North Dakota activists race to turn out Indigenous vote despite mail-in ballot challenges | Adam Willis/The Dickinson Press

Sisters Joletta and Theodora Bird Bear live across from one another on a remote stretch of western North Dakota highway roughly 9 miles east of Mandaree, a town of about 600 people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Their homes are just past a cluster of four roadside oil wells and before the recently paved intersection on the other side of the hill. “Don’t look at Google,” says Joletta when offering directions to her home. “You’ll end up somewhere 30 miles away.” Joletta and Theodora, Mandan Hidatsa members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, have spent most of their lives on rural Fort Berthold without street addresses that allow for easy mail delivery, nor mailboxes at the end of their long driveways. To pick up her mail, Joletta drives to the Mandaree post office, where for more than 20 years her mother worked as the town postmaster. When she retired, Joletta succeeded her. All told, the Bird Bears staffed the Mandaree post office — a place of unique importance on North Dakota’s tribal lands — for more than 40 years. With many homes like the Bird Bears’ lacking easily accessible addresses or regular route postal delivery, the post office provides a critical communication line and medical supply delivery to largely rural areas with below-average internet access and spotty cellphone coverage. For activist Nicole Donaghy, a Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and director at North Dakota Native Vote, an Indigenous voting rights group, the post office is “one of the very few lifelines that goes into a reservation.” It acts as a center of gravity for its region, a bedrock for community and a link to the country surrounding sovereign nations.Sisters Joletta and Theodora Bird Bear live across from one another on a remote stretch of western North Dakota highway roughly 9 miles east of Mandaree, a town of about 600 people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Their homes are just past a cluster of four roadside oil wells and before the recently paved intersection on the other side of the hill. “Don’t look at Google,” says Joletta when offering directions to her home. “You’ll end up somewhere 30 miles away.” Joletta and Theodora, Mandan Hidatsa members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, have spent most of their lives on rural Fort Berthold without street addresses that allow for easy mail delivery, nor mailboxes at the end of their long driveways. To pick up her mail, Joletta drives to the Mandaree post office, where for more than 20 years her mother worked as the town postmaster. When she retired, Joletta succeeded her. All told, the Bird Bears staffed the Mandaree post office — a place of unique importance on North Dakota’s tribal lands — for more than 40 years. With many homes like the Bird Bears’ lacking easily accessible addresses or regular route postal delivery, the post office provides a critical communication line and medical supply delivery to largely rural areas with below-average internet access and spotty cellphone coverage. For activist Nicole Donaghy, a Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and director at North Dakota Native Vote, an Indigenous voting rights group, the post office is “one of the very few lifelines that goes into a reservation.” It acts as a center of gravity for its region, a bedrock for community and a link to the country surrounding sovereign nations.

Ohio: Voting-rights’ groups end federal fight over drop boxes in presidential election | John Caniglia/Cleveland Plain Dealer

A legal fight to add more drop boxes in Ohio counties before Election Day ended Thursday, as voting-rights’ advocates dismissed their federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The NAACP of Ohio, the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute of Ohio filed a brief notice that dropped all claims against LaRose in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.The filing marked the end of a contentious issue that lasted six weeks and bounced between a federal judge in Cleveland and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in LaRose’s favor earlier this month and limited the number of drop boxes across the state. “We believe the appeals’ decision was wrong, but we didn’t have any other options,” said Jon Greenbaum, an attorney representing the organizations. “We weren’t going to make it better by appealing that decision.“At a future date, it can be brought up with new information, including from the 2020 election.”

Pennsylvania: Talks collapse on a deal to let counties open mail ballots before Election Day | Cynthia Fernandez and Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Negotiations between the Republican-led legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf to let counties begin opening mail ballots in Pennsylvania before Election Day appeared to collapse Wednesday, setting up a potential nightmare scenario that some fear could leave the state counting millions of ballots for days after Nov. 3.The Democratic governor and legislative leaders had been negotiating behind closed doors as recently as Tuesday to change the election code after months of inaction. But the General Assembly adjourned Wednesday and is not scheduled to reconvene until Nov. 10, a week after the election. In adjourning, Republicans turned away pleas from county elections officials across the state, who said allowing them to open ballots before Election Day would reduce the staffing strain and administrative headaches on top of whatever issues they’re dealing with during in-person voting. Without a deal, the days-long process of counting mail ballots can’t begin until 7 a.m. on Election Day, potentially leaving the results unclear for days and opening room for candidates to falsely declare victory. As the day ended, both sides were left pointing fingers.

