State election officials say they are struggling to get information
Election officials from states around the country say they are receiving insufficient information from the Trump administration as they prepare their election systems for possible Russian intrusions ahead of the 2018 midterms.
After more than a year of effort, just 21 state officials say they have been given access to classified federal information on threats to election systems, The New York Times reports.
State officials told the Times that officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were being sluggish to brief local officials on election vulnerabilities, with one state meeting with federal officials for the first time last week.
“What I’m hearing from my colleagues around the country is that this is not unique,” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R) said. “My job is to instill confidence in the public that our elections are secure, that they can have full faith that their vote was counted accurately and wasn’t hacked. And if I don’t have all the information, it’s very hard to combat that.”
“On our system, tens of thousands of those attempts [to access the system] are made daily. Some of those attempts are by Russians. But we also have criminals, and kids who just want to prove they can get into a system,” she added.
And state officials say the administration is not being forthcoming as to why more information hasn’t been released.
“I would have thought that behind closed doors yesterday would have been the time to say, ‘This is why this stuff has to be classified,’ and I heard none of it,” West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) said.
“The phrase ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ comes to mind.”
Primaries in some states for 2018 races have already begun, sending election officials scrambling to react to problems that arose from alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Earlier in February, a DHS official said that some state systems had been “successfully penetrated” by Russian agents during the 2016 election. The comments mirror statements made by DHS last year in which the agency said a “small number” of state networks were “successfully compromised.”
DHS’s apparent slow response comes despite predictions from the agency that if Russians attempt to interfere in the 2018 midterms or 2020 presidential election, that the effort could be much more sophisticated a second time around.
“There are reasons that we are worried that things could become more serious,” DHS Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Robert Kolasky said.
“Professionals at the senior level with a lot of experience saw that they got close enough to the line — the Russians got close enough to the line — and anticipate that it could be different, or worse, the next time.”