A judge has kept in place guidance from Iowa’s secretary of state that county elections commissioners can only set up absentee ballot drop boxes at or outside their offices. Judge William Kelly rejected a request from a Latino civil rights organization and a group aligned with Democrats to block Secretary of State Paul Pate’s guidance and allow for drop boxes in locations such as grocery stores. The ruling, coming nearly three weeks after Kelly heard arguments in the case, isn’t expected to have an impact because it comes so close to Election Day. Most absentee ballots have already been returned and auditors had dropped plans to add drop box locations even if Pate’s guidance was suspended. Kelly said that requiring voters or their designees to return ballots to a location where the county auditor conducts business is “not a severe burden” on the right to vote. He noted that voters can also put them in the mail or vote in person, either early or on Election Day. Iowa law says that absentee ballots should be returned to the county elections commissioner’s office by voters or their designees and is silent on the use of drop boxes to collect them.
Massachusetts: Federal immigration officials wrongly tell new US citizens they missed chance to vote | Collin Binkley/Associated Press
Federal immigration officials acknowledged Thursday that they erroneously told some new U.S. citizens in Massachusetts that they could not vote in next week’s election because they had missed the state’s voter registration deadline. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the citizenship process, said officials at some recent naturalization ceremonies mistakenly told new citizens they were ineligible to vote because the Oct. 24 registration deadline had passed. State law, however, allows new citizens to register until 4 p.m. the day before an election if they became citizens after the deadline. Agency spokesman Daniel Hetlage said in a written statement that the error was based on information from a state website. The agency has contacted all new citizens who may have received incorrect information, he said. “The state has since updated its webpage and we at USCIS are not aware of this happening anywhere else,” Hetlage said. In a statement to GBH News, which first reported the story, the immigration agency said it was contacting 409 new citizens who had received incorrect information at 36 ceremonies Monday and Tuesday. Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts secretary of state, said the elections website did not previously include details on registration for new citizens. The issue has rarely arisen, she said, but department officials have consistently told USCIS about the extension for newly naturalized citizens.
Michigan clerks have ‘deep concern’ about violence, COVID-19 at polls | Dave Boucher Christina Hall/Detroit Free Press
It’s not the surge in absentee ballots, or even the global pandemic that have Alpena City Clerk Anna Soik most concerned heading into Election Day. The clerk of the roughly 10,000-person city that rests on the shores of Lake Huron in northern Michigan is instead worried about what happens if someone fired up about the election brings a gun to a polling place. “I’m not going to lie, I am concerned about it. And we may possibly even have a police presence,” Soik said. “Because I think right now, in the time that we’re in, everybody is kind of on edge, and you just don’t know how someone is going to react, so we just need to be prepared for that.” Michigan election officials understand they face unprecedented challenges on Tuesday. They know someone may contract the coronavirus on Election Day, or that a woman or man with a gun may disrupt voting somewhere. They know a voting populace desperate for results will question why we do not know who won within minutes of polls closing. They are experts on absentee voting, ballot tabulation and poll worker training. They are not epidemiologists. They are not law enforcement officers.
A federal appeals court on Thursday said Minnesota’s plan to count absentee ballots received after Election Day was illegal, siding with Republicans in the battleground state. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said the deadline extension was an unconstitutional maneuver by the state’s top election official, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat. The appeals court said Minnesota election officials should identify and set aside all absentee ballots received after Nov. 3. “Simply put, the Secretary has no power to override the Minnesota Legislature,” the court’s majority wrote.
New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire | Christian Wade/The Center Square
When voters go to the polls in New Hampshire in Tuesday’s presidential election, they’ll be allowed to take firearms with them. New Hampshire is one of a handful of “open carry” states where firearm owners can possess a gun in plain view, without any special permit. The issue of guns in polling stations comes up every election cycle, but has been elevated this year amid heightened concerns about voter intimidation and violence ahead of a rancorous election. President Donald Trump, who is seeking another term, has been accused of stoking those fears with calls for his supporters to act as election “monitors” to check for fraud in the voting process. In a joint letter to local election officials on Thursday, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald clarified that the state doesn’t have the authority to prevent people from carrying firearms into polling stations, even if they are located inside schools. “There are no state election laws governing carrying of a firearm in a polling place,” the officials wrote. “Voters should not be prevented from voting based on possession of a firearm.” While a 1990 federal law prohibits firearms from being brought into schools, the officials noted they cannot prevent licensed carriers from entering school buildings.
