U.S. Officials Say Russian Disinformation Continues Amid Voting

Alyza Sebenius

(Bloomberg) -- Department of Homeland Security officials said technical glitches were at standard levels in Super Tuesday voting and there was no spike in disinformation campaigns, even though foreign adversaries are still seeking to disrupt the 2020 presidential contest.

“The threat to our elections is real. Our adversaries would like nothing more than to see us divided, to see our democratic institutions undermined and distrusted,” said Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, at a briefing for reporters in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday afternoon.

He added that U.S. federal and state governments, along with the private sector, are “laser focused” on election security.

Super Tuesday is the largest voting day of the Democratic primary, as voters cast ballots in 14 states and a U.S. territory.

On Monday, eight government agencies -- including the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- jointly warned that “we remain alert and ready to respond to any efforts to disrupt the 2020 elections.” U.S. intelligence has reportedly warned that Russia seeks to help Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the 2020 campaign.

At the Tuesday briefing, Wolf and Chris Krebs, who serves as director of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that foreign influence has been ongoing since the last presidential election.

“The Russians never left in 2016,” said Krebs. “They’ve continued to engage in this broad, large-scale disinformation influence operation.”

Wolf said that “malicious foreign actors continue to use disinformation to try to influence public sentiment, spread disinformation, and erode confidence in our democratic institutions.” He added that Americans should get their election information -- for example, on where and how to vote -- directly from state or local election offices, cautioning that “an informed voter is a resilient voter.”

Krebs acknowledged public reports of glitches with voter-lookup tools in California and Texas, but he said such issues are “expected.”

“All the systems are back up online. All systems look green right now,” he said. “We are not aware of any persistent long-term issues associated with the election infrastructure in the United States right now.”

Election security has also been strengthened as more states have adopted systems that include auditable paper ballots -- with more than 90 percent of U.S. voters expected to use a paper-based system this year, according to Wolf.

Wolf urged the public to treat unofficial Super Tuesday counts with caution and wait for the results to be certified. “Making sure we have accuracy and integrity should not be substituted along the timeline for speed,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at amartin146@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, Magan Crane

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.