New York: Board of Elections Gears Up for Cyberattacks on November Elections |David Uberti/Wall Street Journal

New York state is training election officials on cybersecurity measures this week in the latest attempt to shore up voting systems before November. The state’s Board of Elections began a series of exercises Tuesday to simulate potential attacks on local governments such as disinformation campaigns, malware targeting voting machines and the disruption of systems that store voter registration data. The training is aimed at improving collaboration between county boards of elections and information-technology departments, said John Conklin, a spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections. “There’s a little bit of tension there,” he said. “The county boards are in a much better position now than they were in 2016, and even 2018.” County election and IT officials, along with third-party vendors that supply software or other support to governments, are participating in the workshops. They comprise one prong of New York’s strategy to protect the integrity of the vote. The Board of Elections also has produced a risk assessment for each of the state’s 62 counties, created an elections task force to monitor potential threats and provided annual cybersecurity training to local officials since 2018.

North Carolina: NAACP asks judge to ban the kind of voting machines used in Mecklenburg County | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer

Citing health and security concerns, North Carolina’s NAACP asked a Wake County judge Wednesday to block the use of touch screen voting machines in Mecklenburg and other counties. The move came three months after the group filed suit against the State Board of Elections and several county boards. Earlier this month the state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss the suit. The NAACP argues that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. It also said the ExpressVote machines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” Wednesday’s request for an injunction said the machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because each screen will be touched frequently. The two dozen or so counties using the machines, it said, “are forcing voters to choose between their right to vote, their health and potentially their lives.”

North Carolina: The State just changed election rules to expand early voting. Why GOP leaders say it’s unfair | Will Doran/McClatchy

Early voting sites should be easier to find in this fall’s elections, at least in North Carolina’s biggest cities, because of an order issued by the N.C. State Board of Elections on Friday. North Carolina Republicans say the change to statewide voting rules is just a partisan ploy to help Democrats, but state officials say it’s necessary to help protect voters against coronavirus. The order came as Democrats have been criticizing the long lines people have had to wait in to vote — especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic — that made national news earlier this summer in Georgia and Wisconsin. “If we do not take these measures, we risk much longer lines at voting sites and greater possibility of the spread of the coronavirus,” state elections director Karen Brinson Bell said in announcing the changes Friday. “These are not acceptable risks in this important election year when we expect turnout to be high.” The order says that every county in North Carolina must have at least one polling place for every 20,000 residents. That’s probably not going to lead to much change in smaller rural areas — which tend to lean conservative — but could force the creation of many additional polling places in urban, more liberal-leaning areas, said Republican Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine. The Board of Elections, appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from nominees by the political parties, has a 3-2 Democratic majority. The board appointed Brinson Bell as the director. “It appears that areas with high concentrations of Democrats will have dozens of early voting sites while more Republican areas may have just one,” Hise said in a press release. “How is it fair or equitable for voters of one party to be able to walk down the street to vote early, while voters of another party will need to drive for miles and miles to vote early?”

Pennsylvania: Northampton County – ‘swing county, USA’ – prepares for unprecedented influx of ballots by mail | Mary Louise Kelly, Andrea Hsu, and Fatma Tanis/NPR

The county government cafeteria in Northampton County is a large, airy room with big windows and, for now, lunch tables separated by plexiglass. But a few months from now, on Election Day, this is where the county plans to have a couple of dozen people processing what it expects could be 100,000 mail-in ballots, nearly triple what they handled in the June 2 primary and 15 times what they handled in November 2016. The dramatic rise in mail-in ballots prompted the move of the counting operation to the cafeteria, one of many steps this swing county on the eastern edge of a battleground state is taking to prepare for this unprecedented presidential election. “We’re very supportive of it. It’s just a little more work,” says Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure Jr. “Based on our experience from the primary, we just don’t think it’s physically possible to count the potential 100,000 mail-in ballots that day.” Pennsylvania is among the handful of states that could decide the outcome of the election if it’s close. It voted twice for Barack Obama before pivoting to Donald Trump in 2016. Like many other places across the U.S., officials are anticipating a tremendous increase in the number of people voting by mail, because of changes in laws and coronavirus concerns. While there’s little evidence that mail-in ballots are insecure, they do introduce logistical and other challenges.

