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DA: Hackers Penetrated Voter Registrations In 2016 Through State’s Election Site

Voters turn in their mail-in ballots at the San Diego Registrar office, June 7, 2016.
Katie Schoolov
Voters turn in their mail-in ballots at the San Diego Registrar office, June 7, 2016.

Hackers successfully penetrated state-run online voter registration systems in 2016, triggering confusion and heated exchanges between voters, poll workers and poll watchers during California’s June 7 primary, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Friday.

“I think that pretty quickly, as is sort of the case around our politics, partisanship got into it,” Hestrin told The California Report. “And frankly the victims of these changes were both Republicans and Democrats.”

Hestrin’s investigation would ultimately show that hackers accessed voter registration information, indiscriminate of party, through the California Secretary of State’s election website, and changed some voters’ party affiliations. But because the state did not collect the IP addresses of the visits, there’s no way to know where the hacker — or hackers — were based.


“I have no idea who they are, or why they did this,” Hestrin said. “Not sure who did it, not sure why, just know it was happening across a broad section.”

Twenty formal complaints were filed by voters turned away by poll workers, leaving them unable to vote in their party’s primary. Hestrin said he believes — from anecdotal accounts — that many, many more people were turned away but did not complain, opting instead to forgo voting or to vote by provisional ballot.

Hestrin said there is currently an active investigation into the hack, but investigators are at a dead-end because there is no new information.

“Short of someone coming to us and confessing, I don’t see how this inquiry goes forward,” he said.

So far, that inquiry ends at the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, where the hack took place.


“As we have previously stated,” said the Secretary of State’s Office, “we do not have any evidence to suggest a breach of our voter registration database, nor have we subsequently received any information or evidence from individuals, counties, or federal officials of any breach.”