National: On Voting Rights, Biden Prefers to Negotiate. This Time, It Might Not Be Possible. | Katie Rogers/The New York Times

As President Biden confronts intense Republican opposition to the broad voting rights bill that Democrats have made a top priority this year, he might remember back to 1982 and an earlier partisan clash over the issue, one of a number across the years that shaped his views on deal making — and its limits. A key provision of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting states from denying the vote to people on the basis of race, was facing a high-profile Senate debate over its extension. The Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel handling the legislation, was led by Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, but aware of the optics of having a former segregationist as their public face for negotiations, Republicans instead chose Senator Bob Dole of Kansas to lead them in talks about a deal. Representing the other side was Mr. Biden, then in his second term as a senator from Delaware. Mr. Biden was not as well known as another Democrat on the committee, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, but he did have one advantage: Republicans tended to listen to him. “He wanted to do the right thing, but he wanted to do it in a way that built consensus,” Sheila Bair, who served as a longtime counsel to Mr. Dole, said in an interview. “Biden recognized that if you want this to be lasting, we needed a big margin.”

Full Article: On Voting Rights, Biden Prefers to Negotiate. This Time, It Might Not Be Possible. – The New York Times

National: Democratic state legislators form voting rights council amid GOP push for restrictions | Tal Axelrod/The Hill

Democratic state legislators from across the country are forming a voting rights council as the party searches for ways to fight back against a wave of GOP-led states codifying restrictions to the ballot box. The council, which is being convened under the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), will “convene legislators to strategize about fighting GOP voter suppression — legislatively or judicially — and access national resources in the fight to preserve Americans’ political freedoms.” “Republicans’ embrace of voter suppression is an existential threat to the future of our democracy,” said DLCC President Jessica Post. “As we’ve seen before, Republicans are so terrified of being held accountable by the voters that they’ll stop at nothing to strengthen their grip on power. Our country was founded on the principle that Americans should have a say in how they’re governed, and state Democrats are ready to stand up and fight for the right to vote.” Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich will serve as co-chairs on the council. Members include North Carolina Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, Georgia House Democratic Leader James Beverly and Arizona House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding, among others.

Full Article: Democratic state legislators form voting rights council amid GOP push for restrictions | TheHill

National: Cozy Bear revisits one of its greatest hits, researchers say: election skulduggery | Tim Starks/CyberScoop

It looks like the Russian government-linked hacking group Cozy Bear is back in the election trickery business. The security firm Volexity publicized a spearphishing campaign on Thursday that it identified only days ago, a scheme that uses an election fraud document as a lure. The emails purport to be from the the United States Agency for International Development, with targets including government agencies, research institutions and nongovernmental organizations in the U.S. and Europe. Volexity said it had concluded, with moderate confidence, that Cozy Bear — the group also known as APT29 or the Dukes — was behind the emails. If true, it would be a return to an old favorite subject for Cozy Bear, which the U.S. government and others implicated in the 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, among other election interference efforts.

Full Article: Cozy Bear revisits one of its greatest hits, researchers say: election skulduggery

Editorial: Democrats are wasting time pursuing their dream elections reform bill. Here’s a better path. | Edward B. Foley/The Washington Post

It’s become increasingly clear that Democrats lack the votes in the Senate to pass their dream elections bill, the behemoth known as S. 1. Before time runs out, they would be wise to come up with a backup plan that would not do as much but could still achieve significant progress in protecting the right to vote. Frankly, it’s less important what specific election reforms Democrats can negotiate than that the Democrats find some common ground with Republicans. What the country needs now is a genuinely bipartisan statement of shared commitments on how electoral competition is supposed to operate. Is it possible for a measure to attract the support of 10 Republicans? That’s a tall order in the current environment. But the universe includes the five who are retiring — Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) and Patrick J. Toomey (Penn.) — plus Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Ben Sasse (Neb.).

Full Article: Opinion | Democrats are wasting time pursuing their dream elections reform bill. Here’s a better path. – The Washington Post

