National: The voting technology problems that could trigger panic at the polls | Eric Geller/Politico

While mail-in voting has raised fears and sparked court battles during this election, problems with technology ranging from voting machines to results websites could just as easily disrupt voting or sow doubts about the outcome. Newly competitive battleground state Georgia is using controversial touch screen voting machines for the first time in a presidential election. In the critical swing state of Pennsylvania, where new voting machines malfunctioned last year, several counties have now also configured those machines to speed up ballot-counting in a way that doesn’t give voters a chance to hold the ballots in their hands. And voting machines could turn out to be the least of the technological problems. Across the country, the servers that store voter data and post unofficial results are vulnerable to temporary outages — snafus that could worsen long lines on Election Day, block or discourage voters from casting ballots or fuel claims of election fraud. “Any kind of disinformation about election-related technology, even if there is no hack, is cause for concern, because to be effective, all that is required is for the public to perceive a problem — whether real or not,” said Eddie Perez, director of technology development and open standards at the Open Source Election Technology Institute, an election technology advocacy organization.

Full Article: The voting technology problems that could trigger panic at the polls – POLITICO

National: Computer experts sound warnings on safety of America’s voting machines | Pat Beall USA Today

Millions of voters going to the polls Tuesday will cast their ballots on machines blasted as unreliable and inaccurate for two decades by computer scientists from Princeton University to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Toyed with by white hat hackers and targeted for scathing reviews from secretaries of state in California and Ohio, Direct Recording Electronic voting systems, or DREs, have startled Illinois voters by flashing the word Republican at the top of a ballot and forgotten what day it was in South Carolina. They were questioned in the disappearance of 12,000 votes in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, in 2002 and 18,000 votes in Sarasota County, Florida, in 2006.“Antiquated, seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg wrote of Georgia’s aging DRE system before ordering the state to replace it in 2019. “No one is using a computer they purchased in the 1990s,” said Warren Stewart, senior editor and data specialist for Verified Voting, a nonprofit advocacy group tracking election systems. But voters in more than 300 counties and 12,000 precincts will be casting ballots using DRE technology already aging in the 1990s, when flash drives were bleeding edge tech and Netscape Navigator was the next new thing.

Full Articlee: Computer experts sound warnings on safety of America’s voting machines

National: Despite Risks, Some States Still Use Paperless Voting Machines | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

For years, paperless voting machines have been characterized as an election security hazard. Without an auditable paper trail, security experts say vote tabulation runs the risk of producing results inconsistent with the voters’ choices, either because of hacking or technical errors. While most states have seen adoption of hybrid digital-paper solutions that include a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT), not all of them have.Today, counties in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and New Jersey are still exclusively using paperless machines, also called direct recording electronic systems (DREs).Derek Tisler, election security analyst with the Brennan Center, said the number of states using DREs has nearly halved since the last election, but there are a smattering of states that, for reasons mostly financial, still have not switched.”In 2016, there were 14 states that used paperless machines as the primary polling place equipment in at least some of their counties and towns. They represented about 1 in 5 votes that were cast in the 2016 election,” said Tisler. “Since then, six of those states have fully transitioned to some sort of paper-based voting equipment.”

Full Article: Despite Risks, Some States Still Use Paperless Voting Machines

Editorial: Conservative Supreme Court justices are threatening a post-election coup | Laurence H. Tribe and Steven V. Mazie/The Boston Globe

After handing down orders in a spate of challenges to states’ efforts to make voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court is catching its breath. But the pause may be short-lived. In several opinions that conservative justices have issued over the past week, a radical idea is rising from the ashes, resurrecting language from one of the most fraught decisions in the court’s history. Four justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas — have resuscitated a half-baked theory three justices espoused in Bush v. Gore to let Republicans trash ballots after Election Day. Chief Justice John Roberts has not joined his four colleagues in this misadventure. But if the recently seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett sides with the quartet, America could be in for a battle that makes Bush v. Gore look tame. By shutting down a recount in Florida that could have put Al Gore over the top in the 2000 election, the Supreme Court effectively handed George W. Bush the keys to the White House. The majority reasoned that disparate methods for interpreting the infamous “hanging chads” on Florida’s punch-ballots denied the state’s voters the equal protection of the laws, violating the 14th Amendment.

