National: Democrats try again with sweeping mail voting requirements | Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

Despite an earlier failed attempt, Democrats tried again Friday to adopt a massive expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus outbreak, including $3.6 billion in funding for states to adjust their election systems to deal with the pandemic. The money was included in a $3 trillion coronavirus response bill that was passed Friday by the Democratic-led House. But it has no chance of moving forward. The Republican-led Senate opposes the bill, and the White House has vowed to veto it. The most controversial aspect of the election funding section of the bill is another round of mandates that Democrats wish to place on states to ensure they have fair and safe elections at a time when crowded polling stations are a potential health risk. The bill would require states to end requirements that voters get a legal excuse to request an absentee ballot, mandate 15 days of early voting and order states to mail a ballot to every voter during emergencies. The Senate blocked similar requirements in a coronavirus relief bill in March.

National: The Cyberspace Solarium Commission Makes Its Case to Congress | William Ford/Lawfare

During a videoconference on May 13, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission made its case to Congress that the U.S. should adopt a strategy of layered cyber deterrence, a three-pronged plan to reduce the frequency of and the damage wrought by cyberattacks targeting America. The commission’s proposal follows 11 months of intense internal deliberation. During that time, the task force worked to answer the question Congress established it to address: What strategic approach should the federal government take to defending the United States in cyberspace? On March 11, the commission unveiled its vision in an exhaustive report detailing the concept of layered cyber deterrence. The commission’s members—two senators, two representatives, four executive branch officials and six private experts—packed the report with scores of policy recommendations, including 57 legislative proposals, which delineate exactly how to execute the novel cyber strategy. The report’s recommendations are designed to be turned into bills, ushered swiftly through Congress, and implemented. To that end, the commission transmitted its legislative proposals directly to the relevant House and Senate committees, some of which have begun the work of incorporating the commission’s ideas into legislation. But more than two months passed between the release of the commission’s report and the first time the task force got to discuss its proposals in public testimony before lawmakers.

National: Suits filed across US challenging mail-in voting obstacles | Jacob Dougherty/JURIST

With an expected increase in mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, voter rights advocates have filed lawsuits across the country challenging existing obstacles in states’ mail-in voting procedures. Challenges to mail-in voter restrictions have been filed in Tennessee, Texas, Minnesota, Georgia and North Carolina, among others. Some challenges primarily address the general restrictions states have placed on who can receive a mail-in ballot. For example, in Texas, according to Texas Election Code § 82.002, “a qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day.” The plaintiffs in the federal court case contend that all voters qualify for mail-in voting under this provision. In Tennessee, the same argument is being made for the state’s Excuse Requirement, which allows an “excuse,” or reason for a mail-in ballot, for voters who are “hospitalized, ill or physically disabled, and because of such condition, [are] unable to appear at [their] polling place on election day.”

National: Voting During Coronavirus: Will We Have Universal Vote-by-Mail by November? | Emilie Mutert/NBC

The experts are clear: The coronavirus will be here through the summer and will stick around through November’s general election. An American presidential election has never been postponed or canceled, but with warnings from health officials discouraging crowds – which are generally unavoidable at polling places – officials are in many cases already working to ensure they have the extra resources needed to implement vote-by-mail on an expanded scale. “It’s either going to be vote-by-mail or nothing if we have to deal with a worst-case scenario,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is sponsoring an emergency bill to expand vote-by-mail, has said. Others say vote-by-mail would have to be part of a suite of responses, such as extended early in-person voting with crowd controls and “curbside voting,” which allows voters concerned about entering a polling place to return a ballot without leaving their car, NBC News reported.

National: Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Six months before a presidential election in which turnout could matter more than persuasion, the Republican Party, the Trump campaign and conservative activists are mounting an aggressive national effort to shape who gets to vote in November — and whose ballots are counted. Its premise is that a Republican victory in November is imperiled by widespread voter fraud, a baseless charge embraced by President Trump, but repeatedly debunked by research. Democrats and voting rights advocates say the driving factor is politics, not fraud — especially since Mr. Trump’s narrow win in 2016 underscored the potentially crucial value of depressing turnout by Democrats, particularly minorities. The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft.

