Northwest Missourian Opinion

A look at society today reveals a desire to go back to when times were simpler — I guess that’s the 1980s? Anyway, people are rolling jeans, listening to old music and watching entertainment with ’80s nostalgia — looking at you “Stranger Things.” One thing no one should want from the 1980s is the Cold War, but the way that Russia is currently meddling with our election, it seems we are heading that way. There is a simple way everyday Americans can fight back against the creeping Russian influence: vote using a paper ballot.

Computers and electronic software are flawed. This isn’t news to anyone that has ever had to use Internet Explorer or followed the 2020 Iowa caucuses, but technology is imperfect. For that reason, it makes sense to vote via paper ballot, but with Russia openly trying to disrupt democracy in the 2020 elections, it only makes more sense to cast a ballot on wood pulp instead of a machine.

The “New Age Cold War” is very different from its 20th-century predecessor. The fear is not that the Russians could reduce the U.S. to a radioactive wasteland, but that Russia could sow disunion and divide America, slowly chipping away at the foundations of the U.S. system of government and plunging it into chaos. This may all seem far-fetched and hyperbolic, but there are vast amounts of evidence to support that Russia is taking this action.

I know most people would like to forget 2016, but we learned a very important thing from that election. Russia will go to great lengths to mess with U.S. sovereignty. The Senate Committee on Intelligence investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election and found that Russia may have been caught intentionally meddling, to sow doubt in future elections. No votes were directly changed according to the report, but that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.

“Russia may have been probing vulnerabilities in voting systems to exploit later,” the report said.

This is terrifying and who knows whether Russia found out what they could exploit in our system for the 2020 election. Sen. Bernie Sanders was briefed by U.S. intelligence officials that Russia may be attempting to aid him in the Democratic primary to provide Trump with a “weaker” opponent for the 2020 presidential election, according to the New York Times.

Sanders used strong language to denounce Russian interference, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin an “autocratic thug” and saying that Russia would not interfere if he were elected, but that remains to be seen.

President Donald Trump has outright denied claims that Russia would like to get him reelected and so has his national security adviser. Russia is trying to get Trump reelected, but whatever.

Whether or not Sanders is a weaker candidate is not important to this issue; what is important is that Russia seems to be pulling the strings for our elections. They have already begun the same online campaigns with trolls and the dissemination of fake information just like they did four years prior.

This all seems like an issue that would be impossible for everyday people to have an impact on, but that’s the opposite of the truth. Looking out for trolls and fake news online can be helpful, but a real tangible way is voting on a paper ballot.

Moscow can’t hack paper, and they can’t really hack what counts paper ballots either. The most common way paper ballots are counted is with an optical scan machine. The machine scans the paper for a poll worker who then checks to make sure the machine’s readings are correct. This also means that the paper ballots can easily be recounted if there is machine failure, which adds another level of security. 

Paper ballots can come from a seemingly electronic method, ballot marking devices. Ballots are filled out on the machine and then printed out and handled to a poll worker for security purposes. 

Both of these methods have an easy “paper” trail that can ensure votes are counted accurately and free of outside interference.

Paper is not infallible as many saw in the 2000 presidential election with the incident with chads. No not the stereotype for a frat guy, the part of the paper that is punched out on a ballot. Some chads were not fully punched out, leading to a disagreement regarding how those votes should be tabulated. In the end, the Supreme Court stepped in and settled the election in favor of former president George W. Bush. 

The 2000 election debacle was a large reason for a push in better technology at the polls, but it seems time to go the other way. Putin wants us to vote using a machine, and that’s reason enough to vote on paper. Anything to stop Russian interference helps America.

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