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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: voting fraud

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

McEnany May Have Voted Fraudulently From Florida Address

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has carried the flag for President Donald Trump's campaign against mail-in voting, delivering false warnings the process is rife with voter fraud. But McEnany herself may be guilty of the illegal act.

And so may be her boss.

"Kayleigh McEnany was living in Washington, but voted in Florida. Trump used an address he promised Palm Beach officials would not be a residence," HuffPost reports.

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Debunking The ‘Rigged Election’ Horror Story

Donald Trump’s “rigged election” shtick is the product of years of conservative fear mongering about voter fraud and election stealing, and it poses a unique challenge to journalists who want to ensure voter confidence in the election process.

Faced with dismal polling numbers in the final weeks of his presidential campaign, Trump has resorted to telling his supporters that the election will be “rigged” — stolen from him because of widespread voter fraud. He’s repeated that warning frequently on the campaign trail, and nearly half of his supporters now believe him.

The voter fraud talking point – the idea that Democrats will use voters who lie about their identities, dead voters, or undocumented immigrants to cast fraudulent ballots — has been debunked ad nauseum in research, court decisions, and expert testimony. Politifact rated Trump’s “rigged election” claim a “pants on fire” lie, stating there’s simply no evidence that widespread voter fraud is a real problem, especially in presidential elections.

But even before Trump’s campaign, a growing number of primarily Republican voters began to believe that voter fraud is a widespread problem.

That’s thanks in part to conservative media’s near-constant, baseless fear mongering about voter fraud over the past few election cycles. Right-wing outlets, and especially Fox News, have bombarded audiences with exaggerated or misleading claims of voter fraud to create the impression that Democratic victories at the ballot box are largely the result of illegal election rigging. Stories about dead or non-eligible or non-existent voters appearing on voter rolls are regularly touted as proof of nefarious activity, even though those voter registrations never actually translate into votes.

The most memorable example of this kind of fear mongering came during the 2008 controversy surrounding the non-profit group ACORN. A number of ACORN voter registration employees had been discovered submitting false or duplicate voter registration forms (the laws in many states require third parties who register voters to submit all forms they receive). Fox News devoted countless segments to the story in order to hype hysteria about widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that those forms never produced an actual fraudulent vote. ACORN was eventually cleared of charges of orchestrating voter fraud, but half of all Republican voters still believed ACORN helped steal the election for President Obama in 2012 — two years after ACORN had closed down.

Misinformation about voter fraud isn’t only the fault of conservative media. As GOP statehouses across the country have pushed for restrictive voter ID laws — laws aimed at disenfranchising typically Democratic voters — local news outlets have repeated Republican talking points about the threat of voter fraud without fact-checking them.

That kind of round-the-clock saturation helps explain why so many voters have started to doubt the integrity of elections without evidence that it is a problem. And that doubt poses a real threat to a democracy, which relies on voters trusting and accepting the outcomes of elections.

Trump’s “rigged election” shtick is just one element of a broader problem with media coverage of voter fraud. Regardless of who wins in November, journalists are going to have to be a lot more aggressive about fact-checking right-wing horror stories if they want to restore voter confidence in the election process.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Photo: A sample ballot is seen in a photo illustration, as early voting for the 2016 general elections began in North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Reuters/Ipsos Poll: Half Of Republicans Would Reject Election Result If Clinton Wins

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump has repeatedly called this year’s presidential election rigged and has coyly said “I will keep you in suspense” on whether he would accept a Hillary Clinton victory, but many Republicans are less circumspect, according to a new poll.

Only half of Republicans would accept Clinton, the Democratic nominee, as their president. And if she wins, nearly 70 percent said it would be because of illegal voting or vote rigging, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday.

Conversely, seven out of 10 Democrats said they would accept a Trump victory and less than 50 percent would attribute it to illegal voting or vote rigging, the poll showed.

The findings come after repeated statements by Trump that the media and the political establishment have rigged the election against him. He also has made a number of statements encouraging his supporters to fan out on Election Day to stop illegible voters from casting ballots.

The U.S. government has accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations and state election systems.

Clinton has said she will accept the results of the election no matter the outcome.

The poll showed there is broad concern across the political spectrum about voting issues such as ineligible voters casting ballots, voter suppression, and the actual vote count, but Republicans feel that concern more acutely.

For example, nearly eight out of 10 Republicans are concerned about the accuracy of the final vote count. And though generally they believe they will be able to cast their ballot, only six out of 10 are confident their vote will be counted accurately.

Among Democrats, about six out of 10 are concerned about the vote count. They, too, believe they wi1l be able to cast their ballot, but eight out of 10 are confident their vote will be counted accurately.

