Tag Archives: vote suppression

A Little Help For The Fraudulent Election Commission: Nevada Edition

I’m not sure why an investigation of election irregularities is necessary, at least as far as Nevada is concerned, when the information a person would want is easily located in the Reports from the Secretary of State (pdf)  However, there’s some information contained therein which needs a bit of explication and expansion.  Details below, first the Secretary of State’s description of the 3 (that would be only three) incidents of prosecutable election related crimes, then the follow up.

Roxanne Rubin

“In 2012, EITF agents arrested a southern Nevada woman charged with
attempting to vote twice in the same election. Roxanne Rubin early voted in
the 2012 general election at a polling location in Clark County. Later the same
day she appeared at a different Clark County early voting polling location and
attempted to vote a second time. The poll worker conducted a routine
computer database search which indicated that Rubin had already voted and
informed her of this. Rubin responded that she had not already voted, but a
search of the computer database reconfirmed that she had already voted at a
different polling place. Poll workers did not allow Rubin to vote and reported
the incident to the Clark County Registrar of Voters’ office, which notified the
Secretary of State’s office. Rubin was taken to the Clark County Detention
Center, and charged with one count of voting more than once in the same
election, a Category “D” felony.”

The outcome of this case was a plea deal for Rubin, who offered an interesting defense of her actions.

“A Nevada Republican arrested for voter fraud in the 2012 election, after claiming she was trying to test the system’s integrity, pled guilty and accepted a plea deal Thursday, forcing her to pay almost $2,500 and promise to stay out of trouble.

Roxanne Rubin, 56, a casino worker on the Las Vegas Strip, was arrested on Nov. 3, 2012 after trying to vote twice, once at her poling site in Henderson and then at a second site in Las Vegas. The poll workers at the second site said that she had already voted, but Rubin said that she hadn’t and insisted on casting a ballot, which the poll workers refused to allow her to do.

Rubin said that she was trying to show how easy it would be to commit voter fraud with just a signature. “This has always been an issue with me. I just feel the system is flawed,” she told the AP Thursday. “If we’re showing ID for everything else, why wouldn’t we show our ID in order to vote?”

Rubin, like many Republicans, claim that the threat from voter fraud — which is close to non-existent — is why voter ID laws need to be in place. But Nevada has no voter ID law — other than for first-time voters who didn’t show ID when they registered to vote — and she was caught anyway.”  [HPost]

There’s more than a handful of irony in this case.  A Republican, filled with the thoughts of all those “illegals” voting, decided to “test” the system — and got a conviction for a class D felony.  In short, the system worked.  And now, the second case:

Ortencia Segura 

The EITF also worked on a case in 2014 involving an undocumented
immigrant who registered to vote under a false name and cast ballots in the
2008 and 2010 federal elections in Nevada. Ortencia Segura was charged with
one count of an act concerning registration of voters and one count of
possession of personal identifying information for the purpose of establishing
false status and/or identity. She pleaded guilty to willfully and unlawfully
giving a false answer to the Washoe County Registrar of Voters and falsifying
her application to register to vote.
An immigrant living in the country illegally has pleaded guilty in Reno to violating election laws after she registered to vote in Washoe County under a false name and cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 Nevada elections.

This is one of those cases that gets cited as “proof” there could be massive fraud perpetrated by those “illegals.”  However, as in the previous case, there’s a kicker.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Hortencia Segura-Munoz was sentenced Wednesday to 103 days in jail. But she was given credit for 103 days already served on the single gross misdemeanor count of “conspiracy to commit violations concerning registration of voters.”

Segura-Munoz also was ordered to pay $1,000 in costs and fees. She originally was arrested on two felony charges of voter fraud.

