New Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says he is reaching out to Ohioans who were recently purged from Ohio’s voting rolls.(Photo by Jay LaPrete/Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Cybersecurity expert: ‘Big game’ for adversaries is 2020 election

The integrity of the nation’s voting systems heading into the 2020 election is lagging, leaving equipment vulnerable to cyberattacks or malfunctions on Election Day, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.

“We face threats not only from foreign countries, but also the wear-and-tear of decades of use,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program Election officials are largely doing what they can, but recent progress is short of what current circumstances demand.”

Local election officials in 31 states, including Ohio, told Brennan Center researchers that the need to replace equipment before the 2020 election is extremely urgent. Two-thirds of the officials reported they don’t have adequate funds.

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Among the concerns: 45 states in part — Ohio among them — use voting equipment that’s no longer manufactured; and 12 states continue to use paperless machines as their primary polling place equipment in at least some counties, making it difficult to verify electronic vote tallies in the event of a hack, or to help identify a hack through a post-election auditing process, according to the report.

Just five states use currently-manufactured voting machines in all jurisdictions, researchers discovered.

Following the detection of interference by Russia during the 2016 presidential race, Homeland Security officials helped states secure election systems to deter election tampering.

Directors for the Board of Elections in Montgomery and Greene counties explain how their updated voting machines operate.

Homeland security notified 21 states, including elections officials in Ohio, that Russia had attempted to breach elections systems. Bloomberg later reported that Russian hackers attempted to gain entry to voter databases and software systems in a total of 39 states.

The deepest-known 2016 infiltration occurred in Illinois, where the records of up to 76,000 voters were downloaded by what federal investigators said was a Russian cyberattack.

There is no evidence that votes in any state were altered through hacking in 2016 or during the 2018 midterms. But U.S. intelligence officials continue to assert that Russia, China, Iran and other countries are engaged in ongoing efforts to influence U.S. policy and voters in elections.

“The big game we think for the adversaries is probably 2020,” said Chris Krebs, head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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