National: CISA unveils election resource page for officials and workers | David DiMolfetta/Nextgov

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) launched the #Protect2024 webpage, offering election security resources to state and local governments and election workers amid heightened concerns over potential cyber threats and disinformation campaigns in the upcoming 2024 election. The initiative aims to address fears of foreign interference, domestic distrust following claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, and security vulnerabilities in electoral systems. The site provides guides on cybersecurity measures like multi-factor authentication and physical security assessments for election infrastructure, while urging participation in the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Read Article

National: Multiple threats to election systems prompt US cybersecurity agency to boost cooperation with states | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) launched a program aimed at enhancing election security, particularly as state and local officials face escalating cybersecurity threats and election misinformation. With concerns over potential cyberattacks by foreign entities and recent incidents like AI-generated robocalls in New Hampshire and a cyberattack in Georgia, the program seeks to provide support and reassurance to election officials. The initiative involves 10 new hires with extensive election experience who will work closely with state election offices across the country, offering tailored assistance to address their unique security needs. State election officials welcomed the additional support, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and partnership with CISA to safeguard the integrity of the election process. Read Article

National: Threats against election workers spiked after 2020, fueling concerns about recruiting, retaining key workers | Bart Jansen/USA Today

After the 2020 election, threats against election workers surged, with cases like a Texas man threatening an Arizona county election official and her children or a New Hampshire woman threatening a Michigan county election official and her daughter. Despite increased security measures, the threats, fueled by false claims of widespread fraud, continue to worry state and local election officials. A Brennan Center for Justice survey in March 2022 revealed that three out of four election officials believe threats have increased, with one in six having been directly threatened. This harassment threatens recruitment and retention of election workers, as over 20% will serve in their first presidential election in 2024, and an average of two election officials per day have left their jobs since 2020. Read Article

National: Costs for Replacing Voting Equipment in 2024 | Brennan Center for Justice

When we first reviewed the status of voting equipment nearly a decade ago, we found that almost a quarter of all Election Day voters in 2016 would cast their votes on machines that did not produce a paper backup of their vote. Election experts consider a paper backup to be a critical security measure to ensure that ballots are counted as the voter intended. By 2024, that number has dropped dramatically, with only three states likely to still use paperless voting equipment in 2024. Indeed, we estimate that in the upcoming presidential election, nearly 99 percent of all registered voters will live in jurisdictions where they can cast a ballot with a paper record of the vote, including 100 percent of voters who will cast ballots in battleground states. Read Article

National: Deepfakes, dollars and ‘deep state’ fears: Inside the minds of election officials heading into 2024 | Derek B. Johnson/CyberScoop

American election administrators are facing significant challenges as they prepare for the 2024 elections, three years after the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob that believed in widespread voter fraud. Issues include emerging technologies fueling disinformation, limited resources, foreign interference, and widespread distrust from voters. Election officials, gathered at a conference hosted by the Election Assistance Commission, expressed anxiety about the upcoming year. The lack of federal funding for election security and administration, coupled with the threat of AI-generated disinformation, adds to their concerns. Officials are also addressing the hostile environment created by voters who believe in election fraud, with some facing threats, harassment, and violence. Read Article

National: AI technology sparks new worries, but poses familiar challenges to elections | Jessica Huseman/Votebeat

The recent emergence of AI-generated threats, like a robocall impersonating President Biden urging Democrats not to vote, has sparked concerns about AI’s potential impact on elections. However, a recent gathering of scholars, election officials, and journalists in New York, organized by Julia Angwin and Alondra Nelson, provided insights into AI’s capabilities and limitations. Participants tested AI language models on election-related prompts and found them lacking in accuracy, indicating that AI is not yet advanced enough to provide reliable election information. Despite these limitations, the event highlighted the importance of collaboration between election officials and AI experts to address emerging threats effectively. Read Article

