National: Biden and lawmakers raise alarms over cyber breach amid Trump silence | Anne Gearan, Karoun Demirjian, Mike DeBonis and Annie Linskey/The Washington Post

Democrats and some Republicans raised the alarm Thursday about a massive and growing cybersecurity breach that many experts blame on Russia, with President-elect Joe Biden implicitly criticizing the Trump administration for allowing the hacking attack to occur. “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyber attacks in the first place,” Biden said in a statement. “Our adversaries should know that, as president, I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation.” President Trump, by contrast, has said nothing about the hack affecting numerous federal agencies as well as U.S. companies. U.S. national security agencies are still assessing the scope and severity of the breach, which was discovered by a commercial firm. The president’s silence about an organized attack on the U.S. government marks the latest example of his persistent reluctance to criticize Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump has contradicted his own government’s findings about 2016 election hacking and disinformation efforts, and he has publicly accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word that Moscow was blameless.

Full Article: Biden and lawmakers raise alarms over cyber breach amid Trump silence – The Washington Post

National: Federal investigators find evidence of previously unknown tactics used to penetrate government networks | Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima/The Washington Post

Federal investigators reported Thursday on evidence of previously unknown tactics for penetrating government computer networks, a development that underscores the disastrous reach of Russia’s recent intrusions and the logistical nightmare facing federal officials trying to purge intruders from key systems. For days it has been clear that compromised software patches distributed by a Texas-based company, SolarWinds, were central to Russian efforts to gain access into U.S. government computer systems. But Thursday’s alert from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency at the Department of Homeland Security said evidence suggested there was other malware used to initiate what the alert described as “a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.” While many details remained unclear, the revelation about new modes of attack raises fresh questions about the access that Russian hackers were able to gain in government and corporate systems worldwide. “This adversary has demonstrated an ability to exploit software supply chains and shown significant knowledge of Windows networks,” the alert said. “It is likely that the adversary has additional initial access vectors and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that have not yet been discovered.”

Full Article: Federal investigators find evidence of previously unknown tactics used to penetrate government networks – The Washington Post

National: Pence prepares to oversee Trump’s loss — and then leave town | Gabby Ohr and Nahal Toosi/Politico

On Jan. 6, Vice President Mike Pence will oversee final confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Then he’ll likely skip town. As vice president, Pence has the awkward but unavoidable duty of presiding over the session of Congress that will formalize Biden’s Electoral College victory — a development that is likely to expose him and other Republicans to the wrath of GOP voters who believe President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him. But Pence could dodge their ire by leaving Washington immediately for the Middle East and Europe. According to three U.S. officials familiar with the planning, the vice president is eyeing a foreign trip that would take him overseas for nearly a week, starting on Jan. 6. Though Pence aides declined to confirm details of the trip, which remains tentative, a U.S. government document seen by POLITICO shows the vice president is due to travel to Bahrain, Israel and Poland, with the possibility of more stops being added. A pre-advance team of Pence aides and other U.S. officials left earlier this week to visit the planned stops in preparation for the multicountry tour, which would be Pence’s first trip abroad since last January, when he traveled to Rome and Jerusalem on a whirlwind two-day sojourn.

Full Article: Pence prepares to oversee Trump’s loss — and then leave town – POLITICO

National: Voting machine firm demands pro-Trump attorney retract bogus claims about 2020 election | Olivia Rubin and Matthew Mosk/ABC

The Colorado voting machine company that fringe pro-Trump forces have targeted with dark conspiracy theories of a rigged 2020 election is demanding that conservative lawyer Sidney Powell retract the “wild, knowingly baseless, and false” allegations she has made against them. Dominion Voting Systems made their demands in a letter to Powell, who has taken a central role in pushing the debunked theory that dark forces rigged Dominion machines to flip votes from Trump to former Vice President Joe Biden. The company’s letter represents its most aggressive posture to date, and signals the early stages of what could become heavy and costly pushback against the lawyers who have led a post-election campaign to discredit the 2020 election results. Pro-Trump attorneys have filed more than 60 lawsuits as part of the effort, nearly all of which have been dismissed, often with sharply-worded rulings. Despite having been repeatedly disputed by the company and disproven by federal election officials, the bogus conspiracy theory has spread fast and wide on social media and in conservative media outlets.