Pennsylvania: Trump Campaign Draws Rebuke for Surveilling Philadelphia Voters | Danny Hakim and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes, leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general to warn this week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation. The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on Oct. 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was reviewed by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.“This must be stopped,” a local lawyer for the Trump campaign, Linda A. Kerns, wrote in the letter, adding that the actions “undermine the integrity of the voting process. ”Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are focused on Pennsylvania, seen as one of the most important swing states in the election and where polls show Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a seven-point lead. The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so. Ms. Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Oct. 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.But city officials rejected the assertion that the voters who had been photographed had necessarily done something improper. The city’s lawyers forwarded the campaign’s complaints to the local district attorney, but did not make a formal referral and cast doubt on the assertions. They also said they do not track which voters use which drop box.

Texas Supreme Court rules that voters in Harris County may continue using drive-thru voting | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

Voters in the state’s most populous county can continue casting their ballots for the fall election at 10 drive-thru polling places after the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a last-minute challenge by the Texas and Harris County Republican parties, one of many lawsuits in an election season ripe with litigation over voting access. The court rejected the challenge without an order or opinion, though Justice John Devine dissented from the decision. The justices had already ruled against another challenge to expanded voting access this month because they said the lawsuit was filed too late, noting that altering voting procedures during an election could cause voter confusion.In an effort to expand access to voting during the pandemic, Harris County announced in June that it would set up 10 drive-thru polling locations available to all voters, the county clerk’s office explained in its filing to the Supreme Court. The county first tested the program with 200 voters in the July primary runoff election. At the locations, lines of cars are guided into either covered tents or a parking garage where poll workers check voters’ photo identification and registration status. Voters are handed a portable voting machine in their car to cast their ballots, the clerk’s filing said.

Washington: With new ballot-tabulation machines, King County residents can vote with ‘pink sparkly pen’ if they’d like | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

After the year you’ve had, King County voter, do you need some spice in your life? Well, if you’d like, go ahead and take a step on the wild side and mark that election ballot with a pink sparkly pen. That’s right, gone are the bad old days when the muckety-mucks over at King County Elections Department printed out ballots instructing you to fill out your election ballots in blue or black ink, giving you flashbacks to some horrid and surely embarrassing grade-school test experience. That’s because the tabulation equipment acquired by the department in 2017 is more versatile, according to Kendall LeVan Hodson, chief of staff to Elections Director Julie Wise.“We’d of course still count the ballots if they didn’t use blue or black ink, it just typically required that they be duplicated, which was time consuming and costly,” LeVan Hodson wrote in an email.  “The new tabulation system we put in in 2017 reads almost anything, so — after testing that out a little bit — we decided to remove that (use blue or black ink only) on the instructions.” That’s why in 2018, the instructions calling for blue or black ink were nixed, she added.

National: Trump and Biden campaign apps easy targets for cyber criminals | Alex Scroxton/Computer Weekly

US president Donald Trump may seem to believe nobody gets hacked, and that to get hacked you need “someone with 197 IQ” and “about 15% of your password”, but his official campaign app is right now vulnerable to an easy-to-exploit Android vulnerability that could be used to spread misinformation – and his rival Joe Biden fares no better. Trump’s latest false pronouncements, which attracted derision across the industry, prompted researchers at Norwegian mobile security outfit Promon to investigate the US election campaign apps, and during its analysis, it found both Trump’s app and Biden’s are vulnerable to StrandHogg. StrandHogg – an old Norse word for a Viking raiding tactic – was first identified at Promon last year. The vulnerability allows malware to pose as a legitimate application and if successfully exploited on a victim device enables cyber criminals to access SMS messages, photos, account credentials, location data, to make and record phone calls, and to activate on-board cameras and the device’s microphone. StrandHogg 2.0, a more dangerous version, was identified in May 2020.

