Did Russia compromise Alaska election websites or systems? NBC News report says it did

Boxes holding primary ballots sit on a table at the Alaska Division of Elections office in August 2016. NBC News reported Tuesday that Alaska was one of seven states whose websites or election systems were compromised in 2016 by Russian-backed operatives. (By Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

Alaska was one of seven states that had websites or voter registration systems compromised by Russian-backed hackers before the 2016 election, according to a report by NBC News.

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Alaska Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke said the state today asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for any information related to the news report.

The state’s election division had announced in September that federal officials informed the state that operatives accessed a publicly available website, but did not compromise the election system.

“It was a public information website,” Bahnke said Tuesday. “It was not our voter registration database, or ballot-tabulation system, or anything that would have an effect on the election, so those efforts were unsuccessful, to tap into the website. And we’ll just continue working with DHS and provide information to Alaskan voters as that information becomes available.”

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski said voters have a right to know exactly what occurred.

“This is very alarming, obviously,” he said. “We want to make sure our elections have integrity. We want to make sure our elections process is secure. We want to make sure our websites can’t be hacked, that our databases with Alaskans’ private information is not being accessed by Russian covert operatives.”

The NBC report said some of the breaches were more serious than others, from entry into state websites to access of voter registration databases. The other states were Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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