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The MMA of Electoral Fraud

I: The Set-Up

Last night’s Presidential debate saw something of a high water mark with respect to claims of some sort of fraud, or rigging, or fixing, or otherwise manipulating the results of the Presidential election that will occur on November 8, 2016. Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s nominee, equivocated regarding whether he would accept the results of the election were he to lose (as seems likely to happen).

The morning-after response, even from his fellow Republicans, his own campaign manager, and his own daughter, has been to either attempt to walk that remark back or to distance oneself from it.1

Which is only appropriate: as no shortage of people have pointed out, the peaceful transition of power and acceptance of government hinges upon the willingness of the losers of an election to accept the legitimacy of its outcome. Questions about the legitimacy of our elections in a nation with democratic traditions as strong as ours should be taken with sobriety, skepticism, and gravity. It’s no wonder that so many people on the conservative side of our political spectrum are cautious here: they don’t want violence and they want there to be a government for them to have political power within, one day in the future when their fortunes improve (as everyone knows inevitably will happen).

Besides, this is a worm that can turn on a moment’s notice.

Mr. Trump himself, however, seems to be drawn as if impelled by magnetic force towards espousing wild-eyed conspiracy theories based upon flimsy evidence and to rely upon questionable sources taken from the same stock that has already ornamented our political discourse with the likes of Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. In particular, I note a number of Trump supporters (whether they be true Trumpeters or members of the #HillaryIsWorse partisan crowd) pointing to something called #ProjectVeritas, championed most prominently by the I-kind-of-respected-him-until-recently conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt:

A moment’s investigation of #ProjectVeritas reveals it to presently consist of four heavily-edited videos created by a man named James O’Keefe. Mr. O’Keefe has established a significant lack of credibility with other politically inflammatory videos. He made a sensation in 2009, play-acting as an outrageously dressed pimp and manipulating interviews he recorded while thus in costume to falsely make it look like organizers of the grassroots voter-registration and community-organization group ACORN were assisting in the formation of a brothel. With a female associate, he also surreptitiously taped interviews with Planned Parenthood leaders and then edited them to create the misleading impression that they were encouraging abortions to sell fetal tissue for profit. This #ProjectVeritas business appears to be similar to this now-established M.O., presenting heavily-edited “undercover” videos purportedly exposing Democrats perpetrating electoral fraud.

So right away, this is a pretty questionable source of information, and it’s advancing a theory that, on its face, seems pretty implausible. Let us then consider, thinking critically, whether that seeming implausibility holds up to thought. Remember, as with any other thought experiment, we can reach issues of possibility and plausibility, but we can’t actually prove anything without actual evidence. I can only, therefore, propose a rubric by which one might address the plausibility of these claims and assess the weight one ought to assign to them.

 

II: Reverse-Engineering Criminal Enterprises

Many forms of electoral fraud are crimes. It’s clear enough that Trump implies some kind of criminal activity, although the phrasing is vague and imprecise enough that there’s wiggle room for most people engaged in this flavor of Trump-talk to deny, evade, or otherwise avoid being accused of accusing others of crimes without evidence. I see repeated in many places the claim that there is very little evidence of any sort of systematic voter fraud, and there are only a few hundred cases of voter fraud documented in recent years, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. Yet somewhat more partisan sources insist that no, voter fraud is indeed a rampant problem.

Let us at least begin thinking about this by conceding that there are at least as many ways to manipulate election results in Republicans’ favor as there are in Democrats’, and that, historically, neither major party is remotely close to being totally without fault. From there, let us consider the crime of electoral fraud as just that: a crime. For certain species of electoral fraud are crimes, in every jurisdiction of the United States.

When confronting claims of criminal activity or indeed nearly anything else, available information must be gathered and constructed in a way that makes some sort of sense in order to understand what’s being presented. Some call this “forming a narrative.” Or we might use the word “hypothesis” instead of “narrative.” Some sort of intellectual superstructure is used, though, and with crimes, the model most often used by police and prosecutors is a triptych with the enjoyable acronym MMA: a criminal must have motive, method, and ability to commit a crime.2 In this way is crime rationally understood by the non-criminal; this provides a useful intellectual tool to detect, test, and prove theories of crimes.

Does Hillary Clinton (or in the alternative does her network of surrogates and agents) have motive, means, and ability to rig the 2016 Presidential election?

 

II-A: The Motive

The “why” of this accusation seems easy enough: if you are going to commit electoral fraud, it’s because you want your side to win.

This begs the question: are you going to win anyway? Uncertainty alone is probably all we need here. If it’s not clear that you are going to win fair and square, then you might be tempted to go to the bag of dirty tricks and “help” the voters make the “better” decision. Someone who is polling at or near 50% might very plausibly think here is a good reason to cheat.

Does this make sense in the 2016 Presidential election? Functionally every poll suggests that Clinton is leading by about seven percentage points, which is above the margin by which she needs to care very much about the Electoral College.

But this hasn’t always been the case. There was even a brief moment, about three days back at the end of July and beginning of August of this year, that Trump was actually leading in the polls, if only by a small amount. So there may well have been a time that Clinton felt a credible fear of losing. It’s not wholly implausible that she might have mobilized her Dirty Tricks Squad then.

What’s more, even if you think that in a fair election, you’d win anyway, you might be tempted to fix the election in advance, for at least three reasons that seem plausible. First, you might have an advantage in a fair election but there could be something that goes wrong at the last minute that causes you to lose that advantage, like a late-breaking scandal. Second, you might rig the election to counteract and effectively neutralize any fixing of the results that the other side might be doing. Third, you might not need the rigging this time, but you still need to exercise and maintain the machinery of manipulation so that it’s going to be there for you in a hypothetical future election where things might be less favorable to you.

So is there motive? Yes, at least at the thought experiment level, we can plausibly posit motive — even if events have since mooted that motive.

 

II-B: The Method

So. You’ve decided to rig the election. You must now confront the issue of how to do it.3

Reverse-engineering the process from goal to method reveals that the goal here is the production of a ballot return that puts the cheating partisan in office and excludes the opposing partisan from office. That is the desired end state. So the indispensable thing that must be controlled is the content of the ballot return. Your partisan must be reported as having received more votes than the opponent. One method, of course, would be to play it fair, and hope that the voters do exactly that. We’ve determined at the motive phase, though, that this is insufficient and cheating is necessary.

Historically, ways of pressing the vote count in one’s favor include the following techniques:

  • Impersonation of registered voters by partisans (including via absentee or mail-in ballots). Thus, additional votes for the partisan enter the ballot box.
  • Manipulation of voter registration rolls to facilitate impersonation (e.g., “dead voters” and “my dog is voting too”). Again, more votes for the partisan.
  • Ballot box stuffing or misreporting of actual returns (including alteration of electronically reported vote counts).
  • Disenfranchisement of voters by opposing partisans (including physical intimidation of voters at the polling place, turning voters away from polling places, and deception to prevent proper votes from being cast). Here, it’s a little different — fewer votes for the opponent gets you to the same place.
  • Deceptive campaigning (e.g., distributing unflattering campaign literature falsely purporting to be from the opposing partisan — note that this is not speaking in one’s own voice but not telling the truth about an opposing partisan: that’s thought within the realm of “fair play” or at least “free speech”). Again, depress the opponent’s vote count.
  • Purchasing of, or extortion of, favorable votes (offering an inducement, whether favorable or unfavorable, to a voter casting an honest-seeming ballot in a particular way).

This sort of thing is certainly what’s implied by the accusations of “rigging the election.” We are given to understand that all over the country, whatever the “natural” results of the election might be will be skewed such that there will be more Clinton votes than Trump votes. The exact mechanics are more than a little bit murky, but Trump’s claim that there are “millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote” points pretty strongly at ballot box stuffing or impersonation of fictitious registered voters.

If this is the means of choice, then that means that voter registration rolls are going to show more registrants who are not actual people in the district, and someone is going to cast ballots on behalf of those fictitious registered voters. The vision is of Clinton minions filling out hundreds of registration forms, precinct by precinct, with fake names, fake addresses, and then sending in absentee ballots filled out in Clinton’s favor, or sending live people impersonating those fake voters to the precincts where they will cast ballots. N.b., this also assumes that there are no Trump minions doing the same thing, or if there are, that the Trump minions are not as good at it as the Clinton minions.

Technically, we should note that the candidate herself need not even know that this is happening. It’s possible that she thinks, in good faith, that her minions are doing appropriate sorts of campaign activities (knocking on doors, passing out flyers, making phone calls, stuffing envelopes) while some nefarious and unscrupulous underling is actually directing this.

Has this ever happened in America? Of course; I’m not even going to search for examples. A better question would be: has it happened recently? Can someone show me an example of actual ballot box stuffing, taking place on a large enough scale to alter the outcome of a significant election? That’s what the comments section is for.

It does mean that someone has to be controlling or directing this if it’s going to be done in an effective way. After all, stuffing the ballot box in Massachusetts isn’t going to do Clinton a damn bit of good — she can win Massachusetts fair and square without even trying. It’s possible that you don’t need to do a whole lot of cheating, and you just need to cheat where it counts. Specifically, in the swing states (or, if you prefer, states that were thought to be swing states when the decision to cheat was made) of Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.4 States where the margin is likely to be close. Less cheating will go farther there, states that made the difference in recent past elections.

Finally, consider the fact that the electoral fraudster must devise a method of stuffing the ballot box that avoids detection. Republicans and nonpartisan election law enforcement alike are going to be looking for fraud, albeit for slightly different reasons. If the ballot-box stuffing is detected, the enterprise collapses. Therefore, the fake voters must vote in areas and by ways that will appear plausible, in ways that will be difficult for skeptics and challengers to call out.

So the way to go is to find jurisdictions where it would seem likely that Democrats were going to vote in large numbers anyway, within swing states, and there pump up the voter registration rolls. Then, have as many of them as possible vote by absentee ballot so as to not have to risk sending an in-person minion to an actual polling place and maybe get caught impersonating a fake or a a dead voter.

Alternatively, of course, electronic voting can be subverted. I see two ways to go about doing that. First, you can bribe or otherwise induce the company that manufactures and administered the electronic voting machines to programming them to electronically stuff the returns. Or second, you might get a hacker to break into the voting systems somehow and turn in the returns you want. Manufacturer corruption makes some sense, because it would be the hardest for an external source to detect; however, Democrats are not vulnerable to that charge while Republicans are, since the only significant manufacturers of electronic voting machines are all publicly associated with pro-Republican political activity. Also, Trump is not in a good position to complain about hackers interfering with the election. But a disputed election result called into question by purported hacking would be testable against paper ballots.

Neither of these have been what Donald Trump claims is going on: they’re worried about fake voters, not hacking.

 

II-C: Ability

Does the Clinton campaign have the capability to stuff ballot boxes in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania?

In Colorado, elections are generally overseen by the Secretary of State. Colorado’s Secretary of State is Wayne Williams, a Republican. Elections are administered at the hands-on level by sixty-four different County Clerks. Most of them are Republicans also. Roughly a third of them voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Those would be the counties that have the rotten precincts. Registration and obtaining absentee ballots in Colorado is fairly easy, but absentee voters who are casting their first ballot by mail after registration must include a photocopy of some form of identification with their ballot. Ballots are cast entirely on paper and delivered through the mail.

Florida’s elections have a similar structure: its secretary of state, Ken Detzner, is a Republican and an appointee of Florida’s Republican Governor. But the nuts and bolts of elections are handled at the county level by the various clerks of the sixty-seven counties. Only thirteen of those counties voted for Obama in 2012, although there may be a few others that were fairly close. As with Colorado, first-time registrants voting by absentee ballot must provide some form of identification, although it can consist of a utility bill instead of a driver’s license or state ID card. Florida has both paper ballots and no-record direct electronic voting; electronic votes are recorded purely electronically and no paper trail of individual votes are generated.

North Carolina’s elections are overseen by an independent state commission, consisting of five members appointed by North Carolina’s Republican Governor. Again, elections are really handled at the county level, and North Carolina has one hundred counties. Thirty of them voted for Obama in 2012, and here, the results were pretty well stratified: nearly every county was either very Republican or very Democratic (there were only a handful of exceptions). Absentee voters in North Carolina must provide a certification of some kind of identification number, like the state ID or driver’s license number, but do not need to provide an image of it. North Carolina has both paper and electronic voting; unlike Florida, its electronic votes generate a paper trail of votes cast.

Ohio’s elections are overseen by Ohio’s Secretary of State, John Husted, a Republican. (He’s vowed there will be no cheating, for what that’s worth.)  who  Sixteen of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties voted for Obama in 2012, all of them in urban areas. Either a copy of one’s identification or a similar verification of an identification number, as in North Carolina, must accompany a first-time absentee ballot. Ohio has both paper and electronic voting; its electronic votes generate a paper trail of votes cast.

Pennsylvania’s elections are overseen by an independent state commission, whose members appear to be civil servants. However, they work under the oversight of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro Cortés, an appointee of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf. Each of Pennsylvania’s sixty-seven counties have their own independent boards of elections, and thirteen of those counties could plausibly be carried by a Democrat based on the 2012 returns. All absentee ballots must have some form of identification number, either the driver’s license or social security number of the voter, or a copy of an identification card. Pennsylvanians can vote on paper or electronically; electronic votes do not generate a paper trail.