Full Article: Conservative Supreme Court justices are threatening a post-election coup – The Boston Globe

Editorial: Why Are Republicans So Afraid of Voters? | The New York Times

Why are so many Americans consistently missing in action on Election Day? For many, it’s a choice. They are disillusioned with government, or they feel their vote doesn’t matter because politicians don’t listen to them anyway. For many more, the main obstacle is bureaucratic inertia. In New York City, a decrepit, incompetent, self-dealing board of elections has been making a mockery of democracy for decades. Just in the past four years, tens of thousands of absentee ballots have been sent to the wrong addresses, and hundreds of thousands of voters have been wrongly purged from the rolls. For the past few days, some New Yorkers have been forced to stand in line for four or five hours to cast their ballots. But across the country, the group most responsible for making voting harder, if not impossible, for millions of Americans is the Republican Party. Republicans have been saying it themselves for ages. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, a leader of the modern conservative movement, told a gathering of religious leaders in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Full Article: Opinion | Why Are Republicans So Afraid of Voters? – The New York Times

California: Riverside County voters waited hours; glitch fixed, officials say | Alex Wigglesworth/Los Angeles Times

Some voters reported waiting for hours to cast a ballot in Riverside County on Saturday because of a technological glitch, which officials say has since been fixed. The slowdown was caused by an issue with the voter registration “look-up system,” officials said. When people arrive at a voting center to cast a ballot in person, staffers look them up in the system to check them in and then void the vote-by-mail ballot that was sent to their home, said Brooke Federico, a spokeswoman for Riverside County. At some of the county’s 130 voting centers, the volume of people seeking to check in at once caused the registration look-up system, effectively, to freeze, she said. “It wasn’t for the entire day, and it wasn’t at all locations, but there were intermittent delays where it was simply timing out and our teams at the voter assistance centers weren’t able to confirm an individual voter,” she said.Voters were urged to be patient and, in some locations, given provisional ballots, she said. Some took to social media to report waiting for more than three hours to vote. “We do understand that there were significant delays for our voters at certain locations,” Federico said. The issue did not affect the ballot marking machines, which are not connected to the internet, she said.

Full Article: Riverside County voters waited hours; glitch fixed, officials say – Los Angeles Times

Connecticut Election Officials Get Help From Governor To Pre-Process Absentee Ballots | Christine Stuart/CT News Junkie

Gov. Ned Lamont inked an executive order Thursday that will give a do-over to election officials in 19 Connecticut cities and towns who missed the deadline last week to declare their desire to begin opening absentee ballots early. Eighteen towns told Secretary of the State Denise Merrill before the Oct. 24 deadline that they planned to open the outer envelope of the absentee ballots early. A total of 19 cities and towns gave notice too late and would not have been able to start processing absentee ballots early if not for Lamont’s executive order. The General Assembly passed legislation that allows election officials to open the outer envelope of the absentee ballot starting at 5 p.m. today. Town clerks have received more than 567,000 absentee ballots. “Five days before the election the governor had to issue an executive order to allow for ballots to be opened so that people who voted by absentee can have their votes properly counted,’’ House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said. “Uncertainty remained, after months of lobbying by Secretary Merrill, which makes it harder to deliver clean elections in the minds’ of voters.’’

Full Article: Election Officials Get Help From Gov. To Pre-Process Absentee Ballots | CT News Junkie

Florida election officials say 2020 won’t be a repeat of 2000 – Here’s what has changed since the 2000 and 2018 recounts | Skyler Wisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Two years ago, a federal judge called Florida the “laughing stock of the world” because of its repeated voting mishaps and failure to conduct smooth elections. The midterm election featured three statewide recounts. Machines in Palm Beach County overheated and broke down. Politicians leveled unfounded allegations of voter fraud. A ballot design error likely cost an incumbent senator thousands of votes. It was deja vu. Back in 2000, the world’s eyes turned to Florida during the Bush v. Gore recount. That election had its own host of problems: butterfly ballots, hanging chad and a Brooks Brothers riot carried out by well-dressed, paid Republican protesters. So has Florida learned its lesson? Will 2020 be the year Florida emerges as a shining beacon of democracy, where votes are counted efficiently and accurately? Will other states look on with envy at the Sunshine State’s competency and civic prowess? Election officials and longtime Florida politicos say they are optimistic that Florida is in a better position than ever to run a drama-free election.

