In wake of the indictment of 12 Russian agents for allegedly hacking into state election voting systems during the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he is not confident Illinois’ systems are secure heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Durbin, speaking with reporters outside his Springfield home Sunday afternoon, said he has received assurances from Illinois Board of Elections officials that the state is taking steps to prevent future attacks. But, he said, Congress is not devoting enough resources to help states tackle the problem.
“I hope they’re right,” Durbin said. “But we know that the Russians and others are working night and day to break into all systems. And so I can’t say with any confidence that our election process is going to be intact, secure and I don’t believe we put enough resources into investigating what happened two years ago and making certain that it never happens again.”
At a Statehouse news conference on Friday, BOE spokesman Matt Dietrich said that while the indictment did not mention Illinois by name, state officials assume that its reference to the 2016 hacking of a state elections website refers to Illinois. The indictment merely refers to “SBOE 1” as the state elections board hacked by the Russians.
“We think it’s very likely that we are SBOE 1,” Dietrich said. “We have not received any confirmation from the Department of Justice on that. But based on the circumstances described in the indictment, we think it’s pretty likely that that’s us.”
Since the incident was discovered by BOE staff in July 2016, Dietrich said new firewall hardware and software has been installed at the Board of Elections. The board also has staff now who are focused solely on cyber security issues. The new state budget also contains $13.2 million in federal funding for improvements to voting systems.
At the congressional level, Durbin said lawmakers are taking steps to prevent voter systems from being penetrated again, but that it “just doesn’t reflect a serious undertaking to protect our systems.”
Durbin said “denial” of Russia’s role in the 2016 election by the Trump administration has been a roadblock. He said that efforts to maintain the integrity of the country’s voting systems should be a separate issue from whether hacking helped Trump win.
“I don’t connect the two,” Durbin said. “Let’s keep our election system intact and secure so that people have confidence in the outcome.”