National: America’s election chiefs are worried AI is coming for them | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Election officials are increasingly concerned about the potential for AI-generated misinformation to disrupt the democratic process, with scenarios including false communications from state officials, manipulated videos, and phishing attempts targeting election workers. These attacks exploit the obscurity yet importance of election officials, making them vulnerable targets. To combat this threat, election officials are incorporating AI scenarios into their training programs and planning public education campaigns to counter misinformation. Read Article

National: China, Russia and Iran capable of disrupting 2024 elections, intel assessment warns | David DiMolfetta/Nextgov/FCW

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment stating that China, Russia, and Iran are capable of and likely to launch cyberattacks aimed at disrupting the U.S. presidential election in November. The report highlights concerns about misinformation and disinformation campaigns, with China potentially using state-run TikTok accounts to influence election outcomes. Moscow sees the elections as an opportunity for influence operations, while Iran may attempt to conduct influence operations targeting U.S. elections, as it has done in the past. There are fears that a loss of faith in electoral systems could lead to widespread voter fraud claims, similar to those seen in the 2020 election, and potentially result in violence. Additionally, reductions in content moderator staff at social media companies are seen as a major risk to election integrity, while the lack of communication between these companies and government agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency further complicates efforts to combat election interference. Read Article

National: With AI afoot, state election officials ask federal lawmakers for more funding | Sophia Fox-Sowell/StateScoop

State and local election officials testified before the Senate Rules Committee about the increasing threat of AI-generated deepfakes to election security, urging lawmakers to pass legislation addressing challenges posed by artificial intelligence. With all 50 states introducing legislation to regulate deepfakes since 2019, and 15 states passing such legislation, concerns were raised about misinformation, disinformation, and foreign interference in elections. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson advocated for the Preparing Election Administrators for AI Act, emphasizing the need for federal investment in U.S. elections to combat AI-generated threats. Read Article

National: Top US cybersecurity agency hacked and forced to take some systems offline | Sean Lyngaas/CNN

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently discovered it was hacked, prompting the shutdown of two key computer systems—one facilitating the sharing of security tools among federal, state, and local officials, and the other containing information on security assessments of chemical facilities. Although there is currently no operational impact, the incident underscores the vulnerability of organizations to cyber threats and highlights the importance of having robust incident response plans in place. The hack exploited vulnerabilities in virtual private networking software made by Ivanti, with CISA urging agencies and firms to update their software. Read Article

National: There are 100,000 fewer Election Day polling places in 2024 | Chris Teale/Route Fifty

The decline in physical polling places during the 2022 midterms, almost halving from the previous cycle, has raised concerns among voting rights groups, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act. This decline, coupled with pandemic-related changes to voting procedures and state-level decisions, has led to accessibility challenges, especially for low-income individuals. Efforts to reinstate parts of the Voting Rights Act have faced opposition, further complicating the situation. Some of the decrease is the result of many counties adopting countywide vote centers and the nationwide increase in mail balloting but concerns persist over uneven polling place availability and the reluctance of venues like schools and churches to serve as polling locations due to security, safety, and legal compliance issues. Read Article

National: The Chinese government is using TikTok to meddle in elections, ODNI says | Mallory Culhane/Politico

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a report warning that China is utilizing TikTok to expand its global influence and potentially interfere in U.S. elections through propaganda and disinformation campaigns. The report alleges that TikTok accounts linked to a Chinese propaganda arm targeted candidates from both political parties during the 2022 midterm elections and highlights China’s increasing sophistication in online influence activities, including the use of generative AI. Lawmakers are considering legislation to force TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app amid concerns about national security threats posed by the platform, although no concrete examples have been publicly provided. Read Article

National: How officials are using AI to prepare election workers for voting chaos | Derek B. Johnson/CyberScoop

