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John Oliver shows the GOP doesn’t care if your vote is counted properly, for some reason

John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Hey, there’s an election tomorrow, assuming you’re reading this on Monday, November 4, 2019. And while it’s not the one next year that will literally determine whether or not this grand experiment in democracy called the United States continues or is shucked off in favor of letting a babbling reality show boss/racist mob boss micturate all over the Constitution, it’s still pretty important. (Just for one thing, should Democrats take over in Virginia, that would provide the one final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to that selfsame Constitution.) So, yeah, voting—important.

Which, as John Oliver spelled out in “absolutely terrifying” detail on Sunday’s main story on Last Week Tonight, is why it’s both deeply suspicious and even more deeply bananas that the Senate has not taken any steps whatsoever to ensure that the results of this and every other election in this country is legitimate. As Oliver noted, the Democrat-led House passed legislation intended to shore up election security with voting machines, while the Republican-led Senate (currently embroiled in a party-wide scandal involving that reality show bigot openly soliciting foreign interference in order to help him cling to power), refused to pass it with the meaningful aspects of that House bill intact.

Those safeguards the GOP is so blasé about? Making sure that there’s a verifiable, audit-able paper trail for every voting machine (some 12% of 2019-20 voting machines are electronic touchscreen only), and that none of the country’s astonishingly outdated, ill-constructed, and shockingly vulnerable voting machines are ever hooked up to the internet. Why is that last one so important? Well, just look at Oliver’s face after the clip of a young hacker showing how someone in a voting booth can gain full administrative access to a precinct’s machines in under two minutes. Or how roundly he mocks one Texas election official whose adamant denial that any of the voting machines under his watch are ever—ever, he says!—hooked up to the internet. You know, except for when it’s hooked up to a modem for a little while. That’s okay, right?

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No, it fucking isn’t, as Oliver explodes in signature exasperated comic rage, pointing to how these basic safeguards are so bloody basic that even Donald Trump sort-of gets it. Showing a clip of Trump touting the necessity of verifiable paper ballots, Oliver—while noting that everything Trump said surrounding the 20 seconds of sanity concerning election security he showed is likely “some combination of wrong, racist, and horny”—gives credit where it’s due. Like to Russian dictator and Donald Trump role model Vladimir Putin, who, in a clip from Russian state TV, coyly admits that Russia is 100% actively working to meddle with the 2020 American presidential election. (Well, it’s not like Trump has done legitimately everything Putin could have dreamed of since taking office or anything. Oh, balls.)

Oliver—taking a step back and urging everyone to go out and vote on Tuesday, Putin and voting machines be damned—did wonder about having shown just how vulnerable our voting machines are on pay cable. (One Princeton professor is shown driving from polling station to polling station, posing with completely unattended and unsecured voting machines in the days before an election.) Renaming his program I Really Hope Putin Doesn’t Watch This Show With John Oliver might not lock down that vulnerable information as well as Oliver sweatily hoped, but, as he demonstrated in yet another chillingly funny exposé, it’s probably more than government Republicans are doing to make sure your vote gets counted properly.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.