A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled: “Danger: What If Russia Helps Trigger A ‘Rigged’ Election Scare?” In it, cyber security expert Igor Volovich warned that “The erosion of democratic institutions is [Putin’s] true objective.”
“It’s very easy,” Volovich continued. “Just compromise the polling stations. You compromise the polling boxes. You compromise the portal that reports the news. And we saw all of that take place in Ukraine in 2014.”
Not wanting to stoke fears about some far-fetched conspiracy theory (we’re already contending with Trump’s conspiracy theory about the polls being “rigged”), I didn’t dig any deeper. But then, as I listened to Russian pro-democracy leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on the Federalist podcast, he posed a very similar theory about Trump losing the election and
refusing to concede his defeat. Repeating his mantra, ‘[The] election is rigged.’ And, as you said, sixty percent of Republicans—maybe even more—would say, ‘Yes, probably, who knows?’—especially if Putin’s hackers succeed in infiltrating and hacking voter registration databases in battleground states.
And for those who have an experience [hacking] the Pentagon networks or major banks, I don’t think that [a] Nevada or Colorado electoral database is a challenge.
Now just imagine a situation where you have reports from Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Michigan,[and] Pennsylvania that people couldn’t vote because their names are erased accidentally. …At the end of the day, it’s a mess. Creating mess is what the KGB is good at.
And if this news [is] spread around, then imagine the reaction of even ordinary Americans. They say, ‘Well, the whole system is not functioning.’ And then, imagine the reaction of people outside the United States. That’s really the greatest triumph of Putin. Because destroying [the] American electoral process—creating doubts about integrity of this process—basically exonerates him and other dictators from rigging elections at home.
Kasparov’s focus seemed to be on Putin’s motives, which are to muddy the waters and basically say, “Everybody steals elections.” But our key concern here should be the possible destruction of what little remaining faith we have in American institutions. Here, Donald Trump—with his irresponsible rhetoric about “rigged elections”—is making us vulnerable to just such an attack.
Last point: It strikes me as telling that Volovich and Kasparov—both men who have valuable experience when it comes to observing Putin—have posited this theory.