North Carolina: Chatham County hit by cyber attack. Systems rendered ‘inoperable’ | Charlie Innis/Raleigh News & Observer
An unidentified “cyber incident” breached Chatham County’s communication systems Wednesday, County Manager Dan LaMontagne said. The attack rendered the government’s network, email and phone lines “inoperable for an undetermined amount of time,” LaMontagne said in an email to The News & Observer. “We are working with law enforcement and support agencies so we can recover from this incident as soon as possible. Our priority is to restore our systems in a secure manner and maintain the provision of critical services,” he said. The incident did not affect the county’s early voting or 911 communications, he said. When asked for details about what happened and how the system was breached, public information officer Kara Dudley said the county is “still evaluating the impact.”
North Carolina: Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to block mail-ballot extension | John Kruzel/The Hill
The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Republican bid to block a mail-ballot extension in North Carolina, a day after rejecting a similar GOP effort in the key battleground state. The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — would have granted the Republican request. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the bench Tuesday, took no part in considering the case. The voting breakdown mirrored that of a similar Wednesday night ruling in which the court rejected an effort by the Trump campaign and North Carolina Republicans to reverse a six-day mail ballot due date extension. Together, the two rulings represent a major blow for President Trump and his GOP allies and means that North Carolina mail ballots that arrive by Nov. 12 and aren’t postmarked after Election Day will be accepted.
Ohio: Two conservative operatives charged in a robocall scam are ordered to call 85,000 people back | Kathleen Gray/The New York Times
Two conservative operatives, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who have been charged in Ohio and Michigan with election fraud for sending out tens of thousands of robocalls intended to deter people from voting, have been ordered by a federal judge to call those voters back and inform them that the original call “contained false information.” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in the Southern District of New York, said in his ruling on Wednesday that the initial robocall sent in August to 85,000 people, “cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.” Mr. Wohl, 22, and Mr. Burkman, 54, both of Arlington, Va., were charged last month in Michigan and indicted by a grand jury in Ohio this week, with sending deceptive robocalls to 85,000 people, mostly in minority communities, that stated authorities would use the information on their absentee ballot forms to create a database to track down people with arrest warrants or outstanding debt. According to Judge Marrero’s ruling on Wednesday, the pair must make calls to everyone who received the robocall and deliver this message: “At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”
Pennsylvania struggles with how — or if — to help voters fix their mail ballots | Jonathan Lai/The Philadelphia Inquirer
Officials across Pennsylvania are trying to help voters fix mail ballots that would otherwise be disqualified because of technical mistakes in completing them, creating a patchwork of policies around how — or even whether — people are notified and given a chance to make their votes count. Some counties are marking those ballots as received, the same as any other ballot, which gives voters no indication there’s a problem. Some are marking them as canceled, as the state says to do, which sends voters warning emails and updates the online ballot status tool but doesn’t notify voters without email addresses on file. Still others try to reach voters directly, including by mail, phone, or email — and at least one county mails the actual flawed ballots back to voters. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, provided some direction Sunday, telling counties to mark ballots as canceled if they have clear flaws, such as missing voters’ signatures, or are “naked ballots” without the required inner secrecy envelopes. Those ballots have to be rejected when votes are counted beginning on Election Day.
