US intelligence and election officials have stepped up efforts to protect this year’s midterm elections over fears that Russia is seeking to influence the public vote and tamper with voting systems. State election officials gathered for two “unprecedented” briefings from intelligence officials last week. “Advanced persistent threats are out there,” said Matthew Masterson, outgoing chairman of the bipartisan US Election Assistance Commission who attended the briefing. Those familiar with the briefing said it focused on the threat from Russia and encouraged states to back up voter databases, regularly patch cyber security lesions and alert authorities of anything suspicious.
Mr Masterson, who did not discuss the contents of the classified briefing, said it offered “the opportunity for election officials to interact with . . . members of the intelligence community and begin the process of co-ordination”.
A US intelligence official said they had never “done anything on this scale before”.
But, with primaries just weeks away, for many that effort comes too late, is on too limited a scale and is aimed at the wrong people. Amber McReynolds, director of elections for Denver, said it was a mistake to brief only “partisan” state election officials. “The states don’t run elections . . . they don’t run voting centres,” she said, explaining that processing voters, data input, allocating ballots, tabulating and post-vote audits were done at a local level in some of the country’s 8,000 voting jurisdictions.