Prosecutors say she registered as a Republican, but it’s not known which candidates she voted for or if her voting affected any close elections.  [KOLO]

We might reasonably surmise she voted the way she registered?  And now we come to the third and last prosecutable case in the state of Nevada:

Tina Marie Parks

“Most recently, in July 2016 EITF agents arrested a Pahrump, Nevada, woman
accused of falsifying voter registration applications. Tina Marie Parks, an
employee of the community organization group Engage Nevada, is charged
with 11 felonies related to fraudulently marking the party affiliation of three
people while assisting them to register to vote and attempting to register to
vote herself while being a convicted felon without her voting rights restored.
Parks is currently awaiting trial.”

This third case really isn’t about fraudulent voting at all, it’s about fraud committed on registration forms, and yet again — we have a fly in the ointment.

A Pahrump woman was arrested Wednesday on 11 felony charges involving allegations she falsified party affiliations while registering voters before the June 14 Nevada primary, the secretary of state’s office said.
An arrest warrant issued for Tina Marie Parks listed bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.
The arrest follows an investigation conducted by the state’s Election Integrity Task Force after it received complaints from voters who said Parks, while working for the conservative outreach group Engage Nevada, filled out their applications and listed the wrong party affiliation.
In two instances, voters said Parks marked their party as Republican. Another was marked as nonpartisan. All three told investigators they wanted to register as Democrats.  [LVRJ]

It’s hard to draw any major conclusions from a data set of three, only two of which involve actual voting, but all three are related to voting related frauds by those identified as Republicans.  Only one involves voting by a person not a citizen of the United States, one was a deliberate attempt (unsuccessful) to game the system, and one was in violation of voter registration statutes.

However, much like the motive in the unfortunate Rubin case, the mythology lingers on in conservative Republican circles that there must be massive voting fraud in this country —  Why else would Democrats win elections in urban areas? Why else would Republican candidates of ideological purity and righteousness lose at the polls?  For those who cannot admit that the GOP didn’t run a very good candidate, or that the candidate didn’t have an appealing message, the answer must lie in the mists of Machine Politics of Yesteryear.   The hard fact my well be that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the old machinery redundant.

After the New Deal provided jobs, the precinct captains and ward bosses were no longer the place to find employment.  After Social Security was enacted, the donations from the wards and precincts weren’t necessary to put food on the tables of elders in the neighborhood.  True, there are still some effective political organizations in the US, but in the wake of Medicare, Medicaid, and employment training programs their activities are now more overtly political and far less covertly economic.

Anchors Away

There are some emotional anchors for the mythology, which underpin the conservative fears in the face of overwhelming evidence that voting fraud is definitely not a significant problem in the US, and that states are perfectly capable of handling what few instances there are.

Frankly, one of the anchors is embedded in racism and racial stereotypes.  “They” must be voting against us, if we (read: white) aren’t winning.  “They” aren’t “real Americans.”  The roots go back to Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the segregated South of the Lost Cause.  They also catch on to elements of anti-Semitic, anti-Irish and anti-Italian sentiment of this earlier era.  The latest targets of these attacks are those people of Mexican or Central American heritage.  The target may change but the anchor doesn’t.  Commission member Chris Kobach is still on national television peddling the debunked North Kansas City case of Somalis illegally voting in the Rizzo-Royster Case. As long as these contentions go unchallenged the argument will live on.

Another anchor, related to the one described above, is the the Tip of the Iceberg argument.  If there is one instance of voting fraud then there must be much more hidden from our view.  It’s hard to present a rational argument to counter this irrational perspective.   Present the fearful with:

“And yet the numbers indicate that voter fraud is incredibly rare. According to NBC, a News21 analysis of 2,068 instances of alleged fraud nationwide during the elections between 2000 and 2012 pinpointed just 10 cases of voter impersonation in a pool of about 146 million total voters.” [aol]

The rejoinder nearly always resembles something like, “Well, prove that there aren’t millions of illegal voters who get away with it.”