Pennsylvania elections chief urges counties to begin counting mail-in ballots early Tuesday morning | Kyle Cheney/Politico
Pennsylvania’s elections chief pleaded with county leaders Friday to make sure they start counting mail-in ballots the morning of Election Day, rather than waiting until the next day to begin the crucial tally. “The outcome of Tuesday’s election could well depend on Pennsylvania. It is vitally important that the more than 3 million ballots cast by mail here be counted as soon as possible,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a statement. “The country will be looking to Pennsylvania for accurate and timely results.” Her comments come as President Donald Trump has continued to question the need for votes to be counted after Nov. 3, despite the fact that it’s been commonplace in all presidential elections. This year, in particular, as voters leaned more heavily on mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of vote-counting that continues days or even weeks after Election Day has grown. Pennsylvania has already agreed to segregate any mail-in ballots that arrive after the polls close on Election Day, a nod to lingering legal questions about whether those ballots will be permitted to be counted. Boockvar’s comments come amid plans by some Pennsylvania counties to postpone counting of any mail-in ballots — whether they arrive before the polls close or after — until late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Texas: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 | Alejandro Serrano/Houston Chronicle
A federal judge on Monday will hear a complaint brought by Texas conservatives that challenges Harris County’s use of curbside drive-thru voting, according to the judge’s schedule and court records. Houston conservative activist Steven Hotze and three Republicans — state Rep. Steve Toth, Wendell Champion, a candidate for Congress, and Sharon Hemphill, who is running for a judgeship — are seeking an injunction requiring all memory cards from 10 drive-thru voting locations be secured and not entered or downloaded into the tally machine until the court issues a ruling on the complaint. The plaintiffs allege that curbside drive-thru voting runs afoul of state and federal election law. They are seeking the rejection of any votes “cast in violation of the Texas Election Code”; an order to make county elections officials review all curbside voting applications and reject those that do not meet parameters set by the code; and a permanent injunction stopping “a universal drive-thru voting scheme” unless it is adopted by the state legislature.By the time the complaint was filed, 100,000 drive-thru votes had already been cast. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the only named defendant, said Saturday afternoon the option was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote.” “Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it, and 117,000 voters from all walks of life have used it,” Hollins said in a statement. “The Harris County Clerk’s Office is committed to counting every vote cast by registered voters in this election. In the event court proceedings require any additional steps from these voters, we will work swiftly to provide that information to the public.”
Wisconsin Republican Party says hackers stole $2.3 million in campaign funds | Scott Bauer/Associated Press
Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Donald Trump in the key battleground state, the party’s chairman told The Associated Press on Thursday. The party noticed the suspicious activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI on Friday, said Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt. Hitt said the FBI is investigating. FBI spokesman Brett Banner said that, per policy, “the FBI is not permitted to confirm or deny an investigation.” The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which has a center focused on cyber crime able to assist if requested, has not been asked to investigate, said spokeswoman Rebecca Ballweg. The alleged hack was discovered less than two weeks before Election Day, as Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made their final push to win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes. Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and was planning his third visit in seven days on Friday. Biden also planned to campaign in Wisconsin on Friday. Polls have consistently shown a tight race in the state, usually with Biden ahead by single digits and within the margin of error. Hitt said he was not aware of any other state GOP being targeted for a similar hack, but state parties were warned at the Republican National Convention this summer to be on the lookout for cyber attacks.
National: Election operations are holding up so far against a wave of hacks and technical failures | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post
The week before Election Day has seen a wave of digital attacks on election systems and technical foul-ups, but officials are mostly parrying the blows to keep voting going on as planned. The most concerning hit came late yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers who compromised some election systems in Hall County, Ga., earlier this month had posted a small trove of nonpublic information, including voters’ social security numbers, as a ploy to persuade the county to pay a ransom. Officials’ greatest fear about such strikes, called ransomware attacks, is that hackers could seize voter registration databases and hold them hostage during voting so it becomes exceedingly difficult to check in voters. This is far from that worst case scenario because it hasn’t impeded any voting operations. But knowing that the act of voting put their personal data at risk is sure to have a chilling effect on some people. The hackers also teased the release as “example files,” which suggests they could release more sensitive and damaging information later.
Gary Kauffman says he does not scare easily. So when men waving President Donald Trump flags drive by his house in downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he stands on his front steps and waves a banner for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “Sometimes I yell at them. They yell back at me,” says Kauffman, 54. Still, Kauffman is keeping a closer eye on who they are and what they’re carrying as Election Day approaches. Tension has been rising in his town, known best as hallowed ground of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. Recently, it’s become a hot spot of angry confrontations between Trump supporters and liberal protesters. Kauffman has seen some of the Trump supporters carrying weapons. “If there’s guns, I’m a bit more cautious,” he said on Monday. Americans aren’t accustomed to worrying about violence or safety ahead of an election. It’s a luxury afforded by years of largely peaceful voting, a recent history of fairly orderly displays of democracy. But after months filled with disease, disruption and unrest, Americans are worried that Election Day could become a flashpoint.
Full Article: Anxiety 2020: Voters worry about safety at the polls
National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal
Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.
