public outreach

Voting Beyond the Pandemic

Because even when people vote, the dominant narrative stays in place. Photo from Greensboro, South Carolina.

The Supreme Court ruled from the safety of their self-quarantine that it was acceptable for the population of Wisconsin to be required to go vote at the polls in public during a global pandemic. Despite Black people being the most vulnerable population amid this crisis, the Supreme Court demonstrated that it was more important to sacrifice more victims than to change procedures. Many other states have been reconfiguring the nightmare that is a presidential election during a year when most of the voters are full of apathy. Ironically, someone could argue that ballot consideration is a moot point, because the dominant narrative intends to continue regardless of how the votes are counted. It is no coincidence that on March 26, 2020, HBO debuted Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections.

In this documentary, specialist after specialist discussed all the problems with the electronic voting machines that have been used for elections, which of course require that voters be physically present to cast their ballots. From obsolete, hackable software to data stored on removable USB drives, there was nothing that demonstrated integrity with the use of machines. Did people think voter ID was the way around “fake voting”? Addresses could be changed remotely so that IDs would not match the voter presenting them. Would the machines stay on and functional during the entire election? Apparently, they can be turned off from a remote location. Is there a way to prevent the machines from being accessible to the internet? Not only do some machines demand access from the initial setup, but the specialists stated that no technology currently exists that does not access the internet.

Despite the notion of an innocent government–which almost no one holds at this point in time–all levels of the U.S. government have been made aware of the flaws in voting machines. Their apathy stems from two trains of thought, the first being that investigating election integrity would require the hiring of more staff, and despite a passion for corporate bailouts, government is not interested in spending money. Secondly, the FBI warned the federal government that the current election process was vulnerable to hackers; those told were informed that the knowledge could not be shared. Despite the fact that officials testified in Congress to the sanctity of the election results, they were told many times by people running elections that there were problems.

Who told the government that there were problems with the elections, in addition to the government itself? Hackers, especially hackers who were able to buy the voting machines due to the manufacturers’ profit motive. During the making of this documentary, voting machines still being used in elections were purchased, and hackers were invited to a conference for the sole purpose of learning how to break into the machines’ systems. For those outside the tech industry, “hacker” can be pejorative term. However, most companies have quality analysis/quality control (QA/QC) teams whose job–that they get paid poorly for, depending on where they are–is to figure out how to break the company’s software. A professional hacker can be little more than an external QA/QC consultant who specializes in testing software. At the conference, hackers demonstrated that the machines were designed to communicate with each other, which meant that if one machine was infected, the rest were immediately susceptible to hacking. It speaks to the credibility of elected officials that hackers have approached government to test the current system, and have been ignored and declined for their offer.

Because this is the United States, the biggest issue with insecure elections is the fact that only three companies offer election materials. Three, as if there was one for each Constitutional branch of the federal government. In the “free enterprise” narrative that constantly disrupts the lives of constituents, this alone was a red flag. Throughout the process of investigating elections, there was no transparency about any of the flaws with the process, only cries to protect their intellectual property. When hackers approached the companies themselves, even private entity to private entity, the companies still refused to allow any test of their systems. The specialists concluded that the reason government interference occurred was because pernicious forces knew there would be no accountability, which would require the federal government to acknowledge its role in eliminating election integrity.

One of the biggest discussions right now has been the consideration of paper ballots, especially in the wake of international interference. All of the specialists stated that paper ballots were the only safe way to ensure election integrity. Basically, people could recount the votes if there was a question of actual counts, and elections could be audited. Not surprisingly, all ballots from the 2016 election have been turned into pulp. What does this mean for the United States? In a country with colonies whose residents are not allowed to vote and a government that demands in-person voting during a global pandemic, chances look grim.

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