Full Article: Florida election officials say 2020 won’t be a repeat of 2000 – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Louisiana polling places likely to change for some due to Hurricane Zeta | Greg Hilburn/Monroe News-Star

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said it’s likely some voters won’t be able to cast ballots Tuesday at their normal polling places after Hurricane Zeta left widespread power outages and some structural damage in her wake. “It’s too early to say which polling places will not be in service Tuesday, but we’re working to identify them quickly so we have the opportunity to establish alternative locations and communicate that to voters,” Edwards said Friday. “But I’m fairly confident we will have some voters who won’t be able to vote at their normal polling places.” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Louisiana’s chief elections officer, is assessing what polling places might be affected through parish clerks of court.” The secretary of state’s office is working in close coordination with local officials to assess the damage sustained by our election partners and infrastructure, including registrar of voters offices, clerk of court offices, warehouses and polling locations,” Ardoin said Thursday. Edwards and Ardoin’s spokesman said it will likely be Saturday before a full assessment can be made.

Full Article: Louisiana polling places likely to change for some due to Hurricane Zeta

New Jersey processes mail ballots early as Pennsylvania fights about it | lison Steele/Philadelphia Inquirer

Just days before Election Day, New Jersey’s voter turnout has hit 80% of the state’s total number of ballots cast in 2016, state officials said Friday. And unlike next door in Pennsylvania, many of those 3.1 million votes are already being counted.After Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order in August to make New Jersey’s election a mostly mail-in event by mailing ballots to most voters, he signed a bill allowing counties to open and process ballots up to 10 days early. The law, specific to this year’s election, prohibits elections officials from collecting tallies of the results or releasing information before the polls close. New Jersey officials believe the measure will minimize delays in getting conclusive election results — an ongoing concern across the river in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have turned away pleas by local elections administrators from across the state to allow what’s known as “pre-canvassing” of mail. Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting counties from processing ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day means that election night results will only reflect a fraction of the mail vote — potentially leaving the results unclear for days. Several counties won’t start counting mail ballots until the next day.

Full Article: New Jersey processes mail ballots early as Pennsylvania fights about it

Pennsylvania: Harassment, anger, and misinformation plague county officials as they struggle to keep 2020 election on track | Marie Albiges, Tom Lisi, and Angela Couloumbis/WHYY

On a recent weekday, Forrest Lehman was struggling to run two elections simultaneously — one in person and one by mail. Hundreds of people stood in line to request a ballot at the Lycoming County elections office, so they could vote right there and hand it back. Nearby, 800 mail ballot applications sat untouched, waiting to be processed so the county could send ballots to voters. Meanwhile, the phone kept ringing, with callers asking questions the likes of which Lehman had never heard before. “We can’t get anything done,” said Lehman, the county’s director of elections. “People are just so nasty, ugly, distrustful, anxious, and we’re getting the brunt of all that,” he said. County election officials across the state say drastic changes to Pennsylvania’s voting laws, a global pandemic, and misinformation surrounding a high-stakes presidential election are all contributing to the high stress they’re feeling as they work overtime leading up to Nov. 3.

