Tuesday, September 15, 2020

This Is How Stupid They Are

...or think we are.  Or both, which is the most likely.

The attorney general advanced the theory of a foreign adversary mass-producing U.S. ballots at a House Judiciary Committee hearing and in television interviews. Pressed for evidence, he told CNN this month that he was “basing that on logic.”

Those who know vote-by-mail best say that counterfeiting ballots on a scale that could affect a presidential election would be logistically impossible given safeguards already in place as well as how vote-by-mail works. The process requires exacting details, from the paper stock that’s used to listing the ballot measures and candidates that vary from one precinct to another.

“You would basically have to reproduce the entire election administration infrastructure atom-for-atom in the middle of Siberia in order to have any chance of doing that,” said Charles Stewart III, an elections scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Which, to put it bluntly, is not how Russian "hacking" works; and not being mechanical or physical, is why it works so well.  They don't even have to break the codes in our computers (though that's been done); they just break the "codes" of our culture.  Which, it turns out, is remarkably easy.

An intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security this month, first obtained by ABC News, said that Russian state media and proxy websites have sought to amplify criticisms of vote-by-mail to “undermine public trust in the electoral process.”

“We assess that Russian state media, proxies, and Russian-controlled social media trolls are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in democratic institutions and election outcomes,” the bulletin says.

Clint Watts, who studies Russian disinformation at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said that Barr’s claims give Russian agents “the fuel to advance the conspiracies they want to amplify in America.”

State-owned media like Russia Today, Sputnik News and other news sites with Russian ties are regularly running headlines making unsupported claims about vote-by-mail, which often amplify arguments already being made inside the U.S., he said.

“It’s much better if it comes out of an American’s mouth,” he said.

That's much easier than producing fake ballots.

A counterfeiter would need to know the exact ballot for each voter because ballot styles vary by jurisdiction with different state and local races and issues. Then the unique printing on the correct type of paper for scanners programmed to read that ballot would have to be reproduced, not to mention the bar codes and signature on envelopes used to identify each voter.

The faked ballots would also need to be matched with a registered voter who wasn’t going to vote either by mail or on Election Day because any instance of double-voting would lead to an investigation.

All of those measures mean it would be all but impossible to counterfeit enough mail-in ballots to sway a presidential election, said Jeff Ellington, president of Arizona-based Runbeck Election Services Inc., which provides printing, mailing and other election services.

“If I just printed 10,000 ballots and took them over to the county to try to get them to tabulate them, they’re going to have a sheriff on top me in a heartbeat,” he said.

The fantasy of millions of ballots is much more fun, as well as visual; and movies have taught us the visual is what you have to watch out for.  The abstract, the non-physical (remember when computers were portrayed as blinkenlights and spinning tape reels?), is much harder to depict.  There's a reason we never see our heroes in TeeVee shows and movies simply sitting and thinking.  It's visually equivalent to watching paint dry.  But the most physical thing about "hacking" an election (and again, I don't mean gaining access to computer programs) is typing out the messages for Facebook.

We do the rest.  And that's the real problem.

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