Politics is an interesting business. It is how civilized - though not necessarily honest – people conduct business.
The stakes are high. Political leaders make rules about what is right and what is wrong. They decide who enforces those rules, and how. They decide what is the cost of compliance, and what is the cost of non-compliance.
Politics means government. And, as George Washington said,
"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."
Politics decides who is in charge of government, and what the rulers are going to do. Politics generally has a façade of respectability given to it by elections. For this respectability to be more than a façade, the vote count must be honest.
But, with the stakes so high, who would be foolish enough to leave such an important matter as who makes and enforces the rules to the whims of a volatile electorate?
As Josef Stalin said,
It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.
Cheating in an election means nothing, unless the cheaters can get away with it.
One way to get away with it is to intimidate the people into going along with fraudulent results. Intimidation is easier if the people who rig the elections also control the security apparatus, and if the people are unarmed and bombarded by propaganda. A feeling that there is nothing they can do, coupled with an atmosphere of propaganda, can lead to a feeling of hopelessness and apathy, and those in power stay in power.
So much for my comments on gun control and the media.
Another way to get away with it is if no one detects the fraud.
That will be the topic of this post.
Rather than discuss ways of having a fair election, let's discuss ways of cheating in the early 21st century.
How does one accomplish election fraud that is undetectable?
Well, with the literally hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections to federal offices, coupled with the obvious slant of the media, and the inability of so many Americans to do their own research, it's thankfully simple.
First, you need to get electronic voting machines in use in as many places as possible. It is not necessary to have them in use in all places. However, certain states vote Republican, and certain states vote Democrat. These states can be left alone.
But, some states vote split-ticket (voting for different parties in different races in the same election) and swing (supporting one party in one election, then the other party in another election).
These are the states to target.
Neither is it necessary to target the entire state. There are counties and even precincts that are Republican or Democrat. These can be left alone.
However, the split-ticket and swing counties are important, and voting machines that are used in the split-ticket and swing precincts are the ones that will actually win the election.
So, you make sure the media tells everyone how so many people are supporting your candidate. It doesn't matter that this is not true. People will look around their neighborhood, and assume the idiots are somewhere else. The important thing is that the people have this idea that the race is actually close.
Next, you program the voting machines in the key precinct to throw a small percentage of the votes to your candidate.
Don't be obvious. If a precinct has 1000 voters, you do not want 1000 votes cast, and certainly not 1000 cast for your candidate.
Consider Harry Reid's last election.
Reid had a little more than 50% of the vote; his Republican challenger had a little less than 45% of the vote.
In other words, Reid had 10 votes to every 9 that his opponent had.
If you know that Reid really only has support from about 45% of the voters, and his opponent has support from 50% of the voters, then you program the voting machines to throw one out of every ten votes for the Republican to the Democrat. This flips the percentages, putting Reid out front.
You may not be able to tamper with some counties. But, in Nevada, if you could tamper with Clark County (where Las Vegas is located), that should be enough. Since you can only work in one county, you may have to program the machines to throw one vote in five, instead of one in ten, in the areas where you can do this.
However, this is hard to detect.
In the old days, people could see ballot boxes full of ballots. They could count the ballots, and see how a given precinct with 1000 voters cast 1200 votes for one candidate, and only 100 for the opponent. This might raise a few questions.
But, who can look at a voting machine, and know that the electronics on the inside are functioning as one would hope?
Even if we could see inside the voting machine, who would recognize the algorithm that throws one vote in five or ten from one candidate to the opponent?
Coupled with the media telling you how great that other guy really is, and how everyone is supporting him (except for racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, Bible-clinging gun-nuts like you), you might just walk away thinking the other guy actually had more votes, shaking your head as you looked for a local bar where you could drown your post-election sorrows and maybe play some video poker.
But, in the same way those video power machines have their payouts set, and considering that people in Las Vegas know how to set them, do you really think a few guys can't be found in Sin City to rig the voting machines?
And, do you really think those guys can't travel to other key locations in other key states, to make sure Obama wins (again), and that the Democrats retain control of the Senate?
If caught (an unlikely situation), judicious use of money and political power can end the investigation after the words "computer malfunction" or something like that.
For real fraud to occur, you need to make sure that you are using technology the average citizen does not thoroughly understand. So, complaining about wasting trees and about time spent counting by hand when a machine can tally everything electronically, paper ballots have to be replaced with voting machines. And, as a back-up, the people need to know that those in power have them outgunned.
Couple this with reasonable control of the media (which, after all, is staffed with true believers who are convinced that, even if you are doing something wrong, it is for a greater common good), and you need not worry about any election, no matter how lousy your candidate is.
Important notice: This post was intended as a theoretical discussion of how voter fraud could work under the right circumstances, and using a real election as an example of when and where there would be opportunities for fraud. This post is not intended to suggest that such fraud has actually occurred anywhere, much less in places specifically mentioned in the post.