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Real Election Fraud

Don’t think election fraud is a real problem? Well, not in the way the Republicans claim it is (people voting without government ID). The real potential problem is the insecurity of the computers that the government uses to count votes.

Monday, the FBI issued a warning that foreign hackers have gained access to election databases in two states, reported to be Arizona and Illinois. In the Illinois case, officials were forced to shut down the state’s voter registration system for 10 days in July. The hackers downloaded personal data on as many as 200,000 voters. In Arizona, malicious software was placed into its voter registration system.

Even worse, an IP address used in the attacks matches one used by Russian hackers, and the hacking methods used resemble methods used in other suspected Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks (including one carried out just a month ago).

Hacking a voter registration system would make it possible to throw an election, by removing the names of voters likely to vote for a single candidate, making it much more difficult for those people to actually vote.

And these are just the hacks that we know about.

I am a computer scientist, and so is the founder of Electoral Vote, and I completely agree with Electoral Vote’s warning:

The problem with hacking is that a foreign power could interfere with an election and there is a decent chance it would go undetected. The best way to protect against hacking is to avoid using computers in the voting process altogether, and to make sure the voter registration systems are not connected to the Internet in any way.

I believe that it is not only possible, but likely that people (including foreign governments) could throw a US election without detection. In fact, I would not be surprised if it has already been done on a small scale. Or worse, I would be surprised if it hasn’t already been done.

This is a serious threat to our country, our democracy, and our way of life. And little is being done to combat it.

Also published on Medium.



  1. Jonah wrote:

    A previous favorite (and maybe even now) of the tech community (which I’m part of as well) is probably encouraging the hacks. Complains about governments eavesdropping and hacking and proceeds to do the same thing

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 3:41 am | Permalink
  2. Dave, TN wrote:

    IK, there is an interesting article in Newsweek called “How Donald Trumps’s politics will gut the republican party for decades” by Kurt Eichenwald that is worth read.He asks the question of Paul Ryan “what does the republican party stand for?”. But more importantly where is the GOP going and will it have in relevance in the future. This country does need a two party system and the point is raised whether we will have one if this is allowed to go on unchecked. Short of the forsmentioned “rigging of the electorial process” (as DT likes to phrase it) the Republiecan party is on the verge of going down the drain.
    One might question whether it is worth saving but i believe the country needs a “working” balance in our government to prevent one extreme or another from pushing us too far in one political direction or the other.I use the term “working” because as of late it has not been such.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  3. Dave, TN wrote:

    Electoral process, damn small buttons on these not so smart phones.

    [fixed. And here’s the link for that Newsweek article. Good read, thanks! –iron]

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Redjon wrote:

    Ohio, 2000.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Wildwood wrote:

    This is not a new problem, but it is a mostly ignored problem. I bring it up any time someone starts talking about needing a voter ID system to prevent fraud. I usually do not get a response, or least not one that makes any sense.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  6. Ralph wrote:

    In PA we use paper ballots where you fill in a circle next to your candidate of choice and are then fed into an electronic reader that tallies the votes. A paper backup system is a must, IMHO. I never understood the allure of an all-electronic vote, given the recent history of hacks. At the very minimum, those machines should never be put online, the sanctity of the vote is at the heart of the democratic process.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ralph, the last link in the post is a detailed summary of the whole problem and what to do about it. They like systems where the voter marks on a paper ballot (fills in a circle or square). This allows vote counting machines that are not connected to the internet, and provides a good paper backup for recounts. It also allows random spot checks so it can be easily verified that nothing is amiss.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  8. Wildwood wrote:

    I forgot to add that I always ask for and use a paper ballot. I’ve never had faith in the electronics that are used, particularly given the people doing the polling. Given the average age of a polling official, (at least around here), I doubt most of them can do more than check their email, if that.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  9. westomoon wrote:

    Redjon, amen.

    I cam here to ask, “Does the name Diebold ring any bells?”

    Thursday, September 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink