Commentary on US Election Security

Good commentaries from Ed Felten and Matt Blaze.

Both make a point that I have also been saying: hacks can undermine the legitimacy of an election, even if there is no actual voter or vote manipulation.

Felten:

The second lesson is that we should be paying more attention to attacks that aim to undermine the legitimacy of an election rather than changing the election's result. Election-stealing attacks have gotten most of the attention up to now -- ­and we are still vulnerable to them in some places -- ­but it appears that external threat actors may be more interested in attacking legitimacy.

Attacks on legitimacy could take several forms. An attacker could disrupt the operation of the election, for example, by corrupting voter registration databases so there is uncertainty about whether the correct people were allowed to vote. They could interfere with post-election tallying processes, so that incorrect results were reported­ an attack that might have the intended effect even if the results were eventually corrected. Or the attacker might fabricate evidence of an attack, and release the false evidence after the election.

Legitimacy attacks could be easier to carry out than election-stealing attacks, as well. For one thing, a legitimacy attacker will typically want the attack to be discovered, although they might want to avoid having the culprit identified. By contrast, an election-stealing attack must avoid detection in order to succeed. (If detected, it might function as a legitimacy attack.)

Blaze:

A hostile state actor who can compromise a handful of county networks might not even need to alter any actual votes to create considerable uncertainty about an election's legitimacy. It may be sufficient to simply plant some suspicious software on back end networks, create some suspicious audit files, or add some obviously bogus names to to the voter rolls. If the preferred candidate wins, they can quietly do nothing (or, ideally, restore the compromised networks to their original states). If the "wrong" candidate wins, however, they could covertly reveal evidence that county election systems had been compromised, creating public doubt about whether the election had been "rigged". This could easily impair the ability of the true winner to effectively govern, at least for a while.

In other words, a hostile state actor interested in disruption may actually have an easier task than someone who wants to undetectably steal even a small local office. And a simple phishing and trojan horse email campaign like the one in the NSA report is potentially all that would be needed to carry this out.

Me:

Democratic elections serve two purposes. The first is to elect the winner. But the second is to convince the loser. After the votes are all counted, everyone needs to trust that the election was fair and the results accurate. Attacks against our election system, even if they are ultimately ineffective, undermine that trust and ­ by extension ­ our democracy.

And, finally, a report from the Brennan Center for Justice on how to secure elections.

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 6:58 AM • 72 Comments

Comments

italainJuly 5, 2017 7:50 AM

i'm from Italy and i remember that i have read somewhere (maybe here)
that elections are not designed to be cheap or fast in this way they are not cheap to attack. and i agree

here we don't (yet?) have electronic voting machine, we still use paper and people.
i think that is the best also if it might seems obsolete/old.
i think is far more difficult to "hack" an election in any way if voting is done with people.
yes, you can corrupt them but you must corrupt all the people inside a room (and in my very small city

RichardJuly 5, 2017 7:51 AM

I'd say Trump has done as much as the Russians to undermine the legitimacy of our elections. He was calling elections "rigged" during the primaries and had he lost he'd be flaming against the electoral college. As it is, he claims he lost the popular vote because of "illegal aliens" voting.

AmericanJuly 5, 2017 8:00 AM

@Richard

He did loose the popular due to illegal alien voting. Why do you think many of the states are refusing to provide their voter registration data for an investigation? He requested that a full investigation of the votes be conducted and they are fighting tooth and nail for that to not happen. I assume they are fighting to protect that registration data because it would legitimize their Russia collusion claims and vindicate them. Right?

WinterJuly 5, 2017 8:03 AM

"As it is, he claims he lost the popular vote because of "illegal aliens" voting."

We must have a closer look at what type of aliens are illegally voting in US elections. Last time, they could not find any human aliens that were responsible. Maybe Trump is unto something big? Has SETI been informed?

Just MeJuly 5, 2017 8:06 AM

>Democratic elections serve two purposes. The first is to elect the winner. But the second is to convince the loser

I respectfully disagree- or at least quibble with your reasoning. The opinions & viewpoints of the results by the participants don't matter. At all.

Just like with a sportsball game, the losing team can shout "I was cheated!" all day long - but it's the rules of the game and rulings of the referees that determine the outcome.

As for the last election (and all all elections before it), the electoral college has spoken. And that's that.


The underlying premise of the articles that even if no votes were not affected, "hacks" still affect the outcome is odd. Votes are all that matter - and if there was no foul play there, that makes this whole spin of the story sound like sour grapes. It seems like those that were pushing the (now proven blatantly baseless) Russian election hacking story are still grasping at straws...

BardiJuly 5, 2017 8:38 AM

Just Me : "Votes are all that matter"

Another episode in simple sayings for simple people.

Apparently even your masters don't agree with you, for one, spending tremendous resources to discourage people from voting. Making it difficult to vote, in effect, shows how silly your comment is. Yes, in the end, it is all about the "vote". What smarter people than you are trying to say is that it is the journey to disenfranchise a large part of the voting public (among other things) that count.

Dirk PraetJuly 5, 2017 8:41 AM

Both make a point that I have also been saying: hacks can undermine the legitimacy of an election, even if there is no actual voter or vote manipulation.

Admittedly a legitimate point, but isn't it about time everybody starts moving on? The weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the election process by now have been sufficiently pointed out for whomever is in charge of those to put in place appropriate remediation. Unless of course nobody actually wants that. Most folks inside and outside the US are bored silly by the ongoing whining of both sides, respectively about Russian meddling and illegal aliens causing Trump to lose the popular vote. For neither of which any serious evidence was ever presented to the general public.

I guess there's a lot of Americans (and others) out there that would kinda appreciate a return to talking policy instead of conspiracy. And if in parallel some investigative committee or special investigator indeed reveals tangible proof of foul play by whatever side, perhaps we can all zap back and get a popcorn refill.

ChuckbJuly 5, 2017 9:10 AM

This hit a nerve in the puppet's or puppet master's camp judging from the carefully cited (or cut and pasted) troll comments.

WinterJuly 5, 2017 9:10 AM

@Dirk Praet
"Admittedly a legitimate point, but isn't it about time everybody starts moving on?"

As in the aftermath of serious conflicts, e.g., Apartheid in South Africa, the point of truth-finding is not to assert blame and punishment, but to reconcilliate the parties involved. Reconciliation is difficult or even impossible as long as parties think past injustices are not even recognized.

We see this here. One side says legitimate voters were denied voting rights, the other side claims illegal votes were cast, and over that there are accusations that outside parties interfered in the elections to distort the outcomes towards one party.

How can there be trust in the outcome of future elections when a sizeable fraction of the voters believe the last one was unjust?

