Texas: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 | Alejandro Serrano/Houston Chronicle

A federal judge on Monday will hear a complaint brought by Texas conservatives that challenges Harris County’s use of curbside drive-thru voting, according to the judge’s schedule and court records. Houston conservative activist Steven Hotze and three Republicans — state Rep. Steve Toth, Wendell Champion, a candidate for Congress, and Sharon Hemphill, who is running for a judgeship — are seeking an injunction requiring all memory cards from 10 drive-thru voting locations be secured and not entered or downloaded into the tally machine until the court issues a ruling on the complaint. The plaintiffs allege that curbside drive-thru voting runs afoul of state and federal election law. They are seeking the rejection of any votes “cast in violation of the Texas Election Code”; an order to make county elections officials review all curbside voting applications and reject those that do not meet parameters set by the code; and a permanent injunction stopping “a universal drive-thru voting scheme” unless it is adopted by the state legislature.By the time the complaint was filed, 100,000 drive-thru votes had already been cast. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the only named defendant, said Saturday afternoon the option was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote.” “Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it, and 117,000 voters from all walks of life have used it,” Hollins said in a statement. “The Harris County Clerk’s Office is committed to counting every vote cast by registered voters in this election. In the event court proceedings require any additional steps from these voters, we will work swiftly to provide that information to the public.”

Full Article: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 – HoustonChronicle.com

Wisconsin Republican Party says hackers stole $2.3 million in campaign funds | Scott Bauer/Associated Press

Hackers have stolen $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Donald Trump in the key battleground state, the party’s chairman told The Associated Press on Thursday. The party noticed the suspicious activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI on Friday, said Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt. Hitt said the FBI is investigating. FBI spokesman Brett Banner said that, per policy, “the FBI is not permitted to confirm or deny an investigation.” The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which has a center focused on cyber crime able to assist if requested, has not been asked to investigate, said spokeswoman Rebecca Ballweg. The alleged hack was discovered less than two weeks before Election Day, as Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made their final push to win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes. Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and was planning his third visit in seven days on Friday. Biden also planned to campaign in Wisconsin on Friday. Polls have consistently shown a tight race in the state, usually with Biden ahead by single digits and within the margin of error. Hitt said he was not aware of any other state GOP being targeted for a similar hack, but state parties were warned at the Republican National Convention this summer to be on the lookout for cyber attacks.

Full Article: Wisconsin Republican Party says hackers stole $2.3 million

National: Election operations are holding up so far against a wave of hacks and technical failures | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The week before Election Day has seen a wave of digital attacks on election systems and technical foul-ups, but officials are mostly parrying the blows to keep voting going on as planned. The most concerning hit came late yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers who compromised some election systems in Hall County, Ga., earlier this month had posted a small trove of nonpublic information, including voters’ social security numbers, as a ploy to persuade the county to pay a ransom. Officials’ greatest fear about such strikes, called ransomware attacks, is that hackers could seize voter registration databases and hold them hostage during voting so it becomes exceedingly difficult to check in voters. This is far from that worst case scenario because it hasn’t impeded any voting operations. But knowing that the act of voting put their personal data at risk is sure to have a chilling effect on some people. The hackers also teased the release as “example files,” which suggests they could release more sensitive and damaging information later.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election operations are holding up so far against a wave of hacks and technical failures – The Washington Post

Anxiety 2020: Voters worry about safety at the polls | Laurie Kellman/Associated Press

Gary Kauffman says he does not scare easily. So when men waving President Donald Trump flags drive by his house in downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he stands on his front steps and waves a banner for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “Sometimes I yell at them. They yell back at me,” says Kauffman, 54. Still, Kauffman is keeping a closer eye on who they are and what they’re carrying as Election Day approaches. Tension has been rising in his town, known best as hallowed ground of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. Recently, it’s become a hot spot of angry confrontations between Trump supporters and liberal protesters. Kauffman has seen some of the Trump supporters carrying weapons. “If there’s guns, I’m a bit more cautious,” he said on Monday. Americans aren’t accustomed to worrying about violence or safety ahead of an election. It’s a luxury afforded by years of largely peaceful voting, a recent history of fairly orderly displays of democracy. But after months filled with disease, disruption and unrest, Americans are worried that Election Day could become a flashpoint.