National: Risks Overshadow Benefits with Online Voting, Experts Warn | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

Government officials have expressed mounting concerns for how the COVID-19 virus could diminish voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election. As a partial solution, a handful of states have turned to Internet voting pilot programs: New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia have all recently launched pilots, most of which are limited in scope and focus mainly on alleviating barriers for disabled and overseas voters. However, the computer science community — long critical of internet voting — sees the programs as a slippery slope towards a looming security risk. David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University, is one of the prolific naysayers. Having spent much of his career researching holes in software code, Dill said that there is just simply no way to ensure that devices and apps are free of malware that might manipulate a voter’s choices. Similarly, a hacker from an adversarial foreign government could always theoretically hack their way into these systems and change or manipulate votes. “Between your keyboard and your vote going into an electronic ballot box on the other end of the Internet, there are a lot of bad things that could happen,” he said. “This problem is not fixable, at least not in practical terms.”

National: What to make of HBO’s ‘Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections’ | Abel Morales/The Fifth Domain

With the election now only months away, officials are desperately trying to find solutions to protect the integrity of our election systems. The big question that remains is, “Will it work?” Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections is a new HBO documentary that takes viewers through a journey to discover the weaknesses of today’s election technology. Being a security engineer, it is my job to help analyze some of the techniques that hackers are using in order to better protect the organizations I serve. I decided to watch Kill Chain to understand the minds of the adversaries who are conducting the attacks on our election system. Below are my takeaways from the film. In the documentary, one of the hackers at DEF CON successfully took over a voting machine and forced the system to shut down. The hacker achieved command line access. Within a three-day period, hackers learned from the presenter and found dozens of vulnerabilities. These were just hackers at a three-day conference limited to the resources they held within the conference center. Nation-state attackers have the time and resources to acquire these machines, identify the vulnerabilities and plan a strategic and coordinated attack to impact an election.

National: Senate panel submits final volume of Russian interference probe for classification review | Olivia Beavers/The Hill

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Friday it has submitted the fifth and final volume of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for classification review, marking one of the last steps before the sprawling probe concludes. The committee sent the fifth bipartisan report, which pertains to its counterintelligence findings, to the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for review. The panel also said it submitted nearly 1,000 pages with redaction recommendations in the hopes that it may help speed up the review process for an unclassified version of the report to be approved. “The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has submitted the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan investigative report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for classification review,” said Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), who have led the panel’s Russia probe. The committee previously released four other volumes that examined election security, Russia’s disinformation campaign, the Obama administration’s handling of Russian interference and the committee’s review of the intelligence community assessment.

National: Commission that pushed a cybersecurity overhaul hopes coronavirus boosts the effort | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The lawmakers behind an ominous report about America’s lack of preparedness for a major cyberattack are hoping the coronavirus pandemic will boost their calls to overhaul the nation’s digital defenses. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission on March 11 released its 182-page report calling for a far more muscular stance against U.S. digital adversaries such as Russia and China and new cybersecurity executives with broad powers to cut through red tape at the White House and State Department. But the commission’s bold recommendations were largely lost in the shuffle two days later when President Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency and official Washington rushed to deal with the pandemic. A planned media tour by the commission’s congressional co-chairs, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), was also put on ice.

National: What’s lost, gained as Black Hat and DEF CON go virtual | Bradley Barth/SC Media

As Black Hat and DEF CON organizers, researchers and members of the cyber community scramble to figure out how they can salvage or, better yet, enhance the experience as the events go virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic, security will be a top priority. Meanwhile, other aspects of the conferences are expected to change more drastically, for better or worse. Organizers of the August 2020 events are aware the remote shows will have to emphasize security, as the new format presents a tempting challenge to adversaries who may want to make a name for themselves by hacking into the shows’ remote infrastructure, perhaps hijacking a presentation or disrupting access. While members of the cyber community acknowledged the issue, they don’t seem to be fretting it too heavily. “Sure, there is always a concern, but if cybersecurity conferences can’t figure out how to secure their virtual events, well, they probably shouldn’t claim to be a cybersecurity conference,” said Patrick Wardle, a frequent Black Hat/DEF CON presenter, principal security researcher at Jamf, and founder of Objective-See. “And such conferences already have had to secure their websites and networks at in-person events. And oftentimes such networks were part of a public venue or… belonged to the venue itself, and thus a purely virtual event may be in a way, simpler to secure.”