AnuraJuly 5, 2017 9:39 AM

@Dirk Praet

The only reason the attacked worked is because we have a media empire in which half are trying only to get ratings, treating one sides debunked talking points to the other side's facts, while the other flat-out lies to the public and is willing to say whatever they can to help the Republican party win.

We have now gotten to the point where right-wing propaganda outlets literally call every bad press about Republicans "fake news" even if it's obviously true, because they know their base will believe whatever they tell them. And what do they tell them? That anything Trump might have done wrong is just lies by the left, a massive conspiracy by liberals to prevent conservative government from working. Republicans have literally been deliberately sabotaging government programs for decades, so they can say they don't work and cut the programs for tax cuts and right wing news is there to ignore the truth and back them up every step of the way. They've been telling the public that liberals are trying to take away their freedoms, that Democrats are busing illegals to the voting stations, that homosexual marriage will destroy families, that sharia law is going to be implemented in their towns, and there are no-go zones where Muslims have ran the law out of town, and saying that we need second amendment solutions to stop liberalism... Wars have started over less than this shit, and you want to ignore it.

The only reason why Russians could cause so many problems in the first place is because Republicans and corporations have been spreading so much misinformation that the public does not know what is actually true; the reason it looks like collusion is because the Republicans and Russians have the same exact objective: make sure the American people do are too confused to know what's actually in their interest. And you say we should just not talk about this, not talk about elections, because it might be Russians and we could be hypocrites? I've never seen a more useless position.

RachelJuly 5, 2017 9:52 AM

@ Dirk

Thanks, more eloquent than I feel. I find my teeth clenching and stomaching tensing as soon as I see Bruces headline. I say, boring, non story, bring the facts or shut up and move on.

mark hutchinsonJuly 5, 2017 9:57 AM

Our electoral college system makes it easier to hack an election by targeting specific precincts.

dvvJuly 5, 2017 10:04 AM

Wholla lot of hypotheticals, apocalyptic consequences… Why doesn't the header say "The Movie-Plot Threat Contest"?

HJohnJuly 5, 2017 10:43 AM

@mark Hutchinson: Our electoral college system makes it easier to hack an election by targeting specific precincts.
_______

That's just not true.

In a direct popular vote, any precinct you target can affect the final outcome. Your guy loses by 500,000 votes, then literally anywhere in the country you can hack the vote can help change the election.

With the electoral college, this will only work in states where your candidate lost, and you would have to flip enough states to do so.

The electoral college is also a safeguard against a state manipulating its voting rules to its political advantage. Now, independent of voter turnout and margin of victory, the electoral vote awarded for winning the state is the same (a couple small states like Maine notwithstanding). With a popular vote, the margin of victory and turnout drive the state's electoral power. Turning a blind eye to voter fraud would actually increase a state's electoral power, which is not a good incentive.

A national popular vote would result in the federal government having to step in and make things consistent, and I'm very wary of federal power. More specifically, I'm wary of giving any president too much influence over the rules he will face reelection under.

This was longer than I thought, but the ramifications of a national popular vote are more complex than many realize. I say this as one who used to oppose the electoral college until 1993 when I did a research paper on the topic in college.

TroutwaxerJuly 5, 2017 11:13 AM

One thing I haven't see discussed is that hackers can also do considerable damage to a given campaign by making sure that the campaign gets incorrect data. This could be internal or external polling data, feedback from allies, DNS that resolves to "fake news" when the campaign wants to read the local paper online, etc.

Or maybe even worse, what if you were running a close campaign and hackers took over your Exchange Server? Then suddenly three days before the vote every meeting time gets screwed up, allies aren't responding to emails, everyone's phone number is wrong, deadlines have had their dates changed, etc.

markJuly 5, 2017 11:32 AM

I just read, today, a piece about the odd results in the US state of Georgia's special election last week. And there was a story in the weeks before, about how they were still using the outdated and insecure Diebold all-electronic voting machines (which Prof. Avi Rubin, in a sanctioned investigation 10 years or so ago, found to be *not* using a transaction database, but a Microsoft spreadsheet.....)

But back to the point of the article, we need to also note that the GOP has been aggressively active in voter suppression, such as the state (I forget which one) where they came up with a list of 100,000 names to be challenged, many of which were inaccurate, to say the least.

What I'm suggesting here is that the GOP, or at least one faction in it, colluded with the Russian hackers who we *know* got into the d/bs, and obtained lists of voters.

So, was the November vote tainted? Hell, yes.

VJuly 5, 2017 1:05 PM

1) Elections need to be convincingly honest, not just to a computer science geek, but to any citizen who has graduated from middle school. If hacker attacks on voter registration lists are credible, those lists need to not be compiled on a computer - back to cardboard boxes full of index cards, if need be.

2) Voter suppression is a genuine problem, not fixable in a given election but somewhat fixable in the next election. If you can convince a judge your vote was supressed, you get 3 votes in the next election convenient to you: your normal vote, one to make up for the one you were denied, and one in place of the person who prevented you from voting - that person is denied a vote. If nobody is convicted of suppression or if that person clobbered multiple votes you get to vote 10 times.

3) If you truly believe individuals are voting multiple times in various precincts you will support indelible ink on the right thumb. Just think how much money counties will save on now-unneeded "I voted" stickers.

tzJuly 5, 2017 2:14 PM

The bigger picture drowns out the smaller one.

States are supposed to have Real-ID Driver's licences (well vetted) for the TSA to accept them as ID for AirPorts. But states are issuing IDs to illegal aliens.

Some of the questionaires have "Are you eligible to vote, check yes or no". I can think of exactly one person who went to prison for doing it wrong and there was so much angst over it being a (repeated) "innocent mistake". Liars and Outliers trust me problem?

Studies showed that 0.2 to over 5 million people voted illegally (non-citizens, felons) in 2008.

There have been pen tests. 61 of 63 tested illegal voters were allowed, one of the detections was because the poll worker was the son of the dead person's ID being used.

You worry about some kind of cyber attack? If everything was offline, it wouldn't matter because 5% of the votes are probably both illegal and voting for Democrats -illegals, legal aliens, and felons.

Worse, after the election, there weren't many calls for audits (e.g. Detroit where a ballot box with 50 forms showed 300 Votes, almost all for Hillary).

Even now, states are resisting sending data to the commission trying to look for election fraud.

Even worse, though Trump won the electoral college, the totals weren't called into question (though the discredited Russia stole it continues even today). The left called for the electors to violate their principles, oath, and duty and vote for someone other than who they were supposed to. Several did. This is also a form of election hacking. What happens if the next election is won by a small enough marging that bribing or assassinating electors would change the outcome?

The election legitimacy problem is not one of technology, but of trust, and it has been thoroughly lost. The cover-ups are mostly on the left where there is evidence of problems, but they accuse the right of having stolen the election.