A third anchor relies on another a fear of the potential.  If an enhanced fear of actual voting fraud is statistically irrational, then the fear that there is an immense potential for ever more fraud is based on little more than an unadulterated sense of peril.  The dead-voter-fraud argument is illustrative of this kind of anchor.  If the rolls of Precinct 10 in West Elk Hair contain the names of two individuals who are now deceased, then there is the Potential for two acts of voting fraud.  This argument only works IF ballots are cast in those two names.  It’s an uncontroversial fact that the dead don’t vote. However, if one amasses a long list of names which have not yet been removed from voter rolls then the argument contends that this represents a distressing potential for voting fraud — and again those of good faith in the system are called upon to defend a negative:  Prove that none of these people voted.

The infamous Cross Check voter suppression project is also related to this Potential Argument.  If James Smith is registered to vote in Ottumwa, IA and James Smith is registered to vote in Sarasota, FL then there is Potential double voting.  Probably not. Especially not if one is James L. Smith and the other James R. Smith, or if one is 22 and the other is 37, or if any other test is applied, which in some Cross Check cases seems to have been missing.

When we whittle away the “anchors” and examine the background of voting “fraud” fears in this country we are left back at the starting gate — there are simply some people who do not want other individuals who are unlike themselves voting in local, state, and national elections.  This is NO way to run a republic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, Instant Summer Reading Recommendations

The Nevada Independent has several excellent articles about the health insurance ‘reform’ battle in the state,  I’d recommend starting with ‘Senator Cortez-Masto’s denunciation of the Senate health bill,” and move on to ‘Dispatches from Washington.’

The Reno Gazette Journal reports (video) on Rep. Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV3) decision to run for Senator Dean Heller’s seat.

Please note TPM’s report from the conference of Secretaries of State concerning election data security.  If this conclusion doesn’t disturb us, it should:

“But both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, who are responsible for carrying out elections in many states, said they have been frustrated in recent months by a lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian meddling with the vote. They say that despite the best efforts by federal officials, it may be too late in to make substantive changes.”

Interestingly enough, vote suppression advocate Chris Kobach was a no-show at the meeting.  Perhaps this is because some election experts have identified major flaws in Kobach’s “election integrity” plans.

And, now we get to “muddle time” during which the current administration tries to muddy the waters about the  other election problem — Russian interference.  Spokespersons and advocates are on the air-waves saying that “Gee, it’s not 17 intelligence agencies, it’s actually just a handful of people who reached the conclusion that the Russians meddled,”  which is one tactic to discredit the reports that are unequivocal in their assessment that, yes, the Russians interfered.   Following this comes the Gee Whiz moment in which the apologist who says that “we’ve not actually seen the evidence of this.”  A statement such as this is simply a variation on the previous talking point:  We’ve investigated this enough, there’s nothing there, move along please.

Speaking of elections, please take a look at the bill introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) HR 2101, the Prior Approval Reform Act:  To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to expand the ability of trade associations to solicit contributions from the stockholders and executive or administrative personnel of their member corporations, and for other purposes.  The effective date, January 1, 2018, would allow more “corporate” money in politics just in time for 2018 campaign season.   The Associated General Contractors would be pleased to see this enacted. [pdf]  Those disturbed by the dark, and darker money, flowing into our campaigns should track this bill.

Comments Off on ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, Instant Summer Reading Recommendations

Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Election Integrity in Nevada: How Safe Is Safe?

We have a President of the United States of America who appears singularly uninterested in investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.  Nothing has originated from the Oval Office to indicate he is curious about (a) Russian intrusions into some 21 to 39 state election systems; (b) Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 elections; and (c) European efforts to blunt Russian cyber attacks on their elections.  Perhaps there’s nothing surprising about this, he’s shown precious little interest in:

(1) Bolstering NATO nation confidence in US support for their interests in addressing Russian incursions into Crimea, Ukraine, and the Baltic States; (2) Extending or enhancing sanctions on Russia for these incursions; (3) Maintaining the sanctions initiated by the Obama Administration including the removal of the Russians from two facilities used for intelligence purposes.   And, now the President wants to have something to “offer” the Russians during the upcoming meetings of the G20.