Now, here’s a problem. Voters have to be registered as residing at a particular address in their precincts. They might elect to receive their absentee ballots in the mail at some other location, but if too many of those ballots wind up getting mailed to the same address, it becomes easy to identify that fact. So you can’t centralize the absentee ballots for the fake voters — you have to have them spread out to a bunch of different addresses, plausible, actual addresses, within the various precincts. Then you have to round them up, fill them all out, and return them.

Logistically, that’s tough. It takes money, and it takes minions to execute. The more people you involve in doing this, the more likely it is that one of them will suffer an attack of conscience and confess the fraud to the media or law enforcement. The more money is involved in doing this, the more fingerprints that will be left behind in campaign disclosure statements to be audited and discovered. That’s if you’ve been clever enough to widely distribute your absentee ballots in ways that match up to the precincts in the counties that you’ve targeted for corruption.

Hacking would be possible in Florida and Pennsylvania, because electronic ballots do not generate paper trails. Not all counties have electronic voting, however; a Democrat looking to hack in Florida would need to find precincts and counties where both a reasonable number of Democrats are likely to be voting in the first place, and a system that is vulnerable to the hacking.

It sure looks to me like it would be logistically very, very difficult to cheat at all, in any sort of intelligent way calculated to minimally evade detection, by use of absentee ballots or fake voters. It might be possible to hack into election returns and alter the reports, and I’m not really qualified to even research, much less opine upon, how hard that would be. I can see that it would likely be hard to make electronic subversion of results stick in the critical states, excepting in Pennsylvania and Florida. So shame on those states for leaving their voting systems vulnerable to that.

 

III: Are There Easy Alternatives to Cheating Available?

Subverting democracy at the ballot box itself is expensive, risky, and uncertain. At lower levels, there are plenty of other ways available to filter the result of elections in one’s favor. They generally aren’t even against the law. These include:

  • Gerrymandering (the creation of a geographical electoral district based upon demographic or other information about the voters to pre-ordain a result favorable to a particular partisan).
  • Voter registration and identification laws (the erection of legal barriers between a citizen and the franchise, with the avowed intent of preventing the impersonation of voters, but with the known-in-advance effect of depressing the number of votes cast by opposing partisans who will have difficulty satisfying these legal barriers).
  • Minimization or other manipulation of the number and location of polling places to make voting difficult for opposing partisans (including last-minute “emergency polling place closures”).
  • Structuring the date, time, and manner of the election to depress and control turnout (holding elections at times other than early November of even-numbered years).
  • Failing the ability to elect one’s own partisans, one might also manipulate opposing partisans through bribery, blackmail, or monopolization of their campaign finances. (Failing that, one might actually bargain with them, offering them political favors in an unimportant policy arena in exchange for legislation that is important to oneself.)

These things are legal, by definition, because they happen within the realm of legislation itself, and therefore are, themselves, laws. Even a moment’s consideration indicates that these methods of manipulating elections are going to be far more effective, and far less risky, than ballot box manipulation. They are inherently legal and therefore there is no risk to using them; when done intelligently, they produce invariably favorable results; they are difficult for the opposing partisans to counteract; the public appears to tolerate them (in no small part because they are, by definition, not crimes).

At the Presidential level, gerrymandering isn’t an available tool. Registration and ID laws tend to favor Republicans. Atomized control of elections by local officials suggests that manipulation of the opening and closing time of polling places is not subject to partisan control at all; to the extent it is, it appears that vastly more local controllers of elections at the local level are Republicans than Democrats. And direct bribery or intimidation of voters just plain isn’t happening, at least that we’ve heard of.

So, we’re back to phantom voters: either the Democrats are winning fair and square, or they’re cheating. If they’re cheating, they’re doing it by stuffing the ballot box with votes from phantom voters (or so we’re told). These phantom voters are either newly registered, in which case voter ID laws will detect them even if they’re absentee voters, or they are a legacy of corrupt Democratic political machinery from elections in the recent-to-distant past.

If these phantom voters were legacies of past machining, then of course the corrupt Democrats at the levers of that machinery would use it when they had the opportunity to do so. So why is it that in these mission-critical states where those fake ballots would have the most impact — those states tend to have Republicans elected to high offices, and particularly put in positions where they control and oversee the mechanics of elections. In fact, it flies in the face of Republicans being elected to high offices in those states at all. If these Democratic machines were in place, why is it that four out of five of these states have election machinery under Republican political oversight and three out of these five states have Republican Governors and collectively have elected more Republicans to the U.S. Senate than they have Democrats?

Alternatively, all these fake registrations have been or will be filed for fake voters to cast ballots in favor of Democrats just for this election alone, too, and are therefore of recent manufacture. This won’t survive scrutiny, though: a search of voter registration rolls would reveal similarities in addresses either of registration or receipt of absentee ballot forms, and geographic patterns of registration and voting would look irregular after a while. If a rural county in central Pennsylvania with a total population of 35,000 people had only 10,000 registered voters at the start of 2016 and today, half of whom were Republicans and a third of whom were Democrats, suddenly had 20,000 more registered voters, three-quarters of whom were Democrats and who all elected to receive their absentee ballots at one of four different post office boxes in downtown Philadelphia, well, that’d be a little bit suspicious, wouldn’t it? That’s not the evidence we’re seeing at all.

So the mostly Republican officials overseeing all of this must either be a) incompetent, all of them; b) on the take, all of them; or c) just not seeing it at all because c(1)) the Democrats cheating the system are phenomenally good at it, or c(2)) it isn’t happening at all, at least not at a level worth discussing.

So we have to posit that there are just enough people out there manipulating the voter rolls to effectively tip the balance in critical areas, and not too many that they can all be trusted to keep the secret. We have to posit that they created their network of fake voters with a plausible, difficult-to-detect registration pattern, and that they are intentionally casting their fake ballots from that network of fake voters with enough votes in favor of Clinton to actually sway the result, but not so many in favor of Clinton that they look suspicious. This posits a very, very high level of sophistication and intelligence, which runs against the notion that the control and implementation group of this conspiracy is small (but, to be fair, does not exclude that notion completely).

 

IV: Comparison With Evidence

What, then, is the evidence? Does it fit? So far, O’Keefe offers us four videos. I’m mainly working off the description from the Snopes summary, but I did take the time to watch the most trenchant of the four videos, described below.

In video #1, we see Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin at a December 2015 Christmas Party, purportedly talking about “busing” voters to polling places in New York City. Hillary Clinton does not now and never has needed to engage in any kind of electoral fraud in New York City. She will carry nearly all New York City precincts by convincing margins, all five boroughs of New York City by convincing margins, and all of New York State by convincing margins. These are not swing areas, and there is no motive to cheat at all here. If Commissioner Schulkin is doing some sort of political corruption at all (I offer no opinion), it must be aimed at a local rather than a national issue.

In video #2, we see video of Clinton staffers at a field office somewhere, saying lewd things and purportedly acting as bad, if not worse, than the “grab her by the p***y” comments Donald Trump uttered during his decade-old interview with Billy Bush. This does not suggest electoral corruption at all. It is a political argument that Trump’s misogyny ought to be disregarded because BSDI; it is a ploy to depress Democratic votes.

Video #3 is a surreptitious recording of Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate (and former Senator) Russ Feingold musing about President Hillary Clinton issuing some sort of executive order impacting gun rights, and describing political fallout (optimistically for Democrats). Again, this is fodder for GOTV efforts, this time to increase Republican turnout.

It’s the fourth video that is controversial: it suggests that Clinton’s field staff officers were tampering with Republican voter registrations and sending agents provocateurs to Trump rallies. It is this to which Trump referred. The “incitement of violence” issue does not go to voter corruption at all. Almost all of it is an interview at what sounds like a party (lots of alcohol is being visibly drunk) with one guy named Scott Koval, who worked for a different pro-Democratic group called “Democracy Partners,” specifically naming one partner in that group, lobbyist Robert Creamer of Chicago, as the operative. Creamer at one time held a seat on the Democratic National Committee. Some of what’s in the video sounds like just plain politics; some of it sounds like Koval expressing contempt for weak political laws or weak enforcement of rules; almost all of it sounds like it could have been induced by tricking the mark into a hypothetical conversation. Koval and Creamer and their organizations claim that they were “goaded” into those conversations.

The most damning discussion is between the O’Keefe undercover “reporter” and Creamer, discussing the ways in which one might increase voter registration in Indiana and Michigan, with what seem to be fake Hispanic employees of a dummy corporation, coupled with a discussion of renting local cars with local plates so they could drive individually to the polling places and, presumably, cast fake ballots for Clinton. Busses, you see, are too obvious. If this is the case, it would require thousands and thousands of dollars to create these fake corporations and rent all those cars, and dozens of voters to show up and follow through on both registering and then voting predicated upon the falsified paperwork.

I’m not moved by the “goading” claims, myself; the videos themselves may or may not reflect a willingness by these people to do politically corrupt things — but they aren’t congruent with the kind of political manipulation that makes sense with a meaningfully rigged Presidential election. Wisconsin has been reliably Democratic in its voting; there has always been every reason to forecast it voting for Clinton this year. Indiana has gone back and forth as Obama squeaked out a one-point win in 2008 but then lost there by more than ten points in 2012; Michigan hasn’t voted for a Republican President in decades, by convincing margins each time, and after the Flint lead-in-the-water-thing that left its Republican governor holding the bag, it’s doubtful Michigan voters would have voted for Jesus Christ himself had He been the Republican nominee this year. These simply aren’t the places where corruption is needed to swing a state to the Democrats, and it never was. Why spend all of that money, and create all of those accomplices and the associated risk, to make Michigan do what it was always going to do anyway?

Again, that doesn’t mean these political types were entirely innocent. It does suggest that we ought to think that maybe these excerpted, edited, surreptitiously recorded, and in at least one case alcohol-fueled conversations weren’t entirely about rigging the Presidential election in Clinton’s favor. They may have been about rigging other elections. They may have been about something else entirely: James O’Keefe’s track record of having twice presented out-of-context interviews as evidence of nefarious plots that weren’t actually there ought to lead us to suspect that we are seeing more of the same today, and not to just take his word for things at face value.

 

V: No Reason To Believe It

The theory of ballot box stuffing is already improbable enough. Given how contemporary elections are actually conducted, and who oversees them, it’s going to be very difficult to actually stuff a ballot. The means of accomplishing this crime is very difficult, and to assume the ability to actually accomplish it requires assuming also having the means to win fairly and with less effort. The MMA of this purported conspiracy to put Hillary Clinton in the White House despite the voters’ purported will to the contrary doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The evidence comes from a source whose credibility is already highly suspect.

Even should we accept the proffered evidence at face value, it’s still not being done in the right places and the right ways to impact the Presidential election. We must infer that if they’re going it in Michigan, they’re doing it in Colorado and Florida, too.

I see no rebuttal to the charge that if the Clinton campaign were wealthy enough and wily enough and coordinated enough to engineer this sort of thing, it would then by definition already be wealthy and smart and coordinated enough to win the election fair and square.

The theory ignores the most obvious and easy way to swing a contemporary election — by hacking into and altering electronic voting records. Available evidence suggests that, if anything, Republicans are at least as likely as Democrats to resort to that sort of thing, if it is possible at all.

While we cannot, at the thought experiment level, categorically rule out the idea of the election being actually “rigged” as described in the debate, it’s an implausible enough theory, and based upon flimsy and untrustworthy enough evidence, that we can safely relegate this theory to a level of credibility on par with alien abductions, ghosts and goblins, and the Bavarian Illuminati.

Your job, Readers, is now to either take what I’ve explicated here in five thousand plus words and condense it down into a very cogent argument — “It’s far too difficult and complex to stuff a ballot box these days, and the Democrats don’t need to cheat at all, much less cheat in the places O’Keefe is telling us they’re cheating.” — or explain to me, with evidence, why I’m dangerously, foolishly, and arrogantly wrong.

 

Image by Internet Archive Book Images Notes:

  1. Note that one way this walking-back has been attempted has been to accuse the media of bias in presentation of political news, which is a different sort of charge than the kinds of actual electoral fraud discussed in the main body of this post. []
  2. Alternatively phrased, “means, motive, and opportunity.” []
  3. In the screenplay adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, Antonio Salieri confesses about the moment he decided to take his rivalry with Wolfgang Mozart to the point of murder: “The only thing that worried me was the actual killing. How does one do that, hmm? How does one kill a man? It’s one thing to dream about it; very different when… When… you! When you have to do it — with your own hands.” []
  4. I include North Carolina here because it’s flipped between Democrats and Republicans in recent elections, and it has 14 electoral votes which puts it almost on par with Ohio’s 18. If you’re a Democrat looking to cheat your way to victory in the Electoral College, it would be a likely place to attempt that cheating. []

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Pseudonymous. Practices Law. Lives in Southern California. Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. Homebrewer. Atheist. No Partisan Preference. Likes: respectful and intelligent dialogue, good wine, and puppies. Dislikes: mass-produced barley pop, magical thinking, and insincere people. Follow him on Twitter at @burtlikko, and on Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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89 thoughts on “The MMA of Electoral Fraud

  1. The best way to rig any election is to lie to voters and get them to vote for you based on lies.

    Put a virus not in an election booth, but in a voter’s brain. This mental virus can make them see a candidate as unthinkable or another candidate as the only sane option and preclude options.

    Then they pull the lever themselves and they are active participants in the rigging.

