While Russian-affiliated actors who took aim at state election systems and the U.S. voting process likely didn’t change votes, in a few states they were able to access voter registration databases, according to a short report of initial findings issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Noting that last Tuesday’s primaries paving the way to the 2018 midterms are “another reminder of the urgency of securing our election systems,’ Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement his group was working to provide “a complete accounting of what happened in 2016 and to prevent any future interference with our democratic process.”
Beginning in 2014, Russia took aim at the U.S. voting process, employing traditional information gathering initiatives and other techniques meant “to discredit the integrity of the U.S. voting process and election results,” the report said. And although the strength and diversity of the nation’s voting infrastructure on whole thwarted the nation-state’s attempts, the committee cautioned that a small number of districts in key states can have a significant impact in a national election.”
On the heels of the Senate committee’s report, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a trove of Facebook and Twitter ads – more than 3500 – that were bought by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The ads targeted a wide swath of Americans – from Fox News viewers to Black Lives Matter advocates.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, expressed concern that the U.S. is “still not fully prepared” for the upcoming elections. His committee’s report makes a series of recommendations to help better defend the U.S. against nation-states that might want to undermine democracy by striking the country’s election system. The suggestions include reinforcing states’ primacy in running elections, creating effective deterrence, improving threat information sharing, securing election-related systems, and assisting states with federal grant funds.