Trump Looks the Other Way As DHS Confirms Russian Hackers 'Penetrated' U.S. Voter Rolls

Hackers could impact the outcome of elections through subtle actions.

Photo Credit: NBC News

Hackers working for the Russian government successfully penetrated the voter rolls of a small number of states, according to Jeannette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity in the Department of Homeland Security.

Manfra told NBC News that 21 states were targeted by the hackers, and an "exceptionally small number" of states were successfully accessed. 

When the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election is raised, many Republicans have been quick to point out that there's no evidence vote tallies were changed. This is true, and it's hard to imagine what kind of chaos would ensue if Americans couldn't trust the results of their elections.

But access to voter rolls could provide another way to influence an election. Instead of changing votes, hackers could remove certain voters from the database, meaning they would never be allowed to vote at all.

DHS says there's no evidence that voter rolls were altered. While that's somewhat reassuring, the fact that the rolls were penetrated at all remains deeply troubling.

Trump refuses to seriously address Russian meddling 

As Politico reported in November, Congress has hardly been vigilant in pursuit of secure elections. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump appears to be most concerned with defending his own image when it comes to all things Russia, and he has frequently cast doubt on whether the Kremlin tried to influence the 2016 election at all.

Even worse, the administration recently announced it would delay imposing sanctions Congress voted for on Russia as a punishment for election interference.

This suggests that Trump—who openly called for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's State Department emails during the election—does not take the threat seriously at all. 

States are having trouble communicating with the federal government

With the 2018 elections fast approaching, many of the states told NBC News they have had difficulty working with the federal government to secure their election systems. Some state officials said they were told they didn't have the proper clearance to find out about their system's vulnerabilities, while others say they've faced delays in requests for help from DHS. Manfra says the department is working on addressing these needs.

Aside from the question of whether hostile agents can successfully influence the election, there's another question about the American public's faith in its elections. Can the government ensure the security of its elections and convince the population that the process is legitimate?

That's one of the major challenges facing our elected officials as we head toward the midterms. Let's hope they're up for the task.

Watch the NBC News segment below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.