Alaska: Election officials faced ‘unprecedented harassment’ during Anchorage mayor’s runoff, report says | Emily Goodykoontz/Anchorage Daily News

new report from Anchorage’s city clerk describes the runoff election for mayor as rife with “intense scrutiny,” “unprecedented harassment of election officials” and the “dissemination of disinformation to sow distrust among voters.” The Anchorage Assembly certified the results of the runoff on Tuesday, affirming Dave Bronson as the mayor-elect. Bronson beat opponent and Assembly member Forrest Dunbar by 45,937 to 44,744 votes, or 50.66% to 49.34%. Bronson takes office on July 1. Before the certification of any Anchorage city election, the municipal clerk’s office provides the Assembly with a report on the results and the operations of the election. In the report, presented Tuesday, the clerk’s office portrays an election as run successfully by city officials and election workers. But it also describes incidents including “disrespectful, harassing and threatening behavior” toward election officials from some campaign observers and members of the public. Supporters of Bronson — in comments made on social media, during public testimony at Assembly meetings and in comments on a conservative website — have criticized the city clerk’s handling of the election and Anchorage’s vote-by-mail system. Public records of the challenges filed during the election by Bronson’s observers show a number of the incidents described in the report involved Bronson’s observers and supporters. The majority of the registered observers were with Bronson.

Full Article: Election officials faced ‘unprecedented harassment’ during Anchorage mayor’s runoff, report says – Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: Wake TSI, the company leading the hand-recount, left the Maricopa audit team | Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

Wake Technology Services, Inc., the company that has been in charge of recounting ballots as part of Senate President Karen Fann’s election audit, has left the audit team. Audit spokesman Randy Pullen told the Arizona Republic that Wake TSI’s contract ended on May 14, when the Senate’s contract with Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the audit is taking place, was originally scheduled to end. Pullen said Wake chose not to renew its contract. “They were done,” Pullen told the Republic, which first reported Wake TSI’s departure. “They didn’t want to come back.” The Pennsylvania-based digital forensics company had been in charge of hand counting 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2020 general election. Wake has been replaced by StratTech Solutions, a Scottsdale-based IT company. It’s unclear why Cyber Ninjas and the Senate chose StratTech Solutions or whether the company has any experience working with election-related matters. It’s also unknown if the auditors solicited other companies to replace Wake TSI. Pullen told the Republic that many of the people who worked under Wake TSI during the audit will continue that work for StratTech, and that StratTech will use the policies and procedures already in place. An employee for StratTech declined to comment to the Arizona Mirror and referred questions to a public relations representative for Cyber Ninjas, who couldn’t be reached for comment. Wake TSI co-founder Gene Kern could not be reached for comment, either. When Fann announced her audit team in late March, Wake TSI stood out as the only company that appeared to have any experience with election work. Cyber Ninjas said Wake TSI had conducted “hand-count audits” in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, and in New Mexico from the 2020 election, and that members of the company’s team had assisted the FBI with an election fraud investigation in 1994.

Full Article: Wake TSI, the company leading the hand-recount, left the Arizona audit team

On California’s Central Coast, anti-Asian bias and the Big Lie | Marak Barabak/Los Angeles Times

The Big Lie — the fiction that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud, costing President Trump a second term — has spread like a cancer. In Phoenix, Republican state lawmakers caved to the GOP’s lunatic wing and approved a harebrained canvass of Maricopa County ballots. Emboldened Trump backers are now challenging election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. (Not that it will change anything.) In California, the nuttiness has spread to San Luis Obispo County, the midpoint between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the denialism took an ugly, racist turn. President Biden easily defeated Trump in the county, 55% to 42%, a margin of nearly 21,000 votes. That’s no cliffhanger. “Joe Biden won the election,” county Supervisor John Peschong states without equivocation. He’s no Democratic shill. His Republican credentials include service in the Reagan White House and decades as a GOP campaign strategist. Biden’s victory was also confirmed by a partial hand recount, a standard practice under California law. Still, at a board of supervisors Zoom meeting in early May, nearly 150 people pressed baseless assertions of fraud and questioned the use of Dominion voting machines. The technology firm has faced some of the more fantastical claims by Trump and his sympathizers. Many protesters expressed doubt their votes were counted, or claimed balloting machines were manipulated to change results.

Full Article: Racism and Trump’s election lie on California Central Coast – Los Angeles Times

Georgia: What Is Happening With Fulton County’s Absentee Ballots? | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

A meeting to discuss logistical plans for a conspiracy theorist and other voters to review copies of Fulton’s 147,000 absentee ballots for evidence of fraud has been canceled after the defendants filed motions to dismiss the underlying lawsuit. Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts all filed motions to dismiss Wednesday night and Thursday morning arguing the plaintiffs failed to properly serve them notice of the suit. The filings also allege plaintiffs sued the wrong people, the defendants are protected under sovereign immunity and that plaintiffs failed to state a claim that entitles them to court action. A new hearing in front of Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero on these motions is scheduled for June 21 at 9 a.m. This lawsuit into Georgia’s election has continued despite three previous counts of the vote, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation examination of absentee ballot envelopes and every Georgia election being certified. Amero granted a motion to unseal the ballots in a hearing last week as part of the discovery process in a larger case alleging Georgia’s most populous county mishandled ballots and allowed fraudulent votes to be counted. (There is no evidence of substantial widespread fraud.) The primary plaintiff is Garland Favorito of the group VoterGA, who has fought against Georgia’s elections infrastructure for more than a decade, including a failed lawsuit against Georgia’s old direct-recording electronic machines. Favorito has also questioned the authenticity of events surrounding 9/11, pushed conspiracy theories about former President Bill Clinton and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and is now serving as the latest vessel for false claims of fraud with the 2020 election.

