Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Wednesday that the United States is in “a much better place” than it was in 2016 in defending against cyberattacks on election systems, but a hearing he convened on that threat devolved into fiery exchanges over voter fraud between Democratic senators and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. The Republican Ashcroft set off Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., when he declared that election fraud was “exponentially” a bigger threat than attempts to hack U.S. election infrastructures by Russians or any other bad actors.
Ashcroft cited a case of Missouri State Sen. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, who won his first primary election to the Missouri House in 2010 by a single vote, and whose aunt and uncle three years later pleaded guilty to voter fraud for illegally voting in that election. By contrast, Ashcroft said during a Senate Rules Committee hearing and in comments later to reporters there is no evidence that attempted hacking by the Russians or anyone else affected the outcome of the 2016 elections.
Ashcroft said Missouri voter files are the subject of an average of 100,000 “scans” daily. Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for Ashcroft, said a “scan” is “generally an automated system that looks for known vulnerabilities” in a computer network.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said his state faces 5,000-6,000 of such scans daily. The two officials said they did not know how many are attempts by bad actors to affect the voting system, and so all have to be initially treated that way.