National: U.S. Conducted More Than Two Dozen Pre-Election Cyber Operations | Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

The U.S. carried out more than two dozen operations to thwart adversaries from election meddling ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to a top intelligence official. General Paul Nakasone, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, testified at a Senate hearing on Thursday that Cyber Command conducted the operations “to get ahead of foreign threats before they interfered or influenced our elections.” Nakasone appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee a week after the U.S. intelligence community issued a report describing foreign efforts to influence voter opinions. It found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered operations to hurt President Joe Biden’s candidacy and favor former President Donald Trump. Iran sought to hurt Trump’s candidacy, but China didn’t deploy influence efforts, according to the report. While there were foreign efforts aimed at affecting voter opinion, there were no attempts on “any technical aspect of the voting process,” the agencies found. Nakasone also said that two recently discovered cyber-attacks were “a clarion call” to take a fresh look at challenges facing the U.S. The first was December’s revelation that suspected Russian hackers compromised popular software from SolarWinds Corp. and breached about nine government agencies as well as 100 companies. And in March, Microsoft Corp. revealed that suspected Chinese hackers used vulnerabilities in its Exchange software for email and carried out an attack that experts say has tens of thousands of victims.

Full Article: U.S. Conducted More Than Two Dozen Pre-Election Cyber Operations – Bloomberg

National: After Trump tried to intervene in the 2020 vote, state Republicans are moving to take more control of elections | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

State Republicans have taken steps this year that could give them more power to sway the certification of election results, efforts that voting advocates decried as a blatant attempt to circumvent the popular vote, as President Donald Trump tried to do after his defeat in November. Amid an avalanche of voting legislation proposed in dozens of states, the moves go beyond highly scrutinized proposals to tighten rules around how ballots are cast in the name of election security. Critics say some of the initiatives attempt to clear the way for partisan actors to take control of election administration, as Trump unsuccessfully urged Republicans to do in the fall. On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) of Georgia signed the most far-reaching effort yet into law — a sweeping voting measure that undercuts the power of the secretary of state and local election boards. The new law removes the secretary of state from serving as chair of the State Board of Elections, giving the legislature the authority to appoint a majority of the members, and authorizes the state board to suspend local election officials. If these measures had been in place in 2020, critics say, the state board could have tried to interfere when the secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, certified Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state and rejected Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen.

Full Article: After Trump tried to intervene in the 2020 vote, state Republicans are moving to take more control of elections – The Washington Post

National: Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion | Elahe Izadi/The Washington Post

Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging that the network purposefully aired false claims about the the company’s role in the 2020 presidential election in order to boost ratings. In the suit, filed in a Delaware court, Dominion argued that the Fox and several of its on-air personalities elevated conspiracy theories about the voting company rigging the 2020 election and allowed falsehoods by their guests to go unchecked, including a wild claim that the company’s machines were manufactured in “Venezuela to rig elections for the dictator Hugo Chávez” and that Dominion’s algorithm manipulated votes so that then-President Trump would lose. “Fox engaged in this knowing and reckless propagation of these enormous falsehoods in order to profit off these lies,” reads the lawsuit. “Fox wanted to continue to protect its broadcast ratings, catering to an audience deeply loyal to President Trump.” … Dominion earlier filed election-related defamation lawsuits against Trump affiliated attorneys Sydney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, as well as MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell. The lawsuit cites Fox’s own reporting in advance of Election Day that the mail-in vote would heavily favor Joe Biden, and that it was likely that the result wouldn’t be known for days. But Dominion lawyers argue that Fox News ratings went into “in a freefall” in the days after the election and that the network was losing Trump loyalists to more right-wing channels such as Newsmax.

Full Article: Dominion sues Fox News for $1.6 billion – The Washington Post

National: Republicans’ efforts to restrict mail-in voting in Georgia, Utah, and other states, could backfire | Brittany Gibson/Vox

State Republican lawmakers have introduced a historic number of bills this year to restrict voting rights, zeroing in on restricting mail-in voting. More than 250 bills have been introduced or carried over in 43 states, of which 125 are focused on absentee or mail-in voting. The effort to implement voter restrictions on one level seems odd. Republicans made gains in the House of Representatives, and outperformed polls in competitive Senate races, suggesting they aren’t having trouble winning elections under the current laws. On the other hand, “Trump still lost, control of the Senate still changed, and so there may be an element of reacting to that and ultimately believing that [if voting is] restricted it will affect their voters more than our voters,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. More Americans than ever before voted by mail in the 2020 general election, about 46 percent of all voters, according to the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. A large motivator behind this was to avoid the in-person contact of voting lines and Election Day polling places. Perhaps wanting to downplay the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and concerned about boosting Democratic turnout, Trump took issue with the expansion of the mail-in voting systems across the country on the campaign trail and online.

