Foreign countries are attempting to influence the election even in Kansas, Secretary of State Scott Schwab told Rotarians last week.
“North Korea knows that Susan Wagle is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the state of Kansas and has a dossier on her. Iran knows that Kris Kobach is a candidate for Senate in the state of Kansas. Russian knows that Barbara Bollier is a candidate for U.S. Senate in the state of Kansas,” he said. “You wouldn’t think Kansas would be a target, but it absolutely is.”
Why would foreign counties want to act in Kansas?
“They don’t care who wins, they just want to put fake articles on Facebook. They want to put things on Twitter just to cause doubt in your mind,” he said.
He said a picture of Stacey Abrams holding a sign that reads “Stacey Abrams governor” standing next to political activist Linda Sarasour who was wearing a hijab was doctored. The sign was changed to read “Communist Stacey Abrams, governor, #MuslinBrotherhood.”
“That photo originated out of Iran,” he said. “They are acting in Kansas.”
He said the National Association of Secretaries of State have created #TrustedInfo2020 to combat fake material.
“It’s easy to share something on Facebook and share it especially if it meets your paradigm. Before you share something on Facebook, even if you think this fits the narrative of what I believe, check to see if it is true. It may not be true. A lot of photos are so fabricated,” he said. “I know its tempting. It’s emotional and its safe. I can post something on Facebook that I would never hang in my living room.
“Its not a big deal, right? Except you are spreading a myth about a candidate,” he said. “If you can’t verify that article, just don’t share it.”
That is how foreign countries influence elections.
“They want to show the West is burning, that Democracies don’t work,” Schwab said. “It’s chaos.”
He said foreign companies are not influencing the voting machines.
“Our voting machines are very secure,” he said.
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish what is false.
For example, the web page may say NewYorkTime.co instead of NewYorkTimes.com and looks to be a viable source.
“So you will like that page and there might be a lot of truthful news. Then all of a sudden it starts to veer. You had no idea you were being influenced by a false news site.”
Schwab is the only Secretary of State in the state of Kansas that has Homeland Security clearance.
“Our election system is now considered critical infrastructure because international players are tying to influence that,” he said.
He said the influence is not necessary to change the outcome of an election.
“But to create doubt in your mind, that you can’t trust the election system,” he said.
He said there is a collaboration with the Department of Justice, National Guard and Homeland Security to make sure the election system in secure.
The voting machines are not on a network and all hardware connected.
“They don’t care about the election. They care about your opinion,” he said.
He said the secretary of state office is planning on a separate computer not connected to the county server in the upcoming election this year.
“It’s not only important that you vote, that you pay attention to some of the personalities involved,” he said.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.