By Lyndsey Cole
The 2016 United States presidential campaign and upcoming election have brought on several internet hacking scams carried out by the Russian government in an attempt to gain U.S. political information.
Most recently, the New York Times reported that Alexander Zakarhov, Russia’s consulate general in Houston, addressed letters to officials in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma requesting a Russian officer be allowed to observe polling locations in the 3 states. The requests were denied, however, as Russian motives were seen as suspicious.
According to Reuters, U.S. election officials have been warned Russia may attempt to discredit this year’s election by posting false reports of voter fraud. The U.S. government formally accused Russia of cyber-attacks against the Democratic Party in early October, and it is estimated that the voter registration databases of at least 20 states were targeted, although there is no evidence to suggest the attacks were successful.
The Washington Post reported that while the White House has stated that it will respond “proportionally” to Russia’s interference, it is unclear what steps the administration will take. Experts speculate that the next step may include economic sanctions, indictments for hacking, ejection of Russian diplomats from the State Department, or counter cyber-attacks. Representative Adam Schiff, member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that “the best way to push back is in a truly international effort to let the Russians know there will be costs to this latest form of cyber-aggression.”
Suspicion of voter fraud in the United States has increased this election season, and Russia’s falsified reports have only echoed this sentiment. President elect Donald Trump has repeatedly stated his beliefs that the election is “rigged,” especially after reports revealed that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had worked with the Clinton campaign against Senator Sanders in the primary election. CNN reports, however, that there is bipartisan opposition to these claims. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s vice president, said that he believes the sense of a “rigged election” comes from bias in the media and not from the election process itself.
Trump’s accusations of a rigged election have increased tensions between the two major party candidates, leading Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton to accuse Trump of being Putin’s “puppet.” Trump has refused to acknowledge Russia’s involvement in the hacking of Democratic Party emails and has frequently stated his belief that President Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama, as reported by Reuters.
According to CNN, President Obama has assured the public that election fraud is a negligible threat, saying that “there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections.”
RT News reports that Russian president Vladimir Putin said the “conspiracy” of Russian election interference is a tactic the White House is using to manipulate the American people. Putin believes the motives of the White House were to increase support for Hillary Clinton and to distract the public from the information leaked about the DNC. He stated that there are “no Russian interests” involved in the election, as both candidates have made anti-Russia statements.