    If you can manufacture consent, you can point to this consent that you, yourself, manufactured and use that as evidence that the rigging you’ve done was not rigging and nothing more than democracy in action.

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      • It’s not the lying. It’s the installation of the virus. The manufacturing of the consent in the first place.

        The best part is that people will actively argue that, no!, this wasn’t rigging! It was just a lie! A lie that was propagated and believed and precluded an option!

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        • Hmmm…. people in partisan elections always seem to think their opponents lie about stuff, therefore every election is “rigged.” I guess the only non-rigged elections are where both parties are True and Pure and Noble, everything else is corrupt and rigged.

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        • When did you become Noam Chomsky?

          One of my problems with people on political extremes or fringe groups is that they always think the people are being deluded to or lied to. This is bad with Marxists talking about “false consciousness” (which always struck me as Marxists feeling sorry for themselves that many people are capitalist and want to move up the social hierarchy and get better material wealth) or libertarians asking people to not vote for lizard people.

          What’s wrong with just thinking that people really want the party platform? Democrats vote for HRC because they are Democratic and really like what the Democratic Party offers in terms of policies. Republicans do the same for their party. Why the need to come up with elaborate stories and theories on why people are being snookered like the people in Plato’s allegory of the cave? Can libertarians, Marxists, and anarchists just not deal with the fact that most people disagree with them?

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          • Many people really seem to believe that others have seriously considered their arguments and come to the conclusion that they are wrong and like what the other side is offering. Its like how certain British leftists just can’t imagine that people might like what the Conservative Party has to offer more than the Labour Party even though the Conservative Party repeatedly beats Labour whenever they run on a Far Left platform in every general election since 1979.

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          • Am I not allowed to think that Chomsky is on to something? There is a there there. Above and beyond the mere “if they really thought about it, they’d already agree with *ME*” masturbatory thoughts, I’m talking about the whole “people not acting in their long or even middle term best interests because of the huge coordination problem involved with not acting in one’s own immediate self-interest” thing.

            What’s wrong with just thinking that people really want the party platform?

            There’s the story that Douglas Adams tells about “the lizards” that hits a bit too close to home for that.

            Can libertarians, Marxists, and anarchists just not deal with the fact that most people disagree with them?

            I’m down with people not agreeing with me.

            It’s when they don’t seem to agree with themselves that my interests start really getting piqued.

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            • The libertarians posting the Lizard story is just as bad as Marxists and false concosiness. It implies politicians as an alien class. People like DeMocratic and Rep politicians believe it or not.

              Give a specific example of your last sentence.

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            • It’s when they don’t seem to agree with themselves that my interests start really getting piqued.

              I don’t like the term manufactured consent, because it implies that there is a manufacturer. The reality is more that consent is an emergent phenomenon.

              So no, you don’t need to believe in lizard people to understand how our political system often has people supporting the very things that they were dead set against just a minute ago. We are smack in the middle of an election in which the very people screaming about the threat of government tyranny are also screaming about how dare those football players not show the proper respect to the flag/national anthem and where earnest millennials are writing heartfelt screeds in support of HRC’s absurd claim that she be the establishment candidate because she’s a woman.

              ps to Saul – one day you should try actually talking to a libertarian or a Marxist. At the very least it would make your commenting about them more effective.

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          • Maybe people really do want the DNC Platform.
            Doesn’t mean hillary ain’t lying to them if she doesn’t intend to give them anything on the platform.

            I can ABSOLUTELY point to reasons the Republicans got the vote BOTH from the “pro-immigration businessmen” and “anti-immigration populists” — and, dude, they was clearly lying to someone there, because those groups want two diametrically opposed things (… one of them’s slavery, fwiw).

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          • “Revealed preferences” explains a good chunk of behaviors for any number of “hypocritical” behaviors (insert examples here) but not all of them.

            Games like “let’s you and him fight” are an example of behaviors (specifically, those of “you” and “him”) that aren’t best explained by “revealed preference”. “Well, I guess we revealed that they didn’t like each other!” seems to steal a base (if not two).

            Have you ever read about The Robbers Cave Experiment?

            Imagine someone who knew how to hack this.

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            • Revealed preferences, as you alluded to with a little help from me, accounts for the subjectively determined actions people take without any consideration given to the mechanisms by which those people arrive at the, presumably rational!, decision to so act.

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              • The problem with “presumably rational!” is that there are multiple rationalities, multiple valuations of “the good”, and multiple valuations of risk.

                One great way to hack into people’s behaviors is to get them to severely overestimate risk probability and make them averse to something much less dangerous than it is in the favor of something much more harmful (but superficially less risky).

                See, for example, “refugees”.

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                • I can’t quite tell if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me, but I agree with you. The term “presumably rational” does an awful (awful..) amount of work cashing out preference theory. Especially given stuff like Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. Among other things equally apparent if you keep an eye out for em.

                  Rationality requires a greater burden of justification than a mere preference, especially once a person is cognizant of the degree to which individual preferences are manipulated, and often constructed, to serve other ends.

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                    • Yes, agreed.

                      But they already have! It’s called The Advertising Industry.

                      Add: there’s a bunch of interesting stuff documenting the rise and efficacy of the modern PR industry, most of which, back in cleaner, purer times, was called exactly what it is: propaganda. Interesting stuff, actually. If you’re interested, look for a book by Alex Carey: Taking the Risk out of Democracy.

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                        • I don’t think religion is as good an example as you think.
                          If I am reading your comments correctly, you’re making the same criticism as others traditonally have, that religious leaders manipulate the followers, sort of like Stalinist Russia, i.e., “We are at war with abortion- we have always been at war with abortion
                          And its easy to come to that conclusion, especially seeing how eagerly some evangelicals have embraced a man who practices everything they have spent decades railing against.

                          But who is leading who?
                          Look at the tension between Pope Francis and American Catholics. He repeatedly calls for an end to capital punishment, war and bigotry against immigrants.
                          Yet the sheeple refuse to jump when he calls.
                          Whats going on?
                          Why have the magical powers of persuasion failed such a venerable institution?

                          I think a lot of times the followers ecert influence over the leaders, or rather, the leaders spring from the same soil at the followers, and tailor their message to fit the dogma already pre-existent within the culture.
                          Southern religious leaders didn’t magically discover the theology that supported slavery by revelation any more than medieval Church leaders stumbled across the concept of anti-Antisemitism somewhere in the Gospels.

                          In short, I don’t think people are as easily manipulable as we like to imagine. Its more they are able to be nudged in a direction they already were predisposed to go.

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                          • People’s beliefs tend to have a great deal of inertia. To be very sticky.

                            Changing them either requires a very long, long assault or a very nasty shock to the worldview.

                            It doesn’t always look that way — sometimes things seem to change with surprising speed, but that’s usually when a long process has hit a tipping point. \

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                          • My comment:

                            Note: This shouldn’t necessarily be read as a criticism.