Full Article: Republicans’ efforts to restrict mail-in voting in Georgia, Utah, and other states, could backfire – Vox

National: Senate panel dukes it out over voting rights | Marty Johnson/The Hill

Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee clashed Wednesday over sweeping Democratic legislation on voting rights and campaign finance and redistricting reform. “This bill is essential to protecting every American’s right to vote, getting dark money out of our elections, as well as some very important anti-corruption reforms,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the panel’s chairwoman, said in her opening statement on the For the People Act. “It is about strengthening our democracy by returning it to the hands of its rightful owners: the American people.” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the ranking member on the panel, argued against the legislation, saying it would “force a single, partisan view of elections on more than 10,000 jurisdictions across the country.” Known also as H.R. 1 and S.1, the bill is a top priority for Democrats. It passed the House in the last session of Congress, but failed to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Coming in at over 800 pages, S.1 is hefty, wide reaching and complex. Outside of the issues surrounding voting rights, it would create an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission in an attempt to get rid of partisan gerrymandering, restructure the makeup of the Federal Election Commission and work to give more transparency to campaign donations.

Full Article: Senate panel dukes it out over voting rights | TheHill

National: Former Trump adviser takes prominent role in voting battle | Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

A GOP lawyer who advised former President Donald Trump on his campaign to overturn the 2020 election results is now playing a central role coordinating the Republican effort to tighten voting laws around the country. Cleta Mitchell, a longtime Republican lawyer and advocate for conservative causes, was among the Trump advisers on a January phone call in which Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to declare him, and not Democrat Joe Biden, the winner of the battleground state. Now Mitchell has taken the helm of two separate efforts to push for tighter state voting laws and to fight Democratic efforts to expand access to the ballot at the federal level. She is also advising state lawmakers crafting the voting restriction proposals. And, she said Friday, she is in regular contact with Trump. “People are actually interested in getting involved and we have to harness all this energy,” Mitchell said in an interview. “There are a lot of groups that have projects on election integrity that never did before.” Mitchell’s new prominence tightens the ties between the former president, who has falsely insisted he lost the election due to fraud, and the GOP-led state voting overhaul that has helped turn a foundational principle of democracy into a partisan battleground. Trump’s false claims of fraud have fueled a wave of new voting restrictions. More than 250 proposed voting restrictions have been proposed this year by mostly Republican lawmakers, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. On Thursday, Georgia’s GOP governor signed into law a measure requiring voters to present ID to vote by mail, gives the GOP-controlled state legislature new powers over local elections boards and outlaws providing food or water to people waiting in line to vote. Biden on Friday condemned it as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”

Full Article: Former Trump adviser takes prominent role in voting battle

Arizona legislature proposes controversial changes to election laws | Christopher Conover/AZPM

Arizona state lawmakers have introduced various bills this year that would change how residents vote and the state counts ballots. Critics say some are a response to President Joe Biden’s win in the state last November. Julia Shumway is Senate reporter at the Arizona Capitol Times. She said there are an unusually high number of election bills introduced in the legislature this year, even when compared to other post-election years. Shumway pointed out that support or opposition for most of these election bills is divided along party lines. Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh drew criticism for his remarks to CNN about how Democrats value the quantity of voters and risk fraud, while his party would rather adopt security measures. He said “everyone shouldn’t be voting.” Shumway said that Rep. Kavanagh gave voice to an implicit theme in this year’s proposed legislation. “That is definitely a tension that is under a lot of the bills that we see this year — who should be voting and do we want everyone in Arizona to have the ability to vote and to vote easily?” Shumway said.

