Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said there’s no doubt that foreign governments, especially Russia, are intent on influencing the 2020 election. But they said there has been no specific instance of foreign interference in Connecticut's elections this year.
“I’m very worried this administration is not taking seriously the threat of Russian interference and I’m more and more worried this White House is intentionally looking the other way because it knows that the Russian government is ultimately looking to re-election this president,” Murphy said.
The Russian government did try to gain access to Connecticut’s online voter registration system, but Connecticut wasn’t informed of the attempted hack by the Department of Homeland Security until after the 2016 election.
“It was not successful and we didn’t know anything about it at the time because it was all secured classified information,” Merrill said.
Since that time, the state of Connecticut has upgraded its security at the local level, including new software and dual authentication systems. And they recently hired someone just to work on the disinformation campaigns about the voting process.
“We are anticipating there will not only be disinformation from these Russian adversaries about candidates and parties. It will also be aimed at trying to confuse voters about election dates for example,” Merrill said.
Merrill and Murphy are more concerned about disinformation on social media then they are concerned that foreign governments would interfere in the castings of ballots on election day or succeed in accessing voter files.
Gary Rose, a political science professor at Sacred Heart University, said there’s little doubt Russians are looking to interfere in the presidential election.
“I have no doubt what so ever that the Russians are deeply involved in this election on social media,” Rose (R) said.
Murphy said right now, the Russians are focused on trying to divide America when it comes to COVID-19.
“The Russian clearly want to re-elect Donald Trump and by promoting re-open America online, they clearly see that as beneficial to him,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the only foreign government that has a stake in the presidential election is Russia. He said China and Iran may also be involved in interfering but to a lesser degree.
“It is terribly important that we don’t let foreign powers interfere with our elections,” Merrill said.
Murphy suggested that voters need to make sure their news sources are not compromised by foreign governments.
“I just think that when it comes to their propaganda efforts, we have to accept that as part of the American political debate. Try to educate voters about where to get the best information,” Murphy said.
Murphy said there's no evidence that foreign governments have been sending out absentee ballots.
“There is no evidence that foreign governments have been attempting to mail fraudulent ballots or ballot information to voters. So well the Trump administration likes to create a story that there’s a security issue around absentee ballots or mail-in voting. There is no evidence that that is a program currently underway by foreign governments,” Murphy said.
Rose said it might not happen in Connecticut, but he believes that in a lot of swing states, there are going to be questions about the validity of the mail-in ballot vote and whether the election was conducted legitimately.
“One side is certainly going to raise legitimacy issues and for our system that the peaceful transfer of power if that’s what happens or whether it's the reelection of an incumbent it’s supposed to be done, even with obviously competition but it’s supposed to nevertheless provide legitimacy to our system,” Rose said.
Rose worries about what will happen when a winner is declared.
“That’s what really worries me about this election. Is that we might be continuing with the Trump administration or a new administration under Biden where one side of the electorate particularly is going to claim that the election was not decided fairly,” Rose said.