When you take the trouble to study the issues and candidates, and then vote in an election, you damn sure don’t want your vote, or the election itself, stolen by fraud. What is the best way to prevent that from happening?
Fraud can take two different forms in elections. Persons who alter the record of votes that have been cast, commit one type of fraud in elections. This is “election fraud”. This fraud includes removing ballots, or adding ballots to the record that were never cast, or otherwise altering the record of votes actually cast. This type of fraud is committed with intent, and has resulted in “stolen” elections.
“Election fraud” historically included such actions as “losing” ballot boxes, “switching” ballot boxes or their contents, “stuffing” ballot boxes, or “miscounting” the ballots. It almost always involved gross negligence or direct complicity of responsible officials and authorities. This type of fraud is preventable by proper physical security maintained by officials who are committed to the integrity of the electoral process, observed by representatives of the contending parties or candidates. Paper ballots, counted as they are being cast, can be maintained secure by the procedures in place throughout the US which have evolved to prevent switching, stuffing, etc.
Historic “election fraud” has also employed or enlisted people to commit “voter fraud” which is the second type of fraud, and is defined later in this article. Election fraud may engage in buying or coercing votes from otherwise legal voters. Current election procedures make election fraud that would systematically employ individual voter fraud extremely easy to detect. The organizers of such fraud are very likely to be apprehended due to the number of potential informants and witnesses. The penalties, both in terms of criminal sanctions and bad publicity, are a severe disincentive. Such election fraud is thus pretty unlikely to occur, and even less likely to succeed.
However, due to computerized voting technology, provided by private contractors using proprietary (read: “secret) software and equipment, “election fraud” can now be accomplished using very new techniques, for which our election procedures and laws are ill prepared. The emerging high-tech avenue of large-scale election fraud can be committed by clever hackers acting alone or with powerful backers, or by private contractors and their employees, or by officials, or all of the above. This type of fraud can be committed in seconds, with few or no witnesses, and without physical presence or leaving a trace. It is the “state-of-the-art” in election fraud. Committing election fraud by convincing thousands of people to vote illegally is absurdly quaint, costly, risky, and stupid in 21st century America.
Elections in this century will be digitally, not physically stolen, unless and until our election procedures and laws effectively and quickly address this reality. And they certainly won’t be stolen by the few people who mistakenly or foolishly try to cast a ballot when they can’t legally do so. Without precautions in place against computer election fraud, an inevitable “Titanic” shipwreck of democracy may occur without the public even being aware.
Now, what’s the difference between “voter fraud” and “election fraud”? An individual who casts an illegal vote commits “voter fraud”. Someone who is too young to vote; someone who is not a citizen; someone who is not allowed by the state to vote because of punishment for a felony conviction not served; someone who claims to be someone they are not; someone who seeks to vote more than once in an election; … someone who does any of these things and casts a vote, commits “voter fraud”. The difference is that “voter fraud” occurs one vote at a time. It does not even have to involve criminal intent. “Election fraud”, on the other hand, is a concerted effort to significantly change the vote totals, and thus alter the outcome and steal the election.
The motivation for an individual to commit voter fraud is extremely weak. Basically, the motive is just to vote, and the relatively rare cases are done out of ignorance. It is challenging to vote illegally without risking detection, and the consequences are severe.
Since individual voter fraud is highly unlikely, it shouldn’t be surprising that convictions for it have been extremely rare, despite a recent, heavy national emphasis on finding, prosecuting, and publicizing incidents of suspected “voter fraud”. Concerted, intense efforts over the last five or six years, to find, publicize, and prosecute any and all instances of voter fraud, not only in Wisconsin, but throughout the country, have found less than 100 instances of individual voter fraud in the entire country with a grand total of five convictions in Wisconsin so far this decade. There has been absolutely no indication reported by any U.S. Attorney, anywhere in the USA, all of whom have been appointed by the Bush Administration, of any coordinated effort, anywhere, to commit election fraud by employing voter fraud.
Still, the clamor continues for laws and constitutional amendments to “prevent” rare instances of voter fraud, with costly remedies that have undemocratic and unconstitutional side effects. Ask yourself, WHY are those who persist in raising the specter of voter fraud, so often the very same voices that are silent or in denial, when it comes to the real threat posed by 21st century election fraud?
Government has limited resources, which are provided by taxpayers. Good government, well advised, places those resources where they will pay real dividends, rather than squandering them on a misdirected, self-serving, witch-hunting political agenda.
It’s your choice, so make a good one, not a hasty, shoot-from-the-hip one, and then make your voice heard. Do you want to focus on preventing the real, high-tech threat to elections that is presented by “election fraud” using modern and emerging computer technology? Or would you rather have the government spending lots of money prosecuting and preventing the very few rare cases of individual “voter fraud” that are usually due to ignorance, and couldn’t steal our elections anyway?
Ref: Black Box Voting–Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, by Bev Harris, 2004. Available free download at BlackBoxVoting.org.
Ref: The Truth About Voter Fraud, by Justin Levitt, November, 2007. Also, “The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World”, by Lawrence Norden and Eric Lazarus, February, 2007. The Brennan Center for Justice.