Full Article: Arizona legislature proposes controversial changes to election laws – AZPM

Georgia: Sweeping changes to elections signed into law | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race. Kemp finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions. Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House. Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill will disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.” State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, was arrested by state troopers after knocking on Kemp’s office door to try to witness the bill signing. The governor briefly interrupted his prepared remarks as Cannon was forcibly removed from the building by officers. … Several voting organizations filed a federal lawsuit to stop the bill Thursday night, saying it creates “unjustifiable burdens” especially on minority, young, poor and disabled voters. The lawsuit by The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise opposes absentee ID requirements, drop box limits, provisional ballot invalidations, and food and drink bans.

Full Article: Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law

Georgia’s sweeping elections overhaul faces new legal challenge | Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A coalition of advocacy groups on Sunday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block Republican-backed voting restrictions signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Kemp, the second legal challenge aiming to derail the far-reaching new elections overhaul. The complaint calls Senate Bill 202 the “culmination of a concerted effort to suppress the participation of Black voters and other voters of color” in response to Democratic victories in November and January. It asks a judge to declare the law unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. “Unable to stem the tide of these demographic changes or change the voting patterns of voters of color, these officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has in Georgia,” the lawsuit read. “In other words, these officials are using racial discrimination as a means of achieving a partisan end.”

Full Article: Georgia’s sweeping elections overhaul faces new legal challenge

Indiana to pass bill to forbid voting machines from being connected to the Internet | Margaret Menge/Kokomo Perspective

The Indiana Senate heard two election bills this week that would make several changes to how elections are conducted in the state. Both bills have already passed the House and are expected to pass the Senate on Thursday and be sent on to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature. One of the bills, HB 1365, would prohibit voting machines in the state from being connected to the Internet – a hot topic following the Nov. 3 presidential election, when cybersecurity experts testified at hearings in several states that voting machines were connected to the Internet on Election Day even though election officials believed they were not. Five different kinds of voting machines are approved for use in Indiana, including those made by Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic, Inc., MicroVote General Corp. and Unisyn Voting Solutions. Dominion, Hart InterCivic and ES&S have all acknowledged they install modems in their voting machines, so voting results can more easily be relayed to the state and the public. Experts say that even when connected to the Internet for only a short amount of time, voting machines can be compromised, which is likely the reason another provision was included the bill that requires a voting system to contain features to ensure “unauthorized” software has not been installed. But this provision in the bill would also “permit the adjudication of voter intent” on voting machines.

Full Article: Indiana to pass bill to forbid voting machines from being connected to the Internet | Indiana | kokomoperspective.com

Michigan: Judge limits discovery in Antrim County election lawsuit | Mardi Link/Traverse City Record-Eagle

A judge ruled communications — if they exist — between the plaintiff in an ongoing election-related lawsuit, and former President Donald Trump, his family, his campaign staff and attorney Rudy Giuliani, was not relevant to the case and struck down the request during a motion hearing. “Allowing this case to proceed down that track would open up the possibility of the plaintiff seeking similar information from the defense, and turn this case — potentially anyway — into more of a political football than it already is,” said 13th Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin Elsenheimer. Assistant Attorney General Eric Grill said Monday he was seeking potential communications between the plaintiff and the Trump campaign, in order to determine whether outsiders were behind the case in Antrim County.  n November 23, Bill Bailey of Central Lake Township filed a lawsuit accusing the county of election fraud. Grill represents Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who was later added to the suit, by her request, as a named defendant. On Nov. 27, political operatives working on behalf of Bailey visited Antrim County, identified themselves to officials as representing Giuliani’s legal team, and accessed official election data in at least one township, as previously reported.

Full Article: Judge limits discovery in Antrim County election lawsuit | News | record-eagle.com

New Jersey Senate approves early voting, sending measure to Governor’s desk | Nikita Biryukov/New Jersey Globe

Lawmakers in the Senate approved a bill allowing in-person early voting Thursday, sending the measure to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed. The measure, which cleared the chamber in a 28-8 vote, would provide three days of early voting for most primaries, five days of early voting for presidential primaries and nine days of early general election voting. The periods provided by that bill, sponsored by State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), represent significant reductions from previous versions, which provided for a two-week early voting period but limited the practice to general elections and municipal elections in towns that passed an ordinance to approve early voting. Murphy, long a proponent of early voting, has signaled he would support the bill, even if it fell short of the 30-day period he proposed in July. “Without getting into the specifics of early voting, and I mean this not facetiously — I’ll take anything,” he said last month. With primaries less than three months away, early voting won’t be in place in time for June races, and it’s not clear whether it’ll be ready by November either.

