What happens if the 2020 presidential election is very close? Polls suggest that’s a real possibility. And it’s a question that should shape the strategy of the Democratic Party, not just at the top of the ticket, but in the down-ballot races that could ultimately determine who sits in the White House. If Donald Trump wins battleground states such as Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida, he can lose Pennsylvania and Michigan, and lose the popular vote by 5 million or more, but still win the Electoral College by a single vote, as David Wasserman of “The Cook Political Report” has noted. If a congressional district in Nebraska or Maine were to vote for a Democrat, there could be a tie. Even if the result is not that close, it is possible to imagine a nightmare scenario in multiple states like what we saw in Florida in 2000—in this case, contests about electoral votes that might have a state legislature endorsing a different set of electors than the popular-vote count mandates, or contests about popular votes and provisional ballots stretching beyond the deadline for an official electoral count. With the stakes so high, with tribal identities overcoming norms of behavior, with many legislatures in states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina having already taken extraordinary, antidemocratic steps to cling to power, it is not fanciful to imagine such situations.Full Article: What Happens If the 2020 Election Is a Tie? - The Atlantic.
Opinion pieces and editorials on voting issues.
Editorials: Why America must take the fight against cyberterrorism seriously | Joseph Moreno and Sam Curry/The Hill
cording to the Justice Department, a team of hackers sponsored by North Korea spent years infiltrating American companies to steal trade secrets and intellectual property. We know from the investigation of former special counsel Robert Mueller that Russian military intelligence groups hacked computer systems in the United States and spread social media disinformation to impact the 2016 election. More recently, we learned of a campaign by hackers backed by the Chinese government to spy on individuals through cyberattacks on global carrier companies. These may not be traditional acts of war. But make no mistake, they are hostile military grade actions against our companies, our government, and the public by foreign adversaries, and they are only getting worse. The United States is in a de facto state of war that is no less real for it being fought on a digital rather than a traditional battlefield. If a foreign army killed American citizens at home or abroad, there is no question that a conventional military response would be called for. Every nation has the right to defend itself against an armed attack under the United Nations charter. Similarly, if a foreign country was found to have supported a terrorist group in carrying out a violent assault against Americans, most would agree that some form of military retaliation would be warranted.Full Article: Why America must take the fight against cyberterrorism seriously | TheHill.
We won’t need Russia in 2020. We will hijack our democracy ourselves. And Facebook is sure to be a major factor in that hijacking – once again. The platform is ripe for further exploitation by domestic forces bent on distorting the political conversation and stirring up irrational passions in a way sure to benefit Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The continued proliferation of white supremacists on Facebook, and its refusal to block a heavily doctored video of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, are just the latest demonstrations of Facebook’s cowardice. Despite scrutiny in the three years since Facebook’s troublesome role in Trump’s 2016 election – embedding Facebook staff in the campaign itself, hosting millions of dollars of targeted ad spending, and distributing false and divisive messages sponsored by Russia and meant to divide the United States and promote Trump – Facebook remains vulnerable to the sorts of divisive propaganda that motivate nationalist and authoritarian movements. This was evident in recent elections in Brazil, Italy, and India, where nationalist forces assumed power with the aid of Facebook-centric election campaigns filled with vitriol and conspiracy theories. Such propaganda starts with a concerted effort using platforms other than Facebook, such as Reddit, YouTube, state-sponsored systems like Russia’s RT, or private media like Fox News in the US. The messages then migrate to Facebook, with its 220 million American users and 2.4 billion users worldwide. Once there, Facebook’s algorithms take over, amplifying extremist content and connecting susceptible people who might never otherwise find each other. It’s a complex ecosystem that can’t be examined properly by isolating its elements. What happens on Reddit and Fox changes Facebook, and what happens on Facebook changes Reddit and Fox.Full Article: Facebook is ripe for exploitation - again - in 2020 | Opinion | The Guardian.
