National: Ransomware continues to be election-security fear for local officials | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

The 2020 presidential election has already been upended by a disastrous pandemic that’s forced states to re-evaluate the methods by which people will vote this year. But election administrators, especially at the local level, must still contented with digital threats, like ransomware attacks, that could potentially disrupt voting infrastructure and create chaos on or after Nov. 3, county officials were warned last week during a webinar. The hourlong event, hosted by the National Association of Counties, laid out what a ransomware attack could do to a county’s ability to safely and accurately carry out an election. Ryan Macias, a former technology specialist with the federal Election Assistance Commission who is now an election security consultant to the Department of Homeland Security, laid out a pair of unsettling scenarios. “Picture it being National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 22, and your entire voter registration database is locked up,” he said. “Picture [on Nov. 3] that you’re getting to 8 p.m., close of polls, and you see a message that says: ‘Your system is locked up and you have no results for this election unless you pay us a ransom.’”

National: Racing the Clock on Election Security | John Breeden II/Nextgov

Believe it or not, there are less than 100 days before the next presidential election. And in addition to picking a president, most of us are also voting for scores of federal, state and local officials as well. In addition to all of that, we have the COVID-19 pandemic which has many voters rightly concerned for the safety of both themselves and election workers. To compensate, many states are modifying the way that people are voting, both in-person and remotely. And this could open states up to new or unexpected cyber threats and physical challenges. A perfect example of a physical challenge occurred during the recent primary election in New York. The New York Daily News reports that one in five absentee ballots cast in New York City were rejected for technical reasons. That’s over 100,000 votes that didn’t get counted. On the cybersecurity side, the Wall Street Journal reports that less than 20% of election officials nationwide have anti-phishing protection on their email, and many are using personal email addresses for official election board business. While there is no direct connection between email and the voting machines themselves, it does present a window that enterprising attackers could use to try and manipulate the election.

National: House Intel Committee votes to give all members access to foreign disinformation evidence | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The House Intelligence Committee voted Wednesday to give all members of the House access to classified information that Democrats say shows evidence of “a concerted foreign interference campaign” against members of Congress ahead of November’s elections. The evidence, compiled in a “classified addendum,” was submitted to the FBI earlier this month by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.). The Democratic leaders pointed to it in requesting an immediate all-members classified briefing from the FBI on election threats. Schiff said in a statement Wednesday that the evidence, which had previously been available to view only for members of the House Intelligence Committee, was being made public for all House lawmakers in response to multiple requests. “In the absence of an FBI defensive briefing to the Congress, more than two dozen Members have requested access to the classified addendum to our July 13 letter, which addresses the concrete, specific, and alarming reporting that the congressional intelligence committees have seen regarding our elections,” Schiff said.

National: GOP sparks backlash after excluding election funds from COVID-19 bill | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Senate Republicans left out funding for mail-in and early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic in their stimulus bill rolled out Monday, prompting backlash from Democrats, election officials and advocacy groups. With less than 100 days to go before Election Day, these officials are concerned that without a new injection of federal funds, state and local officials facing budget shortfalls may struggle to carry out safe and secure elections that ensure every American can vote. The concerns come as the pandemic has upended the primary process, leading most states to postpone their contests, while results in a handful, including New York, have been delayed by a surge in mailed-in ballots. “This isn’t in anyone’s budget, no one budgeted for a pandemic, and you can see state and local budgets are cratering, they don’t have funding to put into this, and certainly it’s going to be a challenge,” Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Chairman Benjamin Hovland, who was nominated by President Trump, told The Hill Tuesday.