“Republicans are just more worried about everything than Democrats,” said Lonna Atkeson, a professor at the University of New Mexico and head of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy.

FLEE THE COUNTRY?

Additionally, seven out of 10 Republicans are concerned about issues such as vote buying, faulty voting machines, or confusing ballot designs. Six out of 10 Democrats feel the same way.

Nearly eight out of 10 Republicans are concerned that ineligible voters, including non-citizens, will illegally cast ballots. Four out of 10 Democrats feel the same way.

Six out of 10 respondents, regardless of party, say they are concerned about issues such as voter intimidation and suppression.

Atkeson said the level of concern and mistrust in the system, especially among Republicans, is unprecedented.

“I’ve never seen an election like this. Not in my lifetime. Certainly not in modern history.” The difference, she said, is Trump. “It has to be the candidate effect.”

She worries that the lack of trust is dangerous. It is one thing to not trust government, but quite another to doubt the election process. “Then the entire premise of democracy comes into question,” she said.

About one in five Democrats said they would protest if their candidate loses. Slightly fewer Republicans said they would do the same. Fewer than one in 10 Democrats said they are prepared to take up arms in opposition compared to fewer than one in 20 Republicans.

Democrats are also are three times as likely to say they would leave the country.

There is one area where there is little disagreement: Most people do not expect the losing candidate to concede the race gracefully.

The poll surveyed 1,192 American adults online from Oct. 17 to 21. The results have a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. The credibility interval for Democrats is 5.1 percentage points; for Republicans it is 5.5 points.

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Leslie Adler)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Can the 2016 Election Be Hacked or Disrupted? Congress Listens to Tech Experts

Published with permission from AlterNet

Election officials say not to worry. But computer scientists do.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology was briefed Tuesday on 2016’s doomsday election scenario: what would happen if Russians, or another army of cyber hackers, attempted to infiltrate and corrupt the presidential election voting machinery.

What made the hearing so riveting was the schism between the assessments given. On one hand, a top federal technology officer, senior state election administrator and civilian partner downplayed this summer’s Russian hack into voter registration databases in two states, with two of them saying they were more worried about cyber threats sullying voter confidence than disrupting elections.

But the panel’s lone computer security expert unequivocally testified that a targeted cyber attack in a battleground state could easily overwhelm established voting protocols and force the presidential vote to be rerun—which has never happened. (On Wednesday, Russia was said to be behind hacks of medical records of U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.)

“My top concerns are the voter registration systems, because they are generally online. And if it’s online, it’s accessible from the internet. And if it’s accessible from the internet, it’s accessible from our nation-state adversaries,” said Dan Wallach, a computer science professor from the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “And as I mentioned before, if you can selectively or entirely delete people who you would rather not vote, the current provisional voting system can’t really scale to support the large numbers of voters who are filling out affidavits and following that process.”

Wallach’s concerns didn’t stop there; he continued with computers tabulating vote counts. “If, for example, we were to conclude on election day that our computer systems had been unreliable, a contingency plan might be to rapidly print millions of paper ballots and rerun the election the next day. Legislation passed in most states following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy appears to allow for such mitigations.”

Needless to say, the other election experts testifying did not want to broach the notion that some number of the nation’s 10,000 voting jurisdictions might be forced into a November presidential vote do-over. While they acknowledged another cyber attack could occur by the election season’s end, they emphasized their security plans, data backup protocols, testing and screening, and said that their array of voting systems would quickly detect and quarantine any hack or attempted tampering.

“I think it’s very important for you to hear from actual election officials who actually conduct elections. And our job, at least in my opinion, is to make voting easier, more accessible, and make it tough to cheat,” said Tom Schedler, Louisiana’s secretary of state who previously was the state’s top election administrator. “But in recent weeks reports on cyber attacks have voters questioning whether their vote will actually count. And that, in my opinion, is more damaging than the potential for hacking.”

“We are all on high alert,” Schedler continued, referring to the FBI notifying states about the Russian hacks. “This whole exercise has put every one of the 50 states working on national security issues, with all national agencies, in an effort to try to improve the system we have or to recheck the system we have. But the fact is states are always evaluating security measures and emergency plans.”

There are four reasons why Americans should feel confident, added David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a new group partnering with states to modernize aspects of their election systems.

First, there is no “single point of entry” to tamper in a presidential election, Becker said. It’s far too decentralized, with more than 10,000 jurisdictions, 100,000-plus polling places, thousands of early voting sites and millions of people voting by mail. Second, voting machines are kept under lockdown until they are used and are extensively calibrated and tested. Third, voting machines are never connected online. And fourth, three-quarters of the states vote with paper ballots and in most presidential battleground states there are post-election day audits that check tabulation accuracy. If a counting discrepancy emerges, he said the law requires that the ensuing paper ballot count is used for the final results.