Tennessee: Secretary of State’s opposition to COVID-19 absentee ballots called ‘pitiful’ during US Senate hearing | Natalie Allison/Nashville Tennessean

Secretary of State Tre Hargett on Wednesday spoke before a U.S. Senate committee regarding Tennessee’s preparations for upcoming elections, a hearing that became heated as multiple members grilled him on the state’s resistance to expanding absentee voting due to the coronavirus. Hargett, who appeared by video before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, discussed Tennessee’s use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover the costs of necessary measures to make in-person voting safer this August and November, as well as buying additional ballot-scanning equipment and absentee envelopes. He reported that after traveling to 10 Tennessee counties last weekend after early voting began Friday ahead of the Aug. 6 primary, Hargett observed that voters and poll workers all appeared to be following new protocols put in place by the state. “Without fail, every person said, ‘I feel very safe coming to vote,’ ” Hargett said. But later in the hearing, multiple senators pushed back on Tennessee’s ongoing fight against a state judge’s order last month that Tennessee must expand mail voting due to the threat of contracting coronavirus at the voting booth.

West Virginia: West Virginia officials want other states to adopt online voting for deployed troops | Zach England/Military Times

West Virginia was the first state to allow a mobile voting app option for military members — and officials there are hoping others will follow. In 2018, the state offered overseas and military voters the option of using a mobile phone or tablet to vote in an election. In the general election that year, 144 voters stationed in 31 different countries were able to vote using the technology. The mobile voting app was the result of West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s interest in breaking down barriers preventing servicemembers from easy access to the polls. During almost three decades in the Army, Warner experienced the difficulties of voting overseas. Roughly 200,000 Americans are deployed overseas and in 2016, less than 20 percent of active duty troops voted, Warner said in an op-ed submission earlier this month. “The less than 20% figure weighs on me heavily,” he wrote. “This is an appalling statistic, and one that should be personally offensive to every American. The current COVID-19 pandemic should serve as the catalyst to leverage technology to correct the disenfranchisement of the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our democracy.”

Australia: Support grows for an Australian active cyber defence program | Stilgherrian/ZDNet

Tuesday’s industry advisory panel input into Australia’s long overdue 2020 Cyber Security Strategy is a grab-bag of ideas, but what jumps out at your correspondent is its support for active cyber defence (ACD). ACD has been at the centre of the UK government’s cyber defences since 2016. It aims to raise the cost and risk of mounting commodity cyber attacks while reducing the return on investment for criminals. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has deployed anti-spam defences across the .gov.uk domains and is monitoring internet routing to stop DDoS attacks and route hijacks. It’s been remarkably transparent about its progress, and it’s also led to some big wins. While the NCSC is concerned primarily with government networks, telcos and private-sector organisations are able to plug in. The UK’s program is “a best practice model for Australia to emulate”, according to Australia’s cyber industry advisory panel. “The panel strongly supports the increased use of threat blocking for low-sophistication threats,” they wrote. Support for blocking threats at scale was the highest among those on the front lines of the battle against cybercrime — particularly financial institutions.”