National: Fact checking Barr's claim that it's 'common sense' that foreign countries will counterfeit mail-in ballots | Tara Subramaniam/CNN

As coronavirus continues to spread, bipartisan officials across the country and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have supported mail-in voting as a pandemic-safe option for the upcoming election. Despite having voted by mail himself on previous occasions, President Donald Trump has frequently pushed back on the concept, claiming without evidence that it would lead to widespread voter fraud and a “rigged” election. Asked about the issue in a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said he had “no reason to think” that the upcoming election will be “rigged.” But he did say he believes that “if you have wholesale mail-in voting, it substantially increases the risk of fraud.” During the hearing, Barr was also asked about comments he made last month regarding potential foreign interference in the presidential election via counterfeit ballots. Barr acknowledged he didn’t have evidence foreign countries could successfully sway US elections with counterfeit ballots but claimed it was “common sense” that they would attempt to do so.  Facts First: More Americans than ever are expected to cast mail-in ballots this year. While that certainly presents its own challenges, historically voting by mail has not led to massive voter fraud. And nonpartisan election experts say the possibility of foreign entities printing millions of fraudulent mail-in ballots this November is highly unlikely.

National: The Trump administration's battle over mail-in voting heads to Congress | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Attorney General William P. Barr held fast to claims that a drastic expansion of mail voting in November could undermine the election amid an often combative hearing with House lawmakers. But he provided no concrete evidence for his assertions there’s a “high risk” mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud, which have been roundly dismissed by election security experts. He said “common sense” guides his concern that U.S. adversaries might flood the election with phony ballots submitted by mail, even though election officials say safeguards such as bar codes and signature verification prevent this. It was the first time a congressional committee scrutinized Barr’s claims in person – and Democrats savaged him, contending that he and the president were spreading conspiracy theories and aiding U.S. enemies. “The FBI and our intelligence services have repeatedly warned that [U.S.] adversaries are actively trying to sow mistrust of our election system and by repeating disinformation about mail-in voting, you and the president are helping them,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), vice chair of the committee. Barr did break from the president, however, when asked if he believed the election will be rigged. “I have no reason to believe it will be,” Barr said. The mail-voting fight is playing out amid a broader partisan battle over how to run the general election.

National: As Trump demurs, an unimaginable question forms: Could the president reach for the military in a disputed election? | Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne/The Washington Post

President Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of the November election, paired with his penchant for plunging the military into the partisan fray, has prompted scholars and legal experts to ask a once-unthinkable question: How would the armed forces respond if pulled into a disputed election? Speculation about whether the military could be asked to play a role in events following the 2020 presidential vote has intensified in the wake of the Pentagon’s involvement in the government’s response to demonstrations against racism and police brutality. “If the president is willing to thrust the military leadership into so damaging a set of circumstances during the protests, just imagine what he would be willing to do if he wants to prevent an electoral outcome that would be damaging to him,” said Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “So yes, they should be absolutely worried about it.” As the election approaches, the president has once again declined to say he would accept its results. “I have to see,” he said during a Fox News interview this month. “I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no. And I didn’t last time either.”

National: Treasury agrees to lend Postal Service $10 billion in trade for rivals’ shipping contracts | Jacob Bogage/The Washington Post

The Treasury Department agreed to loan the U.S. Postal Service $10 billion in emergency coronavirus relief funding Wednesday in exchange for proprietary information about the mail service’s most lucrative private-sector contracts. The Postal Service, subject to confidentiality restrictions, will provide Treasury copies of its 10 largest “negotiated service agreements,” or contracts with high-volume third-party shippers such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS, and receive a crucial injection of cash that postal officials say will keep the debt-laden agency solvent for at least another year, according to a copy of the loan’s term sheet obtained by The Washington Post. The Postal Service contracts with private-sector shippers for “last-mile” delivery from distribution centers to consumers’ homes, and it offers those companies small discounts because of the volume of packages they provide. President Trump has derided the agency over those deals, which industry experts say only account for a roughly 5 percent savings. He has called the Postal Service Amazon’s “delivery boy” and falsely claimed the agreements are the reason the agency has struggled financially.

