Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court will consider Rep. Kelly’s petition over mail-in voting law | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a closed-door session on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will discuss if it wants to hear a case on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law. The nine Supreme Court justices, who use private conferences to mull the thousands of cases they’re asked to review each year, will consider a petition filed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, and other Republicans that asks the court to settle if Pennsylvania and its state Legislature violated the U.S. Constitution when it instituted mail-in voting in 2019. Though experts note it’s extremely unlikely that any one case is chosen for full review by the nation’s highest court and that the court had already denied requests for expedited review and an emergency injunction, lawyers for the Republican plaintiffs say their case raises important issues that are relevant far beyond a single election. “The reason it’s important is the court should take an interest in whether Pennsylvania’s election laws are administered constitutionally or not, and in accordance with the Pennsylvania constitution and with the federal constitution,” said Greg Teufel, a lawyer representing Mr. Kelly. Acknowledging that it’s a “1 or 2 percent chance” the court takes their case since so many cases are vying for its attention, Mr. Teufel said he expects the justices to ask the defendants — including the state, Gov. Tom Wolf and former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar — to file their official response, which they indicated they wouldn’t do unless asked by the court.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court will consider Rep. Kelly’s petition over Pa. mail-in voting law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission to sue over voting equipment funds | Laura Testino/Memphis Commercial Appeal

The Shelby County Election Commission intends to file suit against the county commission over funding it says it needs for new voting equipment. Election commissioners met in an executive session with attorneys about the matter Tuesday, according to a release from the election commission. “The County Commission has repeatedly denied our requests to fund the ballot marking devices, because they want paper ballots,” Steve Stamson, chairman of the election commissioners, said in a statement. He said the election commission attempted to put the funding measure back on a county commission agenda for January, but that the request was denied. Although a filing date was not discussed during the session, the suit is likely to be filed in a local court within the next 30 days, Suzanne Thompson, spokesperson for the election commission, said by phone. The ultimate filing date is up to attorney Allan Wade, she said. Wade, of The Wade Law Firm, will represent the election commission. Election commissioners say the need for funding for the new equipment is urgent. The vendor that supports the voting machines that are currently in use, the commissioners say, is stopping service at the end of the year. Funding was denied in 2020, ahead of the Nov. 3 election, as county commissioners raised questions about the bidding process for the proposed machines. 

Full Article: Shelby County Election Commission to sue over voting equipment funds

Virginia Department of Elections announces statewide post-election risk limiting audit | Emporia Independent Messenger

The Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) will coordinate a statewide post-election Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) of the November 2020 General Election for President and U.S. Senate. The audit was announced by Christopher Piper, Commissioner of the Department of Elections, at the Jan. 12, State Board of Elections meeting. Pursuant to Va. Code §24.2-671.1, ELECT is required to coordinate an annual post-election RLA of ballot scanner machines used in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All of the 133 localities in the Commonwealth of Virginia will be participating in the audit. ELECT is partnering with VotingWorks(https://voting.works/), a non-profit organization, which will be assisting with the statewide audit. Based on the vote totals and voter turnout, VotingWorks projects around 1,423 ballots will need to be retrieved by localities across the Commonwealth to provide for an accurate audit.

Full Article: Virginia Department of Elections announces statewide post-election risk limiting audit | News | emporiaindependentmessenger.com

Wisconsin Governor calls for expanding early voting, seeks to let clerks count absentee ballots before election day | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget would expand early voting, allow clerks to count absentee ballots before election day and require a voter bill of rights to be posted at every polling station. The Democratic governor’s push to change voting laws comes after the coronavirus pandemic upended elections in 2020. Republicans who control the Legislature have called for tightening election laws and are likely to toss out many of the voting proposals from Evers.  Evers wants to allow local officials to decide when early voting should begin, instead of limiting it to the two weeks before election day. Republicans put the early voting limits in place years ago, saying they wanted to make sure large communities don’t start early voting well before rural areas.  Evers is seeking to add a provision to state law that would require polling stations to post notices telling people they have a number of rights, including the right to vote if eligible, review a sample ballot before voting, cast a secret ballot, get assistance if they are disabled and report illegal activity. The notices would also have to alert people that they are allowed to vote if they are in line before the polls close. Evers wants to allow clerks to count absentee ballots on the day before election day if they want. Clerks have long asked for that authority, saying it would have helped them contend with an unprecedented influx of mail ballots during the pandemic. Under Evers’ plan, clerks could count absentee ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. the day before election day as long as they used automatic tabulating machines. Members of the public would be allowed to watch the process, just as they can observe voting at the polls.

