Job #1 Should Be Election Integrity

While this video is eight years old, many such machines are still used in elections:

Beyond ironic that the man we sent to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One – the war that President Wilson at the time declared “would make the world safe for democracy” – is probably the biggest threat to democracy that this country has ever seen.

The integrity of elections is the very, very basic tenet of a democracy. We are now coming off an election where there have been significant questionable voting ‘irregularities.’ Irregularities include voting machines that have absolutely no way to verify counts against, machines whose software is so old it is easily hackable, millions of citizens who have had their right to vote for unknown reasons and voters who never know if their ballot was counted. This is just a short list.

Nearly every expert who is asked to comment on the current state of voting in the US almost immediately points out the vulnerability of voting on electronic voting machines whether it be by direct recoding machines or even having machine counted paper ballots. Computerized machines are quite vulnerable to hacking in various ways. 

Almost to a person the experts agree on the solution: hand marked, hand counted paper ballots. It may be clunky, we may not be able to get results one minute after the polls close, but the question here is whether we want accurate results or quick results.

In a recent article in Gentlemen’s Quarterly Sean Flynn discusses how relatively simple it would be for a small group of people to hack the machines leaving no trail. He notes that only a few tactically selected machines need to throw votes. If the votes have no paper trail who will ever know?

The article begins with an overview of what could (may have) actually happened:

“I’d been talking to Halderman since shortly after the 2016 election, when Donald Trump—to the surprise of everyone, including himself—was apparently elected president. Back then, Halderman explained in somewhat horrifying detail how relatively easy it is to hack an election and, maddeningly, how easy it would be to audit suspect vote tallies if there was the political will to do so. Last spring, by which time that political will still had not materialized, he showed me how easily votes can be rigged. In his little office, he demonstrated how a poll worker would set up an AccuVote-TSX to make sure it is properly calibrated to accurately record votes for a real-world election. Once that was done, we commenced with our pretend election. Halderman voted first, for Michigan. I cast the second ballot, also for Michigan, because it seemed polite and because I knew this was a parlor trick. Then Halderman ran the protocol to officially end our short election—he faithfully followed all the correct steps—and printed out the results: Michigan 0, Ohio State 2, the opposite of the votes we cast.

He didn’t rewrite the AccuVote’s software. Rather, he wrote a vote-stealing virus, with which he infected the machine in the same way that a vote-stealing hacker would. It took him six weeks to get the code right, which isn’t too bad for a professor on sabbatical without, say, the resources of a foreign intelligence service.

“Now, with more votes, the margin would be smaller and harder to detect,” he said. Indeed, when he later re-enacted the election with 239 true-blue Michigan students, Ohio State won by a mere 23 votes, 131 to 108. “But it’s scary to see it in front of you, right? It’s even scarier to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to be able to control an election. And I don’t want Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un to be able to, either.”

The article is medium sized, but is packed with real life scenarios that can and may have happened. While the American public spends time watching fictional crimes on TV the greatest crimes of all time may be taking place during our elections.

Couple the vulnerability of electronic voting machines with the recent Republican voter suppression vendetta and you have the perfect storm for election theft. Suppression tactics have generally focused on culling the rolls of populations that tend to vote Democratic. This includes blacks, latino, youth and city dwellers. That’s just about every voting group but older, whites in rural areas.

While voter eligibility generally is left up to the states in the constitution, the federal government has stepped in from time to time to establish rules to keep states from violating citizens rights. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 comes immediately to mind. So it is within the purview of Congress to establish some minimum standards.

As we also know, with Democrats controlling only one house of congress, it would be unlikely that a new election law would pass the senate. After all, the Senate will still be controlled by Republicans and it is their party that has overwhelmingly benefitted from the current state of voting.

However, the fact that a bill is probably doomed should not be a reason to not create and pass such a bill in the House. With their majority in the House, Democrats must make a stand for election integrity. Among items that must be central to such a bill is verifiable paper trails, random audits, an “innocent until proven guilty” concept on voter suppression (the state must prove why a citizen would lose his or her right to vote), restoration of felons right to vote upon completion of sentence, and equal access to participate – that is 1 voting booth per so many voters. If voting only consists of paper, pencil and a privacy booth, the cost can’t be too high.

Other regulations must also include a custody chain such that the paper ballots can be accessed in cases of law suits. 

Violations of these provisions must have severe punishment.

Iowa had an audit system of sorts after this last election. While hand counting is done there seems to be no recourse should the audits turn up discrepancies. Thus a law without any teeth. No doubt we will be hearing some reports on these audits soon.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
This entry was posted in #trumpresistance, 2018 Election Campaign, Blog for Iowa, Verified Voting, voting rights and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.