We will have civil war if this goes any further. And I expect it to as we are looking under the street lamp instead of in the dark alley where the credibility is draining out because the light is better there.

ChelloveckJuly 5, 2017 3:12 PM

Many commenters are missing the point of the articles Bruce quoted. It doesn't matter whether or not there were actually any shenanigans regarding the 2016 election. A malicious actor doesn't need to actually change any votes; as long as they can plant a seed of doubt it's enough to tie the country's undies up in a bunch for four years or more.

Clearly, doubt is here and growing. It's hard to accept, "He won! Get over it! Nothing to see here!" when the winner of the electoral vote himself, the man in office, is constantly complaining that there was fraud. (Hey, Donald. You won. Get over it.) He was preemptively yelling fraud before the first votes were cast.

One camp claims the Russians influenced things and caused them to lose.

The other camp claims that the first camp voted fraudulently and prevented a rightful win by a popular landslide.

Which is right? IT SIMPLY DOESN'T MATTER! What matters is that the doubt is growing and being nurtured and we're not likely to rid ourselves of it in the near future. The articles are right, you don't need to actually flip votes or stuff the ballot box to delegitimize an election. A large number of people on both sides, including the actual victor, think there was monkey business. It's that belief that is destabilizing, not whether or not there actually was.

This should not be a partisan issue. Having a large number of people disbelieve the election results is a bad thing, no matter which side they're on. THAT'S what the articles are saying (at least, as I read them). Doubt is destabilizing. People are doubting. Those two things are demonstrably true. There may or may not have been a bad actor in 2016, or the doubt may have simply have sprung up from a general distrust in the current system. Ultimately it doesn't really matter. What matters is this: How do we improve the system so that people don't doubt the results NEXT time, regardless of whether a bad actor is involved?

ab praeceptisJuly 5, 2017 3:26 PM

Rachel

I was somewhat, shall we say "surprised", too, when I saw that title. It seems to quite probably lead us into rather ugly discussions between diverse factions again(hillary vs trump, "it was the Russians!" vs "Nothingburger", etc).

Moreover a major point seems to be widely ignored: While I agree with the 3 that hacking can undermine elections **if** there is successful and significant hacking I'd submit that one should first *properly and credibly* examine whether there was successful and significant hacking in the first place.

One important reason for my position is that lots of loud hacking accusations also undermine the elections.
This is basically the very argument Bruce Schneier - correctly - made for his point of view.

And indeed, millions of us-americans *are* not sure about their last elections. And here again Bruce Schneiers argument ("hacks can undermine the legitimacy of an election, even if there is no actual voter or vote manipulation") can as well be applied to say "(plenty and repeated) allegations of hacking can undermine the legitimacy of an election, even if there was no actual hacking".

The same is true for other issues, e.g. the refusal of some states to support an examination (outside their own).

It seems to me that the really important thing would have been and still is to find out whether there was successful and significant hacking in the first place. Unfortunately (for the us-american citizens) many in politics chose to launch diverse allegations, incl. who allegedly was the hacker (Russia).

Btw. the most relevant part is not even who did it (if there was hacking). Hacked elections would be hacked elections, no matter who hacked them. The decisive point is whether there was successful and significant hacking or not. That question, however, seems to be of way less concern than the question who did it.

It's the us-americans election and so they and only they have to decide. I would, however, strongly suggest to deal with it in the classical well established way of the prosecutor: 1) Establish whether a certain crime has been committed at all in the first place ("Is there a dead body?") and only then 2) find out who committed the crime. Finally, 3) before condemning any suspect, one should be sure beyond reasonable doubt.

Boss TweedJuly 5, 2017 3:54 PM

Doesn't anyone remember Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall?

Tweed's organization stuffed election ballot boxes with ballots of illegal immigrants across several states.

Tweed totally dominated the politics of these states as he controlled the counts, too.

Tweed's politico-economic network was one of the most sophisticated and well-financed in history.

Tweed didn't need a computer hacker.

Dirk PraetJuly 5, 2017 4:10 PM

@ Anura, @ Winter

And you say we should just not talk about this, not talk about elections, because it might be Russians and we could be hypocrites?

What I'm saying is that there is no point whatsoever in talking the subject to death without any new or substantiated facts and just continue the debate ad infinitum with innuendo, blind accusations or "informed opinions" of anonymous officials working for dodgy TLA's that are spying on world plus dog. To the best of my knowledge, there are now two or three formal committees and a special investigator on the matter. Let them do their work and in due course publish their findings.

If the trust in the election process, the ongoing investigations and the political system as a whole has been eroded to the point that nobody believes in them anymore, then the US no longer has a functional democracy and is ripe for an authoritarian take-over.

I have recently stopped following US domestic politics. It's one big circus orchestrated by spin doctors and special interest representatives which I can't make heads or tails of any longer, and what is supposed to be US foreign or environmental policy is scaring the living daylights out of me.

AnuraJuly 5, 2017 4:20 PM

@Dirk Praet

If the trust in the election process, the ongoing investigations and the political system as a whole has been eroded to the point that nobody believes in them anymore, then the US no longer has a functional democracy and is ripe for an authoritarian take-over.

I have recently stopped following US domestic politics. It's one big circus orchestrated by spin doctors and special interest representatives which I can't make heads or tails of any longer, and what is supposed to be US foreign or environmental policy is scaring the living daylights out of me.

This is exactly the point, and exactly what we should be discussing. The single most important part of democracy is information, and we do not have a reliable source for it. This environment is deliberate; the more disorganized the public is and the harder it is to obtain information, the easier it is for someone to exploit that to make money. It is the same environment that created this disorganized mess of misinformation that allows political attacks to occur, regardless of whether the attacker is foreign or domestic. It does NOT matter if it was the Russians or not, because the problem exists independent of that. We have to discuss these things, because if we do not then we are just giving up.

Lou KatzJuly 5, 2017 4:36 PM

Unfortunately, in the US there is basically NO MECHANISM WHATSOEVER to legally do anything about an election once it is certified, even if outright fraud is demonstrated and confessed to. The lack of remedy in today's world can be fatal.

AndrewJuly 5, 2017 4:55 PM

States refusing to provide real voting data... Oh, you have much bigger problems than hackers "undermining legitimacy of elections" by posting memes on Facebook...

It is not what every candidate and their partisans try every election in the world? To manipulate the vote in their favor?

CassandraJuly 5, 2017 5:01 PM

1) Who confers legitimacy on elections, what process do they follow, what information do they use, and how is that information obtained?

2) The truly insane amounts of money used for lobbying and political campaign contributions is believed by those spending the money to have a material effect. If that is true, doesn't that skew the result?

3) The gerrymandering of voting districts appears to challenge the notion of fair elections.

4) Voter registration procedures appear to be designed to affect the demographics of voting in some areas, which may skew the results.