New York, long home to some of the more arcane, incumbent-protecting election laws in the country, has made rapid progress in bolstering the right to vote. In recent months, the State Legislature enacted early voting, passed a measure to automatically transfer a voter’s registration if she moves within the state and gave initial authorization for a constitutional amendment to make absentee voting easier. But when lawmakers left Albany last month, some of the work remained unfinished — 31 election-related bills that have been approved by the Legislature but have not been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The importance of at least one of those measures has become clear since last month’s Democratic primary for district attorney in Queens ended with a razor-thin margin that set off an automatic recount. Tiffany Cabán, a public defender, declared victory on election night, June 25, with a margin of some 1,100 votes. But several days later, after election officials reviewed the roughly 6,300 paper ballots cast, Borough President Melinda Katz was ahead by 20 votes.Full Article: Opinion | One Lesson From the Katz-Cabán Recount - The New York Times.
Editorials: What’s really been done since the 2016 elections to make voting more secure? Almost nothing. | Paula Dockery/South Florida Sun-Sentinel
We know from the Mueller Report that Russia did interfere in our 2016 election and that those efforts continue today. We also know that attempts were made in at least two Florida counties to breach their voter rolls. Before this, officials in Florida had denied that breaches had occurred. We’re told by those briefed by the FBI the attempts to hack were unsuccessful and no votes or vote tallies were changed. But is that true? Is that really what the FBI said? Clearly, they don’t want citizens to lose faith in the integrity of our elections, but there are problems and we’re not getting straight answers. Those who were briefed signed nondisclosure forms to keep that information from us. What the hell is going on here? I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I’m skeptical about past elections and about the upcoming election in 2020. We know Russia has an interest in sowing chaos and dissension in our country. I suspect it is not alone. They hacked into systems to steal data and worked through the Internet—especially on social media—to influence and misinform during the 2016 campaign. But what about the election itself? Were votes changed or deleted? Were tallies adjusted?Full Article: What’s really been done since the 2016 elections to make voting more secure? Almost nothing. | Paula Dockery - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Last week’s Democratic debates were an important marker on the road to the 2020 election. They were also a reminder that time is quickly running out for Congress to enact legislation that will safeguard against foreign actors’ attempts to manipulate the results. There is ample evidence of Russian agents’ multipronged attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies warn that such interference continues with the FBI director calling it a “significant counterintelligence threat.” And in a recent Associated Press poll, more than half of Americans said there they were very concerned about foreign meddling in U.S. elections. Much of the blame for congressional inaction on this issue has been rightly laid at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has refused to allow elections security bills to see the light of day. At the same time, Congress’ shotgun approach is not helping. Lawmakers must focus their attention on bipartisan solutions and stop wasting time on bills doomed to fail along party lines.Full Article: Enact election-security reforms now | The Seattle Times.
Editorials: The U.S. isn’t prepared to fend off foreign meddling in 2020. We need a national strategy | Casey Corcoran, Bo Julie Crowley and Raina Davis/Los Angeles Times
Russia’s 2016 election interference operation was a clumsy collection of fake memes and leaked emails. Still, it divided American society, eroded trust in national institutions and caught Washington flat-footed. A new wave of sophisticated, artificial-intelligence-enabled influence campaigns is surely headed our way in 2020, yet the United States is nowhere near ready. Continued division over the meaning of meddling in 2016 must not eclipse what should be a clear bipartisan priority — a national strategy to combat malicious foreign influence. The tip of the influence operations spear is found in the Asia-Pacific region, yet few are paying attention. Working with the Defending Digital Democracy project at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, we conducted more than 30 interviews with government officials, journalists and civil society members in Taiwan and found that Taiwanese society is saturated with Chinese disinformation and influence.Full Article: The U.S. isn’t prepared to fend off foreign meddling in 2020. We need a national strategy - Los Angeles Times.