Full Article: Voting machine firm demands pro-Trump attorney retract bogus claims about 2020 election – ABC News

National: Lawmakers Scrap $500 Million in State Election Security Grants | Billy House/Bloomberg

Congressional negotiators have eliminated $500 million in election security grants to the states from a final version of a measure to fund the U.S. government into 2021, a top House Democrat says. That development comes as President Donald Trump and his allies continue to promote unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election, even though their allegations have been rejected by courts and state election officials. Mike Quigley, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said Wednesday he’d been told that the omnibus funding package being worked out with Senate negotiators “zeros out” the state assistance money. Quigley, who also serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is an enthusiastic proponent of the grants, called the move short-sighted and the timing “inexplicable,” especially given the threat of cyber attacks and other vulnerabilities faced by voting systems. Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey of New York, declined to confirm that the money was not included. The chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Ben Hovland, said in an interview Wednesday night that he had not been told officially of the fate of the $500 million and that, “it’s not done until it’s done.”

Full Article: Lawmakers Scrap $500 Million in State Election Security Grants – Bloomberg

Editorial: No, Congress’s Jan. 6 count isn’t another chance for Trump to reverse his loss | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post

Jan. 6 is not another Election Day. Don’t let President Trump convince you it is. What will happen then — a joint session of Congress to receive the presidential and vice-presidential election results transmitted by the states — typically occurs every four years in relative obscurity. But this election cycle has been anything but typical. While there’s no realistic chance of anything happening Jan. 6 to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power consistent with the will of America’s voters and Monday’s electoral college votes, there is still a good chance Trump will try to make the day a super spreader event for the election disinformation with which he is relentlessly trying to infect American democracy. Foreknowledge is, however, a form of inoculation here. By understanding exactly what does and doesn’t happen Jan. 6, all of us can contribute to making that day a reaffirmation of our democratic process rather than part of a continued assault on it. As required by the Constitution’s Twelfth Amendment, the House and Senate will gather in a joint session presided over by Vice President Pence. There, the slates of electors for president and vice president from the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, received by Congress from the state governments and accompanied by certificates from the governors, will be read out, and the vote totals will be counted. This is usually a routine process — as it should be, because federal law urges any disputes over such slates to be resolved in the states by Dec. 8, ahead of the electoral college meeting Dec. 14. That is to say any disputes (which are rare to begin with) are meant to be disposed of well before Congress gathers to count the electoral votes. It’s “really a formality,” as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) has rightly called the coming session. But it is at least possible for members of Congress to raise objections to one or more slates of electors as they’re read aloud. Under a 130-year-old law called the Electoral Count Act, if one representative and one senator jointly object to a slate, then the whole process pauses while the House and Senate separately debate the objection, then vote on whether to sustain it.

Full Article: No, Congress’s Jan. 6 count isn’t another chance for Trump to reverse his loss – The Washington Post

Georgia GOP Senators Lose Bid to Alter Mail-in Ballot Rules | Erik Larson/Bloomberg

A federal judge in Georgia rejected a lawsuit by the state’s two Republican senators seeking to change the mail-in ballot signature verification rules for their Jan. 5 runoff election, calling their worries about voter fraud “far too speculative.” U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross in Atlanta on Thursday granted the state’s motion to dismiss the suit brought by the Georgia Republican Party and the campaigns of Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, whose races will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Lawyers for Georgia’s embattled Republican elections chief, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argued at a Thursday hearing that the suit was filed far too late given that the current rules for verifying signatures on mail-in ballots were put in place months ago. Charlene McGowan, a lawyer for Attorney General Chris Carr, also a Republican, argued that the campaigns failed to provide evidence that any mail-in ballots had been cast fraudulently under the current rules, or even that they might be. She also accused the GOP of cherry-picking data about mail-in ballot rejection rates to falsely suggest Georgia rejected too few of them.

Full Article: GOP Georgia Senators Lose Bid to Alter Mail-in Ballot Rules – Bloomberg

Georgia: Judges dismiss two GOP lawsuit challenging absentee ballot rules | David Wickert/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Federal judges Thursday dismissed two Republican lawsuits that sought to change the rules for absentee voting in Georgia amid the hotly contested Jan. 5 runoff election. In the first case, a federal judge in Augusta rejected a Twelfth Congressional District Republican Committee lawsuit that, among other things, sought to eliminate the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in Georgia. In the second, a judge in Atlanta dismissed a request by the state’s two Republican incumbent U.S. senators – Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue – for more scrutiny of signature matching for absentee ballots. The lawsuits are part of an extraordinary effort by Republicans to ask courts to change the rules for absentee ballots amid the runoff election that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Through Wednesday, more than 423,000 Georgians had already cast absentee ballots for the runoff. Early in-person voting began Monday. “We are not even on the eve of an election,” J. Randal Hall, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Augusta, said in rejecting one of the lawsuits. “We are, as it relates to this particular election, closing in on halftime.”