Election officials in Arizona and Minnesota are proactively addressing the potential threat of AI-generated disinformation impacting the upcoming elections. Trainings and simulations, like the one conducted in Arizona, aim to educate officials about the capabilities of AI and deepfake technology. Concerns about the use of AI to spread disinformation, particularly in Arizona, where election denialism remains prevalent, underscore the need for preparedness. However, many states lack specific plans to combat AI-generated content, leaving election officials scrambling to respond effectively. Despite limited documented incidents of deepfakes influencing politics, the emergence of generative AI presents a new challenge for election officials, who must remain vigilant and adaptable in the face of evolving threats. Read Article

Arizona: Man who sent bomb threat to election officials jailed for 42 months | Ed Pilkington/The Guardian

A Massachusetts man has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for threatening to blow up the secretary of state of Arizona in 2021, marking one of the most severe federal punishments for threats against election officials fueled by Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. James Clark’s online bomb threat, made a week after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, caused evacuations and heightened security measures. The prosecution was part of the election threats task force, established in response to a surge in intimidation of election officials following Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. The judge emphasized the need for a deterrent sentence to protect democracy, amid a growing trend of threats against election officials nationwide. Read Article

California: ‘What’s it going to be this time?’: An election official braces for 2024 | Jessica Klein/Fast Company

It’s been a rough few years for election workers. Ever since former President Donald Trump called the 2020 presidential election “rigged,” spreading false claims of voting fraud echoed by his supporters, the once low-profile citizens who tally votes have found themselves under an unexpected spotlight—and the targets of vitriol. For Natalie Adona, who moved from private philanthropy at the Democracy Fund in Washington, DC to serve as Assistant Registrar of Voters in Nevada County in her home state of California in 2018, harassment has focused on her identity as an Asian American, her “outsider” status, and her county’s COVID-19 protocols. Read Article

Georgia: The Trump effort to infiltrate voting systems was worse than we knew | Susan Greenhalgh/Slate

Evidence presented in a civil trial, Curling v. Raffensperger, unveiled a plot by Trump supporters to obtain Georgia’s voting system software unlawfully in Coffee County and other areas, implicating Sidney Powell and the Trump campaign. Despite this, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger failed to investigate. Attempts to access voting machines were also reported in other counties, but no investigations were initiated by Raffensperger’s office. Meanwhile, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, despite facing challenges, pursued a RICO case using evidence from Curling. The lack of action from Georgia’s state agencies contrasts sharply with the urgency needed to address the potential threats to election integrity. As no federal investigation is apparent, it’s argued that the Department of Justice must intervene to ensure the matter is thoroughly investigated and addressed, given its significance for future elections. Read Article

Georgia: Website warning of cyberattack in Fulton County removed after it confused some voters | Ali Swenson/Associated Press

Concerns arose on social media about potential disruptions to Georgia’s presidential primary when warnings of an “unexpected IT outage” appeared on the election website of Fulton County. However, officials clarified that the banner was related to a past cyberattack in January and didn’t signify any issues with the primary election. Despite initial alarm, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger assured reporters that primary voting proceeded smoothly. Read Article

Michigan: People convicted of election-related crimes could be barred from serving on boards certifying votes | Katie O’Brien Kelley/Michigan Advance

The Michigan House Elections Committee deliberated on two bills, House Bill 5551 and House Bill 5550, which aim to alter procedures for recalls and eligibility for serving on election panels. HB 5551, advocated by State Rep. Noah Arbit, seeks to bar individuals convicted of certain election-related crimes from serving on the Board of State Canvassers or any county’s board of election canvassers. Testimonies underscored the necessity of safeguarding the electoral process from individuals with a history of undermining it. Read Article

New Hampshire: Conservative group pushes ban on voting machines | Amanda Gokee/Boston Globe

A conservative group in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Patriot Hub, is advocating to ban voting machines in nearly two dozen towns across the state, arguing that hand counting ballots is more accurate. This initiative, appearing on 22 town meeting warrants, has sparked debate among voters and voting rights groups. While proponents believe hand counting is transparent and less susceptible to hacking, experts caution against it, citing research showing machine counts are more accurate. The push to ban voting machines has divided communities, with concerns raised about potential errors and logistical challenges associated with hand counting. Read Article