                            The first response:

                            If I am reading your comments correctly, you’re making the same criticism as others traditonally have

                            Sigh.

                            Let’s assume the existence of an interesting morality.

                            If it’s possible to hack people to make them make decisions that they wouldn’t have otherwise made, it certainly seems possible to hack them in the direction of Good just as it is possible to hack them in the direction of Evil.

                            You’d think that hacking them in the direction of Good is something that we’d have wanted more of through the centuries.

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                            • Ah, I should have said critique, as in gentle and thoughtful analysis.

                              I really do wish people were hackable.

                              If so, religious leaders from Moses to Jesus to Ghandi and Buddha would have had more followers and fewer worshippers.

                              But the lesson I draw from Scripture is that people are maddeningly complex.

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                              • There are others that could be mentioned: Mohammed, for example.

                                Getting from “just this crazy guy walking around in a desert” to “a billion people use this guy’s name, daily, as they think about how they ought to do stuff” is some serious virulence.

                                As for the distinction between followers and worshippers, there are a lot of different virulent traits that get passed. If we want to figure out how the ones we like most can best be transmitted across generations, we’ll need some decent geneticists. Or whatever the word is.

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                    • You could always read Snow Crash, which is kind of about that.

                      I mean it’s Stephenson, so he clearly wrote the ending about 30 minutes before the draft was due, having forgotten books end, but solid otherwise.

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                      • I had no idea what that book was about when I read it in my 20’s. I just turned pages until I had to/got to stop.

                        Now it’s so freaking obvious that I look back and think “who was that person who couldn’t grasp this simple concept?”

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                        • Having a 20 year old son myself, following his thought processes can be quite painful.

                          There are clear areas where is brain is not yet willing to go, mostly due to missing underlying neural architecture. The upshot of this is, until about 25, they tend to highly devalue risk, doubly so for future risk, and have real issues modelling future events based on current information.

                          That’s not even getting into the hormone stew.

                          We were all dumb and 20 once. :) Although at this point I’d kill for my 20 year old body and health, but I prefer my 40 year old mind. And income. :)

                          As for Stephenson, about the only other book I’d recommend is Crytonomicon (especially if you like WWII, encryption, and geekery) and if you really like the Enlightenment and economics, that trilogy that starts with Quicksilver.

                          Everything else, you should only read if you already really like Stephenson.

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    • Lying for a Presidential candidate is really hard.

      http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/

      Now of course “lie” here is a matter of prospective and ideology like when we had the debate with Dark Matter a few months ago on public spending and the welfare state as being the endtimes of democracy based on an old and false quote. Same with “entitlement reform.” In some circles, we really need to raise the retirement age and cut the benefits. But this is not my truth.

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      • I’m not talking about the promises like “if you want your plan, you can keep your plan” or “when I leave the White House, we won’t be bombing seven countries!” but the narratives constructed around the other opponent and the other opponent’s supporters and the other opponent’s supporters’ secret preferences.

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    • The best way to rig any election is to lie to voters and get them to vote for you based on lies.
      Put a virus not in an election booth, but in a voter’s brain. This mental virus can make them see a candidate as unthinkable or another candidate as the only sane option and preclude options.

      Then they pull the lever themselves and they are active participants in the rigging.

      If this is the standard of “rigging” an election, here are some other ways you can rig one:

      1. Pay for ads on television or radio that sway the voters to pull the levers and become active participants in the rigging.

      2. See if you can get well-known people to say that you would do a good job, and publish those endorsements so that voters can see them, nudging them towards pulling the levers and becoming active participants in the rigging.

      3. Give speeches and participate in town hall meetings, where you use carefully crafted words to get people to pull the levers and become active participants in the rigging.

      4. Develop a series of policy positions that you think will make people more willing to vote for you, ensuring that the voters pull the levers and become active participants in the rigging.

      5. Point out deficiencies of your opponent making voters decide they wold rather voter for you, hence pushing the to pull the levers and become active participants in the rigging.

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      • You seem to be assuming truth values in #2 and #5 and I’d rephrase those to remove the truth values, but yes.

        I’d also probably try to make them care very deeply about something they’d never given thought previously to them hearing about it in your speech (e.g., 54-40 or fight!).

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          • Who’s worried?

            The best way to rig an election is to plant a seed in a voter’s head that is independent of reality (see, again, the Robbers Cave experiment).

            There is a difference between “I’m going to put a chicken in every pot” and “I want to see him *DENY* it!”

            The latter is what I’m talking about. If you think I’m also talking about the former, I’d ask you to consider that you’re hearing something that I’m not saying.

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  2. Great post.

    I think fears and talk about “voter-fraud” are really discussions about legitimacy. What we are seeing here is an increasing number of right-leaning (to various degrees) Americans who after decades of propaganda from various sources, no longer see the Democratic Party or liberalism or cities as being legitimate Americans. Or “real Americans” as they view it.

    In some ways, this is nothing new under the sun. There has been a culture war since the founding of the country between urban and rural areas. Jefferson spoke about cities as being decadent and morally debasing while the country was warm and all that was good. In many ways, Prohibition was small town, white, and Protestant America attempting to fight off the changes of no longer being the dominant population and seeing a United States that was more urban and “foreign” (which meant white ethnic at the time.*) As Lee points out, many states refused to change how their Congressional seats were divided up after the 1920 census in order to prolong rural dominance. In some states, this lasted until Baker v. Carr in 1965.)

    You can be liberal and still fall into the “real America” trap. When I took the CA bar, I met a woman from rural Texas who went to another law school in SF. She was as liberal as could be and wanted to be a public defender but she still said she missed “country people” who were “real” people. So people who grow up in the country just don’t get city ways of being. They see us as affected.

    FWIW, I find claims of rural superiority to be highly smug and avoiding the issue that rural communities often might accept a kind of eccentric, they don’t always accept different. But I know way too many LBGT and other oddballs who fled their rural hometowns and found they could be themselves in the big city.

    But if you look at a map, the country looks largely red with islands of blue. What the map does not reveal though is that those blue islands contain most of the population.

    So this might be an age old divide but I think it is getting worse because rural communities and small towns keep on getting hit by economic, technological, and even social change. Many rural communities have been destroyed because their ways of life and earning a living do not match up with the modern economy. The factories are gone and coal mining is a dinosaur. But there are not a lot of people to keep rural communities alive but many residents would probably feel lost and out of it in a big city. A lawyer I know from another blog once mentioned that many of is rural clients (older Vets) feel out of place and disoriented in medium sized cities like Eugene or Bend, Oregon.

    So what is to be done? I admit that I have no serious fondness for rural America.

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          • He became more than their candidate by default. Evangelicals (not all, but most) have become some of Trump’s staunchest defenders.

