U.S. officials see no evidence of foreign meddling with mail-in ballots

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – American intelligence and law enforcement agencies have not found evidence indicating that foreign governments are trying to interfere with mail-in balloting ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, officials said on Wednesday.

Intelligence officials previously have said Russia, China and Iran were employing disinformation campaigns and other means to interfere in U.S. politics before the election in which President Donald Trump is seeking a second term in office.

But these efforts do not appear to target mail-in balloting, which is expected to surge this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, intelligence and law enforcement officials told reporters during a briefing, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have no intelligence that any nation-state is trying to undermine” mail-in balloting, a senior U.S. intelligence said.

A second federal security official added that U.S. agencies “have not seen to date” any “coordinated voter-fraud effort” by a foreign power or anyone else ahead of the election. The official added that U.S. agencies are strongly committed to investigate if any such effort is detected.

U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russia used a campaign of propaganda and hacking to boost Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election.

Trump has said repeatedly, without offering evidence, that mail-in voting – long a fixture in American elections – will lead to fraud in this year’s election. The Republican president trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls.

Federal officials who deal with election security issues told the briefing that their research, including extensive consultations with local election officials, indicated that it would be “very difficult for foreign adversaries” to interfere in U.S. balloting activities including vote counting.

As one official put it, U.S. election authorities are “a lot more aware now” of potential foreign election interference intentions and tactics then they were in 2016.

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