National: Democrats push for more transparency about Russian election interference | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Top Democrats are slamming the Trump administration for not sharing enough information with the public about Russian efforts to interfere in November’s election. While intelligence officials have warned that U.S. adversaries are trying to hack into political campaigns and election systems – and cited Russia, China and Iran as the biggest threats — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) say that’s not enough to help voters gird themselves against social media disinformation or the sort of hacking and leaking campaign that upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. The top-line announcement that interference exists doesn’t “go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process,” Schumer and Pelosi warned in a statement. “The Russians are once again trying to influence the election and divide Americans, and these efforts must be deterred, disrupted and exposed,” they continue. The statement was also signed by House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Colorado: Official details plans for penetration testing of election systems | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

The Colorado secretary of state’s office said Tuesday it is partnering with the security firm Synack to conduct penetration tests of its election systems ahead of the presidential vote. In an interview with StateScoop, Trevor Timmons, the chief information officer for Secretary of State Jena Griswold, said Synack’s team of white-hat hackers will poke and prod the agency’s election infrastructure, including the statewide voter registration database and Griswold’s office’s main website. “We need to know [vulnerabilities],” Timmons said. “We’ve got enough time that if they found anything we’d be able to respond to them.” Timmons said Synack will be focusing on anything that’s “internet-connected.” While Colorado is one of five states where nearly all voters cast ballots by mail, the penetration tests will also include electronic poll books at physical precincts for people who choose to vote in person. Colorado has used penetration testers to review its election systems before, Timmons said, including services offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other private companies. But he also said that Synack, which has offered its services to election officials in previous cycles, is providing these tests on a pro bono basis as part of an expansion into the election space.

Georgia: Extreme voting lines expose where Georgia primary failed | Mark Niesse and Nick Thieme/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The last polling place in Georgia closed well after midnight. Voters had waited over five hours at Christian City, an assisted living community south of Atlanta. The line twisted far down the street, the most egregious example of extreme delays to participate in Georgia’s troubled primary. A new trove of elections data shows which voting locations stayed open late, highlighting where voters suffered the longest lines at Georgia’s 2,300 polling places. The secretary of state’s office reported the information to county election officials so they can make improvements before November’s high-turnout presidential election. About 11% of voting sites in Georgia closed over an hour late, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the elections data. The epicenter of voting problems was Fulton County, where more than three-quarters of polling places closed after 8 p.m. Black voters bore the brunt of long lines and late closings in overcrowded, understaffed and poorly equipped polling places. Only 61% of majority Black precincts closed on time compared with 80% of mostly white precincts, the AJC’s analysis found. Georgia’s election day was a debacle created by the coronavirus pandemic, high turnout and difficulties operating new voting computers. Precincts closed, poll workers quit and social-distancing restrictions limited the number of people who could vote at a time.

Maryland: Local election officials look at slashing number of polling places due to election judge shortage | Emily Opilo and Talia Richman/Baltimore Sun

Howard County Election Director Guy Mickley’s numbers already didn’t look good. Within a day, they grew bleaker. Mickley started Monday with 491 people signed on to serve as election judges Nov. 3, about a third of what he needed. By the time the county election board met at 4 p.m., that number had dropped by 12. Judges were calling to pull back their pledges to participate, he explained, as the coronavirus pandemic waged on. “We are not going to recruit 700 people. It’s not going to happen,” Mickley told the election board. “We cannot sustain 90 individual polling places with judges like this.” Moments later, the board unanimously approved Mickley’s proposal to slash the number of polling places in Howard to 35. Local elections directors across the state face the same problem as they grapple with how to implement Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision for the state to hold a traditional election this fall. Hogan’s July 8 announcement directed elections officials to open all polling places, as well as early voting locations. He also ordered elections officials to mail all voters applications to request absentee ballots.

Maryland: 'Unnecessary Suicide Mission': Health Experts, Election Judges Blast Hogan's Election Plan | Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters

Public health experts say Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s decision to hold a more traditional election in November will increase the risk of COVID-19 spread. While Hogan claims giving people more options to vote will minimize voters’ risk of coronavirus, his choice to require voters to apply for a mail-in ballot instead of automatically getting one will put people at risk during the upcoming general election, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of the John Hopkins School of Public Health said during a Wednesday morning news conference. “The virus is hoping a lot of people show up to vote, particularly in cramped locations,” Sharfstein said during the press conference put on by the Everyone Votes Maryland coalition. Instead, Sharfstein — who served as state Health secretary under former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) — urged Hogan to pivot toward a mail-in election format like the state’s recent primary. He said the governor’s order to open every polling center in November puts the lives of voters and poll workers alike at risk. Local election officials have repeatedly warned that a statewide shortage of poll workers will likely lead to the consolidation of polling places, and longer lines for the Nov. 3 election as a result. Mike Latner of the Union of Concerned Scientists warned that waiting in line is when voters will have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Montana: County clerks call for general election by mail | Holly Michels/Helena Independent Record

