Vote of­fi­cials con­cerned about se­cu­rity in 2018

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Brian Slo­dusko

INDIANAPOLIS» State elec­tion of­fi­cials voiced doubt Satur­day over whether ad­e­quate se­cu­rity mea­sures can be adopted be­fore 2018 elec­tions to safe­guard against the pos­si­bil­ity of for­eign gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ing in U.S. elec­tions.

That’s ac­cord­ing to at­ten­dees at a week­end gath­er­ing of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Sec­re­taries of State, whose con­fer­ence was held amid an up­roar over a White House com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s al­le­ga­tions of voter fraud and height­ened con­cern about Rus­sian at­tempts to in­ter­fere in U.S. elec­tions.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity said last fall that hack­ers be­lieved to be Rus­sian agents tar­geted voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tems in more than 20 states. And a leaked Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency doc­u­ment from May said Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence had at­tempted to hack into voter reg­is­tra­tion soft­ware used in eight states.

But both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic Sec­re­taries of State, who are re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out elec­tions in many states, said they have been frus­trated in re­cent months by a lack of in­for­ma­tion from fed­eral in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials on al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling with the vote. They say that de­spite the best ef­forts by fed­eral of­fi­cials, it may be too late in to make sub­stan­tive changes.

“I’m doubt­ful,” said Maine Sec­re­tary of State Matt Dun­lap, a Demo­crat. “We shouldn’t feel like we’ve been tied to a chair and blind­folded ... It’s very hard to help fur­ther in­still pub­lic con­fi­dence that you know what you’re do­ing if you don’t have any in­for­ma­tion.”

The con­fer­ence in Indianapolis, which be­gan Fri­day, is be­ing at­tended by of­fi­cials from 37 states, in­clud­ing Colorado Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams, a Repub­li­can.

The FBI and Home­land Se­cu­rity at­tempted to al­lay fears by hold­ing a se­ries of closed-door meet­ings Satur­day on vot­ing se­cu­rity.

“This is a new thing and it takes a while to get things run­ning and every­body talk­ing,” said Mis­souri Sec­re­tary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Repub­li­can. “I think this is some­thing we will build on and it will get bet­ter over time.”

There is no in­di­ca­tion so far that vot­ing or bal­lot count­ing was af­fected in the Novem­ber elec­tion, but of­fi­cials are con­cerned that the Rus­sians may have gained knowl­edge that could help them dis­rupt fu­ture elec­tions.

The gath­er­ing took place while Trump was in Ger­many for the Group of Twenty sum­mit, which in­cluded a meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who said Satur­day that he thinks Trump ac­cepted his as­sur­ances that Rus­sia didn’t med­dle in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

It also comes one week after the com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing Trump’s al­le­ga­tions of elec­tion fraud re­quested voter in­for­ma­tion from all 50 states, draw­ing bi­par­ti­san blow­back. The re­quest seeks dates of birth, par­tial So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, ad­dresses, vot­ing his­to­ries, mil­i­tary service and other in­for­ma­tion about ev­ery voter in the coun­try.

Trump has re­peat­edly stated without proof that he be­lieves mil­lions of fraud­u­lent bal­lots were cast in the Novem­ber elec­tion, when he car­ried the Elec­toral Col­lege but lost the pop­u­lar vote to Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

The com­mis­sion was launched to in­ves­ti­gate those claims and is be­ing chaired by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, who sent the in­for­ma­tion re­quests.

“I do think that this is an odd time to be form­ing a na­tional data­base of some kind if we’re so con­cerned about se­cu­rity,” said Con­necti­cut Sec­re­tary of State Denise Mer­rill, a Demo­crat.

The U.S. does not have a fed­er­al­ized vot­ing sys­tem, re­ly­ing in­stead on 9,000 dif­fer­ent vot­ing ju­ris­dic­tions and more than 185,000 in­di­vid­ual precincts. Of­fi­cials be­lieve that makes it dif­fi­cult for hack­ers to have any ma­jor ef­fect on the vote. If Kobach suc­ceeds in ob­tain­ing the in­for­ma­tion he seeks, it could gather voter data for the en­tire U.S. in one cen­tral­ized place.

Kobach was not in at­ten­dance at the week­end event and could not be reached for com­ment, prompt­ing Democrats to re­it­er­ate their skep­ti­cism of the com­mis­sion’s in­tent.

They ex­pressed con­cern that the in­for­ma­tion could be used to jus­tify strin­gent new voter se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to cast a bal­lot.

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