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46 States Request Help From Homeland Security In Protecting Voting Systems


Concerns are growing about the possible hacking of voting systems on Election Day. Forty-six states have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help make sure their systems are protected from disruptions next Tuesday, and some states are taking steps on their own. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted says his state worked with all available public and private cybersecurity experts to test Ohio's voting systems, including a newly-created cybersecurity unit at the state's National Guard.

JON HUSTED: We asked them, invited them to come in and test our system for vulnerabilities. And where they found them, then we were able to fix them, shore them up to make sure that things were as secure as they could be heading into the general election.

NAYLOR: Husted won't say what the tests found, but he stresses none of Ohio's voting machines are connected to the internet.

HUSTED: Nothing related to the casting and counting of votes is subject to a cybersecurity attack, but there are a lot of support mechanisms for an election that are subject to it, and that's what we wanted to make sure was secure.

NAYLOR: Support mechanisms such as the secretary of state's website, where Ohio's vote will be reported. The Department of Homeland Security has offered to run cyber hygiene scans on systems connected to the internet, and it has a cyber incident response center where state and local elections officials are encouraged to report incidents of suspected hacking.

James Lewis, vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says attempts to disrupt the election aren't about changing the outcome of voting. He, like other cyber experts, singles out Russia as a likely perpetrator.

JAMES LEWIS: Remember the goal is not to tilt the election. It's not like they're going to add thousands of votes for one candidate or the other. The goal is to create uncertainty and doubt and distrust. And so the temptation will be almost overwhelming for the Russians, frankly, to come in and try and do something.

NAYLOR: And Lewis's ominous warning.

LEWIS: You can probably expect something unusual to happen on Election Day or the day before.

NAYLOR: Although in this election season, what was once unusual has become the norm. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.