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National: Democrats call for a Senate vote on elections reform package | Jennifer McDermott/Associated Press

Democratic congressmen held an event Thursday in Rhode Island to try to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into allowing a vote on a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package. Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, who is the bill’s main author, met with Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in North Providence. The influence of big money in politics is impeding efforts to address climate change, gun violence and prescription drug costs, they said. Activists working on those issues attended the event. “This isn’t just some theory, like wouldn’t it be good to reform government because good government is an abstract idea,” Cicilline said. “It has a direct effect on people’s lives. The corrupting influence of money and its impact on public policy is hurting the American people.”

Full Article: Democrats call for a Senate vote on elections reform package - The Washington Post.

National: Election Security in 2020 Comes Down to Money, and States Aren’t Ready | Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

The front line to protect the integrity of the U.S. presidential election is in a Springfield strip mall, next to a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. There, inside the Illinois Board of Elections headquarters, a couple dozen bureaucrats, programmers, and security experts are furiously working to prevent a replay of 2016, when Russian hackers breached the state’s voter registration rolls. For 2020, Illinois is deploying new U.S. government software to detect malicious intrusions and dispatching technology experts to help local election officials. Even the National Guard, which started its own cyber unit several years ago, is on speed dial for election night if technicians needed to be rushed to a faraway county. Still, Illinois officials are nervous. The cash-strapped state remains far short of the resources needed to combat an increasing number of nations committing geopolitical breaches. “We’re in an unusual time, and yes, there is concern about whether we have enough to go into 2020 totally prepared for what the Chinese, Russians, or North Koreans or any enemy of the United States may do to influence our elections,” says Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat. “We’re securing our elections with state resources, but there is a federal need. This is a national crisis.”

Full Article: Election Security in 2020 Comes Down to Money, and States Aren't Ready - Bloomberg.

National: Only One Republican Supported That Divisive Election Security Bill. Here’s Why He Voted in Favor | Robert Hackett/Fortune

Last week we discussed election security. Let’s dig a little deeper into divisions provoked by one of the major pieces of proposed legislation, the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act. The bill has lately become a political flashpoint, blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who ostensibly fears further federalizing elections more than he fears the subversion of American democracy through hacking, foreign interference, or other hi-jinx. The bill primarily aims to require states to use voting machines that are up-to-date, not Internet-connected, made in America, and produce paper-based, voter-verifiable ballots. These are all sensible criteria, and it’s hard to argue against their adoption. In addition, the bill would earmark federal funds to help states get the new gear in place by 2020—a more contentious component. (See also this Wall Street Journal editorial which lays out other gripes.) While the Democratic House passed the bill with 225 votes in June, only one Republican voted in favor: Representative Brain Mast of Florida. It’s worth noting that Mast is not Republican in name only, as an analysis by the data junkie blog FiveThirtyEight makes clear. As of the end of last year, Mast had voted in line with President Donald Trump’s policy initiatives 92.7% of the time.

Full Article: Only One Republican Supported That Divisive Election Security Bill. Here's Why He Voted in Favor | Fortune.

Editorials: There’s no excuse for failing to secure election systems from Russian meddling | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

More than a dozen states are still using electronic ballot systems that leave no paper trail — an invitation to Russia and anyone else who wants to hack into and disrupt America’s next national election. This gaping security hole is being blamed on lack of money in state and local budgets, and a lack of urgency among some Republican officials. Both reasons are unacceptable. Americans may be divided about the veracity of some aspects of the report and testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, but those who think that renders debatable his conclusions about Russian election interference are simply not paying attention. Mueller’s unambiguous warning that Russia hacked into the election systems of all 50 states in 2016 and is planning to do so again next year has been confirmed on both sides of the aisle. U.S. intelligence agencies have long insisted it happened and will happen again. Even the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached the same conclusion in a recent report. “Russian activities demand renewed attention to vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure,” the report found. “In 2016, cybersecurity for electoral infrastructure at the state and local level was sorely lacking. … Aging voting equipment, particularly voting machines that had no paper record of votes, were vulnerable to exploitation by a committed adversary.”

