Conservative megadonor casts doubt on ballot security

Lenore Broughton is a generous supporter of conservative politicians. But she’s an intensely private person. She hates having her picture taken, and she usually lets her money do the talking in the political arena.

On Friday afternoon, she stepped out of the shadows for the first time — ironically, to do something that’s pretty damn shady.

She sent a letter to all the town clerks in Vermont warning that the state’s election might be hacked. Or, as she put it, she was warning of “the surprisingly (sic) ease with which the AccuVote-OS optical scanners can be hacked resulting in the switching of votes.”

Her alarm springs from an article posted by Vermont’s most biased news source, Vermont Watchdog. The story was written in mid-September, and was immediately and thoroughly debunked by Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Perhaps Broughton doubts the representations of our Democratic, but scrupulously fair, Secretary of State. After all, Secretaries of State affiliated with her favorite party are often guilty of electoral shenanigans. The VTGOP has frequently made accusations against Condos or his functionaries, but none have ever panned out.

The heart of the Watchdog argument seems to rest on a ten-year-old documentary on the hacking of paperless voting machines. Well, ten years is an eternity in information technology, and Condos says newer technology “address[es] many, if not all, of the issues that were raised at the time.” Also, Vermont’s machines are not connected to each other or the Internet, which makes a hacking operation virtually impossible.

Plus, as Broughton herself acknowledges, Vermont retains all paper ballots as a backup. (Some states, mostly under Republican control, don’t do paper ballots for cost-cutting reasons.)

Condos wrote an essay debunking Watchdog’s warnings, which was published in many Vermont news outlets. (It appeared earlier this week on VTDigger.)

So, Broughton is waving the bloody flag of potential vote fraud — a much-beloved theme of conservative conspiratorialists. In response, Director of Elections Will Senning immediately wrote an email to town clerks, assuring them that Broughton’s fears are without merit:

It has come to my attention that some of you may have received the [Broughton] email below this afternoon.  I wanted to send you a quick note that our office does not share the concerns expressed by this Burlington resident regarding the security of the vote tabulators or their susceptibility to hacking.

It is not necessary for you to do an additional hand count of your ballots to verify the accuracy of the tabulator.  As we do following every General Election, we will be performing a post-election audit of the vote count for at least six towns where we will perform an independent count of the ballots of those towns and compare it to the count reported by the tabulator on election night.  Every audit we have performed since 2008 have shown the tabulator counts to be accurate.

Senning closes by referring clerks to Condos’ essay and urging them to contact his office with any questions or concerns.

I don’t know why it took Broughton six weeks to compose her email blast. Perhaps she waited until now in hopes of  springing an October Surprise. In the end, all it accomplished was to validate her image as an ultraconservative nutbag who needs to turn off Fox News and get out in the fresh air a little more often.

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