas: Loving County’s epic elections feud is back, and bitter as ever | Eric Dexheimer/Houston Chronicle’

Loving County, the least-populated county in the U.S., is grappling with a peculiar political issue: it has around 65 residents but about 110 registered voters. This discrepancy arises from former residents who, though having relocated elsewhere, still designate Loving County as their voting residence. Some maintain primary residences just beyond the county’s borders, while others reside hundreds of miles away. This situation has led to legal challenges, prompting questions about the legitimacy of their voting ties to the county, as Sheriff Chris Busse notes that many only appear during elections or the annual Christmas party. The article also highlights the intense personal and familial rivalries within the county’s politics, which have further complicated election matters. The recent November 2022 election resulted in three legal challenges, with candidates alleging that out-of-town voters favored powerful local families. The legal proceedings have become intricate, with lawyers scrutinizing voters’ personal lives, homes, and ties to the county, creating a complex web of allegiances and disputes. The judge presiding over the case is expected to make a decision by the end of October, with possible appeals looming. Read Article

Wisconsin legislation to protect election workers moves forward | Anya van Wagtendonk/Wisconsin Public Radio

A bipartisan set of voting-related bills is under consideration, with public testimony held five months ahead of the 2024 elections. The proposals aim to enhance protections for election workers, making attacks on them a felony and providing whistleblower safeguards. Additionally, a bill suggests implementing a text message notification system for absentee voters, updating them on the status of their ballots. The proposed measures come in response to increased harassment and threats against election workers, particularly after the 2020 presidential election, and aim to ensure their safety and job security. While supported by various organizations, including the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Counties Association, and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the ACLU of Wisconsin has expressed concerns over the whistleblower protection component. Read Article

National: Cyber experts set out plan to secure crucial 2024 US election | Alex Scroxton/Computer Weekly

The Election Security Research Forum, facilitated by the Information Technology – Information Sharing and Analysis Center (IT-ISAC), is piloting a collaborative approach to enhance election security and restore public confidence in the political process, especially in light of increasing cyber risks. The forum brings together security experts, ethical hacking firms like Bugcrowd and HackerOne, Microsoft, Protect AI, nonprofits including the Center for Internet Security, and former state and local election officials. It aims to proactively address cybersecurity challenges associated with election technology by conducting testing and assessments. The focus will be on new election technology slated for deployment in 40 U.S. states in the 2024 elections, with researchers and companies committed to coordinated vulnerability disclosure and best practices for disclosure timelines. The initiative aims to complement existing security measures in U.S. elections, including rigorous federal testing and certification standards, ultimately bolstering transparency and resilience in the electoral process. Read Article

National: Vivek Ramaswamy has called for ‘paper ballots.’ Most Americans vote that way already. | Amy Sherman/Politifact

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has been advocating a four-point plan for improving elections, which includes making Election Day a national holiday, implementing single-day voting on Election Day, using paper ballots, and requiring government-issued photo IDs matched to the voter file. However, the idea of “paper ballots” is not a new concept and is already widely used in American elections. Paper ballots, where votes are hand-marked on paper, are a standard practice in many states, and federal laws do not dictate whether states or local jurisdictions must use paper ballots. Efforts to pass a bill mandating paper ballots at the federal level ultimately failed, but many states have chosen to move towards using paper ballots over the past two decades. This trend towards paper ballots is considered one of the most successful movements in elections over the past two decades, as they provide a secure and verifiable way for voters to cast their ballots. Read Article

North Carolina Republicans Seek More Control Over Elections | Michael Wines/The New York Times

The North Carolina House recently passed legislation that would grant the legislature authority over all election board appointments, as well as change the composition of these boards to evenly divide seats between Republican and Democratic members, eliminating the governor’s tiebreaking seat. Republicans, who hold a veto-proof majority in both houses, are likely to override a potential veto by Governor Roy Cooper. Critics argue that this move, along with other recent measures such as exempting legislators from open records law and expediting appointments to the Environmental Management Commission, represents a power grab by the majority. Read Article

National: CISA Director: AI Posing Risks to Election Information Environment | Grace Dille/MeriTalk

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly assured Americans of the integrity and resilience of U.S. election infrastructure, citing the dedicated efforts of state and local officials over the past six years to secure election systems. While she emphasized confidence in the established security measures, Easterly acknowledged concerns about the information environment. She highlighted the use of AI in generating deceptive content, particularly deepfakes and generative AI in the context of disinformation. Easterly stated that CISA is actively focused on supporting local offices, employing tactics like rumor control and collaboration with partners in the Intelligence Community and FBI to address potential disinformation threats from foreign adversaries. She expressed confidence in the dedication of state and local election officials in safeguarding democracy. Read Article

National: Voting machine companies use cybersecurity stress tests to take on conspiracy theorists | Sean Lyngaas/CNN

