Here are some thoughts on the report that Russia was trying to — or did — hack into our election systems before the election.
1) Why was this a secret? Who from? Obviously it wasn’t a secret to Russia. Maybe they’re keeping the idea that they detected it a secret? (And this tips Russia or whoever off to what we did not detect, by the way.)
2) We only know about hacking that we detect, not that which we do not detect. It’s like the saying that nothing in Washington remains a secret. The response to that is, “except for the things that do. We don’t know about those things.”
3) It shouldn’t matter if election systems are hacked. Our election system should be set up from top to bottom so that you just count actual votes. We used to do that. Now we do not. We believe what we are told the results were. Seriously. that way there is a record of actual votes, that you check whether you detect hacking or not. The way we do things now there’s no way to know who wins elections. If you set the system up correctly then it doesn’t matter if it is hacked. (It matters if someone finds a way to “stuff” a ballot box. But good systems can even prevent that, and that doesn’t decide national or even statewide elections.)
3a) If machines have “paper trails” you could count what’s on the paper and compare it to what the machines reported. We don’t do that. One reason we don’t is because that “costs too much.” (Even when someone raises the money for a “recount” it doesn’t usually involve actually counting the paper records.) Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.
3b) There are still lots of machines out there without paper trails. In Georgia, for example. They are old and very easy to hack. There are real indications they get hacked. There is no way to know. So with these machines there is no way to know for sure what the voters actually wanted. There is no way to know if they were hacked, no way to know if they made mistakes. Just no way to know. Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.
4) The only way to have an honest election is to use paper ballots. These can be tabulated by machines. Then you hand count a large random sample and check that against what the tabulators report. If that count is off by even a single vote, something is fishy and you have to count all the paper ballots. With paper ballots and careful checking you do know who actually won.
5) If you want to know who actually won an election instead of what the “powers that be” tell you, you have to do things that we largely do not do now in too many places. Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.
6) As for messing with the registration lists to keep people from voting, that’s a different problem. (Voter ID laws are also a form of messing with the registration lists to keep people from voting.) Are we hearing about lots of people being turned away at the polling places? If so this form of hacking is also a serious concern. I understand that lots of “provisional ballots” are not counted and this is serious. To solve this stop the laws that make it harder to vote, and just make it easier to vote. And make voting a holiday so people don’t have to leave work, go after work, etc. Make it easier to use verifiable, mail-in ballots.
Update: Hand counts should match what the machines are reporting. If not something is fishy. Unfortunately even “recounts” do not necessarily mean a real hand count. In Wisconsin, 2016 for example. Watch this: