Election Subversion

Subverting the process of administering free and fair elections

Contents

Election Subversion

  • Election Administration is the process of registering voters, creating ballots, informing voters, conducting elections, tallying votes, determining winners, certifying and announcing results.
  • Election Subversion is corrupting that process.

Examples

  • Altering the vote count, for example by:
    • tampering with voting machines or ballot boxeschanging election tallies
    • discarding or invalidating ballots
    • introducing fraudulent ballots
  • Altering voter rolls
  • Buying votes
  • Bribing an election official or receiving a bribe
  • Collecting mail-in ballots but not mailing them
  • Intimidating voters
  • Failing to certify election results
  • Reporting false election results
  • Spreading disinformation about voting procedures, dates, and locations

Real Cases

  • After the 1982 election, in Chicago, 62 people, most of them precinct captains, were indicted by a grand jury for stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes, including a scheme in which they would identify registered voters not voting on Election Day and forge ballots in their name.
  • Bill Stinson was elected to represent the 2nd senatorial district in the Pennsylvania Senate in a 1993 special election. However, a federal judge declared him the loser of that election after finding that Stinson had engaged in election fraud. The fraud was conducted using absentee ballots, often in the names of deceased people
  • In 2015 four people were convicted of trying to buy votes in a Donna school board race with cocaine, cash, beer and cigarettes.
  • 11 of the 15 cases prosecuted by the Texas attorney general’s office between the 2012 primary election and July, 2016 involved people illegally helping elderly and disabled voters fill out absentee and mail-in ballots

Politicizing Election Administration

Non-partisan Election Administration
  • The US has a history of non-partisan election administration, run by people like Brad Raffensperger.
  • But legislation passed in some states makes it easier for a political party to politicize election administration.
The Concern
  • Statement of Concern, signed by 200 political science professors
    • “Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes.
    • In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.”
  • Our constitutional crisis is already here, Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution WaPo
    • Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.
How a state legislature might intervene
  • Identifying and Minimizing the Risk of Election Subversion and Stolen Elections in the Contemporary United States, Richard L. Hasen Harvard Law Review
    • Three Paths to Election Subversion in The United States
    • A. Usurpation of Voter Choice for President
      • State legislatures could point to supposed “irregularities” in the conduct of the election that they would claim allow them to choose new electors after declaring a “failed” election. If enough states with majority-Republican legislatures whose voters chose the Democratic presidential candidate sent in alternative slates of electors (or perhaps blocked the sending in of the electors for the winning Democratic candidate), and if Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, Congress could accept such bogus results and declare a Republican presidential loser the winner. 
    • B. Election-Official Manipulation of Election Results
      • The second means by which election results can be subverted is through direct manipulation of the conduct of elections or vote counting by corrupt election officials.
    • C. Violence or Intimidation Interfering with Election Processes
      • Even if state legislatures are unwilling to bend or break election rules to overturn voters’ choice for President in a state, and even if conspiracy-minded new election administrators refuse to break the law in running fair elections, American elections may still be subverted by violence or intimidation interfering with election processes.
  • How Republicans Could Steal the 2024 Election, Michelle Goldberg NYT
    • Think about what 2020 would have been like if Trump loyalists had controlled the local and state level counting and certification process. “Raffensperger did a tremendous job communicating throughout the vote-counting process his confidence in the processes, his confidence in the results,” said Jess Marsden, a lawyer for Protect Democracy who researches state laws. “You could imagine that a different person in that role could have very much clouded the public perception of the vote-counting process, in a way that would have validated later efforts by legislators to undo the certification to the extent that state law allows.”
  • The GOP push to revisit 2020 has worrisome implications for future elections, Dan Balz WaPo
    • Nate Persily, an elections expert and professor at Stanford University, said it is “far from clear” whether a legislature can overturn an election but added that “one could easily envision” cases in which legislatures say the winner of an election is in dispute or that there are questions about election integrity and therefore that they need to intervene.
Rogue Election Clerk
  • An elections supervisor embraced conspiracy theories. Officials say she has become an insider threat.WaPo
    • Over the course of the past month, in a lawsuit filed by the state’s top elections official, Tina Peters and her deputy have been accused of sneaking someone into the county elections offices to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines. Those copies later surfaced online and in the hands of election deniers. The local district attorney, state prosecutors and the FBI are investigating whether criminal charges are warranted.
  • Colorado County Clerk Indicted in Voting Security Breach InvestigationNYT
    • Tina Peters, a county clerk running as a Republican for secretary of state of Colorado, was indicted Tuesday evening on 10 criminal counts related to allegations that she tampered with election equipment after the 2020 election.
  • Tina Peters, an indicted county clerk, loses the G.O.P. primary for Colorado secretary of state to Pam Anderson. NYT
  • Judge Issues Arrest Warrant for Tina Peters, the Colorado County Clerk Under Indictment NYT
  • The Strange Tale of Tina Peters NYT