North Macedonia: Hacker group warns parties against appointing ethnic Albanian PM | Valentina Dimitrievska/bne IntelliNews

The hacker group AnonOpsMKD, which claimed that it attacked news aggregator Time.mk on North Macedonia’s election day, July 15, warned of “chaos” in the country if parties allow the appointment of an ethnic Albanian prime minister. The biggest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), led by Ali Ahmeti, has effectively been made kingmaker by the election. It says it wants the next prime minister to be an ethnic Albanian and has proposed former politician Naser Ziberi as its candidate, should it enter into coalition with one of the two main parties.  The ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) won 46 seats in the 120-seat parliament, VMRO-DPMNE 44, the DUI 15, the Alliance for Albanians 12, Levica two and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) one. This means that either the SDSM or VMRO-DPMNE would struggle to form a government without the DUI. “Now a threat to all parties — if you allow DUI to make you choose an Albanian as prime minister, in exchange for mandates — expect the entire Macedonia to be turned upside down, a complete blackout will happen within 24 hours, do not play with the Macedonian people!” the hacker group warned.

United Kingdom: After the Russia report: how to protect British democracy from interference | Paul Baines/The Conversation

The UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has finally published its long overdue report on Russian interference in UK elections, nearly a year and a half after its completion and eight months after it was due for release. Even the public was incensed with the delay – a parliamentary petition calling for its release gathered more than 105,000 signatures. While the report doesn’t provide concrete evidence of how the Russian state has interfered in UK elections, it highlights that Russia is a major threat to British democracy and political decision-making. MPs on the committee criticised the government for failing to curb Russian interference. Attention must now turn to how British democracy can be protected in future. The release of the report was delayed in November 2019 until after the December election. There has been much speculation about the reasons for the delay, including that the report contained juicy details of the Conservative Party’s connivance with Russian donors. These were not detailed directly in the report – although Russian donations to political parties in general were highlighted. It is worth noting that despite strict disclosure rules for MPs, there is no requirement for members of the House of Lords to register individual donations of more than £100 received for any outside employment. The committee pointed to the need for a US-style Foreign Agents Registration Act to curb such lobbying. The delay in publishing the report before the election was not surprising – it would have been foolish to openly publish a document providing the blueprints for how to interfere in British politics prior to a general election.

United Kingdom: Russia report reveals UK government failed to investigate Kremlin interference | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

British government and British intelligence failed to prepare or conduct any proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to the long-delayed Russia report. The damning conclusion is contained within the 50-page document from parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which said ministers “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes”. The committee, which scrutinises the work of Britain’s spy agencies, said: “We have not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference” – and contrasted the response with that of the US. “This situation is in stark contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months of the vote, with an unclassified summary being made public.” Committee members said they could not definitively conclude whether the Kremlin had or had not successfully interfered in the Brexit vote because no effort had been made to find out.

National: Democrats Warn of Possible Foreign Disinformation Plot Targeting Congress | David E. Sanger, Nicholas Fandos and Julian E. Barnes/The New York Times

Top congressional Democrats warned in a cryptic letter they released on Monday that a foreign power was using disinformation to try to interfere in the presidential election and the activities of Congress, and demanded a prompt briefing by the F.B.I. to warn every member of Congress. While the letter writers, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, did not specify the threat, officials familiar with a classified addendum attached to it said the Democrats’ concerns touched on intelligence related to a possible Russian-backed attempt to smear the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. They contend that the Russian-linked information is being funneled to a committee headed by Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is investigating Mr. Biden and his son, who was once paid as a board member of a Ukrainian energy company. While neither Mr. Johnson’s inquiry nor much of the information in question is new, the Democrats’ letter is an attempt to call attention to their concern that the accusations are not only unfounded but may further Russia’s efforts to interfere again in the American presidential election. The warning had echoes of the 2016 campaign. In August of that year, after receiving briefings from the head of the C.I.A. at the time, John O. Brennan, the Senate minority leader at the time, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, publicly warned of a Russian effort to undermine the 2016 elections. Those efforts accelerated as Election Day approached, and this year Ms. Pelosi and other Democrats, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have vowed to highlight any similar efforts.