            I have never heard so many “we are all sinners” and “I’m voting for a president, not a pastor”. Definitely I never heard any of those in the Clinton and Monica days.

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            • Definitely I never heard any of those in the Clinton and Monica days.

              You’re looking for the wrong pieties.

              Compare to the speeches made during the Clarence Thomas hearings about the appropriate treatment of bosses to underlings evolving into the “one free grope” rule and you’ll see something that will get you to “staunchest defender” territory.

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            • SCOTUS. They were so close, and then Scalia died and if Clinton wins…it all goes away. No chance of repealing Roe v. Wade. The continued march of rights for LBQT folks, and of course the glimmer of hope in those ‘religious freedom’ cases (wherein you had the religious freedom to impose your religion on customers and employees)….all gone.

              So they rationalize that God will use the imperfect tool of Trump to get Pence into office, where Pence will guide Trump into choosing the right justices.

              The idea that God could be working through a Democrat is, of course a non-starter. God’s a Republican, has been since 1964.

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              • They will never repeal Roe. Not because they couldn’t (*) but because they don’t want to.

                The hypothetical minute Roe is gone it’s the exact moment in which troves of “single issue voters” become untethered and able to vote Democratic, since many so-cons (the non race realist ones) are more attracted to the economic policies of Democrats than those the Repiblican party business leg.

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                • @j_a

                  I agree with you with regards to GOP leadership.

                  But… they aren’t the only ones involved. In fact, they are largely uninvolved when it comes to SCOTUS. A state — maybe even a local — law that gets challenged up to the high court could overturn Roe if the justice balance is tilted that way. And all that would happen without any GOP leadership involved.

                  Hell, if the bench looks favorable, you could possibly even get some right-to-life group suing on behalf of an aborted fetus or something. You wouldn’t even need ANY legislation at that point.

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                  • It’s not impossible, and given how out of control the party is, it’s even likely.

                    But when the GOP controlled all of the White House, the two Congress chambers and -sort of- the Supreme Court, there was zero movement at the state of federal level to actively move against abortion.

                    But, of course, the party was totally disciplined at that time. Those were the days….

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                    • I think Trump revealed that Roe v Wade isn’t a big deal for most of the conservative base. Only a niche constituency holds that the ruling needs to be overturned (since most conservatives avail themselves of the right to choose…). On the other hand, the “promiscuous baby killing liberals” meme serves tremendous political value for the rest of em. I agree that a judicial challenge to Roe is as close to a political non-starter as you can get in this day and age.

                      On the other other hand, in my view Roe actually was decided incorrectly so on purely constitutional grounds the argument to overturn has legs.

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              • wherein you had the religious freedom to impose your religion on customers and employees

                Not that you care, as long as you can score some rhetorical points, but this is, of course, a gross misuse of the word “impose.”

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                • No, I think it’s pretty much exactly correct,.

                  After all, what would you call a pharmacist that won’t fill a valid prescription because HE has a religious objection to ME using it?

                  My religion gives no craps, so why is his preventing me from getting my meds?

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                • Liberals believe in Freedom of belief, Freedom of worship and Freedom of behavior.

                  No religious conservative will ever be forced to engage n premarital or homosexual sex, pray to a different God, attend a different church, or use contraception. In exchange, liberals request the freedom of doing the exact opposite for themselves

                  Small o orthodoxs of the Dreher variety do not find this arrangement enough. In addition to themselves acting according to their own beliefs, they claim that they need to be free from collaborating with the sin of others. That’s what they call Religious Freedom

                  Insofar as they have to rent a room to a non properly married couple, process the insurance papers of a gay employee’s spouse, vote for a politician that does not oppose abortion, or include contraception in the insurance plan of their company, they are being forced to colaborate in other people’s sin.

                  Or so they claim

                  That’s their Religious Freedom argument.

                  The problem is when they refuse to collaborate in what other people don’t call sin, but instead call normal life.

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  3. The Colorado descriptions would seem to pre-date adoption of vote-by-mail. In this Presidential election, every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail. Completed ballots may be returned by mail or by drop-off at a large number of locations (some manned, some not). Or if the voter prefers, they can go to one of the local vote centers and vote in person. On election day two years ago, the first federal elections with mandatory mail delivery of ballots, I walked past the vote center in the public library near where I live. It was literally deserted: I stopped and asked, and the only people present were the election workers.

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    • Critically for the question of who would have the ability to manipulate those mailed ballots, where do they get mailed to? Where do they get counted? What happens to them after they’re counted?

      What I’m interested to know here is whether they go to the (currently Republican) Secretary of State, or to the various County Clerks (of various parties)? If someone says the reported vote count looks fishy, who has the ability to go back and compare the vote count to the gathered paper ballots?

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      • The SoS is responsible for some amount of aggregation and maintaining the statewide voter registration system. Also certifying state-wide initiative petitions. Ballots are mailed out by county clerks and returned to the clerks for tabulation. All of the vote-by-mail ballots are paper and retained for recounts. An enormous amount of information, including access to the ballots, is available to the media and public in general.

        I live in one of the “big ten” counties — ten of the 64 Colorado counties account for greater than 80% of the population, tax revenues, etc. The county will almost certainly go for Clinton (D) for President and Bennett (D) for Senate. The county clerk is an (R). As best I can recall, there hasn’t been even a hint locally that the (R) clerk might be doing anything except registering voters properly and counting ballots accurately.

        OTOH, I’ve read lots of stuff by conservative East Coast pundits who fervently believe that massive vote-by-mail fraud must be happening in Colorado, we’re just too dumb to find it.

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  4. In these days and age of corrupt and venal politicians, only in it for the money, sex, and power and not necessarily in that order, it is important for the public to have somebody who is truly great at these things. Vote Boss Tweed for President 2016. Corruption you can believe in.

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  5. Great and thorough post.

    As was also pointed out on LGM, most states are won by the hundreds of thousands of votes, and in order to actually cheat, one would need to manufacture false votes by the tens of thousands at the very least, if not by the hundreds of thousands.

    And not just tens of thousands; You would need to know long in advance exactly which precinct in which states are going to become swing, and how to precisely apply your tens of thousands of false voters.

    For example, in 2000, everyone knew that Florida and Ohio were both swing states and going to be close; but who could have predicted which of the precincts in Florida would be settled by the infamous 537 votes?
    A cheater might easily have poured ten thousand false votes into Ohio, to no avail and missed the opportunity in Florida. Or put them into a precinct in Florida that could have been won anyway and wasted the shot.

    So yeah, as with most conspiracy tales, the logistics just don’t make any sense.

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  6. Y’all are getting it all wrong.

    You are looking at reality, and physics, and math. And Logic. For goodness sake, Logic. What’s next, are we now supposed to think?

    The people that believe in the fraud that’s coming do not believe it because they have analyzed the MMA and concluded that there’s an argument.