Full Article: Harassment, anger, and misinformation plague Pa. county officials as they struggle to keep 2020 election on track – WHYY

Pennsylvania: Seven counties will wait until after Election Day to process mail-in ballots | Matt Wargo and Maura Barrett/NBC

Seven out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will wait to count mail-in ballots until the day after the election, according to local officials, potentially delaying when media organizations will be able to project a winner in the state. Pennsylvania allows for counties to begin processing mail-in ballots the morning of Election Day, but officials in Beaver, Cumberland, Franklin, Greene, Juniata, Mercer and Montour — all counties which voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — said that concerns over staffing and resources led them to delay when they will count mail ballots. It is unclear what impact this could have on the timing of the results. The counties range in population size, but roughly a combined 150,000 voters in these areas have requested mail-in ballots according to state data. Trump won Pennsylvania by a little more than 44,000 votes in 2016 and with 20 Electoral College votes, the state could determine the winner of this year’s election. Polls have consistently shown Joe Biden leading Trump in the state by a few percentage points. Forest County, where Trump also won, said they were considering waiting to count their mail-in ballots, too, depending on what the workload on Election Day looked like. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she is working to have conversations with these counties, urging them to start counting on Tuesday. “Even if you could only do part [of the process], to get started as early as humanly possible on Election Day matters for every single county of any size,” Boockvar told reporters on Friday.

Full Article: Seven Pennsylvania counties will wait until after Election Day to process mail-in ballots

South Carolina bought voting machines from ES&S despite years of issues | Chiara Eisner/The State

It’s difficult to talk for long about voting technology and election security in South Carolina before hearing the name of Dr. Duncan Buell. Since the state invested in its first electronic voting computers in 2004, Buell, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina, has studied the performance of the technology in the region. He is one of only a couple of South Carolinians who belong to the Election Verification Network, a group of interdisciplinary voting experts from around the country, and serves on the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections. So when he discovered that a panel of five people with limited technical expertise had been entrusted to choose the new technology that S.C. voters would use for many elections to come, Buell asked to present his knowledge at one of the group’s meetings in 2019, which were coordinated in part by the State Election Commission (SEC). He was added, then mysteriously taken off the agenda, he says. “That’s not in the citizens’ best interest, but he’s the sharpest critic (the SEC) had,” said Frank Heindel, a retired businessman from Charleston and self-described citizen activist who has requested hundreds of pages of documents from the government about S.C. elections. “I don’t think they wanted to hear it.” The decision is just one example of how for years, choices about voting technology in South Carolina have been made behind closed doors, say lawmakers, citizens and voting scholars. Scientists believe the technology products S.C. officials ultimately selected, including the voting machines now being used in the 2020 presidential election, have not always met the “gold standard” for safety.

Full Article: SC bought voting machines from ES&S despite years of issues | The State

Tennessee: Half of all registered voters have already cast early ballots | Mariah Timms/Nashville Tennessean

More Tennesseans have early voted this year than in any previous presidential contest. After 14 days of early voting across the state, 2,070,339 Tennesseans have voted in person, and another 210,428 have already submitted their by-mail/absentee ballots. That total of 2,280,767 early and absentee votes so far means more than half, or 51%, of the state’s registered voters have already cast a ballot. And that’s nearly as many as voted overall four years ago. “These record numbers demonstrate voter confidence in the hard work of election officials across the state,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a statement. “County election commissions across the state have worked diligently to administer a safe, sensible and responsible election during early voting and we will see the same thing on Election Day.”

Full Article: Half of all registered Tennessee voters have already cast early ballots

Texas Supreme Court rejects Republican effort to toss nearly 127K votes | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

A legal cloud hanging over nearly 127,000 votes already cast in Harris County was at least temporarily lifted Sunday when the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by several conservative Republican activists and candidates to preemptively throw out early balloting from drive-thru polling sites in the state’s most populous, and largely Democratic, county. The all-Republican court denied the request without an order or opinion, as justices did last month in a similar lawsuit brought by some of the same plaintiffs. The Republican plaintiffs, however, are pursuing a similar lawsuit in federal court, hoping to get the votes thrown out by arguing that drive-thru voting violates the U.S. constitution. A hearing in that case is set for Monday morning in a Houston-based federal district court, one day before Election Day. A rejection of the votes would constitute a monumental disenfranchisement of voters — drive-thru ballots account for about 10% of all in-person ballots cast during early voting in Harris County. After testing the approach during the July primary runoff with little controversy, Harris County, home to Houston, set up 10 drive-thru centers for the fall election to make early voting easier for people concerned about entering polling places during the pandemic. Voters pull up in their cars, and after their registrations and identifications have been confirmed by poll workers are handed an electronic tablet through their car windows to cast ballots.

