CA Secretary of State denies NSA report of 2016 election hack

vote count electionWho will Californians believe: Secretary of State Alex Padilla or the National Security Agency?

That’s one way to boil down a flap that’s emerged this week over the sanctity of California’s 2016 elections.

Beginning shortly after November’s election, Padilla has pushed back hard at any claims of voting irregularities in the nation’s largest state. The former Democratic state senator representing part of Los Angeles – elected in 2014 to be the state’s chief elections officer – was most irked with President-elect Donald Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for massive voter fraud in California and other states. On Jan. 25, soon after taking office, Trump repeated his claims and again specifically alleged problems in California.

Padilla called that a “flat-out lie.” He said his office reached out to Trump aides asking them to provide evidence for his claims and never heard back. In a press release issued then, Padilla said Trump’s leveling of harsh allegations without having a case is “frankly dangerous to people’s faith in our democratic system.”

In May, after Trump aides announced the creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Padilla again responded with outrage.

“The commission’s mandate is deeply flawed and its motives suspect,” the secretary of state said in a statement. “The only purpose this commission serves is to distract from critical investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. And I fear that it will serve as pretext for the administration’s efforts to roll back the voting rights so many fought so hard to obtain.”

But Padilla has also flatly rejected the idea that Russian operatives or operatives from any nation “hacked” any of the state’s election systems.

Bloomberg News: California election contractor was infiltrated

Yet early Tuesday, citing a classified NSA report obtained and released by The Intercept, Bloomberg News reported that “Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.”

U.S. intelligence agencies investigating a hack targeting Illinois election operations found telltale evidence that enabled them to uncover similar attempts to infiltrate voting systems elsewhere.

“Thirty-seven states reported finding traces of the hackers in various systems, according to one of the people familiar with the probe,” Bloomberg reported. “In two others – Florida and California – those traces were found in systems run by a private contractor managing critical election systems.” In Florida, Bloomberg wrote, another leak had established the contractor was VR Systems.

In response, Padilla’s office issued a statement that suggested the NSA report was based on outdated information.

“There is no evidence of any breach of elections systems in California. VR Systems, which is headquartered in Florida, does not provide services to the secretary of state,” Padilla said. His statement asserted that while VR Systems once provided some election services to Humboldt County, it was not involved in tabulating votes in California in 2016.

Separately, KPCC – the Pasadena-Los Angeles National Public Radio affiliate – reported that it had contacted election officials in the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Ventura, and all denied knowledge of having been hacked.

Meanwhile, there’s been little news on what Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has done to investigate the president’s claims. The order creating the commission contained no timetable for it to issue interim findings or a full report.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com