The statement, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything” is usually attributed to the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Whoever said it, that thought is probably in the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin as November 8 approaches. For months, the reported hacking into Democratic National Committee emails and the release of confidential DNC documents has been linked to possible Russian cyber attacks. Last week it was revealed that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating what may be a broadly-based covert Russian cyber operation designed to discredit and possibly interfere with ballot counting in the November election. The election processes in Arizona and Illinois have reportedly been subjected to attempted or successful cyberattacks probably performed by the Russians. The FBI has reportedly alerted all state and local officials to the possibility of cyberattacks on the voting process.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure like the financial sector, like the power grid.”
America’s states have controlled the election process since the colonial era. Having the federal government seize control of it seems almost as frightening as if the Russians did.
Mr. Putin’s track record proves that he doesn’t hesitate to interfere in other nations’ most important functions. After the Estonians took down a Soviet war memorial in their capital city in 2007, a Russian cyberattack, lasting about three weeks, put the Estonian government essentially out of business. In August 2008, a Russian cyberattack took control of the Georgian government’s computer system including its ministries of defense and foreign affairs. Earlier this year, Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall blamed the Russians for a December 2015 cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid that caused widespread blackouts.