PHILADELPHIA — The top state election officials from throughout the U.S. are gathering this weekend in Philadelphia amid fresh revelations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and just before President Donald Trump holds one-on-one talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The annual gathering has typically been a low-key affair highlighting such things as voter registration and balloting devices. This year’s meetings of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors are generating far greater interest.
The conference is sandwiched between Friday’s indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers alleged to have hacked into Democratic party and campaign accounts, and Trump’s long-awaited meeting with Putin.
Trump has never condemned Russia over its meddling in the 2016 elections despite the findings of all top U.S. intelligence agencies. In the past, Trump has reiterated Putin’s denials, but this week said he would bring up the issue when the two meet Monday in Finland.
“All I can do is say, ‘Did you?”‘ Trump said last week at a news conference in Brussels. “And, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it.”
Some of the state officials who run elections say it’s important for the president to take a tougher stance to avoid having the public’s confidence in fair elections undermined.
“I believe as commander in chief, he has an obligation to address it, and frankly put Putin and any other foreign nation that seeks to undermine our democracy on notice that the actions will not be tolerated,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in an interview this week.
Trump portrays the investigation as a partisan attack, but not all Republicans see it that way. This month, the Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee backed the findings of an assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election — and acted in favour of Trump and against Democratic Hillary Clinton.
As part of that effort, Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states ahead of the election and are believed to have breached the voter registration system in at least one, Illinois. Without naming the state, Friday’s indictment says the Russian intelligence officers stole information on about 500,000 voters from the website of one board of elections, a breach that went undetected for three weeks.
There is no evidence they altered any results, but the attempts prompted the federal government and states to re-examine …read more