“Even if hundreds of thousands of people conspired, it would have no effect, because 75 percent of states vote with paper ballots, and there’s post-election audit requirements to match paper and digital records,” Becker said. “If there is a discrepancy, they use the paper count. That’s Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin. So even if a grand conspiracy were viable, a post-election audit requirement would almost certainly discover it prior to the election results becoming official.”

In other words, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology heard two parallel and competing realities concerning the possibility of disrupting the presidential election process—and they don’t add up.

Computer scientists like Rice University’s Wallach—and his view is not unique—are saying targeted hacking and interference is not only probable, but should it occur on a large enough scale, the standard backup, using provisional ballots, would not be able to accommodate large volumes of people. But top state election officials like Schedler believe that the systems they have created, even with aging computer voting machinery, have sufficient safeguards.

“States will continue to take a proactive approach to secure our elections,” the Lousiana secretary of state said, citing systems that the public never sees. “At the end of the day, I want to ensure every American—and I speak for all of my colleagues and secretaries of state—that your next president will be determined by a vote of the people, and every vote will count.”

What to Believe?

Early this summer, Russians, according to the FBI, hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s email server and accessed thousands of files, and also went after statewide voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona. In Illinois, hackers appeared to copy 200,000 voter files, which contain full names, addresses, birth dates, political parties, and driver’s license numbers, state officials told the press. An attempted hack into Arizona’s voter database was detected and stopped.

At Tuesday’s House hearing, the experts said that the DNC’s server was barely protected, whereas state voter registration systems were much more rigidly regulated and protected, and no data was altered. Schedler said the Illinois hack looked like more of an identity theft attempt than a political conspiracy. But that didn’t comfort Wallach, who said that one can never say that something will never happen, especially if there have been hints.

“We must prepare for the possibility that Russia or other sophisticated adversaries will use their cyber skills to attack our elections,” Wallach testified, saying authorities in Ukraine detected and stopped a Russian hack into its 2014 national elections. “And they need not attack every county in every state. It’s sufficient for them to go after battleground states, where a small nudge can have a large impact. The decentralization that we have heard about is helpful, but it’s not sufficient.”

Outside experts are also split on how seriously to take cyber threats in the presidential election. Barbara Simons, who chairs the board of the advocacy group VerifiedVoting.org and is the past president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the nation’s largest scientific computing society, said election officials don’t know what they’re up against.

“The idea that local election officials are somehow going to be able to protect their systems from hacking when Google couldn’t, when major government agencies couldn’t, and banks that spend a lot of money on their security couldn’t—the idea that local election officials who are under-funded, under-resourced, and have little to no access to computer security expertise, that they can somehow protect their systems from hacking, is just a joke,” Simons said. “Really, it’s naive. And further, you have to worry about voter systems being infected with malware that can change votes before they even reach the election officials.”

“The second issue is the vulnerability of the voter registration databases and [if] they can be attacked,” she continued, echoing Wallach. It’s a frightening thought, she continued, “The fact that the voters’ names could be removed, [that] information about them could be changed, as a way of doing selective disenfranchisement… A lot of these databases, I’m sure the majority of them, state what party the voter signed up for, and so if you just wanted to disenfranchise voters from a particular party, it wouldn’t be difficult to do if you have access to the database. You can remove their names, change some of the information, so when they go to the polls there’s something wrong.”

But Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which has extensively studied voting vulnerabilities for years and has had a leading role in lawsuits nationally to challenge partisan voter suppression tactics, agreed with Schedler and Becker that the biggest threat this fall is to public confidence, not the voting process.

“I think we should take hacks into registration databases seriously, for a number of reasons,” Norden said. “But at the end of the day, a hack on this should not prevent any legitimate voter from being able to vote. Even if, and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that’s what happened here, but even if you did have a situation where someone was trying to manipulate the database records, you will be able to ensure that on election day that people have some way of voting and that you can make sure that their votes are counted at the end of election night, even if somebody screwed with the registration records.”

Becker’s testimony made that same point; that even if there was an attempted hack, it would likely be thwarted, but public confidence would be undermined by the widespread press coverage.

“Probably my biggest concern is that there is a lot of talk, more than I have ever seen before, and before any vote is even cast, about the election being rigged,” Norden said. “I’m concerned about people showing up. I am concerned about voter confidence. And I am concerned that inevitably there are going to be some problems on election day with our equipment, and people don’t take that to mean that the election was stolen.”

He continued, “I’m concerned about, as Trump has talked about, having more [poll] observers on election day, and certainly there are different rules in the states for allowing for allowing for observers and challengers. But if you are going to have a massive amount of people showing up at the polls and not understanding what the laws are, that’s a concern to me, any kind of big change like that.”

