Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Security Businesses Government Privacy The Almighty Buck Politics Technology

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections (securityledger.com) 287

chicksdaddy writes: Do you think that shadowy Russian hackers are the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections? Think again. It turns out the bad actors in U.S. elections may be a lot more "Senator Bedfellow" than "Fancy Bear," according to Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting. "It's money," Harris told The Security Ledger. "There's one federal election every four years, but there are about 100,000 local elections which control hundreds of billions of dollars in contract signings." Those range from waste disposal and sanitation to transportation."There are 1,000 convictions every year for public corruption," Harris says, citing Department of Justice statistics. "Its really not something that's even rare in the United States." We just don't think that corruption is a problem, because we rarely see it manifested in the ways that most people associate with public corruption, like violence or having to pay bribes to receive promised services, Harris said. But it's still there.

How does the prevalence of public corruption touch election security? Exactly in the way you might think. "You don't know at any given time if the people handling your votes are honest or not," Harris said. "But you shouldn't have to guess. There should be a way to check." And in the decentralized, poorly monitored U.S. elections system, there often isn't. At the root of our current problem isn't (just) vulnerable equipment, it's also a shoddy "chain of custody" around votes, says Eric Hodge, the director of consulting at Cyber Scout, which is working with the Board of Elections in Kentucky and in other states to help secure elections systems. That includes where and how votes are collected, how they are moved and tabulated and then how they are handled after the fact, should citizens or officials want to review the results of an election. That lack of transparency leaves the election system vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, Harris and Hodge argue.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections

Comments Filter:
  • And they don't even think of gerrymandering at this level.

    • Gerrymandering is tough to be fare.
      Do you take a city and split it into two and split it with a rural area, To either get two people from the same party, while having no representatives from the other. Or do we have the full city. to get that one party, while leaving room for easy wins for the other.

      The biggest problem with the American System today, is if the minority party (right now the democrats) even if it is a slim minority. Have been drained of all power, so the majority party (right now the republic

      • Re:Gerrymandering (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @10:55AM (#54964875) Homepage Journal

        "Have been drained of all power, so the majority party (right now the republicans) is pushing their agenda"

        If you've been paying attention, you would not write this.

        Despite the President being elected as a Republican, the Republican Party, especially the leadership, wants nothing to do with him. the bureaucracy is actively undermining him daily. The opposition, of course, is engaged in preventing him from implementing his policies, and this is both expected and tolerable.

        But the clearly active soft coup is an actual threat to our nation. If this is successful, as much as 40% of the electorate will abandon the process and subvert it, having been shown that 'playing by the rules' doesn't work any more. This will happen across all level of government and will be nasty.

        The majority party, right now the Republicans, is in fact pushing their agenda. Their agenda is to depose the current, lawfully elected President. It will be interesting to see if this is actually tolerable, that is, if they can 'get away' with this by 'playing by the rules'. Their rules. The intelligentsia's rules. The governing class rules.

        • 1. Just because Trump is complaining about being treated unfairly, doesn't mean he is being undermined. He doesn't realize the diversity of the nation and the diversity of his own party. During the Obama care debates we had the "Blue Dog" democrats who pushed for the ACA to be far more conservative then a lot wanted. However actions such as using the Nuclear options to bring in a supreme court justice. And only 3 republicans voting down Trump Care (Just enough to make it fail) isn't undermining, but just

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        While it is, indeed, tough to create fair voting district boundaries, to approximate fairness is relatively easy compared to the effort that is put into gerrymandering.

        OTOH, since gerrymandering isn't a criminal activity, it's not, legally at least, corruption. I may think it *ought* to be, but that's a separate matter.

  • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @09:10AM (#54963889)

    "Forget Threat A! Focus all your attention on Threat B!"

    Nice try, every scoundrel ever. I think we can comfortably stand to worry about two things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      One threat can have tangible effects on our elections, while the other is an excuse for losing to a candidate that is less popular than being punched in the balls.
    • agreed!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @09:10AM (#54963901)

    I live in a rural city in South Carolina and I can say first hand that there is total election fraud going on in this state. I was an election observer during the 2016 Presidential election - that is - for about 20 minutes.