In other words, I don't think hacking is the only problem.

( The choice of voting system can also be criticised, but in light of Arrow's impossibility theorem, and the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem, arguing which voting system would be the 'best' system to use seems futile. )

AnuraJuly 5, 2017 5:14 PM

@Cassandra

The choice of voting system can also be criticised, but in light of Arrow's impossibility theorem, and the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem, arguing which voting system would be the 'best' system to use seems futile.

Arrow's impossibility theorem tells us no system gives us everything we want, but that doesn't mean we can't have a system that we *mostly* prefer over the others. Plurality voting is just awful, and the electoral college is harmful.

trsm.mckayJuly 5, 2017 5:37 PM

@American Why do you think many of the states are refusing to provide their voter registration data for an investigation?

I am going to ignore most of this political troll post, but an interesting security question is buried among the bovine excrement. The information requested includes: registrants' full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, information on any felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, their military status, and whether they lived overseas.

Most security professionals will recognize that some of what is being asked for is personally-identifiable-information (PII), and indeed some of what they requested is already protected by various state laws. It also might not surprise you to hear that the proposed method of collecting said information would not adequately protect the PII sensitive information. A more interesting question for this blog - how much this information should be public, and is there any value/danger of linking different sets of already public information.

Later they attempted to clarify that they were only asking for publicly available information. That brings up the question of why they were asking for PII in the first place? My guess waivers between the two usual for this administration: incompetence and/or malice. Seems like both the vote suppressing committee, and their troll-like friends, don't know much about PII.

AndrewJuly 5, 2017 5:44 PM

@anura
There are no perfect elections but I really find the access to voting data a real issue that might reveal very interesting things.

Anyway, should elections be repeated every time a loser cry that they were rigged, without any proof? Half year later? In my country this happen EVERY SINGLE TIME, at every elections, even if polls before were showing the same numbers. Nobody takes them seriously.

Ergo SumJuly 5, 2017 7:21 PM

@mark...

I just read, today, a piece about the odd results in the US state of Georgia's special election last week. And there was a story in the weeks before, about how they were still using the outdated and insecure Diebold all-electronic voting machines (which Prof. Avi Rubin, in a sanctioned investigation 10 years or so ago, found to be *not* using a transaction database, but a Microsoft spreadsheet.....)

Maybe you're getting your news from CNN, try this instead:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/07/02/states-keep-elections-secure-editorials-debates/103380566/

At the very least, the Georgia's secretary of state makes sense, quote from the link:

To be candid, the most plausible and potentially effective attack on our elections is not by hacking the vote — it is through the manipulation of the American media machine. With “breaking news” that generates voter confusion, these baseless attacks and inaccurate stories enhance voter apathy and erode our confidence in the cornerstone of our democracy. That’s the real story.

That's pretty much the same direction that Anura and Dirk trying to steer the discussion here.

Following their direction....

Discrediting the state elections is intentional and the ultimate goal is to have the feds run the election, is it not? Seemingly, it would be a lot easier to manipulate the election results, if the feds take over than trying to influence 50 or so states...

Ergo SumJuly 5, 2017 7:59 PM

Ultimately, this is just changing of our time...

We have lived through the information age, quote from Wikipedia:

The Information Age (also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a period in human history characterized by the shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information computerization. The onset of the Information Age is associated with the Digital Revolution, just as the Industrial Revolution marked the onset of the Industrial Age.[1][2] The definition of what digital means (or what information means) continues to change over time as new technologies, user devices, methods of interaction with other humans and devices enter the domain of research, development and market launch.

Times had changed and the misinformation age has dawned upon us, quote from the book of "A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age...":

We live in the Information Age, with billions of bytes of data just two swipes away. Yet how much of this is mis- or even disinformation? A lot of it is, and your search engine can't tell the difference. As a result, an avalanche of misinformation threatens to overwhelm the discourse we so desperately need to address complex social problems such as climate change, the food and water crises, biodiversity collapse, and emerging threats to public health. This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind.

Johnny LawJuly 5, 2017 10:55 PM

If you want to shake the society to the core hack the judicial computer systems and change assignments of cases to not-poor innocent people for hundreds of cases in large counties (like St Louis, Baltimore, LA, NYC, Miami, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago) both county and city level prosecutors are so greedy and stiff necked that they will never admit the errors until it is too late. The adversarial nature of the courts will be a force factor to magnify the problems.

The people will lose faith in government when arbitrary court actions affect them
and theirs if it is wide spread. Just make sure it is upper middle class people affected because nothing pisses people off more than going to court if they are middle class, innocent and have to pay for a lawyer. There will be blood. There will be a loss of faith in government similar to the reaction to the sex problems in the Catholic priesthood that had the last Pope "retire" (another set of stiff necked officials that couldn't admit a problem).

Big elections happen rarely, timing has to be perfect, too early and the problem gets fixed, too late the election is done. However the courts are always in session with 10's of thousands of warrants, tickets, felonies even in 2nd/3rd tier cities and I am sure they have crappy IT systems with dozens or hundreds of smaller less sophisticated jurisdictions IT systems pumping arrests, citations, charges, etc into the courts IT systems.

Presidential election irregularities in 2000, 2004 did not make people do anything but blame Ralph Nader. Nobody really gave a diddly ding dang except the paid for Brooks Brothers rioters in Florida.
And now the "Russians" hoo hah barely registers, most of the blame falls on Sanders and Bernie Bros. But haul thousands of innocent middle-upper middle class people to court and watch the torches and guns come out. Just make sure they are not just bankers/Wall Street/Insurance employees or the people will rally around the government and make the president a King.

Dirk PraetJuly 6, 2017 7:05 AM

@ Anura

The single most important part of democracy is information, and we do not have a reliable source for it.

There is plenty of information around, but there's so much lying and propaganda going on that nobody quite knows what to believe anymore. Which is a bit of an unfortunate side-effect of your First Amendment. There's plenty of countries - even in the EU - where the blatant disinformation and outright lies spread by politicians and media outlets on both sides of the isle would be prosecuted as political or press crimes.

The main problem I see, however, is the absence of an even remotely credible opposition that instead of making way for new voices and new ideas has firmly entrenched itself, clinging on to the same people (Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer), the same talk and the same practices that got a populist surrounding himself with a club of billionaire sycophants elected in the first place. The same goes for the GOP. Without the cuckoo's young that is Trump, they would have lost to Shillary with a landslide.

US democracy is going through a deep institutional crisis corporate controlled Democrats and Republicans alike remain willfully in denial about. The ongoing Russia hysteria is nothing but a smoke screen to divert everybody's attention away from the huge societal divide, political anemia and cracks in the system that are obvious to any impartial observer.

