US Elections 2020: vote count incompetence or malice?

“Masgramondou” shared this helpful list from that rabidly Trumpist site, the BBC: Vote rigging: tell-tale signs.

The article focuses on Africa, but the observations are not culture specific. Let me summarize:

  • Anomalously high voter turnout. Even countries with mandatory voting (like Belgium or Australia, where you can get fined for not voting!) only reach 90-95% turnout.
  • Conspicuously high turnouts in specific areas. “Why would one particular area, or one individual polling station, have a 90% turnout, while most other areas register less than 70%?”
  • A large percentage of invalid votes/voided ballots. (I’d make an exception for countries with mandatory voting, like Belgium, where a certain percentage of voters would deliberately void their ballots by, e.g., writing helpful anatomical suggestions across it.)
  • More votes than ballot papers issued
  • Results that don’t match. (Even in Africa, citizen poll observers increasingly use cell phones to document vote counts.)
  • Inordinate delay in announcing the result: this can often reflect the need to either manufacture more of the desired votes, or to go back and disqualify more of the undesired votes.

Hmm, at least some of that sounds familiar. Now a number of my American friends (not least of which my writing mentor, Sarah Hoyt) have been sounding the alarm for months about “vote-by-mail” being an open invitation to fraud. I never understood who thought this was a good idea in the first place, except for cases of force majeure — it sounds a little too much like the title of the classic Dead Kennedys album “Give me convenience or give me death“. Then the COVID19 emergency came along and was used as a pretext to massively push this option, even though Anthony Fauci openly admitted there was no public health reason people could not vote in person.

The 2020 election also set a record for the highest number of votes cast before election day, with just under 100 million ballots either mailed in or cast in early in-person voting before November 3rd. By comparison, about 47 million votes were cast early in 2016.” Elsewhere in that article we read: “While 60.1% of eligible voters turned out in 2016, it is estimated that 66.9% of eligible voters participated in this week’s election. If correct, that would be the highest voter turnout level since the presidential election of 1900, when 73.7% of eligible voters turned out to vote.”

We had a national election here (Israel) during the first wave of COVID19, just before our first lockdown. Even so, and even with COVID19 risks, our turnout was 71.5%, comparable to 69.8% in late 2019, and 72% in 2015. All voting was in person — we have no other ways of voting. And no, the election caused no COVID19 surge that anyone was able to detect.

Full disclosure: Both in Israel and in the European country of my birth, I have not only voted, but done poll station duty and acted as an election observer. Hence I am fairly familiar with the (very similar) election integrity procedures of both countries.

  • There is no “voter registration”: all citizens in the national population registry who have come of voting age automatically get mailed voter summonses to their listed residence address, which list the location and polling station number where to show up.
  • Voters are expected to show up with their national picture ID card (which lists citizenship status) or their passport, as well as the summons. If the summons went lost in the mail, there are procedures for ensuring you can vote: but no proof of identity and citizenship? No vote, no way, no how.
  • When you are given your ballot, your name is struck through on the voter list to indicate you voted. (Hence voting at a ballot station other than your designated one becomes, well, a procedure.)
  • The country of my birth had limited means of postal or proxy vote. Israel doesn’t allow any such thing.
  • I can vote in my country of origin via its embassy here (but voluntarily refrain from doing so, on a point of principle). Israel does not allow overseas vote of any kind, excerpt for people on official duty abroad (e.g., diplomatic personnel), who can vote in person at the nearest embassy. It is not unheard of for Israelis working abroad to fly home especially to vote! (And, of course, touch base with family and friends while we’re at it.)

The norm here is for full results to be announced the next day, usually with a minor adjustment (1-2 Knesset seats) a few days later as the votes of deployed IDF personnel are tallied. Make no mistake: we have manifold political problems, and so did and does the country of my birth, but nobody ever seriously doubted the integrity of the vote. Any fraud committed[*] is retail level — at the wholesale level, there are too many safeguards.

Why requiring picture ID and proof of citizenship in order to vote would be even controversial anywhere has always been beyond me. But for an American perspective, allow me to quote Bryan Preston from the PJMedia live blog (no permalink to individual posts):

BRYAN PRESTON | NOV 06, 2020 12:41 PM EST
One of the best ways we could fight voter fraud is voter ID. But I lived through a cautionary tale on that very issue.

Years ago I was comms director at the Texas Republican Party. The GOP-majority legislature passed a voter ID law and Gov. Perry signed it. The law had strong majority support, roughly 70% [if I remember correctly], across the demographic plane. The Democrats fought that law tooth and nail, and the media never ever called them out for why they would fight so strongly for a law that a majority, across all demographics, supported. Without evidence, Democrats smeared voter ID’s backers as racists and the like, and the media never called them out on that either. Democrats also said voter ID would suppress minority votes.

The Democrats took that law to court and found pliant liberal judges who blocked it, forcing the state to keep fighting for it until it eventually won and voter ID became required in Texas. It took a couple of years for all this to shake out, in Texas, one of the reddest states in the country. Voter ID is now the law across Texas. Not coincidentally, the gigantic state tends to be prompt with its voter results.

