Protecting our voting system from cyber-threats is critical in an age when everything from hospitals to nuclear power plants are being hacked. But cybersecurity and an accurate vote count is just the tip of the iceberg for safeguarding our votes, when the US election system is largely designed to protect the power of the economic and political elite.
There are numerous threats to our voting system, from voter suppression schemes to the stranglehold of big money over the political system, biased election coverage by corporate media, exclusionary debates and more. The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal reveals another cutting-edge tool with which oligarchs like Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica’s major funder, can influence elections, using massive privacy violations, state of the art micro-targeting and manipulative messaging. To bring real democracy to America, we need a broad agenda for voting justice that addresses all of these threats, and builds a unified movement to achieve real solutions.
Therefore we are calling for a nonpartisan, Emergency Commission on Election Protection & Voting Justice to oversee urgently-needed immediate as well as longer-term solutions to ensure a secure and just vote.
The Emergency Commission can advance many urgently-needed solutions. We must end voter suppression schemes and ensure the constitutional right to vote. Prior to the 2018 election, we need a rapid transition to paper ballots, especially in the 12 states that still use the most vulnerable electronic machines lacking any paper record whatsoever; cybersecurity best practices, universal rigorous post-election audits, and routine post-election recounts as warranted. Congress needs to step up and provide funding to make this happen.
To begin addressing the abuses of big data, micro-targeting and military-style psyops, privacy protections must be created for personal data and internet/social media communications. In the rush to guard against propaganda and fake news, however, we must ensure that the rights of free speech and political opposition - increasingly stifled in current social media and conventional press - are restored and protected. We must also take on the fundamental corruption of our elections that has been so normalized that it’s rarely even discussed: the stranglehold of big money over the entire process. We can break this stranglehold by establishing public financing for political campaigns and free air time for ballot-qualified candidates, which further diminishes the cost of political campaigns. We can expand voter choice and end fear-based elections through Ranked Choice Voting, which liberates voters to vote for what they want, instead of against what they dislike. And we can ensure voters are informed about the greater range of choices that they are clamoring for - by creating a new presidential debate commission not controlled by the two establishment parties.
To effectively deal with foreign election interference, we must address the fact that the US is not only a victim of election interference, but a leading perpetrator of it as well, whether through nonviolent or violent means. Given our track record, it is simply unrealistic and unethical to expect other countries to respect the sovereignty of foreign elections unless we commit to doing so as well. Effectively ending election interference requires international diplomacy and treaties.
The Emergency Commission would provide consistent long-term public education, advocacy and watch-dogging that will be required to overcome resistance to the reforms required to achieve truly fair elections.