A functional democracy tackles alleged election meddling by and collusion with whatever entity - foreign or domestic - heads-on, and by means of all democratic methods and institutions at its disposal, including a press that can differentiate between facts and propaganda. Only a banana republic allows unproven allegations to dominate and paralyze the political debate for months on end, cast a permanent shadow over the legitimacy of an administration and create further FUD across an already deeply divided nation.

In the end, there are only two parties to gain from a further extension of this debate: the MIC and Trump himself. The former by capitalizing on a renewed fear for an ancient foe, the latter by confirming to his disgruntled electorate that there is a wide-spread deep state conspiracy going on against him, in the process blinding them to any and all objective criticism on his actual policies and provable lies (e.g. the Saudi arms deal, the so-called infrastructure plan, his alleged parting of his business empire).

Bruce, Blaze and Felten are absolutely right that the legitimacy of an election can be undermined by hacking. But from where I'm sitting, it's not the hacking itself but the quite hysterical, politically motivated media circus surrounding the affair that's actually causing this.

That's why I remain firmly convinced that it would be better for everyone to take a step back at this time, let the ongoing investigations run their course and focus on policy until such a time that new facts surface or the investigators publish their final reports. And which I'm sure will also contain recommendations to better secure the election process. If as a nation, you guys are no longer capable of doing that, then your worst enemy is not Putin or Xi Jinping, but yourself.

Clive RobinsonJuly 6, 2017 10:31 AM

@ Dirk Praet, Anura,

The main problem I see, however, is the absence of an even remotely credible opposition that instead of making way for new voices and new ideas has firmly entrenched itself, clinging on to the same people

The problem is that the US system has changed from it's original "no party" system to a "two party" one where there is only cosmetic difference.

Originaly the idea was that various people would independently stand for President, the person with most votes got the job. But... the Vice President would be the runner up, not a party hack. The trouble they did not write it into the constitution.

But there is always a herd mentality, and herds need leaders to "good grazing", so parties arise almost naturally. Thus you get a hierarchy and as we know power like scum rises to the top and blots out what is below.

Thus a two party system arose, and that is even at the best of times a fragile system. Which is what Donald Trump has just recently proved. As I noted Trump is not a republican, he simply blackmailed them into giving him their nomination. The way he did it was simple, he gave them a choice "Hillary or Me" he made it clear if they did support him, he would take sufficient of their voters away that they could not win against Hillary...

So the GOP figured it was "Better Trump than stumped again". Thus once in they would consolidate and block anything of Trump's they did not like, and would get rid of him by impeachment (favoured tool of the GOP) in a couple of years.

So far the plan appears to be on track...


kiss_ubuntuJuly 6, 2017 10:34 AM

@Dirk Praet

"The main problem I see, however, is the absence of an even remotely credible opposition that instead of making way for new voices and new ideas has firmly entrenched itself, clinging on to the same people (Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer), the same talk and the same practices that got a populist surrounding himself with a club of billionaire sycophants elected in the first place."

You might not want to underestimate the power of 'relatively' smart billionaires like the Koch brothers or Robert Mercer.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency ; for starters; regarding Brexit and Mercer you might search 'Guardian Brexit Robert Mercer' in your favorite search engine, unless you already know about that stuff.

"If as a nation, you guys are no longer capable of doing that, then your worst enemy is not Putin or Xi Jinping, but yourself."

From http://www.newyorker.com/news/evan-osnos/can-trump-match-xi-jinpings-game
"From a Chinese perspective, Kushner's role in the White House is a clannish arrangement that they know well."
[...]
"Not in Beijing’s wildest dreams did they imagine a counterpart with Kushner’s characteristics: trusted by the President, overworked, and undertrained."

fwiw, regardless, I agree with a lot that you have to say.


OtterJuly 6, 2017 10:39 AM

Dirk Praet and Anura don't seem to realize that they embrace different meanings for the word "information".

I have not counted the number of posts or posters above; but lets say 37. Nor have I counted the number of fiercely embraced but mutually profoundly exclusive "common knowledge facts"; but surely there are at least 213.

The easiest and most effective way to hack American elections is allow or encourage Americans to talk amongst themselves. About anything.

kiss_ubuntuJuly 6, 2017 11:18 AM

@Johny Law

"And now the "Russians" hoo hah barely registers, most of the blame falls on Sanders and Bernie Bros."

It seems that in 2016 the former FBI Director Comey's differential treatment of Hillary (but Bill did meet with the Attorney General Lynch on the tarmac) and Trump and friends (Comey not talking about Trump or Russia investigations because it was too close to the election) might be where substantial blame falls in the election results.

You might like this link https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/12/court-software-glitches-result-in-erroneous-arrests-defense-lawyers-say/ ; you might have a good "Schneier at the movies" plot here; and since this mess mainly involved Public Defenders and people already in the court system, presumably it got little press.


@ab praeceptis

On one hand, in general, it is good to remind readers that spook attribution accuracy and reliability is difficult, at best, to test.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems that you are preaching to the converted. In other words, perhaps you could be more nuanced or specific, at times, when responding to the specifics regarding facts and fiction in: current media stories, current propaganda, or both.

Dirk PraetJuly 6, 2017 12:43 PM

@ Otter

Dirk Praet and Anura don't seem to realize that they embrace different meanings for the word "information".

I used that specific word exactly once in my posts. Anura twice. And I think we're pretty much on the same page here, just disagreeing about how to proceed.

@ kiss_ubuntu

You might not want to underestimate the power of 'relatively' smart billionaires like the Koch brothers or Robert Mercer.

I was and still am a firm supporter of a bill that would require politicians to wear NASCAR-like patches of their corporate sponsors. And not just in the US.

Robert HalloranJuly 6, 2017 12:50 PM

On Trump's election commission: the states are being asked to provide voter rolls, party affiliation, SSN-last-4 and voting history (when they've voted, not who voted for whom) to an *insecure* website stood up by said commission. This is flat-out banned by various state constitutions to avoid potential identity theft , and posting to an insecure webserver is an even greater invitation for Bad Actors to get useful information to create the doubt being discussed here.

Many state secretaries have said as much, some colorfully (MS: "they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississipi's a great launch point" KY: "There's not enough bourbon in the state to have this make sense") and are simply following their state rules. Sanitized voter information is available (typ. at cost) from the various states and is used by political parties to create mailings, etc. This federal commission is asking for it gratis and at potentially much greater detail than the states permit.

AnuraJuly 6, 2017 1:56 PM

@Clive Robinson

The problem is that the US system has changed from it's original "no party" system to a "two party" one where there is only cosmetic difference.

Bullshit. To say that the parties are only cosmetically different is to ignore all US politics. Republicans literally blocked stimulus during the recession just because they figured if the economy improved under Obama, then he would easily win reelection. Democrats keep getting walked-over because they do not know how to play as dirty as the Republicans, because they don't have a corporate-backed media empire that exists to ensure that corporations and the GOP do not have to take responsibility.