Full Article: Editorial: There's no excuse for failing to secure election systems from Russian meddling | Editorial | stltoday.com.

National: Election officials want security money, flexible standards | Dean DeChiaro/Roll Call

State officials from Louisiana and Connecticut on Thursday asked for more money and clear standards from the federal government to help secure voting systems before the 2020 elections. But the officials, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, stressed the differences between their election systems and asked for leeway from the federal government in deciding how to spend any future funding. “The cultures are different and the voters have different expectations,” Ardoin told commissioners from the federal Election Assistance Commission, or EAC, at a public forum. Both states received federal funds to upgrade cyber and physical security of their voting systems after Congress approved $380 million for election security in 2018. They spent their share of those funds differently. Connecticut has put much of its funding toward training, Merrill said, while Louisiana is scrambling to upgrade systems running Windows 7 to Windows 10 before Microsoft stops offering support for the older operating system in January. Ginny Badanes, the director of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, which is working to help both states and companies that build voting machines and software to prepare for the switch in operating systems, said the company “will do whatever it takes to make sure these customers have access to updates that are straightforward and affordable.” Both the state officials and private sector witnesses urged the commission to adopt and publish standards that would set the best practices for election security.

Full Article: Election officials want security money, flexible standards.

Editorials: Trump is holding election security hostage | Brian Klaas/The Washington Post

President Trump is holding American election security hostage in a bid to suppress votes in his reelection campaign. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that “No debate on Election Security should go forward without first agreeing that Voter ID (Identification) must play a very strong part in any final agreement. Without Voter ID, it is all so meaningless!” In other words, he is explicitly acknowledging that he will allow known vulnerabilities in American election security infrastructure to remain as inviting targets to foreign adversaries of the United States — unless he gets his way on a long-standing Republican priority. But the evidence is clear: Foreign attacks on American democracy are an urgent, ongoing threat to national security that could result in the entire democratic process being rigged or hacked. On the other hand, voter fraud — the problem that voter ID legislation is ostensibly trying to solve — has already been solved. It’s a minuscule problem that poses virtually no threat to American elections.

Full Article: Trump is holding election security hostage - The Washington Post.

Kentucky: Election official says counties can’t upgrade cybersecurity because they’re ‘severely under resourced’ | Kevin Collier/CNN

A top Kentucky election official said Thursday that counties there are “severely under resourced,” affecting their abilities to provide adequate cybersecurity. “Most of us cannot compel our local election jurisdictions to update their equipment,” said Jared Dearing, executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, before an Elections Assistance Commission panel in Silver Spring. The comments came a week after the annual Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, where the three lawmakers who attended — all Democrats — blamed Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, for the Congress’ stagnation on any election security bill. At Def Con, a group of election security researchers host a Voting Village, now in its third year, where independent hackers try to break into decommissioned voting equipment. While no system can be guaranteed safe from hackers, election security experts — including ones consulted for the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the subject — resoundingly say that machines need to be routinely updated and use paper ballots so results can be audited.

Full Article: Kentucky official says counties can't upgrade cybersecurity because they're 'severely under resourced' - CNNPolitics.

National: Democrats stump for election security, blast McConnell at hacker conference | Eric Geller/Politico

Democratic lawmakers emerged from the world’s largest hacker conference this weekend with a clear message: Congress must pass legislation to mandate better U.S. election security. In panels and interviews at DEF CON in Las Vegas, where a roomful of hackers demonstrated ways to breach insecure voting machines, those lawmakers focused their fury on the man proudly blocking their bills. “Why hasn’t Congress fixed the problem? Two words: Mitch McConnell,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said during a Friday keynote address to a packed and largely supportive room at DEF CON’s Voting Village. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), one of a handful of computer scientists in Congress, told POLITICO that when it came to his biggest election security concern, “I have two words: Mitch McConnell.” The Senate majority leader has repeatedly blocked votes in the upper chamber on two House Democratic bills that would require voting machines to produce paper records, mandate post-election audits and impose security requirements on election technology companies.

Full Article: Democrats stump for election security, blast McConnell at hacker conference - POLITICO.

