While the focus of official Washington and the major media is now entirely on former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, and to what extent his testimony will effectively indict Trump on “obstruction of justice” charges, there’s the bigger picture that cannot be lost in this.
It all traces back to the original concern, which is the incredible level to which the Russians, serious adversaries of the U.S., acted to interfere, and were successful in that effort, in the 2016 presidential election.
It can be argued that the issue of Trump’s involvement in that, which is what most of the investigations and discourse on this matter are now focused on, is secondary to the primary fact that this nation wound up with a president it did not prefer, even as measured by the most sterilized objective data-centered standard.
This goes beyond the fact that Trump received three million fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton. It goes to the fact that the Russians’ openly-preferred candidate won, and that his victory was entirely and almost universally unexpected by all the campaigns, pundits and pollsters.
Were the Russians successful at hacking into and altering the way voting machine software tabulated votes in some key states in that election? There is the latest top-secret report leaked to The Intercept that contends the Russians did attempt to hack into top election and voting machine officials in the days before the November election.
It will be fascinating to see where this line of investigation leads. Certainly, our elections have been made amazingly vulnerable due to the growing dependency of election day voting on hackable computer software. Money saving reasons have always been given for this, even to the point that in many cases, there is no backup “paper trail” that can be accessed to confirm the election results.
In the aftermath of the highly disputed suspect election outcome in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-5 to stop a ballot recount in Florida that produced the technical victory of George W. Bush, again with fewer popular votes, over Al Gore, there were numerous visible problems with the voting machines and how they counted that came to light.
As they should have, honest election officials in Florida, for example, began hand re-counting by careful visual means the ballots to determine whether thousands that were thrown out because of the infamous “hanging chads,” punched out tags of the ballot that did not break free from the ballot resulting in a disqualified vote in most cases.
That was before the actions were taken to suppress that process. Democrats, including the Democratic-majority Florida Supreme Court, ruled the recount process should continue, and Bush’s attorneys went to the U.S. Supreme Court to seek a very anti-Republican action against states rights that ultimately prevailed.
In the lengthy investigations and reviews that followed that debacle, all the many different types of voting machines were reviewed and recommendations were made. The final word was that the most reliably accurate voting machine was the “optical scanner.”
Lo and behold, it was not more than six months later than the powers that be in the jurisdiction where I lived moved to change the voting machines from the “optical scanners” they had been using to some other entirely-computer dependent system.
If I was interested in tampering with electoral outcomes, whether as a hostile foreign power or just a local crook, messing with the election voting machine process itself would be a good start. I’m sure that there will be a lot of blow back from the voting machine industry concerning the very suggestion their systems are anything less than totally secure.
But then again, who knew of the hacking and intercept capabilities being issued forth from the mountainous regions of the Balkans before this past year?
Just how important are our elections, anyway? Well, with Trump in the White House we’re getting a wake up call on that one.
Maybe conclusive proof can be found that thousands of votes were lost to hacking last November, and not Trump votes. At least, attention to this should make sure nothing akin to this happens again.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].