National: Misinformation, cybersecurity among top issues ahead of 2024 elections | Chris Teale/Route Fifty

As the U.S. prepares for the 2024 elections, state and local officials are on alert for potential threats posed by cyberattacks and artificial intelligence (AI) in the wake of incidents during the 2022 midterms. The Mississippi Secretary of State’s website experienced a denial-of-service attack, and AI-generated content, including deepfakes, has become a concern. Efforts to regulate AI in political advertisements are underway, with lawmakers introducing legislation to require disclosures. The Department of Homeland Security expects cybercriminals to exploit networks and data used by political parties and election officials, emphasizing the need for increased cybersecurity funding for state and local governments. The public’s concerns about disinformation, deepfakes, and AI are reflected in surveys, with calls for action to protect voters and regulate AI-generated content. State and local officials are encouraged to enhance cybersecurity practices and training to mitigate potential threats. Read Article

Opinion: Internet voting remains a risky method of casting election ballots | Susannah Goodman, Susan Greenhalgh and Lawrence Norden/The Hill

Online voting is not yet a secure method of casting a ballot. The risks are many. Malware on a voter’s personal device could alter a voter’s selections or replace ballot images with fakes. Experts have noted that “Consumer-grade devices with consumer-grade protections are no match for a motivated attacker, particularly if the attacker is a nation-state.” Targeted denial of service attacks could disenfranchise thousands of voters and alter election outcomes.  Voter authentication credentials could be stolen. The list goes on. Read Article

National: Election officials fear 2024 threats are escalating after series of suspicious envelopes | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Election officials across the United States are on high alert after receiving suspicious letters containing what the FBI says may be fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. Offices in at least five states—California, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington—received these letters, raising concerns among election workers already facing threats and harassment since the 2020 elections. The FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service issued a briefing document, describing the letters as a potential domestic terrorist event. The envelopes, appearing ordinary, had “Attn Ballots” typed on the front. Election officials fear that the threats, fueled by conspiracy theories, will escalate as the 2024 presidential election approaches. The letters have already caused disruptions in some areas, with delays in ballot counting reported in Washington state. Election officials are working to ensure the safety of their workers and to intercept any additional letters. Read Article

National: How the ‘Big Lie’ Was Born Inside Fox News | Brian Stelter/Politico

In the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, urged then-President Donald Trump to accept defeat. In an editorial titled “President Trump, your legacy is secure — stop the ‘stolen election’ rhetoric,” published in the New York Post, Murdoch and his son Lachlan advised Trump on handling the loss with dignity and urged him to abandon baseless conspiracy theories. However, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo defied this guidance during her show, “Sunday Morning Futures,” by featuring guest Sidney Powell, who propagated unfounded claims of a coordinated effort to steal the election. Bartiromo’s source for these claims was an email from a Trump supporter with bizarre and baseless assertions. Despite attempts to intervene and correct the misinformation, Fox News continued to host guests spreading false narratives about the election, contributing to the persistence of the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. The consequences of this misinformation are ongoing, with lawsuits and trials involving Fox News and key figures expected to extend into the Lachlan Murdoch era. Read Article

National: Ex-Trump allies detail efforts to overturn election in plea videos | Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey/The Washington Post

Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for Donald Trump, has informed Georgia prosecutors that in December 2020, Dan Scavino, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, stated that “the boss” had no intention of leaving the White House “under any circumstances.” Ellis, who pleaded guilty in exchange for her testimony, revealed details about the effort by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election. The video recordings of Ellis, along with statements from other defendants who accepted plea deals in the Fulton County case, provide previously undisclosed information. The recordings indicate efforts to challenge election results in various states and reveal internal discussions within the Trump campaign. The charges in the Fulton indictment accuse Trump and 18 others of a conspiracy to steal the 2020 election. The case focuses on several alleged criminal activities, including meetings of Trump electors, pressure on Georgia officials, and harassment of election workers. The recordings suggest a playbook by prosecutors to build a case against multiple defendants through plea deals. Read Article

National: Facebook, Instagram will allow political ads that claim the 2020 election was stolen | Clare Duffy/CNN

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will permit political ads on its platforms to challenge the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election, part of a broader rollback in election-related content moderation by major social media platforms. This policy change allows Meta to profit from political ads spreading false claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election while prohibiting ads that question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election. The move is part of a year-old policy update that has not been widely reported. Meta’s broader electoral misinformation policy still prohibits content that may interfere with people’s ability to participate in voting or the census. This shift in handling election advertisements and misinformation comes amid increased pressure on tech companies to combat election misinformation, particularly following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol fueled by baseless claims about election fraud. Read Article