With fewer than 100 days until Montanans cast ballots, the clerks who run the state’s elections are asking the governor to allow counties the option to conduct the vote by mail. In a letter to Gov. Steve Bullock dated July 24, the Montana Association of Clerk & Recorders/Election Administrators and the Montana Association of Counties (MACo) said that given the novel coronavirus’ spread in Montana and the rapidly approaching Nov. 3 general election, they want to make a decision by Aug. 10. Their letter included a formal request for the mail-ballot option, with an allowance for in-person voting and other adaptions. “Given we are unsure of how long the pandemic will last, Montana’s Clerk & Recorders/Election Administrators want to (and absolutely should be) prepared for the worst, especially given that elections require numerous election judges and enormous groups of people,” reads the letter. Under a directive from Bullock, all 56 counties chose to hold the June 2 primary by mail. Generally Montanans can request an absentee ballot to vote by mail, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, with absentee turnout about 73% in the last election. In June, everyone registered and active as a voter received a ballot by mail with a pre-stamped envelope to return it.

North Carolina: Blind voters are being disenfranchised, lawsuit says, and coronavirus doesn't help | The News & Observer

Blind and visually impaired voters will face discrimination and difficult choices in the 2020 elections, a new lawsuit claims, unless North Carolina acts quickly to improve options for voting by mail. North Carolina has specialized voting machines for people with disabilities who vote at any polling place around the state. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to a massive increase in voting by mail. And the only option for that is a paper ballot. Having only a paper ballot for mail-in voting, the new lawsuit says, means that unless they want to risk their health to vote in person, blind voters will be forced to not only tell someone else who they’d like to vote for, but also trust that person to actually fill out their ballot. “Ensuring that absentee voting is made accessible for blind voters is particularly important because citizens with disabilities already face many barriers to full and equal participation in the voting process, in contrast with sighted voters,” the lawsuit says.

Texas: Governor extends early voting for November election by six days | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday extended the early voting period for the November election by six days, citing continued challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Early voting for the Nov. 3 election will now begin Oct. 13 instead of Oct. 19. The end date remains Oct. 30. The extension of the early voting period is not a surprise. During a TV interview in late May, Abbott said he would add more time to the early voting period for the November election — as he did for the primary runoff election earlier this month — but did not elaborate. Last week, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins asked Abbott to provide more details so that election officials could have enough time to prepare. In a letter to the governor, Hollins requested that Abbott move the start date to Oct. 13 at the latest. For the runoffs, Abbott doubled the early voting period, shifting the start date from July 6 to June 29. The end date was July 10.

Texas: Texans with disabilities sue to challenge mail-in ballot process | Katie Hall/Austin American-Statesman

Disability rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas secretary of state, contending that the vote-by-mail process is inaccessible to people with impairments to vision and writing. People with these disabilities must either seek help to vote by mail or “risk their health during this pandemic by traveling to a polling place,” the suit argues. The solution would be to offer online voting options, which are already available to people in the military and people overseas, they said. Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs disagrees, saying it’s unfeasible to implement online voting this close to the general election, according to an attorney who wrote a letter on her behalf earlier this month. The National Federation of the Blind of Texas and the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities, along with three Texas men with disabilities — an Austin man who is blind, a Beaumont man who also is blind, and an Arlington man with cerebral palsy — are suing Hughs. All three men would prefer to vote online for the November election, the suit says.

