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September 1, 2016

Birds of a Feather: Russian and Democrat Election Hacks

Dems object to voter ID laws while decrying Moscow’s interference.

“The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” Not by way of a submarine off our coast but possibly by hacking state voter databases. The FBI is investigating breaches of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois, with the Arizona hack stemming from Russia. The source of the Illinois hack remains undetermined. While the G-men haven’t publicly said whether the hackers were connected with the Russian government or were simply private Russian mercenaries looking for information, the breaches are alarming, to say the least.

Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff reports that in Illinois, hackers downloaded personal information on up to 200,000 voters, forcing a 10-day shutdown of the state’s voter registration system. (The Washington Post notes the hackers didn’t actually breach the system but rather stole the username and password of one election official. Guess one weak link in the cyber chain can wreak far-reaching and major havoc — in case Hillary Clinton is listening.)

Meanwhile, in Arizona, hackers targeted the state’s system with malicious software, but didn’t export any data.

As cybersecurity expert Rich Barger put it, “This is a big deal. Two state election boards have been popped, and data has been taken. This certainly should be concerning to the common American voter.”

In fact, the breaches prompted the FBI to issue an “unprecedented” warning to state officials about potential hacking of their election systems. And with good reason. As John Sexton notes, “The real concern here is not the two intrusions that have already been detected but the possibility that a full scale hack could create chaos on election day” and, in some states, “potentially make the outcome of the election in those states suspect.”

If you think hanging chads were a disaster, you haven’t seen online voting fraud.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Russia has taken aim at our elections. You’ll recall, of course, the huge hack of the Democratic National Committee emails just shy of the party’s convention this summer. The emails seemed to show an internal party conspiracy to guarantee Hillary Clinton the nomination, and the revelation cost DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz her party title.

Now Democrats have pleaded with Republicans not to use any hacked and leaked information against them in this election. But as Sexton asks, “[D]oes anyone think that if the shoe were on the other foot, i.e. if oppo research material on Republicans had been dropped in the lap of Democrats, they would forswear using it as a matter of patriotism?”

In fact, the Dems were quick to accuse Donald Trump of conspiring with Vladimir Putin to win the election. As we’ve noted before, though, it’s far more likely Putin would prefer a weak and controllable Clinton presidency to an unpredictable Trump White House. Still, if Russia — or any foreign power for that matter — is trying to influence American elections, that’s a problem.

Naturally, the government agency charged with helping states administer elections tried to downplay the threat. The Washington Post reports that Election Assistance Commission Chairman Tom Hicks “said he is confident that states have sufficient safeguards in place to ward off attempts to manipulate data.” The Post further notes, “Hicks also said the actual systems used to cast votes ‘are not hooked up to the Internet’ and so ‘there’s not going to be any manipulation of data.’ However, more than 30 states have some provisions for online voting, primarily for voters living overseas or serving in the military.”

For the record, such confident denial by the government in the face of abounding evidence to the contrary should never been believed. (Need proof? Just remember there’s “not a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS.)

In reality, these hacks should do more than “concern” Americans. They should outrage us. What’s more, they should light a fire under state legislators to tighten election safeguards. As Citizens for Self-Governance president Mark Meckler told The Daily Signal, “We know [this vulnerability] can disrupt the integrity of an election. There are so many states with no voter ID laws that hacking into voter registration is a danger.”

Indeed, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes 32 states will have some form of voter ID laws in effect for the 2016 election, but only a handful strictly require that voters present a photo ID.

And some that do require it are under assault from the very Democrats feigning outrage over Russia’s security breach and blaming Trump for undermining the integrity of our elections. The Supreme Court just yesterday let stand a challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law.

If you’re a Russian hacker wanting to manipulate votes from Moscow, lax voter ID laws are your best friend. Thanks, Democrats. With the recent breaches, the question isn’t whether our voting systems are at risk. The question is how much damage can be done, and will elected officials take the steps needed to protect the integrity of our elections.

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