The California county where far-right officials tried to upend voting | Dani Anguiano/The Guardian

The Shasta County elections office in California faced heightened security measures during a recent special election, drawing national attention due to far-right politics and unfounded claims of election fraud. The county had planned a manual tally system, but state lawmakers passed a bill preventing manual tallies in most elections. The chair of the Shasta board of supervisors insisted on proceeding, creating tensions and fears of political unrest. Registrar Cathy Darling Allen, who faced harassment and opposition, had to navigate implementing the hand-count system despite its complexity and increased costs. Read Article

Colorado: In new lawsuit, Tina Peters sues local, state and federal officials to stop criminal investigations into her conduct | Bente Birkeland/Colorado Public Radio

Former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters has filed a federal lawsuit, seeking to prohibit the government from pursuing criminal proceedings against her. The suit contends that investigations into her conduct as clerk are unlawful and retaliatory for her exercise of free speech, freedom of association, and the right to petition the government. The primary focus of the complaint is Peters’ alleged involvement in an illegal scheme to copy the hard drives of her county’s voting equipment after the 2020 election, purportedly to aid in the search for voter fraud. Peters, who is facing ten state charges, argues that her actions were within her legal obligations to preserve election records. Prosecutors claim she assisted in identity theft and violated state rules during a voting system software update. Read Article

Florida: At least one GOP election official wants no part of proposal to hand count ballots | Mitch Perry/Florida Phoenix

A bill has been introduced in the Florida House that would allow supervisors of elections to hand-count ballots at the precinct level, a method advocated by conservative voting advocates since Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. The proposal, sponsored by Pinellas County Republican Berny Jacques and Lake County Republican Taylor Yarkosky, would give supervisors of elections the option to conduct hand counts at the precinct level. The bill also aims to prevent the Florida Department of State from authorizing voting systems that use hardware or software designed, owned, or licensed by foreign companies. However, some election officials, like Lake County GOP Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays, dismiss the idea of hand counts, calling it “nonsense” and “absolutely absurd.” Read Article

Georgia: Voting machine doubts drive hand count in Spalding County | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

n Spalding County, Georgia, a conservative exurb south of Atlanta, an audit involving a hand recount of ballots is underway despite no signs of miscounts or voting machine errors in the recent elections for mayor and the City Commission. The county election board, dominated by Republicans, initiated the hand recount, driven by deep distrust of Georgia’s voting machines. Spalding is one of six Republican-run counties in the state conducting labor-intensive audits of results from ballot scanners, a trend seen in conservative communities across the country that resist voting technology, particularly since the 2020 presidential election. Voting rights activists express concerns that manual audits, driven by suspicion, could undermine faith in elections rather than bolster it, even as investigations and recounts repeatedly debunk fraud suspicions. Read Article

Georgia: Constitutional challenge to voting machines set for trial early next year | Kate Brumback/Associated Press

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, has ruled in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s electronic voting system, determining that the question of major cybersecurity flaws violating voters’ constitutional rights will proceed to trial on January 9, 2024. The activists behind the suit advocate for replacing electronic voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg rejected the state’s request for a summary judgment, stating that there are “material facts in dispute” that must be addressed at trial. The judge urged the involved parties to collaborate on a resolution, emphasizing the importance of discussions, compromises, and legislative action to address challenges to the election system and democracy. Read Article

A third of Kansas election officials have quit because of harassment and conspiracy theories | Dylan Lysen/KCUR

The aftermath of the 2020 election and unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud have led to a significant turnover of election officials in Kansas, with 35 of the state’s 109 officials resigning since 2020. The Kansas Legislature’s Special Committee on Elections has held hearings where advocates for election security changes argued that the state’s voting systems are not safe, but some officials, like Republican Harvey County Clerk Rick Piepho, say the committee is focusing on disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories. The ongoing scrutiny and criticism of election officials, along with the stress of ensuring election security, are cited as factors contributing to the turnover, which is consistent with a national trend. Despite these challenges, election officials are preparing for the 2024 presidential election, recognizing the importance of their role in American democracy. Read Article

Kentucky: Issue with ExpressVote machines discussed during 2023 Election Recap at Fiscal Court | Spencer Mahon/Richmond Register

Madison County Clerk, Kenny Barger, addressed concerns raised about the county’s ExpressVote ballot marking devices during a county fiscal court meeting, explaining that voters attempting to make a straight-party selection were inadvertently hitting just above the Republican option due to touchscreen calibration issues. Barger emphasized that the reported errors did not result in incorrectly cast votes, and the machines were secure, cost-effective, and convenient. He acknowledged the need to rectify the trust issues stemming from the reported problems and pledged to ensure better accountability from vendors in the future. Read Article

