Smoke and Fire and Vote Suppression

Can an American election really be rigged? Probably not–but it looks like we’re going to find out just how good those Russian cyber guys are. In any event, if results could be manipulated, it wouldn’t be through so-called “voter fraud.”

Repeated accusations of in-person voter fraud just go to disprove that old adage that “where there’s smoke, there must be fire.” GOP officials across the country have generated a whole lot of smoke, despite the fact that numerous credible studies have found that the incidence of this particular offense is–in the words of one scholar–“vanishingly small.”

Trump, of course, wasn’t content with the level of smoke being generated by party pooh-bas –or even with the tactic’s demonstrable and intended side-effect of discouraging poor and minority folks from voting. Intent on proving that he did too win the popular vote and those three million more votes for Clinton were all fraudulent, he has convened a national commission to “investigate.”

It isn’t going well.

I’ll let Juanita Jean explain: 

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that the head of Trump’s so-called Voter Fraud Commission has made a request of every state’s voter file so he can give it to the Russians.  Okay, okay, I just made up that last part.

“The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state.”

He says he’s going to make all this information available to the public…I’m gonna try real hard to think of a way this information would be important to anyone in the federal government except for voter suppression.

Evidently, state officials are having an equally hard time envisioning a legitimate reason for supplying this information–not to mention that election laws in a number of states prohibit doing so (something you might think they’d have known). Thus far, forty-plus states have refused to comply.

Trump’s touching concern about voter shenanigans evidently doesn’t extend to other ways of manipulating election results, despite the fact that such fraud is far more likely to occur through the hacking of voting technologies. Given irrefutable evidence of Russian efforts to interfere with the last election, it would seem prudent to investigate whether that interference extended to breaches of voting machines.

The Trump Administration–surprise!–disagrees. 

Pressure to examine voting machines used in the 2016 election grows daily as evidence builds that Russian hacking attacks were broader and deeper than previously known. And the Department of Homeland Security has a simple response:


DHS officials from former secretary Jeh Johnson to acting Director of Cyber Division Samuel Liles may be adamant that machines were not affected, but the agency has not in fact opened up a single voting machine since November to check.

A number of recent reports suggest that at least 39 states were targeted by Russian hackers. DHS itself has confirmed domestic attacks, but the agency continues to insist that there is no reason to look further.

Computer scientists have been critical of that decision. “They have performed computer forensics on no election equipment whatsoever,” said J. Alex Halderman, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about the vulnerability of election systems. “That would be one of the most direct ways of establishing in the equipment whether it’s been penetrated by attackers. We have not taken every step we could.”

Voting machines, especially the electronic machines still used in several states, are so insecure that an attack on them is likely to be successful, according to a report from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice out Thursday morning. David Dill, a voting systems expert and professor of computer science at Stanford University quoted in the report, said hackers can easily breach election systems regardless of whether they’re able to coordinate widely enough to alter a general election result.

Intimidating poor folks in order to “protect the integrity of elections”? Check.

Looking to see whether voting machines might have been tampered with? Nah.


  1. Let’s not forget the small story this week about the woman who was convicted of voter fraud (I can’t recall where)–for voting for Trump twice.

  2. As long as the party with all the power is the beneficiary of any sort of tampering, nothing will ever be done about it.

  3. With Pence as Trump’s running mate; was Indiana one of those states targeted by Russian hackers to help Trump get elected? I still do not know, and will never know, if my vote on November 8, 2016, was counted. As soon as I stepped away from the booth, a poll worker took me by the upper arm and guided me to a ballot machine which rejected my ballot. She was visibly upset when I entered it a second time before she could stop me, it was rejected the second time. She then took my by the arm again, told the man behind me not to insert his ballot till she returned and guided me to a second machine which accepted my ballot.

    I voted on those highly questionable machines in Florida for 7 years; remember “chad”? There were many times when it didn’t feel as if the bit of paper was totally pushed through. We all know the story of the Florida presidential “recount” with daily reports in local news about long lists of rejected votes. The question of voter “fraud” has been in the news in recent years; questioned during campaigns and primarily by Republicans in areas they later won.

    We will never get the answers to the questions regarding Russian influence; they have been on our enemy list for decades. But there are enough questionable election results where influence by Russia or any other country is doubtful; there have been rejected votes and voters since the end of the Civil War.

  4. It’s time to go back to paper ballots. The machines aren’t only not secure, they’re not used often enough to justify the cost and endless upgrade cycle.

  5. we Americans today,are simply stepping back,and forgetting a very important issue,our democracy, if we are to keep,our nation free from harm,whether it be a attack by a nation,terrorists,or a attack within, we must all,unite to stop it. We may see a trivial issue here,or we may need to really stand up this time and get aquainted with your reps. This country,and the only one we will ever be a part of,is under attack,by our own reps. Obviously,their lack of immediate concern is in line with treason. why? because they,are selling us out to a foreign nationals who seeks to suppress our rights to persue our civic duties as citizens,and keep,our country free from any invaders.. we are, being subject to a mass unaccountability by the very people we have elected. our secuitry agencies are under siege,by the very congress we support,via,the vote. if democracy means little,and our own reps refuse to stop all activities in congress until this mess is settled, we, have only persued our own demise as a nation. The support for a president who, has nothing but his own ego and a signature to run this country,and cheap minions in the congress who follows,are no more than corprate mongers who have totally devoided themselves in front of us. We must as a citizen,and as a whole, stop our reps, from their own agendas,and again begin to vote as a whole on the majority they represent. We dont need to be reminded what is at stake here,nor should everyone who is a citizen,and supporter of our democracy. We need not become some third world nation and act in a autocratic way to suppress any citizens right to speak out,study the issues,make remarks and vote without suppression from the same government,or governments, we have so far,elected. If we dont make a voice,the mob on the hill will only reduce us to trivial voices. When the media has taken sides,and suppressed our voice,when the streets are no longer safe to protest,we have failed to do our part. If our president wants our voter rolls, tell him and your go to hell…..