National: ‘It’s Partly On Me’: GOP Official Says Fraud Warnings Hamper Vote-By-Mail Push | Pam Fessler/NPR

Republican state officials who want to expand absentee and mail-in voting during the pandemic have found themselves in an uncomfortable position due to their party’s rhetoric. President Trump has claimed repeatedly, without providing evidence, that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud and bad for the GOP. He and other Republicans have charged that Democrats might use it to “steal” the election. Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams told NPR he got his “head taken off” by some fellow Republicans for his plan to send every registered voter a postcard telling them how they can easily apply for an absentee ballot for the state’s June 23 primary. “The biggest challenge I have right now is making the concept of absentee voting less toxic for Republicans,” he said. Adams said the presumption that absentee voting is less secure is frustrating because Kentucky has safeguards in place to protect against fraud — including requiring people to apply for ballots instead of automatically sending them to everyone on the voter rolls. But Adams admitted he is partly to blame. Like many Republicans, he ran for office on a platform of fighting voter fraud. His campaign slogan was to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

National: Why A Voting App Won’t Solve Our Problems This November | Kaleigh Rogers/FiveThirtyEight

At 106, MacCene Grimmett is one of the oldest voters in the state of Utah. Though women didn’t have the right to vote when she was born in 1913, by the time she was of voting age, the 19th Amendment had passed. She has voted in every election since, she told her local Fox affiliate, including the Utah County municipal general election last November. But that time, the centenarian cast her ballot in a novel way: She voted via an app. America is 174 days away from a presidential election. It’s also in the middle of a pandemic that upended normal life, requiring mass shutdowns and social distancing. Those two things don’t exactly jive. Having millions of Americans stand in crowded polling places for hours to cast a ballot on Election Day sounds like the makings of a public health disaster — especially if there is a second surge of COVID-19 infections in the fall, as some experts predict. So now, election officials are looking for ways to hold elections remotely. One option that has been proposed is voting via an app on a smartphone or electronic device, just like Grimmett did last fall (though so far, states seem to only be considering this option for certain groups of voters, such as voters with disabilities).

National: Experts sound alarms about security as states eye online voting | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Experts are sounding alarms about potential security risks as several states consider allowing online voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia are planning to allow overseas military personnel and voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically for elections this year amid concerns about voting during a pandemic. But federal officials and cybersecurity experts are strongly urging states to stay away from online voting, arguing that it could open up new avenues for interference less than four years after Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) joined a group of federal agencies in condemning the idea of online voting in guidelines first reported by The Guardian last week. The guidelines, sent to states privately, described online voting as “high risk.” “Electronic ballot return, the digital return of a voted ballot by the voter, creates significant security risks to voted ballot integrity, voter privacy, ballot secrecy, and system availability,” the agencies wrote in the guidelines. “Securing the return of voted ballots via the internet while maintaining voter privacy is difficult, if not impossible, at this time.”

National: Experts say mobile voting tech isn’t the answer to COVID-19 | Alexander Culafi/TechTarget

Despite a need for alternatives to in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say mobile voting will not be ready for this year’s general election. Nearly a dozen pilot programs for mobile voting apps and internet voting portals have been launched across the U.S. in the last few years. And that was prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which postponed some state and primary elections this spring and caused concern over the safety of potentially crowded polling locations. “It’s pretty obvious that the coronavirus is making it difficult to have our standard election. That’s having an even bigger impact in urban centers where voting lines can already last for hours and be quite packed. And people are looking for other ways we can have the constitutionally mandated vote without putting people at risk,” said Jim Hendler, artificial intelligence researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as well as a fellow at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

