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Michigan voter information wasn't hacked, Benson's office says

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office is denying reports out of Russia that the state's voter information system has been hacked after details on voters were apparently posted online.

A database of more than 7.6 million Michigan voters was posted on a "Russian hacker site," according to a translation of an article reported Tuesday by the Kommersant, a daily newspaper in Russia.

Kommersant found on a dark net forum "an advertisement for free access to personal data of millions of US residents." the newspaper wrote.

Voters and polling workers at Crissman Elementary in Shelby Township use social distancing and plexiglass barriers at the 1st Precinct on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

But Benson's spokeswoman, Tracy Wimmer, denied that a hack had occurred, noting that public voter information is accessible to anyone through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Our system has not been hacked," she said. "We encourage all Michigan voters to be wary of attempts to ‘hack’ their minds, however, by questioning the sources of information and advertisements they encounter and seeking out trusted sources, including their local election clerk and our office.

"If voters suspect misinformation they should report it to misinformation@michigan.gov."

The Kommersant also said it found databases of between 2 million and 6 million voters in Connecticut, Arkansas, Florida and North Carolina, according to The Moscow Times, an English language newspaper in Russia.

The Moscow Times article was headlined, "Millions of U.S. voters’ details leak to Russia’s dark web – Kommersant."

The information available included names, dates of birth, gender, dates of voter registration, addresses, zip codes, e-mails, voter registration numbers and polling station numbers, The Moscow Times reported.

The reports come after U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee found Russian forces executed a "sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society" in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian operatives used social media to spread disinformation and division, the committee found.

In 2016, President Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, his smallest margin of victory nationally.

In the aftermath of Trump's victory, then-Elections Director Chris Thomas said there was no evidence that Michigan’s presidential election results were manipulated or hacked amid concern from a group of computer scientists and election lawyers about the potential.

cmauger@detroitnews.com