    From the get-go, election officials repeatedly turned away minority voters for "technical issues" with their voter registrations. They only provided provisional ballots to those who absolutely demanded them. Not a single white person was turned away or had "technical issues" during the time I was observing, which lasted until I was escorted out by police for trying to bring this to the attention of the higher ups. I was threatened with charges for interfering with an election and given a trespass warning until the end of the day.

    South Carolina is corrupt through and through. It would probably be a blue state were it not for corrupt election officials in the rural counties making sure that whites and republicans won.

    • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @09:17AM (#54963965)

      I live in a rural city in South Carolina and I can say first hand that there is total election fraud going on in this state. I was an election observer during the 2016 Presidential election - that is - for about 20 minutes.

      From the get-go, election officials repeatedly turned away minority voters for "technical issues" with their voter registrations. They only provided provisional ballots to those who absolutely demanded them. Not a single white person was turned away or had "technical issues" during the time I was observing, which lasted until I was escorted out by police for trying to bring this to the attention of the higher ups. I was threatened with charges for interfering with an election and given a trespass warning until the end of the day.

      South Carolina is corrupt through and through. It would probably be a blue state were it not for corrupt election officials in the rural counties making sure that whites and republicans won.

      It's not just the rural counties of South Carolina. I live in a fairly urban area that is over 50% minorities. Our wait time to vote in a Presidential election is typically 3hrs. Never enough voting booths. Lots of people don't vote because the wait is too long.

      People on the other side of town where it is mainly white and affluent tell me how they were in and out in under 10 minutes.

      Why does one side of town have 10 minute waits every election and the other side of town has 2-3 hour waits to vote? I don't believe it's a coincidence.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I very much doubt the delays were due to there being "never enough voting booths", like you claim. The voting booths are used for 30 seconds to a minute at most by each voter. In fact, the election officials and observers will get suspicious if somebody spends more time than that completing their ballot.

        Most of the time the voting booths themselves are empty, because it's the check-in process (i.e. identity checks and ensuring that the person can vote in the jurisdiction in question) that is the real bottle

        • by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @10:38AM (#54964695)

          It's not a matter of race or "corruption", like you're trying to pretend it is. It's a matter of some people being more prepared, and thus the process moves swiftly for them. Other people don't come prepared to vote, and this unfortunately introduces delays that affect all subsequent voters.

          Your rationale doesn't hold up - statistically, we would expect conscientiousness to be randomly distributed throughout the populace with no real geographical bias - so why would there magically be a lot of people with registration problems on only one end of town? And, if there are, then the election committee should preferentially allocate resources to that end of town to get things moving faster.

          • Your rationale doesn't hold up - statistically, we would expect conscientiousness to be randomly distributed throughout the populace with no real geographical bias...

            Why in nine hells would anyone expect that in very localized samples like voting districts!? Do you think voters in the Rodeo Drive district would be more or less conscientious than voters in the Compton district?

            And, if there are, then the election committee should preferentially allocate resources to that end of town to get things moving faster.

            Any time steps are proposed to improve the integrity of the voting system in the US, the Progressive Democrats start tearing their hair out screaming about disenfranchising some group, which assures that the same corrupt system stays in place.

            Strat

          • It's not magic, it's called gerrymandering.
          • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

            "we would expect"? Why would you expect that? I've watched both affluent and less well-to-do groups.

            The affluent, whether by birth or training, tend to approach a problem with preparation. And, their time seems to be valuable to them. That is one of many reasons they become affluent. In this case, that would mean that they would arrive at the check-in table with a valid ID out and ready.

            In the less affluent areas, you will see a contingent of ignoramuses who have not read the many signs posted to be re

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            I don't think you should expect "conscientiousness" to be randomly distributed. In areas where people are stressed for other reasons one should expect "conscientiousness" to be lower. Your second point, however, that "then the election committee should preferentially allocate resources to that end of town" does, indeed, appear valid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What is a "technical issue"? Is a technical issue something along the lines of they weren't technically eligible to vote? Is this similar to complaints that white people aren't arrested in proportion to blacks that ignore the stats on actual crime?
    • I live in a racially diverse area in SC and it doesn't seem to affect things at all. Twelve years ago we stood in line for 3 hours for a presidential election, but the local press was all over it and the election commission made changes. Since then I may get through in 10 minutes or 45. It depends what time I, and all the people in my voter district, show up to the polls. Sometimes they take a machine out for repairs, which also slows things down. We have a voter ID law here that requires showing a pho
    • by msk ( 6205 )

      What did the feds say when you brought this to their attention?

