Steven Kurlander: Redefining a political hack: The dangerous obsolescence of the electoral process

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Stealing elections, even presidential ones, is an American political tradition dating back to the beginning of our nation.

Think about those hanging chads in Florida, or Mayor Daley stuffing the ballot box in Chicago for JFK.

But stuffing the ballot box is about to be taken to a new level in the race for the White House — not by Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but by the Russian government.

Our electoral process has failed to keep up and adapt to tremendous technological changes in the last half-century that impact the exchange, storage, and security of voter information and the election process itself.

Our political system is not only broken by being obsolete and inefficient, but extremely vulnerable to hacking and disruption to the point where the integrity of the elections can be greatly impacted.

“Cybersecurity experts have long warned that computerized voting systems are vulnerable to hacking, and what once seemed like wild prognostication is increasingly coming true,” writes Elias Groll of Foreign Policy.

As the presidential election continues, the Russians are penetrating these vulnerabilities to influence who wins the Oval Office by hacking their way into the American political system, some say to swing the election for Donald Trump.

The Washington Post termed the hacking campaign by Russia as “a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”

The most obvious example so far this election cycle was the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the release of emails by WikiLeaks showing a bias by DNC officials for Hillary Clinton, which impacted the Democratic convention and the Democratic Party itself.

In addition, the FBI issued an alert in mid-August after the Arizona and Illinois voter databases were hacked by what is again to be believed Russian operatives.

Disinformation, whether planted by a foreign government or a political adversary, is nothing new to politics, particularly when it can be identified as such by our security apparatus.

All those WikiLeaks about the DNC did was embarrass Democratic officials for a day and get Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired as chairwoman, which was going to happen anyway.

But if the Russians can hack into a Democratic or Republican Party database — or, even worse, the registration lists of various states — how can’t you believe that Putin could not compromise the tabulation of votes on Election Day to swing the election to Trump?

In this presidential race, most Americans have already decided who they are not voting for. So they won’t be fooled by the Russians, or anyone else, looking to sway their votes one way or the other or discourage their participation in the electoral process.

They are already very displeased with their politicians, and with the choice of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton too.

Now we must question whether their votes will really count, or be counted accurately.

There’s really no assurance these vulnerabilities are being adequately addressed and that Americans can be confident the final tabulations of the 2016 election will be accurate and correct.

Hacking is not simply a matter of simple voter fraud in the traditional sense that should be considered just another aspect of an American election. It’s about a Russian political hack, not American voters, deciding who is our next American president.

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Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary. He is a communications strategist and an attorney in Monticello, New York, writes for Florida Politics and is a former columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He can be emailed at kurly@stevenkurlander.com.

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