Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Rigged" Elections - Just One View

As a retired journalist and former Opinion Editorial writer, I remember the days when I woke up every morning with some ideas for a column racing around in my head, as my mind seemed to keep working while I slept.  Not so much, anymore.  Apparently, last night was an exception.  Too much reading about "Rigged Elections," must have put my brain back into editorial mode, as morning has come with a short column in mind.

At 71 years of age, I've witnessed and participated in more than a few elections.  Elections both within the U.S. as well as some third world elections in southern Africa, where I lived and worked for several years.  Likewise, many years ago, I was active in U.S. elections, serving as a campaign manager in two state level races.  I have to say, this year's U.S. election is like none I've ever seen.

Right now, we're being bombarded with many unsubstantiated charges of "Rigged Elections Coming!"  Donald Trump, sensing his coming defeat in a presidential bid, thanks to his own self inflicted injuries and in typical Trump fashion, is busy trying to place blame for his pending loss on anyone but himself.  Personal responsibility isn't in his vocabulary nor style.  Totally unsubstantiated, unfounded claims, but like all propaganda, repeated often enough, there are believers.

On the other side of the coin, the Clinton campaign argues, "The Russians Are Coming!"  Again, unsubstantiated allegations, based on flimsy arguments that some leaks have been traced back "to Russian I.P. addresses."  An obvious lack of technical expertise, as I.P. addresses are easily manipulated by skilled technical people.  As anyone who uses TOR or other anonymous software.  Of course, some of these claims are supported by the F.B.I. and "official sources."  That's right...the F.B.I.  That high tech government agency which is so advanced that they still are using Microsoft Windows 98 on some of their own systems and believe it's "secure" in this day and age.

But, back to the question about "Rigged Elections."  Could such a scenario play out right here in the good old U.S. of A.?  Perpetrated by some outside foreign government?  From inside a national political party?  Is this a "breaking news revelation?"  Or, is it just recycled news with a new spin?

Personally, I believe this is all nothing new.  We have known the potential for such abuse for a long, long time.....and ignored it.  Further, some facets of manipulation have been built into our system, willingly and knowingly and "we the people" have remained complacent.  We have not demanded reform.

Let's take a look at some of the potential aspects of a "rigged election."  In doing so, we have to go back to the early 1990's.  At least as far as technology goes.  That's the time when were were first introduced to electronic voting machines.  While many of the electronic voting devices have a "paper trail," allowing for a manual audit of votes...many do not.  Therein lies the potential for abuse.  Anyone remember the name, "Diebold?  Back in 2011, a group of scientists proved that they could hack the Diebold voting machines with a physical attack, in a matter of seven minutes!  SEVEN MINUTES!  And that was with no prior knowledge nor experience with the machines nor their software.  Then, there is the Sequoia machine.  Scientists showed that the outcome of an election could be changed without ever leaving a trace of the intrusion into the system.  Yet, the system is still being used in some states.  ES&S sells their used voting machines on eBay, certainly a big help for hackers wanting to learn more about how to hack their current systems.  Likewise, scientists found passwords in use to protect many of these machines, using difficult phrases, such as "Admin," "Password" and "User."  Wow!  Does it get any better?

What has been done to secure these vulnerable systems?  Absolutely nothing!  I wonder how many corporate lobbyists for these manufacturing corporations stuff the pockets in Congress to ensure profits continue to grow?

What about access to these machines at voting precinct locations?  Are the machines under continual physical surveillance?  I doubt it.  But even if they are.....what about the precinct employees?  Trusting these precincts and the system means that you trust each and every person employed by them.  Not me.  I've used this same argument with proponents of proprietary software...as is used in these systems...and even the Microsoft operating system and software.  If you tell me that you have full trust in Microsoft..or other proprietary software companies...what you are really telling me is that you have full trust in each and every employee of those companies.  Really?  Just one more reason I only use open source software in my own computer systems.  I have a right to know what's embedded in their products.

For reference, you might want to look at some brief information about currently used electronic voting machines in this country.  Research it yourself....don't just accept what you are told.  Electronic Voting Machines

Then, there is the political aspect of "Vote Rigging."  We built it into our electoral system, starting back in the 1700's.  Nothing new.  It was finally given an official name in the early 1800's.  "Gerrymandering."  This is nothing more than vote manipulation, giving preference to one or the other political party, depending upon who is in power at the time and redraws the districts.  Gerrymandering
Yet, as long as this questionable practice has been employed, "We the People," sit here and complacently accept it.  We have not demanded reform.

Now, the practice of "lobbying," or as it's known in most other nations...."bribery."  This all began back in 1785 when Ben Franklin was given a gift from the King of France for his service representing the United States.  Our more honest government went into a tailspin over the act!  They weren't sure how to handle it, as it was in violation of the Articles of Confederation.  When Lobbying Was Illegal

Fast forward to today and our U.S. Supreme Court decisions have granted corporations and even foreign governments the "right" to push their agendas into our system.  And to finance our elections.  Not exactly "hacking" in a technical sense, but certainly a means of manipulating an election and the outcome.

Okay...I've attempted to just hit on a few of the high points of whether an election can be "rigged" or stolen.  It's my opinion....and the key words here is "opinion," and "only mine."  But I'm sick of listening to all the unfounded, unsubstantiated charges of "rigged elections" from the both Presidential candidates.  Both of whom have their own shady records they are unable to address.  They have to spend their time trying to point out the failures of the other.  If they are REALLY concerned about the potential for "stolen elections," why don't they address the REAL issues and possibilities?  Why aren't they demanding reform?  Even better...what is wrong with the American people?  Why have we allowed these practices to continually grow and fester since the 1700's and not demanded an end to the practices?

Just one old guy's opinion and you're entitled to yours, as well.  While I'm just a liberal and not very big on the "nationalism" thing, one thing I've always done is, "while I may disagree with you, I will defend your right to your opinion, as well."

© Copyright 2016 Stan G. Kain