Advice for election day

Please keep in mind that what I’m about to say is the result of baseless speculation on my part. I’m just some nobody from the internet who’s making a few guesses. With that said, here’s my advice:

If you can take election day off from work, you probably should.

Why I think you should: Today’s attack on the internet, coupled with Bruce Schneier’s assertion that someone is teaching themselves to take down the internet as a whole, plus the intelligence community’s public agreement that a certain foreign power is deliberately trying to influence or disrupt the election via electronic means, adds up to a non-zero chance that something bad will happen to the internet on election day.

That’s no big deal by itself maybe, but considering the rhetoric being shouted by one of the candidates, there’s the possibility that this year’s election might be just a bit hairier than previous ones.

It is theoretically possible to cause real-life damage and destruction via hacking. I don’t know if that’s in the cards, but it’s not impossible. However, even if the only negative effect of a hacking attack is that the internet goes down or becomes very unreliable for an extended period of time, that’s not great either.

As far as I know, most voting systems do not rely so heavily on the internet. Also, many precincts have paper backup systems. I do not think that the unavailability of the internet stands much chance of de-legitimizing the voting process.

However, even if the voting process does not rely very much on the internet, many news gathering organizations do. They might be seriously inconvenienced here. Most obviously, readers who want to get election coverage from their websites will find it difficult to do so. Those same readers may also find themselves cut off from friends and family while all this is happening. But more insidiously, broadcast news will suffer serious communication breakdowns, possibly leading to somewhat delayed (if not somewhat panicked) reporting. Broadcasters have backups as well, but imagine a scenario where you have anchors describing how they’re trying to get you the latest information, but end up having to say, “We just don’t have any concrete results yet, folks.”

The voting itself may be proceeding merrily — and legitimately — along, but without the media providing the kind of up close, constant coverage we’ve grown accustomed to, it sure won’t feel like it. We already know of at least one party who wants people to think the game is rigged, and an election conducted in the midst of a chaotic information blackout would sure look shady as shit to a lot of people.

I have no doubt that this all comes across as paranoid. In all likelihood, things are going to be just fine in most areas. The internet will be up, and violence at the polls will be kept to a minimum by the hardworking men and women of our country who volunteer to keep those booths open, be they civilians or civil servants.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have that day off anyway? Get the vote out nice and early, and then spend the rest of the day at home just hanging out?

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