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Election Experts: We Need You

Electionland is gearing up for the midterms, and we’re looking for experts in election administration and election law to be part of an expert database. We’d love to have you participate. Our goal is to ground real-time coverage of elections in fact and context — you could be a huge part of helping us achieve it.

How Well Are Your Elections Run?

Election Day is only weeks away. Find out how — and how well — your county or town handles election administration.

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The Overlooked Weak Link in Election Security

Photo illustration by Agnes Chang/ProPublica, source image by Serge/Getty Images

More than one-third of counties that are overseeing elections in some of the most contested congressional races this November run email systems that could make it easy for hackers to log in and steal potentially sensitive information.

A ProPublica survey found that official email accounts used by 11 county election offices, which are in charge of tallying votes in 12 key U.S. House of Representatives races from California to Ohio, could be breached with only a user name and password — potentially allowing hackers to vacuum up confidential communications or impersonate election administrators. Cybersecurity experts recommend having a second means of verifying a user’s identity, such as typing in an additional code from a smartphone or card, to thwart intruders who have gained someone’s login credentials through trickery or theft. This system, known as two-factor verification, is available on many commercial email services.

No, a Teen Did Not Hack a State Election

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken

Headlines from Def Con, a hacking conference held this month in Las Vegas, might have left some thinking that infiltrating state election websites and affecting the 2018 midterm results would be child’s play.

Articles reported that teenage hackers at the event were able to “crash the upcoming midterm elections” and that it had taken “an 11-year-old hacker just 10 minutes to change election results.” A first-person account by a 17-year-old in Politico Magazine described how he shut down a website that would tally votes in November, “bringing the election to a screeching halt.”

But now, elections experts are raising concerns that misunderstandings about the event — many of them stoked by its organizers — have left people with a distorted sense of its implications.

Fund Meant to Protect Elections May Be Too Little, Too Late

A woman votes on Nov. 8, 2016, in Durham, North Carolina, which plans to spend more than $5 million to modernize its decades-old statewide election information system. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

The Election Assistance Commission, the government agency charged with distributing federal funds to support elections, released a report Tuesday detailing how each state plans to spend a total of $380 million in grants allocated to improve and secure their election systems.

When Sarah Sanders and the ACLU Teamed Up for Voting Rights

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in February 2018 (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As the midterm elections approach, Republican state officials and lawmakers have stepped up efforts to block students from voting in their college towns. Republicans in Texas pushed through a law last year requiring voters to carry one of seven forms of photo identification, including handgun licenses but excluding student IDs. In June, the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina approved early voting guidelines that have already resulted in closing of polling locations at several colleges. And last month, New Hampshire’s Republican governor signed a law that requires students who vote in the state to also register their cars and obtain driver's licenses there.

One nationally prominent Republican, however, once took the opposite stance on student voting. As an undergraduate at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee — now White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — sued to allow students to vote after being one of more than 900 purged from the county’s rolls.

Election 2016 Gets a Report Card

According to a new MIT study, it's getting easier to vote. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new report out today by researchers at MIT contains some good news about America’s election process. States seem to have fixed the long lines and sky-high wait times that plagued voters in 2012. Overall, it’s getting easier to vote, the research shows.

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Election Commission Documents Cast Doubt on Trump’s Claims of Voter Fraud

A White House staff member records President Donald Trump speaking at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in July 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

In May of 2017, President Donald Trump established a presidential commission to explore the threat of voter fraud — staffing it with multiple Republicans who had theorized that fraud was a substantial problem in American democracy. The commission, widely called the voter fraud commission, was immediately criticized as a political creation aimed at a phony problem.

Kris Kobach’s Lucrative Trail of Courtroom Defeats

Cities across the U.S. took on debt to pay for Kris Kobach's costly anti-illegal immigration policies, but they had nothing to show for it. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Kris Kobach likes to tout his work for Valley Park, Missouri. He has boasted on cable TV about crafting and defending the town’s hardline anti-immigration ordinance. He discussed his “victory” there at length on his old radio show. He still lists it on his resume.

But “victory” isn’t the word most Valley Park residents would use to describe the results of Kobach’s work. With his help, the town of 7,000 passed an ordinance in 2006 that punished employers for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them. But after two years of litigation and nearly $300,000 in expenses, the ordinance was largely gutted. Now, it is illegal only to “knowingly” hire illegal immigrants there — something that was already illegal under federal law. The town’s attorney can’t recall a single case brought under the ordinance.

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How Voting Laws Have Changed Since 2016

See the new legislation and legal cases in your state that have the potential to change how you vote this November.

How the Case for Voter Fraud Was Tested — and Utterly Failed

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was placed in charge of President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission, attends the first meeting of the commission at the White House in 2017. (Chris Kleponis/Picture Alliance/DPA via AP Images)

In the end, the decision seemed inevitable. After a seven-day trial in Kansas City federal court in March, in which Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach needed to be tutored on basic trial procedure by the judge and was found in contempt for his “willful failure” to obey a ruling, even he knew his chances were slim. Kobach told The Kansas City Star at the time that he expected the judge would rule against him (though he expressed optimism in his chances on appeal).

Covering the Midterms With Electionland 2018

The Electionland newsroom on Election Day in 2016 (John Brecher for ProPublica)

In the run-up to the 2016 election, ProPublica organized a project called Electionland to cover voting, nationally and in real time. Along with a coalition of news organizations and tech companies, we brought together more than 1,100 journalists around the country to cover impediments like restrictive voting laws, allegations of voter fraud, voter harassment, equipment failures and long lines — all of which can effectively disenfranchise eligible voters and erode the integrity of the vote.

Today we’re announcing that we’re relaunching Electionland to cover the 2018 midterm elections. Policies and practices that jeopardize Americans’ fundamental right to vote demand scrutiny. And the concerns raised by the 2016 election — about cybersecurity and foreign attempts to sow doubt about the integrity of the election — make this even more urgent.

Electionland: The Inside Story

The Electionland newsroom, hosted at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on Election Day (John Brecher for ProPublica)

The Google News Lab commissioned a case study on Electionland, a journalism project that ProPublica helped organize and participated in last year. The report was released today and is available for download.

The 66-page report was researched and written by Cassandra Lord, a writer and consultant based in London. It’s being released​ on the first day of the Collaborative Journalism Summit, a conference taking place this week at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

After Electionland: How it Worked, What We Found and What’s Next

The results are in. The country has a new president-elect, and over 1,000 people joined Electionland to cover voter accessibility and obstacles at the polls on Election Day. The project was done in collaboration with the Google News Lab, Univision, USA Today and WNYC. Today, ProPublica’s Scott Klein, Celeste LeCompte and Jessica Huseman take us inside the project, which was one of the largest newsrooms in the country on Election Day. They walk us through the reporting process, share some surprising findings and talk about what’s next for large-scale collaborative journalism.

About Electionland

Electionland is a coalition of newsrooms around the country that are covering misinformation, cybersecurity, and problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections.

Questions? Read our FAQ.

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