    They believe it On Faith.

    Yesterday and today Rod Dreher has been posting (critically) on Trumps claims of a rigged election, and of not recognizing the results. Do go take a look at the comments. Most commenters are pushing back, defending Trump’s claim, and attacking RD because Rod DOES NOT BELIEVE.

    It’s a matter of belief, now. The True Americans are surrounded, they believe, under attack, but God would always make True Americans prevail. So the only way to defeat True Americans is through trickery, treason, and backstabbing.

    So say They all

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  7. Don’t forget about shenanigans with the Electoral College.

    But really, even if Trump looses and claims he was robbed, what exactly is going to happen? Rioting in the streets? Mobs storming poling places and shooting election officials? Mass protests? Work stoppage? (silly me, the unions all are for HRC) A bunch of white folk from Long Island blocking the bridges to Manhattan?

    If any of this happens I’ll be more surprised than when Trump announced his candidacy.

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        • Johnson winning Utah could have thrown the election to the House when Clinton’s lead was less secure (though it was unlikely because Johnson was unlikely to win even in Utah), and it was thought that #neverTrump might head to him. McMullin still could do the same, presumably, if her lead is less secure than is generally believed. That’s less likely than it was before, but if “Utah throws the election to the House” and “Clinton’s lead is secure” aren’t well-connected ideas it’s possible people just haven’t thought it through.

          McMullin winning Utah and this somehow causing the election to go to the House is also one of the relatively few things that could happen with the Electoral College that would qualify as “shenanigans”. I mean, can you think of “EC shenanigans” other than faithless electors that are more likely?

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        • The key part of Mcmuffin winning Utah is not that it causes the election to get thrown to the House. It’s getting his name in the top 3 of electoral votes when it gets thrown to the House (however it does) because those are the only people eligible.

          (Yes it’s sufficiently improbable in any case to drive the Heart of Gold)

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      • I’m a bit curious too. It’s not like this election is going to be close.

        Even RCP has her at 262 EC pretty much locked in, and they’re being might generous with their “toss-up” category (Florida and Nevada to mention two. Steady or growing +4 Clinton leads, stable numbers).

        Her national polling averages are so high that if she just holds where she is, it’ll be one of the largest wins of the polarized era.

        And last I checked, she’s got more of a chance of winning Texas than Trump does at winning Pennsylvania. And he has no path to victory without PA.

        Given the latest debate, Trump deciding to double-down on his mistakes, the latest sexual assault accuser, and the fact that Trump seems to be absolutely terrifying everyone who isn’t a supporter, and the bandwagon effect, the GOP will probably consider it a miracle if the numbers just stay flat.

        I honestly think he saw the debate as his last chance to see if he can get exactly zero female votes. :)

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      • “Faithless electors? ”

        Yep, although it’s not “my” concern. I was reading a piece about “how HRC could rig the election” or some such and that was one. IIRC the electors could be “convinced” to change their votes for various reasons.

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  8. A fine post, I have little to add.

    The last debate eased most of my faint nibbling fears. Trump struck out three times. Now it’s more a question of if we can get the Senate or not. I confess in between endless waves of work I’ve looked up over the past months and occasionally wondered “When I confidently predicted that Trump would be a massive gift to my party was I setting myself up for some might reckoning?” Now, with great relief, I can sigh and say “no. No I was completely wrong about the GOP not being deranged enough to nominate him but I was not wrong about the country not being deranged enough to elect him.”

    And man, the tears on Nov. 9th are going to be honey sweet.

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      • In fact, if rigging elections were feasible (which as Burt explains, it is not), Senate races would be the place to do it. It’s straightforward to target the close ones, and since the Senate is still in doubt, it would pay much higher dividends.

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      • Yes, it is chicken soup for my soul. I would love a blowout. God(ess?)! The conservative shrieks if a Clinton led the liberals to a complete conservative route in Congress and the Senate. *siiiigh* not likely obviously but a lad can dream.

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  10. As a historical note, I have heard it widely cited that the Chicago Machine of the 50’s and 60’s had dead people voting. I don’t know how many. I even read once that there was some smell of irregularities in the Presidential election of 1960. It was quite close, and Kennedy won Illinois by a squeaker. Nixon decided not to challenge since his win in Texas was close, and had a profile of similar irregularities.

    That said, electronic voting machines with no paper trail truly frighten me. I don’t have that much trust. I think it’s even plausible that a third party could alter the votes on a machine while in the voting booth, with a cleverly designed USB flash drive.

    I have even darker scenarios in mind, but I don’t want to give people ideas.

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    • As a historical note, I have heard it widely cited that the Chicago Machine of the 50’s and 60’s had dead people voting.

      According to my wife, her Chicago-born parents (who started voting, within city limits, in the early Forties) typically voted three times per election. They were told which voting locations to go to and what names to use; whether those names belonged to dead people they did not know (and presumably did not ask).

      It was quite close, and Kennedy won Illinois by a squeaker. Nixon decided not to challenge since his win in Texas was close, and had a profile of similar irregularities.

      I assume you mean California (which Nixon won by about 0.5%, by far his closest). The short version of the story is that Kennedy won based on election day counts, but absentee ballots put Nixon over. Is it credibly alleged that the absentee ballots were fraudulent? If so, pointer to sources requested.

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  11. The theory ignores the most obvious and easy way to swing a contemporary election — by hacking into and altering electronic voting records. Available evidence suggests that, if anything, Republicans are at least as likely as Democrats to resort to that sort of thing, if it is possible at all.

    This is a real potential problem that I see on the horizon, maybe as soon as 2020.

    In this election we’ve already had a foreign power use hacking in an attempt to subvert our democratic system to its own advantage. And over the past decade and a half, it’s been all the rage to switch to electronic voting.

    I see three things potential happening, perhaps simultaneously, that put us at very real risk:

    1. Someone hacks the system and makes changes to actual vote tallies.

    2. The above doesn’t happen, but people believe that it has/might have happened, and confidence in the the democratic system begins to evaporate.

    3. The Black Panther-esque voter fraud controversies make the very idea of real voter fraud a litmus test issue, with one side refusing to acknowledge real dangers because of how they believed the other side behaved in the voter-ID dust ups.

    This really does worry me.

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    • I see it on the opposite horizon.
      (You won’t believe me, of course. It’s better that way).
      Every election gives people time to get better equipment, better systems, better procedures.

      “Oh, I just HAPPENED to find these votes in the back seat of my car…”
      (Quick! Name the State!)

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    • The right way to do it, (and it’s not just because it’s the way we do it but it helps), is scanned paper ballots where the data goes to physical media (i.e.one thumb drive per scanner), with end of day results phoned in for immediate updates on state election results websites.

      You have then a distributed system difficult to hack with an auditable paper trail to go back an look at if things look squirrelly.

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