Full Article: Anxiety 2020: Voters worry about safety at the polls

National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal

Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.

Full Article: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market – WSJ

National: Who Owns Our Voting Machines? | Sue Halpern/The New York Review of Books

Buried in a dense government report from 1975 is an observation that has come to haunt the American system of voting. “Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying,” a hundred-page compendium of all that can go wrong when digital technology is used to register and count votes, was written by Roy Saltman, a computer scientist, at the behest of the National Bureau of Standards. At the time, computerized election technology was a shiny new thing, primed to replace time-honored manual ways of voting. But as Saltman observed, because this technology was beyond the comprehension of most election officials, they had little choice but to put their trust in, and cede authority to, equipment manufacturers. As a consequence, he wrote, “when vendors assume more responsibility than they should, due to the jurisdictions’ lack of in-house capability, situations may be created in which conflict of interest is a serious concern.” This is still true. The ever-increasing sophistication of digital election technology has left election officials ever more reliant on the vendors (and under the sway of their lobbyists), who play an outsized and largely hidden part in both the administration of elections and the ways we exercise our most fundamental right as citizens in a democracy.

Full Article: Who Owns Our Voting Machines? | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

National: Fear Of Voter Intimidation Is Its Own Voter Intimidation | Maggie Koerth/FiveThirtyEight

In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent hundreds of armed, off-duty police officers to the polls in the state of New Jersey. Dressed in official-looking “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands, they demanded voter registration cards from people waiting in line in heavily Black and Hispanic districts, turning some voters away and intimidating others into not voting at all. As my colleague Clare Malone has written, the whole thing was illegal. After a lawsuit, it led to a 37-year-long ban preventing the RNC from organizing poll watching efforts. This will be the first presidential election without the ban in place. It is also a presidential election where the incumbent has cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the election, toyed repeatedly with the idea of not giving up office and recruited thousands of poll watchers. It is also a presidential election where far-right militias and other supporters of the president have discussed showing up, armed, at polling sites. But despite that tension, neither experts in election law nor experts in militia and armed radical groups believe we are likely to see a repeat of what happened in New Jersey nearly four decades ago. Why? Partly, it’s because laws heavily restrict what poll watchers can do and how they can do it. And partly, experts told me, it’s because the actual job of poll watching is unlikely to appeal to the groups and individuals whose presence would be most dangerous.

Full Article: Fear Of Voter Intimidation Is Its Own Voter Intimidation | FiveThirtyEight

National: Maze Ransomware Is An Election Night Threat | Calvin Hennick/StateTech Magazine

Imagine it: It’s election night, and the results are starting to trickle in. Then, just as the electoral picture is beginning to come into focus, large voting precincts in critical swing states begin to experience problems. Voter registration databases are inaccessible to election officials, and even the websites where results are posted come crashing down. The culprit? It’s ransomware — specifically Maze ransomware. This is a nightmare scenario, but one that Chase Cunningham, principal analyst and vice president serving security and risk professionals for Forrester, says could really happen… “I think there should be a whole lot more worry about it,” says Cunningham. “I think we’re going to see a ransomware event in a major district, and it’s going to cause civil unrest. Of all the things that concern me about the election cycle, that is the one that keeps me awake at night.” Maze ransomware, a new type of threat discovered in 2019, is a major point of concern. Here’s what state, county and local officials need to know about the threat, why voting systems are particularly vulnerable and what can be done to protect their systems before Nov. 3.

Full Article: How Maze Ransomware Threatens Voter Databases | StateTech Magazine

National: Trump campaign site hack shows risks of even low-grade election interference | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A brief but colorful breach of President Trump’s campaign website is underscoring how even unsophisticated efforts at election interference can rattle voters and undermine the democratic process.  Officials and experts were eager to put the breach into context in the final week of the election – during which millions of Americans are expected to flock to the websites of candidates and state and local election offices for last-minute information before casting their ballots. Chris Krebs, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s election security division, sought to tamp down concern and called it an effort to “distract, sensationalize, and confuse” and to “undermine your confidence in our voting process.” The hackers managed to deface the site’s “About” page for several minutes, replacing it with a screed that claimed in broken English and without evidence to have compromising information about the president and his family culled from multiple hacked devices. “[T]he world has had enough of the fake-news spreaded daily by president donald j trump,” read the message, which also included FBI and Justice Department seals. “[I]t is time to allow the world to know truth.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Trump campaign site hack shows risks of even low-grade election interference – The Washington Post

