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May 24, 2024

Someone Needs to Go to Jail

That someone was able to both locate and reveal the supposedly secretly cast ballot of anyone, let alone the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, should rise to a federal investigation.

The “Australian Ballot” is the ballot Americans know and trust. First used in Australia in 1856, the ballot is what we know as the secret ballot. Americans trust that they can go to the polls and privately vote and no one will find out who they voted for. States even prohibit people taking pictures of their ballots to discourage voter intimidation. But Texans need to know they have a secret ballot no more.

In a wild story out of Texas, the website Current Revolt obtained Matt Rinaldi’s Super Tuesday ballot. Rinaldi, the outgoing Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, tweeted that he voted for Donald Trump. Fellow Texan and Federal Elections Commission member Trey Trainor challenged Rinaldi, tweeting, “So we’ll see you in a #MAGA hat at convention? With the ability these days to track ballots to individual voters I accept your challenge to see if it is #fakenews and see if you actually did vote for (Donald Trump),” on May 20, 2024.

Two days later, Current Revolt obtained a copy of Rinaldi’s ballot showing Rinaldi actually voted for Ron DeSantis — undoubtedly something many, many others did as well. Those who dislike Rinaldi wish to focus on his vote for DeSantis while publicly claiming to vote for Trump. That is like looking at the present under the tree and ignoring Santa Claus is standing right there. In Texas, the secret ballot is dead.

That someone was able to both locate and reveal the supposedly secretly cast ballot of anyone, let alone the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, should rise to a federal investigation. Current Revolt, in revealing Rinaldi’s ballot, wrote, “There are multiple methods that can be used to reveal ballots cast by voters in Texas. The Rinaldi ballot was obtained with one method. Another method, is described in a lawsuit led by Dr. Laura Pressley.” (Emphasis added) In other words, the site did not wish to reveal the means by which Rinaldi’s ballot was obtained and who actually obtained it.

It appears the ballots in Texas are tied to unique identification numbers using a base16 hash, which in English means they are very easily hackable and identifiable. In the lawsuit by Pressley, she showed that publicly available data makes it easy to obtain voter demographic data that can be easily sorted down to a precinct level to identify an individual ballot in almost any part of Texas. Notably, mail-in ballots are secure. The vulnerability only exists with ballots cast in person on Election Day.

Imagine a teacher who works for the public school system who chooses to vote for a candidate who supports school choice. That will be a very real issue in Texas in the November election. The teachers unions can easily track down that teacher’s ballot. Imagine the private Trump voter who works with and is surrounded by progressives. They will be able to reveal the person’s private voting information. Imagine the opposite — a Joe Biden voter voting in a conservative enclave in Texas. Now his private vote for President can be revealed.

This is a dangerous issue. More troubling is someone surreptitiously obtaining the secret ballot of the Chairman of the Texas GOP. His, it seems, was not obtained through narrowing publicly available data but through some other means. The political ramifications of this are extraordinary. The legal ramifications should be, too. Americans take for granted their secret ballot, but people who vote on Election Day in Texas can have their votes exposed, subjecting them to harassment as is happening to Rinaldi.

Texas has election laws on its books that should prevent these shenanigans. They must be enforced. At a time when more and more Americans are suspicious of each other and cancel culture burns like a wildfire across the country, Texas’ election officials and statewide officials have the opportunity to calm things down through decisive action. Additionally, there needs to be an investigation into how Rinaldi’s ballot became exposed. Any person who engaged in illegal activity needs to go to jail and be an example of Texas taking the secret ballot seriously.

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