Full Article: Texas Supreme Court rejects Republican effort to toss nearly 127K votes | The Texas Tribune

National: Long lines, broken machines: Why voters should not be too worried about some poll site snafus | Ivan Pereira and Catherine Sanz/ABC

With voting in the 2020 election well underway across the country, Americans are anxious to make sure their choices are counted with as few problems as possible. Despite the mail-in and early voting processes appearing to go smoothly for the vast majority of people, there have been reports circulating on social media (as there have been in other election cycles) that have raised concerns. Videos of long lines of people, even in the thousands, outside voting sites and reports of glitches with voting machines have gone viral over the last couple of weeks. Despite these stories, election integrity experts told ABC News that voters should not necessarily panic or believe those instances are examples of voter fraud or intimidation. Most of those issues can be quickly addressed and resolved, according to Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections for the non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause. “First and foremost, elections aren’t perfect,” she told ABC News. “Just like anything else, stuff happens and there are a lot of ways people can deal with that.”

Full Article: Long lines, broken machines: Why voters should not be too worried about some poll site snafus – ABC News

National: DHS plans largest-ever operation to secure U.S. election against hacking | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division is mounting the largest operation to secure a U.S. election, aiming to prevent a repeat of Russia’s 2016 interference and to ward off new threats posed by Iran and China. On Election Day, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will launch a 24/7 virtual war room, to which election officials across the nation can dial in at any time to share notes about suspicious activity and work together to respond. The agency will also pass along classified information from intelligence agencies about efforts they detect from adversaries seeking to undermine the election and advise states on how to protect against such attacks. “I anticipate possibly thousands of local election officials coming in to share information in real time, to coordinate, to track down what’s real and what’s not, separate fact from fiction on the ground,” said Matt Masterson, CISA’s senior cybersecurity adviser, who has helped lead election preparations. “We’ll be able to sort through what’s happening and identify: Is this a typical election event or is this something larger?” The operation will run for days or weeks until winners are clear in most races — and potentially until the election is formally certified in December. “We’ll remain stood up until the [election] community tells us, ‘Okay, we’re good, you can stand down,’ ” Masterson said. The wide-ranging operation is the culmination of four years during which CISA has grown from a backwater agency that was largely unknown outside Washington to the main federal government liaison to a nationwide ecosystem of officials running the elections.

Full Article: DHS plans largest-ever operation to secure U.S. election against hacking – The Washington Post

National: Ransomware Can Interfere with Elections and Fuel Disinformation – Basic Cybersecurity Precautions Are Key to Minimizing the Damage | Richard Forno/Government Technology

Government computer systems in Hall County, Georgia, including a voter signature database, were hit by a ransomware attack earlier this fall in the first known ransomware attack on election infrastructure during the 2020 presidential election. Thankfully, county officials reported that the voting process for its citizens was not disrupted. The attack follows on the heels of a ransomware attack last month on eResearchTechnology, a company that provides software used in clinical trials, including trials for COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Less than a week after the attack in Georgia was revealed, the FBI warned that cyber criminals have unleashed a wave of ransomware attacks targeting hospital information systems. Attacks like these underscore the challenges that cybersecurity experts face daily – and which loom over the upcoming election. As a cybersecurity professional and researcher, I can attest that there is no silver bullet for defeating cyber threats like ransomware. Rather, defending against them comes down to the actions of thousands of IT staff and millions of computer users in organizations large and small across the country by embracing and applying the basic good computing practices and IT procedures that have been promoted for years.

