These are words that I, as an American citizen, never thought I would write or even have to write. There is no greater threat to our democratic institutions than undermining our confidence in the sanctity of the election process. How did we come to this point?
It all began with Donald Trump
It was Donald Trump who, during the campaign and the debates, who claimed that if he didn’t win then “the election was rigged.” At the time, when everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win, most people just laughed this off. But since the election a number of disturbing reports have come to light.
During his highly viewed testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI Director James Comey testified:
“There should be no fuzz about this. The Russians interfered with our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. It was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government…..This is about America, not about a particular party.”
Subsequent testimony from members of the intelligence community not only indicates that what Comey said was true, but that it might be worse than he said. As they would only testify about this in closed committee sessions, we still do not know the entire story. But so far the only person who doesn’t seemed concerned that this happened is the President of the United States.
While there has yet to be any clear evidence presented that the Russian hacking attempts actually changed anyone’s vote – as we say down here in the South “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” For example, were voter registration records tampered with so that eligible voters were denied their opportunity to vote? In some states, such as my home state of Georgia, the Diebold voting machines do not store an electronic record of the votes cast. In other words, there is no way to conduct a recount of the votes.
During the recent GA06 runoff election, two precincts received incorrect software that verified eligible voters. So instead, they went back to hand verifying each voter. It was not that long ago when this process was the norm. You waited while a poll worked looked up your name and drew a line through it, indicating you had voted. Yes it was a slower and more cumbersome way of doing it, but there was no way these documents could be altered
Until we can trust, without any doubt whatsoever, that our voting process is secure from hacking by anyone or any country, the obvious solution is a return to paper ballots. No system is perfect, and ballot box stuffing is a risk, but a minor one. Those days belong to the past. Nor can the fiasco of the “hanging chads” in the Florida recount of the votes during the 2000 presidential election be ignored.
We need to take to heart the warnings from the members of our own intelligence community, even if Donald Trump does not. Russia has, and will continue, to use every means at their disposal to affect the outcomes of our election process. Even Vladimir Putin admitted as much when he said that perhaps some “patriotically minded” Russians may have tried to hack our election.
Concern about potential hacking in other countries has led The Netherlands to continue their use of paper ballots. Yes, the lines to vote might be longer and the time it takes to vote extended. But that, in my view, is a small price to pay to ensure the integrity of our elections.
I voted this week in the GA06 runoff election. It is true that the candidate I supported lost the election. I can live with that. But I can’t live with the nagging doubt that maybe, possibly, my vote was not counted or that it was changed somehow to the other candidate. And the way things are done now, there is no way for me to know for certain.
The truly frightening aspect of this is that if I, and others like me, feel this way – then maybe the Russians won after all.