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Nielsen: Election officials don't have necessary security clearances

Sec. Nielsen and former Sec. Johnson.
Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen and former Sec. Jeh Johnson. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that only about 20 of 150 state and local election officials have security clearances to obtain election security intel as they try to shore up vulnerabilities in light of Russia’s efforts to meddle in U.S. elections. Nielsen said DHS is sponsoring up to three election officials per state to obtain the necessary clearance.

Why it matters: As former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the committee Wednesday, "Given that our electoral college and our current politics, national elections are decided in a few precincts, in a few key swing states. The outcome therefore may dance on the head of a pin." The U.S. is in an election year, and several high-ranking intel leaders have told lawmakers that Russia is already showing signs it is meddling in this year's elections.