Full Article: Tony Evers calls for expanding early voting as part of state budget

National: Falsehoods and death threats haunt local election workers weeks after Capitol siege | Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena/CNN

His staff endured racist taunts. His voicemail overflowed with threats and wild conspiracy theories. And then one day, a caller warned that the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville “was a practice run for what was coming to our polling places.” The abuse and threats hurled at Fulton County, Georgia, Elections Director Richard Barron and his staff in Atlanta between last year’s general election and the state’s high-stakes Senate runoffs on January 5 marked a new low in his 21-year career working on elections. “I used to have a sense of pride about this work,” Barron told CNN. “But I don’t think that I do anymore.” Around the country, election supervisors and the rank-and-file workers who helped carry out the nuts and bolts of American democracy still are reeling from the barrage of threats and the flood of falsehoods they had to navigate as they helped a record number of people cast ballots in a pandemic.

Full Article: Falsehoods and death threats haunt local election workers weeks after Capitol siege – CNNPolitics

Virginia to undergo statewide audit to determine integrity of 2020 presidential election | Chatham Star Tribune

The Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) will coordinate a statewide post-election Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) of the November 2020 General Election for President and U.S. Senate. The audit was announced by Christopher Piper, commissioner of the Department of Elections, at the Jan. 12, 2021 State Board of Elections meeting. Pursuant to Va. Code §24.2-671.1, ELECT is required to coordinate an annual post-election RLA of ballot scanner machines used in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All of the 133 localities in the Commonwealth of Virginia will be participating in the audit. ELECT is partnering with VotingWorks, a non-profit organization, which will be assisting with the statewide audit. Based on the vote totals and voter turnout, VotingWorks projects around 1,423 ballots will need to be retrieved by localities across the commonwealth to provide for an accurate audit. “This statewide audit helps to support the idea that the integrity of the election process is always of the utmost importance. The Department is continually vigilant on matters related to the security and accuracy of the vote in Virginia,” Piper said. “The ability to meaningfully participate in our democracy is one of the most important rights we have as citizens, and the Department of Elections is dedicated to maintaining voter confidence in the democratic process.” A statewide audit will provide opportunities for all localities and the public to participate. The audit kicks off on Feb. 16 for the general registrars and Electoral Board members. The basic steps involved in the upcoming RLA include creating a ballot manifest—localities will create a simple spreadsheet that lists all of the containers or the batches that contain the ballots cast and how many ballots are in each batch. All types of ballots are to be included (in person, mail-in, provisional, etc.). Once the ballot manifest is completed, localities will upload the spreadsheet into VotingWorks’ audit software. VotingWorks will hold another virtual meeting Feb. 22 to generate the random seed number. The random seed number is a 20-digit number created by a roll of dice. The random seed number entered into the audit system software generates the list of ballots for retrieval by each locality. 

Full Article: Virginia to undergo statewide audit to determine integrity of 2020 presidential election | State And National | chathamstartribune.com

National: Republican Efforts to Restrict Voting Risk Backfiring on Party | Ryan Teague Beckwith/Bloomberg

Republican lawmakers in battleground states are rushing to enact stricter voting laws that Democrats worry could dampen Black and Hispanic turnout, but the moves could end up backfiring because of the changing face of the GOP coalition. The flurry of legislation includes attempts to impose voter ID requirements and roll back pandemic-related expansion to mail-in access, steps that may inadvertently limit the participation of many of the older, rural and blue-collar voters that Republicans now depend on. State legislatures across the country are considering more than a hundred bills that would increase voter ID requirements, tighten no-excuse vote-by-mail, and ban ballot drop boxes, among other changes. That’s more than three times the number of bills to restrict voting that had been filed by this time last year, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice. This flood of legislation comes despite research showing that voter ID laws passed over the last decade not only don’t hamper minority turnout, but may even boost it by motivating angry Democrats and spurring stronger get-out-the-vote efforts.

Full Article: Republican Efforts to Restrict Voting Risk Backfiring on Party – Bloomberg

National: Election Tech Vendors File $5.3B in Defamation Lawsuits | Andrew Westrope/Government Technology

After years of preparation against election fraud and tampering, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in November called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.” The U.S. Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome. Nationwide election officialselection security experts and computer scientists, some of whom had expressed concerns about vulnerabilities before, came to the same conclusion. The consensus was clear. Still, in the weeks and months following the election, former President Donald Trump and several high-profile figures who supported him repeated specific claims. Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former attorney Sidney Powell, and several TV programs on Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN) echoed Trump’s allegations that the election had been stolen. Specifically, they blamed a multi-state conspiracy involving Democrats, Republicans and “rigged” voting machines from two companies, Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Within weeks, half of Republican voters said they believed the election had been stolen, and some of them on social media called for Dominion and Smartmatic employees to be jailed or sent them death threats. Now those companies are suing for a collective $5.3 billion in damages, and some election security advocates don’t blame them.