“President Donald Trump has asked National Security Council staff to come up with “deliverables” that he can offer to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany next week, The Guardian reported Thursday.”  [Business Insider]

At this juncture it would seem necessary for citizens in Nevada to multi-task.  On one hand we need to insure that the Administration isn’t encouraged to promote its voter suppression program, at present in the form of Chris Kobach’s extensive request for voter data which will be massaged into a report which will no doubt encourage more voter suppression legislation.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing the information any county chairperson can obtain from the voting registrar or the county clerk, but there’s all manner of things wrong with asking for military status,  Social Security numbers or portions thereof, voting history, and other personal data NOT previously part of the public record.  The Nevada Secretary of State has responded in the following press release:

“Many people have asked whether or not the Secretary of State’s office plans to comply with the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter registration information in Nevada.  Other than the previously identified confidential information, state law (NRS 293.558) prohibits election officials from withholding voter registration information from the public.  In addition, the state’s Public Records Act requires government entities to allow for inspection of public records.  As a result, the Secretary of State’s office will provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with only the publicly available voter registration information under Nevada law.”

Thus much for Kobach’s grand plan for a 50 state data accumulation of personal voting histories and “targets” for vote suppression.  However, we can reasonably predict that this will not be the end of Kobach and Von Spakovsky’s efforts to impede voting by the elderly, the young, and minority ethnic group members; in short, people who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

On the other hand, we need to watch out for insecurities in our own electoral systems.  One element, of course, is the integrity of our mechanical and electronic voting machines.  For those wishing to delve into the weediest of the weeds should refer to NAC Chapter 293B which specifies how these are to be maintained, tested, and audited, which led Verified Votin g.Org to declare Nevada’s overall performance as “generally good.”  Additional information concerning Nevada’s audit limitations can be found on this Verified Voting page.   We have some soft spots, but none of these seem like major issues at the moment, and most appear to be capable of repair by a legislature paying attention to the details.

Now, we need a third hand.  Since the intelligence agencies at the Federal level haven’t released the names of those states (21 to 39) which suffered Russian intrusion, we don’t know if Nevada is among the list.  The only ones which have self-identified to date are Illinois and Arizona.  This situation raises more questions:

(1)  Is the voter registration data maintained by the Secretary of State’s office fully secure and safe from hacking?  Is access to this information secured in such a way as to prevent unlawful or illicit compromise?  What tests are performed to verify the security, and by whom are the tests conducted?  To whom are the results reported? Are those receiving the test reports empowered to fix any and all issues discovered?

(2) Is the voter registration data maintained at the local level secure from unauthorized access?  Is there sufficient funding and expertise at the local level to conduct tests of access security?  Is the ‘calendar’ of security testing at the local level adequate to prevent unauthorized or illicit access?  Are there “gaps” in access security, such that some localities are more secure than others?

(3) Are local voting systems/machines secure from unauthorized access and tampering?  Is the State (or local agencies) doing adequate security testing and auditing of results? Are our present systems safe, or is there more we could be doing?  Do we need to consider more in the way of risk limitation auditing .

It’s now beginning to look like we need to have some more hands involved, rather more like an octopus to get a handle on all the questions.

There are some things that Nevada may not have the capacity to do on its own.  We probably shouldn’t be required to conduct our own “elves vs. trolls” in the manner of the Lithuanian government’s efforts to fight off disinformation campaigns.  Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Baltic nations, Sweden and the European Union have all devised national and cross-border efforts to publicize and blunt Russian efforts. [WP]

It would be extremely helpful to have a federal Executive Branch more engaged in countering Russian meddling than in vote suppression and declaring the obvious FACT of Russian cyber assaults to be Fake News.

Comments Off on Election Integrity in Nevada: How Safe Is Safe?

Filed under Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, von Spakovsky, Vote Suppression, Voting

They’ve Only Just Begun: Hacking the Silver State?

If the President of the US isn’t all that interested in how the Russians hacked and meddled in the 2016 election, voters and voting officials in the US should be, and this includes the state of Nevada.  There are several layers to the issues, the voting itself and the processes which are elements of the total election system.

