Election 2020

No Sign of Large-Scale Voter Disruption in U.S. Election

Officials and observers say widely anticipated interference has not materialized.

By Amy Mackinnon, a national security and intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy.
"I Voted" stickers
Las Vegas Strip-themed "I Voted" stickers at the Veterans Memorial Leisure Center polling station in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After one of the most bitterly fought election campaigns in recent memory, Americans went to the polls on Tuesday amid fears that Election Day would be overshadowed by voter intimidation, foreign interference, and technical glitches at polling stations. 

But by Tuesday afternoon, the election had progressed largely without incident, according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which runs a nationwide election protection program. 

“It appears at this stage that we are on path to a relatively successful Election Day, one characterized by record turnout levels during early voting, record levels of participation in vote-by-mail,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, on a call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. 

“I think this speaks to the success of historic voter protection efforts, which aimed to empower voters so that they were armed with as much information as possible about how to participate in this election amid the pandemic,” Clarke said.

While the committee’s hotline had received tens of thousands of calls from voters across the country, they mostly centered on isolated issues, and there was little evidence of efforts to systematically prevent people from voting on election day.  

The FBI and the New York attorney general are investigating a wave of robocalls received by voters in several states urging them to “stay safe and stay home.” The calls do not explicitly mention voting, but the timing raised fears that they could be part of an effort to deter people from going to the polls. 

Earlier in the day, cybersecurity officials reasserted their confidence in the security of the election. Unlike 2016, when Russian hackers targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states, this year was “much quieter,” a senior official from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told reporters. “At this point, this just looks like any other Election Day and even just another Tuesday,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

“We have no indications that a foreign adversary has succeeded in compromising or affecting the actual votes cast in this election,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday. 

The Washington Post reported early Tuesday evening that U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency took action in recent weeks to deter foreign actors, including Iran, from seeking to interfere in the election. The move came after U.S. intelligence officials announced that Iran was behind a wave of bizarre emails sent to Democratic voters in swing states.

Amy Mackinnon is a national security and intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @ak_mack