Full Article: Judges dismiss two GOP lawsuit challenging Georgia’s absentee ballot rules

Georgia: An outraged Kemp blasts pro-Trump conspiracy theorists harassing his family | Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gov. Brian Kemp is fed up with the unrelenting attacks from conspiracy theorists calling on him to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. But he’s even more enraged that some of those peddlers of false claims are targeting his wife and three daughters. “It has gotten ridiculous — from death threats, (claims of) bribes from China, the social media posts that my children are getting,” he said. “We have the ‘no crying in politics rule’ in the Kemp house. But this is stuff that, if I said it, I would be taken to the woodshed and would never see the light of day.” The Republican singled out the invective targeting his daughter Lucy, who has received hate-filled messages about inane false conspiracies about the death of her longtime boyfriend, Harrison Deal, who was killed in a traffic accident this month in Savannah. “I can assure you I can handle myself. And if they’re brave enough to come out from underneath that keyboard or behind it, we can have a little conversation if they would like to.” Kemp, speaking to reporters shortly after a vaccine-related event at Grady Memorial, did not blame President Donald Trump for the wrath he’s facing from Republicans, even though the president has stoked the fury by blasting Kemp for refusing to illegally reverse his defeat in Georgia. “As far as I know, my relationship with the president is fine. I know he’s frustrated, and I’ve disagreed on things with him before,” he said, adding: “Look, at the end of the day, I’ve got to follow the laws and the Constitution and the Constitution of this state.” Trump has repeatedly vented his outrage at Kemp, and has called him a “clown,” predicted he would lose the 2022 Republican primary and said he was “ashamed” for endorsing him in 2018. At his rally in Valdosta, Trump encouraged U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to run against Kemp in two years. State elections officials say there is no evidence of systemic irregularities, and courts at every level have tossed out every complaint.

Full Article: An outraged Kemp blasts pro-Trump conspiracy theorists harassing his family

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul falsely claims presidential election was ‘stolen’ | Morgan Watkins/Louisville Courier Journal

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul continues to falsely claim — without proof — voter fraud played a role in the election of President-elect Joe Biden. The Kentucky Republican said during a Wednesday congressional hearing the election “in many ways was stolen.” Paul made that baseless comment during a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held in Washington, D.C., two days after the Electoral College met nationwide and formally awarded Biden 306 electoral votes versus Trump’s 232 electoral votes, based on the certified November election results. The Electoral College’s vote Monday affirmed Biden’s victory. In light of that, Kentucky’s other Republican senator, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, finally acknowledged Biden as the president-elect on Tuesday. “The Electoral College has spoken,” he said that morning. But Paul, who has represented Kentucky in Congress since 2011, still refuses to recognize Biden’s defeat of President Donald Trump. Similarly, Trump himself continues to falsely claim, without evidence, the election was compromised by voter fraud. He has lost numerous legal challenges over the election results in court over the past several weeks.

Full Article: Sen. Rand Paul falsely claims presidential election was ‘stolen’

Michigan Antrim County Hand Recount Confirms Accuracy of Machine Recount, with 12-Vote Gain for Trump | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

An audit of Antrim County election results Thursday gave President Donald Trump a net gain of 12 votes from the certified results in the northern Michigan county, a small gain in light of unsubstantiated allegations of mass fraud targeting the county’s election software. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s total decreased by one vote, from 5,960 to 5,959, while Trump’s increased 11 votes, from 9,748 to 9,759, according to preliminary results from the county’s more than seven-hour, livestreamed audit. Biden won the state of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes on Nov. 3, according to certified results. Third-party presidential candidates in Antrim County were off by zero to one vote compared with certified results. “This is very typical of what we find in a hand-count of ballots,” said Lori Bourbonais, with the Michigan Department of State. “It is normal to find one or two votes in a precinct that differ between a hand tally and machine count.” Earlier this month, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a zero-margin risk-limiting audit of the presidential election in Antrim County. The audit includes a hand-tally of every ballot and compares that tally with machine-tabulated results. Among those assisting with the audit were staff from the Michigan Bureau of Elections; Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, a Republican; Rochester Hills Clerk Tina Barton, a Republican, and Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope, a Democrat.