  • Ask Athens, Tenn. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @09:12AM (#54963919)

    Ask the folks who were in Athens, Tn,. who were around just after World War 2 ended.

    Hint - GIs came home and kicked ass over election and voting issues.

    http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/at... [jpfo.org]

  • Study recent 25 years history of Russian election. You'll find a lot of lessons of corruption, administrative pressure and so on yet to be learned by American politicans.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @09:20AM (#54963985)

    Where I live, the Democratic party has a total lock on municipal government. No elected official has been a Republican in 30+ years. The last Republican mayor's term ended in 1961. I think the last non-Democratic elected official was the city councilor for my ward in the early 1990s, and he was an "independent".

    When one party controls the city government, you don't need to cheat at the ballot box to have corruption because the party already controls who can get elected. Even without criminal intent, you wind up with a narrow group of people who ultimately control an awful lot of resources without much oversight.

    And it's not like the outcome would be any different had the party roles been reversed, it's the lack of active competition that's the problem.

  • I've worked in elections and I can say that our local system is excellent. Poll workers are well trained and management is responsible and trustworthy. There may be other states/counties where management is less dependable (I'm thinking of Florida handing the election to Bush), but the reality is that hundreds of volunteer workers are not going to tolerate any shady practices. Furthermore, in an election with a number of candidates and issues, is it reasonable to believe that one of those can corrupt the en

    • Poll workers are paid for there time as well!

      I did a few times and it's an long day but you can take an 1 hour lunch break in the middle.

    • Our new president has made a major effort to find election irregularities and so far has come up empty.

      He just didn't find the irregularities he wanted.

      It is a pity that a Demoncrat didn't get elected with a minority of the votes cast. Then we would see the Republicans dismantling the Electoral college and pronto.

      Then there is the question of exactly why a candidate who loses the popular vote is winning via the electoral college. Presidents Hayes, Harrison, Bush, and Trump all took office with a minority of votes cast. We'll ignore Jackson vs Adams for this argument. What is especially concerning is tha

      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @10:28AM (#54964589)

        Then there is the question of exactly why a candidate who loses the popular vote is winning via the electoral college.

        I think you have to dig deeper and start to look at geographical political divisions and ask if even a majority vote winds up being "fair" if deep divisions exist between rural areas and the West Coast/NE Corridor.

        It starts to come down to some basic constitutional-level questions of governance structure, like the reasons why we have bicameral legislature -- to prevent populous states from dominating low-population states.

        • Then there is the question of exactly why a candidate who loses the popular vote is winning via the electoral college.

          There is no question why. It is by design. What you see is a flaw is a built in protection of the majority from being able to totally control the government. Now the exact way the electoral college works is flawed, but the reason we don't do a strict popular vote is completely valid.

          • Then there is the question of exactly why a candidate who loses the popular vote is winning via the electoral college.

            There is no question why. It is by design. What you see is a flaw is a built in protection of the majority from being able to totally control the government. Now the exact way the electoral college works is flawed, but the reason we don't do a strict popular vote is completely valid.

            All you are saying is that you reject majority rule for minority rule then. Give me a rational reason that a candidate who received 3 some million more votes than another canditate should lose. The winner certainly had much more radical ideas and associates than the loser, who was about as establishment as you can get.

            Do you support a winner who polls at 33 percent favorable? Your idea of fair government is intriguing, you should have a newsletter we can subscribe to.

            Regardless, if you think that a la

            • No, I reject a majority rule for a rule of law. I don't care how unpopular a candidate is if they are elected and have limited power to restrict my freedom as intended by the Constitution. The candidates should be representatives, not kings. They may be bad at representing me, but they shouldn't be able to rule me.

              Give me a rational reason why population centers should be able to pick a candidate that isn't supported by the majority of communities in America. There are flaws to both systems, but straight po

              • I support the candidate that won under the rules of the election that were in place when the campaign and election were run.

                Okay, so you are a Trump supporter. Good for you, You and your ilk are polling at 33 percent favorable, so you'll probably call it fake news. If and when your guy is ousted, and calls for aremend innsurrection form you and his other supporters, will you take to the streets and kill your enemy?

                This is of course, a hypothetical. But if asked by Trump, will you declare war on the rest of us and act upon his demands?

