Local election officials assure the public ballots are safe from foreign interference

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — With less than two weeks until election day, National security officials are warning U.S. citizens of foreign meddling.

John Ratcliffe, director of National Intelligence, surprised Americans during a press conference Wednesday evening with news about outside interference with the upcoming election.

“Two foreign actors, Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections,” Ratcliffe said.

He said those actions included Iran and Russia obtaining voter registration information to communicate false information to registered voters with the hope of causing confusion and undermining voter confidence.

Local election authorities said the news has resulted in several calls from the public with concerns about the security of their votes. However, they’re being told not to worry.

“None of the information that we have concerning actual votes being counted is broadcasted over the internet or using any type of open circuit that could be hacked, manipulated or changed,” John Ackerman, Tazewell County clerk, said. “It is all physically done in person.”

Ackerman held a press conference Thursday afternoon addressing the public’s concern while offering assurance. He said in Illinois election officials use a voting system that’s not connected to the internet, therefore there’s no way for votes to be hacked.

Election officials in both Peoria and McLean County said there’s been no known inference with local elections in either county and there’s a paper trail for ballots.

Ackerman said another public concern has been the possibility of voter intimidation and disinformation. He said the best course of action to take in that regard is for people to contact their local election officials with any questions.

“The best advice that I can give citizens to avoid disinformation is to go to the trusted reliable sources for election information which is your local election authority,” Ackerman said. “In Tazewell county, the Tazewell County Clerk’s office and trust the Illinois State Board of Elections and other accredited reliable sources like that on the subject matter.”

On the national level, Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, said the bureau is pulling together its resources to ensure a safe and fair election on Nov. 3.

“We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” Wray said.

Ackerman also said despite rumors of polling places being closed on election day due to COVID-19, they will be open for the public to come and cast their votes.

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