National: Shouting matches, partisan rallies, guns at polling places: Tensions high at early-voting sites | Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post

During a pro-Trump rally earlier this month in Nevada City, Calif., enthusiastic supporters in cars and trucks crowded into the parking lot of the county government center.As many as 300 people played music, cheered and called out through a megaphone, according to Natalie Adona, a county election official who could see the gathering from her second-floor office at the Eric Rood Administration Center.But unlike usual Trump rallies, this one was happening at the site of one of the most popular drive-up ballot boxes in the county. And early voting was already underway.That afternoon, voters were forced to navigate through the pro-Trump crowd, and some felt the electioneering amounted to voter intimidation. In an election year clouded with anxieties about voter intimidation and the possibility of election-related violence, the first days of early voting have unfolded with dozens of accusations of inappropriate campaigning and possible voter intimidation in at least 14 states. The reports, though anecdotal, illustrate the tensions unfolding as more than 33 million Americans have already cast ballots two weeks before Election Day.

National: Trump’s former homeland security adviser says Russia remains major election hacking threat | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

President Trump’s former homeland security adviser remains seriously concerned that Russia or another U.S. adversary will exploit weaknesses in U.S. election infrastructure to sow chaos or raise doubts about the outcome of the 2020 contest. Tom Bossert, who left the White House in 2018 when John Bolton became national security adviser, worries adversaries could try to change actual vote tallies or corrupt voter registration data and create confusion at polling places.Adversaries might also interfere with state and county systems that report vote tallies to sow mistrust in official results, said Bossert, who is now president of Trinity Cyber.Bossert’s concerns stand in sharp contrast to Trump, who has largely ignored or downplayed the threat of Russian interference in the election, claiming without evidence that a greater threat is posed by domestic fraud from mail ballots. But foreign interference would pay dividends for adversaries including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bossert said — even if it doesn’t result in corrupting the entire election process or delivering a reelection victory to Tump, which U.S. intelligence agencies say Putin prefers.

National: FBI says Russia and Iran have interfered with the US presidential election | Jeremy Herb, Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez and Paul P. Murphy/CNN

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Wednesday both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election, including Iran posing as the far-right group Proud Boys to send intimidating emails to voters. Ratcliffe, appearing alongside FBI Director Chris Wray, said at a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday evening that Iran was responsible for the email campaign, made to look like it came from the Proud Boys, as well as spreading disinformation about voter fraud through a video linked in some of the emails.”This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy,” Ratcliffe said. “We have already seen Iran sending spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President (Donald) Trump,” Ratcliffe added. “You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have even been one of the recipients of those emails.” Ratcliffe did not explain what he meant by his statement that the emails — which were sent to registered voters from “info@officialproudboys.com” and warned recipients to “Vote for Trump or else!” — were intended to damage the President.

National: U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats | Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg/The Washington Post

The U.S. government has concluded that Iran is behind a series of threatening emails arriving this week in the inboxes of Democratic voters, according to two U.S. officials.Department of Homeland Security officials told state and local election administrators on a call Wednesday that a foreign government was responsible for the online barrage, according to the U.S. officials and state and local authorities who participated in the call, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. A DHS official also said authorities had detected holes in state and local election websites and instructed those participating to patch their online services.The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.

National: Hacking federal voting system now a federal crime | Maggie Miller/The Hill

President Trump has signed legislation making it a federal crime to attempt to hack federal voting systems.The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act was unanimously approved by the House last month, over a year after the Senate also unanimously passed the legislation. Trump signed the legislation on Tuesday, just two weeks before the election.The new law empowers the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue charges against anyone who attempts to hack a voting system under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, commonly used by the agency to pursue charges against malicious hackers. The bill’s original introduction was the result of a 2018 report compiled by the DOJ’s Cyber Digital Task Force, which evaluated ways the federal government could improve its response to cyber threats. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year.