Full Article: Election Tech Vendors File $5.3B in Defamation Lawsuits

National: A GOP donor gave $2.5 million for a voter fraud investigation. Now he wants his money back. | Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine/The Washington Post

Like many Trump supporters, conservative donor Fred Eshelman awoke the day after the presidential election with the suspicion that something wasn’t right. His candidate’s apparent lead in key battleground states had evaporated overnight. The next day, the North Carolina financier and his advisers reached out to a small conservative nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. After a 20-minute talk with the group’s president, their first-ever conversation, Eshelman was sold. “I’m in for 2,” he told the president of True the Vote, according to court documents and interviews with Eshelman and others. “$200,000?” one of his advisers on the call asked. “$2 million,” Eshelman responded. Over the next 12 days, Eshelman came to regret his donation and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting, according to court records and interviews. Now, he wants his money back.

Full Article: True The Vote lawsuit: How GOP donor Fred Eshelman came to want his money back – The Washington Post

Arizona: Months after Biden win, election officials still face threats | Bob Christie/Associated Press

For months, the four elected Republicans and one Democrat on the board overseeing Arizona’s most populous county have been facing threats and harassment for backing election results that saw Democrat Joe Biden win in the state. That fury from some supporters of former President Donald Trump moved on this week to a GOP state senator, who had to change his phone number, flee his house with his wife and young son and get police protection. The focus on Sen. Paul Boyer came after he was the lone Republican who voted against a measure to subject the GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to arrest for refusing to honor a Senate subpoena. It required the county to hand over ballots and vote-counting machines to the Senate so they could triple-check the results. County supervisor Clint Hickman, a Republican who has endured protests outside his house and graphic threats of violence since after the November election, has held his tongue. But with the new attacks on Boyer, he says he’s had enough. “I’m talking now because they’re doing it to a state senator who had no idea what he was probably stepping into,” Hickman said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. Hickman described hateful and vicious threatening messages he’s received, a phalanx of 90 people protesting within 15 feet of his home’s front door and continuous attacks that have left his family fearful. All were from Trump supporters who questioned election results that saw a Democrat win Arizona for the first time since 1996.

Full Article: Months after Biden win, Arizona officials still face threats

Arizona GOP bill changes voting privacy | Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

Facing defeats in court, Republican lawmakers are moving to change the law — retroactively — in a bid to eventually get their hands on voting equipment and ballots, even if it takes months. Senate Bill 1408 would spell out in statute that county election equipment, systems, records and other information “may not be deemed privileged information, confidential information or other information protected from disclosure.” More to the point, the measure approved Thursday on a party-line 5-3 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee declares this information is “subject to subpoena and must be produced.” And it empowers judge to compel production of the materials and records. Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the panel, made it clear the legislation has one purpose: to force the hand of Maricopa County officials who have so far refused to comply with a subpoena the Senate has issued. They have produced various records. But supervisors contend the county is precluded from surrendering access to voting machines and the actual ballots to senators or the auditors they hope to hire. And so far the Senate’s efforts to get a court ruling compelling disclosure have faltered.

Full Article: GOP bill changes voting privacy | Your Valley

Georgia: Graham’s post-election call with Raffensperger will be scrutinized in probe | Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

An Atlanta-area prosecutor plans to scrutinize a post-Election Day phone call between Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of a criminal investigation into whether former president Donald Trump or his allies broke Georgia laws while trying to reverse his defeat in the state, according to a person familiar with the probe. The individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe, said the inquiry by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will include an examination of the call Graham, a staunch Trump ally, made to Raffensperger 10 days after the Nov. 3 election. During their conversation, Graham asked the Georgia secretary of state whether he had the power to toss out all mail ballots in certain counties, Raffensperger told The Washington Post in an interview days later. He said Graham appeared to be asking him to improperly find a way to set aside legally cast ballots. Graham denied that, saying he was seeking information to better understand how the state verified mail ballots. At the time, Trump was trailing Joe Biden by about 14,000 votes in Georgia, which was recounting by hand all 5 million ballots cast in the election.