Voting Machine Vulnerability

The good news is that Nevada has a relatively robust voting system in place that is more difficult for a foreign power — read Russian operatives — to hack, the bad news is that the Sequoia (Dominion) system could still have some issues most related to “insider” attacks

“The software suffers from numerous programming errors, many of which have a high potential to introduce or exacerbate security weaknesses. These include buffer overflows, format string vulnerabilities, and type mismatch errors. In general, the software does not reflect defensive software engineering practices normally associated with high-assurance critical systems. There are many instances of poor or absent error and exception handling, and several cases where the software behavior does not match the comments and documentation. Some of these problems lead to potentially exploitable vulnerabilities that we identified, but even where there may not be an obvious vulnerability identified, the presence of such errors reduces our overall confidence in the soundness of the system as a whole.” [VerifiedVoting]

The problems associated with Nevada’s voting machines are mostly of the variety perpetrated by “insiders,” those who have control of the machines during set up, maintenance, and handling.  This is good news for preventing ‘rigging’ issues in terms of election outcomes being vulnerable to outside forces.  A statement from the Secretary of State describes the election audit system. (pdf)

Voter Registration Record Security

The election voter data isn’t quite so reassuring.  Nevada is a “member” of the Cross Check system.   The system certainly can be used to remove individuals from the voter rolls with deleterious effect, and the exchange between

voting officials and the Nevada ACLU isn’t all that comforting:

Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, counters that the program just matches data and doesn’t target anyone. “Just because someone comes back as a match on the Interstate Crosscheck list, it doesn’t automatically trigger cancellation of their account,” he said. “And then, further investigation is done by the state.” He said Nevada also uses the Electronic Registration Information Center to match names from the Crosscheck list with DMV records. Voters then get a postcard to verify their address and if they don’t respond and don’t vote in two elections, they’re dropped from the rolls. Tod Story, executive director of the Nevada ACLU, worries that the postcard system could be problematic. “It does not seem to be fair and certainly would affect more low-income and minority voters, who tend to be more transient, who are going to move more frequently,” he said. Thorley said that is certainly not the intent. “If that has a disparate impact on members of minority communities, I’m not aware of that,” added Thorley. “But it’s not targeted that way at all. We’re simply following the federal law.”

First, Mr. Thorley should be aware of “that” — there is, and has been demonstrated to be a disparate impact on members of minority groups.  Secondly, the post-card system is, and has been demonstrated to be, an ineffective way of contacting individuals who are ‘challenged’ under the Cross Check system.  [RS]  The results of using the Cross Check system are also not reassuring:

“The program has since expanded to 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), but it’s been controversial from the start. For one thing, it’s resulted in very few actual cases of fraud being referred for prosecution, as alleged cases of double voting in multiple states turned out to be clerical and other errors. One tally found that while the program has flagged 7.2 million possible double registrants, no more than four have actually been charged with deliberate double registration or double voting. Meanwhile, some states including Florida dropped out of the program due to doubts about the reliability of its data — though others, including the swing state of North Carolina, joined despite those issues.”  [TVN]

Get that? Out of 7.2 million ‘flagged’ 4 individuals have been charged with double registration or double voting.  In addition to obviously being ineffective (A 0.00005.5% catch rate doesn’t seem worth the effort) the collection would appear to be a grand place for a hacker to start if he or she has mischief in mind.

Initial Russian assaults are still a matter of confidentiality, no Secretaries of State have yet been cleared to receive the reports of hacking collected by our security agencies although there is testimony that 21 states were subjected to attacks of some kind. [LAT]  We do know that Illinois was one on the states in which voter registration rolls were hacked.

“The hack had nothing to do with counting the votes in elections in Illinois. The hackers looked at voting registration data: name, address, date of birth, gender and the last four digits in the Social Security number.

The hackers searched through about 80,000 records overall, with the elections board confirming that the records of just under 3,000 voters were viewed by the hackers.” [CST]

The Chicago Sun Times reported how the hack was accomplished, and how it was detected.   The state of Arizona also had a major scare, as reported by Michele Reagan, AZ Secretary of State:

Reagan said she was alerted to the hack after the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a credential — a username and login — for the state system for sale on the dark web.

