The Roundup: August 8-14

Since Robert Mueller warned on national television that the Russians are already working to tamper with our elections, there’s been a groundswell of energy channeled towards safeguarding our democracy. And for good reason: Numerous reports have come out in the wake of his testimony that further confirm our elections remain dangerously vulnerable to foreign interference. 

On top of last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee report, a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice concluded that there’s still plenty of work to be done if we want to truly safeguard our elections. Demonstrations from DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference, showed how easy it is to infiltrate voting machines in a matter of minutes. Further investigations revealed that several voting machines were connected to the internet for months and in some cases, even years — a breach which could provide an easier means of entry for hostile foreign attacks.

Experts unanimously point to the need for voter-verified paper ballots nationwide. Paperless voting equipment can be undetectably hacked and leaves no verifiable paper trail in the event of a cyberattack or a recount. Yet multiple counties in battleground states still use entirely paperless equipment. In the event of a cyberattack, this could mean that we would have no record of how 16 million Americans had actually voted. 

Despite this overwhelming evidence, there’s still been no shift in Moscow Mitch McConnell’s position on election security funding. But it’s clearer than ever that the Senate needs to follow the House’s lead and allocate $600 million so states can make crucial upgrades to outdated voting equipment and purchase machines that use voter-verified paper ballots. Unlike other bills that have been held up by Moscow Mitch, this would be a part of 2020 appropriations bill — and the Senate must pass a 2020 appropriations bill by October 1.

We can’t ignore the evidence: our elections remain vulnerable. But your senator can change that. Call and demand the Senate allocate $600 million in election security funding for states.

Stay informed on the latest developments in this fight and others:

Brennan Center for Justice: Voting Machine Security: Where We Stand Six Months Before the New Hampshire Primary
Last year, Congress provided $380 million to states to help with upgrades, but it wasn’t enough. This analysis examines the progress we’ve made since 2016, and catalogs the important and necessary work that is left to be done.

The Washington Post: Analysis Shows 12% Could Vote Without Paper Backup In 2020
A study released by the Brennan Center for Justice evaluates the state of the country’s election security and concludes that much more needs to be done. While there has been some progress by states and the federal government since Russian agents targeted U.S. state election systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the analysis notes that many states have not taken all of the steps needed to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Politico: Democrats stump for election security, blast McConnell at hacker conference
Democratic lawmakers emerged from DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference, with a clear message: Congress must pass legislation to mandate better U.S. election security. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly blocked votes on two House bills that would require voting machines to produce paper records, mandate post-election audits, and impose security requirements on election technology companies.

Fortune: America Needs Paper-Based Ballots for the 2020 Election
With security experts warning of foreign interference already aimed at the next presidential race, the issue of election security should be a top priority for the U.S. This is not a partisan issue. The nation would do well to secure the foundations upon which its democracy rests.

VICE: Exclusive: Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials 
A group of election security experts found nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including systems in nine Wisconsin counties, in four Michigan counties, and in seven Florida counties — all states that are perennial battlegrounds in presidential elections.

The Washington Post: How a McConnell-backed effort to lift Russian sanctions boosted a Kentucky project
Mitch McConnell successfully blocked a Senate bill, which then permitted the Trump administration to lift sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, Rusal. Three months later, Rusal announced plans to provide $200 million in capital to buy a 40 percent stake in the new aluminum plant in Ashland, Ky. The Rusal-backed project is one of several issues fueling broader scrutiny of McConnell’s posture toward Russia and its efforts to manipulate American voters.

Time: A Kremlin-Linked Firm Invested Millions in Kentucky. Were They After More Than Money?
What worries national-security experts is not that Rusal, Braidy, or Deripaska broke any laws in their deal. It’s that they didn’t. A TIME investigation found that Rusal used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight sanctions, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process. One of the targets was Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who helped thwart a bipartisan push to keep the sanctions in place.

Newsweek: Foreign Officials Who Spend Money At Trump Properties Are Helping Him Violate The Constitution, Democrat Says
Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has a warning for foreign officials who spend money at properties owned by Trump: Stop, because your government is “facilitating” Trump’s ability to violate the Emoluments Clause, which states that no sitting U.S. president “shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept” gifts or benefits from foreign governments.

BuzzFeed News: Donald Trump Has Used A Secretive Justice System To Keep Lawsuits Against Him Out Of Court
In a number of cases in which Trump, his 2016 campaign, or his businesses have been accused of discrimination, shady business practices, and other bad acts, Trump and his lawyers have invoked clauses in contracts that give them the power to force disputes behind closed doors. Unlike in court, the public and the media don’t have a right to observe arbitration hearings or to see documents. “Why does Trump want arbitration? Because he wants to control information,” said Yale Law School professor Judith Resnik. “The key thing they’re shopping for is confidentiality.”