Full Article: Senate approves early voting, sending measure to Murphy’s desk – New Jersey Globe

Ohio: Stark County Elections Board gives county commissioners ultimatum over Dominion voting machines | Robert Wang/The Canton Repository

The Stark County Board of Elections moved Friday to initiate a lawsuit against the county commissioners if they don’t approve funding to buy Dominion voting machines by their regular board meeting next week. The vote during the special five-minute meeting was 3-0 by Chairman Samuel Ferruccio, Kody Gonzalez and William Cline. Board member Curt Braden abstained. It’s not clear why, but he’s a regional director for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Braden could not immediately be reached for comment. Ferruccio, besides being the board chairman and an attorney, is the chairman for the Stark County Democratic Party, and Gonzalez is the county Democratic Party’s vice chair. Braden is a former Stark County Republican Party chairman, and Cline, an attorney, is a Republican. In Ohio, each of its 88 counties have an elections board that has two Democrats and two Republicans and each staff position of the boards of elections have a Democratic and Republican counterpart.

Full Article: Elections board to sue if commissioners don’t act on voting machines

Pennsylvania: Postal Service finds no evidence of mail ballot fraud in case cited by top Republicans | Jacob Bogage and Shawn Boburg/The Washington Post

U.S. Postal Service investigators found no evidence to support a Pennsylvania postal worker’s claim that his supervisors had tampered with mail-in ballots, according to an inspector general’s report — allegations cited by top Republicans to press baseless claims of fraud in the presidential election. Richard Hopkins, a mail carrier in Erie, alleged in November that he overheard the local postmaster discussing plans to backdate ballots received after the Nov. 3 vote and pass them off to election officials as legitimate. Working with Project Veritas, a nonprofit entity that seeks to expose what it says is bias in the mainstream news media, Hopkins publicly released a sworn affidavit recounting those allegations. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) cited Hopkins’s claim in a letter to the Justice Department in November calling for a federal investigation into election results in Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 81,000 votes, and Democratic candidates outperformed GOP challengers in votes submitted by mail. Graham and many other congressional Republicans refused to accept the outcome of the election for weeks, even after states audited and certified results. Then-Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open investigations into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud before results were certified, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

Full Article: USPS: ‘No evidence’ in mail ballot fraud case cited by Republicans – The Washington Post

Wisconsin: Assembly Republicans authorize committee investigation of elections | Briana Reilly/The Capital Times

Assembly Republicans voted Tuesday to direct a Wisconsin committee to investigate how elections have been administered over the last two years, paving the way for lawmakers to ramp up the scrutiny of the state’s 2020 presidential contests. While the Campaigns and Elections Committee had already been holding hearings surrounding the conduct of the November 2020 election, the resolution’s approval this week lays the groundwork for allowing the panel to subpoena witnesses or documents going forward. Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, who authored the resolution and serves as the vice-chair of the panel, said the move gives lawmakers “the necessary tools we need to go forward,” but added he’s hopeful the subpoena powers won’t need to be leveraged. “I can’t understand why any elected official in this state would not want to talk openly and publicly about the administration of elections in their areas, but in the event that something does occur where we would need to subpoena records or people, then we will have this ability at our disposal,” the New Berlin Republican told reporters. At the two informational hearings the committee has held since the November election, only invited speakers were allowed to testify. Ahead of the most recent hearing, which centered on Green Bay’s administration of its election, committee members did not invite the city’s mayor or officials from the Wisconsin Elections Commission to speak, according to media reports.

Full Article: Assembly Republicans authorize committee investigation of Wisconsin elections | Local Government | madison.com

Germany: Hackers target lawmakers in an election year | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

Hackers have attempted to breach the private email accounts of certain German parliamentarians, a spokesperson for the legislative body confirmed Friday, in the latest example of cyber campaigns aimed at German politicians. German national security officials have briefed the parliament, known as the Bundestag, on the incident, and all the affected lawmakers have been informed, said Frank Bergmann, a Bundestag spokesperson. It was not immediately clear whether the phishing attempts were successful, who was responsible or what their goal was. Spokespeople for the BSI, Germany’s federal cybersecurity agency, and the BfV, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, declined to comment. The attempted intrusions comes six months ahead of Germany’s national elections. The German parliament has been a recurring target for foreign hackers, including a 2015 breach that the European Union blamed on Russia’s military intelligence agency. Since the Russian hack-and-leak operation aimed at the 2016 U.S. election, governments around Europe have braced for similar interference efforts in their politics.