Full Article: Ransomware Can Interfere with Elections and Fuel Disinformation – Basic Cybersecurity Precautions Are Key to Minimizing the Damage

National: How State and Local Officials Plan to Prevent Election Violence | Alan Greenblatt/Governing

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to be prepared for any imaginable scenario. Running an election with record turnout during a pandemic was always going to be a challenge, but she also has to take seriously the possibility of violence and voter intimidation. She hopes the election and its aftermath will be peaceful, but she knows she can’t count on it. “Given what we’ve experienced over the course of the spring and the summer, we can’t presume that what will happen on election night or the days before, and certainly not the days after are going to be peaceful,” she said. Toward that end, Lightfoot ran an “all hazards drill,” with emergency management, law enforcement and election officials trying to game out every possible thing that could go wrong – unrest, violence, storms, COVID-19 outbreaks, arson. “We really threw in the kitchen sink,” she said. “If you were pitching this to a Hollywood producer, they’d say, no way this could happen.” That same level of concern and preparedness is evident all over the country. State and local officials are having to assume things might turn grim. They’re working collaboratively to be sure any incidents can be addressed quickly. “There’s a long history of intimidation and violence associated with elections,” said Christopher Witko, a political scientist at Penn State University. The Republican Party was barred nationally for nearly four decades from recruiting election observers to challenge voters’ credentials aggressively. The federal consent decree limiting the party’s activities expired in 2018, making this the first national election to be conducted without such restrictions.

Full Article: How State and Local Officials Plan to Prevent Election Violence

National: Overstating the foreign threat to elections poses its own risks, U.S. officials and experts say | Ellen Nakashima/The Washington Post

Iranian government-backed hackers last week pulled off a feat few were expecting. They became the first foreign adversary to interfere in the 2020 election by sending threatening emails to voters. But that action — so far the only confirmed intelligence operation by a foreign government that directly targeted specific voters in this election — had far less impact than Moscow’s hacking and leaking of Democratic emails four years ago. Officials and disinformation experts warn that overstating the threat posed by foreign spies and hackers plays into their narrative that they have the power to sow chaos, and undermines the ability to fashion the most effective and proportionate response. “My biggest concern is that we give a foreign adversary more credit than they’re actually due,” said Brig. Gen. Joe Hartman, the election security lead for the military’s U.S. Cyber Command, which is working with the National Security Agency to protect the election from foreign threats.

Full Article: Overstating the foreign threat to elections poses its own risks, U.S. officials and experts say – The Washington Post

National: U.S. voter info has always been public — but now it’s getting weaponized | Kevin Collier/NBC

When John Ratcliffe, the top U.S. intelligence official, said at a news conference last week that Iran and Russia had obtained American voter registration information, he left out an important point: American voters’ data is already public and widely available. “We have confirmed some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said last Wednesday. “This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion.” Iran had already weaponized some of that information in the form of threatening emails sent to some Democrats in Florida. The email campaign showed no signs of any successful effort to target Florida’s election infrastructure. But the campaign offered a stark reminder that voting in the U.S. comes with a strong chance that your personal information is shared online. While states’ readiness to share the information may not be common knowledge, it has been the reality for more than a century, said Eitan Hersh, a politics professor at Tufts University and author of a history of how political campaigns target voters.”I think there’s a pretty widespread view across the political spectrum that if you want to participate in the political process, having a public record about it is part of what that means,” he said. “It’s amazingly hard to not have your name, address and birthday in the public record.” State legislators periodically introduce bills to change state laws about sharing the information, but “the mainstream of both parties are committed to the idea that parties should be able to contact you, so these bills are squashed,” Hersh said.

Full Article: U.S. voter info has always been public — but now it’s getting weaponized

National: With Election Day looming, an anxious nation hears rumblings of violence | Marc Fisher/The Washington Post

This weekend, several dozen people will arrive at secret locations in West Virginia and Colorado to ride out the election and its aftermath. If Tuesday’s vote sparks unrest, Drew Miller’s customers at Fortitude Ranch will be secure behind walls patrolled by armed guards. “Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.” In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing be there as well. “The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.” On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.