Buried in a dense government report from 1975 is an observation that has come to haunt the American system of voting. “Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying,” a hundred-page compendium of all that can go wrong when digital technology is used to register and count votes, was written by Roy Saltman, a computer scientist, at the behest of the National Bureau of Standards. At the time, computerized election technology was a shiny new thing, primed to replace time-honored manual ways of voting. But as Saltman observed, because this technology was beyond the comprehension of most election officials, they had little choice but to put their trust in, and cede authority to, equipment manufacturers. As a consequence, he wrote, “when vendors assume more responsibility than they should, due to the jurisdictions’ lack of in-house capability, situations may be created in which conflict of interest is a serious concern.” This is still true. The ever-increasing sophistication of digital election technology has left election officials ever more reliant on the vendors (and under the sway of their lobbyists), who play an outsized and largely hidden part in both the administration of elections and the ways we exercise our most fundamental right as citizens in a democracy.
In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent hundreds of armed, off-duty police officers to the polls in the state of New Jersey. Dressed in official-looking “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands, they demanded voter registration cards from people waiting in line in heavily Black and Hispanic districts, turning some voters away and intimidating others into not voting at all. As my colleague Clare Malone has written, the whole thing was illegal. After a lawsuit, it led to a 37-year-long ban preventing the RNC from organizing poll watching efforts. This will be the first presidential election without the ban in place. It is also a presidential election where the incumbent has cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the election, toyed repeatedly with the idea of not giving up office and recruited thousands of poll watchers. It is also a presidential election where far-right militias and other supporters of the president have discussed showing up, armed, at polling sites. But despite that tension, neither experts in election law nor experts in militia and armed radical groups believe we are likely to see a repeat of what happened in New Jersey nearly four decades ago. Why? Partly, it’s because laws heavily restrict what poll watchers can do and how they can do it. And partly, experts told me, it’s because the actual job of poll watching is unlikely to appeal to the groups and individuals whose presence would be most dangerous.
Imagine it: It’s election night, and the results are starting to trickle in. Then, just as the electoral picture is beginning to come into focus, large voting precincts in critical swing states begin to experience problems. Voter registration databases are inaccessible to election officials, and even the websites where results are posted come crashing down. The culprit? It’s ransomware — specifically Maze ransomware. This is a nightmare scenario, but one that Chase Cunningham, principal analyst and vice president serving security and risk professionals for Forrester, says could really happen… “I think there should be a whole lot more worry about it,” says Cunningham. “I think we’re going to see a ransomware event in a major district, and it’s going to cause civil unrest. Of all the things that concern me about the election cycle, that is the one that keeps me awake at night.” Maze ransomware, a new type of threat discovered in 2019, is a major point of concern. Here’s what state, county and local officials need to know about the threat, why voting systems are particularly vulnerable and what can be done to protect their systems before Nov. 3.
National: Trump campaign site hack shows risks of even low-grade election interference | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post
A brief but colorful breach of President Trump’s campaign website is underscoring how even unsophisticated efforts at election interference can rattle voters and undermine the democratic process. Officials and experts were eager to put the breach into context in the final week of the election – during which millions of Americans are expected to flock to the websites of candidates and state and local election offices for last-minute information before casting their ballots. Chris Krebs, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s election security division, sought to tamp down concern and called it an effort to “distract, sensationalize, and confuse” and to “undermine your confidence in our voting process.” The hackers managed to deface the site’s “About” page for several minutes, replacing it with a screed that claimed in broken English and without evidence to have compromising information about the president and his family culled from multiple hacked devices. “[T]he world has had enough of the fake-news spreaded daily by president donald j trump,” read the message, which also included FBI and Justice Department seals. “[I]t is time to allow the world to know truth.”
National: ‘Ripe for error’: Ballot signature verification is flawed — and a big factor in the election | Maya Lau and Laura J. Nelson/Los Angeles Times
Mail-in ballots are pouring in by the millions to election offices across the country, getting stacked and prepared for processing. But before the count comes the signature test. Election workers eyeball voter signatures on ballots one by one, comparing the loop of an “L” or the squiggle of an “S” against other samples of that person’s writing. When performed by professionals in criminal cases or legal proceedings, signature verification can take hours. But election employees in many states must do the job in as little as five seconds. In an election marked by uncertainty amid the pandemic, the signature verification process represents one of the biggest unknowns: whether a system riddled with vulnerabilities will work on such a massive scale. In 2016, mismatched signatures were the most common reason that mail ballots were rejected, according to federal officials. With record numbers of people voting by mail this cycle, ballots thrown out for signature problems and other issues have the potential to decide races where the margin of victory is slim. Candidates could mount legal battles over the verification process to challenge election outcomes. President Trump has repeatedly asserted, with no evidence, that mail-in voting is rife with fraud.