National: Democratic Lawmakers Seek FBI Briefing on Election Interference | Dustin Volz and Andrew Duehren/Wall Street Journal

Democratic congressional leaders asked the FBI to brief lawmakers on foreign interference operations targeting the November elections, saying they were alarmed by what they described as an attempt to influence the workings of Congress. In a letter Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, asked Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray for a briefing as soon as possible and no later than the start of the August congressional recess, citing the “seriousness and specificity of these threats.” The letter said the threats were ongoing. “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” the letter said. The request stems from Democrats’ concerns that a Republican investigation into work that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, did for a Ukrainian natural-gas company was being amplified, and possibly driven, by a foreign interference operation likely tied to Russia, a person familiar with the matter said. The written request included a “classified addendum” drawn largely from the executive branch’s own reporting and analysis, a congressional official familiar with the matter said.

National: Inside the Biden campaign’s pushback against foreign interference | Natasha Bertrand/Politico

Joe Biden has released his most comprehensive statement yet warning against foreign election interference and threatening to hold the Kremlin and other foreign governments accountable for any meddling if he is elected president. In the 700-word statement, first obtained by POLITICO, the presumptive Democratic nominee said he “will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” and plans to “direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections.” He added that he would direct his administration “to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators”—including potential sanctions and cyber responses—and will call on the the Pentagon, DHS, the FBI, and the State Department “to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process.” Biden’s remarks came on the same day that Democratic lawmakers raised new concerns about foreign influence operations in a letter to the FBI requesting fresh counterintelligence briefings ahead of the election. And they come as Biden’s campaign advisers have begun speaking out with fresh urgency about what they fear could become a serious threat.

National: How Your Local Election Clerk Is Fighting Global Disinformation | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Jim Irizarry has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of false and misleading information about voting access coursing through social media lately. The assistant county clerk for San Mateo County, California, and his team have been training for this moment for years, since the sophisticated Russian disinformation machine emerged during the last presidential election. “They don’t have to change a vote in the voting machines,” Irizarry said. “But if you can get into the minds of voters to undermine their confidence in casting that ballot, you’ve been successful.” This year, state and local election officials across the country expect they’ll need to defend voters against potentially devastating and widespread disinformation attacks that could suppress turnout and sow doubt in November’s results. Bad actors, from foreign nations to local gadflies, have countless opportunities to spread falsehoods and misleading information. In recent elections, voters have fallen victim to scams claiming people can vote by text message or claiming their polling place closed. Lies on social media can go viral hours before an election, becoming nearly impossible to eliminate. And Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report found Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race included fake Facebook groups and false advertising. This year, the pandemic has exposed more potential for disinformation, as states and counties scramble to figure out how to conduct elections through expanded mail-in voting and fewer polling places.

National: Who’s going to derail the U.S. presidential election? The culprit may be close to home | Deirdre Shesgreen and Kim Hjelmgaard/USA Today

Fearing nightmare scenarios such as attacks on voter registration databases and state websites tallying results, U.S. officials are leading simulated training exercises to get ready for Nov. 3. The “tabletop exercises,” to be held virtually because of coronavirus, will include thousands of state and local election officials in addition to intelligence and cybersecurity officials in Washington amid concerns about threats from Russia, China and other countries. “We try to make it a pretty bad day,” said Matthew Masterson, an adviser with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, part of the Department of Homeland Security. CISA is charged with helping to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber and physical attacks, including its election systems. Still, Masterson and other experts say the U.S. is now far better prepared to weather potential election meddling by Russia or other foreign adversaries than in 2016, when the Kremlin hacked into Democratic Party emails and orchestrated a sophisticated disinformation campaign designed to help elect then-candidate Donald Trump. CISA officials have worked with state and local election authorities to identify vulnerabilities in voter registration databases, dispatched cybersecurity experts to look for intrusions and improved communication among states, campaigns and U.S. intelligence officials about the threat landscape. The training exercises will game out scenarios, including foreign disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks on election infrastructure, or simply overwhelmed and understaffed polling places across the country.

National: ‘Things could get very ugly’: Experts fear post-election crisis as Trump sets the stage to dispute the results in November | Marshall Cohen/CNN

Voting experts and political strategists from across the political spectrum are increasingly alarmed about the potential for a disputed presidential election in November, one in which one candidate openly questions the legitimacy of the results or even refuses to concede. These experts are keenly aware of President Donald Trump’s well-documented history of lying about voter fraud and claiming that elections were “rigged” when he doesn’t like the outcome. They also see a Democratic base that is still burned from 2016, when its nominee was dragged down in part by Russian meddling operation, won the popular vote, and lost to Trump. Interviews with nearly 20 election experts, former lawmakers, political strategists, legal scholars and historians indicate there are widespread fears of a nightmare scenario in November, where Trump’s norm-breaking behavior — coupled with the unprecedented challenges of pandemic-era voting — test the limits of American democracy and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. “There’s a significant scope for an unprecedented post-election crisis in this country,” said Larry Diamond, an expert on democratic institutions at the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution. Sharpening these concerns, it became clearer than ever over the weekend that Trump is willing to dispute the results. He was repeatedly pressed in a Fox News interview on Sunday, and refused to commit that he will accept the outcome of the election. “I have to see,” Trump replied, “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

National: Spy chief sees 2020 election security as ‘number one goal’ | Lauren C. Williams/FCW

One of America’s top spies said that checking foreign interference in the November vote is a primary concern. “Our number one goal, our number one objective at the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command — a safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections,” said Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads both agencies, during an Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) virtual event on July 20. Nakasone said the goal is to build on lessons learned from 2018 midterm elections for 2020 so the U.S. will, “know our adversaries better than they know themselves.” Nakasone said that to shore up election security efforts, NSA and CyberCom will look to “broaden partnerships” with academia, which have ongoing research efforts that look at social media and influence operations, and respond accordingly when adversaries attempt to interfere with elections. “2018 was a really remarkable year because at that point we had well-trained and well-led forces at U.S. Cyber Command and NSA come together with the right authorities and policies and also match with this idea of having an organizational construct,” Nakasone said.

National: Increase in mail-in ballots due to COVID has created greater election integrity, government official says | Catherine Sanz/ABC

The integrity of the 2020 election may be improved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a leading cybersecurity expert. Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said Friday an increased reliance on mail-in and absentee ballots, which have a paper record associated with them, may be a blessing in disguise. Paper records, he said, are critical to election security because they lead to auditability. “Auditability is a key element of being able to determine the integrity of a vote,” Krebs said. “To roll it back, make sure you got the right results, and, more than anything proving, through a post-election audit process, that the votes cast are counted as cast.” Krebs spoke as part of an online forum on election security hosted by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank based in Washington, D.C. He said that in the 2016 election, around 82% of votes cast had a paper record associated with them. Looking ahead to Nov. 4, he said that figure may be over 92% due to the expected increase in COVID-related absentee ballots. “Again, the ability to conduct post-election audits is critical to establishing the integrity of the election,” he added.

National: The Essential and Enduring Strength of John Lewis | Jelani Cobb/The New Yorker

By the time John Lewis made his exit from this realm, on Friday, his life had been bound so tightly and for so long to the mythos of the movement for democracy in America that it was difficult to separate him from it. For this reason, a friend who texted me “John Lewis is gone, what are we going to do now?” was not only reacting to grief but expressing a real and common sentiment. Lewis, who spoke at the March on Washington, chaired the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and served seventeen terms in Congress, representing Georgia’s Fifth District, succumbed to pancreatic cancer, a ruthless and efficient plague whose diagnosis is fatal around ninety-five per cent of the time. When he revealed his condition, last December, hope persisted despite those odds, in part because, for many people, the thought of confronting the reactionary, racist, and antidemocratic realities of the Trump era without one of the nation’s most potent symbols of decency was too difficult to countenance. Those contrasts were not merely hypothetical. In 2017, when President Trump announced that he would attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Lewis said that he would not. The then White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemed to accuse Lewis of failing to show proper respect for the movement. Months earlier, Trump had attacked the Fifth District as “crime-infested” and suggested that the blame lay with Lewis. I wrote at the time that Trump’s disdain for Lewis betrayed a theme: having never grasped the concept of sacrifice, the President is contemptuous of people whose lives have been defined by it. No criticism that Lewis issued about Trump was as strong an indictment as the simple facts of his life: born to Alabama sharecroppers, stalwart of SNCC, leader, exemplar of humility.