Virginia: Lawsuit claims Virginia's absentee voting system violates Americans with Disabilities Act | Justin Mattingly/Richmond Times-Dispatch

A group of disability advocacy organizations and voters is suing Virginia over its absentee voting rules in advance of the November election. Five state residents and members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and the American Council of the Blind of Virginia say in the lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, that they are unable to independently mark a paper ballot due to their disabilities, including blindness, and that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit comes as Virginia prepares for an increase in absentee ballots this year, which state officials are encouraging, given the continued spread of COVID-19. “The (state’s absentee voting system) provides no alternatives to accommodate individuals with print disabilities to enable them to vote privately and independently,” the lawsuit claims. “As a result, individuals with print disabilities must choose between their health and their right to vote because they are forced to go to their local electoral board or polling place to privately and independently mark their ballots.”

West Virginia: Secretary of State: All voters eligible to request absentee ballot for November election | Charles Young/WV News |

All West Virginia voters will be able to cite concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic as reason to request an absentee ballot for the November general election, according to Secretary of State Mac Warner. All voters need to do is simply select “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined” as the reason for requesting an absentee ballot application from their local county clerk, Warner said. “West Virginia voters should never have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Warner said. “Just as in the 2020 Primary Election, voters following state and federal authorities’ recommendations to protect their health by remaining home have the option to cast a ballot in person or by absentee ballot.” His office also has developed an online absentee ballot request portal, which will launch Aug. 11 on, Warner said.

North Macedonia: Prosecutors investigate SEC software procurement after hacker attack | bne IntelliNews

North Macedonia’s Public Prosecution Office has launched a pre-investigation procedure over the procurement of software for election purposes by the state election commission (SEC) after its website was hacked following the July 15 vote, media reported on July 28. The election platform of the SEC was brought down by unknown hackers immediately after voting in the snap general election ended at 9pm on July 15. This prevented journalists and other interested people from monitoring the election results, which were announced with a huge delay a day after the election. Public prosecutors entered the SEC premises and seized the entire tender documentation to check the legality of the procurement of the software for the election results following media reports, 24mk reported. The president of the SEC Oliver Derkovski confirmed that prosecutors seized the documentation, but underlined that the procurement was legal.

National: With November Approaching, Election Officials Still Face Safety, Security Fears | Pam Fessler/NPR

With about 100 days left before the general election, officials are simultaneously trying to prepare for two very different types of voting, while facing two unprecedented threats to safety and security. It’s a juggling act that has voters, political parties and officials anxious about how smoothly November’s voting will go. “Doubt is our enemy,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said at a Senate hearing Wednesday on what Congress can do to ensure public confidence in this year’s election results. The pandemic has already caused massive disruptions. Most states greatly expanded mail-in voting in the primaries to address voters’ health concerns. Those changes are expected — for the most part — to continue this fall. But many states also want to make in-person voting widely available to avoid overloading the mail-in system in what’s expected to be a high-turnout election. Maryland is a case in point. The state sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter for its June primary and drastically cut the number of in-person polling sites. But that resulted in long lines at the few sites that were open. At the same time, there were delays and mix-ups with mail-in ballots. Gov. Larry Hogan now wants all polling sites open in November while still encouraging Marylanders to vote early or by mail if they can.

National: There’s so much unjustified hype and hope about online voting | Susan Greenhalgh and Michael Fernandez/The Fulcrum

The coronavirus pandemic has upended everyone and everything, creating a new normal: living over the internet. Members of the House who fear the health risks of coming to the Capitol have even been permitted to transmit electronically their votes for legislation. But this shouldn’t be seen as any green light for states to consider online voting in our elections. Unlike Congress, which has insisted that transparency be central to its first-ever foray into proxy voting, the American electoral system relies on the citizens’ choices remaining secret. A ballot cast over the internet could be undetectably manipulated by hackers. House members’ remote votes are public record, delivered in writing and then announced verbally during each roll call, so any attempted hacking would be easily exposed. To keep voters safe during the Covid-19 outbreak, many states are making it easier to vote by mail and thereby avoid close contact at polling places. Their plans must also include adequate accommodations for disabled voters, But any proposal that we move to online voting is contrary to the evidence. Architects of the internet and cybersecurity warn that online voting is still inherently insecure.