National: US still ‘not prepared’ in event of a serious cyber attack and Congress can’t help if it happens | Iain Thomson/The Register

Despite some progress, the US is still massively underprepared for a serious cyber attack and the current administration isn’t helping matters, according to politicians visiting the DEF CON hacking conference. In an opening keynote, representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA) and James Langevin (D-IL) were joined by hackers Cris Thomas, aka Space Rogue, and Jen Ellis (Infosecjen) to discuss the current state of play in government preparedness. “No, we are not prepared,” said Lieu, one of only four trained computer scientists in Congress. “When a crisis hits, it’s too late for Congress to act. We are very weak on a federal level, nearly 20 years after Space Rogue warned us we’re still there.” Thomas testified before Congress 20 years ago about the dangers that the internet could pose if proper steps weren’t taken. At today’s conference he said there was much still to be done but that he was cautiously optimistic for the future, as long as hackers put aside their issues with legislators and worked with them. “As hackers we want things done now,” he said. “But Congress doesn’t work that way; it doesn’t work at the ‘speed of hack’. If you’re going to engage with it, you need to recognise this is an incremental journey and try not to be so absolutist.”

Full Article: US still 'not prepared' in event of a serious cyber attack and Congress can't help if it happens • The Register.

National: Schumer calls for $1 billion national investment in election security | David Lombardo/Times Union

Election cybersecurity has the potential to be a growth industry as federal lawmakers push a $1 billion investment in safeguarding next year’s elections. The proposed spending was highlighted Monday by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who stopped in East Greenbush for a tour of the Center for Internet Security, which helps government agencies prevent hacking of elections. The non-profit company also worked with the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to buttress their systems from cyber attacks in 2016. The money for cybersecurity grants is part of legislation that would also require states to collect paper ballots, set minimum cybersecurity standards, direct federal officials to craft preventative measures states can implement, and impose testing of voting system vulnerabilities. Paper ballots are already used as a safeguard for New York elections. The U.S. Constitution empowers states to administer elections, which has resulted in varying standards across the country.

Full Article: Schumer calls for $1 billion national investment in election security - Times Union.

National: Senator: Status quo on voting machine security is a ‘danger to our democracy’ | Alfred Ng/CNET

In the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, lawmakers have seen little change in security for voters. But if voting machine security standards don’t change by the 2020 presidential election, Sen. Ron Wyden warns, the consequences could be far worse than the cyberattacks of 2016. The Democrat from Oregon, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence committee, told the Defcon hacking conference that US voting infrastructure is failing to keep elections secure from potential cyberattacks. He made the comments in a Friday speech at the Voting Village, a special section of the Las Vegas conference dedicated to election security. “If nothing happens, the kind of interference we will see form hostile foreign actors will make 2016 look like child’s play,” Wyden said. “We’re just not prepared, not even close, to stop it.”  Election security has been a major concern for lawmakers since the 2016 election, which saw unprecedented interference by the Russians. Though no votes are believed to have been changed, the Russians targeted election systems in all 50 states, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Legislation to protect elections has been trudged along in Congress. Multiple members of Congress were at Defcon to discuss the issue, as well as to learn about cybersecurity policy.

Full Article: Senator: Status quo on voting machine security is a 'danger to our democracy' - CNET.

National: Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security—And a Partisan Fight Anyway | Scott R. Anderson, Eugenia Lostri, Quinta Jurecic, Margaret Taylor/Lawfare

The good news is that national security bipartisanship in Congress lives. The bad news is that the only place it lives is in the pages of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian election interference. The report, released on July 25, offers a thorough—if often redacted—assessment of Russian threats against U.S. voting infrastructure in 2016. It paints an alarming picture of the scope and scale of Russia’s efforts and an equally alarming picture of the degree of vulnerability that persists in U.S. election systems heading into the 2020 election. While it describes no evidence of vote tallies being manipulated or votes being changed, it does describe how “Russian government-affiliated cyber actors conducted an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections.” The report is a serious work and reflects a level of bipartisan cooperation that is vanishingly rare in Washington these days. The committee and its staff should be commended for that. The problem is that while both sides appear to agree on the nature of the threat, Republicans and Democrats remain sharply divided over what, if anything, to do about it. And that division became painfully apparent the very day the committee released the report.