National: Republicans and Democrats barrel toward collision on voting by mail | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Americans want to be able to vote by mail in November — but Democratic proposals to require it appear to be going nowhere fast in Congress. House Democrats have sought to drastically overhaul the American electoral system in light of the pandemic, arguing dramatic change is needed to allow Americans to vote safely. In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted last weekend, nearly three-in-five voters nationwide said they either strongly or somewhat support a federal law that would mandate that states “provide mail-in ballots to all voters for elections occurring during the coronavirus pandemic.” Just a quarter of voters either somewhat or strongly oppose the idea, with the remainder not having an opinion. However, support for the idea is split along ideological lines. A supermajority of voters who are registered or lean Democratic — 77 percent — back the idea. Republicans are more divided: 48 percent are opposed and 42 percent in favor. House Democrats have proposed mandating that states send all voters a ballot in the case of emergencies — in their most recent coronavirus relief package, dubbed the HEROES Act, along with other sweeping changes to the elections. The bill would also require universal “no-excuse” absentee voting, online and same-day voter registration and expanded early voting, among other changes.

National: Activists Vow to Protect USPS as States Expand Mail-in Voting | Gabriella Novello/WhoWhatWhy

The latest victim of the attack on voting rights appears to be the United States Postal Service (USPS). As more states make changes to their election laws due to fears about the coronavirus, it remains uncertain how prepared local officials are to offer alternative methods of voting. In California, for example, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last week that the state would move toward an all-mail election — which means tens of millions of ballots will go through the postal system. Local election officials have raised concerns about the surge in absentee ballots and whether there is enough funding to process every returned ballot. And, in part because the White House has turned funding the postal service into a partisan debate, the cost of mailing every Californian a ballot could amount to a figure that the state has never had to meet before. The challenges may intensify, as the USPS, the agency charged with delivering and returning millions of ballots, is facing unprecedented uncertainty after reports that President Donald Trump will veto any legislation that includes funding for the beleaguered agency. Without federal aid, states may be forced to make difficult budgetary decisions in order to pay for the surge in mail ballots — so voting-rights groups are turning to the courts for help.

National: founder launches VoteAmerica, a nonprofit using tech tools to help Americans vote by mail | Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch

With November looming, the scramble to protect the 2020 U.S. election from coronavirus chaos is on. To that end, a small, skilled cluster of voting rights advocates are launching a new voter mobilization project. Called VoteAmerica, the new non-profit shares DNA with, the esteemed nonpartisan voter mobilization site VoteAmerica founder Debra Cleaver first launched in 2008. VoteAmerica’s goal is to boost voter turnout by helping people vote by mail. In a normal year that might mean striving to drive record turnout. But in the midst of the pandemic, the team is working to ensure that 2020’s presidential election turnout doesn’t slump like it would in a midterm election year. “It seems at this point that Americans are either going to be unable or unwilling to vote in person in the November election, which could lead to catastrophically low turnout,” Cleaver said in an interview with TechCrunch. “But if we have our way, there will be no perceivable dip in turnout in November.”

National: House Democrats include $3.6 billion for mail-in voting in new stimulus bill | Maggie Miller/The Hill

House Democrats have included $3.6 billion in election funding as part of the $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill they rolled out on Tuesday. The funding is meant to assist states in addressing new challenges posed by holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as expanding mail-in and early in-person voting. At least 50 percent of the funds would be required to go to local governments to help administer elections, and states would have until late next year to access the funds. The House is expected to vote on the stimulus package on Friday, but the outlook for the election funds passing in the GOP-led Senate remains unclear. Senate Republicans have broadly pushed back on calls to immediately approve more stimulus money, saying lawmakers should weigh the impact of the trillions in spending already approved by Congress. The coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March included $400 million for elections. Democrats have pushed for a total of $4 billion to be allocated for elections, with the addition of the new funds proposed Tuesday totaling to this amount.