Full Article: Antrim County audit shows 12-vote gain for Trump

Michigan: Benson refuses to testify at House, says committee ‘wounding our democracy’ | Dave Boucher/Detroit Free Press

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has refused an invitation to testify before a House legislative committee, arguing the committee’s previous hearings with Rudy Giuliani and others show lawmakers are focused more on politics and undermining election integrity than on earnest reforms. On Wednesday, Benson tweeted a copy of the letter sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman Matt Hall, R-Emmett Township. In a statement Wednesday, Hall said Benson was “playing cheap political games.” Hall’s committee received international attention after Giuliani essentially commandeered portions of the more than four-hour proceeding, questioning his own witnesses while lawmakers largely watched. He used the misleading and inaccurate information provided during the hearing to argue state lawmakers must intervene in Michigan’s ultimate election outcome and give the state to President Donald Trump. Noting some of this testimony, Benson argued the committee has the duty to publicly state the Michigan election was conducted fairly in order to combat misinformation spread during previous committee hearings. “This is the truth, as certified by our State Board of Canvassers, and it is important that every leader acknowledge this is in order for us to move forward and solve many of the critical issues ahead of us,” Benson wrote in the letter, dated Tuesday.

Full Article: Benson refuses to testify at House, says committee ‘wounding our democracy’

Ohio: Franklin County examines 2020 Election, looks to future changes | Catherine Ross/WCMH

With the 2020 election in the rearview, the Franklin County Board of Elections is bracing for several changes in 2021. Thursday, the board was conducting its post-election audit to make sure all equipment and procedures worked properly. It was one of the final loose ends to tie on the election cycle. “It’s been an incredible year. We’re certainly glad it’s been completed and we’re putting it to a bookend,” said public information officer Aaron Sellers. Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners approved $2.5 million in funding for the Board of Elections to cover the costs of several things, including replacing the voter registration database and eventually replacing the county’s poll pads. Sellers explained the current voter registration system is 15 years old and increasingly costly to maintain. The board will be rolling out a new database ahead of the May 2021 Primary Election. On Election Day 2020, some polling locations experienced long lines when the electronic poll pads, used to scan voters’ IDs and find their voter information, were unable to download the large file. “The reason why we went to paper the morning of the election was associated with the inability to manage the amount of data that was associated with unprecedented voting activity,” explained Franklin County administrator Kenneth Wilson.

Full Article: Franklin County examines 2020 Election, looks to future changes | NBC4 WCMH-TV

Republican lawmakers hold up Wisconsin recount funds as counties finalize costs | Briana Reilly and Abigail Becker/The Capital Times

The Legislature’s powerful budget committee is, for now, refusing to reimburse Dane and Milwaukee county officials for their work in conducting the election recount President Donald Trump requested and paid for following his loss in Wisconsin. The panel, controlled by Republicans, officially paused the process last Friday after one member raised an objection to the ask, meaning the full Joint Finance Committee may have to meet before the dollars are passed on. The state already has $3 million from Trump’s campaign to cover what the counties’ estimated costs were for the recount. The identity of the lawmaker who raised the objection is unknown, but the offices of the committee’s co-chairs say it came about because only the initial estimate of the costs is available, while the final figures haven’t yet been completed or shared. “The committee simply needs more information,” co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said in a statement. “At the time the request was before the committee, and still today, we do not know the actual costs of the recount. Once those counties submit their receipts, we will have more information.” On Monday, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said in an email that the county is working through the billing process to determine a final cost for the recount. He had been waiting on a bill from the Madison Police Department, which he expected to be “significant.”

Full Article: Republican lawmakers hold up Wisconsin recount funds as counties finalize costs | Local Government | madison.com

Wisconsin Senate leader wants bill by July to allow absentee counting before Election Day | Molly Beck and Alison Durr/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The incoming leader of the state Senate is pushing legislation to allow election officials to count absentee ballots before Election Day — a change some election officials have sought for years. Republican state Sen. Devin LeMahieu, who will begin the new legislative session as Senate Majority Leader, said he wants the Legislature to expand the amount of time absentee ballots may be counted by July, according to the Associated Press. “I have no idea where my caucus would be at on that but I would think (it would pass),” LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, told the AP. “As long as it’s secure, I would think we could get there.” The proposal, which LeMahieu has previously pushed for unsuccessfully, comes in the wake of the November presidential election during which a massive influx of absentee ballots forced election officials in Milwaukee and elsewhere to count absentee ballots well after midnight because of a state law that requires election officials to wait until Election Day to begin counting.