                • Ok, so you are a partisan ideologue... I happen to be a libertarian and hate Trump's guts. I also hate Hillary's guts. If assholes on both sides start shooting each other in the streets, I'll be the one hiding in the woods. Or Canada.

              • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

                I could get behind a direct popular vote if we went back to limited constitutional government, but right now we have a enormously powerful federal government that intrudes into everyone daily life.

                People not in the NE Corridor or on the West Coast have vastly different political interests than those who do. Its would be total BS to allow two large population centers to strip those folks of any influence.

                Shrink the federal government until state taxes are higher than federal taxes and then we can talk about

            • " should the loser of the popular vote immediately be declared the winner?" The loser should be strapped to the Altar of Presidential Power so they can be sacrificed and the winner can consume their heart and vitality! We must return to the true basic ideals of government!
              • " should the loser of the popular vote immediately be declared the winner?" The loser should be strapped to the Altar of Presidential Power so they can be sacrificed and the winner can consume their heart and vitality! We must return to the true basic ideals of government!

                Finally heard from the Mississippi delegation!

            • by Teancum ( 67324 )

              All you are saying is that you reject majority rule for minority rule then.

              Absolutely! One of the points of the electoral college is that support for a candidate can't be geographically limited. You need to get a broad consensus across a whole bunch of different states in likely multiple regions in order to get elected President. If you are talking majority votes for office winning, that is the point of the U.S. House of Representatives.... which was designed from the beginning to be precisely that kin

              • All you are saying is that you reject majority rule for minority rule then.

                Absolutely! One of the points of the electoral college is that support for a candidate can't be geographically limited. You need to get a broad consensus across a whole bunch of different states in likely multiple regions in order to get elected President.

                Here's the problem. If we are to comply with the wishes of rural voters over urban voters, we have to comply over all, not just taken on a state level. The concept of Alaska or Montana being more equal because they are largely rural, is ignoring that large portions of say, Pennsylvania or New York are extremely rural, with low population density. So we need to give the Rural voters perhaps 10 votes per person to urban dweller's one vote.

                Then you don't have to come up with these cockamamie ideas that turn

        • Then there is the question of exactly why a candidate who loses the popular vote is winning via the electoral college.

          I think you have to dig deeper and start to look at geographical political divisions and ask if even a majority vote winds up being "fair" if deep divisions exist between rural areas and the West Coast/NE Corridor.

          It starts to come down to some basic constitutional-level questions of governance structure, like the reasons why we have bicameral legislature -- to prevent populous states from dominating low-population states.

          So should we disenfranchise populated states and allow the least populous states to rule? How about if the least populous states all voted for the candidate who won the popular vote, yet lost the electoral college. According to what I read, you would both support and reject the idea.

          The problem such as it is, is addressed within states rights. There is no way to address this "fairly" within the federal voting system. Why should the majority of voters have to be ruled by rural voters?

      • No, the Electoral College does not need to go. We are still a nation of states, a republic. States elect our President.

        A nationwide popular vote will, in the current circumstances, guarantee Democrat presidents for the foreseeable future. Whether or not this is reflective of our nation is an interesting question, but it will leave many states entirely without representation.

        Though, if we did abandon the Electoral College, maybe things would in fact change. Concept.

        • Think if the states changed their laws so that individual elector votes could go to a candidate instead of the entire state based on a majority it may do better.

          What is really crippling the political process in this country is that we have allowed two private organizations to obtain a stranglehold. And the only way to undo it is via legislation, which would need to be written and passed by the people who benefit from the stranglehold.

          For some reason, my sig seems to be even more appropriate in this thread.

          • Think if the states changed their laws so that individual elector votes could go to a candidate instead of the entire state based on a majority it may do better.

            I'd love for an honest poll of who supported what party, and their opinion on the electoral college. As an independent, I suspect that the number of Republicans supporting the present system hovers near 100 percent. Of course, all they will need is a Demoncrat to win this way and the opinion will shift rapidly.

            For some reason, my sig seems to be even more appropriate in this thread....

            I voted for Cthlulu - why vote for the lesser of two evils?

            • I voted for Cthlulu - why vote for the lesser of two evils?

              He didn't get enough signatures to make it on my local ballot...

              • I voted for Cthlulu - why vote for the lesser of two evils?

                He didn't get enough signatures to make it on my local ballot...