Full Article: Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security—And a Partisan Fight Anyway - Lawfare.

Editorials: Mitch McConnell Mislabeled Election Security as a ‘Wish List of the Left.’ Period. | Ali Javery & Edgardo Cortés/Rewire.News

In the height of one of the most politicized times in U.S. history, election security is an issue that should not be partisan. But that’s how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—who continues to block election security efforts from a vote—framed the issue in a recent speech from the Senate floor. “Make no mistake—many of the proposals labeled by Democrats to be election security are measures, in fact, for election reform that are part of the wish list of the left,” McConnell said. Eligible voters already face hurdles to making their voices heard at the ballot box, including outdated voter rolls and difficultly accessing the polls. The added fear of foreign interference and tampering in our elections only add to the fear that Americans feel about voting. In an effort to ease that anxiety, states across the country have implemented election security reforms through bipartisan efforts. We’ve seen several prominent Republicans support or sign into law voting reforms that provide greater election security within their states. In the past five years alone, elected officials from states like Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Alaska have supported legislation or ballot measures to push automatic voter registration, among other voting reforms.

Full Article: Mitch McConnell Mislabeled Election Security as a 'Wish List of the Left.' Period. - Rewire.News.

National: Congress’ fight over election security bills | Mary Clare Jalonick/Associated Press

While House Democrats are haggling over whether to consider impeachment of President Donald Trump, Senate Democrats are focusing on a different angle in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — securing future elections from foreign interference. Democrats have tried to pass several election security bills in recent weeks only to have them blocked by Republicans, who say they are partisan or unnecessary. The federal government has stepped up its efforts to secure elections since Russians intervened in the 2016 presidential election, but Democrats say much more is needed, given ongoing threats from Russia and other countries. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has seethed in response to criticism over the issue, including some Democrats’ new moniker for him: “Moscow Mitch.” In an angry floor speech on Monday, he noted that Congress has already passed some bills on the subject, including ones that give money to the states to try to fix security problems. McConnell also left the door open to additional action, saying “I’m sure all of us will be open to discussing further steps.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted that Democrats’ “relentless pushing” will work. “We’re forcing his hand,” Schumer said. The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said Thursday that he’s “much more optimistic than even 10 days ago” that the Senate will ultimately pass something on election security. Warner said he believes that in his home state, at least, the issue “has broken through” with voters more than other aspects of Mueller’s probe. But action will have to wait until at least September, with senators having scattered from Washington for the summer recess.

Full Article: AP Explains: Congress' fight over election security bills - Fairfield Citizen.

Connecticut: More money needed to improve Connecticut election security | Ana Radelat/CTMirror

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill and many of her peers across the nation are dismayed that Congress will break for summer recess without doing more to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. “We were quite shocked when we heard Congress would not go forward with any assistance,” she said. Merrill and other state election officials have been making the case for months that the nation’s electoral system needs to bolster its defenses against hacking and meddling in other ways, including disinformation campaigns on social media, by Russia or other foreign powers. They have been joined in their calls for increased protections by congressional Democrats. Those calls grew louder after last week’s testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller, who told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians and others were meddling in U.S. elections “as we sit here.” Despite the growing concerns, there’s been little action by Congress on the issue, mainly because the Senate does not want to consider any voting security bills. The issue flared up last week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked bills aimed at protecting the electoral system, a move that prompted detractors to dub him “Moscow Mitch.”

Full Article: More money needed to improve CT election security - The Middletown Press.

National: Schumer predicts McConnell will take up election security | Burgess Everett/Politico

Mitch McConnell rarely budges in the face of political pressure. But Chuck Schumer thinks election security is an exception. The Senate minority leader predicted on Thursday that the majority leader will buckle and take up federal election security, a once-bipartisan issue. But though Democrats have continued their push in the House and Senate, McConnell (R-Ky.) has thus far resisted. “I predict that the pressure will continue to mount on Republican senators, especially Leader McConnell, and they will be forced to join us and take meaningful action on election security this fall,” Schumer said. “My prediction is our relentless push is going to produce results.” Though McConnell rarely rethinks opposition to legislation, he did allow criminal justice reform legislation on the Senate floor last year that he initially declined to take up. But that pressure came from President Donald Trump, not the party trying to oust him as majority leader.

