U.S. senators were told last week that the federal government should have a bigger role in protecting states’ election systems from computer hackers such as those working for Russia.
That sounds reasonable. A report submitted to the Senate, on Russian efforts to interfere with U.S. elections, suggests Moscow is aided by limitations on our federal government’s ability to protect state election systems.
“We would not ask a local sheriff to go to war against the missiles, planes and tanks of the Russian army. We shouldn’t as a county election (information technology) employee to fight a war against the full capabilities and resources of Russia’s cyber army,” commented Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., after seeing the report.
But then, Mr. Wyden added, “That approach failed in 2016 and it will fail again.”
Not true, at least regarding the 2016 election.
An enormous amount of misinformation — just what Moscow desires — has been circulated about Russian meddling in 2016.
It is true Kremlin hackers made numerous attempts to infiltrate U.S. election systems. Traces of those attacks have been detected in every state. In many states, the Russians had no success whatsoever in even accessing data.
Perhaps the most effective assault was in Illinois, where Russian hackers got into the voter registration database. Records of about 200,000 voters were accessed, but nothing was changed.
The bottom line on 2016 is that not a single vote was altered by the Russians anywhere in the United States.
Perhaps those county sheriffs or, rather county and state election officials, are more capable than Mr. Wyden believes.
In some ways, federal control of election systems throughout the nation would be a gift to the Russians. They could focus on overcoming one security strategy rather than 50.
It would be foolish to say no to federal assistance. But there is a vast difference between that and federal control. That should remain in the states’ hands.