National: ‘Ripe for error’: Ballot signature verification is flawed — and a big factor in the election | Maya Lau and Laura J. Nelson/Los Angeles Times

Mail-in ballots are pouring in by the millions to election offices across the country, getting stacked and prepared for processing. But before the count comes the signature test.  Election workers eyeball voter signatures on ballots one by one, comparing the loop of an “L” or the squiggle of an “S” against other samples of that person’s writing. When performed by professionals in criminal cases or legal proceedings, signature verification can take hours. But election employees in many states must do the job in as little as five seconds. In an election marked by uncertainty amid the pandemic, the signature verification process represents one of the biggest unknowns: whether a system riddled with vulnerabilities will work on such a massive scale. In 2016, mismatched signatures were the most common reason that mail ballots were rejected, according to federal officials. With record numbers of people voting by mail this cycle, ballots thrown out for signature problems and other issues have the potential to decide races where the margin of victory is slim. Candidates could mount legal battles over the verification process to challenge election outcomes. President Trump has repeatedly asserted, with no evidence, that mail-in voting is rife with fraud.

Full Article: 2020 election: How does voter signature verification work? – Los Angeles Times

National: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge | Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny/NBC

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China. The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents. The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches. One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist. Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.

Full Article: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge

‘Perception Hacks’ and Other Potential Threats to the Election | David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times

In Georgia, a database that verifies voter signatures was locked up by Russian hackers in a ransomware attack that also dumped voters’ registration data online. In California and Indiana, Russia’s most formidable state hackers, a unit linked to the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., bored into local networks and hit some election systems, though it is still unclear why. In Louisiana, the National Guard was called in to stop cyberattacks aimed at small government offices that employed tools previously seen only in attacks by North Korea. And on Tuesday night, someone hacked the Trump campaign, defacing its website with a threatening message in broken English warning that there would be more to come. None of these attacks amounted to much. But from the sprawling war room at United States Cyber Command to those monitoring the election at Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft, experts are watching closely for more “perception hacks.” Those are smaller attacks that can be easily exaggerated into something bigger and potentially seized upon as evidence that the whole voting process is “rigged,” as President Trump has claimed it will be.

Full Article: ‘Perception Hacks’ and Other Potential Threats to the Election – The New York Times

National: ‘Tsunamis of Misinformation’ Overwhelm Local Election Officials | Kellen Browning and Davey Alba/The New York Times

The morning after last month’s presidential debate, the phones inside the Philadelphia election offices that Al Schmidt helps oversee rang off the hook. One caller asked whether President Trump’s comments hinting at rampant voter fraud in Philadelphia were true. Another yelled about the inaccurate rumor that poll watchers were being barred from polling places. Still another demanded to know what the city was trying to hide. It was just another day at the office for Mr. Schmidt, one of Philadelphia’s three city commissioners, a job that includes supervising voter registration and elections. Hundreds of people have called in every day for months, many parroting conspiracy theories about the election and lies about how partisan megadonors own the voting machines. Staff members spend hours shooting down the rumors, he said. “It’s not like we have tens of millions of dollars to spend on communications to battle tsunamis of misinformation that come our way,” said Mr. Schmidt, 49, whose team has been working up to 17-hour days ahead of Election Day on Tuesday. “It wears on all of us.” Election officials across the country are already stretched thin this year, dealing with a record number of mail-in ballots and other effects of the coronavirus pandemic. On top of that, many are battling another scourge: misinformation.

