National: Homeland Security ramping up ‘with intensity’ to respond to election threats | Josh Meyer/USA Today

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing for a potentially unprecedented array of election threats, including meddling by foreign governments, bomb threats, intimidation at the polls and the intentional spreading of disinformation to confuse voters. “We are dealing with it with intensity,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “The right to vote and the integrity of the right to vote − and therefore of the election itself − is a fundamental element of our democracy. “This is a nonpartisan effort,” he stressed. “And, in fact, all our efforts across this department are nonpartisan.” Read Article

Former township clerk and lawyer in Michigan face charges over voter data breach | Megan Lebowitz and Gary Grumbach/NBC

A former township clerk and her attorney will face charges in Michigan over allegations of a voter data breach related to the 2020 election, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Wednesday. Former Adams Township Clerk Stephanie Scott and her private attorney, Stefanie Lambert, allowed “an unauthorized computer examiner access to voter data, including non-public voter information, concerning the 2020 General Election,” Nessel’s office alleged in a news release. Scott faces six charges — five felonies and a misdemeanor — including concealing or withholding a voting machine and using a computer to commit a crime. Lambert faces three felony charges, including using a computer to commit a crime. It is unclear how they pleaded. Read Article

National: A group of Republicans has united to defend the legitimacy of US elections and those who run them | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

It was Election Day last November, and one of Georgia’s top election officials saw that reports of a voting machine problem in an eastern Pennsylvania county were gaining traction online. So Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who had defended the 2020 election in Georgia amid an onslaught of threats, posted a message to his nearly 71,000 followers on the social platform X explaining what had happened and saying that all votes would be counted correctly. He faced immediate criticism from one commenter about why he was weighing in on another state’s election while other responses reiterated false claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Read Article

National: ‘Terrifying’: Democrats say they have plans to keep electors safe from political violence | Phillip M. Bailey and Erin Mansfield USA Today

During the 2020 electoral process, Democratic elector Khary Penebaker faced daunting security measures as he cast his ceremonial vote for Joe Biden in Wisconsin. Amid heightened concerns of political violence and intimidation, Penebaker, along with other electors, was compelled to assemble at an undisclosed location, escorted by law enforcement through tunnels to access a closed-off room in the statehouse. The experience left Penebaker, a Black Democrat who ran for Congress in 2016, deeply unsettled, evoking comparisons to the courage of civil rights activists. The safety of electors like Penebaker has become a focal point for Democrats, scholars, and election watchdogs, particularly following instances of violence during the electoral process, such as the events of January 6, 2021. As concerns persist about the security of electors, state Democratic officials have initiated discussions and plans to safeguard their safety in anticipation of the 2024 election. Read Article

National: CISA, FBI resuming talks with social media firms over disinformation removal, Senate Intel chair says | David DiMolfetta/Nextgov/FCW

Federal agencies have resumed discussions with social media companies regarding the removal of disinformation on their platforms ahead of the November presidential election, marking a significant shift after months of halted communications due to a pending First Amendment case in the Supreme Court. Senator Mark Warner revealed that talks resumed amidst the Supreme Court hearing arguments in Murthy v. Missouri, a case prompted by allegations of federal agencies pressuring platforms to remove content related to vaccine safety and the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court is anticipated to rule on whether agencies can engage with social media firms regarding potential disinformation. Warner highlighted concerns about election interference and emphasized the need for the Biden administration to take a stronger stance against nation-state entities attempting to meddle in the U.S. election process. Read Article

National: FBI warns that foreign adversaries could use AI to spread disinformation about US elections | Eric Tucker/Associated Press

The FBI is concerned that foreign adversaries could deploy artificial intelligence as a means to interfere in American elections and spread disinformation, a senior official said Thursday, describing the technology as an area “that’s probably going to see growth over the coming years.” The threat is more than theoretical given the prevalence of AI deepfakes and robocalls and the way such technology has already surfaced in politics. The official noted an episode in Slovakia early this year in which audio clips resembling the voice of the liberal party chief — purportedly capturing him talking about hiking beer prices and rigging the vote — were shared widely on social media just days before parliamentary elections. The clips were deepfakes. Read Article

In Arizona, election workers trained with deepfakes to prepare for 2024 | Sarah Ellison and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez/The Washington Post

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes organized a groundbreaking training session for election workers, where they grappled with AI-generated scenarios designed to mimic potential threats during the upcoming election cycle. Participants from around the state faced challenges ranging from law enforcement operations to attempts to infiltrate technology systems. The exercise aimed to prepare election officials for the unprecedented threat of AI-generated deepfakes, which could undermine the integrity of elections. Following the event, a training document titled “How Election Officials Can Identify, Prepare for, and Respond to AI Threats” was created for distribution nationwide. Despite the daunting task of combating AI threats, practical suggestions emerged from the training, emphasizing the reinforcement of basic online security measures and the importance of verifying information before taking action. Read Article

California: District 16 recount reveals that one county was plagued with thumb flubs and other voting errors | Grace Hase and Harriet Blair Rowan/The Mercury News

In the end, it came down to 19 ballots in Santa Clara County that ultimately made the difference in the hotly contested Congressional District 16 race — ballots that were never counted the first time around due to simple human error. While a change equal to just a fraction of a percent of votes is unlikely to shift the entire results of most elections, a once-in-a-generation perfect tie in this case exposed the gaffes and fumbles by one county in the tabulation process. What followed the March primary was two months of counting and recounting more than 182,000 votes in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo — a stunning saga that finally came to a close on Wednesday afternoon. Read Article