  6. Joe Berkemeier,

    “It’s time to go back to paper ballots. The machines aren’t only not secure, they’re not used often enough to justify the cost and endless upgrade cycle.”

    I tend to agree with your statement. Aside from voting machines not being secure and the recurring costs for software updates, there’s something so satisfyingly concrete and tangible about completing a paper ballot and dropping it into a ballot box.

  7. In Fl now they use paper ballots that are scanned for counting. Automated counting plus paper for audits. It’s a pretty fool proof system at least as far as the individual voting places are concerned.

    However I imagine the scanners “report” to centralized computers for tallying over the Internet. That’s where hacking is possible.

    Voter fraud that significantly favors one candidate over the other is just another of the conspiracy theories that are the backbone of fake news and science.

  8. You may need to re-define irrefutable evidence since nearly every Drumpf supporter asked claims they pay no attention to the Russia probe because it is fake news.

    iowa’s homegrown asshat congressweasel-‘Cantaloupe Calves’ King sez if the Russia probe isn’t dropped he may reopen HRC’s server investigation. Sounds like a serious threat, but which wingnut in power would investigate this dip###t?

  9. At least here in Marion County Indiana, we use a paper ballot read by a machine. There is in essence a paper trail if a recount is needed, etc. I suspect one reason for some reticence for investigating the accuracy of voting machines with out a paper trail, is the vendors would not want it.

  10. Of course elections can be rigged. They can be rigged and have been rigged throughout history in all sorts of ways. From throwing out ballots, to rejecting voters at the polls, to getting away with lies unchecked by media, to flyers on cars and houses threatening to jail minorities if they show up the polls… how are just a few of the examples from modern history NOT rigging elections?

  11. I agree with those who write that we should go back to paper ballots or any other system that cannot be influenced electronically. Our democracy is at stake and we should not allow Putin or anyone else to interfere with one of the fundamental pillars of democracy, the right to vote and have it counted in a free and fair election. Republican attempts to get state voter lists to (ostensibly) check out voter fraud in the face of its virtual non-existence has all the overtones of a Bannon-inspired move toward authoritarianism along with the pretense that voter fraud even exists. I do not find among the powers granted to the federal government, whatever the pretended rationale, a power to determine the voting history and political affiliation of citizens. Perhaps a class action lawsuit against secretaries of state or other such state officials in charge of voting histories in those states where giving up such information (excluding those in which it already illegal) would clarify the situation and end this phony grounds for another power grab.

  12. So the party of personal responsibility, hint, it’s the GOP, says we don’t need no stinking computer scientists to check the machines! There’s no there there. Am I Right?

    Wrong. I’ve been following Brad Friedman on Brad’s blog for nearly a decade and there is voting manipulation going on, in every single election. He along with Greg Palast have teamed up and shown the world how this works in modern times. But they don’t get the attention they deserve.

    And, coming from a network computing background, I know that networks can be compromised externally. I was on the Disaster Recovery Team at my international company for years and created the Disaster Recovery Process in case of a virus attack on our network. I’m very proud of that process and we had to implement it a couple of times when we had a “denial of service” attacks on our network.

    But we as a country, do not have a Disaster Recovery Process for our elections and why? Because if we did, there would be no two party system, there would be multiple parties and nobody in Congress wants that! /sarcasm.

    Check out Brad’s Blog here from 2012.
    His facebook page here –
    Greg Palast here –

    The only reason they haven’t investigated this election’s machines or outcomes is that they knew it was rigged and the investigation would prove it. Remember recently when I said that if you think the Russians stopped short of hacking the election results, I’ve got ocean front property for sale in AZ for ya?
    That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

  13. Hello Professor: my comment is waiting moderation because I put a couple of links in it. Please approve. thanks!

  14. If the Fake President Donald Trump claims there is voter fraud, you can count on one thing. There is no voter fraud.

    Trump has misled his followers every step of the way. Why would this situation be any different?

  15. I agree with those advocating for paper ballots. After paper ballots have been implemented, and after we successfully go to war with Russia,only then will everything be right with the world.

    *Sarcasm on high wrt Russia.

  16. A news clip earlier today stated Trump had again threatened to use his PAC to run negative campaign ads against Republican Senators who do not vote to pass his latest un-health care bill. Can this public blackmail be construed as a form of voter fraud?

    It is not one of Trump’s brightest threats; the last thing Republicans want to do is chance losing any incumbent in upcoming elections. Are any of them smart enough to consider this and stand up for what they KNOW is the correct vote on his latest disaster?

  17. Mr Ritter was correct about WMD’s in Iraq.

    An Excerpt:”
    The approach taken by Brennan’s task force in assessing Russia and its president seems eerily reminiscent of the analytical blinders that hampered the U.S. intelligence community when it came to assessing the objectives and intent of Saddam Hussein and his inner leadership regarding weapons of mass destruction. The Russia NIA notes, “Many of the key judgments…rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior.” There is no better indication of a tendency toward “group think” than that statement. Moreover, when one reflects on the fact much of this “body of reporting” was shoehorned after the fact into an analytical premise predicated on a single source of foreign-provided intelligence, that statement suddenly loses much of its impact.”

    Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of “Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War” (Clarity Press, 2017).

Comments are closed.