Full Article: Fear of violence high ahead of election day – The Washington Post

National: How the fight over mail-in ballots threatens to undermine the votes of American troops | James Clark/Task & Purpose

Marine Corps flying missions in support of ground forces and convoys overseas. “I was thinking the other day about some other elections, and talking to some friends,” said Cooper, a former Marine aviator who retired from the Corps in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel, and went on to found Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan political advocacy group. “You know, the most significant election in my own lifetime was in December 2005. And that wasn’t an American election. It was the Iraqi election.” When Cooper was deployed to Al Anbar province in Iraq with VMAQ-1, a Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, the elections were overshadowed by fears of violence, concerns that Iraqi citizens would denounce the results as fraudulent, and worries that voters wouldn’t have the patience to see the process through. “How ironic is it that I feel those same three things today?” Cooper said. This time around, it’s the U.S. election that’s been shadowed in doubt and uncertainty, following a presidential race that has been defined by its hyper-partisanship and long-held norms of peaceful transition of power and mail-in voting being called into question or politicized.

Full Article: Will military absentee votes matter in the 2020 election? – Task & Purpose

Editorial: The absurd legal theory conservative judges are using to restrict voting | Neal Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer/The Washington Post

A novel legal theory is surging among conservative judges and justices. The notion is that, under the Constitution, only state legislatures — without any input from state executives or courts — may set the rules for presidential elections. This theory is clearly a misunderstanding of constitutional election law. But it’s actually worse than that: It fundamentally misapprehends how law itself functions. To imagine that the work of legislatures can be wholly isolated from the work of other parts of our government is a fantasy untethered from an inescapable feature of the American legal system: Law represents an interplay between legislators and those who must interpret and implement their handiwork, including judges and executive branch officials. Here’s what everyone agrees on: Article II of the Constitution says that “[e]ach State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” that state’s representatives to the electoral college, which chooses the president. No one disputes the basic reality that state legislatures typically take the lead in setting rules for the statewide elections that choose electors who, in turn, choose a president. But in the past couple of weeks, the focus on two words in that constitutional text — “the Legislature” — has been taken to fanatical extremes. Most recent — and most absurd — is a decision on Thursday by a federal court of appeals that, five days before Election Day (too late for the state to do anything to respond to it), abruptly changed the rule for Minnesota voters from a requirement that their mail-in ballots be sent by Election Day to a requirement that those ballots be received by Election Day, thus unsettling at the last moment both the law and voters’ expectations.

Full Article: The Minnesota voting ruling relies on an absurd conservative legal theory – The Washington Post

National: ‘To me, it’s voter suppression’: the Republican fight to limit ballot boxes | Jess Hardin/The Guardian

On the East Side of Youngstown, Ohio, a steady stream of early voters drop off completed absentee ballots into the new drop box outside the Mahoning county board of elections. Gloria Phifer is one of them. The 68-year-old retired mail carrier drove about 15 minutes to the former hospital-turned-county office center. She doesn’t mind walking, so she found a parking spot outside, walked up to the entrance and dropped her ballot into the red drop box – the only one in the county. “My fellow mail carriers, God bless them and everything, but I thought it would easier just to bring it down here,” Phifer said. “This is an important election and I wanted to just make sure [there were] no problems.” In response to safety concerns spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and worries about potential mail delays, drop boxes are popping up all over the country – in many places for the first time. The largely secure voting method has long been available to voters in states like Colorado and Washington. But amid the partisan battles over access to the polls, election officials in battleground states are still fighting to limit their usage with only days left until 3 November.

Source: ‘To me, it’s voter suppression’: the Republican fight to limit ballot boxes | US news | The Guardian

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others | Elise Viebeck and Beth Reinhard/The Washington Post

As Floridians rush to vote in the presidential election, mail ballots from Black, Hispanic and younger voters are being flagged for problems at a higher rate than they are for other voters, potentially jeopardizing their participation in the race for the country’s largest battleground state. The deficient ballots — which have been tagged for issues such as a missing signature — could be rejected if voters do not remedy the problems by 5 p.m. Nov. 5. As of Thursday, election officials had set aside twice as many ballots from Black and Hispanic voters as those from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older. While the number of deficient mail ballots in Florida was relatively low one week before the election, at roughly 15,000 out of more than 4.3 million cast, that figure could rise sharply: Roughly 1.6 million Floridians still have outstanding mail ballots.

