The Vote Counts in Florida and Georgia bring a touch of honesty to a dysfunctional election day - The New Yorker

A A week past the meantime – as citizens in Georgia and Florida are fighting to get every vote counted – is a good time to remember that there is no explicit right to universal suffrage in the US Constitution. From the beginning, the franchise was defined by those who could not, instead of who, vote. On the election day, people who were not able to deliberately restricting I.D. requirements, which disproportionately affect people of color, received provisional ballot papers. This was just the last chapter in a long history of voter oppression. And when these provisional votes were challenged right after the elections, Republican lawmakers led by President Donald Trump started fraud with attempts to ensure the most fundamental premise of a free and fair election – that every vote counts and counts in the same way that chapter grew much longer. Although it is not clear what effect these false allegations of voter fraud may have in future elections, what they are currently uncovering is a flagrant attack on democracy itself.

Prior to the election, Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State for Georgia, who was responsible for overseeing his own election while running for the governor, rejected continuing efforts to restore the one and a half million voters who had eliminated his office between 2012 and 2012. , much because of small discrepancies in their addresses, names or voter histories. Kemp resigned as Secretary of State on Thursday after declaring himself the winner of Georgia's gubernatorial race, and Governor Nathan Deal appointed a friend, Robyn Crittenden, to take Kemp's seat. On Sunday Stacey Abrams, the challenger of Kemp, handed in a class-action suit to postpone the election ceremony until every vote was counted. Late Monday night, in response to another lawsuit, this on the eve of the election by the Washington watchdog organization Common Cause, court judge Amy Totenberg ordered the Georgian foreign minister to confirm the election until Friday. Totenberg's order required, among other things, that Crittenden had to take care of it rolling updates on rejected temporary votes and to set up a telephone line for voters to check the status of their vote. Meanwhile, the Kemp campaign issued a statement entitled "The antics of Stacey Abram … a disgrace to democracy." President Trump also weighed in and said on Twitter that Kemp "had a great race in Georgia – he has It's time to move on. "

Trump also joined the Florida elections, where the races for governor and senate are so close that they have started a recount. "The election in Florida should be mentioned in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in those large numbers of new ballots that have appeared out of nowhere, and many ballot papers are missing or forged," tweeted Trump. For the sake of clarity: there are no indications that ballots have been falsified and if one is missing, it may be that, like the hundreds found at Miami-Dade in the weekend, they have never been delivered. Scott, Florida's governor, who is a fraction of a percent ahead of Bill Nelson in the race for the Senate, has used his current office to call on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to "unrestrained" fraud & # 39; to investigate in South Florida and urge state sheriffs to confiscate ballot box machines. In a letter to Scott requesting removal from the recount, leaders in the local sections of the League of Female Voters and Common Cause wrote that the governor had "deliberately politicized the administration of the elections" and pointed out that the ministry of Florida or Law Enforcement has found no evidence of electoral fraud. On Monday, the nonpartisan non-profit, Protect Democracy, filed a petition with the federal court to remove Scott from exercising any authority over the election or recount. Meanwhile, Scott has fired five lawsuits, including one against Broward County's election officer for counting absent absentee ballots too slowly. "No ragtime group of liberal activists or D.C. lawyers can steal this election from the electorate in this great state," he said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. (It was rejected on Monday.)

Resentment and gibberish in Georgia and Florida are the exceptions, but the rule shows that voters across the country were unable to vote on Tuesday, such as long waiting times, intimidation and broken voting machines. A woman named Michelle from Porter County, Indiana, placed a long thread on Twitter about her experience as a first-time poll employee who met many of the dissonant remarks we had heard from the whole country on election day: polls that could not be opened in time because pillars did not show up; polling stations that did not open at all; missing ballots; ballots that were not counted. The electoral protection coalition, which has the largest non-partisan voter hotline in the country, recorded over thirty thousand calls from voters across the country who experienced problems.

With a few exceptions, the US elections are supervised by the 3,141 provinces and their equivalents, which in turn oversee more than 174,000 districts. The districts themselves are guarded by volunteer internship workers, who have the task of converting school spaces and church cellars into one-day public hubs equipped with technology that few of them understand. (Most are retirees, twenty-four percent of them are older than seventy-one.) The amateurish quality of the whole strive is of design: it is a way to ensure that American democracy is at its core local. This was favorable early Tuesday morning when people were sent away from a church in Philadelphia because the voting machines malfunctioned. After the machines were repaired, employees of the survey called the people who had left to tell them to come back. "They were all neighbors," Micah Sims, the director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, told me. "They knew who could not vote."

