Democracy Blog.

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Manafort in the Middle

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Having made documentaries on election fraud, I’ve had to put a great deal of thought into how one can steal an election. 

This short doc “Mike Connell: Man in the Middle” reveals how state election officials can use subcontractors to circumvent the state election reports and replace them with their own numbers, and how Bush pulled out an unlikely win in Ohio 2004.  

Mike Connell,  the Bush election hacker who died in a suspicious plane crash, also happened to work with Manafort. In 2004, same year as the controversial re-election of Bush, Ukraine’s election was riddled with fraud, caused by the candidate that Manafort worked for, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. As Yanukovich’s unpopularity bubbled over to public unrest, he fled his own country for Moscow, where Putin protected him and proceded to invade and annex Ukraine.

So when it was first reported in the summer of 2016 that a digital fingerprint gave away the supposed lone hacker Guccifer 2.0 was actually Russian intelligence, my mind went to how I would try to influence the election, if I were Putin.

To put it simply, you would make sure the actual vote counts reflect the outcome you desire. If you are working from the other side of the world, you would attempt to do this remotely. America’s election security has been proven to be unreliable again and again. The Brad Blog has reported on this for 15 years.

So if you are going to deploy hackers to disrupt a rival nation’s elections, are you just going to hack some emails and hope they play out the way you want? Or would you take the same steps to hack state voting databases? Would Putin really go through the effort of striking at our elections with some gossip?

Keep in mind, we know Russia hacked into 39 states’ voter rolls before the 2016 election.  We know that Russians sent a phishing scheme to elections officials and attacked a voting software maker, because the NSA sent Reality Winner to jail for leaking that information. We also know that Russia already has hacked our utilities and energy infrastructure.

So is it realistic to think that Russia could have hacked the actual voting results? Why wouldn’t they? While officially no vote altering has been reported, it’s not the kind of thing that is always detected electronically, and until there is a real manual hand count of votes after the election, we don’t know how accurate the ballot scanners and tabulators were. Moreover, many officials believe that confirming election hacking would only erode faith in the system even more.

While we psych ourselves up for another long, heated election, the truth is, none of it matters if we don’t have a fair vote count.

I am not about to go to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Michigan, and try to shake down their state officials over votes like I did in Ohio after 2004. The big lesson of 2016 is that the traditional swing states like Ohio and Florida aren’t the only places to watch out for.

So while we psych ourselves up for another long, heated election, the truth is, none of it matters if we don’t have a fair vote count. That means concerned citizens in every state need to get personally involved in how their statewide elections are run and counted. Election officials serve the public and are required to serve under (polite) public oversight.

Maybe Manafort can enlighten Mueller on what happened on Election Night 2016? He’s now scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, and his assets have already paid for Mueller’s investigation.