Has Russia Hacked The Election? That’s Not Why It’s So Close

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 08: Voters line up outside Liberty Baptist Church to cast their ballot in the 2016 Presidential Election on November 8, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Americans across the nation are picking their choice for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Source: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Hours into election night in America, and things are far, far tighter than countless observers predicted. At the time of writing, it appears that GOP nominee Donald Trump is outperforming the latest polls by wide margins, turning states that were thought to be reasonably safe Democratic wins into toss-ups, and striking fear into the hearts of progressives everywhere. It's been tight enough, in fact, that it's got some people on social media wondering: could Russia have hacked the election?

First things first, the simple answer: no, there's no reason to conclude, and no evidence on which to believe, that there's anything amiss as far as a potential hacking of the election goes. The reality, sad though it may be for Democrats, progressives, and anti-Trump Republicans, is that Trump and the brand of politics he's brought to the forefront seems to be more popular than the polls captured, as he's surging in rural districts by such levels that Clinton's record-setting paces in some urban districts are being cancelled out.

That said, it is true that American officials and media agencies have been wary of the potential for foreign interference, largely because of the government's acknowledgment that there is evidence that the Russian government has been trying to disrupt the electoral process. The Washington Post reported in August that the FBI had found Russian hackers had targeted the Arizona election systems. In October, the Obama administration formally accused Russia of trying to tamper with U.S. elections. Russia denied the allegations. 

For instance, in the run-up to Election Day, Politico reported on the potential for media organizations to be hacked and electronically vandalized, and the potential for havoc that could cause ― if a media outlet were hacked to disrupt their vote count, for example. The idea of actually hacking the election outright is a deeply far-fetched one, to say the least ― thanks to the decentralized nature of state elections, it'd be a tremendously tall order, and one that U.S. officials reportedly don't believe is possible. "To be clear: The equipment that people vote on is NOT connected to the Internet," the National Association of Secretaries of State stated in an open letter to Congress.

But when it comes right down to it, there's no credible evidence to suggest that's what's going on. At this point, it's probably better for anyone distressed by the closeness of the race to confront the harder, grislier reality ― that the forces Trump marshaled to get to this point have terrifyingly more potency than the pre-election polls seemed to capture.

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