National: Domestic Disruptions Are Equal Risk to Foreign Interference in 2024 Election, Experts Say | Carl Smith/Governing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns of new domestic threats affecting the 2024 election, anticipating potential violence and foreign interference targeting election infrastructure, processes, and personnel. While concerns about foreign interference persist, the emergence of domestic actors exacerbating distrust in electoral systems is noted. A recent webinar led by the Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA Law discussed lessons from 2020 and anticipated challenges in social media, artificial intelligence, and foreign interference. Factors such as changes in social media usage, Supreme Court cases on social media regulation, and advances in artificial intelligence pose novel challenges. Read Article

National: Bipartisan report seeks ways to counter extreme polarization that has created distrust in elections | Gary Fields/Associated Press

A bipartisan report released by The Carter Center and the Baker Institute for Public Policy highlights concerns about the loss of faith in election results in the U.S., attributed to extreme partisanship and a complex, decentralized voting system. The report emphasizes the need for greater transparency and steps to simplify voting processes. It outlines 10 principles aimed at balancing equal access to the polls with ensuring the integrity of election outcomes, including clear election laws, secure voter registration, regular audits, and transparency in vote counting. Read Article

Arizona: Governor, GOP, Democrats find compromise as fix to election calendar clears Legislature | Mary Jo Pitzl/Arizona Republic

Arizona lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation to prevent automatic vote recount provisions from disrupting this year’s elections, notably by moving the primary election to July 30 instead of August 6, providing crucial time for recount processes without delaying other election activities. The bill aims to ensure timely ballot delivery for military and overseas voters and prevent delays in counting presidential votes, receiving bipartisan support with only four Republican lawmakers voting against it. Read Article

California: Shasta County’s longtime Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen to retire | David Benda Redding Record Searchlight

Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters, Cathy Darling Allen, will retire in May after two decades in office, citing a diagnosis of heart failure and the need for stress reduction as a crucial part of recovery. Darling Allen has often disagreed with the Shasta County Board of Supervisors far-right majority since it voted last January to terminate the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems. The controversial action launched a months-long crusade by the board’s majority to eliminate voting machines and get the county to hand count all ballots in local elections. It also brought national attention to Shasta County and at times drove supervisors’ meetings into further chaos and rancor. The attempt to hand count ballots was halted by a state law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2022, banning manual tallying in all but the smallest counties. Darling Allen will serve through the March 5 election before retiring. Read Article

Georgia: ‘Nightmarish’ or simple switch? After voting machine trial, a federal judge’s decision may lead to hand marking paper ballots | Timothy Pratt/Atlanta Civic Circle

A federal trial spanning nearly three weeks concerning the constitutionality of Georgia’s voting machines concluded, with the state’s defense focusing on costs and logistics rather than cybersecurity, the central concern of the plaintiffs. The trial, initiated six years ago, involves an election integrity nonprofit and Georgia voters against the Secretary of State’s Office, alleging that the state’s computerized voting machines pose a hacking risk, violating voters’ constitutional rights. The plaintiffs argued for enjoining the use of Dominion Voting Systems touchscreen machines, potentially shifting to hand marked ballots for the upcoming presidential election. The defense emphasized the impracticality and costs of such a transition, lacking cybersecurity experts in their witness lineup. The trial also highlighted the Coffee County incident, dubbed the largest elections systems breach in U.S. history, as a central issue, underscoring concerns over voting system vulnerabilities. Despite logistical concerns raised by the state, plaintiffs pointed out the state’s successful transition to current machines within 10 months, urging a similar adjustment. Read Article

Georgia Senate approves ban on counting ballots from QR codes | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Senate, voting along party lines, has approved a bill to eliminate the use of bar codes on ballots, opting instead to count votes directly from printed text or filled-in ovals next to candidate names. Republicans argue that this change would enhance election security and minimize the risk of tampering, although there’s no evidence of breaches in Georgia’s voting machines during elections. However, implementing this change before the upcoming presidential election appears unlikely due to time constraints and the associated costs, estimated at $15 million or more. While Democrats criticize the proposal as costly and impractical, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger maintains that Georgia’s voting system is secure as is, and eliminating QR codes before the presidential election would be unfeasible. Read Article

Michigan clerks concerned about election software delays | Peter Kobs/CNHI News Service

