Culleton: Election system interference not a partisan issue

There is so much national news it is often difficult to sort out the main issues. But currently the most important issue is the ongoing interference with our state election systems.

This is not a partisan issue. If our election systems become unreliable the legitimacy of our whole government is put in question, whoever wins. It is reported that several counties in Florida have had their electronic voting systems hacked. The federal government stands ready to help. Unfortunately, the current governor of Florida is treating this as a political dispute and won’t move on solving the problem.


History repeats itself. In the 2000 United States presidential election, many Florida counties used Votomatic-style punched card ballots. There were a significant number of votes not counted because of imperfect punching of the cards, the so-called “hanging chad” effect. The Republican candidate was winning by the narrowest of margins. The state Supreme Court allowed for a manual recount but the Republicans appealed to the federal Supreme Court, which ruled against the recount.

The Republican candidate, George W. Bush, won the presidency nationally even though he had a minority of the popular vote nationwide. The controversy caused the rapid discontinuance of punch card ballots in the United States. But often they were replaced by systems using electronic equipment. They have a worse defect. They can be hacked.

Information can be stolen or in the worst case deleted or changed. This is not new news. David Baldacci's novel “Total Control,” published in 1997, describes the vulnerability of digital systems and one character suggests that election systems revert to paper documents and typewriters, using U.S. Mail for communications. That is perhaps an extreme solution, but certainly we should at least bar foreign hackers by eliminating internet connections in the design of our voting systems.

In similar fashion our national electric grid is in danger from hackers who have infiltrated the remote control stations. They can, by pulling a few levers, shut down our grid. But we had hydroelectric dams that worked just fine in times past with no remote control networks. Hoover Dam was working before I was born in 1932. Moving back to non-internet based systems will be more expensive and less feature-filled but will protect our voting systems.

Quoting one of my supervisors in times past we need to distinguish between “nice to have” and “got to have.” Internet-based systems are very attractive but they can too easily be compromised.

President Trump tells many untruths and changes his positions frequently. But the biggest untruths are the ones he tells to himself. For example, he brags that his assistance in an election contest for a seat in the House of Representatives will cause Democrats to lose heart and not vote. Of course the opposite is true. His presence will remind Democrats to vote against his favored candidate. But he is clever with his publicity strategy.

He will continue to seize media attention using outrageous moves like revoking the Top Secret clearance of prominent critics thus crowding other alternative news out such as the latest tape released by his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. These revocations are motivated by nothing other than a desire to punish his critics. This week, retired Adm. William McRaven published an open letter in The Atlantic to President Trump requesting that, in the wake of the president’s decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of a security clearance, the president grant him the same honor.

It is a startling intervention by the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. The only thing keeping President Trump from being impeached and removed from office next year is the continued support from those Republicans in the Senate who value party over country.

President Nixon was forced to resign for far fewer and much smaller offenses. The Republican Party, the nation and the world are each paying stiff prices to continue feeding the ego of our current incompetent incumbent president.