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Excerpt: "The evidence that our electronics-based election system is particularly vulnerable to attacks has long been well-established."

Election hacking. (photo: Columbus Free Press)
Election hacking. (photo: Columbus Free Press)

Global Hackers and the Russians Have Made Hand-Counted Paper Ballots an Issue of Urgent National Security

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, The Columbus Free Press

15 May 17


e have no evidence at this point that the Russians, or global hackers, hacked our electronic voting machines to put Donald Trump in the White House.

But we are 100% certain our electronic voting machines have been hacked by many many others, and could be in the future by virtually anybody with entry-level computing capabilities. As the New York Times and others have reported, cyberattacks have now become an integral part of the modern landscape. A tool stolen from the very National Security Agency meant to protect us has been used to perpetrate more than 75,000 recent hacks—-and those are just the ones being reported.

The evidence that our electronics-based election system is particularly vulnerable to such attacks has long been well-established. It ranges from a wide range of public vote flipping demonstrations to a computing professor using a voting machine to play the University of Michigan fight song.

But, why would you need to hack the machines if you are one of the private, for-profit partisan corporations that secretly program the computerized voting machines and tabulators with secret proprietary software? The lack of transparency with our "black box voting" means that none of our elections are truly verifiable.

In 2016 some 80 percent of America's ballots were cast and/or counted on such machines and tabulators. Many touchscreen voting machines provide no usable paper trail and render vote counts that cannot be independently verified. Scanners of paper ballots can be rigged to render dishonest counts that go undetected if the ballots are never manually audited.

Though we have no evidence of Russian hacking on our electronic voting machines in 2016, there is no doubt that they or any other hacker with an interest in the outcome could have done so if they wanted to.

Or, the private companies could have simply programmed the results

So that leaves us with one inescapable conclusion: to protect the integrity of our future elections, our entire electoral system must convert to universal hand-counted paper ballots.

It has become an issue of national security.

The entire nation is now in an uproar over Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. We know he was investigating possible Russian involvement in our election. The Russians clearly wanted Trump to win.

During the campaign, Trump very publicly asked the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails. The Russians did, in fact, hack the Democratic National Committee, releasing documentation showing the DNC hierarchy worked actively against the nomination of Bernie Sanders.

We don't yet know what else the Russians actually did or did not do, if anything, to help shape our choice of presidents in 2016.

We know further that someone hacked into the recent French elections on behalf of Marine LePen.

In an electronic era, election theft has now become a matter of a few keystrokes.

Indeed, election theft in the United States is very much a home-grown industry. As we explain in our new STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA'S STOLEN ELECTIONS ( / electronic machines are perfectly designed to steal elections. As Bev Harris has shown, they are black boxes that give local election officials virtually unlimited power to shape the outcome however they like.

Thus we document clear instances of electronic vote theft in the 1988 New Hampshire Republican primaries won by George H.W. Bush, and in the general presidential elections won by George W. Bush in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

Along the way we have encountered likely electronic hacks in numerous other local, state and federal elections. In Ohio 2006 a series of statewide election reform referenda were defeated with swings of more than 30% from pre-election polls to official outcome, a virtual statistical impossibility. In 2014 and 2016, Republicans claimed six US Senate seats in elections where they lost in the exit polls by significant margins. That six such vote counts would all go in the same direction is also a virtual statistical impossibility.

In 2016, the Electoral College was decided by five states—-Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—-where Trump lost the exit polls but won the official vote count. That all five states would go in the same direction is, once again, a virtual statistical impossibility.

In Michigan, more than 75,000 ballots were counted in heavily Democratic Flint and Detroit metropolitan area without presidential preferences being registered. This presumes that some 75,000 citizens took the trouble to vote (often waiting hours in line) but failed to choose a president. In Wisconsin, electronic anomalies also abounded. In Wisconsin, a suspicious anomaly was uncovered across several voting precincts where the last number in Trump and Clinton's vote totals appeared not to be randomly distributed in regards to zeros and fives. In these precincts, over half of Trump and Clinton's total numbers ended with a zero or a five.

Meanwhile, countless black, Hispanic, Asia-American, Muslim and other non-millionaire citizens were stripped from registration rolls by some 29 GOP secretaries of state. As shown in Greg Palast's "Best Democracy Money Can Buy," the far-right secretary of state from Kansas, Kris Kobach, spread the Crosscheck program around the country with the clear intent to strip as many likely Democrats from the voter rolls as possible. Trump has just appointed Kobach to head his special commission on voter fraud, aimed at "proving" that millions of illegal voters cost Trump a majority in the popular vote.

