There’s a line in the Senate Intelligence Committee brief report released this week that should not only worry all Americans, but also should be printed out and posted on the wall of every election official’s office. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, according to the report, Russian agents were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data.”

These hackers don’t appear to have removed anyone from the voter rolls, but they could have – and they could still, given the clear vulnerabilities of our election system. The president, state and federal lawmakers, and election officials across the country should remember that the next general election is just months away.

The report, released Tuesday, provides more detail on the broad strokes we have known for months. The committee concluded that as early as 2014 and stretching through the 2016 elections, the Russian government prepared to undermine the integrity of American elections, using hackers to scan for vulnerabilities in voting systems in 21 states.

In six states, they attempted to gain access to computers holding voter registration lists, breaching defenses in a few cases.

In those states, the hackers could have deleted or altered records; imagine the chaos and anxiety that would ensue if previously registered voters were turned away from the polls on even a relatively small scale.

And if hackers could gain access to registration lists two years ago, what capabilities do they have today?

How to patch the system is not really at issue. Most experts say the problems are old voting machines with outdated security; non-secure voter registration lists; and infrequent reviews. Employing new machines and some form of paper backup would go a long way toward securing the system, as would better protection for lists and routine vote audits. (Maine does well by this measure.)

But the high cost and complex logistics of shoring up the heavily decentralized election system is certainly a barrier. Many jurisdictions simply don’t have the resources or the will to update how they do things.

There have been some gains. The Department of Homeland Security, which now names election systems along with dams and nuclear reactors as “critical infrastructure,” has conducted intensive risk assessments of voting systems in 17 states, after having completed just one prior to the 2016 election. A spending bill passed in March includes $380 million for state grants to upgrade electoral security.

But the completed risk assessments represent only half of the states that have requested federal help. Nine of the states waiting for an assessment were among those targeted by Russia in 2016. The Senate committee has asked Homeland Security to increase its capacity, and the department should listen.

In addition, President Trump should make sure that the state grants are distributed in a timely fashion, and that states otherwise have the resources they need in the run-up to this November’s election.

And the president needs to get over his aversion to admitting that there were problems with the 2016 election. Given what we know today, noting the scope and ambition of Russia’s interference should not detract from his electoral victory – no records or votes appear to have been changed, after all – and someone needs to explain and contextualize this problem to the American people. This is one subject that sorely calls out for presidential attention.

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