Full Article: What Is Happening With Fulton County’s Absentee Ballots? | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Georgia ballot inspection seeks elusive proof of fraud in election | Mark Niesse and David Wickert/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Aided by a treasure hunter, the tea party and an unshakable belief that the presidential election was rigged, a group of skeptics may soon inspect Georgia absentee ballots in an attempt to find counterfeits. The court-ordered review is the latest attempt to question results that have repeatedly withstood scrutiny, with no evidence of widespread fraud. Georgia election officials counted ballots three timesaudited voter signatures, opened dozens of investigations and certified Democrat Joe Biden’s 12,000-vote win over Republican Donald Trump. But prior investigations didn’t go far enough, according to the plaintiffs and many other Georgians who doubt the integrity of the election after Trump lost and blamed “fraud.” They say malfeasance hasn’t been proven because the government hasn’t looked hard enough. The upcoming review of about 147,000 absentee ballots in Fulton County could put concerns to rest — or fuel more suspicions by those who refuse to believe Trump lost. No matter its outcome, the ballot review won’t change last year’s election results. A judge had planned to consider procedures for the ballot inspection on Friday, but the meeting was postponed as he considers motions by Fulton County to dismiss the case.

Full Article: Georgia ballot review seeks evidence of counterfeit absentee votes in 2020 presidential election

Michigan elections director says Cheboygan County board can’t require access to voting machines | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

A county commission in rural northern Michigan can’t require local election officials to provide access to their voting equipment for a so-called “forensic audit,” says a letter from the state’s election director, Jonathan Brater. The letter dated last week comes as the Republican-controlled Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners contemplates whether to allow an outside group to audit the county’s voting machines amid an ongoing push by supporters of former President Donald Trump to question the results of the 2020 election. “The Michigan election law entrusts clerks with choosing and maintaining their voting systems and does not provide any authority for county commissions to take control of this equipment,” Brater wrote Cheboygan County Clerk Karen Brewster on Thursday. Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden in November, but the former president and his backers have levied unsubstantiated claims that there was widespread fraud as they’ve sought to overturn and undermine the result. Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points. A series of court rulings and reviews of the votes have upheld the results.

Full Article: County board can’t require access to voting machines, Michigan says

Nevada bill for permanent mail-in voting advances in Legislature | John Sadler/Las Vegas Sun

Extensive election reform bills supported by Nevada Democrats passed out of their second committee Tuesday night, inching forward as the end of the legislative session looms large. Bills that would make Nevada the first presidential primary in the country, make permanent many of the voting changes put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and make changes to the state’s voter registration system were passed out of the money-focused Assembly Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday. Lawmakers spent the majority of the hearing debating the cost of the measures. Assembly Bill 321, which would automatically send mail-in ballots to active, registered voters in Nevada, received the most debate over cost. Fiscal notes from the secretary of state’s office claimed the bill would cost $5.7 million more each fiscal year, a number that bill sponsor and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, took umbrage with. The total cost for the 2020 election, including expanded mail-in voting was $3.9 million, Frierson said. “When we open up these issues, I think there’s a tendency for folks to look for the ideal and say, ‘Well, since we’re opening up anyway, let’s find an ideal way to do all of this,’ which is not always necessary or practical,” Frierson said.

Full Article: Nevada bill for permanent mail-in voting advances in Legislature – Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

New Hampshire: Windham audit finds no fraud or evidence voting machines were tampered with | Kevin Landrigan/New Hampshire Union Leader

A forensic audit of automated vote counting machines in Windham revealed no evidence of fraud or tampering with those devices, officials said Thursday. The work of the first-ever audit of a New Hampshire election ended Thursday with the team standing by its initial finding that folds made in paper ballots were the major contributor to a wide discrepancy between results that were reported on election night and a hand recount done nine days later in local House races. On Tuesday, audit team member Harri Hursti began the process of examining in detail the four AccuVote machines used to process ballots in the town. “All the machines were matched. The content was exactly the same,” Hursti said. The state law ordering the audit required that the team’s initial work be completed by Thursday. State officials moved the boxes of paper ballots Thursday from the Cross Training Center on the New Hampshire National Guard campus in Pembroke to the New Hampshire State Archives Building in Concord.