Tuesday’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing left one with a sinking feeling that the upcoming presidential vote is full of targets for hackers and partisans, notwithstanding efforts by election administrators. When Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, was repeatedly told he should be confident that there was a paper ballot backup trail, and ability to do post-voting audits and recounts in three-quarters of the states, he politely told the committee room he was not reassured.

“By the way, when I hear you all recommend paper ballots I wince a little bit, because those of us from Texas have sometimes read about what happened in the 1950s when a ballot box was stuffed with paper ballots and it changed the outcome of a Senate race and perhaps elected the next president—so I sometimes worry about paper ballots as well.”

That notorious race (actually in 1948) elected Lyndon Baines Johnson, the future 36th president, to the U.S. Senate. As surreal as that comment was, it fit in with the warning from the Rice University computer scientist.

“As [former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld said, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might wish to have at a later time,” Wallach said. “We face a similar situation this November with our systems for voter registration, casting and tabulating elections. None of them are ready to rebuff attacks from our nation-state adversaries nor can we replace them in time to make a difference. Despite this, we can take pragmatic steps such as verifying the integrity of election database backups, and we can make contingency plans on how we may respond, if and when we do detect attacks.”

Photo via Flickr/Amanda Wood

The Politics Of You

WASHINGTON — Whenever some new allegation threatened Bill Clinton’s presidential candidacy in 1992, he had a go-to response throughout the campaign.

“This election isn’t about me,” he’d tell voters. “It’s about you.” He said “you” with such force that it would come out as a two- or three-syllable word.

Hillary Clinton, who has picked up her husband’s locution on occasion, is going to have to run a “you” campaign, too. And last week, she insisted that the ranks of the “you”s out there should include as much of the potential electorate as possible.

From the beginning of 2015, Republicans have enjoyed enormous success in making her campaign all about her — focusing on any aspect of her life (or her husband’s) that might turn off voters otherwise open to her policies. It’s no surprise that her personal ratings have fallen.

Her champions have complained that we know far more about her speech fees and email habits than what she would do in office. Blaming the media is by no means a useless campaign tactic. Republicans do it all the time, claiming that the media are “liberal.” It’s a fatuous charge given how thoroughly reporters have covered every question raised about Clinton. But trashing reporters won’t solve Clinton’s political problems, and might even make some of them worse.

There is only one tried-and-true way for a candidate to displace a story line she doesn’t like, and that is to come up with a new story line of her own. If Clinton wants the campaign to be about how she’d govern, she will have to inundate the media with substance.

She made a good start last week by speaking forcefully about voting rights and reminding the country of how far right the Republican Party has moved over 50 years. Republicans were once at the forefront in tearing down barriers to voting. It fell to segregationist Democrats in the South to defend discriminatory voting laws. Now, it’s Republicans who are trying to shrink the electorate.

On their face, Clinton’s proposals ought to win wide assent. She endorsed “universal, automatic voter registration” under which “every young man or young woman … should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18 — unless they actively choose to opt out.” In an era when we have made it so convenient for people to buy and sell things and stay in touch with each other, why do we maintain cumbersome bureaucratic obstacles to exercising a basic democratic right?

Drawing on last year’s bipartisan report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, she called for establishing the principle that no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. She also proposed a national standard of “at least 20 days of early in-person voting everywhere — including opportunities for weekend and evening voting.”

Clinton denounced the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision “eviscerating” the Voting Rights Act, and called out some of her Republican rivals (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush) for supporting new barriers to voting. Republicans, she said, should stop “fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud and start explaining why they’re so scared of letting citizens have their say.”

There’s a bad habit in reporting on voting rights these days. Because those kept from voting by the various new restrictions tend to lean Democratic (especially African-Americans, Latinos, and young people), the issue is typically discussed in partisan terms. And, in fact, as Clinton pointed out, some of the new laws are laughably partisan. Texas, for example, allows a concealed-weapon permit to be used as identification at the polls but not a student ID.

But the core issue here is much larger than current party alignments. It involves the same principle that motivated the sponsors of the Voting Rights Act in 1965: Are we a genuinely democratic republic in which the federal government guarantees broad participation, or will state politicians be allowed to shape the electorate to keep a particular class — i.e., themselves — in power?

The question for the future of American politics is whether Republicans will be forced to moderate and modify their current tilt to the right in response to demographic changes in the electorate, or will they manage to keep enough of the new America away from the polls that they don’t have to listen to it at all?

Clinton can win an election about big questions. She will spend the summer talking about them. And in the process, she, too, will preach the virtues of the elongated “you.”

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

Photo: Penn State via Flickr