County and township clerks in northwest Michigan express growing concerns over the delayed delivery of promised election software updates by the state Bureau of Elections, particularly critical for the upcoming nine-day early voting period starting February 17th. The QVF system, essential for early voting, lacks voter data despite the recent addition of an early voting module, leaving local officials untrained and uncertain about its functionality. Additionally, the necessary e-poll book software download to prevent double voting and verify voter eligibility remains unavailable, complicating preparations for early voting and prompting frustrations among clerks regarding the lack of timely communication and guidance from state authorities. Read Article

Nebraska bill would hire a hacker to probe the state’s computer, elections systems | Margery A. Beck/Associated Press

Nebraska State Senator Loren Lippincott introduced a bill to Nebraska’s government committee proposing to allocate $200,000 to hire an “ethical hacker” tasked with probing the state’s computer network, including election equipment and software, to identify vulnerabilities. Inspired by his nephew’s similar work, Lippincott aims to pioneer this approach in cybersecurity for the state, although Missouri has engaged a company with “white hat hackers” for comparable services. Against the backdrop of escalating security concerns nationwide, including potential cyberattacks by foreign entities, the bill seeks to preemptively address vulnerabilities and enhance election security. Lippincott’s proposal coincides with an $11 million cybersecurity bill intended to empower the state’s chief information officer, local governments, and school districts to strengthen cybersecurity infrastructure and readiness, with both bills receiving support at the hearing and awaiting further committee deliberations. Read Article

New Hampshire authorities trace Biden AI robocall to Texas-based telecom | Derek B. Johnson/CyberScoop

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has identified Life Corporation, a Texas-based telecommunications firm, and Walter Monk as responsible for AI-generated robocalls featuring the voice of President Joe Biden, urging Democratic voters to abstain from the state’s primary. The calls, created using deepfake technology, prompted concerns about election integrity and spurred an investigation involving state and federal authorities. Although Life Corporation and Monk have been implicated, further inquiries are ongoing. The FCC has issued cease-and-desist letters to both Life Corporation and Lingo Telecom, which facilitated the calls, with warnings of potential regulatory consequences. Read Article

North Dakota: Judge dismisses election official’s mail ballot lawsuit | Jack Dura/Associated Press

A federal judge in North Dakota has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the acceptance of mail-in ballots after Election Day, filed by Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski and supported by a legal group associated with former President Donald Trump. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor ruled that Splonskowski lacks standing to bring the case and failed to demonstrate harm from the law or a violation of his constitutional rights. The judge expressed concern that an elected official openly advocated violating the law he was elected to enforce, and noted that the lawsuit’s success could impact overseas and military voters’ rights to vote. Read vArticle

Pennsylvania: How an ‘Ice Cream Truck’ for Voting Could Stop Mail Ballots from Being Tossed | Alex Burness/Bolts

Neil Makhija, a former advocate for South Asian voter turnout and now a county commissioner in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, has taken on the task of securing voting rights from within the system. He aims to revolutionize the ballot curing process, proposing a mobile unit that would reach voters directly to resolve mail ballot errors, inspired by an “ice cream truck for voting” concept. Pennsylvania’s lack of statewide guidelines on ballot curing leaves counties with disparate approaches, with some, like Montgomery, making efforts to inform voters but still seeing a significant number of rejected ballots. Makhija’s proposal, though ambitious, has garnered support from voting rights advocates, who see it as a game-changer, but its implementation faces challenges in resource allocation and logistics. Read Article

Wisconsin Elections Commission adopts partial witness address rules for absentee ballot envelopes | Mitchell Schmidt/Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin Elections Commission issues new guidance allowing local election officials to accept absentee ballot envelopes with partial witness address information, following a Dane County judge’s order. The decision aims to ensure that ballots with discernible witness addresses are counted, amid concerns about potential disenfranchisement due to address errors. The ruling comes after a contentious debate, with a Republican commissioner proposing additional requirements for voters, which was rejected. Meanwhile, legislative Republicans introduced a bill to tighten absentee ballot requirements, including fines and jail time for violations, in a move challenged by Democrats. Read Article