But untrained (or poorly trained) survey staff were also responsible for sending voters to the wrong neighborhoods, for telling people that they had already voted if they had not, for refusing language assistance to non-native speakers. and for aggressively challenging the credentials of voters. In Florida, when a Puerto Rican woman presented her American passport as I.D., she was wrongly told that she could not vote because she did not come from this country. In Texas, an election official heard racist remarks after questioning the correctness of a voter's address. In her Twitter account, Michelle, from Indiana, reported that her requests for poll-worker training were being ignored. Even if it were not, it is unlikely that they, or many others overseeing elections, would have had the expertise to repair the broken voting machines and jammed scanners covering many areas – eighteen polling stations in Philadelphia alone. Poorly functioning voting machines, most of which are far beyond the expiration date, were predictable. Many will still be employed in 2020, either because there is no money for replacement, or because, as the election security expert Harri Hursti told me last August, provinces are stuck in long-term sales contracts.

Four days before this time, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, told the Council on Foreign Relations: "This will be the safest election we have ever had." On the election day, D.H.S. setting up a "virtual situation room" in Arlington, Virginia, with a hotline that could call election officials to report problems. Representatives from the major voting machine manufacturers met in a non-classified environment, along with staff from Facebook, Microsoft, the National Association of State Secretaries and the National Association of Electoral Officers. (High-level threats were handled in a secret briefing room.) For almost two decades, Hursti and his colleagues have been alarmed about the insecurity of automated voting systems, such as those used in Georgia. Voting machines, centralized tabulators, wireless data transmission systems, electronic opinion polling books and voter registration databases are all vulnerable to different types of hacking. The 2016 election was a proof of concept. This year Christopher Deluzio, a lawyer with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice of N.Y.U., was an observer in the unclassified section of the D.H.S. "It was useful to have the venders there when calls came in about problems with electronic polling books, and especially some of the older machines and software," he said. But he warned: "it is probably premature to judge how safe the election was."

A new security feature advertised by D.H.S. was the addition of sensors designed to detect malicious activity on the election networks of forty states and sixty municipalities. (In 2016, twenty-nine states had them.) Although network sensors may have helped secure the elections, they may not have helped much. A test from the Government Accountability Office showed that the sensors could not find ninety-four percent of the known malware. Another study showed that they failed ninety-nine percent of the time. Equally crucial is that sensors can not detect insider hacks, especially when those insiders have administrative access to electronic polling books, voter registration databases and voice confirmation software.

This was recognized in the Monday night of Judge Totenberg, who noted that "according to Plantiff's complaint, information in the state's voter registration server, used in the polls to determine whether voters are eligible to vote, is vulnerable to multiple breaches of the law. security and can be misused through manipulation of voter data … Plantiff also claims that the omniscient maintenance by the secretary of an unsafe, unreliable voter registration database increased the risk that eligible voters were unlawfully removed from the electorate registration database of the state or that their electoral registration information would be unlawfully manipulated or improperly administered an ordinary ballot. "Susan Greenhalgh, the policy director of the National Election Defense Coalition, recently told me in an e-mail:" While we oppose the possibility that foreign hackers our election infrastructure attacks, we can also reduce the possibility of corrupt insiders who tamper with the election systems. "

There is a school of thought that American democracy is being harmed by talking about election hacking and system vulnerabilities, as these will prevent people from voting. (Apparently this was a reason why President Obama did not immediately inform the American public of Russian attempts to infiltrate the election system). But this does not seem to be true. A September poll conducted by Harrison on behalf of the security firm HackerOne, discovered that people would vote earlier in the meantime because of their fear of hacking. The record attendance of last week confirmed this at least partially.

Still, long lines, broken voting machines and discriminating I.D. Laws are well-known deterrents that continue to follow US elections until they are systematically addressed. States actively involved in voter participation, such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Vermont, have passed a series of simple voting reforms including registration on the same day, automatic voter registration to obtain a driving license, early voting and making it possible to to vote for e-mail by removing restrictions on who can get an absentee vote. Last Tuesday, a majority of citizens in Florida opted for it Restoring voting rights to criminals, and in Michigan, a package of reforms popularly known as "promoting the vote" garnered a sixty-six percent victory, both cases demonstrating the national desire for an electoral system that is as it should be: free and fair.

Even as the voice counts, the newly supported democratic members of the House of Representatives continue to promise that their first act in the new Congress will be legislation to make votes easier and more inclusive. This is ambitious. It has no passage in the Senate, where Republican members know that maintaining a majority means that a significant part of the political body is excluded. And that does not mean a president who is unfamiliar with the practice of democracy.