Full Article: Schumer predicts McConnell will take up election security - POLITICO.

Maine: Secretary of State Dunlap disappointed by Senate failure to respond to election interference | Colin Woodard/Portland Press Herald

The U.S. Senate adjourned Thursday for a five-week recess without taking up a series of bipartisan bills aimed at securing the election systems from foreign interference. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who oversees Maine’s elections and served on President Trump’s ill-fated election fraud commission, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the Senate’s failure to respond. “In this climate, I never expected anything to come out of Congress,” Dunlap told the Press Herald. “We do have to be concerned with congressional inaction because things are developing so rapidly and states need help keeping up with the bad guys.” The bills – which would have helped state and local governments tighten election security and purchase voting machines that provide a paper trail that can be consulted in the event digital tampering is suspected – were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prompting critics to nickname him “Moscow Mitch” and denounce him as a “Russian asset.”

Full Article: Dunlap disappointed by Senate failure to respond to election interference - Portland Press Herald.

National: Activists to Congress: Secure Elections or Risk a Repeat of 2016 | Gabriella Novello/WhoWhatWhy

The 2020 election could be vulnerable to another attack by hostile foreign actors if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to block election security legislation. Election integrity activists are urging Congress to take action after a bombshell report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found widespread attacks by the Russian government in the 2016 election. The Senate report detailed Russia’s far-reaching efforts to destabilize US democracy and get Donald Trump elected. Although the committee saw no evidence indicating that Russia had changed the actual vote tallies in the 2016 election, Vladimir Putin’s regime targeted all 50 states by researching “general election-related web pages, voter ID information, election system software, and election service companies.” Democrats in Washington have reached a roadblock in the Senate that has election integrity experts and grassroots organizers worried about its implications for 2020. Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, told WhoWhatWhy that the report proves that there can no longer be a dispute as to whether Russia actually interfered in the 2016 election.

Full Article: Activists to Congress: Secure Elections or Risk a Repeat of 2016 - WhoWhatWhy.

National: Mitch McConnell just made sure election security will be key Senate campaign issue | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., smacked back at critics who have accused him of leaving the 2020 election vulnerable to Russian hackers, accusing them of “modern-day McCarthyism.” McConnell offered an impassioned 25-minute defense of his election security record on the Senate floor as Democrats accuse him of consistently blocking their bills from coming up to a vote. “I’m not going to let Democrats and their water carriers in the media use Russia’s attack on our democracy as a Trojan horse for partisan wish list items that would not actually make our elections any safer,” McConnell said. “I’m not going to do that.” His stance ensures that election security will play a major role in Senate campaigns that are ramping up now — and Democrats are already seizing the moment to make McConnell look like the face of obstruction. Within minutes of the speech, Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democrat and retired Marine lieutenant colonel who’s seeking McConnell’s seat, slammed the majority leader on Twitter. McGrath rattled off a list of election security provisions Democrats have sought to mandate, such as paper ballots and security audits for voting machines before asking: “Tell me again how that is partisan, @senatemajldr? Oh right, you can’t.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Mitch McConnell just made sure election security will be key Senate campaign issue - The Washington Post.

National: Democrats take another stab at preventing foreign election interference | Maggie Miller/The Hill

House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday that would require campaigns to report any foreign contacts to federal authorities, the latest push for election security following last week’s warnings from former special counsel Robert Mueller. The measure — sponsored by Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), Lauren Underwood (Ill.), and Jason Crow (Colo.) — would mandate federal campaigns to inform the FBI and Federal Election Commission about any foreign contacts who attempt to donate funds or assist a candidate. Campaigns would also be required to implement a “compliance system” to monitor communication with those foreign contacts. “Guarding our country against another attack on our political system should not be a partisan issue — it is a national security issue and it’s an American issue,” Slotkin said in a statement. The bill will be referred to the House Administration Committee.

Full Article: Democrats take another stab at preventing foreign election interference | TheHill.