Opinion

To avoid voter hacking, bring back the levers

Maria Dryfhout

For months, Donald Trump spouted off during the presidential campaign about how rigged the electoral process is. Upon his election, of course, he no longer makes that claim.

Ironically, now some on the left, who weeks ago were mocking Trump's claims, are now suggesting that some voting machines were perhaps tampered with. Some computer geeks, including Democratic partisan John Bonifaz, are demanding a recount in states Trump unexpectedly won, like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Media reports on networks like CNN are even openly wondering whether Russia was behind a mass hacking of our voting apparatus. (If there were any truth to Trump's rigging claims, it lies with the liberal media's concerted and admitted effort to abandon objectivity in the last election.)

But if some of these political elites are feeling anxious over a potential hacking, all I can say is: "serves you right." Those of us who vehemently fought the introduction of electronic voting machines over the last decade were ridiculed as being dinosaurs hanging on to so-called "obsolete" lever machines.

But, we argued, there was nothing obsolete about them. In fact, our motto was: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There was nothing wrong with our lever machines. They worked perfectly well for a century. They were cheap, reliable and, most importantly, un-hackable.

The rush to go electronic was precipitated by the infamous Florida “hanging chad” controversy in the 2000 presidential election. Was the butterfly ballot a disaster? Sure. So why not dump the butterfly and replace it with paper or lever ballots that were proven effective in thousands of other jurisdictions around the nation? Instead, the electronic cottage industry emerged, realizing that there were millions of dollars for the taking by convincing naïve election officials and dopey legislators that "new" meant "better."

The electronic machine lobby started throwing big bucks to politicians, who began doing backflips to show the public how tech-savvy they were.

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard New York state was proposing spending over $200 million to replace the dependable levers with the new, unproven electronic scanners. To make matters worse, Suffolk County was forced to spend over $1 million to construct modifications to our election buildings to ensure the new machines would be stored in a temperature-controlled environment.

This colossal waste of money should have been reason enough to stop this absurd proposal in its tracks. But, more importantly, we warned that going electric would place our entire sacred democratic process in the vulnerable position of possibly being hacked by operatives with nefarious intent. We in Suffolk even brought legal action to stop this insanity. We lost.

So there you have it. The self-interested electronic machine lobby made investments through campaign donations and got the votes and funds they needed.

Meanwhile, dunderheaded legislators didn't raise a peep about possible cyber attacks. They were "assured" by the electronic machine lobby that it just couldn't happen.

The Clinton supporters alleging manipulation of the electronic machines probably won't be able to prove it. But their concern about future elections may be warranted. Is it time to go back to the basics?

And if the left is so concerned about the integrity of the democratic process, perhaps they can cease their illogical opposition to reasonable efforts to require voters to simply identify themselves with proper documentation. Those who oppose voter ID laws stress that claims of voter fraud are exaggerated. That's true enough, and conservatives should not pretend that this is a widespread problem. But when it comes to the sanctity of elections, every single vote matters.

While the number of illegal votes may be a small handful, the margin of victory in many state and local races is often less than that. By way of example, U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota won his 2008 race by 312 votes, a smaller margin than the number of votes his opponent claimed were illegally cast.

The balance of power in the New York state Senate currently rests on the recount of a handful of absentee ballots. And in the 2000 election, a shift of 500 votes in Florida would have given us President Al Gore.

Delegates at the Democratic National Convention claimed that requiring identification at polling station is racist, and yet they all needed to flash an ID card in order to get into the convention building. They claim it discriminates against the poor, but fail to recognize that ID is needed by many of these same folks to be eligible to collect a social services check. How is it racist in one instance, and not in the other?

I harken back to the day I was denied a county golf pass because I didn't have two acceptable IDs in my possession. Yet I could have voted under another name with no questions asked. Go figure.

The left and right disagree on many things when it comes to the electoral process. But for the sake of our democracy, let's unite in a joint effort to ensure that only those qualified to vote actually do. Let's also work together to dump these electronic machines and avoid even the slightest possibility that our political opposition – or even our international enemies – can illegally alter the outcome of our sacred democratic elections.

Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County executive, a state Assemblyman, and host of "The Steve Levy Radio Show.

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