Senior federal election officials urged the American public to be patient and not view any potential delays as anything other than the normal election process as they sought to stem conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of fraud spreading online.
Senior officials with the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) told reporters Tuesday evening that voting issues in Maricopa County, Ariz., were technical in nature – not malicious or nefarious – and have now been resolved. They urged patience as the normal vote counting and reporting process takes place.
During their third and final background call with reporters on Tuesday, the senior officials sought to tamp down conspiracy theories and baseless reports of election fraud spreading online following reports of voting problems in Maricopa and reports of other incidents elsewhere throughout the day.
The vacuum of information feeding and amplifying conspiracy theories and the potential for people to view what appears to be delays as a sign of something unusual or suspicious seemed to be the officials’ top concern on the evening call.
The officials noted on the call that the vote counting process in this election, like all previous elections, is not instantaneous.
“This is all part of the normal process of verifying, reconciling absentee ballots, verifying all the votes across counties and municipalities and in states,” the senior official said. “So it's not a delay, it’s really just the normal verification process that can take from days to weeks.”
They also expressed concern about the potential for violence against election officials. “I think we all need to work together to make sure that these election officials, the public servants, are able to do their jobs without being harassed or being threatened with violence,” a senior official said.
The officials confirmed that some states’ websites involved in the voting process had been hit with attacks that knocked their websites offline. They confirmed Tuesday evening that Mississippi was experiencing website outages, which officials said were part of a prolonged and targeted effort to knock their websites offline. This activity did not impact the actual votes or voting process, the officials stressed.
They said that other locations elsewhere in the country had experienced outages but they did not attribute those outages to such attacks.
Officials said they were communicating with partisan and government organizations and entities who appeared to have been named as targets of a pro-Russian hacking group. But the officials declined to directly associate the website outages with the hacking group.
Earlier in the day, during their afternoon briefing with reporters, CISA officials appeared to be unaware of widely circulating reports that the Champaign County, Ill. website had been targeted for the past month in attacks that kept them offline and, county officials said Tuesday, was affecting their voting process. A senior CISA official said during the afternoon call that the agency had not been tracking those reports.
During the call on Tuesday evening, the same officials said they had since been in touch with both county and state officials about the issue.
“We understand technical issues with a vendor have now been resolved, and there was no impact to the votes or the voting process,” a senior CISA official said Tuesday evening.