By Perry Busby
“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced earlier this week plans for a program to protect voter registration databases and systems ahead of the 2020 presidential election. DHS’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, will head up the program, which is set to launch in late September or early October.
The announcement comes on the heels of an August 16 ransomware attack that shutdown systems in 23 Texas municipalities. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, there were 22 ransomware attacks on city, county and state government run networks in the first six months of 2019. Among those were Atlanta, Baltimore, Greenville (NC) and three cities in Florida.
Ransomware is a computer malware program that is distributed via email. The email pretends to come from a co-worker, supervisor or executive and contains an attachment that the unsuspecting recipient is asked to open. When the user attempts to open the attachment, the virus downloads itself onto their computer and sends itself to other members in the user’s contact list. When the hackers initiate their attack, they run the program, locking out all users from accessing files the network. It’s called ransomware because it displays a ransom message, requesting a dollar amount the business or government agency must pay to regain access to their files.
CISA will focus its efforts specifically on voter databases and voter registration systems. These systems are critical because they are the sole source for validating a voter’s eligibility prior to casting a ballot. As detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Russian hackers compromised several of these systems to collect information.
According to former and current U.S. officials, intelligence agency officials are concerned that foreign hackers in 2020 will not only target the databases but attempt to manipulate, disrupt or destroy the data.
“A pre-election undetected attack could tamper with voter lists, creating huge confusion and delays, disenfranchisement, and at large enough scale could compromise the validity of the election,” said John Sebes, chief technology officer of the OSET Institute, an election technology policy think tank.
The databases are also “particularly susceptible to this kind of attack because local jurisdictions and states actively add, remove, and change the data year-round,” added Maurice Turner, a senior technologist with the Center for Democracy and Technology. “If the malicious actor doesn’t provide the key, the data is lost forever unless the victim has a recent backup.”
Each of us has the capacity to endure difficult or challenging situations that seem in-surmountable. Some of us better than others. For those of us whose ancestors made it through the Middle Passage, survived slavery and withstood Jim Crow, endurance is in our DNA.
However, as we approach the 2020 election season, I have only one question to ask all of you lovers of liberty, defenders of democracy, advocates for justice and committed voters… HOW MUCH MORE ARE YOU WILLING TO ENDURE?
Waiting on elected officials to fix the problem is an exercise in futility. If an open acknowledgment by the heads of our security and intelligence agencies, that our election systems are under attack, followed by an in-depth special counsel investigation confirming those attacks and warning more are on the way isn’t going to sway them to fix it, nothing will.
Besides, Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell has vowed to not bring any election security bill to the floor for a vote, while spineless GOP leaders have remained silent and Democrats have been stuck in neutral from their over analysis and desire to be embraced by white voters who voted for Trump.
So, when is enough, ENOUGH!
For many citizens of Broward, that time is now. A coalition of citizens, representing various grassroots organizations with affiliation in both political parties, has come together to establish a Citizens Audit Initiative. This initiative will be an opportunity for all citizens to participate in some capacity, whether as a volunteer at a polling location or participating in the audit survey.
The coalition is partnering with Democracy Counts! (https://democracycounts.org), a non-profit non-partisan, nationally recognized, election auditing software provider. The audit software offers several key data collection metrics, including preserving official precinct data as it’s created, recording the votes of those denied their right to vote (voter suppression), and re-recording votes of those who voted to establish a baseline for auditing.
If you want to know more about the coalition and how to get involved, or if you live in another city or state and want to know how you can establish a similar citizen-based audit project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always stay tuned to the Westside Gazette for more information about your vote.