Axios PM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

December 26, 2019

Good afternoon and welcome back.

  • Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 394 words, a 2 minute breeze.

1 big thing: The ballot box as a battlefield

Mandy Vigil of New Mexico works during a 2020 exercise in Springfield, Va., for state and local election officials. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

America's state and local officials are increasingly bringing a battlefield mentality to election security, the AP notes.

Why it matters: Elections security worries have soared to new levels due to Russian military agents targeting voting systems nationwide.

  • Before 2016, the job of local election officials could had been described as akin to a wedding planner who keeps track of who will be showing up on Election Day and ensures all the equipment and supplies are in place.
  • In 2019, it's "another level of war,” said Jesse Salinas, the chief elections official in Yolo County, California. “We have to fight back, and we have to prepare.”

The big picture: The Harvard-based Defending Digital Democracy Project, founded by former presidential campaign manager Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, brought election officials from 24 states together with military advisers.

  • The project’s latest playbook encourages state and local election officials to adopt a “battle staff” command structure with clear responsibilities and standard operating procedures for dealing with minor issues, the AP notes.
  • The project is also providing officials with a free state-of-the-art incident tracking system.

The bottom line: “If democracy is under attack and you guys are the ones at the pointy end of the spear," said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center, "why shouldn’t we train that way?"

Bonus: Pics du jour

Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty ImagesAbove:

A rare "ring of fire" solar eclipse, where the moon covers the sun.

  • Above is the view from Bangkok, and below from the southern India city of Dindigul.
Photo: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

2. What you missed

  1. China, Russia and Iran will hold joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman starting tomorrow. Go deeper.
  2. The Catholic Church's Pennsylvania dioceses have paid almost $84 million to 564 sexual abuse victims. Go deeper.
  3. Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest paid athlete on Instagram, raking in more than twice what he earns from his contract with Juventus. Go deeper.
  4. China imported 2.6 million tons of U.S. soybeans in November — more than double the previous month.
  5. The S&P 500 had a return of over 50% during President Trump's first three years in office, more than doubling the average return of 23% at the same point in a presidential term since 1928. Go deeper.

3. 1 fun thing

Photo: Disney

Coming March 2020: A plush "Baby Yoda" toy, which wasn't available for Christmas because Disney wanted to avoid spoilers, USA Today notes.

  • Go deeper: More details on "The Child," via CNBC.