“It was really frightening and scary considering we’re in charge of almost four million people’s information,” Reagan said.

Reagan said her office had a lot of decisions to make in short amount of time to protect voter safety and took the system offline.

“At that moment in time, the most important thing was what do we do with that database,” she said. “How do we inspect it? We need to make sure that no information was taken, no information was altered, a virus wasn’t inserted into that system.”

She said, while the voter database was hacked, the voting registration system was not.

“We got lucky once,” she said, adding that the state has added multi-factor authentication, required the changing and strengthening of passwords and made other tweaks to better protect the system. [KTAR]

It would be reassuring to know if Nevada has implemented “multi-factor authentication” and other measures to better secure Nevada voter data.

I’ve not read any reports to date assuring me that the Russian hacking was a “one-off” and unlikely to be replicated.  Indeed, nearly every article asserts that what we’ve seen in 2016 was only the beginning.  A few intrusions in anywhere from 21 to 39 states, a peek into voter information data, some attempts to ‘phish” their way into systems — and many warnings that this indicates increasing interest in going deeper into US elections rather than any foray for temporary recreational purposes.

Recommendations

Retain the sanctions placed on the Russians by the Obama Administration, and enact new and greater sanctions on them as proposed by the U.S. Senate.  House Republicans have stalled the bill which passed the Senate on a 98-2 vote. [NYT] As of June 23, 2017 the White House indicated it would step up lobbying efforts against the Russian sanctions bill. [WP]  Those tracking the progress of this bill will want to follow GovTrack S 722.

Review and potentially revise Nevada voter data security processes and products.  Have issues revolving around the infamous Cross Check program been resolved?  Have procedures been adopted that would prevent access such as happened in Illinois and Arizona?

Russian probing, and interference, will not stop…it will be up to the US Congress and the 50 states, to reject their efforts.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Good Morning: The Administration wants all your voting data, and wants to make it public

The President’s “election commission,” established to cover his allegations that millions of illegal voters prevented His Vulgarity from attaining triumph in the popular vote, is requesting voter roll data from all 50 states. Nevada is included in this list.

“On Wednesday, all 50 states were sent letters from Kris Kobach — vice chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data.

The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data, which often includes the names, ages and addresses of registered voters. The commission also asked for information beyond what is typically contained in voter registration records, including Social Security numbers and military status, if the state election databases contain it.” [ProPublica]  (emphasis added)

There are many layers of just how wrong this is.   First, and most obviously, why worry about Russian hacking into voter roll information for the purpose of making mischief if everything they want is right out there in public view?  Nothing like One Stop Shopping for voter data for the Kremlin?

Secondly,  conspicuously absent from the letter is any indication about what processes and procedures will be applied to protect voters’ privacy.  Mr. Kobach’s documented sloppy handling of his Cross Check program data is not reassuring.

Third, while full Social Security numbers may not be included, even partial number releases may be a bridge too far for those concerned with identity theft; and, does the Pentagon really want the status of members of the Armed Forces right out there for all the world to see?  How handy for the Bad Guys to have an instant way of finding out a soldier’s home address?

Finally (for the moment) there’s the purpose for which all this data is sought — rest assured, it’s NOT for the purpose of “election integrity,” in fact given the participation of Kobach and Von Spakovsky the obvious intent is to scramble the data for inclusion in a “report proving” that there’s a “need” for more voter suppression.

Nevada citizens who do NOT want their voter data/records shared in this haphazard and insecure way should call the office of Nevada’s Secretary of State: 775-684-5708, fax 775-684-5725; or e-mail at <sosmail@sos.nv.gov>

1 Comment

Filed under Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, von Spakovsky, Vote Suppression, Voting

Will Someone Please Save The Republican Party?

