There is “no evidence to date” that any foreign government had a material impact on voting machines or infrastructure during the 2018 midterm elections, according to a new classified report sent to the president.
That’s the view from the Justice Department and Homeland Security, which were commissioned to report back following an order from President Trump last year to monitor the elections for foreign interference.
According to a brief statement from acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, there is “no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm election.”
Although the final report remains classified and out of the public eye, the government said the elections weren’t tampered with — or at least enough to swing an election.
That lack of distinction is likely to raise eyebrows, given that the state of election security is known for its vulnerabilities.
While much of the focus has been on foreign powers — like Russia and Iran — trying to influence elections in the recent past by sowing discord using U.S. social media platforms as weapons, much less focus has been on the voting machines and election infrastructure themselves.
Security experts have long complained that the old, outdated machines can be easily hacked, either in person but also in some cases over the internet, allowing anyone — including state actors — to meddle with the results. Worse, many voting machines are electronic only and don’t print a paper confirmation, making it impossible to know if your vote was accurately counted. Security experts have long said the most secure way of counting a vote is using pencil and paper — like in the U.K. and Europe. Democratic lawmakers last year introduced a bill that would make a paper trail mandatory in future elections.
Tuesday’s statement isn’t likely to assuage fears for some — particularly those who first-hand know the risks that electronic election machines pose.
Neither Whitaker nor Nielsen said what evidence they had to assert there was no direct meddling with election equipment, but said their advanced efforts to work with federal and local partners in all 50 states in the run-up to the midterm elections helped to secure infrastructure and “limit risk posed by foreign interference.”
But efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway, they said.