Full Article: In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others – The Washington Post

Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

With days to go, Florida has failed to spend more than $10 million designated for election security, COVID-19 protection at the polls and a surge in mailed ballots. A large piece of that pie is $3.5 million that Secretary of State Laurel Lee requested from the Legislature earlier this year for the state’s 67 county supervisors of elections to shore up their systems. The counties didn’t ask for that money. And it remains unspent, sitting in a state account as “unbudgeted reserve.” Another chunk of pie left on the plate is $6 million in CARES Act funds that 19 counties decided not to take advantage of, which could be used to make polling places safer for voters and hire extra people to count mail-in ballots. As the state’s top election official, Lee insists Florida is ready. “Florida is very well situated to proceed to our November election,” Lee said. Lee said the same thing about making sure the online voter registration system could handle the onslaught of new applicants. But it crashed on the last day people were allowed to apply to vote, forcing Lee to extend the deadline and sparking a legal challenge to extend it further.

Full Article: Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection

Georgia officials expect outages won’t affect Election Day | Kate Brumback and Jeff Martin/Associated Press

Georgia officials say they don’t expect power outages caused by severe weather that swept through parts of the state to interrupt Election Day voting. The remnants of Hurricane Zeta, which hit southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 storm Wednesday, swept across northern Georgia, knocking down trees and leaving more than a million residents without power early Thursday. But power crews quickly sprang to action, working nonstop to restore electricity. Statewide, roughly 255,000 customers in Georgia were still without power Friday afternoon, nearly 36 hours after the storm barreled through. Allison Gregoire, a Georgia Power spokeswoman, said the company expects to restore power to about 95% of its customers by Sunday night. “We should be back and rolling by Election Day,” she said Friday. Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office, said he’s been in close contact with Georgia Power and with the electric membership cooperatives and expects power to be restored to the state’s 2,419 Election Day polling places by Tuesday. But he also said the secretary of state’s office is talking to the state emergency management agency about backup generators. All of the voting machines have a minimum two-hour battery backup and polling places are required to have backup paper ballots on hand for emergencies, he added.

Full Article: Georgia officials expect outages won’t affect Election Day

Georgia election networks untouched by Hall County ransomware attack | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A ransomware attack that took over some Hall County election information won’t harm other Georgia election systems, according to the secretary of state’s office. “There is no connective tissue between those things, so I want to put everyone’s mind at ease on that,” Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said during a meeting Thursday of Georgia’s new Safe, Secure, and Accessible Elections Task Force. Hackers penetrated Hall’s networks and captured some election information, hindering the county’s ability to verify voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, Sterling said. “They weren’t targeting an election system. They were just targeting anywhere where they could get in,” Sterling said. “It never touched the state system.”

Full Article: A ransomware attack in Hall County didn’t infect Georgia election systems

‘Like a yo-yo’: Election officials grapple with flood of confusing last-minute rule changes | Lucien Bruggeman/ABC

Local election administrators are scrambling to keep up with a crush of ongoing litigation winding its way through the courts, with some saying they feel like “yo-yos” caught in the middle of politically fraught legal battles over ballot deadlines and other voting rules. County and municipal clerks are already navigating an election season burdened by unprecedented challenges – with the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on key swing states and a record-setting number of voters casting their ballots by mail. The blizzard of legal challenges, conflicting rulings, deadline extensions and last-minute rule changes, has only compounded the confusion, several officials told ABC News. “It’s like a yo-yo,” said John Gleason, the election clerk in Genessee County, Michigan — a key swing state. “We get a directive, then a judge says ‘no.’ We get another directive, and the appeals court says ‘no.’ It has not been easy.” Partisans in at least 44 states have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits tied to voting rules changes during the pandemic, according to a tally gathered by the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election — more than half of which remain pending or on appeal.

Full Article: ‘Like a yo-yo’: Election officials grapple with flood of confusing last-minute rule changes – ABC News