National: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge | Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny/NBC
One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China. The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents. The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches. One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist. Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.
‘Perception Hacks’ and Other Potential Threats to the Election | David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times
In Georgia, a database that verifies voter signatures was locked up by Russian hackers in a ransomware attack that also dumped voters’ registration data online. In California and Indiana, Russia’s most formidable state hackers, a unit linked to the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., bored into local networks and hit some election systems, though it is still unclear why. In Louisiana, the National Guard was called in to stop cyberattacks aimed at small government offices that employed tools previously seen only in attacks by North Korea. And on Tuesday night, someone hacked the Trump campaign, defacing its website with a threatening message in broken English warning that there would be more to come. None of these attacks amounted to much. But from the sprawling war room at United States Cyber Command to those monitoring the election at Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft, experts are watching closely for more “perception hacks.” Those are smaller attacks that can be easily exaggerated into something bigger and potentially seized upon as evidence that the whole voting process is “rigged,” as President Trump has claimed it will be.
National: ‘Tsunamis of Misinformation’ Overwhelm Local Election Officials | Kellen Browning and Davey Alba/The New York Times
The morning after last month’s presidential debate, the phones inside the Philadelphia election offices that Al Schmidt helps oversee rang off the hook. One caller asked whether President Trump’s comments hinting at rampant voter fraud in Philadelphia were true. Another yelled about the inaccurate rumor that poll watchers were being barred from polling places. Still another demanded to know what the city was trying to hide. It was just another day at the office for Mr. Schmidt, one of Philadelphia’s three city commissioners, a job that includes supervising voter registration and elections. Hundreds of people have called in every day for months, many parroting conspiracy theories about the election and lies about how partisan megadonors own the voting machines. Staff members spend hours shooting down the rumors, he said. “It’s not like we have tens of millions of dollars to spend on communications to battle tsunamis of misinformation that come our way,” said Mr. Schmidt, 49, whose team has been working up to 17-hour days ahead of Election Day on Tuesday. “It wears on all of us.” Election officials across the country are already stretched thin this year, dealing with a record number of mail-in ballots and other effects of the coronavirus pandemic. On top of that, many are battling another scourge: misinformation.
Shelby Watchilla leaned forward, her amber hair brushing against the plexiglass barrier, lowering her voice so that it was barely audible from behind her blue mask. “Listen, there’s nobody in the world who wants the truth out there more than I do,” she said.A kind-eyed woman in her mid-40s, Watchilla glanced around nervously. She nodded toward the cameras overhead and the employees glancing in our direction. “The investigation is technically ongoing,” she said, her tone equal parts caution and desperation. “I don’t know why. But I’m not allowed to talk until it’s over.”Three weeks earlier, Watchilla had been just another obscure civil servant. As the director of elections for Luzerne County, a federation of hill country hamlets in northeastern Pennsylvania, she was one of the thousands of local officials across America responsible for running elections. Watchilla, who had been on the job just under a year, circulated details on rules and regulations and deadlines; registered new voters; collected and counted ballots; and as a general matter did whatever necessary, in a year plagued by confusion and disinformation surrounding elections, to distinguish fact from fiction.
National: Six Republican Secretaries Of State Tried To Stop Facebook’s Effort To Register Millions Of Voters | Ryan Mac and Craig Silvermann/BuzzFeed
On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major milestone for what he called “the largest voting information campaign in US history.” Launched in August with the goal of registering 4 million Americans to vote, Facebook claimed the effort garnered an estimated 4.4 million registrations across the company’s social media platforms, based on conversion rates the company calculated from “a few states it had partnered with.” “Voting is voice,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post to the company’s internal message board, specifically thanking Facebook’s civic engagement and civic integrity teams. What he didn’t mention, however, was the resistance the voting information campaign faced from Republican-led secretaries of state. In September, Facebook received a strongly worded letter signed by the secretaries of state of Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia, asking the company to discontinue its Voting Information Center. It argued election officials alone are “legally and morally responsible to our citizens” and said Facebook has “no such accountability.” “While such goals may be laudable on their face, the reality is that the administration of elections is best left to the states,” read the letter, which was addressed to Zuckerberg. “The Voting Information Center is redundant and duplicative of what we, as chief election officials, have been doing for decades.” The six Republican secretaries of state warned that the voting information center could foster “misinformation and confusion.”