Full Article: Senate leader wants bill by July to allow absentee counting before Election Day

Australia: Cyber attacks on elections growing amid concern for political parties | Anthony Galloway/Sydney Morning Herald

State actors are increasingly launching cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns to interfere in elections, as one Australian MP calls for political parties to be considered “critical infrastructure” so they can better fend off the attacks. New research says Russia is the most prolific state actor engaging in online interference against democratic elections, followed by China, which has significantly increased its cyber arsenal over the past two years, while Iran and North Korea are also offenders. All four countries have tried to interfere in the 2020 United States presidential election, using a combination of cyber attacks and online disinformation campaigns. Australian intelligence agencies found China was responsible for a cyber attack on Federal Parliament and its three main political parties last year, but kept the finding secret to avoid souring trade relations with Beijing. The Australian government also suspects China was probably behind a series of cyber raids this year on all levels of government, industry and critical infrastructure, including hospitals, local councils and state-owned utilities. New research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has identified 41 elections and seven referendums around the world between January 2010 and October 2020 where cyber-enabled foreign interference was identified, finding there has been a significant uptick over the past three years.

Full Article: Cyber attacks on elections growing amid concern for Australia’s political parties

Bulgaria’s election watchdog shortlists six bidders in voting machines tender | The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said late on December 16 that it shortlisted six of the eight bidders in the tender to purchase 9600 voting machines, worth 36 million leva, or about 18.4 million euro. The other two bidders were disqualified on the grounds that they represented the same consortium, which breached the terms of the tender, CEC said. The CEC will open the bids on December 18 but gave no deadline for picking the winner of the tender. In addition to the physical delivery, the contract includes the software used by the voting machines and its source code, so that it can be “modified for all types of elections envisioned in the Electoral Code, without the supplier’s input,” the CEC said earlier, when it announced the tender. Also included in the tender is servicing the voting machines for the parliamentary elections, due in spring 2021, and training elections officials in the use of the machines. Bulgaria’s rollout of machine voting has been plagued by repeated delays – after the CEC was unable to secure 13 000 machines ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections, the National Assembly legislated that the number of voting machines used would increase with each election. About 3000 machines were used in the 2019 European Parliament election, but an Electoral Code provision that called for 6000 machines to be deployed in the local elections later that year was scrapped, on the grounds that it would complicate the electoral process.

Full Article: Bulgaria’s election watchdog shortlists six bidders in voting machines tender | The Sofia Globe

Philippines: Biometric election solution providers pitch on remote online voting systems | Heart Castañeda/Manila News

Biometric technology providers Voatz and Smartmatic will pitch their remote online voting systems as two of four companies being considered by the Philippines government in a four-day set of consultations, the Philippine Canadian Inquirer reports. Meetings between the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV), the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the four companies, which also include Dominion Voting Systems and Indra, are expected to wrap up this week. “The purpose of the consultation is to be able to gather enough information on online voting that can be presented to Congress for its consideration,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said, according to the Inquirer. “If and when such a system is eventually put into action depends on Congress.” Jimenez also said the solutions may not be in place for the upcoming elections in 2022. The Philippines began automating its election system in 2010, and utilized vote counting machines in 2019.

Full Article: Biometric election solution providers pitch Philippines on remote online voting systems – Manila News

National: Former CISA Director Krebs again defends election security efforts | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Chris Krebs, who was fired last month as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency by President Donald Trump after saying that the 2020 presidential election was “the most secure” in U.S. history, repeated that message as a private citizen Wednesday to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Speaking during a session that the panel’s chairman, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., convened for the purposes of “examining irregularities” with the Nov. 3 election, Krebs held up the work done by his former agency and by state and local election officials who spent nearly four years replacing voting equipment, refining security practices and ensuring that nearly every ballot cast was recorded on paper. “There are a number of different computers, systems, machines involved in the entirety of the election process from registration to ballot design to ballot printing to actual voting, to tabulation,” Krebs said in response to Johnson asking about technologies used in the voting process. “But election officials are very careful that technology is not a single point of failure and that there are security controls before, during and after the process. As long as you have the paper — you can’t hack paper — you can run that process.” While Johnson and some of his fellow Republican members — as well as other witnesses, including some of the attorneys who’ve represented Trump in his unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to overturn his electoral loss — brought up evidence-free claims of fraud, much of the hearing focused on the misinformation about the voting process that’s flooded social media in the weeks since Election Day, as well as the threats and harassment received by election officials. Krebs said that while it’s “pretty straightforward” to debunk the claims, often promoted by the outgoing president and his supporters, that equipment manufactured by certain vendors switched people’s votes, their ongoing prevalence has had deleterious effects on democracy and on the people who conduct the election process. “We’re past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election,” Krebs said. “I think continued assaults on democracy, and the outcome of this election, is ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections.”