National: U.S. Warns Russia, China and Iran Are Trying to Interfere in the Election. Democrats Say It’s Far Worse. | David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes/The New York Times

American intelligence officials issued a public warning on Friday that China was “expanding its influence efforts” in the United States ahead of the presidential election, along with Russia and Iran, but Democrats briefed on the matter said the threat was far more urgent than what the administration described. The warning came from William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, in a statement 100 days before Americans go to the polls. “We’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation-states and nonstate actors could also do harm to our electoral process,” the statement said. The warning about China came at a moment of extraordinary tension between Beijing and Washington, only days after the United States indicted two Chinese hackers on charges of stealing intellectual property, including for the country’s main intelligence service, and evicted Chinese diplomats from their consulate in Houston. The intelligence warning on Friday did not accuse the Chinese of trying to hack the vote; instead it said they were using their influence “to shape the policy environment in the United States” and to pressure politicians “it views as opposed to China’s interests.” Russia, the warning said, was continuing to “spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” and it described Iran as an emerging actor in election interference, seeking to spread disinformation and “recirculating anti-U.S. content.” The statement was short on details, reminiscent of the vague warnings that the director of national intelligence turned out starting in October 2016 that, in retrospect, failed to seize the attention of officials and voters before the last presidential election.

National: Senior intelligence official warns Russia, Iran, China targeting U.S. elections | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A senior intelligence official within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Friday warned that Russia, Iran and China were attempting to sway the 2020 elections. William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, noted that the ODNI had been regularly briefing members of Congress, presidential campaigns and political committees on these foreign threats to elections “in recent months.” “Foreign nations continue to use influence measures in social and traditional media in an effort to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, to shift U.S. policies, to increase discord and to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” Evanina said in a statement on Friday. “The coronavirus pandemic and recent protests, for instance, continue to serve as fodder for foreign influence and disinformation efforts in America.” He warned that “at this time, we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation states and non-state actors could also do harm to our electoral process. Our insights and judgments will evolve as the election season progresses.” Evanina said that China is using influence efforts to “shape the policy environment” in the United States, and was conscious that these efforts could “affect the presidential race.”

National: Election Officials Are Vulnerable to Email Attacks, Report Shows | Robert McMillan/Wall Street Journal

Many of the thousands of county and local election officials who will be administering November’s presidential election are running email systems that could leave them vulnerable to online attacks, a new report has found. Cybersecurity vendor Area 1 Security Inc. tracked more than 12,000 local officials and determined that over 1,600 used free or nonstandard email software that often lacks the configuration and management protection found with large cloud-service providers. More than half of the officials used email systems with limited protection from phishing attacks, Area 1 said. The findings underscore problems with the country’s diverse, locally administered election system that attracted the attention of state-sponsored hackers four years ago. In 2016, Russian hackers targeted dozens of election systems in the U.S. and breached two counties in Florida. And while security officials and election officials say that much has been done to improve the security of these systems, email could be another avenue of incursion, especially for attackers looking to disrupt or undermine confidence in the November election, according to Oren Falkowitz, Area 1’s chief executive. Often, all it takes for a cyber intrusion is a single software bug or misconfigured system, Mr. Falkowitz said in an interview. “When you run your own service and you don’t partner with someone to professionally manage it, it means you have to be perfect every single day,” he said. “That’s really hard.”

National: Cybersecurity Experts Caution Against Calls to Expand Online Voting | Aila Slisco/Newsweek

Calls for an expansion of online voting are being met with concern from cybersecurity experts who caution that votes could be easily manipulated if the practice is widely adopted. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has recently called for states to expand online voting for overseas military members and people with disabilities that prevent them from voting in person without assistance. West Virginia is one of several states that allow online and mobile voting for overseas military and this year expanded the practice to include disabled people, with 180 voting in a pilot program during the June primary, including 25 disabled people. In 2018, the state was the first to offer voting using a mobile app for service members, with 144 using the technology to vote in that year’s general election, according to a report from the Military Times. In Georgia’s DeKalb County, lawmakers last month called for online voting to become available for all voters throughout the state, according to The Champion. Similar calls have been made by officials and advocates in other states, along with prominent figures like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who tweeted about the issue last week. However, cybersecurity experts caution that online voting could present major threats to the integrity of elections since ballots transmitted online are especially vulnerable to attacks from hackers. Limited online voting has been experimented with for years in the U.S., and used on a larger scale in a handful of other countries, but experts say that vulnerabilities are inevitably found in systems when they are examined closely.

