Illinois official to testify about Russian election hacking

The head of the Illinois State Board of Elections will testify before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday in Washington about how suburban voter information was stolen in a hacking last summer.

Steve Sandvoss, the election board's executive director, said his testimony, scheduled to begin around 9:30 a.m., will be a focus of the committee's hearing on Russian meddling in last year's general election.

Databases were breached in Illinois and Arizona in the months leading up to the November election. A number of officials, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago and state Sen. Michael Hastings of Tinley Park, have connected the incident to Russia.

Sandvoss, who flew to Washington Tuesday after a board meeting in Chicago, said he's the only official from a state elections board to testify. He'll be joined on the panel by Michael Haas of the National Association of State Election Directors; J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan; and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

The testimony will be streamed live at

Sandvoss said he's prepared to discuss steps Illinois has taken to improve security in recent months as well as how board members notified local county clerks across the state, law enforcement officials and the estimated 80,000 individuals whose information was stolen last July.

He said he will also discuss the differences between the information in the state's voter registration database compared to information that's on voting machines.

Election officials said hackers accessed the state's system undetected for several weeks last summer before anyone noticed suspicious activity. Information stolen includes voters' names, addresses and birthdays, and in some cases, driver's license information and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.

“The city of Chicago, suburban Cook and collar counties were hit,” election board General Counsel Ken Menzel said. He said Tuesday a “handful” of voters were hacked in Chicago, as well as a few hundred in suburban Cook County, plus several thousand in Will County.

Illinois voting machines are not connected to the internet in any way, according to Menzel. Cook County Clerk David Orr's office reports early results via an encrypted cellphone signal, while other counties, including DuPage, McHenry and Kane Counties, upload files from voting machines to a computer.

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