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We need to safeguard the integrity of our elections

July 30, 2018

 

In the recent indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller of a dozen Russian intelligence officers, there is an alarming detail.

“In or around July 2016,” the indictment states, ”(Anatoliy Sergeyevich) Kovalev and his co-conspirators hacked the website of a state board of elections and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers.”

We already knew that the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states in 2017 that they had been targeted by Russian hackers during 2016. Although the list was not made public, Illinois identified itself as a state that had its voter database breached by hackers. Election officials in Illinois previously notified 76,000 residents that their information had been stolen.

A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections said that state isn’t aware of others that “experienced an actual breach.” But election integrity activists in Georgia were startled to see the Mueller indictment identify it, for the first time, as one of the states targeted by the Russian operation. “On or about October 28, 2016, Kovalev and his co-conspirators visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa and Florida to identify vulnerabilities,” the indictment states ..

In California, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has approved the use of electronic poll books and other computerized voting equipment. Local polling places are being replaced by larger vote centers, and counties will begin mailing absentee ballots to every registered voter without waiting for a request.

Does the secretary have procedures in place to verify that voter files have not been breached and election equipment has not been hacked? Do election officials in California’s 58 counties have adequate training and personnel to prevent or catch security breaches?

It does not appear so. In Los Angeles County, 118,000 registered voters were inexplicably left off the printed voter rolls in the June primary. Until we know why and how that happened, voters should be deeply concerned about the integrity of California’s elections.

For decades, political opponents have traded charges of voter fraud and voter suppression whenever the issue of election integrity was raised. That’s not helpful. We now have incontrovertible evidence that a hostile foreign power hacked voter registration files in U.S. states and counties. We should all be on the same side in the fight to secure our elections from interference.

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