Speed Reads

a stone left unturned

Did Russia keep Americans from voting? Authorities don't know, and they're not trying very hard to find out.

For as much attention as Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has gotten, many potential state-level disruptions have gone largely unexamined.

The New York Times reported Friday that questions were raised in numerous states about the possibility of Russian interference with the "back-end election apparatus," which includes "voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, e-poll books, and other equipment." In Durham, North Carolina, for instance, "dozens" of people were told they were ineligible to vote even though they had current voter registration cards; some voters "were told incorrectly that they had cast ballots days earlier"; and some were "rejected" after being sent "from one polling place to another."

Yet, authorities on the federal, state, and local levels haven't done much to look into these occurences:

Intelligence officials in January reassured Americans that there was no indication that Russian hackers had altered the vote count on Election Day, the bottom-line outcome. But the assurances stopped there.

Government officials said that they intentionally did not address the security of the back-end election systems, whose disruption could prevent voters from even casting ballots.

That's partly because states control elections; they have fewer resources than the federal government but have long been loath to allow even cursory federal intrusions into the voting process. [The New York Times]

On top of that, Michael Daniel, the cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama administration, noted that it would require "a lot of forensics, a lot of research and investigation," to find out whether the problems "were an accident, or the random problems you get with computer systems, or whether it was a local hacker, or actual malfeasance by a sovereign nation-state." Even then, Daniel said, it could be tough to know for sure.

But academic and private election security experts argued that this is the type of question worth devoting resources toward answering. Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter at a nonpartisan election monitoring group who witnessed Election Day disruptions in Durham, pointed out that "messing with the e-books to keep people from voting" could be just as detrimental as messing with the vote totals. "We still don't know if Russian hackers did this," Greenhalgh said. "But we still don't know that they didn't."

Read more at The New York Times.