Full Articl

 

National: A Journey into the Heart of America’s Voting Paranoia | Tim Alberta/Politico

Shelby Watchilla leaned forward, her amber hair brushing against the plexiglass barrier, lowering her voice so that it was barely audible from behind her blue mask. “Listen, there’s nobody in the world who wants the truth out there more than I do,” she said.A kind-eyed woman in her mid-40s, Watchilla glanced around nervously. She nodded toward the cameras overhead and the employees glancing in our direction. “The investigation is technically ongoing,” she said, her tone equal parts caution and desperation. “I don’t know why. But I’m not allowed to talk until it’s over.”Three weeks earlier, Watchilla had been just another obscure civil servant. As the director of elections for Luzerne County, a federation of hill country hamlets in northeastern Pennsylvania, she was one of the thousands of local officials across America responsible for running elections. Watchilla, who had been on the job just under a year, circulated details on rules and regulations and deadlines; registered new voters; collected and counted ballots; and as a general matter did whatever necessary, in a year plagued by confusion and disinformation surrounding elections, to distinguish fact from fiction.

Full Article: A Journey into the Heart of America’s Voting Paranoia – POLITICO

National: Six Republican Secretaries Of State Tried To Stop Facebook’s Effort To Register Millions Of Voters | Ryan Mac and Craig Silvermann/BuzzFeed

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major milestone for what he called “the largest voting information campaign in US history.” Launched in August with the goal of registering 4 million Americans to vote, Facebook claimed the effort garnered an estimated 4.4 million registrations across the company’s social media platforms, based on conversion rates the company calculated from “a few states it had partnered with.” “Voting is voice,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post to the company’s internal message board, specifically thanking Facebook’s civic engagement and civic integrity teams. What he didn’t mention, however, was the resistance the voting information campaign faced from Republican-led secretaries of state. In September, Facebook received a strongly worded letter signed by the secretaries of state of Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia, asking the company to discontinue its Voting Information Center. It argued election officials alone are “legally and morally responsible to our citizens” and said Facebook has “no such accountability.” “While such goals may be laudable on their face, the reality is that the administration of elections is best left to the states,” read the letter, which was addressed to Zuckerberg. “The Voting Information Center is redundant and duplicative of what we, as chief election officials, have been doing for decades.” The six Republican secretaries of state warned that the voting information center could foster “misinformation and confusion.”

Full Article: Republican States Tried To Stop Facebook’s Effort To Register Voters

 

Alabama: Some absentee ballots could be invalidated by timing of court ruling | Mike Cason/AL.com

Rulings in a federal lawsuit over absentee voting laws in Alabama just weeks before the election could result in some absentee ballots not counting, depending on when voters sent them in. Under Alabama law, absentee ballots have to be witnessed by two adults or a notary to be counted. The lawsuit, filed by several organizations and individual voters last summer, contended that enforcing that requirement on voters at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because of age or medical condition violated their federal voting rights during the pandemic. The lawsuit also challenged other provisions, including a photo ID requirement and the state’s ban on curbside voting. On Sept. 30, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon ruled in favor of the organizations and individuals who filed the lawsuit. His ruling blocked the state from enforcing the witness requirement for voters who signed a statement saying they had a medical condition that put them at heightened risk from the virus. But on Oct. 13, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request of state officials and issued a stay blocking part of Kallon’s order, a decision that put the witness requirement back in force.

Full Article: Some Alabama absentee ballots could be invalidated by timing of court ruling – al.com

Florida’s elections chief works to avoid becoming household name in 2020 vote count | Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Laurel Lee has an IQ fitting of the challenge ahead of her — ensure that the presidential election in Florida runs smoothly and doesn’t become a punchline yet again for the nation’s comedians. As secretary of state, Lee serves as the state’s top elections official, working with independent supervisors of elections for each of Florida’s 67 counties. It’s a position that can be overlooked, but if something goes wrong in a high-stakes election, the secretary of state can quickly become a household name. In 2000, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris emerged as one of the key players in the Bush v. Gore recount drama. Lee’s credentials include a law degree from the University of Florida, a stint as a judge in Hillsborough County and membership in Mensa, an organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or above on IQ tests.