The GOP sabotaged healthcare, deliberately trying to make the system fail so they could repeal it, and now that they realize they don't have a plan and everything they were saying was blather, they are trying to pass anything they can and are willing to lie about it. They are willing to destroy the environment, get rid of all health and safety standards, all worker and consumer protections. Republicans have become completely apathetic to the value of human life in their own country, and they have convinced themselves that corporations don't have to be responsible because the free market says anything they do is ultimately the will of the people.

I'm sorry, no, both sides are nowhere near the same, except on some aspects of foreign policy, but not the ultimate goal.


@Dirk Praet

The problem is bigger than just the US. No country has a solid infrastructure for journalism or academia. It's all this jury rigged system of independent news agencies with absolutely no process for auditing the quality of the information. Now we add the internet on top of that, and you have an awful mess, ripe for exploitation by any kid who can make a website. Then add all these shitty search engines, twitter, etc. which are just a god-awful way to try and get information.

We need to get organized, and we need to build an open and auditable system for distributing information. We should have the original writers of articles be subject matter experts, writing for other subject matter experts. Then those should get annotated, and rewritten for other audiences. We should then have news aggregation services that work with services that audit that flow of information - what stories do agencies report, ignore, what gets retracted, what contradictary information is out there. We should have hardcore analysis on all of our stories of the day, to look at everything that's been written on a subject and try and get to the bottom of what we know and what we don't know.

It's not just journalism. Academia is exploited to; corporations have studies done to release the information they want (it's quite common with "alternative" medicine). We should have these journals audited; review the papers they publish, figure out what sources are trustworthy, and learn where mistakes come from and how to avoid them in the future.

HJohnJuly 6, 2017 2:12 PM

Anura,

Not only is your political rant out of place, you seem to think you have insight into the motives of other people. Not to mention, your ramblings are inaccurate and incoherent, which is the only way to explain how you can say with a straight face that the media empire is Republican, it is well documented to be overwhelmingly Democrat. This isn't a defense of republicans and a criticism of democrats, it's a response to your rant.

Just because someone on either side of the spectrum doesn't happen to agree with you about policies is not evidence, much less proof, that they have nefarious motives about anything.

Basically, your biases are clouding your judgment and rendering you incapable of a fair minded dialogue about election security.

albertJuly 6, 2017 2:24 PM

Leave it to Clive (a Brit) to hit the nail on the head.

We don't have a 'democracy'; we have a 'republic'. The Founding Fathers recognized the dangers of a 'direct democracy', where the entire country votes on any and all issues, or even a 'representative democracy', where voters yield their power to elected representatives. However, the population is liable to the "tyranny of the majority". That's why we have this system. It protects the -minority- through the Constitution and Bill of Rights from the whims of the Unwashed Masses.

Is it perfect? No. Our system has been totally corrupted by the wealthy Elites. That's why we had, in 2016, the "Choice of No Choice Election". Neither of the two parties were even remotely capable of escaping the stranglehold of the Corporatocracy.

According to Adam Curtis, we live in the Age of HyperNormalization. Simply stated, it is the paramount goal of The System to sustain itself by -any- means, legal or illegal. Change is to be avoided at all costs. 'Improvements' are allowed, as long as they allow The System to continue. There are limits. It's a parasitic system, where it should be symbiotic. It's the difference between killing the host, or enabling it the thrive.

Y'all can see where this is going...

These sorts of discussions are unproductive. An -absolutely perfect- electoral system isn't going to solve the real problems we face.

If that's your goal, then go for it, but I consider it time wasted.

. .. . .. --- ....

AnuraJuly 6, 2017 2:33 PM

@HJohn

If you think mainstream media is controlled by Democrats, you have never ever watched cable news. Or you ignored the NYT, WaPost, and CNN during any of the Clinton scandals (hint: they are not acting any differently towards Trump and Russian collusion than they did towards blowjobs or emails). They are driven by ratings, and they have an audience that includes both sides so they do everything they can to please both sides, and this means treating one sides opinions as equal to the other side's facts. That they seem to be Democrat, is just because right-wing news is so extreme in their assault on mainstream media, that they appear to be in direct opposition.

HJohnJuly 6, 2017 2:38 PM

Anura,

All I did was point out the illogic in your thinking and how it is clouding your judgment. I'm not the one accusing entire constituencies, groups, and institutions I may disagree with of having these awful nefarious intentions. That you cannot say anything without taking a cheap political shots is exactly the clouded judgment I was talking about.

I watch cable news all the time, all over the political spectrum. When I actually listen to people I disagree with I sometimes learn something. Try it some time. You'll be able to discuss nonpolitical issues on blogs like this more effectively.

AnuraJuly 6, 2017 2:50 PM

@HJohn

Well, it seems to me the entire point of your comment is that you disagree with my politics but are unable to address a point, hence "mainstream media are Democrats". This is a blog post on the weakness of our political system, one that was marked by a massive propaganda campaign, and the single biggest weakness is the lack of good information. You think that's irrelevant?

HJohnJuly 6, 2017 3:09 PM

You completely miss my point.

I don't give a flip about your politics, I'm saying that your political bias is clouding your judgment. I'd say the same thing to someone who introduced a nonsensical rant against democrats.

Good information is important, and it is important to push aside propaganda. You're incapable of either due to your clouded judgment.

kiss_ubuntuJuly 6, 2017 3:13 PM

Does anybody remember when it was made legal in this country for the MIC + Congressional + Law Enforcement + +/- 3 to 5 million in the USA with secret or above clearances, + contractors, + big budgets, etc., to turn it's' propaganda weapons against one own population? Sounds like a proverbial ... slaughter.

Who might be screwed when the music stops?
https://www.democracynow.org/2017/6/13/full_interview_naomi_klein_on_no

@HJohn
Fyi
https://www.democracynow.org/2017/5/29/noam_chomsky_in_conversation_with_amy
Regardless, footnotes or references please

AnuraJuly 6, 2017 3:21 PM

@HJohn

No, you are saying we should ignore any bad stuff that Republicans do because by golly, we should keep it apolitical. Sorry, but this stuff *IS* relevant, and there really is voter suppression going on. And yes, there really is massive propaganda originating from the Republican party. When Trump said there were millions of illegals voting in California, everyone knew it was absurd; but now we see real consequences of that, all because Fox News and right-wing media had to pretend like Trump doesn't just make shit up. And the result of that is that someone who has proven to be either incompetent or malicious is asking for voter data, heading up an official investigation into something that was made up purely because the President can't handle losing the popular vote.

