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Officials express confidence in voting security amid early technical glitches

Officials express confidence in voting security amid early technical glitches
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Federal and state officials expressed confidence Tuesday in the security of the voting process, noting that while the infrastructure in Georgia and Ohio were experiencing technical difficulties, the election process remained secure. 

“Let me be clear, our election infrastructure is resilient, we have no indication that a foreign actor has succeeded in compromising or affecting the actual votes cast in this election,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE said at a press conference Tuesday. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) serves as one of the federal leaders on election security and is working throughout the day Tuesday, and the days after the elections, to monitor for election threats. 

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Election security has been a major area of concern in the months leading up to Election Day, and particularly following Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE’s announcement last month that Iran and Russia had gained access to U.S. voter data and were using it to send threatening emails to voters in at least three states. 

CISA Director Christopher Krebs also told reporters Tuesday that federal officials “have addressed those threats” but urged vigilance as voters head to the polls and as the vote count begins. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet though, today in some senses is halftime, there may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere and undermine confidence in the election,” Krebs said. “I would ask all Americans to be patient, to treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism, and remember, technology sometimes fails and works, we are already seeing some early indications of system disruptions, so again I ask you to be patient and to seek trusted sources of information.”

A senior CISA official said on a separate press call Tuesday that potential threats throughout Election Day that federal, state and local elections officials were monitoring for included election website defacements, distributed denial-of-service attacks and ransomware attacks, which have taken down systems across the nation increasingly over the past year. 

Krebs’s comments came amid a few early voting glitches, most notably in Spalding County, Ga., which is located south of Atlanta and where all voting machines were temporarily down early Tuesday morning.

According to WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta, a top county official said the county had experienced a glitch that caused systems to go down countywide, and that around 2,000 provisional ballots were being sent to voting locations to enable voters to cast a ballot.  

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Spalding County did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the voting issues, but a source told The Hill that the technical issue was related to problems with the county’s voter file download system, which hurt the ability to check voters using the electronic pollbooks. 

The Spalding County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that "the computers at all polling locations across Spalding County are down. The problem is being worked on and hopefully will be resolved quickly. Until the issue is fixed, paper ballots are being used at all locations."

A spokesperson for Dominion Voting Systems, the voting equipment manufacturer that was awarded a contract by Georgia state officials to implement new voting systems last year, told The Hill that the company had “tech support onsite to assist the county with real-time help and all challenges are being addressed as quickly as possible.”

Georgia has faced multiple voting concerns this year, with malfunctioning election equipment and consolidated polling sites causing long lines in some Atlanta-area counties during the primary elections earlier this year. There were also technical glitches during the first day of early voting last month that caused long lines at one polling site in Atlanta. 

Spalding County was not alone in experiencing Election Day technical glitches. Officials in Franklin County, Ohio, were forced to switch to paper pollbooks to check voters in at the polls after a technical issue limited their ability to upload all registration information into electronic check-in systems.

The office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) put out a statement early Tuesday noting that the paper pollbooks were required in every county as a backup measure to ensure technical glitches did not impede the ability of voters to cast ballots. 

“Secretary LaRose directed every board of elections to have paper pollbooks as a contingency plan to ensure the integrity of the system and so no voter may vote twice,” LaRose’s office tweeted. “It will not impact the security or accuracy of today’s vote.” 

Watchdog group Common Cause noted in a morning update emailed to reporters that polling places in nine states had opened late on Election Day, but that these were "typical issues" that had been resolved. 

The senior CISA official emphasized that the system glitches seen early on Election Day were not caused by any malicious hacking activity. 

“What we’re really stressing is that when you see technology challenges or failures, more often than not, it is very, very, very rarely a cyber-related incident, it is typically a technology challenge, a misconfiguration, a failure,” the official told reporters. “Based on everything we have seen, that is what is going on out there.”

Officials were also monitoring for disinformation and misinformation that could negatively impact voting on Election Day. CISA stood up a rumor control website to address concerns around the voting process as part of an effort to push back against any potential issues.

One example of malicious disinformation came Monday night, when Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) warned that residents of Dearborn, Mich., were being targeted by text messages trying to suppress the vote by saying there were “ballot sensor issues,” urging residents to “not fall for it.”

The Washington Post reported that around 10 million robocalls were directed at Michigan and Florida residents over the past several weeks warning potential voters to "stay safe and stay home" and not go to the polls. 

A senior CISA official noted Tuesday to reporters that the agency was aware of the incidents, adding that while they “would expect to see more of that,” state officials were “on top of it.” 

Krebs told reporters during the morning press conference with Wolf that it was important for Americans to maintain confidence in the security of the voting process and to have patience as an expected influx of mail-in ballots were counted. 

“Keep calm, vote on, and after today, keep calm, and let them count,” Krebs said.