Full Artifcle: Windham audit finds no fraud or evidence voting machines were tampered with | Voters First | unionleader.com

New York State Board of Elections Approves Software To Tabulate Ranked-Choice Primary Results | Brigid Bergin/Gothamist

It may take until mid-July to know who has won all the New York City primary contests, but at least elections officials won’t need to hand count tens of thousands of ballots. The New York State Board of Elections finally issued its unanimous approval on Tuesday for the city to use software to tabulate the ranked-choice vote results. The approval comes after more than 18 months of back and forth between the city and state over the process required to test and implement the Universal Ranked-Choice Voting Tabulator, the software selected by the city which was developed by a non-partisan non-profit called The Ranked Choice Resource Center. It wasn’t until January of this year that state officials finally agreed to allow the mandatory testing and certification to take place. The reluctance from state officials stemmed in part from a position, echoed by the State Board’s Republican co-chair Peter Kosinki at the meeting Tuesday, that the city was exceeding its authority when it enacted ranked-choice voting in the first place. He argued that the system conflicts with state election law. “I think they have overstepped,” he said, warning that New York City could be setting a precedent for other localities when it comes to changing the processes used to select their local representatives. Democratic co-chair Douglas Kellner countered that the state constitution already grants localities this authority and cited case law supporting the city’s ability to select its local representatives with this system. Kellner also noted that courts have ruled against the only lawsuit that sought to block the use of ranked-choice voting. The state did identify a handful of issues with the URC tabulator, which was submitted for certification testing in March. The one outstanding issue is related to the security protocols the city BOE needs to establish.

Full Article: State Board of Elections Approves Software To Tabulate Ranked-Choice Primary Results – Gothamist

Ohio: Stark County commissioners approve purchase of Dominion voting machines | Robert Wang/The Canton Repository

Stark County commissioners on Wednesday approved an agreement with the Ohio secretary of state that will allow the Stark County Board of Elections to purchase Dominion voting machines. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Monday that state law required the commissioners to approve funding for the voting system, which the elections board had previously agreed to buy. The board plans to purchase 1,450 Dominion ImageCast X touch-screen voting machines, ballot scanners and other equipment. The elections board intends to test the equipment and train poll workers in time for it to be used in the Nov. 2 general election. The three-member Board of Commissioners had refused to fund the purchase in March. They said the Board of Elections failed to get the best value for taxpayers, failed to aggressively negotiate enough with Dominion Voting Systems and didn’t thoroughly consider the offerings of other vendors such as Election Systems & Software. Also dozens to more than 100 people, at least some influenced by unsubstantiated claims that hacked Dominion voting machines had cost former President Donald Trump re-election, had contacted the commissioners to urge more scrutiny of the purchase. After the application by Dominion of a trade-in credit, the county’s share is about $1.48 million, plus about $331,000 a year to cover the cost of software support, maintenance and warranties. The state is covering $3.27 million of the cost.

Full Article: Stark commissioners approve purchase of Dominion voting machines

Pennsylvania primary showed that running elections is complicated — and so is changing election law | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Elections are complex. Running them is hard. And Pennsylvania is still building its system. That was clear in last week’s primary, when more than 2.2 million voters participated in the first non-presidential election since the state dramatically expanded mail voting. It was a test of a still-new system, and there were points of clear failure or acute stress — pointing to both new and long-standing challenges. Philadelphia had problems using its ballot extractor machines. Lancaster County’s mail ballots were printed in the wrong order. Luzerne County’s voting machines read “Democratic” at the top of the screen for Republican voters. Delaware and York Counties, among others, ran out of paper ballots in some precincts. Those problems call for narrow, specific solutions, elections officials and voting rights advocates said. But some Republicans in Harrisburg, who made overhauling the state’s election law a top priority following Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen, painted the problems as evidence of a need for systemic change. Many local officials said that sweeping focus could leave unaddressed the narrower problems. “We have to be able to walk before we can run,” said Lisa Schaefer, the head of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. “It’s really looking at what we have in front of us and making sure that what we have works well.” Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature are preparing to introduce legislation that could include major election changes. Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), chair of the House State Government Committee, has the support of Republican leaders as he drafts legislation to be introduced in the next few weeks. Republicans hope to have changes in place before next year’s elections, when Pennsylvania will have open races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Full Article: Pennsylvania primary election reveals small problems, and Republican calls for big changes

