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Instead of going after voting machines, officials are warning the Russians might attempt to break into voter registration systems.

The Russians are coming again, so U.S. agents say register to vote now

Watch out, America. Russia apparently is planning to try the old bait and switch.

Having stirred worry across the United States with their documented efforts to try to hack the 2016 election, Russian operatives are expected in 2020 to face stronger and more secure election infrastructure — featuring fewer voting systems that can be penetrated and more paper records that can be used to check that vote totals are correct.

But, wait. According to CNN and other news outlets, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a joint warning statement in the past few days to state election officials saying they think Russia may focus instead on voter suppression next November.

The document is called "Russia May Try to Discourage Voter Turnout and Suppressing Votes in 2020 U.S. Election." And it argues that Russia may find it more efficient to recruit Americans to protest and intimidate voters and to break into voter registration systems than to actually hack into voting machines.

During the lead-up to Donald Trump's election in 2016, according to the report by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Russian hackers tried to break into voting systems or voter registration databases, or both, in numerous states. No votes were changed but voter registration information was compromised in Illinois.

In response, Congress appropriated $380 million in March 2018 for security grants to the states, and the Senate and House have both passed spending bills this summer that call for several hundreds of millions dollars more in grants.

Most of the grant money that has been spent has been used to buy new voting machines and take other steps to block meddling of the voting process.

One way to prevent Russians from sowing doubt in the 2020 election, experts said, is for people to rely on official sources — such as the offices of the secretaries of state for information about registration and other voting matters.

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