National: AI disinformation is a threat to elections − learning to spot Russian, Chinese and Iranian meddling in other countries can help the US prepare for 2024 | Bruce Schneier/The Conversation

The evolving threat of foreign interference in elections is now being amplified by artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI and large language models. These technologies, introduced in late 2022 and early 2023, possess the capability to rapidly generate vast amounts of text in various tones and perspectives, making them potent tools for internet-era propaganda. As election seasons approach in numerous democratic countries, including Argentina, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, the European Union, and the U.S., the potential for AI-driven disinformation campaigns is substantial. While companies like Meta have become more adept at identifying and removing fake accounts, platforms like Telegram, WhatsApp, and TikTok provide new challenges, as they are less transparent and more suitable for short, provocative videos. Additionally, generative AI enables novel production and distribution techniques, like deploying persona bots on social media, which, when replicated en masse, could exert significant influence. Read Article

Voter rolls are becoming the new battleground over secure elections as amateur sleuths hunt fraud | Morgan Lee and Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

A group called New York Citizens Audit has been impersonating government officials and harassing residents in New York, falsely accusing them of breaking the law. State prosecutors have issued a cease-and-desist order, demanding that the group stop these unlawful voter deception and intimidation efforts. This tactic raises concerns among state election officials as conservative groups, motivated by false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, seek to access and potentially publish state voter registration rolls. The fear is that this could lead to voter disenfranchisement through intimidation or canceled registrations, and local election offices could face a flood of challenges to voter registration listings as they prepare for the 2024 elections. These efforts reflect the ongoing battle over voter data, balancing the need for transparency with the necessity to safeguard voter rolls from cyber threats. Read Article

National: Turnover of Election Officials in Swing States Adds Strain for 2024, Report Says | Neil Vigdor/The New York Times

A report by the Voting Rights Lab warns of a potential strain on the election system in 2024 due to a wave of resignations and retirements by election officials in battleground states, driven by threats, harassment, and interference. The departures in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania could weaken the independence of these positions, with over 50 top election officials at the county level leaving in Pennsylvania since the 2020 election. In Arizona, the top election officials in 13 out of 15 counties have also left during the same period, partly due to harassment and security concerns stemming from disproven conspiracy theories. The report also highlights other potential obstacles for the 2024 election, including new rules in Georgia and North Carolina likely to increase voter eligibility challenges and stricter ID requirements. Read Article

National: The disinformation sleuths: a key role for scientists in impending elections | Nature

Next year will see significant elections globally, and social media will play a crucial role in disseminating information to voters. However, researchers studying political campaigns and outcomes are concerned about the lack of access to Twitter data, which was previously available for research purposes. Twitter has discontinued its policy of providing researchers with special access to its data. This change could hinder researchers’ ability to monitor disinformation campaigns, especially those potentially involving AI-generated deepfakes, during upcoming elections. Access to reliable data is crucial for assessing the impact of online platforms on various aspects, including mental health, harassment, privacy violations, and hate speech. Read Article

National: Meta and X questioned by lawmakers over lack of rules against AI-generated political deepfakes | Matt O’Brien/Associated Press

Two Democratic members of Congress, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, have sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and X CEO Linda Yaccarino expressing concerns about the emergence of AI-generated political ads on their platforms. They are calling on social media platforms, including X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram, to explain why they aren’t imposing new labels on deceptive AI-generated political advertisements that could potentially fake a candidate’s voice or actions. The lawmakers argue that with the 2024 elections approaching, a lack of transparency about this type of content could lead to a dangerous deluge of election-related misinformation and disinformation. Read Article

National: Wealthy GOP donor bankrolled Cyber Ninjas’ effort to get voting data, whistleblower says | Bruce Siwy Robert Anglen/Arizona Republic

Stefanie Lambert, an attorney who enlisted Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan for voting machine access in Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia, is now accused of promoting a false election data report in Pennsylvania. A cybersecurity company, XRVision, is suing Lambert, alleging that she instructed employees to fabricate findings in her attempt to overturn the 2020 election results for Trump’s legal team. XRVision contends that when employees refused, Lambert and her financial backer, Bill Bachenberg, besmirched the firm’s reputation, leading to potential contract losses. The allegations shed light on coordinated efforts by Trump allies to challenge the election results, with investigations ongoing at state and federal levels. Read Article

National: Fox searches for link between George Soros and Smartmatic | Joe Miller/Financial Times

Fox is seeking to compel George Soros to disclose any connections to voting technology company Smartmatic, which is suing the network for $2.7 billion over its broadcasting of election rigging conspiracies. Fox, under the leadership of CEO Lachlan Murdoch, aims to mitigate potential financial repercussions from the defamation case. Lawyers for Fox claim that Soros’s association with Smartmatic dates back nearly a decade. Soros’s legal team deems Fox’s request as “unduly burdensome and oppressive.” Read Article

Arizona could miss crucial election deadlines due to recounts, officials warn | Sasha Hupka/Arizona Republic

Arizona election officials are warning that the state could face difficulties reporting vote tallies in the 2024 presidential election due to potential automatic recounts. State law mandates automatic recounts if the margin between two candidates is less than half a percentage point. However, this recount can only occur after all initial votes are counted and the election is certified. With a new state law increasing the likelihood of recounts and the upcoming elections calendar, these recounts might overlap with the appointment of presidential electors. This situation could lead to delays, increased chances of errors, and difficulties in sending out ballots for the general election. Election officials are urging state lawmakers to find solutions, which might include adjusting recount margins, shortening review periods, or modifying the curing process for ballots. Read Article

California bill limiting ballot hand counting becomes law; Shasta County pledges to defy statute | Nicholas Kerr/ABC