National: Ignoring Trump and Right-Wing Think Tanks, Red States Expand Vote by Mail | Jessica Huseman and Mike Spies/ProPublica

On April 23, during the same week that Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state said he was contemplating a “significant expansion” of vote by mail, the Public Interest Legal Foundation emailed one of his employees under the subject line “28 MILLION ballots lost.” “Putting the election in the hands of the United States Postal Service would be a catastrophe,” wrote J. Christian Adams, president of PILF, a conservative organization that has long complained about voter fraud. His missive contended, with scant evidence, that “twice as many” mailed ballots “disappeared” in the 2016 presidential election than made up the margin of votes between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The state worker forwarded the message to his supervisor, who ignored it, according to emails obtained through a public records request. Only days later, Kentucky finalized its plan for the biggest increase in vote by mail in the state’s history. Secretary of State Mike Adams (no relation to J. Christian) said he had little trouble persuading legislators to pass the measure. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised on social media and elsewhere,” he said. “Republicans and Democrats both have been supportive of what we did.”

National: There Is No Evidence That Voting By Mail Gives One Party An Advantage | Lee Drutman/FiveThirtyEight

If the coronavirus pandemic rages on, most Americans will probably vote by mail in November. But like most political issues in the U.S., voting by mail is an increasingly partisan affair, with Democrats more likely to support it than Republicans. The fight over voting by mail isn’t new. But if the political cues around voting by mail weren’t firmly set before, they are now, with President Trump calling voting by mail “corrupt” and pushing Republicans to fight efforts to expand it. And this has many election experts concerned as the partisan fighting, last-minute scrambles and inevitable litigation could make 2020 an even more uncertain election. But before the political fighting gets too ugly, lawmakers really ought to look at the evidence. Numerous studies have arrived at the same conclusion: Voting by mail doesn’t provide any clear partisan advantage. In fact, as states have expanded their use of mailed ballots over the last decade — including five states that conduct all-mail elections by default — both parties have enjoyed a small but equal increase in turnout.

National: Jared Kushner Won’t Rule Out That Trump Could Try to Delay the Election | Alison Durkee/Vanity Fair

As the coronavirus crisis has crippled the U.S., a nagging fear has emerged among Democrats: that President Donald Trump, seeing his lagging poll numbers, will use the public health crisis as a reason for delaying the presidential election. With the virus delaying—and, in New York, briefly canceling—state primary elections, the thinking goes that if the coronavirus lockdowns continue, or a new wave emerges in the fall, Trump or other Republican leaders could seize the opportunity and use the postponed primaries as a precedent to keep Trump in the White House a bit longer. “Mark my words,” Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden said in April. “I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.” And while Trump himself hasn’t called for any delay to the election yet, one of his top advisers signaled Tuesday that the idea, at the very least, isn’t a total nonstarter.

National: Internet-based voting is the new front in the election security wars | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Voting systems that rely on the Internet are fast becoming a major conflict zone in the battle to secure the 2020 election against hacking. The development comes as states are scrambling to revamp their voting procedures to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In some cases that means allowing digital voting to play a more prominent role, despite persistent warnings from experts that it’s highly insecure and often unverifiable. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Election Assistance Commission jumped into the fray on Friday, sending guidance to states warning about the major security challenges posed by all voting systems that use the Internet in some way. The guidance covers ballots sent digitally to voters; ballots sent and marked online but printed out and returned by physical mail; and ballots that are received and returned entirely digitally. The agencies warned about dangers related to all three systems but especially the third, which they say poses “significant security risks.” Among those risks: Hackers could change large numbers of votes, block votes from being recorded or undermine ballot secrecy.

National: DHS memo: ‘Significant’ security risks presented by online voting | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

The Department of Homeland Security has told election officials and voting vendors that internet-connected voting is risky to the point that ballots returned online “could be manipulated at scale” by a malicious attacker. The advisory that DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency sent states on Fri ay is perhaps the federal government’s sternest warning yet against online voting. It comes as officials weigh their options for conducting elections during a pandemic and as digital voting vendors see an opportunity to hawk their products. While the risk of election officials delivering ballots to voters via the internet can be managed, the return of those ballots by voters “faces significant security risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of voted ballots,” CISA said in the guidance, which CyberScoop reviewed. “These risks can ultimately affect the tabulation and results and, can occur at scale.” The guidance, which is marked “For Official Use Only” and is not public, cites a theoretical “man-in-the-middle” attack, in which a hacker intercepts and alters data, as one risk to voters who return ballots electronically. Other federal agencies involved in election security — the Election Assistance Commission, the FBI, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — signed off on the document.