The rural Michigan town fighting against rightwing conspiracy theories | Michigan | Alice Herman/The Guardian

Adams Township in Hillsdale county is facing political divisions, far-right influence, and concerns of potential violence leading up to the 2024 elections. The region has been marked by election conspiracy theories, with a faction called “America First Republicans” emerging from the Hillsdale county GOP. The former leader of the Christian Hutaree Militia, David Stone, now chairs this group. Adams Township recently removed a conspiracy theory-promoting clerk and a far-right supervisor, hoping for stability. The new clerk, Suzy Roberts, faces the dual challenge of navigating new statewide election policies for 2024 and countering false conspiracy theories. The transition comes amid a backdrop of threats, harassment, and tensions in the community, highlighting the broader issues surrounding election administration and security in politically divided areas. Read Article

Michigan: Private eye, secret informant aided voting machine tampering probe | Jonathan Oosting/Bridge Michigan

Private investigator Michael Lynch, who was hired by Stefanie Lambert and Matt DePerno, testified before a grand jury and cooperated with authorities in a case involving an alleged voting machine tampering scheme. Lambert and DePerno were indicted for their roles in the scheme, which prosecutors claim involved testing an illegally obtained voting machine to prove it was rigged against former President Donald Trump. Lynch allegedly hosted Lambert, DePerno, and others in his condominium for the testing. Court records reveal that Lynch provided information to authorities in April 2022, meeting with officials from the Department of Attorney General and state police. Read Article

A Mississippi voting meltdown deserves more attention than it’s getting | Jessica Huseman/Votebeat

The 2023 off-cycle election concluded with overall smooth proceedings, but Hinds County, Mississippi, emerged as a significant exception. Despite high expected turnout for a competitive gubernatorial race, precincts in Hinds County repeatedly ran out of ballots, leading to long lines and frustrated voters. Local officials cited unexpectedly large turnout as the main problem, with some pointing to issues related to 2020 redistricting, which changed precinct lines and split precincts in new ways. While State law requires counties to have ballots for 60% of total active voters, local officials have discretion over distribution. The situation in Hinds County highlights concerns about election preparation and challenges in ensuring adequate ballot supplies. Read Article

Nevada GOP fake electors under state investigation | Tabitha Mueller and Gabby Birenbaum/The Nevada Independent

Nevada’s Attorney General, Aaron Ford, a Democrat, is now investigating six Republicans who falsely pledged Nevada’s electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2020, despite Joe Biden winning the state by 2.4 percentage points. The Republicans, including state party chair Michael McDonald and national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, submitted an uncertified slate of electors for Trump in December 2020, following the Trump campaign’s instructions. The investigation marks a shift for Ford, who had previously been silent on the matter, citing that state law might not allow for charges. Other states, like Michigan and Georgia, have brought charges against individuals involved in similar fake elector schemes. The investigation raises questions about the violation of Nevada law, which mandates electors to cast their votes for the popular vote winner and prohibits unauthorized public duties or falsifying records. Read Article

Pennsylvania: Voting rights groups call for investigation of Election Day problems in Northampton County | Peter Hall/Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Voting rights groups, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Common Cause PA, are demanding an explanation from Northampton County officials regarding a programming error on the ES&S ExpressVote XL voting machines used in the county that affected ballots on Election Day. The error in the Superior Court retention race forced voters to use emergency ballots, leading to confusion and doubts about the accuracy of votes. The groups are calling for a thorough investigation, a transparent report, and measures to rebuild public trust, emphasizing the need for improved testing procedures and contingency plans. Secretary of State Al Schmidt has pledged to follow up with the county and its voting machine vendor to determine why the error went unnoticed. The incident underscores the importance of addressing voting machine vulnerabilities and ensuring proper contingency plans to prevent similar issues in the future. Read Article

Texas: Harris County’s 2023 election shows progress, work remains ahead of 2024 | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

Harris County recently faced criticism from a judge for violating state law in the way it calculated the allocation of ballot paper for each polling location, which contributed to shortages and chaos during the 2022 election. The judge upheld the election results but emphasized that the county’s election administration department failed to follow proper procedures in determining the paper supply needed. The law requires officials to calculate paper allocation based on previous comparable election turnout plus a 25% buffer. Harris County did not adhere to this and did not seek guidance from the secretary of state’s office. The judge’s ruling highlighted the need for better planning and adherence to election procedures to avoid similar issues in the future. The county’s newly appointed election chief, Teneshia Hudspeth, expressed commitment to building trust with voters and addressing the problems highlighted in the ruling as the county prepares for the 2024 presidential election. Read Article