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill into law that restricts the ability of local governments to manually count ballots, a move prompted by Shasta County’s decision to terminate its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and opt for hand-tabulation. The new law, AB 969, limits hand-counting to specific circumstances, such as regularly scheduled elections in places with under 1,000 registered voters and special elections with fewer than 5,000 voters. It also prevents counties from canceling contracts for voting systems without a transition plan and finalized agreement for a new state-approved system. This decision comes after unsubstantiated conspiracy theories led Shasta County to terminate its contract with Dominion, leaving it without an election system for a period. The move to hand-count would have been an immense undertaking given California’s often complex and lengthy ballots, and it is now legally prohibited. Read Article

Georgia Election Board rejects use of hand marked paper ballots proposal | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal -Constitution

The State Election Board of Georgia unanimously rejected a proposed rule change that would have allowed voters to fill out ballots by hand instead of using touchscreens in polling places. The proposed change aimed to address concerns about privacy and ballot secrecy in situations where touchscreens might expose a voter’s choices. Advocates argued that the bright and large screens of touchscreens made it difficult to maintain secrecy. However, board members expressed reservations about having two voting methods in use simultaneously and mentioned the challenges poll workers might face in managing both methods. The board plans to study the issue further before their next meeting. Two other rule proposals were also rejected, one related to more extensive testing of voting machines and the other about setting cybersecurity guidance for using emergency paper ballots. Read Article

Georgia Secretary of State gives approval for testing new Dominion voting software | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has given approval for an upgrade of the state’s Dominion voting equipment ahead of several upcoming local elections, aiming to enhance cybersecurity and prevent potential malware and hacks. The new version of Dominion’s software will undergo a pilot phase in municipal elections across five counties. While a statewide rollout is not planned until after thorough testing following the 2024 presidential election, Raffensperger emphasized the existing security measures. Dominion’s voting system, criticized by some since the 2020 election, particularly by supporters of Donald Trump, will now undergo “health checks,” logic and accuracy testing, post-election audits, and collaborate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure secure equipment storage. Read Article

Kansas: ‘Not really tethered to facts.’ Legislature gives platform to election misinformation | Katie Bernard/The Kansas City Star

The Kansas Legislature spent over $6,600 on a committee that promoted misinformation and false claims of election fraud in a two-day meeting. The committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Thompson, handpicked activists who lacked expertise on elections and a Florida-based think tank that advocated for ballot restrictions, excluding local election administrators. The cost covered salaries, per diems, and staff pay for all 11 lawmakers. Many of the activists invited were not based in Kansas. The second day of testimony was dominated by individuals presenting repeatedly debunked claims of election fraud and irregularities. Critics argue that the committee did more harm than good to voter confidence, as it provided a platform for misinformation without counteracting it with accurate information from experts in the field of elections. Thompson plans to ask for permission to hold a third day of election integrity hearings later this year, but critics argue that the views of those who worry about machines should be balanced with expertise and evidence.

Louisiana: Election Conspiracies Loom Over Secretary of State Race | Cameron Joseph/Bolts

In Louisiana’s race for secretary of state, leading Republican candidates are grappling with calls from election conspiracists while seeking to appeal to GOP base voters who still believe in Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. While some contenders reject radical changes to the state’s voting system, others, like Brandon Trosclair, advocate for hand-counting elections, a proposal criticized by experts. Front-runners Nancy Landry and Clay Schexnayder have also hedged their responses to concerns of widespread fraud, indicating an attempt to balance their own state’s election system defense with broader worries about the 2020 elections. Read Article

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

Pennsylvania voting system errors ‘minuscule,’ judge says in tossing Fulton County civil suit against Dominion Voting Systems | Bruce Siwy/Chambersburg Public Opinion

A federal court has rejected Fulton County’s attempt to sue Dominion Voting Systems for breach of contract. Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled that Fulton County’s commissioners and legal counsel failed to prove that a hardware defect prevented Dominion systems from functioning according to the contract. The voting machines were initially certified but were later decertified by the Pennsylvania Department of State due to improper third-party access. The lawsuit arose from allegations related to the 2020 election, and this ruling marks a setback for the county’s claims against Dominion. Fulton County had allowed outside companies to inspect the voting machines amid controversies over election results. The court decision dismisses the claims without prejudice, allowing commissioners to file an amended complaint. Additionally, the county has faced legal fees for its unauthorized inspections of the Dominion systems, with the state seeking reimbursement of nearly $500,000. Read Article

Virginia election officials acknowledge voters mistakenly removed from rolls | Ben Paviour/VPM

The Virginia Department of Elections is working to resolve an issue that led to an undisclosed number of eligible voters being mistakenly removed from the state’s rolls. This development comes after reports revealed that individuals with probation violations lost their voting eligibility due to recent changes implemented by the department. The department is collaborating with the Virginia State Police to identify affected individuals and plans to reinstate their voting rights after verification. The issue appears to stem from efforts to remove individuals with restored voting rights who subsequently faced probation violations, mistakenly including them in the removal process. Critics argue that such errors should have been anticipated to avoid infringing on people’s constitutional rights. The situation has also reportedly deterred some Virginians from participating in early voting. Read Article

Wisconsin Senate Republicans signal they could remove Democrat on Elections Commission | Hope Karnopp/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Senate Republicans are indicating they may remove Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ appointee, Joseph Czarnezki, from the state’s elections commission, just weeks after they voted to remove the commission’s administrator. The committee vote against confirming Czarnezki’s appointment was 3-2, with all Republicans opposing and all Democrats supporting him. This move comes after a focus on the commission’s decision to keep WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe in place after her term expired in June, a move that is currently being challenged in court by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. Czarnezki’s hearing follows the recent Senate vote to fire Wolfe, which is also under legal challenge. Read Article