Virginia Election officials begin $20-29M project to replace voter system | By Graham Moomaw/Virginia Mercury

For years, local officials have been complaining that Virginia’s all-encompassing election software — which powers everything from voter registration to absentee ballots to list maintenance to transmission of results — is slow and hard to use. A 2018 report from state auditors verified those frustrations, concluding the Virginia Election and Registration Information System, or VERIS, was “not sufficiently functional or reliable.” Election administrators are planning to fix that by by replacing the IT system, a project estimated to cost between $20 million and $29 million. Though voters may not notice a major change, officials said, the workers assisting them will hopefully have a much smoother time calling up information in the new system and making changes to a voter’s status. “From an administrative point of view, it’s going to be a huge change. And a positive one,” said elections Commissioner Chris Piper. “If we can have a better system for them to maneuver through, it will ensure that voters have a safe and secure experience when they go to cast their ballot.” The state recently solicited bids from companies interested in providing a replacement IT system and expects to award the contract in the fall. The new system and VERIS are expected to run “concurrently” for the 2022 elections, Piper said, with the new system going fully operational in 2023.

Full Article: Election officials begin $20-29M project to replace Virginia’s voter system – Virginia Mercury

Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hires ex-cops to investigate November election | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory. Vos, of Rochester, said he recognizes Biden narrowly won Wisconsin and is not trying to change the results with his taxpayer-funded investigation. He said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court, such as how the state’s largest cities used more than $6 million in grants from a private group to run their elections. Vos in a Wednesday interview said he was giving the investigators a broad mandate to spend about three months reviewing all tips and following up on the most credible ones. In addition to the grant spending, he said they may look into claims of double voting and review how clerks fixed absentee ballot credentials. “Is there a whole lot of smoke or is there actual fire? We just don’t know yet,” Vos said. Ann Jacobs, a Democrat who leads the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said she was worried the investigation would undermine confidence in an election that was conducted properly.

Full Article: Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos hires ex-cops to investigate election

National: It’s not just Arizona: Push to review 2020 ballots spreads | Kate Brumback and Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

Six months after Donald Trump’s loss, conspiracy theorists and Trump backers are continuing their push for repeated examinations of ballots and finding limited successes. A Georgia judge last week awarded a group the chance to review mail ballots in a large Georgia county that includes Atlanta. Officials in a rural Michigan county have expressed interest in a review of their voting machines. A similar debate has caused sharp divisions in a New Hampshire town. In some cases, the efforts have been inspired by an audit of the votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County, an elaborate exercise engineered by the GOP-led state Senate. The efforts are unlikely to yield any new revelations about President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The votes have been counted — and often recounted — and certified by local officials. Still, the lingering debate and legal wrangling have propelled suspicions and advanced debunked theories. And their sometimes misleading conclusions have been amplified by Trump, whose false allegations of election fraud sparked the push. The profusion of audits alarms election experts, who note that the Arizona audit has set a troubling new precedent of third-party, partisan review of the ballots, long after elections are over. “This is bad enough to see it happen once,” said Eddie Perez, an expert on voting systems at the OSET Institute, said of Arizona, but seeing it elsewhere in the country is “dangerous for democracy.’” The audits are serving a clear political purpose in firing up the Republican Party’s base. At a rally outside Phoenix last week featuring GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, references to the Arizona audit drew much more enthusiastic applause than even immigration, normally the top hot-button issue on the right in the border state.

Full Article: It’s not just Arizona: Push to review 2020 ballots spreads

New Hampshire: Evidence, testing point to borrowed folding machine as source of Windham vote issues | Adam Sexton/WMUR

There is growing evidence showing that fold lines on absentee ballots from a borrowed mechanical folding machine were likely a major contributing factor to vote discrepancies in the 2020 election in Windham. The audit of the November 2020 vote in Windham has entered its final days, and independent auditors are increasingly confident they are closing in on the cause of wild fluctuations in vote totals in the town’s race for state representative. Independent auditor Harri Hursti said it appears to have started with Windham’s rush to accommodate unprecedented demand for absentee ballots. “They ran short of labor, they were behind schedule and they tried to speed up the process by borrowing a folding machine from the Department of Motor Vehicles,” Hursti said. According to Hursti, the borrowed machine was responsible for the fold lines observed on some ballots, running through the oval next to candidate Kristi St. Laurent’s name. Those lines left a bump in her vote target. “And that bump creates a shadow, and that shadow is the root cause of what has been causing the phantom votes,” Hursti said.