National: Cybersecurity company finds hacker selling info on 186 million U.S. voters | Ken Dilanian/NBC

A cybersecurity company says it has found a hacker selling personally identifying information of more than 200 million Americans, including the voter registration data of 186 million. The revelation underscored how vulnerable Americans are to email targeting by criminals and foreign adversaries, even as U.S. officials announced that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data and email addresses with an eye toward interfering in the 2020 election. Much of the data identified by Trustwave, a global cybersecurity company, is publicly available, and almost all of it is the kind that is regularly bought and sold by legitimate businesses. But the fact that so many names, email addresses, phone numbers and voter registration records were found for sale in bulk on the so-called dark web underscores how easily criminals and foreign adversaries can deploy it as the FBI said Iran has done recently, by sending emails designed to intimidate voters.

National: US Cyber Command Teams With Microsoft To Limit TrickBot Botnet Ahead of Expected Election Interference | Scott Ikeda/CPO Magazine

Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) giant TrickBot, a botnet estimated to be about one to three million computers strong, is the world’s largest of its kind and the biggest distributor of ransomware. Already wreaking havoc on the United States for several years, the US Cyber Command is also expecting it to be involved in election interference attempts ahead of the 2020 vote. Both Cyber Command and Microsoft are actively running persistent operations against the Trickbot botnet in an effort to reduce its capability, and there have been some significant successes. Cyber Command is the Pentagon’s offensive force in cyberspace, engaging in active measures against threat actors. The agency has been tracking TrickBot for some time; it came onto the US government’s radar after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued reports indicating that it was a substantial ransomware threat to state and local IT networks. TrickBot not only poses a threat to the 2020 election, but also is an ongoing potential risk to disrupt critical infrastructure such as patient care facilities, financial institutions and utilities.

National: Cybercriminals Step Up Their Game Ahead of U.S. Elections | Lindsey O’Donnell/Threatpost

With the U.S. presidential elections a mere few weeks away, the security industry is hyper-aware of security vulnerabilities in election infrastructure, cyberattacks against campaign staffers and ongoing disinformation campaigns. Past direct hacking efforts, such as the attack on the Democratic National Committee in 2016, have left many nervous that this time around, the actual election results could be compromised in some way. This year, worries about the integrity of voting machines have popped up too, coupled with the expected expansion of mail-in voting due to COVID-19. Perhaps most concerning, according to Matt Olney, director of Talos’ Threat Intelligence and Interdiction at Cisco, is cybercriminals “going after the minds of the American people and their trust in the democratic institutions that we use to select our leaders. ”The good news, Olney, said in a recent video interview with Threatpost, is that awareness of election-security threats has increased since the 2016 elections. That’s been both on the part of the federal government, as well as by U.S. citizens themselves, who have gotten better at calling out content that may be associated with disinformation campaigns.

National: Mid-October numbers indicate increased turnout of military absentee voters | Karen Jowers/Military Times

Some early statistics indicate this year’s absentee voting turnout among military and overseas citizen voters may far surpass the turnout for the 2016 general election.One indicator of the increased military vote is the 51-percent increase in the overseas absentee ballots returning to the U.S. by the Label 11-DoD express mail tracking system, compared to the same time period in the 2016 general election, from the beginning of September through Oct. 14. The U.S. Postal Service has tracked 36,377 of these ballots entering the U.S. mail stream since the tracking began in September, said USPS spokesman David Coleman. That compares to 24,034 through Oct. 14, 2016.The Label 11-DoD is a free express mail tracking system that is used at military post offices overseas, and is available only to service members and family members. It has been used in federal elections since 2010, and is available starting the beginning of September before the election. About three out of four active duty members in the U.S. and overseas are eligible to vote by absentee ballot because they’re stationed away from their voting residence, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Editorial: Actually, Americans Do Want to Wear Masks to Vote | Joshua A. Douglas and ichael A. Zilis/Politico