Election Deniers Running in the 2022 Midterms

  • Election deniers march toward power in key 2024 battlegrounds, August 15, 2022,  WaPo
    • The winners fit a pattern: Across the battleground states that decided the 2020 vote, candidates who deny the legitimacy of that election have claimed nearly two-thirds of GOP nominations for state and federal offices with authority over elections, according to a Washington Post analysis.
    • A close presidential contest that comes down to the outcome in states where officials are willing to try to thwart the popular will could throw the country into chaos. “It could easily lead to a situation where a significant portion of the electorate in those states will never believe the election was legitimate even if the courts step in and ensure that the lawfully elected winner is in fact certified as the winner,” said Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University. 
    • Among the six battlegrounds, only Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania have nominated statewide candidates who would have direct power over the certification process and who worked to overturn the 2020 result or have said they would not have certified it.
    • Candidates identified by The Post as election deniers have
      • questioned President Biden’s victory,
      • opposed the counting of Biden’s electoral college votes,
      • expressed support for a partisan post-election ballot review,
      • signed onto a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 result, or
      • attended or expressed support for the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on Jan. 6, 2021.
    • GRAPHIC
  • Election deniers are running to control voting. Here’s how they’ve fared so far August 18, 2022  NPR
    • Election deniers have won Republican primaries for secretary of state in Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut, Wyoming.
    • GRAPHIC
  • Election Denying Primary Candidates Are Crying Fraud, Win Or Lose FiveThirtyEight
    • By my count, at least a dozen primary candidates have lost their election and then immediately cried fraud.
      • Tina Peters, who ran in the GOP primary for secretary of state in Colorado (and has a long history with election denialism), blamed fraud after her third-place finish, saying, “We didn’t lose. We just found out more fraud.”
      • Two candidates for the Republican primaries for Senate and governor in Michigan made similar claims after losing by wide margins.
      • Joey Gilbert, a candidate for the Republican governor’s race in Nevada, called for a recount after losing the race to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo by about 26,000 votes, citing “disingenuous activity” and claiming that he, in fact, won.
      • In Georgia, Republican candidate for governor Kandiss Taylor ended up losing the primary by 70 points, coming in third with less than 4 percent of the vote behind incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and Trump-endorsed former Sen. David Perdue. Yet Taylor has refused to concede. She is suspicious of the election machines used in Georgia (both ballot marking devices and tabulators), says the election was “rigged” against her and has demanded a hand recount of all of the ballots. But she also told FiveThirtyEight that she doesn’t know if a recount would change the results.

Election Subversion: Quick Take

  • Election Administration is the process of registering voters, creating ballots, informing voters, conducting elections, tallying votes, determining winners, certifying and announcing results.
  • Election Subversion is corrupting that process.
  • The US has a history of non-partisan election administration.
  • But now there is the fear of some states politicizing election administration
    • One concern is election-deniers running elections.
    • Another is state legislatures intervening in counting votes and determining winners.

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