National: Bipartisan support grows for inclusion of election funding in Senate stimulus package | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Bipartisan federal, state, and local officials on Wednesday threw support behind Congress sending states more funds to address election challenges, such as increased mail-in voting, during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a Senate Rules Committee hearing on 2020 election preparations, committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a key player in securing the funds, said he was open to looking into giving states more election funding with low levels of required state matches. “I think we ought to go back and look at the money you currently have available to you, and maybe make that money more consistent in terms and times it has to be spent and give you more access to the money you’ve already got in addition to trying to identify the right amount of new money,” Blunt said while addressing state officials at the hearing. Pressure on the Senate to approve further election funding has increased in the wake of the primary elections, during which many local and state officials ran through much of their portions of the $400 million in election funds included in the CARES Act stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March. These funds came with a requirement that states provide a 20 percent match, which has become a stumbling block in states reeling from a drop in revenue due to the pandemic. A further $3.6 billion for elections was included in the House-passed HEROES Act stimulus package passed in May, the amount experts have pointed to as necessary to ensure states can hold safe and secure elections during the pandemic.

National: A bipartisan group secretly gathered to game out a contested Trump-Biden election. It wasn’t pretty | Jess Bidgood/The Boston Globe

On the second Friday in June, a group of political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics quietly convened online for what became a disturbing exercise in the fragility of American democracy. The group, which included Democrats and Republicans, gathered to game out possible results of the November election, grappling with questions that seem less far-fetched by the day: What if President Trump refuses to concede a loss, as he publicly hinted recently he might do? How far could he go to preserve his power? And what if Democrats refuse to give in? “All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse,” said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organized the group known as the Transition Integrity Project. She described what they found in bleak terms: “The law is essentially … it’s almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.” Using a role-playing game that is a fixture of military and national security planning, the group envisioned a dark 11 weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, one in which Trump and his Republican allies used every apparatus of government — the Postal Service, state lawmakers, the Justice Department, federal agents, and the military — to hold onto power, and Democrats took to the courts and the streets to try to stop it.

National: Democrats say Trump election czar isn’t telling the whole story about Russian interference | Ken Dilanian/NBC

The Trump administration’s election security czar issued a rare statement describing foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 election Friday. Democrats labeled it misleading, saying it failed to convey the scope of Russia’s interference and how its messaging matches that of President Donald Trump. With just over 100 days until the November election, the statement came from Bill Evanina, a career FBI agent who serves as the top counterintelligence official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Evanina has been given the task of coordinating what to tell Congress and the public about foreign political interference. American adversaries are “seeking to compromise the private communications of U.S. political campaigns, candidates and other political targets,” Evanina said in Friday’s statement, and they “also seek to compromise our election infrastructure, and we continue to monitor malicious cyber actors trying to gain access to U.S. state and federal networks, including those responsible for managing elections.” “In addition, foreign nations continue to use influence measures in social and traditional media in an effort to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, to shift U.S. policies, to increase discord and to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” Evanina said. “The coronavirus pandemic and recent protests, for instance, continue to serve as fodder for foreign influence and disinformation efforts in America.”

National: Microsoft Makes Azure Compatible with Election Security Sensors | Phil Goldstein/StateTech Magazine

With a little more than 100 days before the general election on Nov. 3, state governments, nonprofits and technology companies are increasing their efforts to enhance election cybersecurity. In late June, Microsoft announced a partnership with the nonprofit Center for Internet Security, which runs the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Microsoft has made its Azure cloud platform compatible with election network security sensors from CIS. Separately, CIS launched a pilot program with several states to test and verify voter registration databases, election night reporting systems and other systems. Taken together, they represent increased election security efforts. However, time is running out before Election Day, making it urgent for state and local governments to put new enhancements in place sooner rather than later.