Wednesday, July 12, 2017

There's Election Integrity, and Then There's Election Integrity

Posted By on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 5:02 PM

The press is calling it the Voter Fraud panel, though it would more accurate to call it the Voter Suppression panel. But the real name of the committee headed by Vice President Mike Pence and anti-immigration, pro-voter suppression Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Note to Pence and Kobach: The term "election integrity" is already taken. But that never stopped Republicans, who are masters at appropriating other people's language. Remember when "fake news" referred to patently false stories amplified on the internet to create confusion and disinformation during the campaign? Trump made the term his own, changing its meaning to any news he doesn't like that comes from the mainstream media. Remember when "No child left behind" was a term coined by Marian Wright Edelman, the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi bar, who worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and founded the Children's Defense Fund in 1973, who honestly believed no child should be left behind, not only in school, but everywhere in society? Maybe you don't, but that's who coined and used the term until George Bush kidnapped it to use for his 2001 education legislation which should have been called "No test left behind."

Election integrity activists have been fighting to assure that every vote is counted accurately for years. Tucson has been one of the centers of the fight since a group of people who believed the results of the 2006 RTA election had been flipped from a loss to a win started scrutinizing the county's voting and vote counting procedures. Whether the group's allegations are right or wrong, we've all benefited from their work to make Pima County elections far more tamper resistant than they were in the past. As they and others across the country have demonstrated, rigging an election to change the results isn't rocket science. It can be accomplished fairly easily by any number of actors starting in the polling booth and ending with the final vote count if no one is paying attention. I haven't seen any slam dunk evidence of a vote count being hacked, but there are lots of wisps of smoke in elections around the country. Given the political stakes, it's hard to believe no one has made an attempt to falsify the count to turn a loss into a win over the past few years.

Trump's misnamed Commission on Election Integrity doesn't plan to look at shoring up the defenses against people manipulating the vote count. It wants to purge the voter rolls of as many minority and low income voters as it can and add layers of voter ID requirements and other regulations to decrease the number of Democratic voters. They say they want to combat voter fraud—after all, according to Trump he only lost the popular vote because 3 million people voted illegally—but the incidence of voter fraud is so small it approaches zero.

We now have a new and very real threat to the integrity of our elections. We know the Russian government actively interfered in the last presidential election with the purpose of either electing Donald Trump or making Hillary Clinton and her victory so suspect that the U.S. would be seriously weakened. We know they targeted state election systems in 39 states and successfully hacked into some of them. We know they cyber-attacked a voting software supplier. With the information the Russian government has gathered and the possibility of a continuing presence inside state's election systems, at the very least they can create confusion on election day which could sway results. And we don't know for sure they haven't found their way into the actual touchscreen voting machines and the computers that tally the results, both of which would allow them to change vote counts with a few key strokes.

This is what the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity should be looking into. It should send out computer forensics experts to search through voter databases as well as the software in individual voting machines and vote tallying computers to see if they can find evidence of tampering. It should get rid of any computer voting system without a paper trail, where voters plug their choices into a machine and never see a paper printout, and there are no paper ballots to audit after the election to determine whether or not the vote count is accurate. And they should help states institute rigorous post-election audits which will be thorough enough to detect manipulation of the vote count. Even if there were no Russian threat to our elections, all of those steps should be taken. Instead the Trump administration is determined to use the committee to rig elections by suppressing the Democratic vote.

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