Washington is undivided in using election fraud and voter fraud as a convenient political talking point — and yet are noticeably silent when real policy protections are introduced. Earlier this month, Hawaii’s Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard introduced legislation demanding the government take action in truly securing the United States’ democratic infrastructure from unknown cyber-hackers that may want to influence the public vote.
Aptly titled The Securing America’s Elections Act, Gabbard’s proposal to politicians and voters crying narratives of “Russian meddling” and “3 million illegals voting” is simple — the requirement that federal elections be conducted through voter-verified paper ballots as well as paper ballot backups, authorizing emergency funding provided to every state to produce an auditable paper trail, aiming to begin with the 2018 mid-term elections.
In her Congressional speech, Rep. Gabbard highlighted recent claims made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that 21 state electoral systems were open to compromise during the 2016 presidential election. While they found no evidence a vote was changed, or show the “raw data” that made them accuse the Russian government, they say the efforts were mainly through corruptible U.S. voting software suppliers and spear-phishing emails sent to officials at the local level — said to be the case in a redacted and privately authenticated top-secret NSA document from last year obtained by The Intercept and their anonymous leaker.
Shortly after the DHS announcement, DEFCON, known to be the world’s most notorious hacking conference, released their own independent report on the vulnerabilities of American elections — notably through the old AVS WinVote model used from 2003–2015. According to the report, the machine was able to be hacked within minutes and remotely controlled for as long as the hacker pleases. Rep. Gabbard points out further vulnerabilities led to Virginia’s machine decertification when it was revealed the software had the ability to change votes, scan who was voting for which candidate and render the machine completely inoperable for voting.
According to the state’s commissioner of elections Edgardo Cortés, who spoke to The Washington Post prior to the November 7th state election, he revealed they would be switching to the paper ballot method citing it’s in the interest of “ensuring voting and tabulation are secure.” He continued to give comments on this to the Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, reaffirming the “lack of public confidence and vulnerabilities” of existing voting systems.
Rep. Gabbard followed all this evidence by saying:
“We cannot ignore these [startling] vulnerabilities that erode voter confidence and expose our election’s infrastructure to manipulation by adversaries. With 2018 elections quickly approaching, Congress must act now and work with states to safeguard our electoral infrastructure and ensure that each and every American vote is counted faithfully and accurately.
The Securing America’s Elections Act will ensure our elections are hack-proof by providing the American people with an auditable, reliable, paper record of their votes in time for the 2018 elections. It will also begin to address the effectiveness and security of our voting machine software. This is critical to renew our citizens’ faith in the electoral process.”
Naturally, you would assume this would generate universal acclaim from the representatives on Capitol Hill — given the Republican president’s track record with quotes like “Hillary Clinton couldn’t win here in Pennsylvania unless she cheats” and claims illegal immigrants voted in large numbers against him (despite the man’s clear lack of evidence for these claims), and the Democrats’ ever-changing calls to stop supposed “Russian interference” with the electoral process.
Even CNN admit they don’t believe election machines were successfully hacked to favor Trump’s results, but highlight there were attempts from unknown actors before and after the election, leaving the door open to the integrity of untraceable electronic voting machines in the new age of country-accusing and fraud.
And yet the Gabbard bill has absolutely zero co-sponsors. Zero. An absolutely unacceptable number if officials want us to believe their rhetoric matches their actions and they take a keen interest in her method’s security. The least they could offer is amendments or opposing bills requesting an immediate update to voting machines, and yet this also has not happened.
The DEFCON report revealed that only one of the five different types of voting machines they were able to hack in less than 90s minutes is out of commission, while most can be bought on eBay for practice usage according to DEFCON’s event coordinator Matthew Blaze. The hackers were even able to change the machine from voting to a jukebox able to play the Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up” — giving a whole new meaning to the idea of “Russian trolls” influencing the election.
Journalist for The Atlantic Lawrence Norden helped co-author a Brennan Center study showing that 43 states were using voting machines from the same decade as DEFCON’s hackable machines. Speaking to security experts, it would take at least five years to replace the machines if implemented with needed cyber protections such as encryption, blockchain technology, and open source software. When left in the hands of companies using old tech such as Diebold Election Systems, a voting machine entity whose board chairman and CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell was a big-time Republican with proven financial ties to the GOP, there’s no excuse for politicians not to be jumping back on the paper ballot bandwagon, or a mixture of the two systems.
Sure, it may take longer to go through hand counts and optical scanners if need be, but it’s better than the techno-scares that come with old tech powered by old elites and new ways to change the vote. As the country is neck deep into Robert Mueller’s investigation, it’s not an unreasonable method - unless you’re counting on using the fraud excuse every four years.