Full Article: Graham’s post-election call with Raffensperger will be scrutinized in Georgia probe, person familiar with inquiry says – The Washington Post

Editorial: ‘Voting shouldn’t be easy’? Idaho’s laws shouldn’t be based on rumors, Trump’s ‘big lie’ | Idaho Statesman

Idaho held two successful elections in 2020. One of them was an all-mail ballot in the May primary and the other was the November presidential election, in which more than a half-million people voted by mail, turnout was a record and Idaho surpassed 1 million registered voters for the first time. So why, now, do some Republican Idaho legislators want to mess with success? “You know what? Voting shouldn’t be easy,” Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, said on the House floor Thursday in pitching a bill that would make so-called “ballot harvesting” a felony. It’s hard to believe, but several Idaho Republican legislators are trying to pass laws to make it harder to vote. “Ballot harvesting,” despite its ominous-sounding name, is the practice of collecting and delivering ballots on behalf of someone else. In opposition to Moyle’s bill, some legislators, Republican and Democratic, testified to ballot harvesting themselves or having their kids harvest ballots in their households. In defending his bill, Moyle cited a 2018 North Carolina case in which a Republican operative had tampered with ballots in a congressional race that was won by the Republican candidate and was subsequently overturned. Note: The perpetrator was caught and prosecuted under the state’s existing laws. Further, what he did wrong was not “ballot harvesting”; it was tampering with the ballots. But we have noticed something else about the debate: It’s based on unfounded fears, rumors and ultimately, Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Full Article: Idaho voting bills based on rumors and Trump’s ‘big lie’ | Idaho Statesman

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson to resign – ‘2020 took a toll on me’ | Kaitlin Lange/Indianapolis Star

Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Monday that she is stepping down.  “Like many Hoosiers, 2020 took a toll on me,” Lawson said in a statement. “I am resigning so I can focus on my health and my family. I will work with Governor Holcomb to ensure our next Secretary of State is up to the task and has the tools and resources to hit the ground running.” She said she will submit a formal resignation once Gov. Eric Holcomb selects her successor and he or she is ready to serve. Lawson is the longest serving secretary of state in Indiana history.  Former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Lawson in 2012 after Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office when he was convicted of six Class D felony charges, including voter fraud, perjury and theft. Lawson was subsequently elected in 2014 by more than 17 percentage points and then reelected in 2018 by almost 16 percentage points. She would have been up for reelection again in 2022. 

Source: Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson to resign

Iowa Democrats pushing ahead on recount reform; Republicans await US House decision | Tom Barton/Quad-City Times

State Democratic lawmakers plan to push forward a bipartisan proposal to reform Iowa’s election recount process in the wake of issues that arose in Iowa’s historically close U.S. House race, which is still being challenged in Congress. Republicans, meanwhile, say they will not wade into the issue until after the U.S. House resolves the disputed outcome in southeast Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. “We’re going to let the process play out in the (U.S.) House” before taking up or passing any proposed election reforms, said Davenport Republican state Sen. Roby Smith, chairman the Iowa Senate State Government Committee responsible for advancing such bills. “We can look at it this year and pass it next year, before the general election in 2022.” Wilton Republican state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chairman of the House State Government Committee, echoed Smith. Democrats, however, say they’re hopeful to get a bipartisan proposal passed yet this session that both parties can support. “I’d like us to be able to have a discussion about that and to have some give and take about what should be in that law,” said Iowa City Democrat state Rep. Mary Mascher, ranking member of the House State Government Committee. “We definitely know there should be changes made to our current law. … And I am hopeful that we can get that accomplished this session.”

Full Article: Democrats pushing ahead on Iowa recount reform; Republicans await US House decision | Iowa news | siouxcityjournal.com

Louisiana Voting Machine Search Halted Amid Vendot Hart InterCivic Complaint | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

