Who will run for and become our next elected representative of our people? Is winning as simple as getting the most votes? Does your decision count?
How do you know that someone has not tampered with the machines or that your actual ballot has not been changed to reflect the way someone or a group of people would like the election to go? How do you know that the person voting in the booth beside you has not been coerced into voting in a particular way?
You can succeed at an election using influence or manipulation. Does the end justify the means? It’s not enough to be a smart voter. Election tampering is often the norm, not the exception.
What Is Election Fraud?
Election fraud is the contrary of a fair election. A person votes for the elector who will then vote the office represenative. Ideally, these votes are private to keep elections fair.
However, candidates can influence others, so results become more predictable. The more one works on a campaign, the more the potential votes one could get.
Fair elections answer simple questions like:
- Why should someone become the next office representative?
- Who will make the most positive changes?
- And how many people will benefit?
In an election fraud, a candidate may influance the outcomes by changing the results in a borderline manner:
- They create fake votes and interventions
- They redirect the other party’s votes
- They can “buy” votes from others
For any fraudster, the scheme is easier to control when there’re fewer people involved. It will take less work to convince and change the results. That’s why it’s also fraud to prevent or discourage people from voting.
“Chances are my vote won’t make any difference. Voting is unfair and nothing will change even if I vote.”
Lots of eligible voters never vote because of such and similar reasons, which are indeed fair doubts. However, to stop voting will in many cases mean that their goal of discouraging you was achieved.
Types Of Election Fraud
Physical tampering is actually a big problem with elections across the globe. There are many different types of physical election fraud and they include ballot stuffing, booth capturing, the theft of ballot boxes, and destroying election materials.
Ballot stuffing is also known as ghost voting and it is the process of voting for people who do not exist. Booth capturing is not a problem in the United States but it is common in other areas and this is where someone will take over a voting booth and force the voters to vote in a specific manner.
Wealth can compete with influence. If voters get enough reward, they will follow a fraudster’s instructions, even if it only benefits a few people.
Ballot buying, although it’s effective, is risky. Thus it usually happens indirectly in the form of benefits and positions.
- You have to trust that the voter won’t report or let you down.
- The voter has to verify that they’ve agreed. Even if the fraudster does everything right, the voter can still change up their mind at the last minute.
- If you want to buy them, you’ll either need lots of money or a very promising campaign.
Some voters won’t change their decisions no matter what. It’s easier to go from “No” to “Yes” when the voter doesn’t understand the claim.
Confusing language is the art of contradictory information, complex sentences, and euphemisms. You can lie without lying and make people vote for the opposite they would want. People are failry easy to manipulate into voting against their interest.
Even better, a person who doesn’t understand will many times prefer not to vote. Fewer voters mean it’s easier to control an election.
A lot of potential voters stay out by choice. Perhaps they don’t care about the outcome, or they did but found registration issues.
What if you “bribed” these non-voters to vote for them? They may not have an interst in politics, but who doesn’t want this or another benefit? Anybody can convince someone who doesn’t care too much about the outcome.
“It’s not about your vote, but who counts the votes.”
That became true since California legalized ballot solicitation. 3rd-party harvesters can go from one location to another to collect ballots. They later transport them to the election office.
Why should we trust 3rd-parties? Nobody knows whether the ballots delivered are the same they collected.
The result? Harvesters made other parties win the most congressional seats, despite regional traditions.
What could be more private than online voting? Electronic voting machines prevent election tampering.
It certainly helps to bring more voters to the election. Non-attendees can now vote too: citizens vote remotely, even outside of the states.
For 2020, Ohio and Florida have already chosen EVMs exclusively. Did it bring fair elections despite a potential cyber-attack?
EVMs are still new, which still makes them targets to attack. If the reward is big enough, a hacker could potentially change the outcomes. The result is no different than the 3rd-party vote collectors fraud.
Upon such uncertainty, coordinators have thought of the brand-new blockchain technology to make elections fairer. And indeed, if it would be done right, most if not all, voter fraud could be prevented.
- Voters can participate anonymously.
- The code security improves as the network creates more blocks.
- Every result is accurate and permanent.
- All actions can be independently verified and analyzed by anyone.
- Full transparency.
In short: unhackable. Will they implement it in the elections soon? Until it becomes more reliable, blockchain will be improbable, yet recommended. Another question is of course if blockchain technology wouldn’t be TOO fair and TOO secure?
Gerrymandering is a way in which the governing parties try to consolidate their grip on power by tilting the political map steeply in their favour. The goal is to draw the boundaries of the legislative districts in such a way that as many seats as possible can be won by the party’s candidates. The authors achieve this mainly through two practices commonly known as grabbing and cracking.
A crowded district is filled as much as possible by the voters of the opposing party. This helps the ruling party to win over the surrounding districts where the strength of the opposition has been weakened by the creation of the full district.
The cracking has the opposite effect: it splits clusters of opposition voters into several districts, so that they are outnumbered in each district.
Intimidation and Misdirection
Over time, voting systems will become more reliable. As a last-resource, dubious candidates will give up on rigging votes and start influencing people.
All you need is a powerful, relatable message. Dishonest campaigns will:
- Discredit other candidates to become the “better” option
- Set unrealistic expectations for the public with promises
- Misinform voters about the campaign
- Reward/threaten people based on obedience
- Impersonate political rivals
All of these do the same: they take advantage of people’s ignorance.
There are many different organizations that are working to prevent election fraud. Many people believe that democracy is not really alive in any country anymore because of the prevalence of election fraud and the impact that it likely has on the results.
There is no way to know how many of the votes that are placed in any given election are fraudulent or how many have been tampered with in one way or another.
With election results being so close to even many times, fraudulent votes could easily sway an election one way or another. Despite all of that, voting remains a duty and if people forget about this duty, it will only make dubious players happier.
Given the level of influence the powers that be have, it may feel like our measures have no effect. But we aren’t powerless. Fair elections are a universal principle that benefits everyone.
You may not be able to change the world yourself, but you surely can influence others and do it collectively.