Feb 14, 2018, 1:21 PM ET

State and local election infrastructure vulnerable to attacks ahead of midterm elections, Democrats warn in new report

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State and local election systems remain vulnerable to outside attacks ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, House Democrats warned in a new report obtained by ABC News.

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The final report issued by the Congressional Task Force on Election Security, a Democratic working group formed last summer by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calls for increased federal resources to protect local and state election systems and replace aging infrastructure and new regulations to help election technology vendors to improve security.

The House Democratic effort is being released after the nation's top intelligence officials Tuesday warned in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that Russia is actively working to interfere in the 2018 elections.

“Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified Tuesday. “Throughout the entire community, we have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year.”

PHOTO: Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) questions intelligence officials, including the heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA, during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) questions intelligence officials, including the heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA, during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington.

The report also identified Russia, North Korea, China and Iran as the foreign state actors that pose the greatest threat to U.S. election systems, based on capabilities and past cyberactivity, and called on the White House to take the threat posed by Russian meddling more seriously.

“We need a strong, consisted rebuke from the White House,” the report reads, adding that the president should support a “9/11-style” commission to study Russian efforts and develop plans to confront them.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leaves the House floor after her marathon speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 7, 2018. Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Redux
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leaves the House floor after her marathon speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 7, 2018.

Tuesday's testimony appeared to validate Democrats' concerns: When questioned in the hearing by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, none of the intelligence community leaders could say that President Trump had specifically directed them to counter Russian meddling operations before the midterms.

FBI Director Chris Wray said he was "not specifically directed by the president," though said the FBI is working broadly to counter Russian operations.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said Tuesday, "This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”

The report was compiled by the six-member task force – including Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Bob Brady, D-Pa., the ranking members of the House Homeland Security and Administration Committees – and congressional committee staff who were briefed on and off Capitol Hill by state election officials, the Department of Homeland Security and election experts.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center, leaves a news conference with fellow House Democrats on the topic of infrastructure, Feb. 8, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. ERIN SCHAFF/The New York Times/Redux
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center, leaves a news conference with fellow House Democrats on the topic of infrastructure, Feb. 8, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Cedric Richmond, D-La., Jim Langevin, D-Rhode Island, and Val Demings, D-Fla., also served on the panel.

The report calls on the federal government, led by the Department of Homeland Security and nonpartisan Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to play a greater role in securing state election systems and sharing information across the country.

“These agencies have resources, expertise, and stakeholder relationships that can assist state and local elections officials in securing their elections,” the report reads.

It calls on Congress to provide more resources to the EAC, which tests and certifies voting systems, and DHS, along with the appropriation of roughly $300 million to modernize election systems.

“While some in Congress may argue that states and localities should fund these improvements, states are struggling to find that funding,” the report reads. “This issue is simply too important to sit back and watch state governments and the federal government pass responsibility back and forth.”

PHOTO: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Christopher A. Wray speaks during an event at the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall, Jan. 15, 2018, in Washington, DC.Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Christopher A. Wray speaks during an event at the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall, Jan. 15, 2018, in Washington, DC.

ABC News asked election officials in the 50 states whether they have any evidence that their systems have recently been targeted or scanned in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms. Most state officials who responded – 11 out of 16 – said their systems appear secure, with no indication of targeting or scanning by hackers.

But election officials in five states – New York, North Dakota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Nevada – said that while they are not aware of any specific targeting by Russians or foreign actors recently, they routinely fight off hacking attempts.

In an email to ABC News, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) - which represents the election officials in 40 states – acknowledged that “all 50 states consider themselves a target” and they plan to work closely with DHS and cybersecurity experts to safeguard elections systems.

NASS pointed out that although DHS found that 21 states were targeted during the 2016 election, an “exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”

NASS officials said they only know of one state - Illinois – that was effectively penetrated and stressed that being “targeted” or “scanned” is not the same as being “hacked.”

ABC News’ Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.

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  • thinkmore

    Fix it. If we don't have a vote we can trust, there can be no democracy.

    Vote collection criteria: Nothing on the Internet can be
    secure. Vote consolidation should be likewise performed off-net. I also
    would insist that the voting machines produce paper trail that is as
    close to the voter's actions as possible. All voting equipment must be
    certified and physically protected.

    It is another piece of Trump stupidity that he is worried about the Wall and doing nothing to secure elections.

  • thinkmore

    Fix it. If we don't have a vote we can trust, there can be no democracy.

  • goatboy

    Trump will do nothing about the interference because he wants the help. He will take Putin's help and continue to pander to Russia's needs. Trump is clearly an agent of the Russian Federation and he is getting away with murder. The US is well on its way to destruction and Trump will profit from the demise of his own country. He will try to grab as much money as he can before he is removed for treason.

  • Jakob Stagg

    Was Hillary's server the source of all the backdoors of all government systems in the US? Government, business, and industry do not take security seriously. That the the exploit used by every threat.

  • Hillary Clintub

    So what are Democrats' suggestions for fixing that vulnerability?

  • Keeven Lex

    Today's Republicans in Washington, and President Trump himself, are all communist sympathizers. Their actions speak the loudest, and they've shied away from rebuking Russia on nearly anything Russia has done since Trump became the nominee.

    GOP = Communist Sympathizers.

  • SirRoland

    State and local election infrastructure vulnerable to attacks ahead of midterm elections, Republicans cheer in new report

  • PierPlatinum

    So, when the "Blue Wave" never happens, and the Democrats lose more seats, are they going to claim RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA again?

  • billlls

    Let's see. The Left seems on most accounts to lean towards Socialism and/or Communism. The countries that are id'd as meddling in our affairs are all Socialist or Communist. Why would those countries meddle in order to swing elections in favor of a party that goes against their values?

  • Alex Ross

    The Hair Flap, the GOP and Hair Flap supporters see nothing wrong with Russia meddling in elections. Always SAD.

  • Morgan O'Rourke

    Look - everyone knows the Russians have not, never have, nor ever will, interfere with our elections. How do I know this? Our president says so, and he never lies...

    Right?

  • WhosVoice

    What no Republicans on the task force? I guess they think interference will always be in their favor.