Full Article: Laurel Lee, Florida’s top election official, ready for Nov. 3 – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Georgia: Hacker Releases Hall County Election Data After Ransom Not Paid | Tawnell D. Hobbs/Wall Street Journal

A computer hacker who took over networks maintained by Hall County, Ga., escalated demands this week by publicly releasing election-related files after a ransom wasn’t paid, heightening concerns about the security of voting from cyberattacks. A website maintained by the hacker lists Hall County along with other hacked entities as those whose “time to pay is over,” according to a Wall Street Journal review of the hacker’s website. The Hall County files are labeled as “example files,” which typically are nonsensitive and used to encourage payment before a possible bigger rollout of often more-compromising information. The release of some of Hall County files came Tuesday, one week before the 2020 presidential election, in which election security has been a major focus. Recent polls show the race has tightened in Georgia, which was last won by a Democrat in 1992, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, made a campaign appearance there Tuesday.

Full Article: Hacker Releases Georgia County Election Data After Ransom Not Paid – WSJ

Minnesota: At behest of Trump campaign official, Minneapolis police union calls for retired officers to act as ‘eyes and ears’ on Election Day | Libor Jany/Minneapolid Star Tribune

The Minneapolis police union put out a call this week for retired officers to help serve as “eyes and ears” at polling sites in “problem” areas across the city on Election Day, at the request of an attorney for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The request was made by William Willingham, whose e-mail signature identifies him as a senior legal adviser and director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign. In an e-mail Wednesday morning to Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll, Willingham asked the union president about recruiting 20 to 30 former officers to serve as “poll challengers” to work either a four- or eight-hour shift in a “problem area.” “Poll Challengers do not ‘stop’ people, per se, but act as our eyes and ears in the field and call our hotline to document fraud,” the e-mail read. “We don’t necessarily want our Poll Challengers to look intimidating, they cannot carry a weapon in the polls due to state law. … We just want people who won’t be afraid in rough neighborhoods or intimidating situations.” Kroll then passed on the request to federation members, saying “Please share, and e-mail me if you are willing to assist,” according to a copy obtained by the Star Tribune.

Full Article: Trump official seeking retired cops as Minneapolis ‘poll challengers’ – StarTribune.com

Kentucky secretary of state suggests making early voting permanent and other election ideas | Jack Brammer/Lexington Herald Leader

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams suggested several changes Wednesday to how the state conducts elections, including permanent provisions for early voting and an online portal to request an absentee ballot. Adams, the state’s top elections official, made his comments in a speech to the 46th annual Kentucky Association of Counties Conference, which was held virtually. Adams, a Republican, and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear made changes this year to the state’s primary election in June and the Nov. 3 general due to the coronavirus pandemic that is still raging.“With the election not yet concluded, it’s too soon to decide what reforms we ought to make permanent; but it’s not soon to start a conversation about how to improve our election system,” said Adams in his KACo speech.Kentucky should consider keeping early voting, he said.

Full Article: Kentucky elections chief suggests election changes | Lexington Herald Leader

Michigan: ’This is a voting right case’: Election officials appeal court ruling allowing guns at polls | Justin P. Hicks/MLive.com

Michigan’s attorney general and secretary of state are appealing a recent court ruling that struck down a ban on openly carrying firearms at all polling locations on election day. Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson submitted their appeal on Wednesday, Oct. 28, with an expedited relief request for 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. In the brief, they argued that the ban on open carry of firearms on Nov. 3 was to protect every Michigander’s right to vote. “Make no mistake. This is a voting rights case,” reads the opening line of the state’s brief to the Michigan Court of Appeals. On Oct. 16, Benson issued a directive instructing local clerks to ban the open carry of guns at all polling places on Nov. 3. The purpose of the ban, she said, was to protect voters from intimidation. But a group of Michigan gun groups sued to invalidate it. On Tuesday, Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray granted a preliminary injunction, overturning the ban and allowing open carry at most polling locations.