Colorado Lawmakers Pass First-in-Nation Mandate for Voting Centers in Jails | Alex Burness/Bolts

Scott Deno, overseeing Colorado’s largest jail in Colorado Springs, emphasizes facilitating voting for incarcerated individuals, yet a recent admission reveals zero votes cast in the last election among the jail’s population. This issue extends statewide, with only 231 jail votes in Colorado during the 2022 general election, despite a daily jail population of 6,000, disproportionately Black and Latinx. The passage of Senate Bill 72, awaiting Governor Jared Polis’s signature, aims to rectify this, mandating polling stations in local jails during general elections and establishing ballot drop-off locations, making Colorado the first state with such a requirement. Read Article

Georgia oversight panel ruminates on 2020 election hiccups as 2024 showdowns loom | Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The Georgia Election Board voted Tuesday to reprimand Fulton County and appoint an independent monitor for the 2024 election for violating state law while conducting a recount of the 2020 presidential election. In a 2-1 vote on the panel that oversees how counties conduct elections, members agreed to admonish Fulton County and order a monitor for this year’s campaigns. That allows the county to avoid paying a fine or having the attorney general investigate the double-counting of 3,075 ballots and other allegations of irregularities during the 2020 presidential recount. Georgia election officials determined mistakes in 2020 by county election workers would not have changed the outcome. Read Article

Michigan: Democrats contend GOP is using  lawsuits to sow election doubts | Craig Mauger The Detroit News

The Democratic National Committee submitted briefs Monday against two election lawsuits brought by Republicans in Michigan courts, arguing the GOP was attempting to “undermine faith in our electoral system.” The filings spotlighted Michigan as a crucial battleground state, six months before the November election, and also highlighted the significant role judges will likely play this year, amid a heightened focus on the policies and personnel guiding voting across the nation. Read Article

Nevada: GOP sues state over late mail-in ballots | Hillel Aron/Courthouse News Service

The Republican Party, along with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, filed a lawsuit against Nevada and its two largest counties over their policy of accepting mail-in ballots arriving up to four days after Election Day.  Nevada’s Secretary of State defended the state’s election practices, emphasizing their transparency and accessibility, while the Republicans expressed concerns about the disproportionate impact on Republican candidates and voters. Read Article

New Mexico Secretary of State raises awareness of deepfakes, misinformation | News | Cathy Cook/The Albuquerque Journal

As New Mexico gears up for the primary elections in June, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is raising awareness about the potential risks of deepfakes and artificial intelligence in manipulating election information. Deepfakes, digitally altered photos, videos, or audio recordings created using generative AI, can convincingly imitate individuals’ likeness or voices, leading to concerns about spreading misinformation and discrediting individuals or institutions. While New Mexico has not yet experienced deepfake-related election misinformation, Toulouse Oliver emphasizes the importance of increasing awareness and enforcing disclosure requirements, as mandated by a recent law, to deter such activities. Read Article

Ohio bill on voting law changes would require security reviews, allow hand-counting of ballots | Karen Kasler/Statehouse News Bureau

A group of conservative Republicans in the Ohio House is pushing for a bill, HB 472, aiming to overhaul state election laws to enhance security, including measures like requiring voter ID, changing early voting procedures, and permitting hand-counting of ballots. Critics argue that the bill’s measures, such as requiring voter ID and restricting early voting procedures, are thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression. They contend that the bill’s provisions, including limiting options for voter identification and delaying ballot scanning, could disenfranchise voters and undermine the democratic process. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the bill’s potential to exacerbate disparities in access to voting, particularly among marginalized communities. Read Article

Pennsylvania sees fewer mail ballots rejected for technicalities, a priority for election officials | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Pennsylvania election officials said Wednesday that the rate of mail-in ballots rejected for technicalities, like a missing date, saw a significant drop in last month’s primary election after state officials tried anew to help voters avoid mistakes that might get their ballots thrown out. Secretary of State Al Schmidt, said counties reported a 13.5% decrease in mail-in ballots that were rejected for reasons the state had tried to address with a redesigned ballot envelope and instructions for voting by mail. That drop was calculated in comparison to the 2023 primary election. Read Articles

Texas: Surprise bill, uncertain future prompts Smith County to switch voter registration system vendors | Blake Holland/KLTV

Smith County is facing uncertainty regarding its voter registration system after their current vendor, VOTEC, unexpectedly requested additional funds to stay afloat, prompting concerns about the integrity of the upcoming elections. Elections Administrator Michelle Allcon emphasized the importance of not jeopardizing election integrity and questioned the transparency of VOTEC’s actions. Despite the risks associated with transferring data to a new vendor, Smith County commissioners voted to contract with VR Systems, initiating the process of migrating voter registration data to the new system to ensure its accuracy and completeness before the November election. Read Article

Wisconsin: What we know about Milwaukee’s election plans after Claire Woodall | Alison Dirr and Mary Spicuzza/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Following Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s announcement that Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall would not be reappointed, little information has surfaced regarding plans to ensure a smooth presidential election in November. Johnson intends to nominate Election Commission Deputy Director Paulina Gutiérrez to lead the commission, providing assurances of staff, equipment funding, and city government support for polling locations and absentee ballot counting. Despite concerns about the transition, Johnson expresses confidence in Gutiérrez’s capabilities, amid intense scrutiny on Milwaukee’s election administration, particularly given former President Trump’s claims of “illegal votes” in 2020 and expected challenges in the upcoming election rematch. Read Article