As the 2024 election approaches and misinformation continues to pose a challenge for American voters, major US voting equipment manufacturers are collaborating with cybersecurity experts to conduct additional stress tests on their systems. Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic, and Unisyn have granted a group of vetted researchers access to their software and hardware for almost two days to identify potential vulnerabilities. The tests aim to address conspiracy theories by enhancing transparency about the security assessments conducted before equipment is deployed in polling places. While the results are still being analyzed, vendors are already making adjustments to their security protocols in response to the findings. This move comes after voting equipment manufacturers faced threats following false claims about the 2020 election, emphasizing the need for a delicate balance between addressing vulnerabilities and preventing the spread of misinformation. Read Article

National: GOP states announce new voter roll systems. Are they as secure as ERIC? | Daniel C. Vock/Route Fifty

Several states, including Alabama, Ohio, and Virginia, have recently entered into agreements to share voter information in an attempt to combat election fraud. Critics argue that these deals may potentially expose voters to security breaches and unfounded attempts to remove them from voter rolls. These partnerships come after some Republican-led states withdrew from the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC), which serves as a clearinghouse for voter data. Critics of ERIC claim it is too liberal, prompting some states to seek alternative methods to achieve similar goals. However, experts caution that the state-by-state approach may pose challenges in terms of data quality, costs, and security compared to ERIC’s more sophisticated methods for identifying voter movements and its secure data handling procedures. Read Article

National: Artificial intelligence is coming for elections, and no one can predict its impact | Laura Zommer/International Journalists’ Network

AI-generated disinformation is a growing concern for upcoming elections worldwide, as campaigns employ AI to create misleading visuals without clear disclosure. For instance, a video by Ron DeSantis’ campaign team utilized AI-generated images without informing viewers, blurring the line between real and fabricated content. In contrast, the GOP issued a video attacking President Joe Biden with a clear disclaimer about its AI origin. Fact-checking organizations stress the importance of scrutinizing image sources, looking for imperfections, and using automatic detection tools. Experts advise refining AI filters, creating tools to counter deepfakes and phishing, and appointing a lead agency for AI governance in elections to safeguard democratic processes. Read Article

National: Guns and Voting: New report highlights the risks of mixing firearms with voting | Michael Waldman/Brennan Center for Justice

The risk of gun violence in American elections has increased over the past two decades due to shifts in the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment stance and the influence of a pro-gun movement, leading to significant deregulation of guns in some states. This, coupled with growing political polarization, has made voting and elections targets of threats and intimidation. As the 2024 election approaches, 27 states now allow carrying firearms in public without a permit or background check compared to just two in 2010. With more guns and increased political violence, there’s a pressing need for strong laws to mitigate risks. The report suggests prohibiting firearms at polling places, ballot drop boxes, election offices, and ballot counting facilities, along with implementing stronger laws to prevent intimidation of voters, election officials, and workers. Read Article

Arizona: Ballot paper, not bad guys, caused Election Day printer problems | Joedy McCreary/USA Today

The claim that malware or remote access caused printer problems leading to the rejection of 200,000 out of 248,000 votes cast in Maricopa County, Arizona, during the 2022 midterms is false. An investigation led by retired state Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor found that the printer issues were attributed to the use of larger, thicker paper for the new ballots, not malicious interference. The new paper size was necessary to accommodate over 70 races, and the increased thickness aimed to prevent ink bleed-through. All legally cast ballots were properly counted, despite some delays and frustrations for Election Day voters. Read Article

Arizona: Federal judge blocks 2 voting laws, saying feds, not state, govern voting rights |  Ray Stern/Arizona Republic

A federal judge has ruled against new Arizona laws that required voters to prove their citizenship, granting rights groups the authority to investigate the intentions behind these laws. These laws, signed by former Republican Governor Doug Ducey, were passed on party lines despite warnings of their potential unconstitutionality. The U.S. Department of Justice and several civil rights organizations sued the state over these laws, which ban certain individuals from voting by mail or in state elections. While the ruling doesn’t conclude the legal proceedings, it makes it clear that federal laws, rather than state laws, govern the issue of proof-of-citizenship for voters. The judge’s ruling now requires legislative leaders to submit to depositions and disclose communications that may shed light on the reasons behind the laws. Read Article

California: Divided Redding City Council authorizes letter to Shasta County about costs of hand counting ballots. Who’ll sign? | David Benda/Redding Record Searchlight

Redding Mayor Michael Dacquisto and Vice Mayor Mark Mezzano are refusing to sign a letter expressing the city’s concerns about potential cost increases for hand-counting votes, a decision that divided the Redding City Council. Councilors Julie Winter, Tenessa Audette, and Jack Munns voted in favor of sending the letter, which aims to work with the county to develop a more cost-effective voting system that doesn’t strain the general fund. Dacquisto and Mezzano view the letter as a waste of time, with Mezzano indicating he won’t sign it despite being one of its authors. The letter responds to Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen’s estimates that hand-counting would raise Redding’s election costs from $46,630 to $176,645. Dacquisto mentioned Assembly Bill 969, which could eliminate manual tabulations in counties with over 1,000 registered voters, suggesting this would resolve the issue. The letter, however, does not explicitly address the county’s termination of its contract with Dominion Voting Systems or Supervisor Kevin Crye’s stance on the cost estimates. Read Article