Full Article: Former CISA Director Krebs again defends election security efforts

National: The key to future election security starts with a roll of the dice | Patrick Howell O’Neill/MIT Technology Review

We’re now six weeks past Election Day, and electors in every state followed the will of the voters and confirmed the victory of Joe Biden. But while the Electoral College made the results official, President Donald Trump is continuing to protest them, despite having lost dozens of court cases within the past month. In any case, Congress is slated to complete the process of electing Biden on January 6. President Trump’s attack on American elections accelerated a problem that already existed in the United States: the public doesn’t trust the vote. So how can we help more Americans believe in the most important function of our democracy? One of the states with the most contentious states votes in 2020 might have something to tell us. Georgia’s election was close. When it turned out that were only 12,000 votes separating Joe Biden from Donald Trump, the world turned its attention to the count there. The state’s election processes have changed significantly in just the last year, including a switch to more secure paper ballots and a law requiring a post-election audit, which was then used to examine this year’s tight presidential race. An audit is not a recount. Instead, it is a routine check of a portion of ballots, using statistical tests to root out anomalies. This is meant to increase everyone’s confidence that the outcome is correct. Georgia’s secretary of state, a Republican, ran the audit this year: it discovered and corrected a relatively small number of counting errors. That process was open and transparent, and the changes were too few to affect the results. In the end, it reaffirmed Joe Biden’s win in Georgia.

Full Article: The key to future election security starts with a roll of the dice | MIT Technology Review

National: Senate hearing elevates baseless claims of election fraud | Christina A. Cassidy and Mary Clare Jalonek/Associated Press

Republican senators on Wednesday further perpetuated President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, two days after Democrat Joe Biden’s victory was sealed by the Electoral College. Lawmakers bickered heatedly at times during a committee hearing as Democrats pushed back against the unfounded allegations and a former federal cybersecurity official who oversaw election security said continued attempts to undermine confidence in the process were corrosive to democracy. The session, held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee over Democratic protests, elevated the groundless claims of fraud to the highest levels of government and provided two of Trump’s lawyers with one more public opportunity to make the false assertions after repeatedly losing in court. The hearing mimicked those held in some battleground states with local lawmakers, where Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani led some Republicans in airing their election grievances without any proof. Those hearings were held after consistent legal defeats. GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the committee chairman and one of Trump’s fiercest defenders, said his goal was to have a bipartisan hearing to examine the election. But he repeated Trump’s assertions without evidence and focused heavily on the claims being made by the president’s team. There was no testimony from state or local election officials who conducted extensive checks to ensure the accuracy of the election before certifying the results. Those officials have said there was no indication of any widespread fraud.

Full Article: Senate hearing elevates baseless claims of election fraud

National: ‘Conspiracy theories and lies’: Democrats cry foul as GOP airs unsupported election claims | Kyle Cheney/Politico

A Republican-led Senate panel provided a three-hour platform for allies of President Donald Trump to dispute the results of the 2020 election, with the hearing at one point devolving into a shouting match between the top Republican and Democrat on the committee. Throughout the partisan clash, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Ron Johnson argued the forum was simply to evaluate information, while Democrats like Gary Peters countered it was giving oxygen to conspiracy theories undermining U.S. democracy. GOP-called witnesses, including two Trump campaign lawyers described rampant fraud in Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, some of which had been considered and scrapped in court, others of which had no basis. The one witness called by Democrats, the Trump administration’s former top election security official Christopher Krebs, served as a counterweight. He urged Americans to put baseless election disputes behind them and warned that false conspiracy claims had fueled violent threats to election officials — including himself. “I think we’re past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election,” said Krebs, who ran the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security agency until Trump fired him last month. The attacks from Trump and his GOP allies on the election, he said, are “ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections.”

Full Article: ‘Conspiracy theories and lies’: Dems cry foul as GOP airs unsupported election claims – POLITICO

National: Senate GOP has accepted Biden’s win but continues to push misleading fraud claims |  Karoun Demirjian/The Washington Post

Senate Republicans may be acknowledging President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over President Trump, but the politically charged fight over Trump’s fallacious claims about voter fraud rages on — and threatens to overshadow legitimate efforts to safeguard future elections. A Wednesday hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee became a forum for Republicans, led by its departing chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), to re-air Trump’s baseless case against the election results in swing states as the president cheered them on from a distance. Complaining that courts threw out Trump’s election lawsuits on mere “technicalities,” GOP senators and aligned witnesses warned that until their concerns were addressed, public trust in the security of the election process would not be restored. There is no evidence of significant or widespread voter fraud, as the president and his allies continue to insist. Trump’s own attorney general has made that clear while the courts overwhelmingly have dismissed his campaign’s unprecedented effort to overturn Biden’s victory. Across more than 50 cases, at least 88 judges — including 39 appointed or nominated by Republicans — have turned down Trump’s legal challenges in procedural rulings or decisions on their merits. Yet in the face of such resounding loss, the president and his most influential supporters remain undeterred, claiming fraud is a legitimate problem.

