Rauner confident Russians can't rig state vote

The governor expressed confidence in the Illinois State Board of Elections

 "We want to make sure there is no election tampering and no election fraud," says Gov. Rauner. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

"We want to make sure there is no election tampering and no election fraud," says Gov. Rauner. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The governor expressed confidence Monday that Russian hackers won't mar the results of the upcoming general election in November.

Saying he had confidence in the Illinois State Board of Elections, Rauner added, "We want to make sure there is no election tampering and no election fraud."

Rauner made the statement at a signing ceremony for a new gun-reform law at the Thompson Center in Chicago.

The election board had previously acknowledged that it detected Russian attempts to hack into its database in 2016. But the issue gained new life after U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller mentioned Illinois election hacking in his indictment of a dozen Russians announced last Friday.

The board immediately issued a statement Friday repeating that it "was the victim of a malicious cyber attack on its statewide voter registration database" in 2016, but insisting that "the intrusion was stopped immediately."

The indictment suggested that 500,000 Illinois voters may have had information stolen by Russian hackers attempting to influence the 2016 election, but the state board maintained, "We notified 76,000 Illinois voters that their registration data may have been viewed and advised them to contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Office if they noticed suspicious activity involving the use of their voter registration information." According to the board: "To date, no such cases have been reported."

It suggested a "different methodology" might have arrived at the higher number cited in the indictment, but added, "As part of our review of the indictment, we will be contacting federal law enforcement to obtain more information on the number referenced in the indictment."

The statement concluded that the board "has worked with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security throughout the aftermath of the 2016 breach and is grateful that (the Department of Justice) has identified perpetrators. We will fully cooperate as necessary in the prosecution. In addition to measures taken after the 2016 incident, the State Board of Elections currently is involved in establishing a Cyber Navigator Program funded with a federal grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that will greatly enhance cybersecurity both at SBE and among all 108 local election jurisdictions in Illinois."

The board also re-emphasized that it announced steps in February "to bolster the security of its electronic database," including the rigorous testing of all voting equipment before the March primary.

For almost two years, I’ve been saying that our election infrastructure is nowhere near where it needs to be to inspire confidence in the integrity of our democratic process. The Russians have shown us that our voting technology is outdated and susceptible to attack.
— U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called the state's voting system into question following Friday's indictment announcement, issuing a statement that "Illinois was one of the states that Russian hackers successfully targeted during the 2016 election. Up until today, it was our understanding that Russian hackers accessed approximately 90,000 voter registration records in Illinois alone.  Today’s indictment stated that the individuals ‘hacked the website of a state board of elections… and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.’ If this is in reference to the Illinois State Board of Elections, we must get to the bottom of it immediately."

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, called on Republicans in Congress to restore funding to bolster election security ahead of the November general election. "For almost two years, I’ve been saying that our election infrastructure is nowhere near where it needs to be to inspire confidence in the integrity of our democratic process," Quigley said in a statement. “The Russians have shown us that our voting technology is outdated and susceptible to attack, and today’s indictment of a dozen Russian intelligence officers, including those who conspired to hack election systems, only further reinforces their ability and intentions. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress refuse to acknowledge these vulnerabilities as a legitimate threat and intentionally reversed course to zero out $380 million in election security grants."

Quigley said that, in the wake of Friday's indictment, he'd reintroduce the bid to restore the election security funding.

President Trump kowtowed to Russian leader Vladimir Putin at their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, dismissing Mueller's indictment by saying, "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be." Durbin had previously joined other Democratic U.S. senators in calling on Trump to cancel the meeting after Friday's bombshell announcement.

Quigley responded that Trump "threw our nation under the bus."