Full Article: Evidence, testing point to borrowed folding machine as source of Windham vote issues

National: They tried to overturn the 2020 election. Now they want to run the next one. | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn President Joe Biden’s election win are launching campaigns to become their states’ top election officials next year, alarming local officeholders and opponents who are warning about pro-Trump, “ends justify the means” candidates taking big roles in running the vote. The candidates include Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, a leader of the congressional Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College results; Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the top proponents of the conspiracy-tinged vote audit in Arizona’s largest county; Nevada’s Jim Marchant, who sued to have his 5-point congressional loss last year overturned; and Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, who made dozens of appearances in conservative media to claim fraud in the election. Now, they are running for secretary of state in key battlegrounds that could decide control of Congress in 2022 — and who wins the White House in 2024. Their candidacies come with former President Donald Trump still fixated on spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, insisting he won and lying about widespread and systemic fraud. Each of their states has swung between the two parties over the last decade, though it is too early to tell how competitive their elections will be. The campaigns set up the possibility that politicians who have taken steps to undermine faith in the American democratic system could soon be the ones running it. “Someone who is running for an election administration position, whose focus is not the rule of law but instead ‘the ends justifies the means,’ that’s very dangerous in a democracy,” said Bill Gates, the Republican vice chair of the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Ariz. “This is someone who is trying to tear at the foundations of democracy.”

Full Article: They tried to overturn the 2020 election. Now they want to run the next one. – POLITICO

National: Defending Elections from Cyberattacks: A New US Information Security Strategy | Pieter-jan Dockx/The Dispatch

In 2016, the US presidential election fell victim to Russian information warfare. In an effort to influence the outcome, Kremlin-backed hackers stole and leaked compromising documents from the Clinton campaign. This material was then spread on social media by Russian bots as part of a broader campaign to delegitimise the presidential candidate. Russian intelligence also breached digital election infrastructure to cast doubt on the integrity of the election process. More recently, during the 2020 presidential election, foreign adversaries again attempted disruption. However, as a result of a new election security strategy, these attacks only resulted in minor incidents. The first aspect of Washington’s four-pronged strategy focused on bolstering the election’s cyber defences. In 2016, state and local election authorities were faced with insufficient resources, leaving them with legacy voting equipment and outdated software vulnerable to attacks. Arguably, an even bigger issue was the lack of coordination between the various actors responsible for securing election infrastructure. With the responsibility scattered across the local, state, and federal levels, election officials were often ill-informed about the correct reporting authority. To address these concerns, the US Congress approved funding for election jurisdictions to upgrade their defences. The Department of Homeland Security also designated election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, unlocking additional funds and giving it the authority to enhance communication mechanisms. It further set up a centralised hub to gather and disseminate intelligence on cyber threats to the elections.

Full Article: Defending Elections from Cyberattacks: A New US Information Security Strategy – The Dispatch

National: Kristen Clarke likely first Black woman to lead DOJ civil rights | Del Quentin Wilbur/Los Angeles Times

Kristen Clarke was looking for a new athletic challenge during her junior year in high school. Girls’ basketball didn’t interest her because she couldn’t dribble. Girls’ ice hockey? She didn’t skate. Volleyball didn’t seem intense enough. Then she recalled how hard the boys’ wrestling team worked out. They ran until they sweated off enough pounds to make a weight class. They lifted weights. They left practice exhausted. So, in an audacious move for the early 1990s, Clarke joined the boys’ team. “They were giving it everything. If she was going to do a winter sport, she said, ‘might as well do the most difficult one,’” recalled Window Snyder, a friend and classmate of Clarke’s at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. “I don’t think she ever even thought about it being a boys’ sport. That is who she was. Whatever she was doing had to be challenging.” That Clarke took to the boys’ mat doesn’t surprise friends or colleagues of a 46-year-old civil rights attorney whom President Biden has nominated to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. They say she has spent two decades breaking down barriers and fighting discrimination, and it does not surprise them Biden would select her to become the first woman of color to formally lead a unit that former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. called the agency’s “crown jewel.” Though Clarke is expected to be confirmed as early as Tuesday by a simple majority in the U.S. Senate, her path to the job has been contentious.