You aren't interested in election security, or else you wouldn't have written that tripe about how the electoral college makes it harder to attack the system. It's quite clear you have not put any real thought into it, and have ignored all the actual attacks on our electoral system. So I ask you, what are *your* political motives for your posts? Is it a problem if one of our states is so heavily gerrymandered that it no longer resembles Democracy? Is it a problem if we can write laws on a state-by-state basis to exclude the groups that you want to exclude? Is it a problem when politicians dig through data looking for voters they can accuse of voting fraudulently and dropping them from voter rolls?

PeteJuly 6, 2017 3:35 PM

Please count how many times the words "could" and "might" appear in the text .
This is pure speculation, designed to keep the ridiculous conspiracy-idiocy alive.
Yep, they hacked your election, with Putins Selectric .
Jesus Christ, enough of this nonsense !

mostly harmfulJuly 6, 2017 4:28 PM

@Clive writes:

The problem is that the US system has changed from it's original "no party" system to a "two party" one where there is only cosmetic difference.

@Anura replies:

Bullshit. To say that the parties are only cosmetically different is to ignore all US politics.

Anura, to whom are the differences more than cosmetic?

Gilens and Page 2014, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B/core-reader#maincontent

TL;DR
Corruption is Legal in America - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tu32CCA_Ig

Dirk PraetJuly 6, 2017 4:36 PM

@ Anura

To say that the parties are only cosmetically different is to ignore all US politics.

I'm afraid the distinction between Democrats and Republicans for the average non-American is about as clear as is the difference between a Stalinist and a Trotskist, or a Sunni and a Shia Muslim to the average American. I personally don't even see the current GOP as a political party, but as the political branch of US capitalism whose only goal is the establishment of the free market as the sole guiding government principle. Otherwise known as socio-economic Darwinism.

@Clive and @albert are right: the US is not a democracy, but a republic that has evolved into a parasitic, corporate plutocracy only interested in sustaining itself. And the more authoritarian it gets, the more you're drifting towards the exact same systems as are currently in place in China or Russia.

No country has a solid infrastructure for journalism or academia.

Oh well, the situation is definitely worse in a whole lot of other countries. You do however have a point that the concentration of MSM under just a few corporate umbrellas and the braindead focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip is not exactly generating quality journalism. And as usual, regulation is lagging far behind technological evolutions that nowadays allow pretty much anyone to spread propaganda and fake news at the speed of light. A revision of current defamation law IMO would be in order to efficiently tackle this growing problem.

Clive RobinsonJuly 6, 2017 6:07 PM

@ mostly harmful,

Gilens and Page 2014, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.

Had a quick skim of it and it looks very interesting, thanks for the link.

It's gone midnight here and the weather is hot sticky and acting as an irritant, so I'll save giving it an indepth read to early tommorow when my eyes and brain will be fresh, and the weather a little less stifling.

AnuraJuly 6, 2017 11:11 PM

@Dirk Praet

I personally don't even see the current GOP as a political party, but as the political branch of US capitalism whose only goal is the establishment of the free market as the sole guiding government principle. Otherwise known as socio-economic Darwinism

I'd argue it's mostly prosperity gospel. There's some in the GOP who truly believe that if you just eliminate all these government programs, then people will have to learn to work hard, etc. and the economy will really grow. However, I don't think this is that common within the GOP; it's not about the outcomes, it's about the right and wrong: God rewarded those who worked hard, and punished those who were lazy. With the wealthy in the US, belief prosperity gospel is common.

There's a good article here, where you can really see how this plays out in our recent "healthcare" plan:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/the-prosperity-gospel-of-american-health-care/525264/

Dirk PraetJuly 7, 2017 4:04 AM

@ Anura

I'd argue it's mostly prosperity gospel.

Poverty and sickness as a curse of the damned. Religious beliefs generally don't make for sound policies.

Dan HJuly 7, 2017 7:20 AM

"The problem is that the US system has changed from it's original "no party" system to a "two party" one where there is only cosmetic difference."

The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and the Second Continental Congress had the Articles of Confederation drawn.

The US Constitution began drafting in 1787. Ratification began in 1788. December 1788-January 1789 was the first US presidential election.

In 1790, Alexander Hamilton created a national network of friends of the government that became the Federalist Party in 1792 and Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party which competed for offices, also in 1792.

Technically, there were no parties during the first election in 1789, but the first year they were already forming.

hermanJuly 7, 2017 9:20 AM

The sad thing is that it was the US Democrat media that tried to debase their own presidential election by alluding to foreign intervention - especially from their favourite bugbear Russia.

So the US election problem is not a security problem at all. It is purely a local propaganda problem.

LogicomaJuly 7, 2017 3:47 PM

Does the DNC and GOP have connection into our voting system? They better not.

Since my original post got removed: I feel like our government needed its own internet mesh a long time ago... owning the fiber, not renting it. Controlling contractor extranet should not be that hard come election season.

Remember that whole rednet/blacknet thing? Why would stacking crypto fix anything in the long run?

Post removed because I said throw away your allegiance to identify and solve problems. How ironic that I got policed and misjudged.

LogicomaJuly 7, 2017 6:13 PM

and I forgot a matter of discussion: most of the voting system problem is because the states are in control of that. I hate to allude to another failure, firearm law, but there are a few arguments for federalizing systems.

I think you could agree that we need the political monologue and wasted journalist reductionism to stop. Did Putin hack your brain? Okay... word wars. Witch hunt that. I am in the right mind to say the reason Dems wanted full 9/11 disclosure was to burn intel people that can expose Sunni/OPEC connections. I don't vote because I don't want the guilt. Engage morality.

controversial- who's more dangerousJuly 8, 2017 11:45 AM

[snip]
"AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about this comment that you made that the Republican Party, you said, is the most dangerous organization in world history. Can you explain?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I also said that it’s an extremely outrageous statement. But the question is whether it’s true. I mean, has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.
Take a look at the last primary campaign—plenty of publicity, very little comment on the most significant fact. Every single candidate either denied that what is happening is happening—namely, serious move towards environmental catastrophe—or there were a couple of moderates, so-called—Jeb Bush, who said, "Maybe it’s happening. We really don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, because fracking is working fine, so we can get more fossil fuels." Then there was the guy who was called the adult in the room, John Kasich, the one person who said, "Yes, it’s true. Global warming’s going on. But it doesn’t matter." He’s the governor of Ohio. "In Ohio, we’re going to go on using coal for energy, and we’re not going to apologize for it." So that’s 100 percent commitment to racing towards disaster."
[snip]
"And it’s not just—it’s not simply climate change. That’s bad enough. But there’s another huge specter that we’re kind of trying to survive under, and that’s nuclear war. That’s a whole other story. Here, both the Obama administration and, increasingly, Trump are radically increasing that danger. This—the threat of the new developments is captured very effectively in the best, simple monitor of the state of the world, established at the beginning of the nuclear age by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. I’m sure you all know about this, but the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists regularly brings together a group of scientists, political analysts, other very serious people, to try to give some kind of estimate of what the situation of the world is. The question is: How close are" ...

mostly harmfulJuly 8, 2017 7:30 PM

@ Clive Robinson

It's gone midnight here and the weather is hot sticky and acting as an irritant, so I'll save giving it an indepth read to early tommorow when my eyes and brain will be fresh, and the weather a little less stifling.

