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DHS secretary: No foreign election interference yet in voting machines, ballot-counting

The acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that officials have not seen foreign actors successfully interfering in voting or ballot counting, despite efforts to do so.

“We face a multitude of foreign interference threats against our election infrastructure,” from adversaries like China, Iran and Russia, said DHS Secretary Chad Wolf at a press conference with the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “We have no indications that a foreign actor has succeeded in compromising or affecting the actual votes cast in this election.”

Wolf stressed that DHS and CISA remain on “high alert” until all of the votes are counted.

Wolf was referring to the physical security and cybersecurity of voting machines and ballots, including voter registration databases, storage facilities and polling places He did not discuss efforts by foreign governments, including Iran, Russia and China, as well as domestic actors, like white supremacist groups, to disseminate disinformation in an effort to suppress or influence the election’s outcome.

The full scope of those campaigns will likely come to light in months or years, as was the case during Russian election interference in 2016.

A whistleblower accused DHS’ Wolf of asking him to end his reporting on Russian interference in the 2020 election because it “made President Trump look bad.”

Chris Krebs, the head of CISA, asked at Tuesday’s press conference that Americans “treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism.”

And indeed, sensational and unverified claims have been circulating on social media Tuesday.

Some Twitter users claim that issues with electronic voting machines are part of a plot by Jewish billionaire George Soros, who they say owns the company that makes voting machines, to manipulate votes for his favored candidate’s victory.

The conspiracy theory is borne of the fact that the chairman of the electronic voting machine company Smartmatic, Mark Malloch-Brown, is a member of the global board of the Open Society Foundation, one of Soros’ charitable foundations. The company did not deploy its machines during the 2016 presidential election and George Soros “has never had any ownership stake in Smartmatic,” according to the company.

As of March, the company’s only American client was Los Angeles County.

On Facebook, baseless claims that Georgia has locked down voting in a district supporting Trump and that a Biden campaign manager said that the former vice president will not concede the election have spread in conservative groups.

Pennsylvania has seen more disinformation about the pervasiveness of voter fraud than any other state this election cycle, and baseless claims about election rigging are circulating Tuesday, including one tweet from a Trump staffer.

Michigan voters have received robocalls telling them, without evidence, to wait to visit polling places until Wednesday, the day after Election Day.

CISA has been working to combat disinformation and election-related rumors through social media campaigns, guides to physical security of voting locations.

The vast majority of DHS’s recent press releases have focused on issues of border security. One from October 29 is headlined “The Border Wall System is Deployed, Effective, and Disrupting Criminals and Smugglers.”

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