Pennsylvania: There’s new leadership in Fulton County. They still chase Trump’s 2020 grievances. | Bruce Siwy and Amber South/Chambersburg Public Opinion

Despite facing repeated court rejections, Fulton County commissioners persist in their challenge to the 2020 election, much to the chagrin of taxpayers who are now liable for legal fees potentially exceeding $1 million. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling of contempt in April penalized the county for permitting multiple third-party inspections of Dominion Voting Systems machines, resulting in hefty legal costs. While newly elected commissioners initially resisted continuing the legal battle, they eventually voted to appeal, prompting concerns about the financial burden on taxpayers. Despite judicial dismissals citing the minimal impact of alleged errors in voting machines, commissioners, backed by pro bono counsel connected to former President Trump’s election challenges, remain determined, even as their attorney faces felony charges in Michigan related to improper acquisition of voting equipment. Read Article

South Dakota: Experts don’t want hand counted ballots | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

A survey conducted among 49 out of 66 county auditors in South Dakota revealed that the majority do not consider hand counting to be an efficient or effective method of tabulating votes. Concerns over human error and time consumption were cited, with many auditors expressing trust in the accuracy of tabulation machines. While some auditors acknowledged the role of hand counting in smaller elections, they deemed it impractical for larger-scale contests. Despite advocacy from grassroots organizations like South Dakota Canvassing for hand counting, support among county officials remains limited, with only a few counties opting for hand counting in the upcoming elections. Read Article

Texas: Gillespie County’s hand-counted Republican primary election results impossible to verify | Jessica Huseman/Votebeat

Republicans in Gillespie County, Texas, recently conducted a hand count of approximately 8,000 ballots from their primary election, with each ballot containing selections for over 30 races. The process, involving around 200 volunteers, lasted 21 hours, concluding at 5:12 a.m. Reporters from Votebeat noted several discrepancies and uncertainties regarding the accuracy and transparency of the hand count. While Republicans hailed the effort as a success, there are concerns about error rates, deviations from standard procedures, and the lack of oversight.  The lack of clarity surrounding the hand count raises questions about its credibility and transparency, with taxpayers ultimately covering the considerable expense of the endeavor. Read Article

Virginia: Pending budget would prevent audit of presidential election results | Graham Moomaw/Virginia Mercury

Virginia conducts routine audits of elections, ensuring ballot and machine integrity, but recent budget language passed by the Democratic General Assembly eliminates such audits for the 2024 presidential contest, despite their requirement for some elections. Del. Mark Sickles clarified that the budget intends to prevent delays in certifying the election, especially after past concerns over litigation. This amendment stipulates that risk-limiting audits won’t be conducted for presidential elections, likely redirecting audit efforts to other contests like the U.S. Senate race or randomly selected U.S. House elections. The budget also extends the post-election timeline for local electoral boards to certify results, offering them more time to verify ballots and outcomes. While GOP lawmakers voiced objections, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s office emphasized restoring faith in elections, and despite Republican criticisms, there have been no widespread voter fraud cases in recent years. Read Article

Wisconsin: Milwaukee seeks election equipment grant ahead of April 2 referendum | Alison Dirr/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Election Commission is seeking a private grant of nearly $800,000 for election equipment ahead of the November presidential election, with Executive Director Claire Woodall noting that the funding source, Washington D.C.-based Cities Forward, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose donors remain undisclosed. Woodall emphasized the non-partisan nature of the grant and its agreement, which prohibits any attempts to influence election outcomes or engage in political campaigns. The grant request follows past scrutiny over similar grants, fueling speculation and ongoing debates about election integrity. The grant, if approved by the Common Council, would fund equipment purchases to address operational challenges, particularly related to absentee ballot processing. Read Article