Louisiana’s search for new voting machines was temporarily on hold Saturday after one of the vendors trying to compete for the work complained the contractor solicitation was drawn too narrowly and could sideline it and other qualified voting technology firms. Louisiana’s chief procurement officer Paula Tregre, whose office in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration oversees the bidding process, stalled the solicitation for vendors seeking the voting machine contract on Friday evening after receiving a complaint from Hart InterCivic. It wasn’t immediately clear when the contractor search would resume, if the entire solicitation would have to be rewritten or what other action might be taken. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican who is the state’s top elections official, suggested the decision to halt his office’s search was improper and unnecessary. The early disruption in Louisiana’s effort to shop for voting machines brought reminders of the secretary of state’s failed attempt in 2018 to replace its 10,000 early voting and Election Day equipment. Texas-based Hart InterCivic CEO Julie Mathis said several of the secretary of state’s requirements for contractors — including the type of voting system sought, the machines’ screen size and the phased approach to rolling out new machines — could “arbitrarily prevent the state from seeing all the best options available.” “We hoped the new solicitation would err on the side of inclusivity to ensure the state has the opportunity to evaluate all the best election systems available,” Mathis wrote in a Friday letter to Tregre and Ardoin. Upon receipt of the letter, Tregre responded with a “stay of solicitation” stopping the bid process. Tregre wrote that she was treating Hart InterCivic’s complaint as an official protest under the law. Mathis replied in a Friday email that the company hadn’t intended to “invoke a protest,” but rather to “open a dialogue.” But company spokesman Steven Sockwell on Saturday applauded Tregre’s approach.

Full Article: Louisiana Voting Machine Search Halted Amid Vendor Complaint | Louisiana News | US News

Michigan election audit affirms Nov. presidential results, Benson says | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

A statewide election audit has affirmed the results of the November presidential election in Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Friday. “This statewide audit process affirms what election officials on both sides of the aisle have said since November — that Michigan’s election was conducted securely and fairly, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters,” Benson said. The statewide risk-limiting audit was one of many audits conducted after the November general election meant to test the accuracy of the machine count and election results.  On Jan. 11, local and state election officials and staff rolled a 10-sided die to generate a 20-digit number that was plugged into auditing software to select more than 18,000 ballots to be reviewed by hand. Clerks across the state retrieved ballots selected in their jurisdictions and reviewed the votes cast for president. In the hand count, President Joe Biden received more votes than former President Donald Trump and the share of votes each candidate received was within a fraction of a percentage point of the certified results, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Biden won the state by more than 154,000 votes. “Although a random sample of 18,000 ballots would not be expected to exactly match the percentages of votes cast for candidates out of all 5.5 million ballots, the closeness in percentages between the hand-reviewed ballots and the machine-tabulated totals provides strong additional evidence of the accuracy of the machine count,” the Secretary of State’s Office said in a news release. 

Full Article: Michigan election audit affirms Nov. presidential results, Benson says

Nevada Democrats introduce bill to switch from caucus to primary in 2024 | Daniel Uria/UPI

Nevada Democrats on Monday introduced legislation to ditch the state’s caucus system and make it the first state to hold a presidential primary for the 2024 election. The bill introduced by Democratic state lawmakers Jason Frierson, Teresa Benitez-Thompson and Brittney Miller would set the state’s presidential primary for the Tuesday “immediately preceding the last Tuesday in January,” placing it ahead of New Hampshire on the primary schedule. Additionally, the legislation would require early voting for the primary election beginning 10 calendar days before the election and extending through the Friday before. Nevada is currently one of just four states to hold a caucus along with Iowa, Wyoming and North Dakota, while the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands also participate in the practice.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats introduce bill to switch from caucus to primary in 2024 – UPI.com

New Hampshire State Senator introduces bill to prohibit voting machines | Local News | Manchester Times

Senator Janice Bowling (Rep.) 16th District has introduced a bill that would require the state to only use watermarked paper ballots that would be hand marked by the voter.  SB1510 was introduced to the General Assembly Feb. 11. “As introduced, abolishes early voting; prohibits the use of voting machines; requires elections to be conducted with watermarked paper ballots that are hand-marked by the voter. – Amends TCA Title 2,” the description reads. According to the bill text, “A voter who claims, by reason of illiteracy or physical disability other than blindness, to be unable to mark the ballot to vote as the voter wishes and who, in the judgment of the officer of elections, is so disabled or illiterate, may have the ballot marked by a person of the voter’s selection or by one (1) of the judges of the voter’s choice in the presence of either a judge of a different political party or, if such judge is not available, an election official of a different political party.”

Full Article: Bowling introduces bill to prohibit voting machines | Local News | manchestertimes.com

Ohio elections chief again orders limit on ballot drop boxes | Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has reissued a contentious order limiting the number of ballot drop boxes to one per county for the May 4 primary. In a directive issued late Friday, the Republican elections chief set the limit in the context of a federal court opinion describing Ohio’s absentee voting options as “generous.” “Even though Ohio law does not explicitly provide for the use of secure receptacles, commonly known as ‘drop boxes,’ for an absentee voter to return their ballot to the director,” he wrote, “this Directive, once again, provides for the continued use of secure receptacles outside of the boards of elections.” A virtually identical order LaRose put in place for the 2020 election drew fierce criticism from the Ohio Democratic Party, voting and civil rights groups, labor unions and several Ohio cities, leading to litigation. The state GOP, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Trump for America campaign sided with LaRose in court. While courts allowed that order to stand, one describing Ohio’s restrictions as “reasonable and nondiscriminatory,” they rejected the argument LaRose had advanced publicly that he needed additional authority from the Legislature to expand drop boxes to multiple locations — because they’d initially established them on a one-time basis. Still, spokesperson Maggie Sheehan said in a statement on the new order that LaRose is maintaining the status quo while “the newly seated General Assembly takes up the question of the time, manner and location of alternative means for voters to return absentee ballots other than the United States Postal Service.”