How was it possible that 20 Democrats, vying to appear on the 2020 ballot, debated last week for four hours without ever assailing the Republicans’ steadfast refusal to protect the 2020 ballot from Russian interference? Didn’t that dire issue warrant at least a few substantive minutes? Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate leader who’s seemingly determined to do Vladimir Putin’s bidding, continues to block all Democratic reform efforts — including a requirement that all states use backup paper ballots to thwart a cyber-invasion (New Jersey and Delaware don’t have them, nor do most Pennsylvania jurisdictions — although all three states are moving towards buying new voting machines). Candidate Amy Klobuchar, a paper-ballot reformer, zinged McConnell in a random sentence, entrepreneur Andrew Yang said the Russians “have been hacking our democracy successfully and they’ve been laughing their asses off,” and Bill de Blasio said, “we need to stop them” — but you’d have to scour the transcripts with a magnifying glass to find much more. Elizabeth Warren unveiled an election security plan early last week, but, during the debate, she never mentioned it.Full Article: Opinion - Election security: The dire issue the Democrats barely mentioned - WHYY.
The future of U.S. democracy will be on the ballot next year. No one should pretend otherwise. We witnessed President Trump’s obvious disdain for democratic rights and liberties once again last week during his warm encounter in Japan with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. And the Supreme Court’s partisan, antidemocratic decision on gerrymandering, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., showed how dangerous it would be to expand a right-wing majority hellbent on making our system less inclusive, less fair and less equal. For these reasons, Democratic primary voters should not be knocked for making “electability” their highest criterion in picking a presidential candidate.Full Article: The 2020 issue that matters is democracy itself - The Washington Post.
Media reports … (June 17, CNN) revealed that “the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system.” Presumably in response to Moscow’s apparent cyber efforts to influence this country’s 2016 presidential election, this action is apparently “intended partly as a warning and also to put the U.S. in a position to conduct cyber attacks should a significant conflict arise with Russia.” The obvious first question is whether pre-positioning a physically destructive offensive capability inside another country’s critical national infrastructure is an appropriate escalatory step in the cyber relationship between the world’s two most highly armed nuclear powers. While this country certainly must address the evident Russian attempt to influence America’s 2016 electoral outcome via fake internet plants – a manifestation in which Americans themselves indulged – is the threat of physical destruction of Russia’s critical infrastructure credible, excessive and/or dangerous? And, one now wonders where the next steps along this escalatory path might go given the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure understood to have been executed by the U.S. and Israel. Does this suggest that the escalatory threshold for further cyber violence between nuclear powers may not be as high as currently thought?Full Article: U.S. cyber attacks raise oversight questions » Albuquerque Journal.
The growing recognition in state government that more must be done — and soon — to secure Florida voting systems from tampering and disruption is a promising thing to see. But so much more remains to be done. Last week Gov. Ron DeSantis announced new plans for assessment, monitoring and training to help both the state Division of Elections and Florida’s 67 county supervisors of elections. They included a welcome do-over for getting federal funds to the beleaguered elections supervisor. Some $2.3 million that had gone unspent now will go to local programs for enhancing election security. And that’s in addition to the $2.8 million just appropriated by the Florida Legislature. Which means more help is on the way. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor said at a press conference.Full Article: Editorial: Florida must double down on vote security - Opinion - Daily Commercial - Leesburg, FL.
Editorials: Venezuela’s insecure elections have caused political uproar | Kristen Nyman/The Detroit News
Venezuela uses what has been referred to as the most secure voting system in the world. Its Smartmatic voting machines are theoretically tamper-proof, requiring biometric voter authentication twice during the process. The system operates offline during the time votes are cast, so any direct attempts by hackers to change votes are rendered ineffective. The machines generate paper copies of votes, which are placed in a secure lockbox and counted manually multiple times for verification. Voter-verified paper trails are generated in the form of take-home receipts. Finally, the system is auditable at every stage of the vote. On the surface, it is difficult to see how the voting process could be more secure. Yet despite this impressive level of security, Venezuelans are violently protesting in the streets less than a year after the vast majority apparently elected President Nicolas Maduro using these highly secure Smartmatic machines. This begs the question: How did Maduro go from winning with almost 70 percent of the vote one year to hanging onto his presidency by a thread the next? The short answer is that Maduro never had the support of the people to begin with, and that his second term was the result of a fraudulent election.Full Article: Opinion: Venezuela's insecure elections have caused political uproar.
