Beware! Bad people do bad things. Before the election, take precautions and agree on how possible (not just more likely than not) problems will be dealt with.
Reportedly, the state of Wisconsin printed and distributed ballots that did not include the Green Party. The ballots were challenged. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has halted distribution of additional mail-in ballots until the court resolves the issues. (https://www.yahoo.com/news/wisconsin-supreme-court-says-mailing-233714047.html)
You might tell me that election fraud is a myth. It is a myth because there have not been many recorded cases in recent years. It is a myth because surplus ballots have not been tied to millions of migrants residing in the United States illegally. It is a myth because the total number of votes cast has not exceeded the number of registered voters recently. Furthermore, even if some impropriety occurs, you are unaware of any evidence that overcount as a means of election fraud favors one of the two major parties over the other.
I respond that this framework misses vital concerns. Recency bias is a cognitive failure, not a virtue. When conditions change, the opportunity for shenanigans changes. It doesn’t take millions of ballots to swing an election. Migrants residing illegally are not the only potential source of surplus ballots. Because not every eligible voter votes, the number of votes cast can be significantly less than the number of registered voters and there still can be surplus ballots. There are more than two parties.
Sometimes, the cure can be worse than the disease. For this issue, precautions to verify ballots may prevent eligible voters from voting. Stacy Abrams, a rising Democratic leader from Georgia, has argued correctly that seemingly neutral voter verification laws can have the effect of suppressing votes disproportionately. (https://fairfight.com/about-stacey-abrams/)
The phrase ‘Election Fraud is a Myth’ dismisses the corollary. Just as seemingly neutral voter verification standards can offer the opportunity to suppress votes, seemingly neutral voter encouragement policies may make the system more vulnerable to shenanigans.
The Green Party dispute over the mail-in ballots in Wisconsin illustrates many of the issues raised above.
…the Wisconsin Green Party might not be particularly impressed with the argument that election shenanigans don’t favor either of the two major parties over the other.
…the opportunity for overcount in Wisconsin will be different from the recent past if 378,000 people are mailed more than one ballot.
…President Trump won Wisconsin by about 23,000 votes in 2016, which is 350,000 less than the number of people to be mailed multiple ballots. Widespread election fraud is unnecessary.
…the eligibility of migrants residing in the United States illegally is not the primary concern.
…the halt of mailing additional ballots could suppress the vote in Wisconsin, disproportionately affect some likely voting groups. The Green Party dispute should be resolved quickly, and ballot mailings resume.
…this opportunity for shenanigans in Wisconsin need not have been intentional (might be), but the opportunity is there nonetheless.
……mail-in and other remote voting methods could be expanded more, and IMHO should be, during a pandemic and still be administered as accurately as any other tally method. Take precautions.
… everything is vulnerable, nothing is safe, every form of voting has vulnerabilities, BE EVER VIGILANT
I am strongly in favor of voting by mail and many other options intended to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote. I am also strongly in favor of (1) taking precautions ahead of time to limit the opportunity for bad people to do bad things, even new bad things that bad people have not been convicted of recently, and (2) agreeing ahead of time how disputes will be resolved.
States do take many precautions. Yay. But those precautions were typically based on a much lower volume of likely mail-in ballots. Fortunately, some jurisdictions have experience relying on mail in ballots, which offer useful insights. https://ballotpedia.org/All-mail_voting
What can be done? First, we need to alert people before election day that as the ratio of mail-in ballots to in-person ballots changes, the speed and order of vote counting is likely to change. Election night coverage is likely to be very misleading. Candidates reportedly ahead on election night might lose once additional mail-in ballots arrive. Second, some states may have an increase in challenges to counts based on the method of validating voter identification. The courts are going to be involved in a lot of regional elections, and possibly in the presidential election. Third, the Postal Service, like all of society, is staffed by human beings, and human beings make mistakes – not just intentional wrongs. Some elections may be affected by error instead of shenanigans, or in addition to.
We may not know the winner of the presidential election for several days after the election. Many smaller elections will also be affected. During that time, I expect hundreds of lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans to challenge the propriety of the vote count in several states. Magically, I expect them to seem to switch positions depending on which state is being challenged and whether their candidate is ahead or behind in the current tally.
On the topic of election shenanigans, which are no myth, I repeat two platitudes I learned researching securities fraud.
- Nothing is fool proof because fools are so ingenious.
- It is only when the tide goes out that we learn who has been swimming naked.
For a brief discussion of several ways the pandemic has affected elections with links to further resources, see the following Congressional Research Service sidebar. https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/LSB10470.html