Full Article: Ohio elections chief again orders limit on ballot drop boxes

Editorial: Pennsylvania voters need to be confident in our elections, so rejecting misinformation is key | Lanethea Mathews-Schultz/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee recently began a series of hearings on state election laws — ostensibly to learn more about the 2020 elections and with an eye toward improving the state’s future electoral process. It is difficult, however, to separate the causes and likely consequences of these hearings from past and ongoing efforts to sow doubt about election outcomes. The 2020 elections were the most litigated in Pennsylvania’s history. Sixty-four of our state legislative leaders were signatories to a letter urging Congress not to accept our state’s votes. At least 21 lawsuits were filed against the counting of state ballots. These objections to our state’s Electoral College results ultimately failed, but not before an insurrection in our nation’s Capitol and eight of our state’s federal representatives voted to disqualify Pennsylvania’s electoral ballots. Like voters around the nation, Pennsylvanians cast ballots in November under extraordinary circumstances — not only did a highly competitive presidential election drive unprecedented surges in turnout and mail-in voting, but it did so amid a global health pandemic, an operational crisis in the U.S. Postal Service, and widespread social unrest fueled by racial injustice. Many Pennsylvanians — despite being inundated with misinformation about mail-in ballots — voted by mail for the first time, an option made possible not by the pandemic, but by a bipartisan expansion of mail-in voting signed into law in 2019. Those who voted in person faced long lines and new COVID safety protocols. How has all of this shaped the confidence of state voters? Do Pennsylvanians believe we had a fair, safe, and accurate election? A postelection survey conducted by Muhlenberg College in December offers important, and troubling, insight.

Full Article: Pa. voters need to be confident in our elections, so rejecting misinformation is key | Opinion

Washington: Latino voters have higher than average ballot signature rejection rates in state | Joy Borkholder/InvestigateWest

Marissa Reyes still doesn’t understand why her signature would cause her August 2020 Benton County primary ballot to be tossed out. A letter from the county elections office challenging her signature came to her house in her hometown of Prosser. But Reyes had left for New York, where she had just finished college. Confused, neither Reyes nor her parents had the time to figure it all out before her ballot was rejected. “I definitely felt annoyed and a little apathetic, but definitely not surprised,” Reyes recalled. Fast-forward to November 2020, when the ballots of nearly 24,000 registered Washington voters were not counted because officials judged their ballot signatures to not match the signature on file, which is often the signature from their driver’s license. And in the eight Washington counties with the largest share of potential Latino voters, Hispanic-sounding names, like Reyes, are nearly four times more likely than other voters to have their ballot rejected for a signature mismatch, according to an InvestigateWest analysis of four recent elections. The curiously high rate of disenfranchisement among Latino voters could mean altered election outcomes.

Full Article: Latino voters have higher than average ballot signature rejection rates in Washington state | InvestigateWest

Wisconsin’s 2020 election will be audited, Republican-led state committee orders | Riley Vetterkind/The Journal Times

A Republican-controlled legislative committee on Thursday authorized a comprehensive audit of the administration of the November election, a move that Republicans said will increase confidence in the electoral process but one that Democrats said might be used as a vehicle to do the opposite. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee on a 6-4 party line vote authorized the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an audit into how the presidential election was conducted. State auditor Joe Chrisman said he anticipates the bureau will complete the audit by the fall of 2021 and that a series of findings could be reported along the way. The committee allowed officials a broad scope of inquiry, but the Audit Bureau has proposed looking into efforts by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to comply with state election laws, including its work with local election officials to ensure voter registration data includes only eligible voters and providing training and guidance to clerks. The audit is also expected to examine whether local clerks complied with election laws, including administering elections, processing absentee ballots and performing recount responsibilities. Other topics of inquiry are the use of electronic voting machines, including the methodology and results of the Elections Commission’s most recent statutorily required post-election audit and the actions taken in its wake; as well as a look at general election-related complaints filed with the WEC and local clerks, and how they were addressed.