Full Article: Hackers target German lawmakers in an election year

Israel: Hackers breach voting app, expose details of millions of voters online| Israel Hayom

The personal information of nearly all Israeli voters has been exposed online a day before the general election, financial daily Calcalist reported Tuesday. According to the report, the information derived in the leak, which includes registered voters’ addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth, dates back to a leak that took place in 2020. The data was exposed following threats made against Elector Software, which operates the voter-prompting Elector app, used by Likud and several other parties. According to Calcalist, hackers threatening to expose the information contacted the company directly and also threatened to leak the personal information on the company’s CEO Tzur Yemin, and his family unless the app ceases operating. “This is an extortion attempt and I have filed a complaint to the police,” Tzur told the daily. The Elector app sustained a cyberattack last week and hackers had threatened to expose Israel’s full voter registry. The hackers demanded Elector Software take the app down as it was not secure. There has been no indication that the app was breached in the current election cycle. “Elector representatives said that the hackers concurrently sent direct messages to the company, with one of them saying, ‘You don’t have long left until information about your family is exposed too,'” the report said, adding that while the files the hackers released seem encrypted, the hackers have threatened to release the password unless the app was shut down. Did they so on Monday.

Full Article: Report: Hackers breach voting app, expose details of millions of Israelis online – www.israelhayom.com

New Zealand spy agency NZSIS intercepted multiple potential threats to 2020 general election | Mitchell Alexander/Newshub

As New Zealanders prepared to vote last year for who they thought should form the next Government, potential threats to the integrity of October’s general election were being intercepted. Newshub can reveal the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) identified and responded to “fewer than 10” leads relating to the general election, which had been postponed due to COVID-19. A ‘lead’ is the initial information that indicates a potential threat to national security. The NZSIS wouldn’t confirm the exact number of leads and noted responding to them doesn’t necessarily constitute an active national security investigation. The NZSIS say it is responsible for collecting, analysing and assessing intelligence about foreign interference activities in New Zealand. “During the 2020 General Election, we focused on triaging any leads related to foreign interference, and assessing whether they could significantly impact the outcome of the election, or public confidence in the electoral process”.

Full Article: New Zealand spy agency NZSIS intercepted multiple potential threats to 2020 general election | Newshub

Ukraine: The risks of rushing to internet voting | Serhii Savelii and Meredith Applegate/Atlantic Council

Ukraine’s public governance system is in dire need of transformation and President Zelenskyy has identified digitization as the best route towards greater accessibility and accountability. “Our goal is to make sure that all relations with the state can be carried out with the help of a regular smartphone and the internet,” commented Zelenskyy during the presentation of the government’s Diia mobile application in February 2020. However, a promised move towards internet voting for Ukrainian elections may be premature for the country’s fledgling democracy. Ukraine’s vision for digital transformation is ambitious and includes holding online voting for all elections and referendums. This aspiration to bring Ukraine’s public governance into the digital age should be applauded, but there are number of serious obstacles that must be taken into account when considering internet voting. Premature implementation of online voting could potentially have dire consequences for Ukraine’s democratic development, political stability, and electoral integrity. While the use of the internet for remote voting has considerable future potential, it is a new approach that has only been successfully implemented in very few cases and with limited scope. These cases all need to be considered before implementing wide-scale internet voting in Ukraine in order to learn crucial lessons, compare contexts, and realistically evaluate if it is an appropriate step forward for the country.

Full Article: The risks of rushing to internet voting in Ukraine – Atlantic Council

Georgia: Judge may unseal Fulton County absentee ballots for fraud investigation | David Wickert/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A judge may unseal absentee ballots in Fulton County so a government watchdog can investigate allegations of voting fraud in the November election. A lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court contends that fraudulent ballots were cast and other irregularities occurred as workers counted ballots at State Farm Arena on election night. Those allegations were investigated and dismissed by the secretary of state’s office. Nonetheless, Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero — who is overseeing the case — said he’s inclined to order the ballots to be unsealed and reviewed by experts hired by Garland Favorito, a voting-integrity advocate. At a hearing Monday, Amero sought a detailed plan for maintaining the secrecy and security of the ballots, which — by state law — are under seal in the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office. “We want to do this in such a way that dispels rumors and disinformation and sheds light,” Amero said at the hearing. “The devil’s in the details.” Favorito’s case is part of a wave of lawsuits that have alleged fraud or misconduct in the November presidential election. Some sought to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia, while others sought to change election rules for the January U.S. Senate runoffs.

