Top U.S. officials urge patience as the country awaits election results

Senior federal election security officials urged the American public to be patient and not view any potential delays as anything other than the normal election process as they sought to stem conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of fraud spreading online.

During their third and final background call with reporters, senior officials with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) told reporters Tuesday evening that voting issues in Maricopa County, Ariz., were technical in nature — not malicious or nefarious — and have now been resolved.

An election worker scans mail-in ballots
An election worker scans mail-in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The vacuum of information feeding and amplifying conspiracy theories, and the potential for people to view what appear to be delays as a sign of something unusual or suspicious, seemed to be the officials’ top concern on the evening call.

The officials noted that the vote-counting process in this election, like all previous elections, is not instantaneous.

“This is all part of the normal process of verifying, reconciling absentee ballots, verifying all the votes across counties and municipalities and in states,” one official said. “So it's not a delay, it’s really just the normal verification process that can take from days to weeks.”

Election workers remove ballots from a drop box.
Maricopa County election workers remove ballots from a drop box in Mesa, Ariz., on Tuesday. (John Moore/Getty Images)

They also expressed concern about the potential for violence against election officials. “I think we all need to work together to make sure that these election officials, the public servants, are able to do their jobs without being harassed or being threatened with violence,” a senior official said.

The officials confirmed that some states’ websites involved in the voting process had been hit with attacks that knocked them offline. They confirmed Tuesday evening that Mississippi was experiencing website outages, which officials called part of a prolonged and targeted effort. This activity did not affect the actual votes or voting process, the officials stressed.

They said that other locations elsewhere in the country had experienced outages, but they did not attribute those outages to such attacks.

Officials said they were communicating with partisan and government organizations and entities who appeared to have been named as targets of a pro-Russian hacking group. But the officials declined to directly associate the website outages with the hacking group.

Voters wait to cast their ballots
Voters wait to cast their ballots in Phoenix. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

During an afternoon briefing with reporters, CISA officials appeared to be unaware of widely circulating reports that the Champaign County, Ill., website had been targeted for the past month in attacks that kept it offline and, county officials said Tuesday, were affecting the voting process. A senior CISA official said during the afternoon call that the agency had not been tracking those reports.

During the call on Tuesday evening, the same officials said they had since been in touch with both county and state officials about the issue.

“We understand technical issues with a vendor have now been resolved, and there was no impact to the votes or the voting process,” a CISA official said Tuesday evening.