During a recent press conference, American national intelligence director, John Ratcliffe, and FBI Director, Christopher Ware, stated that Russia and Iran have acquired information on some voters’ registrations and are attempting to undermine confidence in the upcoming election to increase social unrest. Iran has sent incorrect information to voters, such as spoof emails which claim that fraudulent ballets are capable of being sent from overseas. There have also been reports of emails sent to Democrats in at least four swing states seemingly from the far-right group Proud Boys which threaten ‘we will come after you’ if the recipient does not vote for President Trump. However, there have not been reports of a similar level of activity from Russia other than obtaining voter information.
The director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, Christopher Krebs, said, “these emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”
The Acting Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, and Vice-Chairman, Mark Warner, in a joint statement, said, “our adversaries abroad seek to sow chaos and undermine voters’ belief in our democratic institutions, including the election systems and the infrastructure that we rely on to record and properly report expressions of the voters’ will.”
The Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, said, “I had the strong impression it much rather undermined confidence in elections and not aimed at any particular figure, but rather to undermine the very wellspring of our democracy.”
American voters need to be confident their vote matters because there would be no need for foreign actors to manipulate their votes if it did not. The confidence of American voters needs to be bolstered with better protection of their voter registration information and education about the robustness of their electoral infrastructure. This includes information on how ballot secrecy is guaranteed by state law so they do not believe their votes will be leaked and they will be targeted for whom they voted for.
This is not a lone incidence of foreign interference in American elections, as seen in the 2016 election where Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency targeted the American election infrastructure with the aim to help President Trump win. The FBI believes Russian hackers targeted state election boards and county governments as well as private technology firms responsible for electronic polling stations and voter registration software. Russia was able to access computer networks in several American states and gain information on millions of registered voters. It is unknown whether the Russian hackers changed votes in President Trump’s favour although it is agreed Russia manipulated the vote. However, there was little evidence of Iran breaching American networks prior to this election because they were believed to be an inferior online espionage actor.
Analysis of the foreign interference has concluded that Russia is aiming to undermine Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. While Iran is trying to undercut President Trump because of the perception that his re-election would continue America’s pressure on Iran, even pushing for regime change. Therefore, it is imperative that American voters do not pay heed to falsified claims and allow them to affect their vote.