Full Article: Judge may unseal Fulton absentee ballots for fraud investigation

National: Putin likely directed 2020 U.S. election meddling, U.S. intelligence finds | Christopher Bing, Joseph Menn and Raphael Satter/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed efforts to try to swing the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump, according to an American intelligence report released on Tuesday that sources said would likely trigger U.S. sanctions on Moscow. The 15-page report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, added heft to longstanding allegations that some of Trump’s top lieutenants were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against then-candidate Joe Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. It also added new findings that Putin either oversaw or at least approved of the election meddling to benefit Trump. Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Moscow as soon as next week because of the allegations, three sources said on condition of anonymity. The findings about Putin’s role are likely to receive particular attention given the report’s conclusions that Russia-backed figures such as Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach enlisted unnamed U.S. political figures in their campaign to smear Biden and his son Hunter. The report named Derkach, who met Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2019, as someone whose movements were tracked, if not directed, by Putin. “Putin had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach,” the report said. “Other senior officials also participated in Russia’s election influence efforts – including senior national security and intelligence officials who we assess would not act without receiving at least Putin’s tacit approval.”

Full Article: Putin likely directed 2020 U.S. election meddling, U.S. intelligence finds | Reuters

Full Article: Putin likely directed 2020 U.S. election meddling, U.S. intelligence finds | Reuters

Ohio: Stark County Board of Elections to sue over Dominion voting machine purchase | Robert Wang/The Canton Repository

The Stark County Board of Elections voted unanimously Monday to initiate a lawsuit against the county commissioners to compel them to fund the purchase of Dominion voting machines. The board met twice in executive session before announcing its decision. After the first executive session, which lasted about 20 minutes, board members said they would not consider the commissioners’ apparent suggestion that they consider an updated price quote by Dominion’s competitor, Election Systems and Software. Commissioner Bill Smith had invited ES&S to submit a new quote, which ended up being about $143,000 less than Dominion’s over a 10-year period, according to resolution language released by the commissioners last week. “I think it’s unfair to consider ES&S. We have no inclination to revisit the decision and recommendation that we made previously,” said Samuel Ferruccio, chairman of the Stark County Board of Elections and chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party. “When presented to our board, Dominion Voting Systems’ bid was lower than ES&S. The commissioners took it upon themselves to contact the company (ES&S) our board did not select and accepted a revised bid. That decision was ill advised and detrimental to the integrity of the process.” Board member William Cline, a Republican, agreed, saying “it was manifestly unfair to other bidders to allow a losing bidder to come in and take another bite at the apple. I think at best, unfair, and arguably not ethical either to solicit the bid or to make.” Board member Curt Braden, a Republican, said: “They’re (ES&S is) looking to sell us some used equipment, and we’re looking to buy new equipment.” Braden referred to the fact ES&S’s revised bid included two refurbished ballot scanners with warranties where Dominion was offering to sell the county new ballot scanners.

Full Are: Stark Board of Elections to sue over Dominion voting machine purchase

National: Russian Interference in 2020 Included Influencing Trump Associates, Report Says | Julian E. Barnes/The New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia authorized extensive efforts to hurt the candidacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr. during the election last year, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to President Donald J. Trump, according to a declassified intelligence report released on Tuesday. The report did not name those people but seemed to refer to the work of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who relentlessly pushed accusations of corruption about Mr. Biden and his family involving Ukraine. “Russian state and proxy actors who all serve the Kremlin’s interests worked to affect U.S. public perceptions,” the report said. The declassified report represented the most comprehensive intelligence assessment of foreign efforts to influence the 2020 vote. Besides Russia, Iran and other countries also sought to sway the election, the report said. China considered its own efforts but ultimately concluded that they would fail and most likely backfire, intelligence officials concluded. companion report by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments also rejected false accusations promoted by Mr. Trump’s allies in the weeks after the vote that Venezuela or other countries had defrauded the election.