National: John Lewis, front-line civil rights leader and eminence of Capitol Hill, dies at 80 | Laurence I. Barrett/The Washington Post

John Lewis, a civil rights leader who preached nonviolence while enduring beatings and jailings during seminal front-line confrontations of the 1960s and later spent more than three decades in Congress defending the crucial gains he had helped achieve for people of color, has died. He was 80. His death was announced in statements from his family and from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Advisers to senior Democratic leaders confirmed that he died July 17, but other details were not immediately available. Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, announced his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 29 and said he planned to continue working amid treatment. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.” His last public appearance came at Black Lives Matter Plaza with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on June 7, two days after taping a virtual town hall online with former president Barack Obama. While Mr. Lewis was not a policy maven as a lawmaker, he served the role of conscience of the Democratic caucus on many matters. His reputation as keeper of the 1960s flame defined his career in Congress. When President George H.W. Bush vetoed a bill easing requirements to bring employment discrimination suits in 1990, Mr. Lewis rallied support for its revival. It became law as the Civil Rights Act of 1991. It took a dozen years, but in 2003 he won authorization for construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall.

Connecticut: Judge Refuses to Block Mailing of Absentee Ballots | Christine Stuart/Courthouse News

Four Republicans running for Congress chose the wrong venue to challenge Connecticut’s mailing of absentee ballots to all eligible voters, the chief of the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. While the candidates styled their complaint as an original jurisdiction proceeding in the state Supreme Court, counsel for the state emphasized in a motion to dismiss that the law permitting such challenges “applies only to elections, not primaries.” Chief Justice Richard Robinson tossed the case Monday afternoon shortly after holding remote arguments on the motion. With the Connecticut primary scheduled for Aug. 11, Secretary of State Denise Merrill is set to mail the absentee ballots on Tuesday, having already mailed applications to all 1.25 million of Connecticut’s registered voters. In a 1-page order, the chief wrote that an original proceeding under state law 9-323 “is not a proper vehicle to challenge a ruling of an election official with respect to a primary.”

District of Columbia: Elections Board Signs Off On Plan To Mail Ballots To Every Registered Voter For November Election | Martin Austermuhle/DCist

The D.C. Board of Elections has signed off on a plan to mail every registered voter in the city a ballot ahead of the November election. The three-person board unanimously approved the plan on Friday afternoon, responding to criticism over flaws in the execution of the June primary, when voters were asked to request absentee ballots. The plan for November also includes doubling the number of vote centers for early and day-of voting, from 20 during the primary to 40 for the general, and the placement of ballot drop-boxes across the city. Election officials say they have already started laying the groundwork for a much more robust vote-by-mail election in November. Instead of mailing and receiving ballots as it did for the June primary, the elections board expects to contract the massive logistical operation out to a dedicated mail house, as most states that run vote-by-mail already do. That would also improve the ability of voters to track ballots as they are mailed out and returned, one area where the board itself had significant problems during the June primary.

Florida: Vote-by-mail legal battle reaches settlement | Tampa Bay Times

On the eve of a trial slated to begin Monday, lawyers representing the state and plaintiffs in a legal battle over Florida’s vote-by-mail procedures have reached a settlement. Priorities USA, Dream Defenders and other plaintiffs have been seeking to expand the state’s vote-by-mail process, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a record number of Floridians casting ballots from home to reduce chances of being infected with the highly contagious coronavirus. Among other things, the plaintiffs asked to extend a deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned. They also wanted free postage for the ballots and challenged a provision in Florida law restricting paid workers from collecting mail-in ballots. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had set aside two weeks for a trial scheduled to start Monday. But on Sunday, plaintiffs and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration notified the court that they had reached a settlement.

