While organizing for local conventions, Glen Maxey, legislative affairs director for the Texas Democratic Party, found almost 50 email registrations that seemed odd. He thinks it was a foray into Texas politics by Russian hackers.
To attend the Democratic State Convention this summer in Fort Worth, Texas voters must register on the party website. People will then be directed to attend their local county elections to be selected.
While Maxey was looking through the database of failed registrants, usually mistakes in an individual’s address or name, he found that 48 emails didn’t have any Texas address connected to them. Twenty-four emails had Russian domain names — .ru — and IP addresses based in Russia.
Maxey says he contacted the Secretary of State’s office, but the state does not have any regulating body to look into this situation or any similar ones.
“I don’t know what they’re looking for. They’re just looking for any way to get in and cause mischief,” said Maxey.
NBC News reporter Bill Arkin took those to his espionage sources specializing in Russian interference.
“Who all agreed that this was in fact one of the first cases that they had seen that was tangible indicating Russian probing of the the 2018 midterms,” said Arkin.
Arkin originally broke the story for NBC News.
Maxey doesn’t know if the emails truly came from Russia but feels like the feds and the state are not taking this issue seriously and wants them to investigate.
“Who can determine what’s a prank and what’s espionage and what’s influencing the election?” said Maxey.
It’s important to note that the Democratic Party like any political party is a private organization. Sam Taylor from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office tells KXAN they have no role in the Democratic Convention process and their public voter set hasn’t had a problem.
“We don’t have purview. I don’t think many Texans would want us to have purview in telling the parties how to run their shop,” said Taylor.
Taylor says they are assessing their election system but that won’t include private organizations.
“By the end of this year we’ll be reporting to the legislature the issues that we’ve seen, how we can further strengthen, what other resources might be needed in order to make sure that the cybersecurity apparatus in our state is beyond reproach,” said Taylor.
Taylor says they’ve increased their security protocols for county elections.
James Dickey, chair of the Republican Party of Texas, says this isn’t a problem with their organization.
“We don’t allow online remote registration for our conventions. All delegates are selected in person after verified on the voter rolls,” Dickey said.