Full Article: Putin Authorized Russian Interference in 2020 Election, Report Says – The New York Times

National: Foreign Meddling Flooded the 2020 Election—but Not by Hackers | Andy Greenberg/WIRED

After the pro-Trump hack-and-leak operations and disinformation campaigns that roiled the 2016 US election, the country braced for a second round of no-holds-barred foreign interference last year. But US intelligence agencies have now confirmed that didn’t entirely come to pass. The 2020 election was hit with meddling, trolling, and disinformation operations like those of 2016—but not the outright efforts to hack election infrastructure or political campaigns themselves. On Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report that outlines findings from US intelligence agencies including the CIA, NSA, FBI, and DHS on the overall picture of election interference by foreign actors in 2020. Those agencies agree that while more foreign powers than ever before attempted to influence the outcome of the election—using everything from disinformation to voter intimidation emails to social media campaigns—none actually seems to have used hackers to attempt to disrupt the election or access election infrastructure as they did in 2016. “In 2020, the IC tracked a broader array of foreign actors taking steps to influence US elections than in past election cycles,” the report reads, naming Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and even Lebanon’s Hizbollah Islamic extremist group as actors that sought to influence the election’s outcome. Russia in particular sought to support Trump’s reelection bid with everything from troll-farm social media postings to active smear operations that provided information directly to “Trump administration-linked persons.” Iran, meanwhile, worked against Trump’s reelection with social media campaigns and even fake, threatening emails designed to frame the Trump-supporting white nationalist group the Proud Boys—while not directly supporting Biden or any of Trump’s other political opponents.

Source: Foreign Meddling Flooded the 2020 Election—but Not by Hackers | WIRED

National: After 2020 loss, GOP targets voting restrictions | Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann/NBC

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try — to change how the contest is conducted. That’s the backdrop for all of the legislation across the country that would restrict voting access in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential loss back in November. Republicans hold legislative majorities and governorships in 24 states — including battlegrounds…

National: Spy Agencies Reject Trump Claim of China Election Meddling | Chris Strohm and Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

The U.S. intelligence community concluded with “high confidence” that China didn’t attempt to change the outcome of the 2020 election, an assessment that contradicts repeated assertions by former President Donald Trump and his allies. “We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. Presidential Election,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote in an unclassified report released on Tuesday. “China sought stability in its relationship with the United States” and “did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling.” The agencies also found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered influence operations to hurt President Joe Biden’s candidacy, favoring Trump just as the intelligence community says he did in 2016 against then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.,” the report found. Russia has long denied meddling in U.S. elections.

Full Article: Spy Agencies Reject Trump Claim of China Election Meddling – Bloomberg

National: After Trump’s loss and false fraud claims, GOP eyes voter restrictions across nation | Nolan D. McCaskill/Politico

Former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and a stolen election galvanized his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in January. Now, his rhetoric is turning into policies that are moving through GOP-dominated state legislatures: a rollback of voting access. In statehouses around the country — most notably, in Georgia — lawmakers are rolling out legislation that would make it a lot harder to vote. They’re considering dozens of restrictive bills to purge voters from rolls, limit early and absentee voting, add voter ID requirements and eliminate automatic and same-day voter registration. In short, bills are being introduced to prevent something that didn’t happen in 2020 — widespread voter fraud — from recurring in 2022, 2024 and beyond. “They’re all predicated on the ‘big lie,’ the idea that Trump won the election, that there was widespread voter fraud,” said Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project. “The ‘big lie’ is the engine or the fuel that powered in a lot of ways the Jan. 6 insurrection. It’s also the fuel that’s powering these anti-voting bills that we are seeing across the country.” If passed, critics warn, the policies would disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies such as young voters, poor voters and voters of color, erecting barriers to the ballot box after a historic turnout last fall. “There’s absolutely no coincidence in terms of the people who are gonna be impacted and the timing of this,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, an arm of the SPLC, which prioritizes impact litigation on issues such as voting rights and criminal justice reform.