Rulings in a federal lawsuit over absentee voting laws in Alabama just weeks before the election could result in some absentee ballots not counting, depending on when voters sent them in. Under Alabama law, absentee ballots have to be witnessed by two adults or a notary to be counted. The lawsuit, filed by several organizations and individual voters last summer, contended that enforcing that requirement on voters at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because of age or medical condition violated their federal voting rights during the pandemic. The lawsuit also challenged other provisions, including a photo ID requirement and the state’s ban on curbside voting. On Sept. 30, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon ruled in favor of the organizations and individuals who filed the lawsuit. His ruling blocked the state from enforcing the witness requirement for voters who signed a statement saying they had a medical condition that put them at heightened risk from the virus. But on Oct. 13, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request of state officials and issued a stay blocking part of Kallon’s order, a decision that put the witness requirement back in force.
Florida’s elections chief works to avoid becoming household name in 2020 vote count | Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Laurel Lee has an IQ fitting of the challenge ahead of her — ensure that the presidential election in Florida runs smoothly and doesn’t become a punchline yet again for the nation’s comedians. As secretary of state, Lee serves as the state’s top elections official, working with independent supervisors of elections for each of Florida’s 67 counties. It’s a position that can be overlooked, but if something goes wrong in a high-stakes election, the secretary of state can quickly become a household name. In 2000, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris emerged as one of the key players in the Bush v. Gore recount drama. Lee’s credentials include a law degree from the University of Florida, a stint as a judge in Hillsborough County and membership in Mensa, an organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or above on IQ tests.
Georgia: Hacker Releases Hall County Election Data After Ransom Not Paid | Tawnell D. Hobbs/Wall Street Journal
A computer hacker who took over networks maintained by Hall County, Ga., escalated demands this week by publicly releasing election-related files after a ransom wasn’t paid, heightening concerns about the security of voting from cyberattacks. A website maintained by the hacker lists Hall County along with other hacked entities as those whose “time to pay is over,” according to a Wall Street Journal review of the hacker’s website. The Hall County files are labeled as “example files,” which typically are nonsensitive and used to encourage payment before a possible bigger rollout of often more-compromising information. The release of some of Hall County files came Tuesday, one week before the 2020 presidential election, in which election security has been a major focus. Recent polls show the race has tightened in Georgia, which was last won by a Democrat in 1992, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, made a campaign appearance there Tuesday.
Minnesota: At behest of Trump campaign official, Minneapolis police union calls for retired officers to act as ‘eyes and ears’ on Election Day | Libor Jany/Minneapolid Star Tribune
The Minneapolis police union put out a call this week for retired officers to help serve as “eyes and ears” at polling sites in “problem” areas across the city on Election Day, at the request of an attorney for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The request was made by William Willingham, whose e-mail signature identifies him as a senior legal adviser and director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign. In an e-mail Wednesday morning to Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll, Willingham asked the union president about recruiting 20 to 30 former officers to serve as “poll challengers” to work either a four- or eight-hour shift in a “problem area.” “Poll Challengers do not ‘stop’ people, per se, but act as our eyes and ears in the field and call our hotline to document fraud,” the e-mail read. “We don’t necessarily want our Poll Challengers to look intimidating, they cannot carry a weapon in the polls due to state law. … We just want people who won’t be afraid in rough neighborhoods or intimidating situations.” Kroll then passed on the request to federation members, saying “Please share, and e-mail me if you are willing to assist,” according to a copy obtained by the Star Tribune.
Kentucky secretary of state suggests making early voting permanent and other election ideas | Jack Brammer/Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams suggested several changes Wednesday to how the state conducts elections, including permanent provisions for early voting and an online portal to request an absentee ballot. Adams, the state’s top elections official, made his comments in a speech to the 46th annual Kentucky Association of Counties Conference, which was held virtually. Adams, a Republican, and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear made changes this year to the state’s primary election in June and the Nov. 3 general due to the coronavirus pandemic that is still raging.“With the election not yet concluded, it’s too soon to decide what reforms we ought to make permanent; but it’s not soon to start a conversation about how to improve our election system,” said Adams in his KACo speech.Kentucky should consider keeping early voting, he said.