Over the next couple of weeks, as around 60 million Americans arrive at polling places to cast their ballots, they’ll face an array of safety protocols to protect them from the risk of Covid-19. Most states will require them to stand at least 6 feet apart and observe social-distancing requirements. And most will require masks for both poll workers and voters.But not all. With the mask and other pandemic safety measures remaining a political issue, several states have explicitly said masks aren’t required, or are leaving the rules loose.South Carolina’s rules on masks in public explicitly exclude voters and election workers. Texas’ attorney general recently reminded voters that the state’s mask mandate does not apply while voting. (In its July primary, some poll workers in Texas left when their fellow poll workers refused to wear a mask.) Indiana will provide face masks to poll workers and voters who do not have them, but it is not clear how much pressure there will be to ensure that everyone complies. Indeed, one Indiana official in charge of local elections is refusing to wear one during early voting. Alabama will allow anyone to switch to an absentee ballot by citing Covid-19 concerns—but will not require either poll workers or voters to wear a mask.

Alabama: US Supreme Court Bars Curbside Voting in Alabama | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked a trial judge’s ruling that would have allowed, but not required, counties in Alabama to offer curbside voting.The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority.The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, which is typical when it rules on emergency applications, and it said the order would remain in effect while appeals moved forward.In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan, said the state’s policy discriminated against older and disabled voters.“If those vulnerable voters wish to vote in person,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, “they must wait inside, for as long as it takes, in a crowd of fellow voters whom Alabama does not require to wear face coverings,” referring to masks that help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Florida: Pinellas County deputies investigate report of armed voter intimidation at St. Petersburg voting location | Lisette Lopez  and Ryan Smith/WFTS

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of possible armed voter intimidation at a downtown St. Petersburg voting location, the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections said. According to the Pinellas SOE Julie Marcus, two people suspected of voter intimidation were wearing security uniforms at the downtown St. Petersburg early voting location at 501 First Ave N.According to Marcus, the pair told a responding law enforcement officer that they are with a private security company. She says a concerned staff member reported at least one of them was armed. The pair set up a tent and claimed to be working for the Trump campaign, Marcus said.”These persons claimed or said that they were hired by the Trump campaign, again I’m not going to speculate to that. This was a licensed security company and they were licensed security officers,” Marcus said.

Idaho Secretary of State awards $500,000 to establish Election Cybersecurity Center | KIVI

The November 3 election is less than two weeks away and a team of experts in cybersecurity, computer science and political science at Boise State has been awarded $500,000 by the Idaho Secretary of State. The team will establish the Idaho Election Cybersecurity Center (INSURE), whose role will be to recommend and develop tools, technologies and policies to protect the election process from cyber and information attacks. “Election cybersecurity is critical to ensure that Americans are able to carry out their democratic duty and privilege with confidence. Our researchers’ new and groundbreaking work in this area will be vital in efforts to help our nation maintain a secure and trustworthy election process,” said Dr. Marlene Tromp, Boise State president.

Iowa Supreme Court upholds Republican law on absentee voting requests | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Noines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a new law making it harder for county auditors to process absentee ballot requests with missing or incomplete information, days before Iowa’s deadline to request a ballot for the 2020 election.The court issued a decision Wednesday evening upholding a Republican-supported law that prevents auditors from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in any missing information or correct errors when a voter requests an absentee ballot. The law instead requires the auditor’s office to contact the voter by telephone, email or physical mail.The League of United Latin American Citizens and Majority Forward, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit organization that supports voter registration and turnout efforts, sued Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. They said auditors have used the database to correct errors in the past and that the law burdens Iowans’ right to vote.A district court upheld the law last month, and the Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Maryland: Montgomery County election officials reject ballot fraud claims in YouTube video | Rebecca Tan/The Washington Post

Elections officials in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss a viral video alleging that an election worker attempted to tamper with a mailed-in ballot.A thorough investigation revealed no evidence of fraud or misconduct, Montgomery County officials said, but they’re concerned that the video may have spread some damaging misinformation.“Something like this just feeds into people who believe mail-in voting is fraudulent,” said the county’s elections board chair, Jim Shalleck, a Republican appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “It’s very unfortunate.” … In actuality, Karpinski said, what the clip captured was the canvass worker darkening an oval that had been filled in too lightly, to ensure that it would be picked up by the ballot scanners. Karpinski said that protocol has been in place for election workers since he started working for the elections board in 2003 and is designed to ensure that as many eligible ballots as possible are counted.