Full Article: Kristen Clarke likely first Black woman to lead DOJ civil rights – Los Angeles Times

National: Democrats searching for a path forward on stalled voting rights bill | Ted Barrett, Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslav/CNN

Senate Democrats will huddle privately next week to continue their internal deliberations over how to advance a sweeping voting rights, government ethics and campaign finance bill that is one of their party’s top legislative priorities but is currently doomed to fail in the Senate because it is opposed by one of their own members as well as all 50 Republicans. The Wednesday meeting, which was confirmed by a Senate Democratic aide, is a follow up to a session last week that left some Democratic senators concerned that significant changes to the bill are needed to bring around Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and attract at least 10 GOP senators to break a filibuster and make a law. Democrats are anxious to pass the legislation to counteract new legislation in several Republican-led states that Democrats believe will curtail voting, particularly by minorities. The bill is titled the For the People Act but is known as S-1, a symbolically important designation as the first legislation introduced by the Democratic-controlled Senate. Similar legislation has already passed the Democratic-controlled House on a party line vote. The measure was debated last week during a lengthy and contentious Senate Rules Committee hearing where it deadlocked in the evenly divided panel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will be able to take procedural steps to put it on the floor but has not said when he would do that except that it will be before the August recess.

Full Article: Democrats searching for a path forward on stalled voting rights bill – CNNPolitics

Arizona: What if the renegade audit declares Trump won? | Jeremy Stahl/Slate

Sitting in the press booth at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, several rows above where some two dozen tables of counters were retallying the 2020 presidential votes of the citizens of Maricopa County, Bennie Smith acknowledged something that has become readily apparent to most outside observers of the process that has come to be known as the “Arizona audit.” “They’re not trying to capture an accurate count,” said Smith, a Democratic Tennessee election official who had traveled to Phoenix to advise the auditors. In fact, Smith said he expects the end result to be “wildly different from the count.” Smith said he was advising the audit—a process specially ordered by the Arizona Senate and which began last month outside the county’s ordinary recount system—because he hopes to see a standardization of independent machine ballot audits of most U.S. elections. What’s going on in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, former home to the Phoenix Suns and commonly used these days for gun shows and high school graduations, is not that. Nor is it a hand recount done in accordance with the Arizona election procedures. Here’s how Arizona recounts are supposed to normally work: Two counters, under the eye of a supervisor, tally ballots in batches of 10 at a time. Their results must agree, and any discrepancies in each batch must be resolved by a bipartisan board before they are added to the count. Here’s what Smith had been watching inside the audit: batches of 50 ballots, swinging around on a Lazy Susan, as three people speed-read votes in the presidential race and the U.S. Senate race, which were won by Democrats Joe Biden and Mark Kelly. “Everybody’s got about three and a half seconds to watch two races,” Smith said. For many tables, it appeared to be less time than that. If he were on the floor trying to count ballots himself, Smith said, he believed he would be making mistakes under those conditions. “That table is rolling,” Smith says pointing at a particularly fast-counting group. “Me standing there for five hours, I would not say that it would be ideal.” To the uninitiated observer, this might seem alarming. But Smith assured me it was nothing to worry about—because, he said, “they’re not recounting the election.”

Full Article: What if the renegade Arizona audit declares Trump won?

Arizona: Maricopa County is showing how not to audit an election | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A partisan election audit in Maricopa County, Ariz., is turning into a lesson in how not to manage cybersecurity and elections. The GOP-controlled state Senate launched it despite the objections of top county officials and hired Cyber Ninjas to conduct it — a company with no election audit experience and whose CEO Doug Logan has echoed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.  Since then, the audit has been beset by unforced security errors including laptops with election information being left unattended and WiFi routers connecting to laptops that contain vital election information. Ballots themselves were also left unattended in poorly secured storage facilities and ballot images are being taken with cameras that seemingly haven’t undergone security vetting or been certified by a government body. “In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged,” Jennifer Morrell, a partner at the Elections Group consulting firm and a former local election official in Colorado, wrote in a Post op-ed. The coup de grace came when Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) warned the county that it should replace nearly 400 ballot tabulators at a cost of millions of dollars because it couldn’t verify that Cyber Ninjas hadn’t tampered with them in a way that would make them more vulnerable to hacking — or left them unattended while someone else did so. “The lack of physical security and transparency means we cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them,” Hobbs wrote to county leaders. Maricopa County leaders, who are contemplating suing the state Senate and the auditors, said they will not use any equipment that isn’t verified to be secure. The county board of supervisors is also majority Republican.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Maricopa County is showing how not to audit an election – The Washington Post

Connecticut: Bipartisan support in House to ease absentee voting | Mark Pazniokas/CT Mirror

Statutory restrictions on absentee voting that can deny ballot access to Connecticut voters in some circumstances would be repealed under legislation passed Monday on a 117-28 vote by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate. Absentee ballots are unavailable to some voters with reasonable or even compelling excuses for not going to the polls: firefighters working 24-hour shifts, nurses anticipating overtime and parents home caring for sick or dying children. “We know there are thousands of people throughout the state in every election — commuters, health care professionals, people who have to take care of a family member who is sick or disabled — who cannot make it physically to the polls and can also not qualify under our current statutes to obtain an absentee ballot,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford. The Connecticut Constitution empowers the General Assembly to allow absentee ballot voting only in cases of “absence from the city or town of which they are inhabitants or because of sickness, or physical disability or because the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity.” Separate from an effort to amend the state Constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting, the bill would remove additional limits imposed by state law: Absences must be during “all hours of voting” and sickness and disability are defined as those of the voter.