Iowa: Secretary of State will mail ballot request forms ahead of November election | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Secretary of State Paul Pate will mail an absentee ballot request form to all active registered Iowa voters before the November general election after a panel of Iowa lawmakers granted his request to do so on Friday. Before Iowa’s June 2 primary, Pate, a Republican, mailed absentee ballot request forms to the state’s roughly 2 million registered voters. His actions were credited with contributing to Iowa’s record turnout in that election, when more than 531,000 Iowans cast ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 80% of Iowans who voted in the primary did so by mail. But last month, the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature passed a law preventing him from doing the same thing in November without first getting approval from the Legislative Council. When the council, a 24-member body of legislative leaders that is controlled by Republicans, met Friday, it voted unanimously to grant Pate’s request. “I want Iowa voters and poll workers to be safe during this pandemic while we conduct a clean, fair and secure election. After consulting with all 99 county auditors, I believe the best way to accomplish that goal is by mailing an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state,” Pate said in a statement, noting that in-person voting will still be available.

Maryland: Governor defends Election Day plan against push for all mail-in voting | Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post

Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday defended his decision to hold a traditional election in November, despite growing concerns from voting rights advocates and election officials about the impact of his choice amid a global pandemic. Hogan (R) said he opted for a “normal” election instead of a “vote by mail only” because of the chaos that occurred during the June 2 primary, when the state mailed ballots to every voter and opened only a few polling sites in each jurisdiction. Far more voters than expected opted to cast their ballots in person, leading to huge lines and hours-long waits in many places. “I’m encouraging everyone to vote by mail instead of vote by mail only, which is what some of our Democratic colleagues are pushing for,” Hogan said during an appearance on the television show “The View,” where he explained his decision to open all polling sites in the state and mail absentee-ballot applications to every voter, rather than the ballots themselves. “In the primary we had, the State Board of Elections screwed up getting ballots out,” Hogan said. “They mailed the wrong ballots. They mailed Spanish ballots to English speakers. They sent things to the wrong districts. They got them out too late.” Democratic elected officials are calling on Hogan to mail ballots to every voter and offer limited in-person voting on Election Day, with more polling sites available than during the primary. Voting rights advocates have increasingly criticized Hogan’s decision not to limit polling sites or mail ballots to the entire electorate. Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) has urged Hogan to reverse his order, saying it could have “devastating consequences.”

Pennsylvania: Federal judge agrees to expedite Trump campaign’s lawsuit over vote-by-mail | Emily Previti/PA Post

A federal judge has agreed to fast track the lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s election campaign against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the commonwealth’s 67 county election boards over vote-by-mail procedures. U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan limited the scope of discovery, however, to the information counties and the Department of State already have assembled for a report on the June 2 primary that’s due to be submitted by August 1 to the state legislature. In his order issued Friday, Ranjan wrote he’s attempting to balance the need to expedite the case given that the election is only 15 weeks away with counties’ “competing obligations to administer the upcoming general election.” The judge scheduled arguments to begin Tuesday, Sept. 22 in Pittsburgh in the order; however, Ranjan will still consider motions to dismiss due next week.

