We’ve handed control over our elections to corporations

While contested elections are not a new concept, it is not often that a presidential election has been challenged in the way the 2020 election has. More recently, issues have revolved around electronic voting machines. It’s hard to imagine that an entirely electronic voting system would be allowed at any level given how easy it is to manipulate the data electronically. How easy? This easy:

Vote Weighting

Weighting is when a multiplier is assigned to a given value -- in this case, a vote.  These multipliers are coded into the machine prior to the election. Just a few lines of code can make one vote worth 1.2 votes or 0.8 votes.  Or the code might weight the total vote count for a given candidate to dictate the final vote total.

If the entire recording/counting system is contained in the machine, i.e. no paper, proving vote weighting is practically impossible (especially when software audits are not allowed). More sophisticated algorithms would simply “correct” the necessary votes so an alternate verification would yield the same skewed results. 

Active Vote Tampering

Computers can make real-time adjustments during the election without physically touching the machine via outside communication (internet connection, local network, etc). As votes are tabulated, outside computers can remotely access the voting machines and adjust the count. 

Under the Hood

Let’s talk about computer architecture, mainly the operating system. Most servers around the globe operate on variants of open-source software. The code is readily available and therefore, exploitable. An average computer programmer can download the source code, make changes, and use this “enhanced” version to run on any server onto which the enhanced version can be loaded.

Once the programmer has control of the information, anything is possible. There are many more layers, each with its own benefits and flaws, and all easily modified to provide the desired results. 

Clouds

“Cloud” sounds like a nefarious description. What is a cloud? Quite simply, it’s a place where your files are stored in a file system belonging to another organization. In this context, “files” means all electronic data from emails, texts, tweets, photos, to documents, including proprietary and personal information.

Admins from cloud hosting companies, which can range from a single person to a group of people, have access to every file stored in their system. Within Google, for example, there is most likely a group of administrators that can look at everything stored in their file system. It is safe to assume that everything you have stored on a cloud or transmitted through the internet can be subject to interception and/or manipulation.

Currently, Big Tech is the cloud gatekeeper. So, what happens when a rogue admin or executive decides to access your information and use it for political gain? We have part of the answer already, for Twitter, Google and Facebook have increased their censorship and weighed the merit of the content displayed.

Throw in online voting and one or two corrupt voting machine corporations and it’s easy to see the outcome: elections to order. This is nothing short of corporate communism. Russia and China would be proud.  There has always been vote manipulation, and now we can see it.

2020 has shown us how easily a few people can dictate something as critical as the United States election. We have all seen how hackers can connect to the Dominion systems and gain access to the core system. And even as we call those people “hackers,” people who commit the same crimes for their particular political party are deemed “patriots.”

Close the Loop

Until the election process is re-designed to provide an independent verification process, election theft will and should be expected (see Blueprint to an Uncontested Election for alternative approaches). Without the ability to verify the information, there will never be confidence in the system.

Imagine a job where you agree to work 40 hours per week at a certain rate. At the end of those 40 hours, you expect to be paid. Your company tells you that it made an electronic deposit to your account.

Would you assume the money is there or verify that for yourself? You would verify, i.e. close the loop. This concept works for the business making the payment, too. Fortunately, in the case of wages, goods, and services, money is the conduit to exchange, which means the loop is always closed.

So how do we close the loop on elections? We don’t -- not yet at least. Instead, the process says, “Trust us. What could possibly go wrong?”

David Premo has a B.S. and M.S. degree in electrical engineering.  His experience has included both computer hardware and software design.  He currently owns a small business, where he is a cloud designer, entrepreneur, and developer of an open-source accounting application.

Image: Dominion voting systems. YouTube screengrab.