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A Year After Russia Meddling, Off-Year Elections Are Monitored


It is Election Day today, and voters are going to the polls in New Jersey, Virginia, also several other states. This is, of course, a year after Russia tried to interfere in the presidential election. This is also almost a year since President Trump claimed - without evidence - that millions of people voted illegally. NPR's Pam Fessler reports on what is being done to help protect U.S. elections.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: When voters cast ballots in Virginia today, they'll do so on machines that have paper records. So if the results are questioned, there's some way to check the electronic count. It's a significant change from last year. Edgardo Cortes is the state's election commissioner.

EDGARDO CORTES: The department recommended that action, based on our concerns over the security of the equipment, but more so kind of our ability to recover if something happened to the equipment.

FESSLER: It's one of many steps taken to reassure voters that no one is tampering with the election system, as Russia tried to do last year. About two dozen state officials have applied for security clearances so they can get classified intelligence reports about potential threats. Four have received interim approval. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will also have advisers in several states today to help deal with any disruptions. Cortes says it's all aimed at one thing.

CORTES: No matter what happens, that we're able to keep the voting process going and that our voters are able to participate and have their voice heard on Election Day.

FESSLER: The long-term goal is to boost public confidence in elections, which polls show was seriously eroded last year. That was due in part to Trump's claim of widespread voter fraud. No evidence has emerged since to back up his claims. He appointed a commission to look into the problem, but its work has stalled amid legal challenges. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is a member.

CONNIE LAWSON: It's very chilling. We're not emailing each other. We're not conversing with each other. It's just not going on.

FESSLER: Critics say the panel has been too secretive. There's no word when it will meet again. Pam Fessler, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.