Protecting the integrity of American elections against foreign hackers is a more difficult job than preventing voter fraud, but election officials in Lake and Cook counties say they are working to to do both. U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) met with local election officials Wednesday at the Northbrook Public Library to discuss the steps that have been taken to prevent or minimize interference since the 2016 election and to look for ways to prevent it in the upcoming primary and general elections. Joining Schneider was Cook County Clerk David Orr, Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff, Noah Praetz, the director of elections for Cook County, and Debra Nieto, chief deputy Lake County clerk.
The meeting comes a week after Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, warned of possible Russian interference in the upcoming midterms, according to Schneider. It’s also been less than a week since special counsel Robert Mueller, who heads the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, indicted 13 Russians for their roles in a plot to influence the presidential election.
The discussion centered on both the actual voting systems that are used in elections and the databases that contain voter records. Incidents of actual voter fraud are scant in Lake County but dealing with interference with voter databases is another matter, according to Wyckoff. She said in the last 20 years there have been 25 prosecutions.
“Detecting cyber interference is much more elusive,” Wyckoff said. “You can’t easily find out who it is. It could be a foreign government.”