Minnesota: Calls for armed guards, ‘Army for Trump’ cause alarm | Stephen Montemayor/ Minneapolis StarTribune

Calls for armed military veterans combined with a volunteer “Army for Trump” to descend on Minnesota polling places have created fresh anxieties for state law enforcement and elections officials already preparing for a major election in the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybersecurity and the corona­virus pandemic dominated preparations for the vote this year, but state and federal officials are now closely monitoring new reports of private security contractors advertising jobs that would — illegally — dispatch armed guards at Minnesota polling places. Adding to those concerns, the Trump campaign has vowed to raise a 50,000-plus army of volunteer observers across an array of battleground states to monitor the voting. Raising fears of elections he says will be rigged, President Donald Trump, trailing in polls in Minnesota and other key battleground states, has called on his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”Minnesota GOP officials say roughly 3,000 people have signed up so far and will get training on state election laws, which forbid campaign workers to interact directly with voters. “The actual running of the election is coming along OK but that doesn’t mean that some of the reporting and messaging and things that have come out have not been alarming,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison, adding that he believes the prospect of armed guards at the polls could be a voter suppression tactic.

Pennsylvania: A year ago, voting machines malfunctioned in Northhampton county. Have the problems been fixed? | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA

On Election Day a year ago, Matthew Munsey was getting some alarming reports.Voters in Northampton County were casting their ballots for the first time on the county’s new voting machines, and things weren’t going well: The screens were responding erratically to voters’ touches, and the official ballots the machines printed out were hard to read.At the end of the night, a Democratic candidate for Court of Common Pleas judge was showing zero recorded votes at some precincts, even though the candidate knew at least three people — his campaign manager and the manager’s parents — had voted for him.“I felt like this was the worst-case scenario that I had dreaded,” said Munsey, the chairperson for the county Democrats.One year later, those same voting machines will face their most consequential test yet: a highly scrutinized presidential election in a Pennsylvania county widely viewed as a national political bellwether for the race overall.In 2020, many elections experts believe as Northampton County goes, so goes the nation.

Wisconsin: Can people bring guns to the polls? It depends where you vote | Alison Dirr/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Do guns and polling places mix in Wisconsin?  It depends where you vote. Wisconsin doesn’t have a statewide law or policy governing the possession of guns in polling places, so the rules depend on the circumstances of each voting location, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said. Many polling places in the state are located in buildings such as schools where firearms are already banned, he said, and those rules apply during voting as well. Guns would also be prohibited in polling places located in private or government buildings with posted firearm bans. “If there’s not one of those policies in place, then there would not be a prohibition,” the Democratic attorney general said. “Although … there are other policies related to voter intimidation that would still be potentially relevant.” No one would be allowed to brandish a gun or use one to intimidate voters in any way, he said.

National: As Election Nears, Government and Tech Firms Push Back on Russia (and Trump) | David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times

Over the past two weeks, United States Cyber Command and a group of companies led by Microsoft have engaged in an aggressive campaign against a suspected Russian network that they feared could hold election systems hostage come November.Then, on Monday, the Justice Department indicted members of the same elite Russian military unit that hacked the 2016 election for hacking the French elections, cutting power to Ukraine and sabotaging the opening ceremony at the 2018 Olympics. And in Silicon Valley, tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google have been sending out statements every few days advertising how many foreign influence operations they have blocked, all while banning forms of disinformation in ways they never imagined even a year ago.It is all intended to send a clear message that whatever Russia is up to in the last weeks before Election Day, it is no hoax. The goal, both federal officials and corporate executives say, is to disrupt Russia’s well-honed information-warfare systems, whether they are poised to hack election systems, amplify America’s political fissures or get inside the minds of voters.But behind the scenes is a careful dance by members of the Trump administration to counter the president’s own disinformation campaign, one that says the outcome on Nov. 3 will be “rigged” unless he wins.