                Dammit, we have to change that law.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            You are complaining about the first past the post voting system, which as a tendency produces two major political parties and shuts out 3rd parties except when one of the major parties flounders. That historically did happen with the Whigs in the 1840s-1860's when the Republicans took over starting as a 3rd party and getting one of the major party slots.

            There are multiple voting systems that encourage groups besides the majors to be involved including IRV, approval voting, and others. I happen to like IRV

        • No, the Electoral College does not need to go. We are still a nation of states, a republic.

          Irrelevant.

          States elect our President.

          A nationwide popular vote will, in the current circumstances, guarantee Democrat presidents for the foreseeable future.

          And there you have it. Your get out of jail free card. The way in which you achieve minority rule, enabling your candidate to win without actually winning. Damn, pretty amazing that you talked some folks into this being a great idea. More on that near the bottom.

          Whether or not this is reflective of our nation is an interesting question, but it will leave many states entirely without representation.

          God, I just love this stuff. What do you mean leaving states entirely without representation? The majority of the governors are Republican, the majority of the house of representatives are Republican, the Majority of the Senate is Republ

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Besides this and other stuff people are debating on this topic, how about election day on a SATURDAY when people can make it to the polls (as suggested by another slashdotter). I wonder why your system is excellent, maybe people and officials are comfortable and not having to feel the need for greed?
  • I find much to disagree but there is some room for improvement.

    I think some oversight or setting standards and best practices and maybe a little of what NGO's do for underdeveloped countries where they don't control the election but have some federal officials which "witness" what is going on. And maybe not in *every* district just problematic ones or random ones to see if there are issues.

    The risk is that if you set up a federal election system then you *can* have control and fraud on a national scale. R

  • Really, just forget about them?

    Was this submitted by Trump himself?

    • Nah, if it was it would read more like this:
      "Election problems local. No Russians, bad people. SAD. Must make local elections fabulous again, the best ever. #MAGA"
  • I want an open and fearless look at the integrity of our voting system. I want surprise audits, investigations, and tests along the lines of AT LEAST what we do to test the effectiveness of the TSA. If the FBI can get bombs through a TSA check point... I think some fbi agents can probably get a bag of illicit votes through all the checks.

  • Absolutely the case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @10:46AM (#54964787)

    I have a relative who works as a sysadmin for a local water district. Technically these things are run by a publicly-elected board. In this particular district, the board was long ago populated by a bunch of contractors who primarily get their business from... the water district. So now, the "public election" means that there's a tiny classified ad buried in the back of some newspaper to advertise the election, the board members vote themselves back in every year, and they've got an understanding with the district employees that as long as the right contractors (the board) keep winning the bids, they'll generally vote for whatever budget items are requested by the staff.

    Corrupt as hell, but it's local, and there aren't hardly any journalists around to report on things like that, and if there were the story probably wouldn't get any news time because it's more important to talk about the Kardashians or something.

  • Strictly speaking, the practices described are not "corruption". To speak of corruption implies that a system has been subverted and is not working as intended and designed.

    In the case of Western "democratic" political systems, that is untrue. Those systems were intended and designed to work they way they do. It is only the naively igenuous who believe that election rigging and similar practices are "corrupt".

  • A friend of mine with a business in the desert southwest knew about my engineering background, and asked me to review some high-efficiency air conditioning units that were manufactured locally. The city was considering installing them in the city buildings, so she figured they might be good for her business as well. She sent me scans of the brochures and specs.

    The power consumption and cooling capacity didn't match up with any known air conditioner. Its power consumption was simply too low for it to b
  • by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2017 @12:57PM (#54966305)
    My son lost an election to an (IMHO) unqualified candidate who was backed by a local union here in Chicago. They spent more than $500,000 on a election where the total salary for the term was $160,000. Clearly they want influence on the budget and contract process. It is their money to spend and their right to free speech that defends their actions, even if it horrible public policy. There are no simple solutions.

    Without common sense campaign finance rules, corruption is defined by the highest bidders.
  • General rule of thumb, smaller = more corrupt.

    You have 10 million people as a base, it is not hard to find 1000 honest people willing to volunteer, and everybody has someone else looking over their shoulder.

    You have 10,000 people as a base, you can find 1 honest person willing to volunteer and have to hire 3, and all of them are on their own some of the time.

Where are the calculations that go with a calculated risk?

Working...