It was the same here. That night an unusually dense cloud of lukewarm vapor enveloped this paved-over temperate floodplain, with luminous airborne globes of expectorant mist congealing around the streetlamps. An eerie sight for the eyes, a difficult task for the lungs.

Thankfully the next day brought cool rains. Looking forward to October and better weather.

mostly harmfulJuly 8, 2017 7:38 PM

@ controversial- who's more dangerous https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/commentary_on_u.html#c6755923

In a similar vein was the unanimous agreement among contenders for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination regarding torture:

Ted Cruz: Is torture bad? Well, I'm against it. But I do love me some waterboarding.

Candidate B: I'll waterboard your daddy.

Candidate C: Got your waterboard right here, M-Fer.

Candidate D: That's what yo mamma said last night.

John Kasich: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xjHHAxPq8Q

On the question of torture, taking a position on a principled basis, to represent the not-insubstantial anti-torture constituency and serve justice to those authorities responsible for torture's implementation, should have been a home run for anyone willing to swing.

And nobody swung.

TMJuly 10, 2017 10:31 AM

HJohn • July 5, 2017 10:43 AM

Your claims that the Electoral College makes election fraud more difficult is pure nonsense. In US elections there are almost always a few states where the outcome is extremely close and can be changed by strategic election manipulation. Not always but in a few cases, like 2000 and 2016, it was possible to change the overall EC outcome by strategically manipulating a relatively small number of votes, in 2016 on the order of 200,000. The popular vote outcome has never been that close (3 million in 2016). It is extremely unlikely that a few thousand votes will decide a national popular vote but with the EC, that is possible. That is hardly the only way in which the EC is an affront to democractic principles (one person, one vote: not in the US!) but it is a serious issue in its own right.

The EC is also part of the reason why the GOP have discovered voter suppression as their best electoral strategy. Through basic voter suppression, they can stack the deck in enough swing states to stay competitive in the overall election. If the US joined the democratic world in electing its leader by majority vote, the GOP would have had to abandon that strategy long ago, and they would actually have had to start appealing to the maximum number of voters, rather than appealing only to their narrow base and minimizing the opposition vote through voter suppression and gerrymandering and the inbuilt advantage conferred on them by the EC.

I notice there are trolls in this feed who are spewing Trumpian lies. Get lost scumbags!

HJohnJuly 10, 2017 12:53 PM

TM,

I could just something on par with what you said, like the DNC is adamantly opposed to photo ID laws because they know illegal votes favor them, and are eager to abandon the EC because they know huge population centers could provide enough illegitimate votes to cement their power.

Now, I do not agree with that comment, and do not believe it accurately reflects the motives of those on the DNC side. Just like I think your post unfairly ascribes nefarious motives to others.


Dirk PraetJuly 11, 2017 3:24 AM

@ TM, @ HJohn

The two of you need to take a deep breath, then watch the South Park "Douche and Turd" episode in which the villagers need to elect a new school mascot. And for which they have the choice between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. Kinda puts things a bit in perspective.

And yes, I also think that gerrymandering, voter suppression and bogus/double registrations are questionable practices to say the least.

TMJuly 11, 2017 8:22 AM

The claim has been made above that there are "illegal voters" favoring the Democrats. There has never been any evidence offered for that claim. It is a lie, pure and simple.

As to whether I am ascribing nefarious motives to the Republicans, the answer is no: multiple GOP representatives have publicly stated their motive to use voting restrictions in order to suppress democratic turnout.

Evidence is easy to find, e. g. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/us/some-republicans-acknowledge-leveraging-voter-id-laws-for-political-gain.html

Dirk Praet: if you think that "voter suppression" is just a "questionable practice", it doesn't seem that you value democracy much. Which is fine but I do happen to value it. America is close to becoming a failed state because its democratic institutions aren't working any more. If you think that's a matter to make fun of, I'm gonna take exception.

controversial- who's more dangerousJuly 11, 2017 11:19 AM

@mostly harmful

regarding the youtube video, in comments one commenter summarized Kasich on Torture succinctly.

Thoughts on Torture include:

a) 24 made it look 'cool', effective with ticking time bombs, or something
b) most people in this country aren't:
b1) going to listen to people like former fbi agent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Soufan
b2) likely to want to juxtapose torture and country ideals (civics class, cognitive dissonance)
most people in this country:
a) probably don't care if the USG disappears the Senate Trorture Investigation report (will it leak?) (should it leak?)
b) might want to keep Guantanamo open, but that's a guess
c) are perhaps happy if Canada pays for potential USA torture mistakes

Like being "weak on defense" Democrats, as a whole, risk being stereotyped as "weak on torture" and risk losing elections. Republicans might not be subject to such stereotypes, but might have to worry about primary opponents running to their right

What do Gates, Panetta, Hagel, Carter, or Mattis think about torture at present? Also, what do McConnell, Blair, Clapper, and Coats, and Hayden, Morrell, Petraeus, Brennan, and Pompeo think about torture?

Dirk PraetJuly 11, 2017 3:18 PM

@ TM

if you think that "voter suppression" is just a "questionable practice", it doesn't seem that you value democracy much.

I did mention "to say the least". From an EU perspective, there's quite some things that don't add up in your election system. The main question being if they are intentional or loopholes neither party seems quite eager to fix. As said before: you are not a democracy but a republic.

And as to the matter of the candidates in past election: it was a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. The only fresh ideas I heard came from an old man from Vermont who was thrown under a bus by his own party, the guy from the opposing side a populist usurper who belongs in a reality TV show, not the Oval Office.

AnuraJuly 11, 2017 4:53 PM

@Dirk Praet

The only fresh ideas I heard came from an old man from Vermont who was thrown under a bus by his own party

Well, to be fair, he was only a Democrat from between the time he announced the candidacy and the time he lost the primary. He's been in office as an independent all his life, and only became a Democrat because it was the only way he could even have a shot. However, the primary system for both parties is so screwed up that it's hard to see it as more than electoral theater.

TMJuly 12, 2017 3:00 AM

This is not the forum where I would discuss my political preferences. The man from Vermont lost the primary but had an important impact on political debate. I don't see that as a failure of democracy at all. What is unquestionably a failure is when a minority candidate gets to power, subverting the outcome of a democratic vote, because of an undemocratic electoral system and a petrified constitution that for all practical purposes can't be changed.

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