They knew Russian operatives might try to tamper with the nation’s electronic voting systems. Many people inside the U.S. government and the Obama White House knew.
In the summer of 2016, a cluster of volunteers on a federally supervised cybersecurity team crafting 2018 election guidelines felt compelled to do something sooner. Chatting online, they scrambled to draw up ways for state and local officials to patch the most obvious cyber vulnerabilities before Election Day 2016.
Their five-page list of recommendations focused on two gaping holes in the U.S. election system. It warned that internet voting by at least some citizens in 32 states was not secure and should be avoided. And, critically, it advised how to guard voting and ballot-counting machines that the experts knew could be penetrated even when disconnected from the internet.
But the list was stopped in its tracks. A year later, even as U.S. intelligence agencies warn that Russian operatives have their eyes on 2018 and beyond, America’s more than 7,000 election jurisdictions nationwide still do not have access to those guidelines for shielding the voting process.