Additional mass disenfranchisement has been done throughout the US through demands for photo ID, short-changing of precincts and voting machines, deliberate misinformation and much more.

There is little doubt that between stripping the voter rolls and flipping the electronic vote count, our electoral system is in shambles. The Russians are clearly NOT at the root of the problem. Election theft can be and has been repeatedly perpetrated right here, by Americans.

But the Russians could have done so. In coming elections, they, other foreign powers and a veritable army of domestic hackers can deliver pretty much whatever outcome they want.

Our private voting machine companies like ES&S and the now-defunct Diebold have long had this power.

The solution is obvious: we must secure our voting system entirely off-line. with outcomes that can be certified in real time, by real people. We need universal automatic voter registration; a four-day natonal holiday for voting; universal hand-counted paper ballots; an end to gerrymandering and the Electoral College; and a ban on corporate campaign spending.

As we now know from this past presidential election, whether flipped by the Russians or not, it has become an issue of national security…and the future of our democracy.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-written seven books on election integrity, including the new STRIP & FLIP DISASTER OF AMERICA’S STOLEN ELECTIONS ( / your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-24 # chemtex2611 2017-05-15 13:32
have you never counted paper ballots? They are susceptible to being damaged, lost, mis counted. Before you diss all electronic balloting systems, you need to go find out how they work. They are not all the same and some are vulnerable, others not at all. It the voting machines are not connected to the web, then they are not hackable. The voter rolls are often read electronically, but if there is a question, we have printed, paper ballots that can be read in realtime.

We beg continually for election judges and clerks to keep the system open and transparent, but most people have too many, more important things to do. Then, they just whine about the job we are doing. Check the facts first.
+3 # Conan-the-Younger 2017-05-15 16:16
There is a better way than using paper ballots. It is called a ballot machine audit. While waiting for the next surge of voters to show up one election day, I, an election judge and a software engineer, began to run through my mind all of the safeguards the election administrator told us judges about our voting equipment. First, voting machines not connected to the Internet are still hackable because the programmers are connected to the Internet. Second, to prevent voting fraud, the election office runs an audit on all of the machines just before they are shipped to the voting sites. The audit comprises of a pre-set and counted ballots that are exactly the same as the ballots to be used by the voters in a couple of days. These ballots are fed into the voting machine. In the case of electronic ballots, staff members take each ballot from the pre-set ballot stacks and are keyed in just as a voter would do. If the totals are off by even one vote, the machines were compromised and removed. If more than one machine is compromised, the manufacturer and the machine programming company are called in to explain and fix the problem(s). Then the audit is redone before the machines are secured for shipment. To ensure the election officials are not the source of compromise, the audit should be watched and/or done by interested third parties.

I personally think the accounts above in the article are very possible and actually happened.
+3 # Time Traveller 2017-05-15 18:54
Electronic voting sucks dead donkey dicks in hell! Read Bob and Harvey's book, "What Happened in Ohio," with tons of evidence of stolen and flipped ballots. Homework, Semtex, homework!
+30 # elizabethblock 2017-05-15 13:39
Not for the first time, I'm glad I live in Canada. We use paper ballots!!!!!
+23 # Blackjack 2017-05-15 14:01
We have managed in this country for the past 50 years or so, to privatize everything, because after all, there is money to be made in privatization. Now we have good evidence that voting machines, produced and monitored by private entities, have been compromised. But if one has a monetary motive for not having that system changed, then the process for hand-counted ballots will be PACed to death by those corporations having a monetary incentive to keep things as they are. How can we ever have a democracy when we cannot trust the accuracy of election results? Sadly, I fear we have reached that point and I am not sure there is the combined will for those who have the power to change it to exert that power.
-15 # Harvard72 2017-05-15 14:35
I have read about Crosscheck. In fact I have even donated $100 to Greg Palast based on his reporting of Crosscheck taking hundreds of thousands of voters off the rolls because the names were theoretically the same. But the names really weren't the same. Like taking John H. Smith off in Mississippi because he might be John W. Smith in Georgia. Sounds terrible. BUT, just like Trump's imaginary illegal aliens voting, I have yet to hear FROM a voter who claims to be crossed of the rolls as a result of Crosscheck. I have yet to see a story with a John H. Smith or John W. Smith where they say they went to vote and were not permitted to do so. I do think absolutely we need paper ballots, but I would like some "proof" that Kris Kobach (as evil as his intentions were and are) succeeded in getting people prevented from voting who wanted to vote.
+20 # grandlakeguy 2017-05-15 14:44
It is unrealistic to expect that Republicans would ever be amenable to open and verifiable elections.

After could they ever "win" if our elections were "fair and honest" as our leaders love to present them to be!
+11 # randrjwr 2017-05-15 14:47
If all true, this is a compelling argument for the use of paper ballots counted by real people. In addition, I believe we should have rank-choice voting for all elections nationwide. I will now read S&F Disaster (above reference) too check out their documentation.
0 # Robbee 2017-05-15 15:31
Global Hackers and the Russians Have Made Hand-Counted Paper Ballots an Issue of Urgent National Security!

bob & harv! please live forever!
+4 # danja8589 2017-05-15 16:12
If the authors don't know or have no evidence of Russian hacking, why do they contribute to the undocumented claim that the Russians are involved at all. They are playing into the hands of the deep state (CIA and other intelligence agencies and allies in the government and mainstream media) that are conjuring up this new cold war trope for the purpose of getting rid of Trump and perpetuating more violence in the Middle East. They should be more aware that the CIA has been lying to the American public time and time again. Why do they take the CIA at its word this time? So, stop using the Russians as a scapegoat for the Democrats' pathetic losses in the election (White House, both houses of Congress, state governorships, state legislatures). With their "Marble" program, it was more likely that it was the CIA itself that hacked the Democratic Party emails and sent the investigators on a wild goose chase.
0 # ericlipps 2017-05-17 05:06
Let's see now. your argument is that if we haven't found a pile of dead fish yet, then there isn't one, and never mind all the people complaining about the smell.
+11 # jwb110 2017-05-15 17:01
The system has been in danger since DIebolt got in to the electronic Voting machines. They are big contributors to the GOP and the machines, that profess exceptional security, can be broken into in under two minutes.
+1 # lfeuille 2017-05-15 22:45
Voting machines are not connected to the internet so cannot be hacked remotely. There have lots of problems but the danger or international hacking is not one of them.
+3 # John of Milpitas 2017-05-15 23:06
Why not just go with nation-wide mail in ballots with just the popular vote?
+1 # bevin 2017-05-16 08:51
". The Russians did, in fact, hack the Democratic National Committee, releasing documentation showing the DNC hierarchy worked actively against the nomination of Bernie Sanders.'
Evidence, please?
+5 # chrisconnolly 2017-05-16 10:20
I live in a rural county that has not been able to elect a democrat for over twenty years. We have nine elected officials including an auditor who is related to one of the county commissioners. Do I believe for a minute that she has complete integrity. No. I have been an elections observer several times and always question the counting machines integrity. I have been told that they check them with 25 ballots to calibrate their counting accuracy and I have always said that 100 ballots would be far more accurate. Our democratic candidates always lose by 46% or less of the vote. We no longer have a democracy and soon I fear we will be experiencing a full blown fascism.
+6 # CDMR 2017-05-16 15:53
There is no vote casting system that determined criminals can't cheat. And i don't mean Russiann. The real vote cheaters are our own republican and democratic parties. Why not go after the cheaters?
0 # virtualaudio 2017-05-20 16:21
As a Sanders supporter in the primary, I was outraged at the contents exposed in the DNC / Podesta hacks.
Two things annoy me about the way this issue is being covered by the media and discussed by people on forums & facebook:
1) The media bangs on about the Russians costing Clinton the election, without every addressing the concerted effort to undermine Bernie's bid. This is a mistake, IMO. All aspects of this story need to be addressed to present a complete picture to the American people; to focus on one aspect and ignore another is to reinforce the idea that the media is 'fake news'.
2) I saw footage of a Congressional committee questioning leaders of the national security agencies. One Senator asked them if they were 100% convinced that the Russians were responsible for the DNC / Podesta hacks. To a person, they all said 'YES'. There are numerous reasons why these agencies are not able to produce the hard evidence for their conclusions to the public; two immediately come to mind:
1) They don't want to compromise their cyber-intellige nce gathering techniques.
2) They can't publicize the evidence due to ongoing or anticipated investigations, a standard practice.
It annoys me that so many people are saying 'Where's the evidence that the Russians did this' just as much as it annoys me that the DNC's sabotage of Sanders' campaign has been made a non-issue.
I guess for some, these two points cause too much cognitive dissonance to admit that both have credence.

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