Real vs. Fake Voting Issues May Mean Paper Ballots and Hand Counts Again

Casablanca   Hillary Clinton on a book tour and Donald Trump on his maiden voyage at the United Nations where he could take advantage of the opportunity to plug one of his branded properties across the street and threaten to annihilate a small country, reminds all of us that the American election was nearly one year ago last November. It’s officially fall again on the calendar no matter how warm it seems in country after country.

Amazingly, we are still talking about the election. For many it seems just like yesterday. Special Prosecutor and former FBI chief Robert Mueller is starting to let subpoenas fall like so many leaves all over Washington, D.C. as he tries to determine the impact the Russians had on the election and how deeply connected they were to the Trump campaign apparatus. In fact just yesterday, a year too late, the Department of Homeland Security alerted twenty-two states that they had reason to believe that their voting systems were being hacked before the last election. The twenty-two states that were confirmed by the Associated Press through calls to all 50 state election commissions were the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Meanwhile the President quickly tweets that none of this had any effect on the election. Who knows, maybe he’s right, but rather than spending his time tweeting about it, maybe his energy would be better spent at this point making sure election systems are protected and secure. Instead, he has an Election Commission ostensibly chaired by Vice-President Pence but really nothing more than another platform for Krazy Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and putative gubernatorial candidate there to claim there was voting fraud in order to prevent more people from having their constitutional right to vote in the future. Something is just plain backasswards about all of that.

Kobach and his fake election integrity commission just got caught in one of his standard partisan stunts when they held a hearing in New Hampshire where he then unilaterally preempted the outfit before they could meet by claiming that there were over 5000 fraudulent voters that were sufficient enough to have theoretically made the difference in both the last Senate and Presidential outcomes in that state. When pulled short by the Election Commissioner in the state and the outrage in his own fake committee because he was discounting the fact that students are allowed to register and vote in New Hampshire since they spent the majority of their year there and almost all of votes he was claiming to be illegal were in college towns, like a schoolboy he essentially just said, “my bad.” What a farce!

We need a real election commission to look at real problems like how to secure and protect the ballot, not the Trump-Kobach program of how to prevent people from voting. Let the Russians play with that, while Americans figure out how we get the maximum votes and make sure they are counted fair and square. Some states have canceled contracts for new computer voting systems. Are we going to end up going back to paper ballots and hand counting, while Trump tweets and Kobach acts out for the headlines, and no one pays attention to the real problems in protecting our elections and voting systems?

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Wow, We are So Tech-Vulnerable!

New York  I’m going to keep saying it over and over again. I’m not paranoid. Never have been. I am definitely NOT paranoid. And, that’s always been true, but recently I’m saying it over and over again, I guess, hoping that I believe it.

You know how these things work. First a small seed or association gets planted in your mind where it can grow in the dark corners and jump out and surprise you later. For me that was an article I read in the magazine, Wired, about how hackers, likely state-supported from Russia, were messing with Ukraine full-time and big-time. The last two winters in the throes of December, they have proven that they can sneak in and turn the electrical power grid there upside down and twelve ways from Sunday. The detail in the piece was the upset in the Ukraine, but the bottom line warning was that Ukraine was a practice field for the main contest, and that was hitting the main grids that power Europe and the United States.

In New Orleans last week, Entergy, the multi-state electrical and nuclear power conglomerate that provides service, sent out a message that the entire Central Business District would be without power for some hours in the middle of the day. As a public company they had to provide some minimal details, and so they did. They claimed there had been vandalism to one of their substations in the CBD.

Damn, I wanted to believe that, even as odd as it sounds. Having read the Wired story though, I was worried. They ended up claiming that someone had stolen 50 pounds of copper welding wire. Case solved, they said. I’m still scratching my head though. How would the theft of some copper wire force the company to shut the city’s throbbing commercial heart down for hours?

And, then at about 1:30 PM one afternoon last week I couldn’t send an email out or access our server. I was getting ready to text our server guy to complain, but stopped when everyone in the office said Cox Cable, our internet provider had gone down citywide. Cox is a private company. They were saying nothing at all. Word was that they would be down until 8:00 PM that night, but they came back on about 5:30 or so. Cox never provided an explanation. I absolutely know they were hacked!

Nothing much it seems we can do, but it does make you realize how much we depend on these common utilities like electricity and internet, and how totally vulnerable we – and all of the systems we depend on – really are. We feel like sitting ducks!

Then we read about all of these computer bugs lifted from our own National Security Agency that are being used for billions of dollars of so-called ransomware attacks, where you have to pay someone, somewhere to unlock your own computer. I’m flying within hours to Budapest to do some workshops for activists and organizers, because Hungary is undergoing an undemocratic assault on nonprofits, activists, and any government opponents. Do I dare use my computer without connecting to a VPN or virtual something network? Would I be risking surveillance and attacks on our organizations and members?

Is this the way we are all going to have to live and work? One eye over our shoulder, tapping away on our essential work and communications devices and wondering any minute whether they could go rogue?

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