Full Article: After Trump’s loss and false fraud claims, GOP eyes voter restrictions across nation – POLITICO

National: The Misinformation Campaign Was Distinctly One-Sided | Renée DiResta/The Atlantic

On the morning of September 21, 2020, three trays of United States mail were discovered in a ditch in Greenville, Wisconsin. The local sheriff’s office reported that the mail dump included several absentee ballots. When a U.S. Postal Service spokesperson made a similar assertion two days later, a local Fox affiliate, WLUK, reported the statement on its website. And then a national network of conservative commentators and influencers did something that happened again and again last fall: They picked up a bare-bones news story and made it sound nefarious. Within hours, Jim Hoft, the combative founder and editor of The Gateway Pundit, a conservative media outlet, came across the story. A consortium of researchers working together on an effort called the Election Integrity Partnership (which included my team at the Stanford Internet Observatory) had by this point begun to track false and misleading voting-related information, particularly claims about ballot and mail fraud, as it moved across the social-media ecosystem. Our partnership began 100 days before the election and continued for a few weeks following Election Day. In that time, The Gateway Pundit would become a primary driver in dozens of instances in which false information or misleading narratives went viral. “We report the truth,” a banner on the site noted, as its pages regaled readers with stories of malfunctioning voting machines in Michigan, ballot boxes stuffed into cars, and “miraculous” fake ballots marked for Joe Biden. In our data set tracking the spread of misleading claims, The Gateway Pundit’s stories racked up more than 800,000 retweets on Twitter and at least 4 million views on YouTube over a four-month period. The process of producing viral misinformation hits followed a familiar pattern throughout the 2020 campaign: Prominent pro–Donald Trump influencers or hyper-partisan conservative outlets would pick up a real-world event—in many cases an isolated incident that bubbled into the national conversation via social media—and shoehorn it into a far broader narrative. Many of the narratives involved hints of conspiracy. 

Full Article: Right-Wing Propagandists Were Doing Something Unique – The Atlantic

Arizona GOP must pay $18K in groundless election suit | Jacques Billeaud/Associated Press

The Arizona Republican Party and its lawyers must pay $18,000 in attorneys’ fees that taxpayers were forced to pick up late last year to defend government officials against one of the party’s failed lawsuits challenging President Joe Biden’s victory in the state, a judge has ruled. In a decision Friday, Judge John Hannah concluded the state GOP brought a groundless legal claim to court, filed its case for political reasons while claiming it was trying to protect election integrity, and failed to acknowledge it sued the wrong government officials. The financial award was made under a law that requires judges to assess attorney fees against lawyers or legal parties who bring claims to court without substantial justification or to delay or harass. The judge wrote the GOP had in effect acknowledged it brought the lawsuit for an improper purpose when it said the suit was motivated by public mistrust after the election. “‘Public mistrust’ is a political issue, not a legal or factual basis for litigation,” the judge wrote. Hannah said the party didn’t make a serious effort before filing the lawsuit to determine whether its claims were valid and never named Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as the official responsible for carrying out the law at issue in the case and instead sued Maricopa County officials. Jack Wilenchik, one of the attorneys representing the Arizona GOP, issued a statement saying the decision would be appealed and that the judge’s conclusion that public mistrust in an election is an improper reason for a political party to bring to court is “sorely disrespectful to the views of the many Americans whom I am proud to represent.” Wilenchik said the order “encourages public distrust in the government for being openly hostile to them.”

Full Article: Judge: Arizona GOP must pay $18K in groundless election suit

Arizona ‘Everybody shouldn’t be voting’: Republican defends voter restrictions as GOP pushes ‘fraud’ claims | Alex Woodward/The Independent

A Republican lawmaker in Arizona has defended GOP-sponsored legislation to restrict ballot access as a means to protect “the quality of votes” and arguing that “everybody shouldn’t be voting” as Republicans in at least 43 states introduce dozens of bills to curb voting rights, compelled by spurious fraud claims and election conspiracy theories in the wake of 2020 elections and disproportionately impacting Black voters. Arizona state Rep John Kavanagh, who chairs the state legislature’s Government and Elections Committee, told CNN that Democrats are “willing to risk fraud” by expanding voter access, and that “Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote – but everybody shouldn’t be voting.” Mr Kavanagh was referencing a measure that could purge thousands of people from a list of voters who automatically receive popular mail-in ballots during elections. Arizona lawmakers are considering roughly two dozen other bills. Mr Kavanagh also suggested that Democrats’ voter registration and ballot collection drives can “greatly influence the outcome of the election” by targeting “uninformed” voters. “Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,” he told CNN. “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.” “Elected Republicans think they get to pick who is allowed to vote,” said US Rep Bill Pascrell of New Jersey. “This is the new Jim Crow.”

Full Article: john kavanaugh arizona voting laws | The Independent