We’re almost there. After months and months of ups and downs in rival campaigns to become the President of the United States, the countdown to counting the state-by-state voting results in our 2016 election has reached the final hours.
And there are plenty of reasons to worry about the coming days — besides your favorite candidate(s) not winning. Here are a few of the scary headlines from the past few weeks involving the election process:
Georgia Officials Investigate Reports of Vote Flipping Machines Will hacker’s disrupt Tuesday’s election? NAACP sues over voter suppression in North Carolina Donald Trump says the election is rigged. Here’s what his supporters say that means Sources: U.S. intel warning of possible al Queda attacks on U.S. Monday How a cyber attack could sabotage the US election Print Your Precinct Before The Web Gets Hacked I could go on and on and on.
I could provide scary excerpts from each of these articles or hundreds of other similar pieces that have been published over the past few months. I could also quote some trusted cyber pros who think the Dyn DDoS attack was a precursor to a bigger online attack — perhaps coming this week on Election Day or the day after.
But I’m picking sides and reiterating my view that I think you can trust the voting process. This assessment is not pro-Trump or pro-Hillary (nor anti-anything), but my honest professional opinion after working for more than two decades within the federal, state and local government world that supports the people, processes and technology that counts your votes.
I will explain my reasoning below, but I want to start by clearly telling you what I believe and don’t believe about this vote integrity topic. As I write this on Saturday Nov. 5, 2016, I acknowledge that things will go wrong. They always do.
Expect sporadic news reports (this week) of voter suppression, ballots not counted, hackers on the loose, DDoS attacks against somebody, terrorist sightings and much more. There are already poll monitors or agitators or angry men and women who have written their “observations” of “irregularities” at polling places — before most polls even open. Someone will punch someone, somewhere — and a “bystander” will catch the whole thing on their iPhone — and it will go viral. And prove what?
And expect rain and wind and low pressure and a dark sky somewhere in the United States — but that does not mean a Category 4 hurricane will strike any coast.
(Side note: No need to report about sunshine at most other places, because that is not news.)
Why write about this now? Recent media reports claim that: “More than a quarter of Mr. Trump’s supporters say they will probably not accept the outcome if Mrs. Clinton is declared the winner, and nearly 40 percent of them say they have little or no confidence that Americans’ votes will be counted properly.” Other discouraging reports came from pro-Clinton camps.
I reluctantly decided to write this blog after many colleagues, friends and family members contacted me over the past month with serious concerns about the entire election process. After explaining my views to them, several urged me to write about my perspective to (hopefully) help people on the left, right and center calm down a bit.
My Reasons You Can Trust the Vote
I want to start my defense of our voting systems by reminding readers that I was one of the first global bloggers in 2016 to ask the question: Could the election be hacked? In March of this year, I brought the topic up — well before it was popular to write about election hacking by the mainstream media.
In that piece, I ended by saying: “I’m betting on the good guys. “
I still am optimistic — and here are 10 reasons why:
Our voting machines are not connected to the Internet. Most voting machines have a paper ballot backup process — “The paper trail from electronic machines would also have to be manipulated, and that accounts for about 80 percent of all of them in use since only 20 percent or so lack that mechanism.” The vast majority of states are getting help from DHS to ensure the voting systems and networks remain secure. The counting of votes is done by state governments, not the federal government. There is no control by any one political party. The people, processes and technology involved are well-known and generally trustworthy. This has been a repeatable process for many, many years. Voter lists and databases are constantly verified and updated. It is very, very difficult to massively change the voter database rolls. (Yes, there are examples of dead people voting, but we are talking about a very small fraction of people with millions of voters.) This is not a new problem. We have recount rules for tight races. Remember the hanging chads in Florida? The people I speak with on the inside around the country (who do this for a living) are confident of continued success. Official monitors, election commissions, global watchdogs and many others are watching closely to ensure a fair, accurate vote counting process. They examine every aspect of the system to ensure proper oversight. History is on our side, and good people have been working on this election process for a very long time. I am a believer that if voter fraud does occur, it will be found out and corrected as in the past. Final Thoughts
The NY Times just published: Five possible hacks to worry about before Election Day. We must take these items seriously, but they are also being addressed.
I find it interesting that most of the items covered in the media about upcoming election problems don’t address the voting process itself, but items like WikiLeaks disclosures, social media propaganda or website shutdowns that can impact voter turnout.
No doubt, there are, and always will be, continued online fraud, phishing scam and other types of clickbait to watch out for. On Tuesday, there will problems with voting machines, unhappy people, hackers on the loose and much more. How do I know? Because we’ve seen elections with these issues before.
There are cyberattacks every day, and the most successful online attacks are not anticipated.
So with many other technology and security industry experts, I think Election Day cyberattack risks are overblown. Yes — I think the good guys are ready for this upcoming week in cyberspace and in your polling place.
And I say again: I think you can trust the vote.