National: States Have Improved Election Cybersecurity, but Still Can Do More | Phil Goldstein/StateTech Magazine

After more than a year of preparations and security enhancements, state and local governments are entering the final weeks of the 2020 election season. With millions of votes already cast, two things are clear: Government agencies have markedly improved their cybersecurity controls in the wake of the 2016 election, and yet they could still be doing more and cannot let their guards down. Outside experts say that state governments, especially those in battleground states, have improved their cybersecurity protections for election infrastructure and voter data. However, there are still cybersecurity measures they should be taking ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is continuing to coordinate with state and local agencies on election security threats, especially from nation-state actors and cybercriminals. CISA is confident in election security protections that have been put in place but remains on high alert.

National: How US security officials are watching for threats ahead of Election Day | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

FBI Director Christopher Wray once called the 2018 midterm elections a “dress rehearsal for the big show” of protecting the 2020 presidential election from foreign interference. The big show is finally here, and American officials say they are pulling out all the stops to keep it secure.U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and national security agencies have for weeks been in an “enhanced operational posture” to share any election-related threats with state and local officials, said Chris Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The week before Election Day, which is Nov. 3, those security efforts will kick into overdrive.Officials from the Department of Defense, FBI, the Election Assistance Commission, political campaigns and the private sector are scheduled to gather at CISA’s operations center outside of Washington, D.C. The U.S. Postal Service, which is playing an expanded role in this year’s election with the increase in mail-in ballots, will also have a representative on hand.“It gives us an opportunity to share that information in near-real-time to understand what’s happening…detecting issues at the soonest, smallest opportunity, and then making sure that it doesn’t spiral into a bigger issue,” Krebs said during an interview during CyberTalks, the annual summit produced by CyberScoop.

National: Here’s Why Concerns About Absentee Ballot Fraud Are Overhyped | Whose Vote Counts | Pat Beall, Catharina Felke, Sarah Gelbard, Jackie Hajdenberg, Elizabeth Mulvey and Aseem Shukla/Frontline

Leila and Gary Blake didn’t want to miss elk hunting season. It was 2000, and the election conflicted with their plans, so the Wyoming couple requested absentee ballots.But the Blakes had moved from 372 Curtis Street five miles down the road to 1372 Curtis Street, crossing a town line. When they mailed their votes using the old address, they were criminally charged. The misdemeanor case was settled with $700 in fines and a few months’ probation, but two decades later, the Blakes are still listed as absentee ballot fraudsters in the Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database. Far from being proof of organized, large-scale vote-by-mail fraud, the Heritage database presents misleading and incomplete information that overstates the number of alleged fraud instances and includes cases where no crime was committed, an investigation by USA TODAY, Columbia Journalism Investigations and the PBS series FRONTLINE found. Although the list has been used to warn against a major threat of fraud, a deep look at the cases in the list shows that the vast majority put just a few votes at stake.

National: Activists brace for voter intimidation efforts on election day | Chris Megerian and Arit John/Los Angeles Times

As a young lawyer for the New Jersey Democratic Party, Angelo Genova quickly realized something was amiss on election day in 1981.“Our team was getting calls left and right,” he said. “A lot of it was a blur.”In urban Black communities across New Jersey, large signs had appeared warning that polling places were “patrolled by the National Ballot Security Task Force.” Off-duty cops, some armed, wore armbands and demanded voters’ identification before they could cast ballots.The task force was a Republican invention. Though no one could prove how many people were too intimidated to vote, the party viewed it as a success when its candidate, Thomas Kean, won by a 1,797 votes in a recount of more than 2.3 million ballots cast.The Republican National Committee planned to run the same playbook in states around the country, but Democrats obtained a federal court order preventing them. The consent decree has limited the committee’s activities in every election since then — until now.