All the fuss and noise about Russian interference and meddling in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 has, thus far, not amounted to much.
All that has been established is that Moscow spent some $100,000 trying to foment and inflame social media passions through fake posts by Russians posing as Americans.
Big deal. No way that this effort influenced the outcome of the U.S. election!
The Senate Intelligence Committee has just reported that there is “credible evidence” of attempts by Russian hackers — presumably from the government — to penetrate our voting system on Election Day.
In Illinois, where the investigation has been most extensive, the committee’s bipartisan report said that “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data inside an Illinois database during the 2016 election.”
While there is no evidence that they did so, the fact of being able to manipulate vote counts and voter rolls is terrifying.
Because voting systems are a province of state and local governments, the Russian hackers apparently tested the relative strengths and vulnerabilities of the systems in all 50 states, presumably for future use.
Hillary Clinton’s claim that Russian interference played a significant role in her 2016 defeat is obviously disingenuous.
But the fact that she has cried “wolf” should not blind us to the threat of the real carnivores in Moscow.
If Russia or China have the capacity to interfere in the voting systems of key swing states — and impact our election results — we have to act swiftly to prevent it.
While we should continue to make election law the preserve of local governance, the threat of sophisticated hacking — well above the technical skills of state anti-hacking efforts — argues for federal intervention.
If Russia or other state actors cannot influence the outcome of our elections but can do enough to sow mistrust and concern about the accuracy of our vote counts, the damage will still be enormous.
It will be hard for the Senate Committee report to be heard over the distraction of phony charges of Russian-Trump collusion or the reports of the disgraceful efforts of our intelligence community to promote that phony narrative, but we must listen hard.
We need to take this threat seriously regardless of party.
Remember what Stalin said: “It doesn’t matter who casts the votes. It matters who counts them.”
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