Full Article: Senate GOP has accepted Biden?s win but continues to push misleading fraud claims – The Washington Post

National: Russian hack reveals weaknesses in government cybersecurity protections | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A major Russian breach is prompting fears the government’s cybersecurity protections have fallen dangerously behind. Lawmakers and experts are sounding alarms that billions of dollars’ worth of custom-made government cybersecurity systems aren’t equipped to spot the most nefarious Russian hacker activity. And they’re warning the government is poorly organized to respond to such breaches once they come to light. “This really reinforced the need to double down on our cyber defensive strategy,” Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, told me. The breach is highlighting how years of efforts to create state-of-the-art cybersecurity protections within government have nevertheless failed to keep out sophisticated Russian hackers who’ve also been improving their game. Notably, the government has fallen behind at keeping tabs on the vast supply chain of technology that runs its computer systems, making it more vulnerable to attacks such as the recent one, which began with Russian hackers breaking into the Texas software company SolarWinds. The hackers then sent corrupted updates to customers including the State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security departments, and probably to many other government agencies and companies as well. “It’s going to take far too long for the executive branch to inventory precisely where Orion [the SolarWinds system] is deployed and utilized and that demonstrates the critical importance of supply chain security,” Langevin said.

Full Are: The Cybersecurity 202: Russian hack reveals weaknesses in government cybersecurity protections – The Washington Post

National: Christopher Krebs tells GOP ‘move on’ from election fraud claims | Kristine Phillips/USA Today

Former election security chief Christopher Krebs said he has not seen anything that would change his opinion that the 2020 election was secure and urged Republicans to call out baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. “This is not the America I recognize. It’s got to stop. We need everyone across the leadership ranks to stand up,” Krebs said during a testimony Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “I would appreciate more support from my own party, the Republican Party, to call this stuff out and move on. … We have to move on.”Krebs also defended local and state election officials who have been the subject of threats and harassment for refusing to back claims of massive fraud. He singled out Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting implementation manager. “These are Republicans that are putting country over party,” Krebs said. “They are being subjected to just horrific threats as a result.” Krebs, who presided over an elaborate election security effort by the Department of Homeland Security, was fired by President Donald Trump last month as part of a post-election purge of top national security officials. Krebs’ ouster follows the agency’s declaration that the general election was the most secure in U.S. history.

Full Article: Christopher Krebs tells GOP ‘move on’ from election fraud claims

National: Guess which states saw the most election disinformation in 2020 | Tate Ryan-Mosley/MIT Technology Review

On November 3, Tina Barton ran into a problem. It was Election Day in the US and Barton, a Republican, was city clerk for Rochester Hills, Michigan, a conservative-leaning community near Detroit. As her team was uploading voting results, a technical issue resulted in the double counting of some votes. The error wasn’t initially realized, but within 24 hours, it was noticed and reported to Oakland County officials. The voting data was quickly fixed, but by that time the entire country was looking at the state’s election results. The change was very public, and it generated a huge swell of misinformation. This was supercharged on November 6, when Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, flew to Oakland County and held a press conference. She claimed that 2,000 ballots had been counted as Republican before being “given” to Democrats in an accusation of election fraud. “If we are going to come out of this and say this was a fair and free election, what we are hearing from the city of Detroit is deeply troubling,” McDaniel said. Upset at how the situation was being misrepresented, Barton posted a video on Twitter refuting the claims. She’s been the Rochester Hills clerk for eight years, and when she spoke out against McDaniel, she knew she was putting her career on the line. In the video, which has since been deleted, Barton said, “I am disturbed that this is intentionally being mischaracterized to undermine the election process.” Her remarks went viral, and they were met with threats and anger. In an email to MIT Technology Review, Barton said that “since Ms. McDaniel’s press conference, I have received threatening voice mails and messages.” One caller claimed to be on the way to Michigan. Barton upgraded the security system of her home.