As all that shook out, I wrote an op-ed for CNN about it all. The number of fact-checks and iterations I went through to get that very straightforward piece published just about turned me blind. I would prove something and the editors would come back and make me prove it again. The piece provided real and compelling evidence that the Democrats’ vote suppression claims had been proven wrong by actual elections conducted under voter ID requirements. The process to get the piece published took roughly six weeks.

We don’t have a federal presidential election, we have 50 state elections for president. Imagine trying to get voter ID passed in any blue or swing state. Imagine getting the media to cover the issue fairly. My experience tells me that neither will happen.

When a party that calls itself “democratic” throws up roadblocks to voter ID verification procedures that are commonplace across the globe, my question is whether perhaps there are four letters missing at the beginning of the party name: “a”, “n”, “t”, “i”. (Or 6 letters, “p”, “s”, “e”, “u”, “d”, “o”.) [**]

Speaking of “oligarchy”, and how it ever came to this. Continental Europeans and Israelis often wonder why the USA (and the UK) only have two major parties. This is actually a well-known feature of “first-past-the-post” polling systems known as Duverger’s Law.: one exception is that a regionally dominant party (e.g., Scottish National Party in the UK) can become a viable niche player at the national level.

But having room for only two major parties means in practice that they each become coalitions internally — be it Tories and Labour in the UK, or D and R in the US. Remember Ronald Reagan (of blessed memory) speaking of the GOP as a “three-legged stool”: libertarian conservatives, social/religious conservatives, and national security conservatives. The rise of Trump was a wildcard in that it added “populists” (call them “Trump Democrats”, if you like) to the mix. Likewise, I remember a perceptive Democrat commenting in the wake of the 2004 defeat of John Kerry against Bush fils, that the D party was made up of three components: hardcore “progressives”, economic soft-libertarians, and working-class patriotic democrats — and that the party was leaving behind the latter.

It would seem, to this admittedly distant (but highly engaged) observer, that the D party has been doing everything to mollycoddle the hard left and placate Big Tech, and in the process belittled, patronized, and alienated the “working-class democrats”. As long as the GOP had its image of country club/Chamber of Commerce elitists, this might have worked “because they had nowhere else to go”. But come Trump, and off many went. [EDIT: Actually, that process goes back at least to the “Reagan Democrats”. Trump just greatly accelerated it.]

And then came the time to find a challenger for Trump — and a power struggle erupted between the hard left in the party, who gathered behind avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, and the party’s leading gerontocracy — which may be staggeringly corrupt but generally does not share the enthusiasms and obsessions of the hard left. The party oligarchy saw the rise of Wicked Uncle Bernie as a lose-lose scenario:

  • either he would turn off the more moderate voters and guarantee a Trump landslide, dragging along “coattails” of dozens of congressional and senatorial seats
  • or, possibly even worse from their perspective, Sanders might somehow get elected — and he actually seemed to believe in the socialist and protectionist policies he was peddling and would implement at least some of them. This would crimp the style of Big Finance and Big Tech — and hence was unacceptable to the party’s main financiers.

The main problem was: while they could (and did) sabotage the nomination of Sanders, none of the moderates that the party tried to push forward gained any traction in the primaries. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who to me seemed the least odious of the lot (except for the undeniably somewhat charming Tulsi Gabbard), spent half a billion of his own money to get essentially nowhere in the primaries.

This left them with the aging retread, former VP Biden — whose outwardly avuncular, affable “ordinary guy” image might do well with voters weary of Trump’s overbearing style. So the power brokers engineered his nomination: To keep the hard left on board, the execrable Kamala Harris (whose balloon got punctured by the schooling Tulsi Gabbard gave her in the 2nd primary debate) was foisted on Biden as his running mate.

Now make no mistake: while I did not have a high opinion of Biden even before his loss of mental faculties became apparent, I am convinced that if he (rather than the repulsive Hillary) had been the 2016 nominee against Trump, Biden would have won in a walkover even without shenanigans. But now, as Biden’s outward affability started cracking and it became ever more difficult for him to keep his wits about him during a speech or interview? “Time for Plan B”: keep Biden away from the public as much as possible (citing COVID19), and arrange for the electoral battle to be won “by other means”…

Speaking of such other means: via Tim Pool, the Detroit Free Press reports how correcting “a little computer glitch” changed the outcome of a down-ticket race from a narrow D upset to a decisive re-election of the R incumbent. If you expect me to believe that this was a single isolated example, forgive me if I trust this about as much as 3-day old gas station sushi….

ADDENDUM: We all can use a laugh now. Sing it!

Footnotes:

[*] One known technique, in certain chareidi and Arab communities, is to not report the demise of elderly relatives, and then to vote with their IDs a second time — relying on the distinctive dress and facial hair of your community to “make you all look alike”.

[**] To be fair and balanced here, I also believe that many Republican politicians have forgotten what it means to stand for a constitutional republic.

4 thoughts on “US Elections 2020: vote count incompetence or malice?

  1. This is the single most informative piece I have yet read about this unthinkable Charlie Foxtrot of an event. Thank you.

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