The real losers in the 2016 general election were the American People as usual, plus the electoral process itself. Both deserved it.
In the voting booths of America, Trump gained the support of just 27 percent of American citizens. More than 100 million eligible voters skipped the whole thing, which means that about 45 percent of the voting-age population chose to sit this one out. So it has been in every presidential election since 1960 – and even then, just 63 percent of our citizens did what everyone should do in a democracy.
Claims of voter fraud undermine faith in the legitimacy of our elections, although few are based in reality. When former governor Pat McCrory lost a close election in North Carolina, he blamed “a massive voter fraud scheme” that featured thousands of people voting multiple times. But as Santiago Juarez, an attorney and voter registration volunteer once put it clearly: "Hell, you can't get people to vote once, let alone twice."
Many states still use electronic or digital voting machines, so there continue to be some highly suspicious vote totals. In 2016 some weird numbers popped up in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and once again in Ohio.
Computer-based touch-screen voting machines are known as "push and pray" – you take it on faith that your vote was recorded correctly. Those machines are being replaced with paper ballots all across the land, but not in Ohio. Folks who live there have no idea if anyone in their state was elected honestly in this century. They can't go back and check because the accuracy of any recount has been compromised.
At great expense, Ohio installed digital voting machines for 2016 that promised new security and audit features. Included was an anti-hacking capability and software that would take a picture and time stamp of each ballot as it was being cast. But Secretary of State Jon Husted allowed county officials to turn that feature off and won't explain why he would do such a thing.
In an odd twist of events, as soon as Wisconsin officials announced that a recount would be held – and before the recount began, Trump's original vote total in that state was reduced by 4,931 votes. It was as if those votes never really existed, and no explanation has been given for how they disappeared.
Election hacking was much more widespread than we've been told. Hackers attacked voting systems in 39 states, accessing campaign finance databases in one state. In July of 2016, Illinois officials discovered a breach in the voter database which led investigators to IP addresses and other digital signatures. The DHS warned states to protect their voting systems from attacks, but officials in Georgia brushed aside that advice. According to NSA documents obtained by The Intercept, Russia's GRU military intelligence arm tried to take over the computers of 122 local election officials prior to the November vote. The situation was serious enough that then-President Obama took the unusual step of complaining to Russian President Vladimir Putin through back channels.
"This was a hack-riddled election," said Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. “Foreign agents hacked into voter databases in certain states. Many Americans are wondering if our election results are reliable. We deserve elections we can trust.”
"The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle," former FBI director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee last spring. "They did with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts."
"It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing – it really is an American thing," Comey added. "They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.”
Oregonians are fortunate to live in an civilized state where voting is easy. We vote from the comfort of our own home by marking a paper ballot that can be mailed in or dropped off. We can reasonably expect an accurate count of those paper ballots and we can conduct an honest recount if necessary. The problem of hacking simply disappears when ballots actually exist in the real world.
The rest of the nation is following our lead. But we Oregonians still don't vote anywhere near the 85 percent level necessary to make our government a true democracy.
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