The Impacts of Data Management in Elections

US Elections Data Map

How are the U.S. and Liberia affected?  

With elections being a major characteristic of democracy, its management is cardinal from the standpoint that if not managed well, society falls in disarray.

With the high sensitivity attached to the election in sustaining democracy, the data management center usually becomes a point of concentration as speculations and wrong perceptions are attached to it; the burden is on the election body managing and conducting an election to convince the public that it is out of serious business.

Apart from data manipulations that are common in African elections, cyber attack is equally a scourge now in western elections especially the United States.

The 2016 presidential election that brought President Trump to power was a classical example for the intervention of Malware — the collective name for a number of malicious software variants including viruses, ransomware, and spyware, something that the US Government began investigating since that election and Russia has been blamed.

Malware consists of code developed by cyber attackers and is designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network.

According to the Conversation, as early as January 2017, a joint report by the CIA, FBI and NSA confirmed that there had been Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The conversation added that Russian’s objective was to undermine the confidence of Americans in their electoral system and to denigrate Hillary Clinton.

“In the run-up to the 2020 election, William Evanina, Director of the National Counter-intelligence and Security Center, accused China, Iran and Russia of posing a threat to the just ended US election. He stated that China does not want Trump to be re-elected because it considers him “unpredictable”, while Russia wants to see him elected. One way to try to influence the US electoral process is to interfere with the information circulating about the campaign, and it is an art at which the Russians have become experts,” the conversation said.

President Trump in the 2016 controversial election became the winner and has spent his four-year tenure at ease, but now, he is contending that the November presidential that declared Joe Biden as the President-elect was not free and fair, allegations that western media have said have unsubstantiated evidence.

President Trump has gone ahead to issue lawsuits against Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona with an attempt to advance a smattering of accusations and legal theories, some based upon vague and unsupported allegations of fraud or complaints of minor ballot processing access, as a way to prevent state officials from certifying the popular vote results, which currently all favor Biden.

 President Trump on November 18, 2020 fired the Department of Homeland Security official who rejected his claims of widespread voter fraud.

Trump announced on Twitter he was firing Chris Krebs, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and directly tied it to Krebs’ statement that said there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

With the 2016 experience still fresh on mind and cyber development at fast speed, Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the University’s Annenberg Public Policy Center and Co-Founder of FactCheck, has warned earlier that the United States should look forward to attempts of planting malware.

Dr. Hall Jamieson during the Foreign Press Center Virtual Reporting Tour told journalists before the elections that it is important that the U.S anticipates the possibility that breaches in the US electoral infrastructure, highlighting the Russian penetration within the election infrastructure, and should be finding ways to ensure that they monitor all the possible ways in which those breaches could occur.

Giving reflections of the 2016 elections, Dr. Hall Jamieson said there also may have been attempts to plant malware which they cannot know that with certainty, but they are aware of Russian individuals asked to be able to monitor balloting sites in the United States.

She said, “We also know that we did have troll campaigns to delegitimize the election they had started the week or so before the election in the run-up, and they were actively at play on social media as our election was taking place in 2016. We also know that there were what I call sleeper persona. That is, Russian trolls who were inside social media structures in what were set up to look like US news sites including local community news sites, and in one case were mimicking the political party, the Republican political party in our state, Tennessee. This is the Tennessee GOP, the designation for the Republican party.”

“That website set up by the Russian trolls to mimic the Republicans in Tennessee actually had more traffic than did the Tennessee Republicans. One of the things that we saw as we looked at their patterns was that they gained legitimacy inside the US press. US press not aware that they were not Tennessee Republicans and as a result, were positioned in 2016 to move disinformation or magnify misinformation into the process by which we were reporting on our election,” she told journalists.

Dr. Hall Jamieson added that some of the magnification of stuff was already being put into the system within the domestic sphere while some are being originated outside, adding that, “The [Holland Patrick] account is one of the accounts that I call a sleeper account. It’s there talking about other things, and then as we approached election date, what you’re seeing is we’re beginning to magnify the fact that the vote is being fixed. The vote is being stolen.”

She named social media as one of the capacities that are very real in taking over a news site’s identification by looking as if it was the news site, indicating, “I call this putting together an impostor news account and then trafficking information through those kinds of accounts.”

John Zogby, a renowned pollster author and founder of Zogby Strategies, said while it is true they expected a very large turnout, which is not actually predicted that there would have been over 100 million votes cast prior to Election Day, adding that “Those who voted before Election Day were to expect a big blue wave; meaning a lot of support from the demographics that normally vote Democrat or would be voting for the first time Democrat, that clearly did materialize.”

Zogby during the Foreign Press Center Virtual Reporting Tour said Joe Biden won among early voters by about 17 percentage points, adding that “On the other hand, because generally speaking Republicans were either fearful of casting mail-in ballots or have not taken the COVID-19 virus as seriously as Democrats have, that they would be turning out in very large numbers on Election Day.”

He said “My polling showed that on Election Day alone, Donald Trump would have at least a 10-point advantage among those who voted on November 3rd.”

Electioneering process in the United States is manageable the advancement of technology; however, the complexity of technology is equally a challenge as American experience can tell.

In Liberia, the challenge is not technology per se, but human actions that question election credibility. In the 2017 presidential election, the National Elections Commission was heavily blamed for double or triple registrations; something the Supreme Court in its ruling asked the NEC to clean since 2017 but the cleaning just beginning with the help of ECOWAS. The tendency of individuals playing with election results in favor of a political candidate or rigging an election poses serious threat to democracy in Liberia yea Africa. Even as the mid-term election draws nigh, opposition politicians are uncertain that it will be free, fair and transparent as President George Weah had said earlier that he would do everything to reclaim Montserrado County.


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