Full Article: ’This is a voting right case’: Michigan officials appeal court ruling allowing guns at polls – mlive.com

New Hampshire Secretary Of State Says 2020 Is ‘A Once In A Hundred Years Type of An Election’ | Casey McDermott/New Hampshire Public Radio

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has overseen New Hampshire elections for more than four decades and worked on voting policy in the Legislature several years before that — but even he’s never seen anything like 2020. “Here we are, a once in a hundred years type of an election,” Gardner told local election officials during a pre-election huddle Tuesday morning. “But we’ve at least known about it for enough time that we can all have prepared, like you all have.” Gardner’s office has taken extra steps beyond their normal training lineup to prepare pollworkers for what’s to come next week. They’ve hosted near-weekly meetings with local election officials since the summer, which have served as forums for questions and concerns on issues ranging from mail delivery to the use of Sharpie markers on absentee ballots. The state has also equipped local election officials with thousands of masks, jugs of hand sanitizer and single-use pens or pencils, in hopes of limiting transmission of COVID-19 at the polls on Election Day. “It was helpful that we had the primaries back in September, because no one knew for sure how that would all play out,” Gardner said Tuesday morning. “And that was sort of like the spring training, the brief preparation for what’s to come next week.”

Full Article: N.H. Secretary Of State Says 2020 Is ‘A Once In A Hundred Years Type of An Election’ | New Hampshire Public Radio

North Carolina: Supreme Court allows state to extend deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a defeat for GOP in key battleground | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will not intervene before the election to stop Pennsylvania officials from receiving mail-in ballots up to three days after Election Day, refusing a Republican request that the high court expedite review of the issue.But the larger issue might not be settled. Three conservative justices indicated the votes ultimately might not be counted and signaled they would like to revisit the issue after the election.Pennsylvania proved vital to President Trump’s election four years ago and is once again considered a key battleground.New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in considering the request, the Supreme Court said, because of the need for a prompt resolution, and because she has not had time to fully review the legal arguments.The vote on the GOP request is not specified in the court’s short order.

Full Article: Supreme Court allows N.C. to extend deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a defeat for GOP in key battleground – The Washington Post

Pennsylvania: Trump’s election day director is waging war on voting in Philadelphia | Nick Fiorellini/The Guardian

For decades before he worked for the president, Donald Trump’s director of election day operations has called out and made allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic party, building a lucrative career in the process. His name is Mike Roman, and this year he’s claiming an increase in mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic will allow Democrats to cheat and steal the election, despite little evidence. Roman is best known for promoting a video of apparent voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers outside a polling place in his home town of Philadelphia in 2008. Filed weeks before George W Bush left office, the justice department investigated the incident that was cited as evidence of Democrats seeking to influence the election. The case was later dropped because it lacked evidence. In the decade after, Roman stayed busy. He wrote about alleged election fraud for conservative websites like Breitbart News. He managed a research unit for the Koch network, did consulting work for various Republicans and oversaw poll watching for Trump’s 2016 campaign. These days he’s focused on peddling the same myth in his hometown of Philadelphia, a key city in the battleground of Pennsylvania that could determine the outcome of the election. Earlier this year, Roman visited battleground states and worked with local candidates and parties to recruit volunteers to monitor election sites. The Trump campaign hasn’t released information about the number of volunteer observers it has recruited in each state but claims it has established a 50,000-plus army of volunteers across an array of swing states.

Full Article: Trump’s election day director is waging war on voting in Philadelphia | US news | The Guardian

Pennsylvania: Supreme Court Won’t Speed a Do-Over on Ballot Deadlines | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused a plea from Pennsylvania Republicans to put their request to halt a three-day extension of the deadline for receiving absentee ballots on an extraordinarily fast track. The move meant that the court would not consider the case, which could have yielded a major ruling on voting procedure, until after Election Day. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court on Tuesday and who might have broken an earlier deadlock in the case, did not cast a vote. A court spokeswoman said Justice Barrett “did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”The court’s brief order gave no reasons for declining to expedite consideration of the case. In a separate statement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, said the court may still consider the case after the election.

Full Article: Supreme Court Won’t Speed a Do-Over on Pennsylvania’s Ballot Deadlines – The New York Times

 

Virginia can’t count some ballots without postmarks, judge rules | Denise LaVoie/Associated Press

A judge ruled Wednesday that Virginia elections officials cannot count absentee ballots with missing postmarks unless they can confirm the date of mailing through a barcode, granting part of an injunction requested by a conservative legal group. The Public Interest Legal Foundation sued the Virginia Department of Elections and members of the Virginia State Board of Elections earlier this month, challenging a regulation that instructed local election officials to count absentee ballots with missing or illegible postmarks — as long as the ballots are received by noon on the Friday after Election Day, Nov. 3. The lawsuit alleged that the regulation violates a 2020 state election law that says absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6 will be counted. At issue was an instruction given to local election officials that says a ballot with an unreadable or missing postmark should still be counted if the voter signed and dated the security envelope used for absentee ballots by Election Day. A judge issued a split ruling, granting an injunction to bar enforcement of portions of the regulation that apply to ballots with missing postmarks, but denied an injunction to stop enforcement of the regulation as it applies to illegible postmarks.

