How the FBI is working to protect the 2020 election

Sep 22, 2020, 11:02 AM | Updated: 11:52 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The FBI says a lot of social media activity is again coming from other countries like Russia to try and hurt America this election year. Agents both here in Utah and across the nation are investigating and are asking for the public’s help.

The FBI says election security is one of their highest national priorities. But to their knowledge, no foreign government has attempted to tamper with the vote count.

“That being said, cybercriminals have been able to compromise U.S. voter registration databases,” said Supervisory Special Agent Casey Harrington, who oversees the FBI Cyber Task Force in Utah.

“We know that foreign adversaries, including Russia and China, would like to have an impact on illegal impact on our American political processes. These groups may use cyberattacks to target election infrastructure or political campaigns to further their goals,” he said. 

Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel says the FBI works to prevent this by collaborating with state and local partners in Utah

 “The three main issues we are investigating are cyber attacks on political campaigns and government infrastructure, secret funding or influence operations to help or harm a person or cause, and disinformation campaigns on social media platforms to confuse, trick or upset the public,” said Haertel.

The FBI knows people can help in this election season when it comes to being online and on social media.

“Be aware that social media deception and foreign influence operations exist. Our adversaries want to have an impact on our election. Be informed, know the origin of the information and seek multiple sources to make informed judgments,” said Harrington.

The FBI also investigates voter fraud and ballot fraud, civil rights violations and campaign finance crimes.  Special agent Drew Scown says if you try to test the system by attempting to register again…that’s voter fraud.  Voter buying schemes and trying to vote in someone else’s name is also fraud. And Scown says it is a civil rights violation to try and suppress the vote.

“So this would involve like a threat of violence or economic harm. So for example, threatening someone if they vote, or if they don’t vote a certain way. This would also be efforts to prevent qualified voters from being able to participate in the election,” like lying about the time, place or manner of the election, said Scown.

Campaign finance crimes include excessive contributions, straw donor schemes, prohibited sources and abuse of campaign funds.

Scown says maintaining the integrity of the election is critical for our government to function.

“And when the legitimacy of elections is corrupted, our democracy is threatened.”

In the end, if you know something illegal is happening, or if you are concerned something is suspicious, report it to the FBI. 

Here’s a link to the FBI’s Protected Voices Campaign, which offers tools and resources for the public

Tips can be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov or by calling the office (801) 579-1400.


Elections officials say voter fraud not widespread in Utah, still taking steps to prevent it

Utah elections officials clarify erroneous voter information sent by US Postal Service

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How the FBI is working to protect the 2020 election