The Bystander Effect and a Civil Society
Challenges to Ethical Behavior For Ethicists

Warning on the Reliability of the November 3 Election Results

Cyber-Attacks and Voter Fraud Likely to Occur

I recently read an alarming report about the possibility of cyber-attacks in the upcoming election. According to the report, U.S. authorities have said that hackers could slow -- but not prevent -- voting and vote-counting in the November 3 election, adding to the potential for a chaotic election day and its aftermath.

Apparently, hackers are continuing to attack election systems used to register voters, store voter registration information, manage non-voting election processes or provide unofficial election night reporting, according to a joint announcement from the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “These attempts could render these systems temporarily inaccessible to election officials, which could slow, but not prevent, voting or the reporting of results,” the agencies said.

U.S. officials briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that the results of the election may not be known on election night and “the period immediately before and after the election could be uniquely volatile,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel’s top Democrat, said in a statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also put out a warning against voter fraud, including tampering with ballots or voting more than once.

“As Americans get ready to vote, the FBI is asking each citizen to remain vigilant and report any suspected criminal scheme targeting voters to the FBI immediately,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the statement.

So far, the U.S. authorities said in their joint statement, any cyber-attacks they have tracked “have remained localized and were blocked, minimal or easily mitigated.” Cyber Threats

“The FBI and CISA have no reporting to suggest cyber activity has prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot, compromised the integrity of any ballots cast, or affected the accuracy of voter registration information,” according to the announcement. The agencies said they now have “multiple safeguards and plans in place” to limit the impact even if hackers are able to do so.

“The FBI and CISA continue to assess that attempts to manipulate votes at scale would be difficult to conduct undetected,” they said.

I have to disagree. I expect both cyber-attacks and double voting. The latter will occur because election officials in each state cannot be trusted to mail the right ballots to the right people, not those who have died, or changed their name, so they will receive two ballots.

Last week it was reported that nearly 50,000 voters in Franklin County, Ohio, got the wrong absentee ballots in the mail, county elections officials said. They promised to get replacement ballots for those 49,669 voters to the post office within three days. "We want to make it clear that every voter who received an inaccurate ballot will receive a corrected ballot," the election board said in a news release.

This doesn’t relieve my concerns about cheating and cyber-attacks. Why? The reason is we have some incompetent officials involved in the election process. There also is documented findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help get Trump elected. It’s more likely they will interfere again in 2020. After all, Trump is a fan of Vladimir Putin and always says nice things about him.

The underlying problem for election fraud is there are no ethics in society anymore. Right and wrong are relative to the beliefs of each individual rather than based on enduring moral values such as honesty and trustworthiness.

Those who interfere with the election do so by invoking the utilitarian message that the end justifies the means. Thus, cheating to get your candidate elected can be rationalized by saying I’ll do what it takes to get my candidate elected.

We need to put into place the quality controls to make sure what happened in Ohio stays in Ohio. We already know Trump will contest the results if he loses. We don’t need to give him more reasons to do so other than selfishness.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 13, 2020. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Dr. Mintz’s activities at: Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.