Editorials: Did Russian hackers make 2016 North Carolina voters disappear? Why won’t we stop this for 2020? | Will Bunch/Philadelphia Inquirer
As 2016′s do-or-die presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton drew near, many students at North Carolina Central University, a historically black institution in the city of Durham, couldn’t wait to cast their ballots, to Soar to the Polls, in the name of an early-voting rally staged by campus activists. “These Millennials are not alienated,” Jarvis Hall, an NCCC poli-sci professor, said when the rally was held late that October. “They are engaged, involved and concerned, and they want to draw attention to and take advantage of the early voting.” But those students who instead waited until the fateful Election Day of November 8, 2016, to vote at a campus polling place didn’t soar, but instead came in for a crash landing. Susan Greenhalgh, the executive director of an alliance called the National Election Defense Coalition, was manning a national voting hotline that morning and her phone was ablaze with calls from all over North Carolina and especially from Durham, a Democratic enclave in a purple battleground state.Full Article: Did Russian hackers make 2016 NC voters disappear? Why won’t we stop this for 2020? | Will Bunch.
Editorials: Ohioans must act to keep the 2020 elections secure against foreign interference | David Salvo/cleveland.com
In less than 17 months, Ohioans will go to the polls to vote in the 2020 presidential election. An all-important swing state, Ohio will once again be the focus of many presidential candidates, national and international reporters, campaign volunteers and political pundits. But Ohio will likely be a target of more nefarious actors, too. Authoritarian governments are still seeking to undermine Americans’ confidence in our elections. Yet, there are vulnerabilities we have yet to address as a nation, all with consequences for the health of our democracy. Ohioans already have experienced election interference from foreign actors. In 2016, Russian government trolls sought to influence Ohioans’ opinions on presidential candidates and key political and social issues. These trolls used numerous tactics, such as impersonating real Ohio media outlets that looked and sounded legitimate, but were actually fake. These falsified accounts gained thousands of followers on Twitter.Full Article: Ohioans must act to keep the 2020 elections secure against foreign interference: David Salvo (Opinion) - cleveland.com.
Editorials: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. | The Washington Post
Russia’s meddling with democracy no longer comes as a surprise. It should, nevertheless, continue to provoke anger, outrage and a determination to respond. Observers predicted that last month’s elections for European Parliament would offer a window on a new era of disinformation. Now, European Union officials have rendered a verdict that suggests the Kremlin kept itself busy — engaging not in any grand cross-border campaign but in sustained interference on a smaller scale that may be even harder to root out. Worse, others followed its lead. The E.U. report and concurrent outside research show that the enemy is evolving. Gone are the days when vast networks of false-identity accounts and their automated counterparts worked en masse to spread tales of events that never occurred or malicious lies about public figures. Now, operations are more localized and harder to detect. They feature what experts call narrative warfare, pushing polarizing and distorted variations of otherwise true stories, stripped of context, rather than outright fabrications. The tactic is tougher both for platforms to detect and for governments to legislate against.Full Article: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. - The Washington Post.
Editorials: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in North Carolina. That’s a bad sign. | The Washington Post
Since it became clear that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election, intelligence officials have warned regularly that the United States remains vulnerable to another cyberattack. If the aftermath of an Election Day fiasco in North Carolina is any indication, the Trump administration and Congress still have much to do to prepare the nation for next year’s vote. A Post investigation detailed how North Carolina officials have desperately sought information and help from the Department of Homeland Security following a possible Election Day 2016 breach, in which Durham County’s electronic poll books, which provide information on eligible voters, improperly rejected people at their polling places. Election officials resorted to using paper-based poll books, creating massive delays. If a malicious foreign actor wanted to promote havoc on Election Day or call election results into question, this is one way it might happen.Full Article: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in N.C. That’s a bad sign. - The Washington Post.
Russian interference in the 2016 election was not limited to spreading political discord via social media. It also involved hacking.
And election officials across America, Democrats and Republicans, continue to voice concern about future hacking of computer systems used for voting.
Perhaps they need to visit Washington state for some tips. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, has been focused on preventing fraud for years.
Wyman has been beefing up security. She has been working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up cyber security for voter registration and emailed ballots from service members stationed out of the country.