Texas: In-person voting rules during pandemic challenged in lawsuit | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Opening a new front in the legal wars over voting during the coronavirus pandemic, two civil rights organizations and two Texas voters argue that the state’s rules for in-person voting won’t work this year and are asking a federal judge to require substantial changes. In a wide-ranging federal lawsuit filed Thursday in San Antonio, Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP and the voters claim the state’s current polling place procedures — including rules for early voting, the likelihood of long lines and Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to not require voters to wear masks — place an unconstitutional burden on voters while the virus remains in circulation. That burden will be particularly high for Black and Latino voters whose communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, the lawsuit argues. “The Texas 2020 elections will put voters at risk of transmitting or being infected with the coronavirus. But the risk will not be shared equally,” the lawsuit reads. “Some voters will be able to vote easily by mail. Others will not. Some will have easy access to early voting locations. Others will not. “And some will be able to vote quickly on Election Day by a hand-marked paper ballot handled by a single poll worker, or on a properly disinfected machine. Others will have to wait for hours at understaffed locations, without the option to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, forced to vote on a machine used by dozens or hundreds of voters, which should, but might not, be properly disinfected after each use, much less protected from aerosolized particles from the last voter’s breathing in the same space.”

Vermont: Ballots to be shipped to voters to promote mail-in voting | Wilson Ring/Associated Press

The state of Vermont is going to send ballots to all active registered voters as a way to encourage voting in the November election while keeping people safe from the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont’s top election official said Monday. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos on Monday issued the formal rules the state will follow when voting in the 2020 General Election. Condos said voting by mail is simple, safe, and secure. “When it comes to something as important as our elections, we must always plan for the worst,” Condos said. “Our state and national health experts have been very clear: There is no way to predict the status of the virus in November or in the weeks and months between now and election day.” The 2020 Statewide Elections Directive is a result of laws passed by the Legislature this year that allows mail-in voting during the November election as a way to encourage voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the directive, mail-in ballots will be sent to every active registered voter ahead of the election. Active registered voters are those who have not been issued a challenge by their local election board. Voters can return the ballot by mail, bring it to their town or city clerks, or cast that ballot at the polls on Election Day.

North Macedonia: Who hacked the website of North Macedonia’s state election commission on election day? | Valentina Dimitrievska/bne IntelliNews

The website of North Macedonia’s State Election Commission (SEC), or to be more exact the site’s election section, was targeted by hackers immediately after polls closed in the snap general election on July 15, leaving the question of who stands behind the attack? Even though the elections passed in a free and democratic manner and were among the most peaceful in the country so far, the denial-of-service (DDoS) attack left a big stain on the election — the first since the country changed its name to North Macedonia and become a Nato member. The election ended with a narrow lead for the ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) ahead of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE. Some VMRO-DPMNE supporters have already indicated they will not accept a new SDSM-led government. The SEC was hacked immediately after voting ended at 9pm on Wednesday. The election section then recovered for few minutes but the results disappeared again, preventing journalists and other interested people from monitoring the election results, which were announced with a huge delay a day after the election. At the same time as the SEC site was brought down, the local news aggregator Time.mk was also hacked, but it recovered more quickly. “We are under DDoS attack,” owner of Time.mk, Igor Trajkovski, said in a tweet at the time of the cyber attack. It was reported that Time.mk was attacked with more than 20mn IP addresses on July 15.

United Kingdom: ‘No One’ Protected British Democracy From Russia, U.K. Report Concludes | tephen Castle and Mark Landler/The New York Times

Russia has weaponized information as part of a broad and long-running effort to interfere in the British political system and sow discord, and those efforts were widely ignored by successive British governments, according to a long-awaited report released on Tuesday by the British Parliament. While the report examined Russia’s possible role in fomenting conflict surrounding some of the United Kingdom’s most divisive political battles in recent years — including the 2016 Brexit referendum that rejected membership of European Union and a 2014 referendum in which Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom — it did not draw conclusions on the success of those efforts. Instead, the authors of the report told British lawmakers that they could not speak to the effectiveness of the Russian influence campaign because the government had failed to even be alert to the threat despite years of mounting evidence. It raised a fundamental question: Who is protecting the country’s democratic system? “No one is,” was the answer given by the authors. “The government here has let us down,” Kevan Jones, a member of Parliament who served on the intelligence committee that released the report, said at a news conference.