Putin's Election Gift

Yes, American elections can be hacked and stolen.

Not since the darkest days of the Cold War has Russia played such a prominent role in the media's coverage of our presidential election.  To hear the media, you'd think Donald Trump is an employee of the evil Vladimir Putin, delegated to bring America to... well, where isn't exactly clear, but it's Russia, so it has to be evil, right?

Every newly-released evidence of Hillary Clinton's extreme corruption and dishonesty, if it can't be dismissed out of hand, can only be the result of Russia's attempts to interfere in the sanctity of our election.  The fact that the emails are real and prove Hillary's venality beyond doubt is not worthy of mention.

For some strange reason, this doesn't seem to have convinced most Americans that there's nothing to see here.  Enough voters still have sufficient common sense to realize that the question isn't "Where did the emails come from?" as "Are they genuine and damning?"  Which, manifestly, they are.

So the media has to try harder.  But in doing so, they are setting up a serious landmine for themselves, as the Washington Post makes plain without realizing it.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are probing what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.

The aim is to understand the scope and intent of the Russian campaign, which incorporates cyber-tools to hack systems used in the political process, enhancing Russia’s ability to spread disinformation...

Last month, the FBI issued an unprecedented warning to state election officials urging them to be on the lookout for intrusions into their election systems and to take steps to upgrade security measures across the voting process, including voter registration, voter roles and election-related websites. The confidential “flash” alert said investigators had detected attempts to penetrate election systems in several states.

It has long been considered a major international faux pas to interfere in another country's election, not that that ever stops us from doing it, but you're not supposed to get caught.

Actually hacking the election would be far, far worse.  Foreign entities are not allowed to donate to American elections and certainly aren't supposed to vote.  What a travesty it would be if the KGB could simply click a button and put their choice, whoever that might be, in the Oval Office!

Of course, there are a fair few writers on the left who believe this has already been done:

A paper co-authored by Axel Geijsel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Rodolfo Cortes Barragan of Stanford University... found that primary election results in states with the most vulnerable and hackable voting machines and without a paper trail overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton 65 percent to 35 percent. Sanders led Clinton 51 percent to 49 percent in states where the vote count could be verified with a paper trail.

The fact is, technological election fraud has long been known to be possible.  It's widely recognized in the tech community that several states have had their election systems hacked.  Even the non-technical political world has noticed how ridiculously easy it is to do if you have physical access to the machines, but that isn't necessary anymore since so many now communicate across the Internet.  We all know how secure that is.

Is the media right to worry about Russia hacking our election?  We don't know - but they are absolutely right to make Americans concerned that our elections can be hacked.

Political Jiujitsu, Please!

Which creates an opportunity for Republicans, should they have the wit to take it.  The leftist media has been laying the foundation for fear of election hacking, on good grounds.

More security is desperately needed - but what, exactly?  Hardly a week goes by without news of yet another government agency hacked and data stolen by the virtual shipload.

If the NSA itself can be hacked by foreign agencies, what possible hope has the Hazzard County Board of Elections?  None whatsoever: which is why the obvious solution is to dump electronic voting systems entirely.  An all-electronic voting machine cannot have a recount - it's all just bits anyway, and if those bits have been altered you'll never know.

With paper ballots, however, it is always possible for people - hopefully, good honest Americans, but at least not Russian spies - to sit down and count them one at a time.

Now as "Indecision 2000" made plain, paper ballots aren't all created equal: the idiotic butterfly ballot taught us more about "hanging chads" than we ever wanted to know.  Whoever thought those belonged in a voting booth should be - well, not shot perhaps, but certainly banned from anything to do with running an election ever again.

An old-fashioned paper ballot, where you mark an X or a line next to the candidates name with a magic marker, gets rid of all these problems.

First, it's impossible to hack - there's nothing electronic involved.

Fraud is still certainly possible - there are plenty of stories about boxes of ballots locked up in party officials' cars to be counted or not as election needs dictate.  But it would be extremely difficult for a foreign power to do this: even the stupidest, most corrupt election officer might raise an eyebrow at Boris and Natasha sneaking around the ballot-boxes with armloads of paper.

And it makes a recount meaningful: there's something to sit down with and, well, count.  This provides hard numbers and also hard evidence.  If, for example, there are more physical paper ballots on the table being counted than there were registered voters in the district, isn't that proof of fraud in and of itself?  Or if there are more registered voters than eligible adults, that's a serious red flag too.

As long as there is a Democratic party, there will be election fraud, but that doesn't mean we have to make it easy for them, and it certainly doesn't mean we have to aid and abet foreigners in doing the same.

The problem for the media is that it's not possible to stop one means of election theft without also stopping, or at least hindering, the other.  Let's all get behind this scare tactic and put it to some good use!  If there's one thing that ought to be honest in a democracy, it's the votes which decide our rulers.

And if, due to fright at Russian interference, we dump the absurdly vulnerable electronic voting machines and go back to something more secure, we'll all owe Mr. Putin a big vote of thanks.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Vote fraud seems to be common:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379414000973 argues that not only do illegals vote, they swung a recent presidential election:

In spite of substantial public controversy, very little reliable data exists concerning the frequency with which non-citizen immigrants participate in United States elections. Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration. This study examines participation rates by non-citizens using a nationally representative sample that includes non-citizen immigrants. We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.

September 12, 2016 9:39 PM
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