Senior Department of Homeland Security officials on Tuesday urged patience from voters and warned that election results won’t likely be known on Election Day this year — comments that are in contrast with those of President Donald Trump, who has said he wants immediate results.
“There’s a very good chance that we will not know the winner of the presidential election, for instance, on election night itself. And that’s not because something isn’t working. It’s because of the additional security measures in place,” Ken Cuccinelli, a Trump appointee in the number two job at DHS, said during a news briefing.
On Friday night in Macon, Georgia, the President said, “I want to find out, legitimately, who won or lost on November 3. I’m not looking to find out on November 19. Or on December 1. Or on — two years from now.”
When pressed by CNN on whether Trump’s comments calling for fast results make it harder to get out the “patience” message, Cuccinelli said he understood where the President was coming from.
“He’s a candidate. I’ve been one. We’ll have some results on Election Day. The question is how much and how much will it tell us?” he said, adding that exit polls aren’t “going to be worth much.”
“We’re all Americans, we want it all yesterday. The President is no exception in that respect, even more so because he’s a candidate,” Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli put the odds at less than 50% that the results will be known on Election Day.
Leading the calls for patience for months now is Christopher Krebs, the director of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Krebs cautioned Tuesday that results on election night are never official and that the volume of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic will slow down the counting.
“Let’s let the official process, the official results, play itself out,” Krebs said.
In the view of the officials charged with safeguarding the election, the threats and potential for disruption will continue after November 3.
Krebs and the top intelligence official handling election threats, Bill Evanina, have both referred to Election Day as “halftime.”
“Be patient. And as you vote on Election Day, or if you’ve already voted, just know that we’re probably not going to have a president identified on November 3. Be patient,” Evanina, who is the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told Hearst earlier this month. He urged voters to have plans in place to cast their ballots, whether it be in person or by mail.
“I think … we have to be a patient country, a patient voter, that the election probably won’t be decided at midnight on November 3,” Evanina said in the same interview.
On Tuesday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency unveiled a “rumor control” election website to combat disinformation. The government website covers various scenarios aimed at helping voters distinguish between rumors and facts on election security issues.
“We would expect the most likely types of problems to be ones of disinformation and trying to suborn confidence in the election,” Cuccinelli said. For instance, hacking a website to spread rumors that votes have been tampered with, he said.
Another rumor the website lists: “A malicious actor can easily defraud an election by printing and sending in extra mail-in ballots.”
The website notes that this is false, that “each local election office has security measures in place to detect such malicious activity,” such as “signature matching, information checks, barcodes, watermarks, and precise paper weights.”
Trump and Attorney General William Barr, in contrast, have both claimed without evidence that expanded mail-in voting will be subject to fraud.
Krebs said Tuesday that the most likely election-related cyber incidents will be “highly visible” and intended to undermine confidence in the voting process. “It’s to get the voter to think, ‘Oh, my God, the elections have been hacked,’ ” he said.
He told reporters that if there are issues, they anticipate “perception hacks,” such as website defacements and denial of service attacks, “just to get undermine confidence in the process.”