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Sunday, July 09, 2017


Integrity shmegrity

by Tom Sullivan

When it comes to elections, Republicans are all about election integrity. Except when they're not.

"There was not a lot of re-litigating of the past," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Friday after President Trump's first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson referred to Russian hacking of U.S. election databases and other interference in the 2016 elections:

"I think both of the leaders feel like there's a lot of things in the past that both of us are unhappy about. We're unhappy, they're unhappy," he said. “What the two Presidents, I think rightly, focused on is how do we move forward. How do we move forward from here, because it’s not clear to me that we will ever come to some agreed-upon resolution of that question between the two nations."
Integrity shmegrity. 2016 is ancient history.

Putin told reporters in December the hubbub about Russian hacking was simply Democrats looking to blame someone else for their losing. "You have to know how to lose with dignity,” he said. On Friday, a U.S. president who doesn't know how to win with dignity seemed to concur. Russia may very well have meddled in our elections, Trump told reporters in Warsaw on Thursday, "but I think it could well have been other countries. Nobody really knows ... Nobody really knows for sure.” After speaking with Putin, Trump was moving on.

But while the Trump administration talks about getting over it out of one side of its mouth, its Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity continues to press states for detailed voter roll information. Much on its wish list states are prohibited by law from handing over. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, as vice chair of the commission, is tasked with proving Trump's unsubstantiated claim that three million Americans voted illegally and denied him the popular vote in November. Already the commission faces multiple lawsuits from privacy and government ethics watchdogs.

A hostile state mucking about in U.S. elections? Fugetaboutit! But rumors of millions of imaginary phantom voters require a presidential commission.

The New York Times Editorial Board is not so muddled as Trump about the lack of election security:
The question is this: Can the system be strengthened against cyberattacks in time for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential race? The answer, encouragingly, is that there are concrete steps state and local governments can take right now to improve the security and integrity of their elections. A new study by the Brennan Center for Justice identifies two critical pieces of election infrastructure — aging voting machines and voter registration databases relying on outdated software — that present appealing targets for hackers and yet can be shored up at a reasonable cost.

Last year, Russian hackers tried to break into voter databases in at least 39 states, aiming to alter or delete voter data, and also attempted to take over the computers of more than 100 local election officials before Election Day. There is no evidence that they infiltrated voting machines, but they have succeeded in doing so in other countries, and it’s only a matter of time before they figure it out here. R. James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, wrote in an introduction to the Brennan Center report, “I am confident the Russians will be back, and that they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflict even more damage in future elections.”
America's decentralized election system makes it difficult to hack a national election. That doesn't mean Russia or other might try to flip local or state elections. The Brennan assessment suggests replacing software and upgrading voting machines to make them auditable might take a few hundred million dollars. "A pittance considering the stakes," says the Times.

Actual in-person voter fraud looks like people getting caught, writes David Atkins, citing a recent guilty plea by a Trump voter in Iowa:
“Voter fraud” is a term used to scare racist whites by conjuring images of urban minorities coming into their precious bedroom communities en masse by busloads, voting multiple times for fake and deceased people on the rolls. This doesn’t happen, of course, but try telling that to the legions of loyal Fox News watchers. “Voter fraud” is then used as an excuse to ramp up ID and other requirements that disenfranchise the poor, the young and the otherwise disadvantaged to benefit Republican constituencies. It’s no surprise that minorities who get caught voting innocently face far harsher penalties than white conservatives committing knowing fraud.
Which raises the question of how Trump and his colleagues would respond if Vladimir Putin were black?