I’d have assisted with this, but I left the Republican Party years (decades) ago.  There was something about the distribution of the utterly debunked “None Dare Call It Treason” that was intrinsically repulsive.  There’s no small amount of irony in the fact that the book alleged the Leftist Elite were sabotaging America for the benefit of the Soviet Union, and that now we’re looking at a situation in which some erstwhile cold-warriors are now espousing “better relations with Moscow.”

What made Moscow dangerous then as now is that it’s the capital of a second world nation with a first world arsenal, complete with nuclear weapons.  It wants “respect,” translated to mean it wants a sphere of influence outsized in relation to its actual economic and political power.  Since its notion of a counter-weight to NATO, the Warsaw Pact, has collapsed the replacement concept is the renewed Russian intrusion into former Warsaw Pact nations — witness those “soldiers on vacation” advancing into eastern Ukraine. Witness the cyber-assault of Estonia.  Witness the efforts to undermine the NATO alliance.

It’s as much an adversary as ever, it’s just discovered a much more effective, and far cheaper way to attack the United States — bots and trolls and fake news and hacking; hacking into the data of at least 39 states.   However, now the descendants of Sen. “Tailgunner” Joe McCarthy aren’t touting the anti-Soviet line, some are clutching ideas such as “the vote tallies weren’t actually violated,” or “this is an hysterical response from Democrats who lost an election that looked like a sure thing.”   The Republican Party seems to have moved from the defender of free elections and the American Way to the cult of Personalities Without Principles — other than possibly self-aggrandizement and the controls of the apparatus of State.

The June 11 Gallup polling shows the presidential approval rating at 37%.  To declare this a measure of the “Republican Base” might be a bit deceiving — it’s actually the measure of those who approve of what the president is doing and saying.  The majority 63% no doubt contains a chunk of Republicans, many of whom would easily declare themselves as such.  The Punditry has opined at length about the Democratic Party’s issues with primary elections and candidate selection — however, the larger problem appears to be with the Republican Party the central organization of which could not hold against an insurgency of primary voters who defied conventional party wisdom and leadership.

The party of William F. Buckley and Clare Booth Luce has become the party of Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, and the Shade of Theodore Bilbo.  Bilbo would have fit right in with today’s vote suppressionists, perhaps with a bit more nuance, like advocating that “CrossCheck” flag everyone named Washington or Sanchez instead of promoting the use of whipping (Etoy Fletcher) with a wire cable.

How does the Republican Party deal with the elements associated with the Great White Whine?  A party which once argued persuasively that prosperity for all was the way to achieve economic power has driveled into a cult like organization promoting platitudes not platforms.  “Freedom” degenerates into a call for the deregulation of powerful institutions (especially financial) which define success in terms of quarterly earnings reports not national economic achievement.  “Liberty” devolves into an expression of justified avarice, rather than the adoption of the idea that equal opportunity is the force behind that Rising Tide that Raises All Boats.

Where is the party of “Personal Responsibility” when excuses are made for members of local police forces who embarrass their cities and towns with unjustified behavior based on irrational fears — generally of young black men.  Where are the calls for justice and responsibility when polluters are given permission to degrade local environments such that property values decline and development is all but impossible?

Where is the party of American Exceptionalism when industrial innovation and technological research, especially in regard to energy technologies, are blunted in favor of fossil fuels and late 19th century technologies like gas powered engines?

How did the party of progress become an amplifier for the dismal complaints of those who see victim-hood in a reduction of their sense of self worth, fueled by the funds from corporate interests which are primarily interested in analysts’ projections of corporate earnings in the next 90 days?

We have a two party system, which in many ways is far preferable to the European model of multi-party parliamentary systems.  At what point does the broadcast punditry cease fretting over the relatively minor debates within the Democratic Party and begin to focus on the forces which are driving the Republican Party into the realm of a regional party promoting the imagined grievances of the selfish, the ignorant, and the bigots?  It isn’t the Democratic Party that needs “saving.”  They’ve had decades to perfect the art of internal combustion and national re-invention — it’s the Republicans who need the help.