Full Article: Wisconsin’s 2020 election will be audited, Republican-led state committee orders | Govt-and-politics | journaltimes.com

Wyoming Voter ID bill may be tip of the iceberg for electoral bills | Billy Arnold/Jackson Hole Daily

The Wyoming Legislature is considering a voter ID law, and the majority of Teton County’s delegation is confident it will pass. They also believe more bills seeking to change election systems are coming. Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, moderated Wednesday’s all-day legislative update, in which he and Teton County’s other representatives and senators chatted with local officials, business leaders and citizens about the state of the ongoing legislative session. They talked about taxes, school funding, state school trust lands in Teton County and more. But when it came to discussing proposed changes to the state’s election system, Democrats Rep. Andy Schwartz and Sen. Mike Gierau were dismayed. “I know virtually every county clerk and election officer in the state of Wyoming,” Gierau said, “and I happen to know for a fact that they would rather lose an arm than run a bad election. It’s just absolutely incredible to me that this would even come up. “But it will,” he said, “and it will pass.” Schwartz said he thought the measure proposed could make voting “difficult.” If the voter ID bill passes, as Gierau said, Wyoming will become one of only a handful of states to require photo identification to cast a ballot. The other states are Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia.

Full Article: Voter ID bill may be tip of the iceberg for electoral bills | Local | jhnewsandguide.com

National: ‘Reckless and stupid’: Security world feuds over how to ban wireless gear in voting machines | Eric Geller/Politico

A federal elections panel is set to adopt new voting equipment standards that fall short of a crucial demand of many security advocates — a ban on devices that contain hardware for connecting to wireless networks. Instead, manufacturers would have to demonstrate that any wireless gear in their voting machines and ballot scanners has been rendered unusable. The compromise language is dividing security professionals, with some warning it would create a dangerous loophole for voting machinery that already faces both real-world cyber risks and wildly false rumors that undermine trust in elections. Supporters call it a concession to marketplace realities, saying it’s increasingly hard for vendors to find equipment without networking hardware. But the proposal “profoundly weakens voting system security and will introduce very real opportunities to remotely attack election systems,” 22 security experts, activists and former election officials told the Election Assistance Commission in a Feb. 3 letter obtained by POLITICO. The experts included academics from Princeton, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at Berkeley. “This decision is unconscionable, reckless and stupid,” said Susan Greenhalgh, the senior adviser on election security at the activist group Free Speech for People, who helped organize the letter. The commission is expected to approve the compromise measure this week as part of a massive and long-awaited update to federal voting equipment guidelines, the latest step in years of election security efforts by federal and state authorities. Its decision to reject a tougher wireless ban drew new attention in recent weeks after it quietly updated the draft standards with new language spelling out its compromise on the issue.

Full Article: ‘Reckless and stupid’: Security world feuds over how to ban wireless gear in voting machines – POLITICO

National: New cyber panel chair zeros in on election security, SolarWinds hack | Maggie Miller/TheHill

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), the new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cyber panel, said she plans to tackle a wide range of cybersecurity challenges, but with an early focus on bolstering election security and responding to a massive hack that has compromised much of the federal government. As one of the top cyber experts on Capitol Hill, Clarke’s committee will also have its plate full with figuring out how best to allocate resources to hospitals and schools increasingly targeted by hackers, and helping support the nation’s key cyber agency as it enters its third month without Senate-confirmed leadership. Clarke told The Hill in one of her first interviews as chair of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation that the goal is to chart a course that keeps previous mistakes in the past. “We have to learn from our adverse experiences, and from learning should come innovation, should come a deep desire to make sure that we don’t revisit these types of hardships ever again,” said Clarke, who succeeds Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) atop the subcommittee. Clarke has served as both chair and ranking member of the panel in previous years. But this time around, she is taking the helm in the midst of an ongoing cybersecurity crisis stemming from the recently discovered Russian hack of IT group SolarWinds. The company counts much of the federal government as customers, with agencies including the Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and Treasury departments compromised. 

