First on CNN: Feds offer training to election workers to deal with potential violence at the polls


Washington
CNN

Federal officials are offering training to state and local election officials to “safely defuse” altercations with voters that could turn violent ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to an email to election workers obtained by CNN.

The move underscores the level of concern ahead of the upcoming election and comes in response to continued threats and violent harassment of election officials since the 2020 election, with large sections of the public saying their vote was rigged by fraud. .

The training includes “non-confrontational techniques” for dealing with angry voters, as well as how to determine whether an “emergency response” is needed or alert law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said. in an email to election industry workers this week.

CISA encouraged election officials to contact the agency for in-person or virtual training because “personal safety is critical.”

CNN has reached out to CISA for comment.

Election officials and their advocacy groups have repeatedly called for more help from US officials to combat harassment and the disinformation that inspires it as the midterms approach. The FBI doesn’t have the full picture of violent threats election officials face because of flaws in the reporting process, a representative for an election officials group told Congress in August.

The threats have forced many election workers out of work and increased pressure on those still on the job as Donald Trump looms in 2020.

Election workers have reported more than 1,000 interactions with the public that were deemed hostile or threatening to a Justice Department task force, but that’s just a fraction of the threatening behavior since 2020.

The new training is being rolled out after CISA rejected a multimillion-dollar proposal from a contractor to protect election workers from harassment, in part because of legal concerns and questions about the plan’s effectiveness, CNN reported last week. The two election officials called on the Homeland Security secretary to approve part of the plan before the November term “before these intimidation efforts worsen.”

Concerns about election-related violence emerged in a classified briefing Thursday by FBI and DHS officials with election officials across the country, according to multiple people familiar with the information.

The briefing — one of several that U.S. officials have done to election workers in recent years — did not reveal any significant new threats to the U.S. election, according to the people. But he insisted that Russia and China continue to use influence operations and other tactics to try to divide voters or sway US public opinion as the midterms approach, the sources said.

The briefing also cited ransomware attacks that have disrupted state and local government services in recent years, people familiar with the matter said. Amid concerns that ransomware could disrupt election-related infrastructure ahead of the 2020 election, major tech companies such as Microsoft and US Cyber ​​Command, the military’s offensive cyber unit, attempted to take parts of a ransomware group’s infrastructure offline.

Some private analysts have echoed warnings from U.S. officials about foreign influence operations ahead of the November vote.

Russia is “highly likely” to conduct influence operations targeting US institutions ahead of the midterm elections, according to a new analysis shared with CNN by threat intelligence firm Recorded Future. An online personality linked to a Russian troll farm that interfered in the 2016 US election has come forward in recent months to post on Gab, a far-right conservative platform, about the integrity of the US election.

China’s interference activities are likely to be a candidate for the US Congress, and the magnitude of Iran’s influence operations may be in the context of talks to revive the nuclear deal with the US, the analysis says.

Examples of these types of influence operations have become public in recent weeks.

Meta-owned Facebook shut down a network of fake accounts originating from China posing as Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, the social media giant said this week.