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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Threat of Digital Vote Theft Looms Over 2020 Elections

Democrats concerned about voter suppression and vote theft should read Steven Rosenfeld’s salon.com post, “Why an overlooked digital election theft controversy offers important lessons for Democrats.” Rosenfeld, author of  Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election, calls attention to a very real possibility of vote theft in the 2020 elections.

Rosenfeld explains that online digital vote theft has allegedly corrupted provincial elections in Alberta, Canada, where “renewed allegations about the 2017 election of the leader to a newly formed conservative party offer warnings for 2020’s U.S. presidential caucuses,” and “the lessons go beyond technical glitches and human errors that have dogged telephone and online voting—which some Democratic caucuses may debut next year. Instead, they reveal how an aggressive campaign could hijack online votes.” Further,

…In Canada, recent party elections typically have involved telephone or online voting—which Democrats want to offer in 2020’s caucuses to increase participation. Such remote voting is the terrain where thousands of votes were allegedly stolen.

Prab Gill, an Alberta Legislative Assembly member from Calgary-Greenway who left the UCP, described the 2017 vote-stealing tactics in a February 11 letter to Canadian federal police. Kenney’s team allegedly found a way to divert thousands of online ballots from being emailed to eligible voters who registered with the new party, instead sending the ballot access codes to [United Conservative Party Leader-elect Jason] Kenney’s team’s computers, where online security precautions were evaded and votes were clandestinely cast for Kenney.

Rosenfeld notes that the alleged election rip-off involves manipulating pin numbers, log-in and authentication codes and fake email addresses. He adds that,

These details about the Alberta party election stand apart from other documented problems with online voting—such as voters’ inability to log in, or app stores getting overwhelmed by voters at the last minute, or a vendor’s servers not being properly programmed to handle volumes of vote-casting data. They provide a clear example of how online votes can be hijacked by an aggressive insider campaign—amid an atmosphere of unfamiliarity surrounding a new voting system in a first-time party-run contest.

Whether computer-savvy activists working for an American presidential candidate could pull off something akin to Kenney’s alleged hijacking of online votes in 2020’s caucuses is an open question…”

Open indeed. I would be very surprised if Putin’s hackers were not exploring the possibilities as you read this. If Democrats aren’t putting together a task force of top experts to meet this challenge, they aren’t going to like the headlines on the first Wednesday morning of November 2020.

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