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Hack the vote: Russian election chief rips US elections, voting machines

Published time: October 31, 2012 12:12
Edited time: October 31, 2012 16:28
Vladimir Churov, Head of the Russian Central Election Commission. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Vladimir Churov, Head of the Russian Central Election Commission. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Russia’s Central Election Commission chief has ranked the American electoral system among the “worst in the world.”

­One of the main problems with the US electoral system is the lack of transparency, Vladimir Churov argues in an article published in Wednesday’s issue of Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

According to US law, international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are only granted access to polling stations in a handful of US states, including in Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.

In the other states, US Governors have the final say over the question of allowing international observers to monitor the election process.

According to Churov, however, the dark side of the American election process is that “OSCE monitors have been barred from entering polling stations even in the states where they may do so under US law.”

This lack of transparency opens the door to numerous possibilities for corruption and manipulation of the system, he added.

Churov then discussed a perennial problem with American elections: electronic voting machines that do not provide voters with a receipt for their vote, and which are highly vulnerable to manipulation.

"American voting machines have not been designed to provide any documentary evidence of citizen participation in the electoral process,” the Russian observer noted. “Moreover, operators [of the machinery] are technically capable of adding or dropping votes in favor of one candidate or another, leaving behind no evidence of violations.”

In October’s issue of Harper’s Magazine, Victoria Collier shows that with the advent of modern technology, “a brave new world of election rigging emerged,” which emerged with the “mass adoption of computerized voting technology and the outsourcing of our elections to a handful of corporations that operate in the shadows, with little oversight or accountability.”

Collier called the “privatization of our elections…one of the most dangerous and least understood crisis in the history of American democracy.”

Meanwhile, another study demonstrated that a person armed with about 10 bucks and a limited knowledge of technology could hack the vote.

“Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an eighth grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois,” reported Salon.

The analysts showed that the “newly developed hack” could manipulate voting results while leaving “absolutely no trace” of the crime behind.

Computer specialists can easily break into the system and cook the results, Churov said, adding that the owners of the Diebold voting machines have openly stated in the past their support of the Republican Party.

In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell wrote that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."

The outcome of the election, which showed John Kerry enjoying an insurmountable lead in exit polls, suggests that O’Dell was not exaggerating his support.

According to Collier, “In one Ohio precinct, exit polls indicated that Kerry should have received 67 per cent of the vote, but the certified tally gave him only 38 per cent. The odds of such an unexpected outcome occurring only as a result of sampling error are 1 in 867,205,553.”

To quote Lou Harris, the father of political polling: “Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen.”

Churov then criticized the US polling process, which may lift candidates into office without full popular support.

"It is generally believed that the American people will elect their president on November6. In fact, the president – an individual bestowed with enormous powers – will be elected by the so-called Electoral College.

The president will be elected by the 280 electors, not by all American citizens," the head of Russia's Central Election Commission noted.

One can only talk about the American people's right to elect their president with reservations, while the average American citizen's right to become president is completely out of the question," he said.

Unfortunately for the American voter, international observance of the US election process, which seems seriously vulnerable to manipulation, is not enough to guarantee democratic standards, Churov concluded.

On November 6, US voters head to the polls to decide the winner of the presidential contest, which pits the incumbent President Barack Obama against the Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Robert Bridge, RT