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WORSE THAN WE’D THOUGHT

As reported in today’s New York Times, Putin’s 2016 election interference may have been even more pernicious than previously reported. Even short of intentionally causing miscounts, electronic shenanigans could have made it tougher for voters to vote, forcing many to turn away on Election Day. The problems in parts of North Carolina and other states might simply have been software glitches. But as the article emphasizes, the news emerges against a backdrop of troubling inattention by local, state and federal officials to the issue – and in fact, their resistance to addressing it at all.

So, what to do? We should have a full-fledged federal effort to block any future outside interference. But our national “election integrity” commission is busy chasing red herrings rather than Russian hacking.

LET’S GO RETRO

Here’s one feasible approach: the electoral equivalent of going analog, as the Netherlands, Germany and other countries have done by hand-counting votes. Turning back the clock and dumping digital voting technologies might be the best we can do.

Such a retro system would itself be far from perfect, not least because it might work best with a national ID card that’s anathema to progressives and conservatives alike. And heaven forbid that we instant-gratification Americans would have to await election results that are not instantaneous.

But the fact remains: It’s been demonstrated that hackers can easily mess around with digital voting methods. (Oddly enough, even the Russian news/propaganda outlet RT recognized this back in 2012.) It’s only going to get easier going forward. In the meantime, whether it’s the Russian bear clawing at our democracy or simply some 400-pound guy sitting on his bed, our voting systems are sitting ducks.

 

 

 

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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