With concerns over election security heightened less than two weeks from Election Day, West Virginia’s top elections official says state voter registration data has not been compromised.
Federal homeland security officials announced Wednesday evening that foreign nation-state actors had accessed voter information in Alaska, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe abruptly held a news conference Wednesday evening to announce that the intelligence community believes Iranian and Russian operatives obtained voter-record information. Accessing the information enabled Iran to send intimidating emails to voters based on party registration about how they’d better vote for President Trump “or else.”
The senders posed as members of the white supremacist group The Proud Boys and claimed they had voter data that revealed for whom their targets voted — but that was a false flag, according to intelligence officials.
At a Thursday morning news conference in Charleston, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner detailed the federal government’s findings and assured West Virginians that the voter registration data had not been compromised as it had in other states.
“The goal seems to be to create chaos, to cause confusion, to sow discord and to cast doubt on the legitimacy of U.S. elections,” Warner said. “Now they mentioned four states in particular were involved. I’m here to assure the voters in West Virginia that West Virginia is not one of those states. There’s been no interference here. There’s been no manipulation of data.”
Warner called concerns over election security an “ongoing situation” and said all states are potential targets for nefarious actors.
“They’re using this to try to change the minds of the electorate, not necessarily to try to change votes,” he said “They are doing this to cause social unrest, if possible.”
Warner did clarify that voter registration data is a matter of public record in West Virginia and that political parties, candidates and others often purchase that information.
“There are legal means by which they can obtain that. So that is what our 300 agencies are watching all the time, particularly the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he said. “They are watching for that kind of activity. I think that’s the sort of thing that triggered them to this specific situation.”
Following reported Russian interference in the 2016 election, West Virginia has been considered a leader in strengthening election security. Warner noted some of the ways the state has worked to combat threats against the state, including deploying a cybersecurity expert.
“We do have a National Guard asset with a top secret security clearance who is constantly watching from the Fusion Center and in the basement of the Capitol here to watch for any sort of attempted penetration,” Warner said.
Prior to the 2016 election, former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is opposing Warner for the seat this election, began using the National Guard to aid in election security efforts. Since taking office the following year, Warner has embraced the program, bringing on a guardsman to be assigned full-time to the matter.