My Thoughts on External Forces Affecting the Election


There is some information out there around if and how Election Day might be tampered with by various actors. I think it’s important to not go too tinfoil hat on things. Here’s what I’d say we know with a decent amount of certainty, followed by a few speculative thoughts.

  1. There’s significant industry consensus that there’s a high-level Russian campaign to influence the election

  2. It’s also fairly clear that it’s designed to elect Trump and not Clinton. We can see this by noticing all of the Russia-linked leaks only involving negative content about Clinton, without much of anything about Trump

  3. We also know that the state of voting machine security is not great, and recent research has shown this again to be true

  4. There’s also general consensus that local election fraud is difficult to make effective at scale, just due to statistics, so even if a number of voting machine related issues were occurring, it would be difficult to influence the outcome

  5. This is also true with local campaigns to vote twice, stop small groups from voting by being obstructionist, etc.

  6. The most effective means of “influencing” the election, therefore, by my estimation, seems to come in the form of controlling the narrative of its legitimacy.

  7. My prediction is that election disruption, if it occurs, could come from a few different angles.a. Russia using an information warfare (narrative campaign) to convince the American population that Clinton’s campaign illegally influenced the election in her favor. That her team hacked the voting machines, paid off election officials, and otherwise cheated to win.b. Russia using DDoS to cause a fog of war situation where people are confused, frightened, and more likely to believe that the election has been spoiledc. Hactivists / hobbyists using botnets they control to perform DDoS during election day, for the purpose of making a mark on the important dayd. ISIS and other similar groups launching some sort of decentralized, low-level physical attacks as part of their recently broadcasted campaign for Election Day

These could not happen, happen independently, or happen in conjunction with each other. If many happen simultaneously they could add significantly to the perception that the U.S. is under siege, or not in control, which could assist the narrative that the election results should not be accepted.

The key here is that there is more than one way to influence an election. If it were all digital you could attempt to hack the results directly. Ours is not. If it were possible to convince millions of people to commit voter fraud in your direction, that could influence the outcome. It’s not really possible.

What is possible is controlling what people think about the outcome, which gives surprisingly similar results to changing the numbers.

I believe if Russia continues its attempts to influence the outcome, this is likely to be the form it will take: narrative creation and control combined with fog of war.

Again, this is all speculation, but perhaps (and hopefully) a more informed, tempered, and less hyperbolic from of it.

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