Full Article: Guess which states saw the most election disinformation in 2020 | MIT Technology Review

Arizona Bill would permit outside parties to pay for election recounts | Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

Anyone who thinks a recount of an election might change the outcome would have the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is under a new bill filed for the 2021 legislative session. Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is reviving a proposal he sponsored two years ago that would permit outside parties to pay for recounts. State law currently only permits recounts under extremely narrow circumstances if races are particularly close. For a statewide contest, recounts are only triggered if the margin of victory is 200 votes or one tenth of one percent of the total votes for both candidates. Senate Bill 1010 would allow anyone to request a recount in a race, conducted either through the tabulation machines that election officials use to count ballots or a much more intensive hand count, regardless of the margin of victory. But whoever makes the request would have to foot the bill. The requester would have to post a bond for whatever amount a superior court judge deems sufficient to cover the costs. “It can be frustrating, at the very least, if you believe an outcome should’ve been different — whether you’re right or wrong, or have reason to believe it or not — to not be able to go in and verify that, and even be able to go in and pay for the cost of it. There’s no mechanism for doing that now,” Mesnard said. The proposal comes amid baseless allegations and conspiracy theories among supporters of President Donald Trump that Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election was the result of fraud, particularly Arizona and several other swing states that secured the former vice president’s victory.

Full Article: Bill would permit outside parties to pay for election recounts

Colorado lawmakers clash over election integrity hearing | Patty Nieberg/Associated Press

A top legal advisor to President Donald Trump was among those testifying at a Tuesday hearing called by Republican state lawmakers to look into any irregularities concerning Colorado’s mail-in voting system — a system praised by both major parties as among the nation’s safest and responsible for the largest turnouts in the U.S. in 2020. The reason for and timing of the Legislative Audit Committee hearing, called by Republican committee chair Rep. Lori Saine of Weld County, befuddled many, coming a day after the Electoral College certified Joe Biden’s presidential win. Saine told fellow lawmakers its goal was to put to rest “any doubt” about election irregularities in the state. “The election belongs to the people of Colorado and that question deserves our utmost focus and attention,” she said. Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, implored the panel to investigate Dominion Voting Systems, reiterating debunked claims that the company’s voting machines software altered the result of the presidential election. Elections officials have repeatedly denounced statements questioning Colorado’s election integrity, and Dominion has refuted claims about any deleted or changed votes. Secretary of State Jena Griswold noted in written testimony that Dominion software has been widely used in Colorado since 2015 and, in some districts, going back to the 1990s.

Full Article: Colorado lawmakers clash over election integrity hearing

Georgia: GOP launches legal war on absentee voting ahead of runoffs | Zach Montellaro and James Arkin/Politico

Federal judges in Georgia will hear arguments Thursday in Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of next month’s Senate runoffs — the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans have filed three lawsuits in the state ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate in 2021. The suits primarily target the use of drop-boxes to return absentee ballots, as well as aiming to raise the threshold for signature verifiers to accept absentee ballots. The net result of the suits, which are backed by a combination of local, state and national Republican Party organizations, would make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections — and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates. The legal efforts are likely just the start of a yearlong push by state Republicans to tighten voting rules in response to the 2020 election, which prompted unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud from Trump, his supporters and other GOP leaders who are convinced that the contest wasn’t fair. Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among others, have already announced their intention to seek changes to state election laws next year in response to perceived irregularities, and Trump’s opposition to mail voting in 2020 — coupled with the way those late-counted ballots broke against him in some key states — has destroyed the decades-long bipartisan consensus on expanding the practice.

Full Article: GOP launches legal war on absentee voting ahead of Georgia runoffs – POLITICO

Georgia: Loeffler won’t say whether she’ll formally challenge Biden’s win in Senate | Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler won’t say whether she’ll formally challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory when Congress convenes a day after twin Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. David Perdue won’t have a say even if he wins another term. The two Republicans have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory and echoed President Donald Trump’s false assertions of widespread voter fraud. They’re under pressure not to alienate the president – and his loyal base – ahead of the high-stakes election. Shortly after she cast her ballot on Wednesday, Loeffler was noncommittal over whether she would join an effort by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama to challenge Biden’s victory when Congress meets to formally ratify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. The effort is doomed to fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has congratulated Biden on his victory and told his GOP colleagues Tuesday that he wouldn’t back the push to circumvent the voter’s will. Still, some supporters of the president have sought to cast Loeffler, who has relentlessly promoted her pro-Trump voting record, as a wild card who could join the challenge in the Senate. Pressed on her stance, Loeffler said Jan. 6 is a “long ways off.”

Full Article: Loeffler won’t say whether she’ll formally challenge Biden’s win in Senate