Full Article: Judge: Virginia can’t count some ballots without postmarks

Texas: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at polls | Chuck Lindell/Austin American-Statesman

A San Antonio federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering as a pandemic safety precaution. Late Wednesday, however, a federal appeals court issued an informal stay blocking enforcement of the order while its judges consider a longer-term stay. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.

Full Article: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at Texas polls

Wisconsin officials stress need for quick return of mail ballots in wake of Supreme Court ruling | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Election officials in Wisconsin are redoubling efforts to persuade voters to return their mail ballots as soon as possible after the Supreme Court ruled Monday night that ballots received after Election Day cannot be counted, no matter when they were mailed. As of Tuesday, voters in the key battleground state had returned more than 1.45 million of the 1.79 million absentee ballots they had requested so far — a return rate of more than 80 percent. But that means that nearly 327,000 absentee ballots had not yet been returned. And voters continue to request ballots — under state law, they have until 5 p.m. Thursday to seek one, a deadline state officials have warned is probably too late for voters to receive and return a ballot by mail before Election Day.

Full Article: Wisconsin officials stress need for quick return of mail ballots in wake of Supreme Court ruling – The Washington Post

Meet the Poll Heroes, America’s next generation of poll workers | Miguel Amaya/ABC7

The nationwide shortage of poll workers has inspired a young generation of Americans to step up to the front lines of the election process. Through The Poll Hero Project, founded by a group of students at Princeton University, Denver East High School, and the University of Chicago, thousands of college and high school students are being recruited to serve as paid poll workers in the upcoming election. “Most poll workers are typically over the age of 60, so they are a lot more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve expanded nationally to try and recruit poll workers everywhere,” said 19-year-old Kai Tsurumaki, a student at Princeton University and co-founder of the Poll Hero Project. The project, which initially focused on federal funding for vote-by-mail efforts, shifted its mission to recruiting poll workers once the nationwide shortage became evident. Through their recruitment efforts and outreach, The Poll Hero Project estimates that they have been able to register over 32,500 poll workers.

Full Article: Meet the Poll Heroes, America’s next generation of poll workers – ABC7 New York

Cybersecurity and U.S. Election Infrastructure | Helen You/Foreign Policy

´As voters head to the polls for the 2020 elections, the U.S. faces on-going security threats such as disinformation campaigns, data breaches, and ballot tampering in an effort by foreign adversaries to erode the integrity of the democratic process. Recent events from Russian and Iranian hackers stealing data to threaten and intimidate voters to Russian actors actively targeting state, local, and territorial networks demonstrate that elections rely on crucial technological tools to ensure process integrity, the disruption of which would have a debilitating impact on national security and society.Critical infrastructure (CI) provides essential services and is the backbone of the country’s economy, security, and health. From transportation enabling personal mobility and commerce, to electricity powering our homes and businesses, to telecommunications networks fostering global connectivity—particularly amid the pandemic—CI is the lynchpin to functioning social, economic, and political systems. While these systems have long been subject to threats from terrorism and natural disasters, cyberattacks represent among the most destabilizing and underappreciated risk. With the rapid digitalization of all facets of society and increasing dependence on information and communications technologies (ICT), attackers ranging from nation-states to hacktivists to organized criminal groups can identify vulnerabilities and infiltrate seemingly disparate systems to disrupt services and damage global society—all without a physical attack. As a designated CI subsector, election systems are vital to domestic and international security (see U.N. nonbinding consensus report A/70/174) and election security risks can threaten democracies worldwide.

Full Article: Cybersecurity and U.S. Election Infrastructure – Foreign Policy