Tension between state election officials and the Trump administration is only growing after two states say they were misinformed by the Department of Homeland Security about Russian government-linked hacking, further prolonging a months-long dispute over delayed information from the federal government. California and Wisconsin say DHS was incorrect in its initial assessment that their states’ systems connected to election administration were targeted by Russian hackers. The latest flap started September 22, when the Department of Homeland Security sought to notify state election officials on whether their states were among those targeted during last year’s presidential election. DHS previously said that 21 states’ election-related systems had been targeted — but had never said which ones were on the list. By Wednesday, DHS had to revise its alerts to both California and Wisconsin.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a statement Wednesday announcing that information initially provided by DHS that his state’s election systems had been targeted was actually incorrect — saying a state system completely separate from elections was impacted. “Russian scanning activity occurred on the California Department of Technology statewide network, not any Secretary of State website,” Padilla said in a statement.
Wisconsin was in a similar situation, saying Tuesday it was misinformed by DHS. “The hackers may have thought they were scanning Wisconsin’s elections systems, but they were actually scanning Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development,” Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told CNN. “It appears that DHS believed the scanning was of Wisconsin’s election system because scanning activity from the same IP address was directed at elections authorities in other states.”
Despite the statements from Wisconsin and California, DHS says it stands by its assessment that 21 states were affected. “The department stands by its assessment that Internet-connected networks in 21 states were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to US election infrastructure,” said spokesman Scott McConnell.