But what makes Washington state’s vote-by-mail election system extremely secure is paper. When it comes to conducting elections, paper ballots are the gold standard. Those ballots can’t be tampered with through a cyber attack and can always be recounted when necessary.
Washington mostly uses paper ballots because its statewide elections are conducted via (snail) mail.
In Walla Walla County, for example, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant said in 2016 that results are put on a Zip disk and then carried to a Zip drive (introduced in 1994) to be loaded onto a computer.
Since there is no internet involved — only the old fashioned sneaker-net (as in walking) — computer hackers can’t access or change the information.
While paper ballots are at the core of our local and state election system, computers are involved. Over time, as new equipment and technology are introduced into conducting elections, the need for the best cybersecurity will increase.
Still, paper ballots should remain at the core of the election system and elsewhere in the nation. Sure, there might be faster and flashier ways to vote, but having a paper record (carefully tracked each step of the way) is critical to ensuring confidence in elections.
At some point, computer-based voting might become so secure that it could replace vote-by-mail voting. That day isn’t here.
Until then, paper ballots should be preserved as a way to ensure our election results aren’t hacked by Russia or any other foreign power.
Editorials: Norway, if you’re listening: Feel free to hack our presidential race | Doyle McManus/Los Angeles Times
Just about every cybersecurity expert agrees that Russia is likely to meddle again in next year’s presidential election — and other governments may try too. And why shouldn’t they? The cost is laughably low, and they face few if any penalties if they’re caught. After all, President Trump says he’d welcome an offer from a foreign government to slip him derogatory information about his opponents. “If somebody called from a country — Norway — [saying,] ‘We have information on your opponent,’ I think I’d want to hear it,” the president told ABC News last week. “It’s not an interference. They have information, I think I’d take it.” Trump had every chance to say he’d reject a backdoor offer from a country more worrisome than Norway — Russia, for example. But he didn’t. Instead, he resorted to one of his favorite schoolyard defenses: Everybody does it; don’t be a chump. That undercut officials in his own administration who have warned foreign powers that messing in our elections will be considered a hostile act. And it distressed at least some Republicans in Congress who don’t relish being branded the Party that Welcomes Help In Elections from Foreign Intelligence Agencies.Full Article: Norway, if you’re listening: Feel free to hack our presidential race - Los Angeles Times.
Why won’t Mitch McConnell protect our elections from outside interference? His Republican colleagues in the Senate want to do something. That’s why some of the most conservative members of his caucus are working with Democrats to improve the nation’s election security. One proposal, according to The New York Times, would “require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.” Another, devised by Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would “impose mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks an American election.” Yet another, the brainchild of Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would “codify cyber information-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials.”Full Article: Opinion | Mitch McConnell, Too, Welcomes Russian Interference - The New York Times.
Editorials: Foreign Election Interference Is Wrong, President Trump | Michael R. Bloomberg/Bloomberg
It was extraordinary to hear a U.S. president declare that the FBI director is “wrong” for saying that candidates should report to the FBI — as the law clearly intends — any effort by foreign agents to aid a political candidate by passing along opposition research. President Trump does not understand the value of the law prohibiting campaigns from such aid, nor does he appear to have any intention of following it. For all the different interpretations of the Mueller report, there is one aspect of it where there should be no debate among Republicans and Democrats: The threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections has increased, it must not be tolerated or abetted, and campaigns must be held accountable for assisting in policing this national security imperative. On this issue, the standard for ethical and patriotic behavior should not be whether someone engages in a criminal conspiracy. It should be whether someone acts with honor in rebuffing — and reporting — attempts at foreign influence. That did not happen in 2016, and unless Congress acts soon, we may see an even worse breach in 2020. The National Republican Campaign Committee has refused to pledge, as its Democratic counterpart has, not to use hacked or stolen materials. And now the president has indicated that his re-election campaign would be open to using them, too. The Russians — to say nothing of the North Koreans — must be grinning ear to ear.Full Article: Foreign Election Interference Is Wrong, President Trump - Bloomberg.