National: Federal Agencies Warn States Online Voting Is ‘High Risk’ | Miles Parks/NPR

The federal government is letting states know it considers online voting to be a “high-risk” way of running elections even if all recommended security protocols are followed. It’s the latest development in the debate over Internet voting as a few states have announced they plan to offer it to voters with disabilities this year, while security experts have voiced grave warnings against doing so. An eight-page report distributed to states last week recommends mail-in ballots as a more secure method of voting. It was co-authored by four federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “We recommend paper ballot return as electronic ballot return technologies are high-risk even with controls in place,” says the document, according to a copy obtained by The Wall Street Journal. A source with knowledge of the document confirmed its authenticity to NPR. West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey all have confirmed plans to pilot a system provided by the Seattle-based company Democracy Live in upcoming elections to allow military and overseas voters as well as some voters with disabilities the option to vote online.

National: Senator Warren warns coronavirus ‘poses a threat to free and fair elections’ | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday warned that the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to “free and fair elections,” as experts cautioned that states are running out of time to prepare to hold elections during the crisis. “Coronavirus poses a threat to free and fair elections. But we can fix that,” Warren tweeted. “We need vote by mail. We need online and same-day registration. We need early voting and extended voting hours. We need real money for governments to administer elections safely.” Warren voiced her concerns in response to a New York Times Magazine report that explored the question of whether Americans could be disenfranchised by the pandemic. The article highlighted the recent Wisconsin primary election, when residents were forced to vote in-person. Dozens of coronavirus cases tied to election day have been reported in the weeks since. Warren released a plan on the day of the Wisconsin primary on how to secure voting during COVID-19, advocating for states to send an absentee ballot to every eligible American voter, and that Congress give $4 billion to states for elections.

National: Pandemic Prompts Questions About 2020 Presidential Election | Cameron Langford/Courthouse News

With Election Day fast approaching, the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored a central question seemingly destined for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court: Will states let all voters cast absentee ballots, given concerns about spreading the virus? The absentee ballot question is just one of many questions swirling around the 2020 presidential election. Will states be able to find enough volunteers to usher voters through the polls? Many poll workers are elderly, a group at high risk for Covid-19 health complications. Wisconsin called in 2,400 National Guard troops to staff the polls for its April 7 primary election, a move voting-rights advocates say should not be duplicated. “Members of the National Guard can have an intimidating effect inside our nation’s polling sites and discourage some voters from feeling able to freely cast their ballots … Particularly voters of color,” said Kristen Clarke, president of Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan organization. “There are also concerns with deploying people who may not be sufficiently trained and experienced to manage poll sites,” Clarke said in an email.

National: Putin Is Well on His Way to Stealing the Next Election #DemocracyRIP | Franklin Foer/The Atlantic

Jack Cable sat down at the desk in his cramped dorm room to become an adult in the eyes of democracy. The rangy teenager, with neatly manicured brown hair and chunky glasses, had recently arrived at Stanford—his first semester of life away from home—and the 2018 midterm elections were less than two months away. Although he wasn’t one for covering his laptop with strident stickers or for taking loud stands, he felt a genuine thrill at the prospect of voting. But before he could cast an absentee ballot, he needed to register with the Board of Elections back home in Chicago. When Cable tried to complete the digital forms, an error message stared at him from his browser. Clicking back to his initial entry, he realized that he had accidentally typed an extraneous quotation mark into his home address. The fact that a single keystroke had short-circuited his registration filled Cable with a sense of dread. Despite his youth, Cable already enjoyed a global reputation as a gifted hacker—or, as he is prone to clarify, an “ethical hacker.” As a sophomore in high school, he had started participating in “bug bounties,” contests in which companies such as Google and Uber publicly invite attacks on their digital infrastructure so that they can identify and patch vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them. Cable, who is preternaturally persistent, had a knack for finding these soft spots. He collected enough cash prizes from the bug bounties to cover the costs of four years at Stanford.

National: Coronavirus has upended election security training with just months before November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Russian hackers could target election officials working from home. Adversaries could spread rumors about coronavirus outbreaks at polling sites to deter people from showing up on Election Day. Or they could launch disinformation campaigns claiming elections have been delayed or canceled entirely because of the virus. Those are just some of the new scenarios the University of Southern California’s Election Security Initiative is tackling as it races to conduct virtual training programs for campaign and election officials across all 50 states before November. The big takeaway: Every aspect of securing elections is now far harder than they ever imagined. The array of challenges officials are facing now make the pre-pandemic concerns about Russian hacking seem simple by comparison. “Security concerns now are more urgent in almost all cases because the virus has really exacerbated security issues,” the initiative’s executive director Adam Clayton Powell III told me. “It’s not an abstraction. It’s very real for people that they’ll have to do this work in a more urgent climate than they anticipated.”  USC launched its initiative early this year with a laser focus on helping to combat interference from Russia and other U.S. adversaries.  The group, which received most of its funding from Google, planned to hold in-person trainings across the country and to help officials who attended link up with experts at local universities who could help them prepare for cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and related threats. But, like everything else about the election landscape, that plan was upended by the pandemic.

National: US government plans to urge states to resist ‘high-risk’ internet voting | Kim Zetter/The Guardian

The Department of Homeland Security has come out strongly against internet voting in new draft guidelines, breaking with its longstanding reluctance to formally weigh in on the controversial issue, even after the 2016 Russian election hacking efforts. The move comes as a number of states push to expand the use of ballots cast online. The eight-page document, obtained by the Guardian, pulls no punches in calling the casting of ballots over the internet a “high-risk” endeavor that would allow attackers to alter votes and results “at scale” and compromise the integrity of elections. The guidelines advise states to avoid it altogether or restrict it to voters who have no other means of casting a ballot. The document primarily addresses a type of internet voting called electronic ballot delivery and return – where digital absentee ballots counties send to voters overseas via email or a web portal are completed and returned via email attachment, fax or direct upload – but it essentially applies to all forms of internet voting. No states currently offer full-on internet voting, but numerous states allow military and civilian voters abroad to receive and return ballots electronically, and some of these voters use an internet-based system that allows them to mark their ballot online before printing it out and mailing it back or returning it via email or fax.

National: Agencies Warn States That Internet Voting Poses Widespread Security Risks | Dustin Volz/Wall Street Journal

Several U.S. government agencies told states on Friday that casting ballots over the internet poses high levels of cybersecurity risk and is vulnerable to disruption, a warning that came as some states consider expanding online voting options to cope with challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. The unusually stark, eight-page federal risk assessment, sent to states privately, said that electronic delivery and return of ballots could be manipulated at a scale that allows for the wholesale compromise of elections, unlike the tampering of physical mail ballots, which is difficult to achieve and limited in its potential size or impact. But attacks on internet voting “could be conducted from anywhere in world, at high volumes, and could compromise ballot confidentiality, ballot integrity, and/or stop ballot availability,” the advisory, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, stated. It rated the electronic delivery of blank ballots to voters as a low risk, but said allowing voters to return completed ballots electronically was high risk. While government officials previously have said internet voting poses risks, the new assessment contains the most direct language yet from federal authorities who typically avoid specifically instructing state and local election officials on how to carry out their elections. Some election officials have resisted calls for federal limitations on internet voting or voting machines that allow for wireless internet connectivity. But the assessment makes clear that vote-by-mail options are preferred to internet voting. “While there are effective risk management controls to enable electronic ballot delivery and marking, we recommend paper ballot return as electronic ballot return technologies are high-risk even with controls in place,” the document said.