We are now in the final weeks of the midterm election and the focus has shifted entirely to voting. Mail-in ballots are in people’s hands and early voting began on Monday across the country. Whether you’re watching the thousands of people lined up to vote in Houston, or you are trying to find a way to be more outraged at the brazen suppression of votes in Georgia, or letting your emotions get dragged around by polls reported online, Resisters are in the eye of the political storm right now.
The campaigns are at full strength. Everywhere I go in St Petersburg, FL, I see teams of volunteers at doors with clipboards. Anyone with a pulse is going to be dragged to the polls by November 6th and anyone identified with the Resistance had better be set up for a volunteer shifts by now. At least eight different campaign entities have texted me to schedule my volunteer shift. If you’re not directly involved in a campaign right now, pause the podcast and go sign up for a shift.
But lurking under the surface of our courageous charge towards the vote November 6th is the fear that it won’t matter – the fear that our election results won’t reflect the actual votes cast. It’s hard to get a straight answer from anyone in a position of authority about the integrity of our elections. That’s partly because elections are a vast infrastructure that is genuinely hard to talk about in any concise or simple way. But stories about election tampering undermine people’s deepest faith in democracy. Before Trump, no one in office wanted to undermine our faith in democracy.
There has been a convention in this country for several generations, a pact among elected officials and media outlets to laud our election system as correct and reliable, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Al Gore will be remembered for silencing critics of the mishandling of the 2000 election recount despite it having cost him the presidency, in order to affirm for the nation the integrity of our democracy. The Democratic Party’s determination that the nation would be harmed more by undermining people’s confidence in our elections than by the ascendance of a Republican president looks today, not just like an unsustainable naiveté, but like possibly the moment Republicans saw they could take absolutely everything from us, so deep and misplaced was our trust that they would crown our good with brotherhood.
Legacy media outlets have stood by the pact not to even discuss the possibility of attacks on our elections throughout the last three years. A single article in Bloomberg about Russian penetration of the elections systems in 39 states has stood orphaned since June of 2017, undisputed but almost entirely abandoned as a story. Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson warned the public that Russians had attacked Florida’s election system in August of this year, apparently basing his comments on classified material he’d accessed as a Senator. That story, too, hung in the air, pregnant with everybody believing it was likely true, but without research, positions, or action by anyone in authority.
The determination of the Democratic Party and mainstream media to steadfastly pretend that our elections were fine when they weren’t left more and more of us feeling like we were being gaslighted by both sides. During the 2016 election, at a time he apparently knew a certain amount about Russian efforts to interfere in the election, President Barack Obama told us that US elections couldn’t be rigged because they were so decentralized.
But activists and independent journalists around the country have been putting serious research out to their followers online about the criminal backgrounds of the companies building our most common election software. They’ve exposed the fact that wireless modems have been installed in election equipment across the country, amounting to an open door for manipulation of both individual votes and vote tallies. They are showing the stunning regularity of election night ‘glitches’ that result in dramatic reversals of fortunes for losing Republicans. As the emergence of cell phone camera video exposed the reality of police violence against Black Americans, social media discussions and new media are making it impossible for the biggest outlets to continue to pretend that everything is working just fine.
In a major shift just this week, the New York Times published an editorial finally breaking the official silence on the potential for stolen elections. Their Oct 19th editorial is entitled “America’s Elections Could Be Hacked. Go Vote Anyway” It’s a relief to have the conversation move out into the open and hopefully will be the beginning of serious reporting on the threats to this core of our American system of government.