Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, July 27, 2018 5:55 pm

God bless The Root, but: No, it has NOT proved the Russians altered 2016 vote totals

(Originally posted July 26, 2018, on Facebook; I’m reupping this here on the blog (with a few minor clarifications) to give it a little more reach.)

I’ve seen this article shared a great deal on social media today. Writer Michael Harriot claims to have found proof that Russia actually altered vote totals in the 2016 election to tilt the election to Trump. It proves a lot of things, but not that.

First, I’m not a computer scientist and don’t play one on social media. But I edited the 2004 book “Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,” by Bev Harris and my good friend David Allen. (In a previous life, David did network security for banks. This is relevant because voting-machine maker Diebold also did bank networks.)

During that project I learned about the many vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines, and this Root article rehashes some of those. It also does a good job of documenting that the Russians had means, motive, opportunity and desire to alter the 2016 election results.

But despite the headline, this article does not provide any evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the Russians actually altered vote totals. It does not provide any evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the Russians deleted voter registration data so as to prevent a single person from voting.

To be clear, I think both those things probably happened. But this article doesn’t prove it, and neither has anyone else that I know of. And I’ve been looking for evidence of this since I started working on “Black Box Voting” more than 15 years ago.

And at this point, the question is irrelevant; the Constitution is silent on the question of undoing a stolen presidential election.

What is HIGHLY relevant, and quite urgent, is that we realize that it could happen (again) in 2018 and 2020 and take steps to prevent it. Off the top of my head, that means, among other things, paper ballots, publicly counted, and mandatory, rigorous election auditing up and down the ballot. These are things we still (barely) have time to make happen before November, and that’s where we ought to focus.

UPDATE, July 27: Having seen this Root article promoted on social media by such respected authorities as Sarah Kendzior, I’ve tried to contact her and a couple of others to make clear that, for lack of a better term, the headline writes a check the reporting can’t cash. I’ve gotten no response from anyone I contacted.

UPDATE, July 28: The Root has pulled the article pending review. Good.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008 3:12 pm

Still bugs in the system

Regular readers know how I feel about electronic touch-screen voting machines (“black box voting”). Well, here’s evidence that after all this time there are still problems:

Note how the vote changes even after the machine is “calibrated.”

Folks, this is not a calibration issue. This is not a glitch. It is poorly written software, pure and simple. If you vote on such a machine and it also has paper, be darned sure you check the paper after every single choice to make sure what you’ve chosen is what actually gets recorded on the paper.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 8:26 pm

Here we go again

Some of the names we’ve seen involved in problems with electronic voting machines are showing up again as problems arise with electronic records of registered voters. This article from Wired explains how thousands of Americans who are legally able to vote may not get to, or may not have their votes counted, because of errors (not “glitches”) in the systems that contain names of registered voters and are supposed to match them against drivers-license or Social Security records.

Folks, we have all the technology we need to run accurate elections with robust auditing measures to ensure that accuracy. What we lack is the will.

(h/t: Phred)

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