By John Moran, Dec 2020,
The 2020 tussle for the United States presidency has certainly given the issue of election or voting fraud a high international profile.
Dodgy elections are often considered a feature of less-developed parts of the world and former communist countries. However, the established democracies, including the United States and Australia, have long histories of polling booth shenanigans. Expressions like “vote early, vote often” are said in jest, but did emerge from the real world of political activity in days gone by.
You see, election fraud is a thing. Like any human activity, especially one that offers high returns, elections are susceptible to illegal and fast practice. Whether at national elections, State and local government elections, union or school elections or at the elections for the management committee of the local sports club, electoral high jinks are always a possibility.
Campaign teams, if they are serious and any good, devote considerable resources and time to managing and monitoring the voting process. Policy and worldview are one thing, but getting sufficient people to vote for your side/team so that you “win” or at least stop/neutralise your opponents, is the job of the election campaign team. Don’t let them spin you anything else. If they try, remember the old adage: How do you know when they’re lying? Their lips are moving.
That does not mean it is always a cynical process, run by spivs and cheats. Most activists and volunteers who engage in politics are not in that category. However, politics at the top is not a game for the faint-hearted. Experienced campaigners and political operatives, who sit above the enthusiastic volunteer, are usually well aware of the tricks of the trade and the loopholes and opportunities available for exploitation. Power and the spoils of government or management are strong motivators and the competitors are always looking for ways, including dodgy ways sometimes, to maximise their chances of success.
Over nearly 40 years working in politics, labour unions and community groups I have seen plenty of examples: From stacking meetings, stacking organisations and electorates, mail ballot round ups and handovers, partisan interference with access to voting information, voting and count scrutineering interference to rules/electoral law manipulation, the electoral fraudster has a well-stocked bag of tricks if he/she is so inclined.
The general public seems to be aware of this risk too, despite the usual denials from those involved or charged with running elections. Opinion polling has taken a reputational hit in recent years, but most research since 3 November suggests large sections of the United States population believe their 2020 presidential election was, at least, problematic, if not an out-and-out steal by the Democrats. It is also reported that President Trump has raised over $200 million (USD) since polling day for his campaign to expose electoral fraud.
Based on what I have seen and heard so far, I think there is a high probability the Democrats did “steal” the 2020 presidential election. However, did they do it illegally or simply by exploiting loopholes in the USA’s devolved election administration system, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic? I will leave that to the various legal teams to sort out.
In fact, this devolved, highly partisan system for running elections is perfectly designed for electoral fraud. Having seen how, in my own country of Australia with an independent, single national authority (the Australian Electoral Commission) working under one national law (the Commonwealth Electoral Act), political parties, interest groups, unions and individual operatives still push the law to its limits and even sometimes flagrantly break it, allegations of electoral fraud and even widespread electoral fraud in the legally and administratively fragmented USA system do not surprise me at all.
The USA Constitution basically empowers the States to control national elections within their borders, including, in Article II, describing their role in selecting the president through the Electoral College:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…
Then, at the county and State level, election administration is riddled with openly partisan personnel, rather than, theoretically at least, independent civil servants. The frequency with which one official is described as a Democrat and another as a Republican indicates the extent to which USA election administration is politicised. Many of the “referees or umpires” are identified supporters of one of the teams. What could possibly go wrong?
In Australia, one of the world’s pioneer nations in terms of modern democratic practice, there has still been scandal after scandal within the various political parties, running their own candidate preselection ballots. This is because factional partisans within the parties seem unable to run them fairly, which basically means they can’t run them properly.
Twenty years ago in my home State of Queensland a number of senior Labor Party politicians and officials lost their jobs when they were caught “stacking” electorates by illegally registering party members, on the official electoral roll, at addresses at which they did not live. This practice went undetected for years and would probably be still undetected if not for a few whistle-blowers. There are numerous allegations of dodgy activity around residential addresses in the 2020 USA elections.
The other issue exposed at the time, even though this practice was a badly-kept secret amongst political operatives, was the use of “slush-fund” cash to pay party memberships as part of the branch and electorate stacking process. This is a form of political bribe and the impacted branches and electorates usually had disproportionately large numbers of aged pensioners and others on the concession membership rate.
The pattern is obvious. Political parties are good at “gaming” the arcane world of voting systems and elections. They are also the launching pad for the people who make the laws about these things. The ultimate conflict of interest. Those people – we call them politicians – are preselected by a political party and then elected to Parliament/Congress to make laws about how the political parties operate and how they are elected to Parliament/Congress. Give that a minute or two to sink in. Again ask: What could possibly go wrong? Now, it doesn’t always go wrong or at least wrong enough to nullify the majority vote, but, you can see the potential for difficulties.
Then there is the issue of postal or mail-in ballots. This is a major battle ground between the political parties in any country, but is now also the source of serious allegations in the recent USA presidential election. This is hardly surprising and, to be fair, the Republicans did warn about this prior to voting day. They are not being wise after the event.
When you move away from the process of the voter physically turning up, on the actual election day, and identifying themselves to a polling officer and then standing on their own in a cubicle to complete the ballot paper in private, the options for shenanigans, including intimidation, bribery and what is often called vote harvesting, escalate.
For example, if you flood neighbourhoods or population groups with unsolicited mail-in ballots, which can be sitting on people’s kitchen benches or dining room tables for days or weeks, it is easier for campaign teams to organise completion and collection of the ballots and monitor – possibly even enforce - how they are filled in. And that’s just the most obvious harvesting strategy. There are plenty of other more sinister options available in such a freewheeling environment. Left wing parties are particularly good at the type of collective enforcement and organising alluded to here, as the skills are often learnt and also used in labour unions, community organisations and other traditionally “Left” organisations. With sufficient campaign staff large numbers of ballots can be collected this way, especially in high and medium-density housing areas of cities.
Then throw into the mix Donald Trump, and his electrifying impact on politics and the resultant inflamed passions on both sides, and you have an ideal set of conditions and motivators for election fraud.
The Democratic Party was desperate to defeat Donald Trump. It tried to remove him through impeachment and was constantly trying to frustrate his policies and appointments. Manipulating the election and the vote in targeted States where they had some control over the process is both possible and likely. There are certainly numerous red flags, including statistical anomalies, worthy of further investigation. For the first time in USA history, Trump, his team and tens of millions of Americans are demanding a thorough investigation of the many allegations and anomalies. At the very least that should be a good thing for future USA elections, which is also a good thing for the world. As the Australian Electoral Act says: The result of the polling shall be ascertained by scrutiny. Surely, that is a self-evident and universal feature of all fair and honest elections.