Full Article: New cyber panel chair zeros in on election security, SolarWinds hack | TheHill

National: New voting machine security standards are already drawing controversy | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

The Election Assistance Commission, an independent government body that issues voluntary voting guidelines to states and voting machine vendors, unanimously passed a new set of recommendations for voting machines.  Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 is the first major change to the commission’s recommendations since they were first established in 2005 and comes after a hotly contested 2020 presidential election in which former president Donald Trump and his allies lodged baseless allegations of fraud at state officials and voting machine companies. “Adopting VVSG 2.0 is the most important action the EAC has taken in 15 years”  EAC Commissioner Ben Hovland said at the vote yesterday. But the new standards are already drawing scrutiny from lawmakers and voting security advocates. They worry they leave loopholes allowing voting machine companies to skirt best practices and leave machines vulnerable to interference. They were approved as some of the nation’s most prominent voting machine companies are suing Fox News and top lawyers for Trump because of their unfounded fraud claims related to their machines. In a letter led by Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), more than 20 members of Congress are asking the EAC to reconsider its recommendations. The letter expresses concerns about how the guidelines frame the use of machines with parts that can connect to the Internet. “This is extremely troubling, as computer security and networking experts have warned that merely disabling networking capability is not enough,” they wrote. “Benign misconfigurations that could enable connectivity are commonplace and malicious software can be directed to enable connectivity silently and undetectable, allowing hackers access to the voting system software.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: New voting machine security standards are already drawing controversy – The Washington Post

National: Election Assistance Commission adopts updated voting security standards. Not everyone is happy. | Tim Starks and Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

The Election Assistance Commission on Wednesday voted to adopt the first comprehensive update to its voting system security guidelines in more than 15 years, concluding a lengthy process that ended with a mixed reception from some election security experts. The security community largely greeted the update as a security upgrade to standards that most states rely upon at least partially for their own equipment testing and certification. A significant number of academics, activists and even some in Congress, though, voiced displeasure in particular for how the so-called Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 would handle wireless connections on voting systems. The update stands to shape the next generation of voting systems that election vendors produce for use around the country during a period of sinking trust in the electoral process. Regardless, the more than five-year drafting process and resulting EAC vote won’t immediately transform election security because states, equipment manufacturers and others will take time to get in line with the new standards. On the plus side, experts said the guidelines — VVSG 2.0 for short — would promote “software independence,” which translates into machines needing to produce independently verifiable records. The result will be the existence of verifiable paper ballots that election officials can audit after votes are cast.

Full Article: Federal election agency adopts updated voting security standards. Not everyone is happy.

National: Election Assistance Commission adopts nationwide paper ballot guidelines | Kevin Collier/NBC

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted Wednesday to adopt sweeping new guidelines for the first time in 16 years, effectively solidifying the nationwide move to paper ballots. “That was a long time coming,” Ben Hovland, the EAC’s chair, said on a phone call. “It’s a major step forward.” The field of voting equipment standards in the U.S. is labyrinthine. The EAC, run by a rotating board of four commissioners — two from each major political party — moves slowly and at times has been hampered by partisan infighting. It can only suggest recommendations to states, which ultimately decide what type of equipment to use. But states in turn can only select from a limited market of equipment vendors, most of which closely hew to federal guidelines. In an emailed statement, eight of the country’s largest election equipment companies praised the new guidelines as a “significant achievement.”

Full Article: U.S. election commission adopts nationwide paper ballot guidelines

National: Last-Minute Tweaks to Voting Machine Standards Raise Cyber Fears | Kartikay Mehrotra/Bloomberg

Last-minute changes to proposed federal standards for new voting machines could expose the equipment to cyber-attacks, according to some members of Congress and security professionals. The Election Assistance Commission, slated to authorize new voting system guidelines on Feb. 10, amended key sections of a 328-page document less than two weeks before the decision. The amended language of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 would allow next generation voting machines to include components capable of wireless communications, as long as they’re disabled. The changes were made even though the EAC’s technical advisory committee recommended an outright wireless ban. Cybersecurity experts, some of the EAC’s own advisers and members of Congress are calling for the agency’s four commissioners to vote on a version of the document finalized in July 2020 which included the prohibition on wireless capability. In a letter reviewed by Bloomberg, a bipartisan coalition of more than 20 members of Congress led by Representative Bill Foster told the EAC’s Chairman Ben Hovland that the current version would “diminish confidence in both the federal voting system certification program and the security of our election systems.” “We cannot sanction the use of online networking capabilities when they carry the very real and increased risk of cyber-attacks, at scale, on our voting machines,” reads the letter. A four-member panel of commissioners will vote on whether to approve the new standards, which aim to create new guidelines for ease of use, accessibility and security of voting systems. The proposal includes amended standards to ensure all ballots types can be audited and counted both digitally and manually — a system that was essential to verifying President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia in November.

Full Article: Last-Minute Tweaks to Voting Machine Standards Raise Cyber Fears – Bloomberg