NOVEMBER 3, 2020
By James Thornton
and Julie Montalbano
With today’s U.S. election in Russian-hacked chaos as millions of voters find their registrations seemingly voided, President Trump tweeted that he is “calling for a total and complete shutdown of the election process — until we can figure out what the hell is going on!!”
The extraordinary problems, almost surely from Russian hacking, have been reported in at least 32 states, with the voter registries distributed to local election boards missing many (if not most) entries. Voters affected are generally permitted to file paper provisional ballots, to be adjudicated later. However, the huge number of such time-consuming cases (with paper ballots often running out) has thoroughly snarled voting, causing very long lines — turnout was already breaking modern records — with many would-be voters giving up.
At stake in today’s election are not only the presidency but also all seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, eleven state governorships, and thousands of other local offices.
Elections are supervised by state governments, not the president, and it was not immediately clear what effect, if any, Trump’s tweet would have. Canceling or postponing a national election would be unprecedented and constitutionally impermissible. Nevertheless, several Republican governors have indicated receptiveness to Trump’s call; most are silent; Democrats universally denounce it.
Predictably, Trump blamed Democrats for the voting problems, accusing them of trying to “rig the election” to deny him victory. He offered no basis for his accusation. Actually, it appears that mostly Democratic voter registrations are affected. And recent polls have shown Trump’s Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph Biden, with a consistent lead of landslide proportions in the ten to twelve percentage point range. Biden leads in all the “battleground states” and even in some former Republican bastions, including Texas, as the nation slides into a recession widely blamed on Trump’s trade wars.
Russia’s hand in today’s voting turmoil seems virtually certain. Knowledgeable observers note the Mueller probe’s irrefutable evidence that the Kremlin tried to similarly hack into state election systems in 2016. It appears that Russia has been more successful this time. In addition, the proven 2016 Russian social media disinformation campaign also escalated in 2020. Most notable, of course, was the purported “Socialist Biden” video, surfacing only Saturday, and quickly spreading as the most viral item in internet history. It appeared to show candidate Biden saying he favors making America “totally socialist;” borders completely open; allowing abortions up to nine months; and confiscating all guns. The video, though skillful, was swiftly exposed as completely fake, and experts pointed to Russia’s clear electronic fingerprints on it.
President Trump (who retweeted the video, and later denied doing so) has steadfastly refused to acknowledge any such Russian transgressions. In 2019, bipartisan legislation to combat anticipated Russian election subversion was blocked from a Senate vote by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky, called “Moscow Mitch” by some), leaving the nation largely defenseless.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a statement saying, “Tales of Russian involvement in America’s election confusion are delusional lies and laughable fabrications. The fact is that democracy is a dead system, and so-called ‘democratic elections’ have always been a sham.” Shortly afterward Trump tweeted that he accepts the Russian statement.
Candidate Biden, in a joint appearance today with running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, called for the election to go forward despite the hacking, and for “all hands on deck” to quickly resolve the problems. Biden said a voting shutdown, and its resulting constitutional chaos, would be exactly what Russia seeks. He urged voters to be patient and to “stand up for democracy — even if it does mean standing in long lines.” And Biden labeled Trump’s call to abort the election “the final illegitimate ploy by a disgraced and discredited president to cling to power, adding yet one more outrage to his endless rap sheet.”
(Note: This is not satire, nor fake news, but authentic future news. Remember you first read it here.)