Comments Off on Will Someone Please Save The Republican Party?

Filed under Politics, Republicans, Vote Suppression

Assault On America

Even if this is only partially true we need to pay attention:

“We are creeping ever closer to actual evidence that there was Russian ratfcking of the vote totals in the last election. Not long ago, people wouldn’t even suggest that out loud. We were made vulnerable to something like this because of the interference by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, by the curious goings-on in Ohio in 2004, by a relentless campaign to convince the country of an imaginary epidemic of voter fraud, and by a decade of voter suppression by any means necessary. The Russians wanted to undermine the confidence Americans had in their elections? We made it pretty damn easy to do that.”

Perhaps we might approach the problem by classifying our voting system as a matter of infrastructure. Critical infrastructure.  Such as designation came only after the 2016 election. We might have saved ourselves some distress if we’d done this a bit sooner.

We’d not tolerate a foreign adversary attacking 39 dams, or 39 bridges, or 39 tunnels, or 39 points on our electrical grid — but there is now evidence that the Russians hacked into various points of our electoral system in 39 states:

“Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.”

One of the things that might have saved us is the decentralized voting systems in the 50 states.  While that might make us feel better, being honest requires acknowledging that there are only 50 states, not an overwhelming number for a small army of dedicated “patriotic Russians” who just happened to be interested in our elections.

There are several layers to this attack, all of which deserve far more attention than we are currently bestowing on the subject.

(1) Disinformation is part of the Kremlin Play Book.  The trolls, bots, propagandists, and other associates made their appearance known in 2016, [pdf Senator Whitehouse] and we ought not conclude that this is the full extent of the Russian interference in the last general election.  The Russians appear to be making use of the distrust of the media engendered, and perhaps inflamed, by right wing messaging that disparages mainstream media outlets.  This distrust can be easily weaponized on both ends of the political spectrum.

We’ve moved past the era in which disinformation was primarily disseminated via chain e-mails from Uncle Fred and friends, in an age of instantaneous social media there’s a greater need to provide news “consumers” with information not only about the veracity of the “news” but the origin as well.  There are some pieces of useful advice, for example “How to Recognize a Bot,” “How to Spot Social Media Bots,” and “The Fake Factor,” (identifying bogus Facebook accounts.)  Institutional responses are helpful, but we can amplify the response to attacks by being personally informed about how to spot the phonies.

(2) Adequately funding voting systems at the state level.  Inadequate funding breeds more problems — the lowest software bidder may not always be promoting the most secure product, the lowest bid for voting machines may not be the safest machines.  What states should be looking for is the BEST product, which may not always be the cheapest.   The funding should also include audits.  Voting officials should conduct regular, and thorough, audits of their systems — registration, data transfers, and compilations.  We should have Zero Tolerance for any attempts to manipulate any and  all voting data.

(3) Focus.  Too often the voting security discussion centers on cries of alarm about voter impersonation — an extremely rare event — and places too little emphasis on vote suppression and vote tampering.  Nothing serves the Russian purposes better than having us questioning our voter registration, data collection, and voting processes.  Tangential discussions which dismiss attention to these foreign threats as the function of unsatisfactory election results aren’t helpful.

Consider what is possible if a foreign adversary were to tap into the possibilities of the CrossCheck program.  What chaos could be caused by changing selected addresses, something as simple as altering a house or apartment number? Or, changing the middle initial of a registered voter? Or, changing a name from George to Jorge?  We need to attend to the problems arising from these kinds of manipulations.

Consider what might result from a direct hack into voter registration files.  Again, with the same kinds of alterations mentioned above.  We need to secure our voting data with the same attention we apply toward securing our physical infrastructure and national security apparatus.

Consider what might happen were a foreign power able to breach our vote tallying systems?  Unthinkable?  Probably not. In short, our voting infrastructure should be carefully audited at every single level.   At no point should we smugly assume that our decentralization and current systems make us impermeable to foreign assault.

Estote Semper Parati

Comments Off on Assault On America

Filed under Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting