South Dakota: Former small-town mayor is behind the rise of electoral activism in the state. He’s just getting started. | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

Rick Weible, a prominent election denier in the Midwest, played a significant role in South Dakota’s 2022 race for secretary of state by supporting Monae Johnson, a nominee who publicly expressed doubts about the validity of the 2020 election. Weible, a former small-town mayor and Republican Party operative, initially considered running but backed Johnson, viewing her as a candidate who could help reform the system. However, Weible later discovered problems with Johnson’s campaign, alleging it was a “complete fraud.” Despite this, Johnson won with 61% of the vote, supported by far-right delegates. Weible’s influence in the state’s electoral activism, driven by unfounded allegations of rigged voting systems, has contributed to a movement demanding transparency and reforms in South Dakota’s election processes. The state has responded with legislation banning drop boxes and addressing voter-roll updates, residency requirements, post-election audits, and testing of tabulation equipment, reflecting a broader trend in rural Republican states to restrict voting access. Weible, now a vocal advocate for election reforms, benefits from the supportive political environment in South Dakota. Read Article

National: Election offices are sent envelopes with fentanyl or other substances. Authorities are investigating | Christina A. Cassidy, Ed Komenda and Gene Johnson/Associated Press

Authorities are investigating the sending of suspicious letters, some containing fentanyl, to elections offices in at least five states, including Georgia, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. The letters, some intercepted before delivery, delayed ballot counting in local races. Four of the letters contained the powerful opioid fentanyl. The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are treating the incidents as acts of domestic terrorism and working to intercept additional letters. The letters, featuring various symbols and messages, raise concerns about the safety of election workers and underscore the ongoing threats faced by election officials across the country. Read Article

California: Election day in Shasta County comes off with little conflict | Hailey Branson-Potts and Jessica Garrison/Los Angeles Times

Shasta County Registrar-Recorder Cathy Darling Allen and her staff prepared for potential conflicts during Tuesday’s election by installing a 7-foot metal fence inside their office. The county had been embroiled in controversies over voting methods, with a far-right majority on the Board of Supervisors opting for a hand count over using Dominion voting machines, a decision that was later overruled by state officials. Despite concerns, the election proceeded relatively calmly, with minimal conflicts reported. About two dozen supporters of Darling Allen showed up to ensure the security of the vote count. Ultimately, fewer than 20% of eligible voters participated in the election, and the results are expected to be certified by November 22. Read Article

National: One year out: how a free and fair 2024 presidential election could be under threat | Zachary Roth/News From The States

As the U.S. approaches another presidential election, concerns arise over potential threats to the electoral process. Despite arrests and convictions related to the January 6th Capitol attack, there’s little indication of moderation among those who challenged the election. Former President Trump has hinted at seeking retribution if reinstated, an election denier now leads one House of Congress, and threats of political violence influence key voting decisions. A recent poll reveals that 3 out of 4 respondents believe American democracy is at risk, with nearly a quarter suggesting violence might be necessary to safeguard the nation. Experts emphasize the need to assess vulnerabilities and reinforce the electoral system against potential subversion, chaos, voter suppression, and administrative challenges. Read Article

National: Why countering false election claims may be harder in 2024 | Shannon Bond and Miles Parks/NPR

Election officials and experts express concerns over the growing pressure from the political right, led by figures like former President Donald Trump and GOP Congressman Jim Jordan, that has framed efforts to combat election misinformation as censorship. A campaign of legal and political pressure has led to the scaling back or dismantling of tools and partnerships designed to address falsehoods, even as foreign threats and concerns about misinformation persist. Instances like the shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board and a lawsuit alleging collusion between the Biden administration and social media companies have contributed to a chilling effect on efforts to combat election-related rumors and conspiracy theories. This pressure has also affected social media platforms’ willingness to police false claims and misinformation, raising concerns about the ability to counter election-related falsehoods effectively. Read Article

National: Microsoft, Meta detail plans to fight election disinformation in 2024 | Brandon Vigliarolo/The Register

Microsoft and Meta have unveiled initiatives to address misinformation in the lead-up to the 2024 elections, although the effectiveness of these strategies remains uncertain. Microsoft’s five-step election protection plan, set to be implemented in several countries with critical elections in 2024, includes a Content Credentials service for digital watermarking of images and videos to verify authenticity. However, concerns exist regarding its recognition in Chrome and other web browsers and the potential for metadata tampering. Microsoft also plans to offer advisory services to political campaigns on handling AI and cyber influence, establish an Election Communications Hub, and support legislative changes against harmful uses of technology like the Protect Elections from Deceptive AI Act, introduced in the US Senate in September. Meta, on the other hand, is focusing on ad transparency, requiring disclosure for digitally manipulated or altered content in social, electoral, or political ads, aiming to combat misinformation disseminated through ads. This change will be implemented globally in 2024.  Read Article

National: Readying an Election Administration Workforce for What Comes Next | Carl Smith/Governing

The Election Workforce Advisory Council, established by The Elections Group in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center, aims to address the evolving role of election administrators in the U.S. As the responsibilities of election officials have expanded to include IT management, legal compliance, cybersecurity, and public health measures due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and increased security threats, the council will work on long-term projects to enhance training, recruitment, and retention of election administrators. The initiative is expected to help adapt to the changing demands of the role and provide support for election officials, particularly as many have left their positions in recent years. Read Article

California: Shasta County’s ballot counting controversy came to a surprising end Tuesday. What happened? | Damon Arthur and David Benda/Redding Record Searchlight

The election in Shasta County gained significance due to a dispute over how to count the ballots, drawing observers from across the state. The main focus was selecting a new member for the Gateway Unified School District board and deciding on a new fire protection district in Shasta. The disagreement led to Shasta County becoming the only one in the state to tally votes by hand, a decision opposed by Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen. Despite a new law against hand counting, Chairman Patrick Jones threatened legal action to continue it. Voter advocacy groups expressed concerns about integrity, prompting observers from various organizations. Media coverage highlighted the statewide importance of the election. Read Article

Connecticut: How a nullified mayoral primary election became a rallying cry for Trump supporters | Marshall Cohen/CNN

An illegal voting scheme has become a rallying point for former President Donald Trump and his supporters who continue to propagate false claims about the security of the 2020 elections and are seeking to sow doubt ahead of the 2024 presidential contest. While election experts argue that fears of widespread fraud in U.S. elections are exaggerated, the case in Connecticut underscores potential vulnerabilities with mail-in voting. A state judge recently nullified the results of September’s Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, ruling that allies of the incumbent mayor violated state law by stuffing hundreds of ballots into dropboxes. This incident has been seized upon by right-wing figures, including Trump and Elon Musk, to bolster unfounded claims of nationwide vote-rigging. Read Article

Kentucky: Madison County Clerk pushes back against ballot-marking machine manufacturer claims | Ricky Sayer/Lex18

ES&S claims the ExpressVote ballot marking devices used in 23 Kentucky counties, where at least seven faced reported touch screen issues, were working as designed. Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger responded that that may be true, but if it is, it means the machines were poorly designed. “They’re designed for voters, not election experts,” said Barger. “It’s voting, it has to work well for the voter.” Some voters experienced issues with the machines recognizing clicks on the check-box for a straight Democratic ticket as a Republican straight-party ticket. The manufacturer plans to remove the check box in future versions of the machines. Read Article

Mississippi: A cyber breach delays poll worker training in Hinds County before the statewide vote | Associated Press

In Mississippi’s Hinds County, election officials faced a time crunch to complete necessary poll worker training after a computer breach in early September hindered their access. Typically, this training is finished by early October, well in advance of the November general election, but due to the breach, staff had to work up to the deadline to complete it. Federal authorities are currently investigating the incident. While the cyber incident did cause a slight delay in voter registration processing, it was resolved within a few days, and all applications were processed before the October 10 deadline. Read Article

Montana: Officials tout progress with new election management software | Alex Sakariassen/Montana Free Press

Montana state officials express confidence in the readiness of the new ElectMT election management software, developed by by KNOWiNK, after testing it in local elections this year. While acknowledging some bugs and routine changes, the elections manager stated that overall feedback from county election administrators has been positive. ElectMT officially replaced the 17-year-old Montana Votes system in January 2023, serving as the central hub for voter registration and reporting election night results. Specific improvements include the ability for voters to track school and municipal ballots, accurate mapping of voter addresses, and ongoing efforts to enter newly redrawn legislative boundaries for next year’s state elections. Read Article

Oregon: Petitioners fail to put hand-counting on the ballot in Douglas County | Roman Battaglia/Jefferson Public Radio

Three board members of the Douglas County Republican Party have faced repeated denials in their attempt to get a petition approved, which aims to require the county to hand-count ballots in future elections. They’ve submitted six petitions since last year, all of which have been denied by the County Clerk. The latest proposal was turned down in mid-October. One of the petitioners argues that electronic voting machines lack transparency and cannot be checked by the public, emphasizing the importance of decentralized decision-making in the electoral process. The County Clerk maintains that the latest petition did not meet the requirements of being a matter of county concern and legislative, and declined to offer further clarification. The Secretary of State’s office states that these terms do not have official definitions, leaving it up to the county clerk to assess if the initiative aligns with state constitutional requirements. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Voting machines in Northampton County misprinted votes on paper ballots | Carter Walker/Votebeat

A programming error in Northampton County’s voting machines led to votes for two Pennsylvania Superior Court candidates being incorrectly printed on voters’ paper ballots, although officials assured that the correct selections were recorded on the machines. Pre-election testing should have caught the issue before the November 7 election, but it was incomplete. The problem only affected the judicial race printout, and the tabulation will accurately reflect voters’ intentions. The county’s spokesperson acknowledged that the issue should have been identified in pre-election testing and emphasized the error was limited to one race. The voting machine manufacturer accepted responsibility for the labeling error causing the problem. Read Article

How a Pennsylvania judge of elections handled a “hectic” polling place | Carter Walker/Votebeat

Jay Schneider, overseeing his polling place in Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on his first Election Day as a judge of elections, faced initial challenges with staffing and coordination. Despite a rocky start, Schneider, who transitioned from a poll worker role, managed the precinct efficiently, addressing issues, adapting to higher-than-expected voter turnout, and collaborating with support from the county’s emergency operations center and additional poll workers. While acknowledging the stress and learning curve, Schneider expressed satisfaction in contributing to the election process and helping voters cast their ballots, emphasizing the importance of refining operations for the upcoming 2024 presidential election. Read Article

A former Utah county clerk is accused of shredding and mishandling 2020 and 2022 ballots | Mead Gruver/Associated Press

Former Juab County Clerk/Auditor Alaina Lofgran in Utah is facing charges for allegedly mishandling and shredding ballots from both the 2020 and 2022 elections, involving approximately 5,000 voters. It is alleged that she violated the law by allowing ballots to be shredded after the 2022 election when they should have been preserved for at least 22 months for potential recounts. Additionally, Lofgran is accused of improperly storing 2020 election ballots in an accessible basement storage room, contrary to state law which mandates secure storage. The charges include three felonies and other counts related to the neglect of duty, destruction of ballots, and misconduct. The allegations do not imply a political motive, but rather a violation of election law. Read Article

Virginia county stumbles in the first election after its conspiracy-fueled staff exodus | Jane C. Timm/NBC

Buckingham County was the last Virginia locality to post unofficial tallies Wednesday morning, causing concern and frustration among voters and cndidates. The delay was attributed to difficulties in inputting results, according to a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Elections. Earlier this year, baseless allegations of voter fraud led to the resignation of four election staff members and the hiring and subsequent firing of a replacement registrar, with Ginger Chiesa eventually taking over and working to restore confidence in the voting process. Despite smooth voting operations, the delay in reporting results left some feeling disheartened and concerned about potential controversy. “Of course I’m happy with it,” commented Paul Garrett, a candidate for the county Board of Supervisors. “But in the midst of all this stuff that’s going on now, it’s going to be another hotbed for controversy.” Read Article

Wisconsin Governor to sign amended bill that will allow clerks to begin processing ballots a day early | Hope Karnopp/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Governor Tony Evers is expected to sign a bill allowing clerks in Wisconsin to begin processing absentee ballots a day early, following bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Assembly. The legislation aims to address concerns about late processing leading to voter confusion and conspiracy theories. The bill, which mandates Monday processing for central count communities (those processing all absentee ballots in one location), also includes provisions for clerks to periodically report ballot counts and for circuit courts to promptly inform the Wisconsin Elections Commission about voters deemed ineligible. Some proposed amendments, such as prohibiting early running of ballots through voting equipment, were removed in favor of increased efficiency, according to clerks. Read Article