The Trump administration has largely ignored the need for shoring up America’s vulnerable voting systems in order to stop Russia and other hostile countries from meddling in the 2020 elections.
Now, a voting rights group is suing to find out why the Republican leader of a state elections association — who was also a member of Trump’s commission that tried and failed to find cases of voter fraud throughout the country — is downplaying the very real threat.
The National Election Defense Coalition wanted to know why during a 2017 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Indiana’s Secretary of State Connie Lawson downplayed the vulnerabilities of America’s election system. Russia meddled in the 2016 elections in President Donald Trump’s favor and successfully hacked into the election databases of at least two Florida counties.
As the National Election Defense Coalition points out, America’s voting systems, which are electronic and utilize wireless modems in some states, are highly vulnerable to an attack. And three U.S. companies control almost the entire election equipment market and sell voting systems that have a history of poor security and old technology, the Associated Press reported.
But Lawson testified during the hearing that it was “very important to underscore that voting machines are not connected to the internet or networked in any way,” according to the AP.
The coalition was denied a public records request seeking communications between Lawson and an organization she helps lead, the National Association of Secretaries of State. The coalition filed a lawsuit Thursday against Lawson, co-chair of the association’s cybersecurity committee, alleging she violated state law when she denied the records.
“We need to know why NASS and Secretary Lawson have repeated misinformation about voting system security that seems to originate from the voting system vendors,” the coalition’s Policy Director Susan Greenhalgh told the AP.
Earlier this year, former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report concluded that not only did Russia successfully interfere in the 2016 election, but members of Trump’s campaign appeared willing to accept its help. Meanwhile, America needs to spend an estimated $900 million to upgrade its election cybersecurity in order to stop another Russian attack during the 2020 presidential election
While House Democrats have introduced bills this year to help shore up the vulnerabilities, Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) have downplayed the threat and blocked any meaningful legislation from becoming law.
The Trump administration has ignored the threat as well, providing no additional election security funds in its 2020 budget proposal. According to reports, Department of Homeland Security officials have struggled to get the White House’s attention about the risk of another Russia attack during the 2020 election.
During an ABC News interview last week, Trump acknowledged that he would happily accept dirt on a political rival from countries such as Russia or China. Such interference could suppress the votes of Americans from minority communities during the upcoming presidential election, experts say. Russia targeted minority populations, which often vote Democrat, during the 2016 election by sending misinformation and encouraging them over social media not to vote.
Lawson was a member of Trump’s short-lived commission on election integrity, which was created to support the president’s lie that voter fraud is a widespread issue. Trump had previously claimed that “millions and millions” of votes were cast by undocumented immigrants for his political opponent Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. The commission disbanded without finding any examples of voter fraud, one of its members claimed in 2018.