The Obama administration was slow and ineffective in its response to Russian election interference in 2016. But it is now on President Trump and his team to prepare for a new round of Kremlin cyberattacks — and this White House, too, is falling short. That was the upshot of a bipartisan report on Russian election interference that the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday, the first in a series that promises to provide a fairer picture of the Russian threat than what the highly partisan House Intelligence Committee offered following its brief and slanted investigation.
Senate investigators underscored that Kremlin agents targeted at least 18 states’ election systems in 2016 — and probably more. In at least six of those states, the Russians tried to penetrate voting-related websites, and some of those attempts worked. “In a small number of states, these cyberactors were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” the committee concluded. The panel found no evidence that registration information — or, for that matter, vote tallies — were changed. But the Russians may be more aggressive next time.
The committee emphasized that the decentralized nature of the American voting system — state and local officials run balloting — makes it hard to conduct widespread data manipulation, which would require a county-by-county effort. But it would take meddling in only a few precincts to shift results in close races, and it would take only one instance of tampering to stoke distrust in voting results everywhere.