Full Article: Bipartisan support in Connecticut House to ease absentee voting

Georgia: In echo of Arizona, state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

A Georgia state judge on Friday ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots. The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by President Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden. The inspection in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, is likely to proceed differently than an audit underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., where Republican state senators ordered county election officials to hand over equipment and ballots to a private company called Cyber Ninjas for examination. That process has come under widespread criticism for lacking security measures and failing to follow the rigorous practices of government recounts. On Thursday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) urged local officials to toss their machines after the audit is complete because their security is now in doubt.

Full Article: In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall – The Washington Post

New Hampshire: Folded ballots appear to be cause of Windham vote change | Kevin Landrigan/New Hampshire Union Leader

As many as 60% of ballots with hand or machine-made folds were improperly read by the four AccuVote optical scanning machines used in Windham in the 2020 election cycle, a forensic audit team member said Monday. “The error rate was way higher than we expected,” said Harri Hursti, one of the three auditors. Hursti said analysis has shown automated voting machines misread these ballots and this could explain why the count was inaccurate for both Republican and Democratic candidates for state representative. Critics have pointed to the discrepancy as evidence to back up claims the presidential election was tainted by inaccurate automated vote tallying. On Election Day, Republican Julius Soti finished fourth to take the last of four seats for state representative by 24 votes over Democrat Kristi St. Laurent. But Soti’s win grew to 420 votes after a Nov. 12 hand recount. The average of the votes tabulated from the four machines after the audit put Soti ahead of St. Laurent by 377 votes, 4,706 to 4,329. Hursti said the audit team has a theory for how the folds inflated St. Laurent’s total and undercounted the GOP votes that were actually cast.

Full Article: Folded ballots appear to be cause of Windham vote change | State | unionleader.com

New York: Weeks From Pivotal Primary, City Still Has No Software to Count Ranked Choice Votes | Christine Chung/The City

Ranked choice voting will debut citywide in less than a month with absentee and early in-person ballots cast in dozens of primary elections — but key questions remain unanswered on how the results will be tallied and disclosed. City Board of Elections leaders said Tuesday it will take at least two more weeks before their state counterparts will decide whether to approve the software that will tally up to five ranked choices for each voter and then allocate votes among candidates. Meanwhile, the city board has not yet committed to releasing ranked results at the hyperlocal level, potentially frustrating public accountability. The city Board of Elections did not answer questions about the absence of election district data for the year’s past special elections or how results will be presented in June. “Step one is the software being certified,” said Valerie Vasquez, a board spokesperson. In late January, the state Board of Elections committed to working with the city to come up with a plan to certify tabulation software after more than a year of tension over vendor selection, Gothamist reported. That certification is still pending.

Full Article: NYC Still Has No Software to Count Ranked Choice Votes – THE CITY

Ohio: Top state court orders commissioners to fund buying Dominion machines | Robert Wang/The Canton Repository

The Ohio Supreme Court in a 6-1 ruling Monday said that state law requires the Stark County commissioners to fund the purchase of Dominion voting machines. The court granted the Stark County Board of Elections its request in April for a court order mandating the commissioners appropriate county funds, about $1.5 million, for the purchase. The court’s opinion stated that contrary to what the commissioners argued, a state provision requiring payment of expenses to come from money appropriated by the commissioners did not apply to the purchase of the voting machines. “I’m very pleased and happy that they saw the law the same way we did,” said Samuel Ferruccio, the chairman of the Stark County Board of Elections. “I think it’s now in the county commissioners’ lap for them to pay for the voting machines.” He said the commissioners have to vote to appropriate county funds for the machines within a reasonable time or the high court could hold them in contempt. Jeff Matthews, the director of the elections board, said in a prepared statement: “We look forward to the County Commissioners moving per the Court’s order to expeditiously acquire the new voting equipment so that it will be in place for the November election. The system has been fully certified as reliable and secure by the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the bipartisan Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners.”

Full Article: Top state court orders commissioners to fund buying Dominion machines