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June 18th, 2018

Insight

Vote here, comrades

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published March 28,2018

Vote here, comrades

The midterm elections in this country should offer American voters our choice of Democratic, Republican or Russian candidates.

For once again, according to the Homeland Security Department as well as leading American officials, our Russian friends and infiltrators are planning to pull another fast one on Uncle Sam.

And why not? For our elections offer the softest of targets. There's no sense in using a nuclear missile when rigging elections can be far more cost-effective and much less likely to invite retaliation. Especially when the fix is already in.

According to a bipartisan conclusion out of the Senate Intelligence Committee, submitted by Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia: "The U.S. government should clearly communicate to adversaries that an attack on our election infrastructure is a hostile act, and we will respond accordingly." Whatever that means.

Just look at all the good it's done the Brits to huff and puff about attacks on Russian defectors staged on Her Majesty's soil. Namely, very little. After the usual tit-for-tat recall of British and Russian diplomats, this international incident will surely blow over, too.

So let's face it: The West is stuck playing defense in this game of international intrigue. To quote another member of the Intelligence Committee, Republican Susan Collins of Maine: "While our investigation is still ongoing, one conclusion is clear: The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections, and they will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in Western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections."

So what else is new? Free elections have seldom if ever been a goal of Russian diplomacy. And when they've been used as more than lip service by the Russians, they've proven only a brief interlude -- like Boris Yeltsin's short interregnum between Bolshevik rule and today's same old Russia.


Burr says the Intelligence Committee has uncovered some of the key gaps in this country's electoral system that have allowed the Russians to exploit it for their own subversive ends. The hidden enemy within a democratic system can prove far more dangerous than any openly declared enmity by a foreign entity. Burr says there is still much to do to safeguard our electoral process, but "we've got to get some standards in place that assure every state that at the end of the day they can certify their vote totals."

But how achieve that goal? Here's one time-tested way: Return to the past, for that would be real progress. By one count, there are some 10,000 polling places in this country, and it's worth at least as much time, trouble and effort to assure their integrity as it would take the Russians to corrupt them all.

All kinds of sophisticated ways are being recommended to safeguard American ballots from foreign interference, but too many of them smack of sophistry instead of simple, old-fashioned paper checks using pen and paper. Why not let the hanging chads fly and see the results? Who knows, they might add up in the end to clean elections beyond the reach of the Kremlin's meddling. It's worth a try. Let the Russians rig their own elections, thank you, and leave ours alone.

The experts claim to know better than American citizens who ask only for results that could be verified by examining tangible paper ballots. Our rivals in Russia can take it or lump it, but as Gentle Readers will already have surmised, there are times when the old ways are still the best ways.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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